SOS: God Save ‘The First Lady Of The Sea’

LOS ANGLES TIMES: Once, it was the fastest and one of the most luxurious ocean liners in the world. On its maiden voyage in 1952, the United States set a transatlantic speed record — New York to Bishop Rock, England, in three days, 10 hours, 40 minutes — eclipsing by 10 hours the mark set by the Queen Mary in 1938. But for 14 years, the pride of a nation has gone nowhere, rusting away at a pier in South Philadelphia, a fading landmark seemingly destined for one last journey: to the scrap yard. Its owner, Norwegian Cruise Line, which spends about $700,000 a year to moor and maintain the ship, appears set to pull the plug. Ah, but what a run. During its glory years, it represented the pinnacle of American Cold War ingenuity and Hollywood glamour. The ship was larger than the Titanic and fireproof, and could be converted into a vessel for troops within 48 hours, capable of carrying 14,000 soldiers more than 10,000 nautical miles without refueling. The ship was never called upon to do that. Instead, it entertained an A-list of guests — John F. Kennedy, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Marlon Brando among them — who danced in opulent ballrooms and feasted upon Scotch grouse a l’Anglaise, paupiette of Dover sole, and braised smoked ox tongue. But with the advent of jet travel to Europe, the ship’s fortunes rapidly declined. It was retired in 1969 and changed owners several times. Since 1996, the vessel has been on life support, docked at Pier 82 across from an Ikea store. MORERELATED: The Big U: The Story Of The USS United States

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