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Assigned to the Train, Atlantic Fleet, the tanker carried fuel oil from petroleum centers on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to ports along the Atlantic seaboard and in Europe. When the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) was established on 9 January 1918, Topila was one of the original ships assigned to that organization. At that time, she had been at sea for five days laden with oil destined for England. Upon her arrival at Devonport on 19 January, she discharged her cargo, got underway for home four days later, and reached New York on 13 February.
The ship subsequently made two more round-trip voyages to European waters under NOTS orders: one to Portsmouth, England, and the other to Verdon, France. She returned to New York from the latter on the final day of March and resumed voyages carrying fuel from Port Arthur, Texas, to ports on the east coast. Decommissioned on 24 June 1918, she was simultaneously transferred, via the United States Shipping Board, to the Southern Pacific Co.
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