The carefree entertainment tours of America to the Caribbean in 1941 had already become a routine of his actual employment deprived Atlantic liner.
This routine but was abruptly interrupted in May of the same year, this time permanently.
The war in Europe and the tensions with Japan widened more and more so that President Roosevelt decided to draw up a contingency plan for the possible event of war. In the course of numerous ships were needed and so America was called into the service of the Navy.
Beginning of June came with the proclamation of the "unlimited national emergency" the convening of America for U.S. Navy. The ship had to cancel a cruise and just performed was brought to a stop to discontinuation of passengers in New York immediately after its builders Newport News shipyard and refitted there in just 11 days used for troop transport.
After the conversion, the America was barely recognizable from the inside in some areas. The less than a year old interior was almost completely removed, including most of the works of art. The remaining were covered with wallboard.
After the cabins and crew quarters were emptied, they began to incorporate modules of four-story bunks. Cabin walls were removed to create as large dormitories. Also, the lounges were converted. The ballroom alone now summed over 500 beds and the meeting room was smoking room and wardroom. Before the closed promenade deck liferafts were mounted.
After completion of the conversation, the transport capacity was about 5000 people. The gray painted America was renamed to USS West Point, after the famous military academy and got the navy intern number AP-23 assigned. The luxury liner was now a purpose-optimized, well-functioning transporter with the capacity to take in a small town.
The armament included four anti-aircraft guns, anti-aircraft batteries, machine guns, torpedo launch tubes and a demagnetizing belt against mines.
On 15 June, the AP-23 was officially commissioned with a ceremony.
From America to West Point: hull, superstructure, masts, windows, portholes, rescue boats ... the entire ship wass painted gray.
-Picture: National Archives-
The situation however became more delicate in the end of 1941 with the first troop transport of West point, a secret mission. The formally neutral United States sent the West Point to Canada, to comply with a request of Great Britain, to transport troops to the Iraqi port city of Basra. After the over 5400 British and Canadian soldiers went onboard in Halifax, the trip started on 10 November in a convoy with five other troop ships (USS Orizaba, USS Mount Vernon, USS Wakefield, USS Leonard Wood and USS Joseph T. Dickman) and escorts at painfully slow 14 knots (maximum speed of the slowest operating ship, the Orizaba) first in the direction of Brazil, and after a stopover in Rio over the Southern Atlantic Ocean in the direction of Africa. As the West Point crossed just the South Atlantic close to South Africa, an event took place that should change everything for the United States: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The United States was now at war with the axis powers and this development also had an impact on the West Point's mission. The new destination of the troop transport was no longer the Iraq, but India. Arrived in Bombay the destination of transportation was once again redirected after a few days waiting period depending on the situation to strengthen the forces in the threatened directly by Japan Singapore.
From this mission on the USS West Point was officially at war.
Top left: meeting room and cinema, part of former first class lounge. Top center: one of many washrooms, former third class childrenplayroom.Top right: sleeping quaters in the former first class Duck Suite. left: sleeping quartes in the former first class ballroom. below: Promenade Deck
-Pictures: Newport News Shipyard Bulletin -
Die West Point läuft nach Kriegsende 1945 mit heimkehrenden Truppen an Bord in New York ein.
-Bild: Offizielles US Navy Foto im Bestand der National Archives-
The West Point (far left) in formation of the troop convoy in the atlantic on her way to Iraq.
Above: West Point leaves New York with 464 italian and german diplomats, consular staff and agents heading for Portugal.
-Picture: Universal Newsreel-
Left: Cachet of West Point's first voyage from New York to Lisbon. It was sent from the West Point Military Academy, the namesake of the ship.
-Picture: courtesy of Bill Lee-
West Point on the way to her first atlantic crossing against the backdrop of Manhattan.
-Picture: Universal Newsreel-
The first trip for the West Point started on 15 July 1941 to carry on a diplomatic mission to Europe to transport 464 German and Italian diplomats, agents and reporters in an exchange to neutral Portugal. On the way back, West Point should bring back American diplomats to the United States. At midnight on July 16, a day after the expiry of a deadline for the departure of diplomats and agents of the Axis powers from the U.S., the West Point was ready for departure. But this was blocked as American consular officers and diplomats were hold back in Germany and Italy on their way to Lisbon as a security guarantee. After solving this problem, the West Point departed the following afternoon.
At that time the U.S. was not yet at war, and so this trip was comparatively safe.
In August, the ship spent some days in Portsmouth (Virginia) for more modifications and maneuvering exercises near the coast together with the two also previously belonging to the United States lines ships Washington (now the USS Mount Vernon) and Manhattan (now USS Wakefield).
Officers and part of the crew on sun deck of West Point during the commisioning ceremony, 15 Juni 1941.
-Picture: Newport News Shipyard Bulletin -
Report on "America's secret Navy" featuring the West Point.