SS Uruguay, Brazil & Argentina - The “Good Neighbor Fleet” managed by Moore-McCormack Lines

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information they are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!

Page Two

Please Note: Photographs & Images are from the Author’s private collection, unless otherwise stated.

The three still in perfect condition Panama Pacific Line liners having been sold to become part of America’s “Good Neighbor Fleet,” they were sent to be partially refurbished at “Newport News Shipyards,” or the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. Below are their actual details!

1… SS California:

With the Panama Pacific Lines, SS California having been sold to the “U.S. Maritime Commission” and she was sent to her original builders “Newport News Shipyards,” where she received considerable work for her new role for the “American Republics Line” South America service.

2… SS Virginia:

Like her sister she was also sold to “U.S. Maritime Commission,” but she was sent to the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at the company's Brooklyn Plant at 56th.Street. There she received much the same work as all three ships received during their first conversion.

3… SS Pennsylvania:

Just like her earlier sisters she joined the “U.S. Maritime Commission,” and she was sent to “Newport News Shipyards” where she received considerable work for her future role.

The work that was undertaken on all three ships during their first part of their conversion was to have the aft funnel removed whilst the remaining funnel was enlarged. In addition the ships were renamed “Uruguay,” Brazil and Argentina respectively!

Here we see one of the American Republics Line ships completed

When work at the two shipyards was completed, each ship headed for New York to the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation at the company's Brooklyn Plant at 56th.Street. It would be here, where considerable internal technical and decorative work would be undertaken. Each ship would have interior designers come onboard and they would completely overhaul their interiors and modernise certain parts of each ship, without losing their historic beauty, such as the Main Lounges and Libraries!

Advanced promotional Brochure

Originally, air conditioning had only been installed to First Class Cabins and the Dining Room, but now it was extended to the Tourist Class Dining Room. The renovation also included a new swimming pool, as well as a complete reconstruction of the after deck in order to provide a Tourist Class Veranda Café. Throughout the ship, Cabins, Deluxe Staterooms, and Suites were comprehensively refurbished, whilst passenger numbers were also extensively reduced. In addition, in order to improve fuel consumption, new twin-screw propellers installed were.

During the refurbishment, each ship was completely fireproofed to comply with the new Federal safety regulations, which had been revised due to the tragic fire that had destroyed the liner Morro Castle in 1934.

Here we see one on the “American Republics Line” ships with their new livery

The Argentina had a Pre-War Passenger Capacity of 475. In addition, the S.S. Uruguay was the Flagship of the “Good Neighbor Fleet.

The Brazil & Uruguay had a Pre-War Passenger Capacity of 470.

All three ships: Had a crew of 380 and had cargo space of 450,000 Cubic Feet (bale capacity), with 95,000 Cubic Feet of refrigerated space.


Two “American Republics Line” brochures released early in 1938

The Good Neighbor Fleet Commences Services:                            

SS Uruguay was the first of the trio to sail for the American Republics Line on October 4, 1938, the she was operated by Moore & McCormack Line, when she departed New York on January 11, 1939 and headed for Barbados, Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, then returned northbound to Santos, Rio de Janeiro, and Trinidad, back to New York.

SS Brazil departed New York at noon, on October 8, 1938 and set sail for Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Trinidad and back to New York. The Brazil came under Moore & McCormack management in December 31, 1938

SS Argentina departed from New York in November 1938, and headed for Rio de Janeiro, Santos, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Trinidad, returning to New York to do it all over again.

A Mini Photo Album of the ships in their early days:

Before heading off on a voyage, first all suitcases needed a label fully completed!



After a fine meal in the dining Saloon, it would be an evening of dancing or some time at the bar with friends



There were those who would love to read in the Reading Room, or have a swim in the pool

or just sun bake an the Sun Deck, or enjoy one of the sport events!

The three ships were soon quite popular, and as America was not involved in the War with the murdering Nazis, leaving the Europeans, Britain and the Jewish people completely on their own, without any assistance whatsoever even to the point of not allowing the tragic German ship the St Louis filled with doomed Jews, most who would end up in death camps, entry into the US for refugee status!

But The “Good Neighbor Fleet” would continue their regular passenger services right trough the very end on 1949, when the Japanese attacked!

