Auxiliary cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm

The Kronprinz Wilhelm was a passenger ship of the Norddeutschen Lloyds (NDL), which served the Atlantic route between Bremerhaven and New York. With the outbreak of the First World War, the ship was used as an auxiliary cruiser against merchant ships, until it was confiscated at the entry of the US war and served as a troop transport for the US Navy.


Launching and design:

The development of Kronprinz Wilhelm was based on the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große, a passenger ship which has been driving for several years in the service of North German Lloyds. In contrast to the Kaiser Wilhelm der Große, however, the Kronprinz Wilhelm was even larger and had a much more pompous equipment to satisfy the spirit of the time of well-heeled passengers. But just like the Kaiser Wilhelm, this ship was under the supervision of the Imperial Navy, which brought in some construction points to equip the ship with guns if necessary and to use it as an auxiliary cruiser.

The launching of Kronprinz Wilhelm took place on March 30, 1901, the commissioning in September 1901.


Plan of the passenger decks I. and II. Class from the year 1908


View from the foreship to the bridge of Kronprinz Wilhelm


View from the height of the bridge to the sundeck of the Kronprinz Wilhelm




History of Kronprinz Wilhelm:

During the launch, the ship was one of the most modern passenger ships in the world. New was the installation of a telephone system which was connected to all stations and thus enabled a fast communication. A station for wireless telegraphy had also been installed for the first time.

The first trip took place from 7 to 11 September on the cities of Bergen, the stave church Fantoft, Edinburgh with the royal seat Holyrood Palace and the Forth Bridge. On 17 September 1901, the Crown Prince Wilhelm began the regular operation of the route Bremerhaven - Southampton - Cherbourg - New York - Plymouth - Cherbourg - Bremerhaven. The last stop in New York took place on July 29, 1914 when a war was already looming in Europe.


Auxiliary cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm

Auxiliary cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm


Auxiliary cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm

Auxiliary cruiser Kronprinz Wilhelm




Use in the war:

From 22 July 1914, the ship was in New York in the harbor and was already preparing for the return trip to Germany when on 3 August the news of the state of war with Great Britain and France arrived. On 4 August, the naval command was ordered to cancel all bookings, to bunker as much coal as possible and to prepare for departure. After leaving the ship met on August 6, the small cruiser SMS Karlsruhe in order to receive from this guns, ammunition and operator crew. During the transfer, however, the German ships were spotted by the British battleship HMS Suffolk and ran immediately in different directions.

Kronprinz Wilhelm operated along the east coast of South America and was able to raise 16 ships in the following 8 months:
- Russian fisher schooner Pittan
- British commercial steamer Indian Prince on September 4, 1914
- British steamer La Correntina on October 7, 1914
- French four-masted bark Union on October 28, 1914
- French Bark Anne de Bretagne on November 21, 1914
- British commercial steamer Bellevue on 4 December 1914
- French commercial steamer Mont Agel on 4 December 1914
- British merchant steamer Hemisphere on December 28, 1914
- British commercial steamer Potaro on January 10, 1915
- British liner steamer Highland Brae on January 14, 1915
- British three-mover schooner Wilfred M. on January 30, 1915
- Norwegian Bark Semantha on 5 February 1915
- British commercial steamer Chasehill on February 22, 1915
- French commercial steamer Guadeloupe on February 22, 1915
- British passenger steamer Tamar on March 24, 1915
- British commercial steamer Coleby on March 27, 1915

Over the course of the already 8 months of ongoing use, there were more and more problems in the supply of coal. In addition, the health of the team caused by the one-sided diet to create, since sometimes about 25% of the team were not ready. The machinery also needed an urgent overhaul, which prompted commander Lieutenant Paul Wolfgang Thierfelder to drive to Newport News in Virginia and have the crew and ship interned there, since at that point in time the US was at least officially neutral.

After entering the harbor, Kronprinz Wilhelm was mothballed in Philadelphia. Only with the declaration of war of the USA to the German empire on 6 April 1917 the ship came again into the focus of the US Navy. It was seized the same day and rebuilt from May 22 to June 9, 1917 and renamed USS Von Steuben.

