It had no rock climbing wall. No Olympic-size pools. You couldn’t play miniature golf, or go bowling, or ice skate. What you could do, however, was travel across the Atlantic in true style. And fast – faster than any passenger liner before or since.
On its maiden voyage begun, appropriately, on July 4, 1952, the S.S. United States broke the transatlantic speed record held by the Queen Mary. Broke it by ten hours.
The ship was built at the famous Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, and remains the largest ocean liner built entirely in America. Its secret was aluminum – more aluminum than any ship had used at that time. The United States was also virtually fireproof – it was said that the only wood aboard ship was in the grand piano and in the kitchen’s butcher block.
The US Navy helped fund its construction, and was prepared to appropriate it for use as a troop carrier should the need arrive. Except for a brief alert duing the Cuban Missile Crisis, however, it was never needed for that purpose.
The United States has not been seaworthy since 1969. It now sits at Pier 82 in Philadelphia, awaiting its fate. The SS United States Foundation is today lobbying to keep the ship from being sold for scrap, and for its restoration. I’m not sure if the ship could ever compete in today’s huge cruise ship environment, but she is a beautiful lady who deserves a better fate than neglect and decay.
There was actually a song written about the ship, and tell me you can’t find almost anything on YouTube!