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80-G-271225 - USAT Cuba May 1944.jpg
United States
OwnerPeninsular & Occidental Steamship Company
RouteCommercial: Tampa, Key West, Havana
BuilderWilliam Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Company
Launched1920?[note 1]
HomeportNew Haven, Connecticut (Commercial)
  • Official Number: 221220
  • Signal letters:
  • MCRW 1921
  • KDBT 1941
NotesScrapped in 1962
General characteristics
Tonnage2,479 GRT
  • 325 ft (99.1 m) over all
  • 325 ft (99.1 m) registry
Beam47 ft 2 in (14.4 m)
Draft17 ft (5.2 m)
Depth18 ft (5.5 m)
  • 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h) Original, commercial
  • 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h) Army
Range3,500 nmi (4,000 mi; 6,500 km)
  • 520 passengers (commercial)
  • 596 passengers (Army transport)

USAT Cuba was the passenger ship Cuba of the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company[note 2] built by William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilding Company, Philadelphia in 1920 and placed into operation in 1921 for scheduled passenger and freight service between Tampa, Key West and Havana.[1][2]

The ship maintained regular service over twenty years until delivered to the United States War Shipping Administration (WSA) on 19 February 1942. It was operated by the line under a standard WSA agreement until placed under bareboat charter to the Army for operation as USAT Cuba until returned to WSA and again briefly operated by Peninsular & Occidental for WSA 31 July 1946 through 20 December 1946 when returned to the company. The ship was sold to an Italian company in June 1947 to be renamed Pace and then Sassari until scrapped in 1962.

Commercial service

Cuba, official number 221220 with signal MCRW that was KDBT by 1941, was 2,479 GRT, 341 ft 2 in (104.0 m) length overall, 325 ft (99.1 m) registry length ship with 47 ft 2 in (14.4 m) breadth.[3][4][5] The two engines were oil fueled reciprocating with total 3,600 indicated horsepower driving two screws. Registry crew was 54 and home port was New Haven, Connecticut.[3][4]

Peninsular & Occidental information showed the ship's speed as 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h) with Army information twenty years later indicating speed was reduced to 18 kn (21 mph; 33 km/h). Cuba had 132 passenger cabins with an additional 16 "parlor" cabins with double beds and a sofa berth. The passenger capacity was 520.[6]

A seawater thermograph was provided by the U. S. Weather Bureau and after testing in Washington and shipping to the Weather Bureau in Key West installed by the ship's chief engineer. The first week of data collection was 12–19 July 1931 began routine collection on the ship's twice weekly Tampa—Key West—Havana runs with records filed with the Bureau in Washington. Cuba provided measurements at a slightly deeper draft than another vessel transiting on the same days.[7]

World War II service

During World War II the ship was delivered to the War Shipping Administration (WSA) in New Orleans on 19 February 1942. Cuba was operated by Peninsular & Occidental under WSA agreement until delivered to the United States Army on 25 April 1943.[8] The ship underwent conversion, increasing passenger capacity to 596 and added ventilation, for use as a troopship.[5]

The transport spent the majority of the war operating out of New Orleans transporting troops to British Guiana, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and the West Indies. In September 1942 the ship underwent repairs in Panama and in September more extensive repairs in New York. After repairs there Cuba made one trip to Bermuda by way of Norfolk before returning to the regular area of operations.[5]

Cuba with women military personnel destined for San Juan, Puerto Rico, was in convoy, escorted by U.S. and Canadian small vessels met in the Strait of Florida for escort to Guantanamo, along with the tanker SS Virginia Sinclair, the Liberty ship SS James Sprunt that was carrying approximately 10,000 tons of ammunition, USAT H. A. Scandreet transporting troops to the Panama Canal, and SS Furnifold M. Simmons loaded with explosives destined for Karachi. At the eastern end of Cuba the convoy was attacked with Virginia Sinclair sunk and James Sprunt exploding. Other ships were damaged by debris from the explosion.[9]

For some time late in the war the ship was assigned to the Panama Canal for operations, leaving that assignment 1 January 1946 to resume operations out of New Orleans.[5]

Cuba was also involved in transporting citizens of Axis nations resident in Latin American countries to the United States for internment.[10] One such trip in 1944 saw the transport of 540 German and Japanese internees.[11]

Post war & sale

After the war Cuba was operated briefly by Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company under WSA agreement from 31 July 1946 through 20 December 1946 when the ship was returned to the company. In June 1947 Cuba was sold to an Italian company and renamed Pace then sold 1960 renamed Sassari until scrapped in 1962.[8][12]


  1. ^ References generally give 1921 but industry journal International Marine Engineering in its November 1920 issue notes the ship "now being completed" and "ready for service about December 1" so launch most probably 1920.
  2. ^ A few references give the name as "Plant Line". Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company was formed in a merger of Plant Line with Florida East Coast Line.


  1. ^ "Increasing Cuban Service". Marine Engineering. Vol. 25, no. 11. November 1920. p. 948. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  2. ^ Larsson, Björn. "P&O Steamship Co". Maritime Timetable Images. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Forty-Third Annual List of Merchant Vessels of the United States, Year ended June 30, 1921. Washington, D.C.: Department of Commerce, Bureau of Navigation. 1921. p. 87. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b Lloyd's Register of Shipping 1941–42 (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register of Shipping. 1942. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Charles, Roland W. (1947). Troopships of World War II (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Army Transportation Association. p. 17. LCCN 47004779. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  6. ^ Larsson, Björn. "The Peninsular & Occidental Fleet (Brochure)" (PDF). Maritime Timetable Images. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  7. ^ "SEAWATER THERMOGRAPH PORT TAMPA-KEY WEST-HABANA". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Vol. 12, no. 11. November 1931. p. 188. doi:10.1175/1520-0477-12.11.188a.
  8. ^ a b Maritime Administration. "Cuba". Ship History Database Vessel Status Card. U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  9. ^ Heenan, Joseph A. (Captain RCN) (January 1962). "The Little Ships (Part II)" (PDF). The Crowsnest. Ottawa: Royal Canadian Navy. 14 (3): 12–13. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  10. ^ Russell Estlack, Shattered Lives, Shattered Dreams: The Disrupted Lives of Families in America's Internment Camps, pp. 44-45
  11. ^ Department of State Special Agent R. L. Bannerman, Arrival at New Orleans of 540 German and Japanese Internees
  12. ^ Colton, Tim (3 September 2014). "Cramp Shipbuilding, Philadelphia PA". ShipbuildingHistory. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
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