Der Bau der America
On August 31 1939, after repeated postponement, the most important moment of America's construction took place: The launching. More than 30,000 invited guests watched the spectacle and numerous reporters and film teams perpetuated this unforgettable moment. There were specially for this special day established stages for the speakers, guests of honour and reporters. The to be christened America was decorated with banners and flags and reflected the mood and expectations which many of the guests had in the America as a symbol of national pride.
The ship's christening was the job of none less than the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the godmother of the ship.
Page 2: From launching to delivery
Then,  10 minutes before noon, Mrs. Roosevelt christened the hull number 369 of the Newport News shipyard and hull number one of the Maritime Comission building program to the name America. The champagne bottle splashed on the bow, Mrs. Roosevelt did a few steps back and nearly 17,000 tons of imposing ship slid down the slipway on 24 tons of lubricant at first slowly and then faster and faster towards the James River.
President Roosevelt called the launching of America "one of the most important events of 1939", which, however, almost immediately degenerated into a petty little thing, when just hours after the successful launch the Second World War started with the German invasion of Poland.
This also had an immediate impact on the construction of the ship: The rapidly escalating war in Europe would render the use as a transatlantic liner impossible.
After some consideration it was decided to complete the half-finished ship hoping for a quick normalization of the global political events.
While the Navy had already influenced the design of the ship to be able to use it for military purposes, this influence was now even stronger imposed during the further completion of the vessel. Some decks for example were specially reinforced for the possible installation of anti-aircraft guns.

In May 1940, the America was finally completed after 680 days of construction.
Workers remove wooden buttresses prior to launching of America.
-Picture: Universal Newsreel-
In early June the  trials of the new ship were scheduled to take place. The results were satisfactory in almost all specifications: Good maneuverability, excellent stability and satisfying acceleration were the assets of the new ship.
But there were also some results that differt from the expected performance: The construction of funnels proved to be inadequate for satisfactory keeping soot and oil residues from the rear decks. To minimize this problem, the funnels have have simply been increased by 5 meters (15 feet) in height.
America brightly lit with raised funnels immediately before her delivery to the United States Lines (colorized).
-Picture: National Archives and Records-
Height comparison: Mouseover for night shot of pre-trials America with low funnels.
-Picture: courtesy of Bill Lee-
Workers wedge up the bow cradle to prepare America for her way down the slipway.
-Picture: Universal Newsreel-
The exterior design of America was very advanced for its time and was based on streamlined structures. The bridge wings were slightly swept back and marked the completion of the underlying curved and semicircular superstructure. The hull was characterized by a raked bow and ended in a rounded cruiser stern. The funnels perfected the streamlined design with their tear-drop-shaped cross-section and their sampan top fins.
On July 2nd 1940, the America was delivered to the United States Lines. The total construction cost was $ 17.5 million, the displacement was 35,440 tons with a length of 220.2 meters (723 feet) and a maximum width of 28.4 meters (93 feet). Over 1200 companies were involved in the construction of the ship with a peak of 2.500 people working on the ship and virtually every state in the United States contrituted in it's construction.
Cheered by thousands, the America slides towards the James River.
top left: America's hull immediately before the chistening.
top: scenery before the launching.
left: The champagne bottle shatters on the bow.
right: Eleanor Roosevelt (center) poses for photographers.
-Pictures: Universal Newsreel stills-
Oben: Der Bug im Moment der Taufe.
Unten: Heckansicht des Stapellaufs.
Final details before the launching: A worker paints water level markings on the bow.
-Image: Universal newsreel-
America's aft (real) funnel on the crane.
-Picture: Newport News 50 years of shipbuilding magazine-
Workers Leaving the America for a change of shift.
-Picture: Universal Newsreel-
America at night with original funnel height in Newport News (colorized).
-Picture: The Tihen Notes Newspaper-

Next Chapter: SS America 1940-1941 -->
further reading:
America seen from the assembly crane moored in Newport News.
-Pictures: United States Lines-
Delivery contract signing on July 2nd 1940 at 15.10 clock. From left to right: P.V.G. Mitchell (Vice Pres. USLines), J.B. Woodward (Jr. Gen. Manager Newp. News Shipyard), G.C. Stedman (Master S.S. America) und J.P. Gallagher (vice chief of construction US Maritime Comission).
America after her sucessful launch in the James River on her way to the outfitting pier, assisted by tugs.
-Picture: press photo-
America docked on the outfitting pier in winter 39/40 with newly fitted forward dummy funnel.
-Picture: Newport News SB-
Invitation card for the launching ceremony.
-Picture: Courtesy of Bill Lee-
left: Press pass for journalists invited to the launching of Howard E. Lee, Sr. He was longtime editor of Newport News' local newspaper "Daily Press".
- courtesy of Bill Lee.-
America at the outfitting pier with white-painted superstructure and assembled (short) funnels.
America at the outfitting pier shortly before her trials.
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Construction 1938-1940

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