The old American liner George Washington is seen at a Baltimore shipyard shortly after she was pulled out of the mothball fleet located on the Patuxent River in Maryland. The date is 17 March, 1940. The ship was intended to serve the British as a troopship under the Lend Lease system, but her boilers were still coal fired, and were in a terrible state of neglect.
The British tried to make use of her starting in early 1941, but because of her poor mechanical state they encountered constant problems with her aging boilers. The ship was lucky to reach a speed of ten knots during this time. New oil fired water-tube boilers were held in storage for the ship in America, but they couldn’t be installed as long as she was serving under a foreign flag. A boiler breakdown in Halifax during a scheduled troop sailing was the last straw for the British, and they returned the ship to the American WSA (War Shipping Administration).
In June, 1942 the ship finally went to the Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn, and once there, she received 6 new Babcock and Wilcox water-tube oil fired boilers. These boilers occupied the space that had formally been her number 2 boiler room. The number 1 boiler room forward was sealed internally and it became a large addition oil bunker. Her engines received a full overhaul, and together with the high steam pressure maintained by her new boiler plant, she was capable of steaming at a sustained speed of 19.5 knots. The large additional fuel bunker gave her an astonishing steaming radius of more than 21,000 miles.
Externally, she looked quite different from her original appearance. She was now down to one funnel capping the old number 2 boiler room, and it was considerably shorter than the original. Her forward most, and after most masts, were shortened as well, and the combination of these three noticeable changes made the ship look longer than ever. She would go on to become one of the most efficient troopships in the entire Allied fleet, carrying onboard an average of 6500 troops, 480 Officers, as well as a crew of 240. She served throughout the remainder of the war as an American troop ship. Making long distance voyages on most of the world’s oceans. As a survivor of the conflict, she was also employed in the return of thousands of US troops to America.