Below, is what was called a few glimpses of a Voyage on a “Good Neighbor Fleet” ship. The author is unknown:

“You leave New York on Friday, at midnight aboard the either the S.S. Uruguay, the S.S. Brazil or the S.S. Argentina being the largest, most modern equipped liners in regular service between the United States and its neighbor republics, whose names they bear. Ahead lays the equator where Neptunus Rex, father of the sea, who will initiate you into the mysteries of his realm. And beyond is a wondrous land few North Americans really know much about. Twelve days of rest and fun at sea bring you to one of the most beautiful ports on the Seven Seas, the mountain-rimmed harbor of Rio de Janeiro. Here you go ashore for tours or a fun evening, as you wish. Then overnight the ship will sail for Santos for another day of scenic discoveries next comes exciting Montevideo, and on the eighteenth day you arrive at our final destination, Buenos Aires

Homeward bound, back on our ship having spent four exotic days in romantic Argentina, you look forward to revisiting Santos and Rio for further new sights and thrills to add to those we saw on your southbound journey and also to see the historic Isle of Trinidad. Of course just to rest in ultimate comfort of the ship, which has become your luxurious home at sea, and to take still further advantages of its superb facilities for fun and carefree living to the max! Although you may have spent a night or two at the smartest hotels in fastidious Buenos Aires, you find your stateroom quite equal in comfort. Yes, you have wined and dined in the most fashionable restaurants ashore, but you will eagerly anticipate the equally delectable cuisine that you have been enjoying onboard your ship. And how idyllic it seems to have your well-being so courteously attended to again by the staff and crew that have served you so capably since you left New York. This is the half-way point on a round-trip cruise that covers well over 12,000 miles. And by now you are probably wishing it might never end.

The “American Republics Lines” SS Argentina is seen berthed at one of her ports of call

Aboard these great liners of The “Good Neighbor Fleet” the opportunities for enjoying a life of perfect ease and rare good times are literally limitless. Like floating modern cities, they cater to your every need and whim. On each ship there‘s a doctor, nurses and excellent hospital facilities, yes there is even a “Dorothy Gray” beauty salon, as well as a Shop to provide you with personal necessities, souvenirs of your vacation and ship memorabilia, as well as to keep you supplied with film, but also to develop and print your stills without delay. And for those who do not take movies of their own, or would like to add to their personal recordings, expertly photographed reels of many interesting shipboard activities will be available to passengers at a modest cost. Even if you forget to bring your camera, you may rent either one or purchase one duty free aboard.

Onboard one of the tree fine liners you will have thirty-eight of the most memorable days of your life! This is a wonderful and a glorious vacation, for The “Good Neighbor Fleet” does offer a new kind of adventure; Be assured these fine ships will offer luxury, comfort and wonderful fun afloat, discovering many glamorous and new sights to experience ashore at all the exiting ports!”


Like most shipping companies, be it European and British Shipping Lines, and of course the vast majority of American passenger liners would be in big demand for the use as Troop or Hospital ships, etc, and serve during the war! However the three ships of the “Good Neighbor Fleet” were not required during the early part of the War and thus they continued on their regular services, but with a large American flag painted on the sides of their hulls, as America was not involved in the war!

But then came Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 and the very next day, December 8, the United States declared war against Japan.

This being the case, at the start of January 1942, the SS Uruguay, Brazil and the Argentina were requisitioned to become “United States Army Transport ships” (USAT) for the “War Shipping Administration,” and they headed off to their respective docks for not just their new paint work, being that drab wartime grey, but also to have their interiors specially fitted with departments for troops in a special part of the ship, but still retaining passenger space, as well as having some other required works.

USAT Uruguay:

War service for the Transport ship Uruguay was vast and varied, as for her very first voyage the USAT Uruguay filled with U.S. troops, departed Brooklyn, N.Y., and sailed via Panama, Bora Bora (Polynesian Islands, Tahiti) to Auckland, New Zealand, then continuing to Melbourne Australia. From Melbourne she turned back and sailed to Wellington then to Auckland and headed for Halifax and sailed on and she visited countless ports, such as Swansea, Oran, Casablanca, Bermuda, Brisbane, Fremantle, Bombay, Sydney, Hobart, Cape Town, Liverpool, the Clyde, the Mersey, Southampton, United Kingdom, the Solent, Le Havre, Leghorn, Gibraltar, Manila, Leyte, Honolulu, Manila, and Yokohama.

The Transport ship USAT Uruguay is seen at anchor at some port

Photographer is unknown - Please see photo notes at bottom of this page

Then on February 12, 1943 the SS Uruguay was rammed by a Navy tanker the U.S.S. Salomonie, which created a 70-foot wide gaping hole in the Uruguay. Tragically some thirteen soldiers were killed as well as fifty soldiers having been badly injured. A temporary bulkhead was constructed and three days later the Uruguay was brought into a safe harbour. Captain Albert P. Spaulding as is recorder did save many lives, also his ship and her cargo. At a later date, the President of the United States took great pleasure in presenting the “Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal” to Captain Albert P. Spaulding, Master of USAT Uruguay.

