On This Day in History: President Lincoln sunk by German submarine

On May 31, 1918, USS President Lincoln, a U.S. Navy transport ship, was sunk by the German submarine U-90.

Built in 1907 in Ireland, the ship initially belonged to the German transatlantic shipping company Hamburg America Line before it was seized in New York harbor in 1917.

President Lincoln was then transferred to the U.S. Navy which used it as a troop transport.

President Lincoln made five voyages from New York to France, transporting approximately 23,000 American troops which she disembarked at Brest and St. Nazaire. Four cycles were completed without incident: October to November 1917, December 1917 to January 1918, February to March, and March to May.

She sailed from New York on her fifth and final trip to Europe 10 May 1918. Arriving at Brest on the 23rd, she disembarked troops, and got underway May 29 with troopships Rijndam, Susquehanna and Antigone, escorted by destroyers, for the return voyage to the United States. At sundown May 30, 1918, having passed through the so-called danger zone of submarine activity, the destroyers left the convoy to proceed alone.

About 9 a.m., May 31, 1918, President Lincoln was struck by three torpedoes from the German submarine U-90, and sank about 20 minutes later. Of the 715 persons on board, 26 men were lost with the ship, and a Lt. Isaacs was taken aboard the U-90 as prisoner.

Survivors were rescued from lifeboats late that night by U.S. destroyers Warrington and Smith. They were taken to France, arriving at Brest June 2.