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(ID-2999: dp. 11,298; l. 443'3"; b. 60'; dr. 24'6"; s. 17.45 k.; cpl. 346; a. 4 5", 2 1-pdrs., 2 mg.)
The first Siboney (ID-2999), formerly S.S. Oriente, a combination cargo and passenger vessel built by William Cramp and Sons, Philadelphia, Pa., was launched on 15 August 1917, renamed on 28 February 1918, acquired by the Navy on 8 April 1918 from her owners, the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Co., and commissioned the same day, Comdr. A.T. Graham in command.
Siboney sailed from Philadelphia on 16 April as a unit of the Cruiser and Transport force, and arrived at Newport News two days later to embark her first contingent of troops. She departed Hampton Roads on the 23d and joined her first convoy the following day. On the 25th, her rudder jammed; and, in the ensuing confusion, transports Aeolus and Huron collided and had to return to New York. On 4 May, the convoy was joined by the war zone escort of eight destroyers; and on the 6th, Siboney arrived at Brest. Debarking her troops, she sailed the following day and arrived at Hoboken on the 15th.
Siboney embarked her second contingent of troops at Lambert's Point, Va., on the 25th and sailed the following day. The New York section of the convoy joined on the 28th, and the ships entered the war zone on 6 June. In French waters, they were met by USS Corsair, a squadron of minesweepers, an American dirigible, and two French hydroplanes. Siboney arrived in Bordeaux on the 8th and departed the following day but remained anchored in the mouth of the Gironde until 13 June awaiting the tanker Woonsocket. On the 15th, the convey passed six empty lifeboats from the torpedoed transport President Lincoln. Siboney entered the American war zone on 20 June, and the next day rescued survivors of the British vessel, Dwinsk, which had been torpedoed three days previously. The transport arrived at New York on the 22d and anchored in the North River.
Siboney sailed for France on 30 June; and, after delivering her troops at Brest on 12 July, returned to New York on the 25th. She sailed again on the last day of July; and, before arriving at Brest on 12 August, had to maneuver several times to evade possible submarine contacts. As she was testing her gun during the return voyage, an explosion on deck killed the executive officer and three men and wounded the captain, the gunnery officer, and 20 men. Only two hours later, she sighted a submarine and, without mishap, fired two depth charges at the U-boat. She arrived at New York on 22 August and was given a two-week repair period.
On 4 September, Siboney sailed from New York on her fifth crossing and arrived at St. Nazaire on the 13th. Two days later, she embarked a number of wounded troops and left St. Nazaire the same day; but, due to heavy submarine activity, swung at anchor for several days before her convoy sailed. She arrived on 29 September at New York. On her sixth eastward crossing, between 6 and 15 October, an influenza epidemic broke out among the troops, killing a number of soldiers. Sailing from Brest on the 16th, the transport returned to New York on 24 October.
Siboney had embarked troops for her next voyage when, on 3 November, she was ordered to disembark them. She sailed the following day with an Army brigadier general and his staff, and a naval draft of 500 men. She arrived at St. Nazaire on the 12th, shortly after the announcement of the Armistice, and was met by a cheering crowd.
Siboney then began her peacetime mission of returning American veterans from Europe to the United States. After embarking 513 wounded men at St. Nazaire, she moved to Brest on the 15th and took on 600 more passengers. She sailed the same day under escort and reached New York on 24 November. During the next 10 months, Siboney made 10 more round trips between the United States and France, returning over 8,000 troops per trip when fully loaded. She returned to New York on 2 September 1919 at the conclusion of her 17th trip, having traveled over 115,000 miles and transported approximately 55,000 military passengers to and from French ports. On 10 September 1919 at Hoboken, N.J., Siboney was decommissioned and turned over to the War Department. Soon thereafter, she was returned to the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Co. In 1941, she was reacquired by the Army for transport duty; and, in 1944, she was converted into the Army hospital ship, Charles A. Stafford. The ship was laid up after World War II; and, on 22 January 1957, was delivered by the Maritime Administration to the Bethlehem Steel Co. for scrapping.
Submitted by Ramon Jackson
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