USAT Brazil:

Like her sisters the SS Brazil was also requisitioned to become “United States Army Transport ships” (USAT) for the “War Shipping Administration.” When she was ready the USAT Brazil departed Charleston, South Carolina on March 19, 1942 and headed for Karachi, India, carrying a good 4,000 American troops from a number of different Army units. She completed this voyage on May 12. She also operated voyages to Casablanca, Morocco, and on October 22, 1944 she sailed from Staten Island, New York, with the 290th.Infantry Regiment onboard, arriving at Swansea, Wales on November 1, 1944. The 290th.went on to fight in three major campaigns, at the Ardennes, known as the “Battle of the Bulge” in Central Europe, and the Rhineland.

On September 26, 1945 the USAT Brazil arrived at San Francisco with an amazing 4,682 troops aboard the ship having crossed the Pacific from Australia and other destination’s bringing America’s fighting men and women home!

The Brazil is seen approaching San Francisco on September 26, 1945 packed with soldiers!

Photographer is unknown - Please see photo notes at bottom of this page

Thankfully USAT Brazil survived the War with only minor mishaps.

USAT Argentina:

The S.S. Argentina, with 200 passengers, was to depart at 1.00 pm on January 3, 1942 for South America; however the Navy requisitioned the ship on January 2, 1942. Even though cargo had already been loaded in the holds and around 200 passengers had booked a voyage when the Navy and the Maritime Commission notified the shipping company to cancel the sailing. Passengers were rapidly notified either by word of mouth, as some where already at the wharf and others yet to arrive by telegram or telephone. Officials refused to discuss the reason for the sudden action taken by the advice of the War Office. The ship, like her two sisters, became a “United States Army Transport” ship “USAT” for the “War Shipping Administration.” The S.S. Argentina, with 200 passengers, was set to sail at 1 pm on January 3, 1942 for South America, but the Navy took over the ship on January 2, 1942. Even though cargo had already been loaded in the holds and around 200 passengers had booked a voyage when the Navy and the Maritime Commission notified the shipping company to cancel the sailing. Passengers were rapidly notified either by word of mouth, as some where already at the wharf and others yet to arrive by telegram or telephone. Officials refused to discuss the reason for the sudden action taken by the advice of the War Office. The ship, like her two sisters, became a “United States Army Transport” ship “USAT” for the “War Shipping Administration.”

USAT Argentina is seen in Dry-Dock being made ready for her trooping duties

Photographer is unknown - Please see photo notes at bottom of this page

The Argentina arrived at New York on January 8, and after having been made ready she departed again on January 23, and she was given the role as flagship of six troop carriers, as well as a number Naval escorts. The fleet arrived in Melbourne, Australia on February 27, 1942. She returned to San Francisco, from where she again departed on April 22, with the 32nd.Infantry Division aboard, and she arrived in Port Adelaide, Australia on May 14, 1942.

She continued on a number of operations; however her final voyage was rather unusual.

On January 26, 1946 the Argentina departed Southampton, England, for her icy cold and stormy winter Atlantic crossing to New York. What made this voyage so special was that she was carrying 452 war brides, with 30 of them being pregnant, with them there were 173 children, and there was one war groom. This was the first official war bride contingent. This transport was nicknamed the “Diaper Run,” - “Operation Mother-in-Law,” or the “The War Bride Special.”  However, the violent stormy seas whipped the Argentina around during her voyage to New York and a good eight out of ten passengers were hideously seasick to say the least!

The Argentina arrived in New York on February 4, although she was a good day late due to the storm experienced. However, this certainly did not keep the radiant but exhausted GI brides from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Malta, from crowding the decks as early as 3:30 am in 13 Far - 10.6 Cel degree weather to see the Statue of Liberty. As the ship reached the pier, they were met by a band, and there were many cameras rolling and Mayor William O’Dwyer was ashore waiting for them along with some 200 newsmen. Due to the Argentina being the “first official war bride ship,”

USAT Argentina survived the War with only minor mishaps and carried about 200,000 troops, government officials, and war brides.

A Note in Conclusion:

During World War II, Moore-McCormack Lines operated over 150 ships, and they lost 11 of them. Their trio of liners transported some 754,239 troops, and carried an amazing 34,410,111 tons of War cargo.

The three ships were released back to Moore-McCormack Lines in May and June 1946 to be refitted and restored into passenger liners once more. However, the details and story of their final years to 1964 will be told on Page Three via the link below!

The SS Argentina seen in her post WW2 guise arriving in New York



Page One        SS California, Virginia & Pennsylvania - 1928 to 1938.

Page Two        SS Uruguay, Brazil & Argentina - 1938 to 1946.

Page Three       SS Uruguay, Brazil & Argentina - 1946 to 1964.

Also Visit          SS Brasil & Argentina of 1968


“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”



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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are either by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images and photographs that have been provided by Shipping Companies or private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors, however, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer or owner concerned. Therefore, I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me; my email address can be only be found at in order that due credit may be given.

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