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Identification Numbered Vessel Photo Archive

West Bridge (ID 2888)

Civilian call sign (1919):
Love - King - Rush - Quack

Barbara Cates call sign (1933):
King - Jig - Option - Option


  • Built in 1918 as War Topaz by J. F. Duthie and Co., Seattle, WA
  • Renamed West Bridge prior to completion
  • Launched 24 April 1918
  • Acquired by the Navy 26 May 1918
  • Commissioned USS West Bridge (ID 2888), 27 July 1918
  • Decommissioned 1 December 1919 and returned to the United States Shipping Board
  • Abandoned in 1928
  • Re-engined in 1929 by Hooven-Owens-Rentschler Co. of Hamilton, Ohio
  • Registered in 1933 to the Christenson Steamship Co. of San Francisco, CA as the freighter Barbara Cates
  • In 1939 she was acquired by the Waterman Steamship Co. of Mobile, AL and renamed Pan Gulf
  • In 1940 ownership transferred to the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Co. of Wilmington, DE
  • Taken over by the War Shipping Administration in 1944
  • Transferred to the Soviet Union under Lend Lease 4 May 1945
  • Renamed Lermontov, and assigned it to the Far East State Sea Shipping Co. where it was used in cargo transport duties in support of the war effort
  • Reassigned in the late 1940s to the Black Sea State Shipping Co.
  • Scrapped 1 December 1966 at Split, Croatia.


  • Displacement 12,200 t.
    1933 - 5,599 t.
  • Length 423' 9"
    1933 - 409.5'
  • Beam 54'
    1933 - 54.2'
  • Depth of hold 29' 9"
  • Draft 24' 1"
    1933 - 27'
  • Speed 10.5 kts.
  • Complement 88
    1933 - 34
  • Armament: One 4"/50 mount and one 3"/50 mount
    1945 - One 4"/50 mount, one Model 39K 76.2mm mount and eight 20mm mounts

    Click on thumbnail
    for full size image
    Size Image Description Source
    West Bridge 67k Probably photographed upon completion in May 1918
    Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 105606
    Robert Hurst
    West Bridge 117k Photographed by her builder, J.F. Duthie & Company, Seattle, Washington, on 25 May 1918, showing her as completed, painted in pattern camouflage
    U.S. Navy photo NH 65098-A
    Naval Historical Center
    West Bridge 98k In drydock at Brest, France, with a French workman standing in the aftermost of two torpedo holes received in a German submarine attack on 15 August 1918. Note the boiler visible within the ship
    Courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer Keith L. Anderson, USN (Retired), 1974
    U.S. Navy photo NH 82757
    West Bridge 122k In drydock at Brest, France, looking aft on the starboard side, showing the two torpedo holes received in a German submarine attack on 15 August 1918. Note the boiler visible in the aftermost hole
    Courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer Keith L. Anderson, USN (Retired), 1974
    U.S. Navy photo NH 82758
    West Bridge 123k In drydock at Brest, France, looking forward along the starboard side, showing the two torpedo holes received in a German submarine attack on 15 August 1918
    Courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer Keith L. Anderson, USN (Retired), 1974
    U.S. Navy photo NH 82759
    West Bridge 125k In drydock at Brest, France, showing French workmen repairing torpedo damage received in a German submarine attack on 15 August 1918. Note timbers placed over the two torpedo holes in the ship's starboard side
    Courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer Keith L. Anderson, USN (Retired), 1974
    U.S. Navy photo NH 82760

    Commanding Officers
    01LCDR Mortimer Hawkins, USNRF26 May 1918
    02LCDR Harry Allen Davis Cameron, USNRF1919 - 1 December 1919
    Courtesy Joe Radigan and Wolfgang Hechler

    Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships History: West Bridge--a single-screw, steel-hulled freighter built under a United States Shipping Board contract at Seattle, Wash., by J. F. Duthie and Co.--was launched on 24 April 1918, acquired by the Navy on 26 May 1918; designated Id. No. 2888, and commissioned at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Lt. Comdr. Mortimer Hawkins, USNRF, in command.

    Assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS), West Bridge got underway on 10 June bound for the east coast with a cargo of flour. Developing engine trouble as she steamed toward the Panama Canal, the freighter put into Balboa, Canal Zone, for repairs which took until 4 July before she resumed her voyage. The ship reached New York on 16 July, replenished her fuel, and sailed for France with Convoy HB-8 on 1 August.

    Escorted by Noma (SP-131) and French cruiser Marseille, the convoy plodded across the Atlantic. By mid-August, the Allied ships entered the danger zone where U-boats had been highly active of late. In fact, two German submarines, U-90 and U-107, were then lurking in the path of the convoy.

    At 1740 on the 16th, West Bridge's turbine broke down and defied all attempts at repair. As the ship dropped back within the convoy, Lt. Comdr. Hawkins notified the convoy commodore of West Bridge's plight. He also signaled Marseille that his ship needed a tow.

    Meanwhile, the convoy continued on its way, when suddenly--shortly before 1800 and four miles ahead of the now drifting West Bridge--German submarine U-90 torpedoed Montanan.

    At this juncture, Hawkins ordered general quarters and directed all hands to keep a sharp lookout, while also reducing the crew in the engine spaces to a minimum. Noma closed West Bridge and stood by the disabled freighter. On Noma's orders, West Bridge darkened ship and prepared for the worst.

    Meanwhile, U-107 approached unseen and launched two torpedoes. One hit West Bridge forward near number 3 hold and the other amidships abreast of the engine room. A warning about torpedo tracks, shouted from the pilot house, was too late, and, almost simultaneously with the general alarm, the deadly "fish" struck their mark. The stricken freighter immediately took on water and commenced to sink, initially listing to starboard. Hawkins ordered "abandon ship," and the crew took to the boats. Hawkins and two crewmen remained behind until they felt sure that all the survivors were off and then joined the rest of the men in the water as waves began lapping over the gunwales onto the well deck.

    Noma sped off in the direction from which the torpedoes had come and subjected the U-boat to a heavy depth charge barrage. The doughty patrol craft also sent out an "SOS" for West Bridge, since the shock of the initial explosion had disabled the freighter's wireless. In the interim, West Bridge's boats pulled about one mile away from the sinking ship, where the survivors watched the ship slowly settle.

    West Bridge remained afloat for the rest of the night, and the dawn revealed the cargo vessel extremely low in the water but on an even keel. Noma returned from her submarine hunt and signaled that help was on the way. She herself had just rescued the survivors of the torpedoed Montanan.

    One hour later, Burrows (Destroyer No. 29) appeared on the scene and picked up West Bridge's crew. A head count showed that four men were missing but turned up two women stowaways. After boarding Burrows, Commander Hawkins consulted with the destroyer's commanding officer and requested that he and his executive officer be allowed to return to West Bridge to determine whether or not the ship could be saved. Accordingly they were boated back to the freighter and boarded her. They found that both her well decks were awash, her engineering spaces were flooded, and at least three holds were totally inundated. Deeming the situation hopeless, Hawkins advised Burrows' commander that to stand by the drifting hulk would only endanger the lives of Burrows' crew and of West Bridge's survivors. Accordingly, Burrows proceeded for Brest, leaving Smith (Destroyer No. 17) to stand by the still floating Montanan (which soon sank) and West Bridge.

    A volunteer work-and-salvage party from Smith, led by Lt. Richard L. Conolly, boarded West Bridge, while four tugs--two French, one British, and one American --set out from the French coast to assist. Soon thereafter, lsabel (Patrol Yacht No. 10) joined the convoy which arrived at Brest on 22 August. After being towed 400 miles in this condition, West Bridge had made it to port with only one-percent buoyancy remaining!

    After extensive repairs which were completed in March 1919, West Bridge served with NOTS until 1 December when the cargo vessel was decommissioned and returned to the United States Shipping Board. She remained in the custody of that agency until abandoned in 1928.

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