The U.S., SS United States measured 990 feet in length, 101-feet wide, she had 12 decks, and weighed 53,330 tons. She is larger than the Titanic, and is in fact the largest ship ever built in an American shipyard.
She was built in 1950–51 for the United States Lines at a cost of whooping $79.4 million at that time. In June 1952, SS United States became the final U.S. Maritime Commission vessel to be delivered, nearly two years after the agency ceased to exist. SS United States had a 17-year career as a transatlantic liner.
The vessel set the speed record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by a passenger liner on her maiden voyage— July 3–7, 1952. For many years her top speed was classified, even now there is some dispute but it is generally agreed that it is approximately 38 knots, the equivalent of 44 miles per hour (although some believes it to be over 44 knots, or 50 mph).
The Maritime Commission designed the ship in partnership with both U.S. Lines and the U.S. Navy; although its primary role was as a passenger liner; if necessary, it could be quickly converted into a troop ship. This meant that the commission outfitted United States with several innovative design features to increase safety and speed.
Large portions of the ship were constructed out of light-weight aluminium rather than steel, which saved 8,000-10,000 tons of weight and also would be more fireproof than wood. United States’ machinery included four steam turbines and eight boilers, and its engines provided 240,000 horsepower for a reported top speed of 42 knots.
“Defense features” added in the event that the vessel was converted to a troop ship included watertight doors up to “A” deck and a beam narrow enough to allow passage through the Panama Canal. In commercial operation, United States had a capacity for 1,984 passengers. As a troop ship it could have carried 14,000 troops and 1,444 crew members, with space for a 400-bed hospital. It is believed that for this reason, her top speed was a closely guarded secret. Though the SS United States maintained an uninterrupted schedule of transatlantic passenger service until 1969 and was never used as a troopship.
In 1969, after losing many passengers to transatlantic jet travel, U.S. Lines withdrew SS United States from liner service. Despite several attempted revivals, the vessel has spent most of its time laid up at several locations on the east coast since that time.
On February 4, 2016, Crystal Cruises announced that it had signed a purchase option for the SS United States. Crystal would cover docking costs, in Philadelphia, for nine months while conducting a feasibility study on returning the ship to service as a cruise ship based in New York City. On April 9, 2016, it was announced that 600 artifacts from the SS United States would be returned to the ship from the Mariners’ Museum and other donors.
On August 5, 2016, the plan was formally dropped, Crystal Cruises citing the presence of too many technical and commercial challenges. The cruise line then made a donation of $350,000 to help with preservation through the end of the year.
If you want to help save America’s Flagship, The SS United States, you can donate on the official website.
Here is an interesting video telling the fascinating history of the SS United States