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Identification Numbered Ships Photo Archive

El Capitan (ID 1407)

Civilian call sign (1919):
Love - Have - Tare - Vice


  • Built in 1917 as California by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, VA
  • Launched 18 August 1917
  • Subsequently named Oliver J. Olsen and El Capitan
  • Acquired by the Navy 21 March 1918
  • Commissioned USS El Capitan (ID 1407), 22 March 1918
  • Decommissioned 1 February 1919 and transferred to the United States Shipping Board for return to her owners, the Southern Pacific Steamship Co. of New York
  • During World War II El Capitan was owned by the War Shipping Administration and, beginning in June 1941, operated by United States Lines. She was transferred to Panamanian registry at the
    beginning of October 1941
  • Disabled by German aircraft on 9 July 1942, while operating with the ill-fated Arctic convoy PQ-17, SS El Capitan sank the following day.


  • Displacement 10,200 t.
  • Length 364'
  • Beam 51'
  • Draft 23'
  • Speed 11 kts.
  • Complement 52
  • Armament: One 6"/50 mount and one 6-pounder
  • Propulsion: Two single ended and one auxiliary boiler, one 2,300hp verticle triple expansion steam engine, one shaft.
    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    El Capitan 76k Photographed by E.P. Griffith of Newport News, Virginia, probably while fitting out at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company shipyard, circa 1917
    U.S. Navy photo NH 70476
    Naval Historical Center

    Commanding Officers
    01LCDR Jay H. Halsey, USNRF21 March 1918
    02LCDR R. H. Perry, USNRF1918 - 1919
    Courtesy Joe Radigan

    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships: El Capitan (No. 1407), a cargo ship, was launched 18 August 1917 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, VA.; transferred from the Shipping Board 21 March 1918; and commissioned the same day, Lieutenant Commander J. H. Halsey, USNRF, in command.

    Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, El Capitan made four transatlantic voyages between 29 March and 23 November 1918. She carried various supplies and equipment from east coast ports to Brest, Verdon, Le Havre, Plymouth and Devonport. On her second voyage, one day out of Philadelphia, she sighted a U-boat abeam. Her guns forced the submarine to dive before it could attack.

    El Capitan was decommissioned 1 February 1919 at New York and transferred to the Shipping Board the same day for return to her owners.

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