Aug. 4, 1914: The ocean liner SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, headed from New York to Plymouth, England, diverts to Bar Harbor when the captain learns that World War I has begun. The ship arrives at 6 a.m. in a town that usually saw nothing but small coastal ships.

The captain wanted to avoid having the German vessel, which was carrying 1,216 passengers and more than $13 million worth of gold and silver, confiscated by the British or French. Bar Harbor was the closest port in then-neutral America.

On Nov. 7, the ship is moved to Boston while civil lawsuits are resolved in federal court. In 1917, the United States, having declared war on Germany, commandeers the ship, renames it the USS Mount Vernon, and uses it as a troop transport.

A German submarine torpedoes the ship on Sept. 5, 1918, killing dozens of sailors, but fails to sink it and it is repaired. It eventually is scrapped in 1940.

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Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at:


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