The Kroonland was built in 1902 by W.Cramp Sons at Philadelphia for the International Mercantile Marine Company's Red Star line and sailed initially under the American flag. She was a 12760 gross ton vessel, length 560ft x beam 60.2ft, two funnels, four masts, twin screw and a speed of 15 knots. Accommodation for 342-1st, 194-2nd and 626-3rd class passengers. Launched on 20 February 1902, she sailed on her maiden voyage from New York to Antwerp on 28 June 1902.
In November 1908 she was put under the Belgian flag (Société Anonyme de Navigation Belgo-Américaine, SANBA) and sailed between Antwerp and New York until 13 January 1912 when she reverted to the US flag and stayed on the same service. On 1 August 1914 she left Antwerp on her last voyage to Dover and New York and on 15 August 1914 transferred to the New York - Liverpool run for two voyages before being transferred again on 15 October 1914 to the New York - Gibralter - Naples - Piraeus service for one round voyage. On 2 February 1915 en route to San Francisco, she was one of the first passenger liners to transit the Panama Canal.
On 21 May 1915 she went to the Panama Pacific Line for the NY - Panama Canal - San Francisco service and then to the American Line for the London - New York service for one voyage commencing 30 January 1916. Transferred on 20 February 1916 to the New York - Liverpool run until her last voyage on this service, sailing 31 January 1917.
Shortly before the United States entered World War I, the Navy placed guns (4 4" cannons, 2 1-pdrs. and 2 machine guns) on the ship, and an armed naval guard embarked 25 March 1917 to protect her from German submarines. On the morning of 20 May 1917, while the liner steamed through a heavy fog toward Liverpool a torpedo struck her without exploding. Two minutes later her lookouts spotted a submarine bearing down on the Kroonland so close aboard that the liner's guns could not be depressed enough to open fire on the raider. Although the U-boat, apparently also taken by surprise, reversed her screws and tried to turn to avoid a collision, she lightly struck the liner's hull and scrapped along her side before diving out of sight. Meanwhile two more torpedoes came with some 20 feet of hitting Kroonland's stern. That afternoon the liner sighted another submarine surfaced some 1,000 yards off her port quarter. Kroonland immediately began shelling the U-boat, forcing her to dive for safety.
The Army took over the ship at New York 18 February 1918, loaded her with military equipment, and sent her to St. Nazaire, France. After returning New York 9 April Kroonland was converted to a troop transport by William J. Kennedy Co. The Navy acquired and commissioned her 22 April, Commander Manley H. Simons in command. As a naval transport, she made five round-trip voyages to France before the Armistice.
On 10 July, as she steamed homeward from her second voyage for the Navy, a lookout spotted a periscope rising from the water about 200 yards away. Kroonland opened fire and the fourth shot from her No. 4 gun "burst with a tremendous cloud of dirty blue smoke" exactly on the periscope. The submarine zig-zagged "erratically back and forth until she was directly in the disturbed water of our wake." The transport continued firing until the submarine disappeared, leaving an oil slick which could be seen for at least 15 minutes.
After the war Kroonland shuttled across the Atlantic returning American veterans. She decommissioned and was returned to her owner on 1 October 1919 and converted to carry 242-1st, 310-2nd and 876-3rd class passengers and reverted on 14 April 1920 to the Antwerp - Southampton - NY service and on 21 June 1923 went back to the American Line and was put on the NY - Plymouth - Cherbourg - Hamburg run, being converted to carry cabin class and 3rd class passengers only. After three voyages on this service, she went back to the Panama Pacific Line for the NY - San Francisco run. She was scrapped at Genoa in 1928.
From: [Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, Vol. III, 1968, Navy Department, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, Washington, D.C.] [KINT, André, and VERVOORT, Robert. Red Star Line: Antwerpen's Vergane Glorie], [North Atlantic Seaway, vol.2. by N.R.P.Bonsor], [Posting to the Emigration-Ships Mailing List by Ted Finch]