The third of NDL's four-stack liners, Kaiser Wilhelm II was built by
Vulkan of Stettin. Launched in 1902, she made her maiden voyage from
Bremen to New York, with calls at Southampton and Cherbourg, on 14 April
1903. After a 1904 propeller replacement designed to cure severe
vibration problems evident during her first year in service, Kaiser
Wilhelm II responded not only by running more smoothly, but also by
setting an eastbound crossing record in June 1904.
For several months in 1907, the ship was out of service after sinking at
her pier in Bremerhaven during coaling. She also missed several months
of 1914 due to damage suffered in June of that year in a collision off
the Needles. Apart from these two incidents, however, her service up to
the outbreak of World War I was described as "relatively uneventful."
En route to New York when the war began, Kaiser Wilhelm II was interned
at Hoboken, New Jersey, where NDL maintained its New York piers, until
the United States entered the War in 1917. She was then seized, renamed
USS Agamemnon and refitted for troop transport duties.
Her three years of trooping duty, although of significant importance to
the Allied war effort, were anything but uneventful. In October 1917,
she was struck amidships by her sister USS Von Steuben (ex-Kronprinz
Wilhelm) while both were part of a trooping convoy from New York to
Brest. Four months later, she again sank during coaling operations,
this time returning to service in a matter of days. In June 1918, she
and USS Mount Vernon (ex-Kronprinzessin Cecile) nearly collided with one
another at night, with over 5,000 troops and crew aboard. And in 1918,
she was laid up for repair for nearly two months; this time, rough seas
were responsible for the damage.
Released from service in 1920, Agamemnon was never used again. All
plans for her refitting and return to passenger service for the United
States Shipping Board (her new owner) proved fruitless. Laid up, with
Mount Vernon, in the Patuxent River, she was renamed Monticello in 1927,
to bring her name into line with her sister's. Her only voyage under
that name, however, was to the shipbreakers. In 1940 she was sold to
Boston Iron & Metal Co. of Baltimore for scrapping.
Sources: Shaum and Flayhart's Majesty at Sea; Bonsor's North Atlantic