SS American (1900) - U.S. Navy Service - Collision With West Gate

Collision With West Gate

On 4 October, American began her third trip to France in a convoy escorted by the cruiser Denver and headed to Bordeaux. On the night of 6/7 October—noted in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships as "particularly dark and rainy"—the ships were having trouble maintaining their stations in the convoy; American was sailing in the column headed by the convoy's guide ship, Sagua.

At 02:28 on 7 October, while about 250 nautical miles (460 km) south of Halifax, the steering gear engine of USS West Gate—ahead and to the starboard of American—jammed, sending the ship veering sharply to the port. West Gate's crew put the ship's engine at half speed to try to drop out of the convoy, but minutes later, men on the bridge sighted the red light from the oncoming American. Though West Gate's bridge rang up "full speed ahead" to avoid the collision, there was not enough time for the engine to respond before American's bow cut into the starboard side of West Gate, near the poop deck.

American, which was lightly damaged by the collision, reversed her engine to back out of the tangle while West Gate's engine was shut down. After American was completely backed out, West Gate began rapidly settling and was ordered abandoned. A total of seven men from West Gate died in the accident—two when their lifeboat capsized, and a further five that probably died in the initial impact. West Gate's commanding officer, Lt. Cdr. R. B. Vandervoort, and six men he had personally escorted to a life raft were picked up by one of American's lifeboats at 06:00, after some 3½ hours in the water. The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships does not report any casualties on American from the collision.

American proceeded to Halifax, where she had her collision damage repaired over the next six weeks. She departed for Gibraltar on 27 November, a little more than two weeks after the signing of the Armistice with Germany that ended the fighting. After calling at that British port on 9 December, American docked at Marseilles, before leaving for New York in the new year, arriving there on 9 February 1919. American was decommissioned and returned to American-Hawaiian on 4 March, and formally struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 14 May.

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