Used as troop transport, the Von Steuben commuted between New York and Brest and shipped US soldiers to the European theater of war. An incident occurred on the morning of November 9, 1917, when the Steuben had collided with her, also seized by the United States sister ship Kaiser Wilhelm II. From 14th to 28th of November the repair work took place in Brest.

Until October 13, 1919, the Steuben was commissioned to transport the soldiers.


The interned Kronprinz Wilhelm with a gray war coat in 1915 still under German flag. Good to see are the two rear guns


Kronprinz Wilhelm during internment 1916

The Von Steuben on June 28, 1918 with visual protection painting at the pier of the North German Lloyd in Hoboken

The Troop Transport Von Steuben now again without a protective coating on September 1, 1919 in New York





After the last crossing of Europe, the ship was deleted on October 14, 1919 from the list of warships and renamed Baron von Steuben. On July 7, 1920, the ship was auctioned to New York's Fred Eggena and the Foreign Trade Development Cruise. The new owner wanted the Steuben rebuilt to present US companies on a world tour. However, the conversion did not take place, but it was renamed Vonben again in 1921, sold in 1923 and scrapped in 1924.




Ship data:




Kronprinz Wilhelm

From June 9, 1917 USS Von Steuben


German Empire

From April 6th, 1917 USA

Ship Type:  

Passenger liner

From August 6th, 1914 auxiliary cruiser

From June 9th, 1917 troop transport


Passenger liner


AG Vulcan Szczecin




March 30th, 1901


September, 1901


Scrapped in 1924


202,17 meters


20,1 meters


Max. 8,3 meters


Max. 14.908 Tons


522 Men


4 quadruple expansion
steam engines


33.000 PS (24271 kW)

Maximum speed:  

23,53 kn (44 km/h)


2 x 8,8 cm guns

2 x 12 cm guns








You can find the right literature here:


German Battleships 1914–18 (1): Deutschland, Nassau and Helgoland classes (New Vanguard)

German Battleships 1914–18 (1): Deutschland, Nassau and Helgoland classes (New Vanguard) Paperback – February 23, 2010

Supported by official documents, personal accounts, official drawings and specially commissioned artwork, this volume is an enlightening history of the Deutschland to Osfriesland classes. Detailing the last of the pre-dreadnaught battleship classes, this book goes on to explain the revolutionary developments that took place within the German Imperial Navy as they readied themselves for war. This included creating vessels with vast increases in size and armament. This account of design and technology is supplemented by individual ship histories detailing combat experience complete with first-hand accounts. The specially commissioned artwork also brings this history to life with recreations of the battleship Pommern fighting at Jutland and ships of the Osfriesland class destroying HMS Black Prince in a dramatic night-time engagement.

Click here!



The Imperial German Navy of World War I, Vol. 1 Warships: A Comprehensive Photographic Study of the Kaiser’s Naval Forces

The Imperial German Navy of World War I, Vol. 1 Warships: A Comprehensive Photographic Study of the Kaiser’s Naval Forces Hardcover – December 28, 2016

The Imperial German Navy of WWI is a series of books (Warships, Campaigns, & Uniforms) that provide a broad view of the Kaiser's naval forces through the extensive use of photographs. Every effort has been made to cover all significant areas during the war period. In addition to the primary use of photographs, technical information is provided for each warship along with its corresponding service history; with a special emphasis being placed on those warships that participated in the Battle of Skagerrak (Jutland). Countless sources have been used to establish individual case studies for each warship; multiple photos of each warship are provided. The entire series itself is unprecedented in its coverage of the Kaiser's navy.

Click here!



German Battlecruisers of World War One: Their Design, Construction and Operations

German Battlecruisers of World War One: Their Design, Construction and Operations Hardcover – November 4, 2014

This is the most comprehensive, English-language study of the German Imperial Navy's battlecruisers that served in the First World War. Known as Panzerkreuzer, literally "armored cruiser," the eight ships of the class were to be involved in several early North Sea skirmishes before the great pitched battle of Jutland where they inflicted devastating damage on the Royal Navy's battlecruiser fleet. This book details their design and construction, and traces the full service history of each ship, recounting their actions, drawing largely from first-hand German sources and official documents, many previously unpublished in English.

Click here!



The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918

The Kaiser's Battlefleet: German Capital Ships 1871-1918 Hardcover – March 15, 2016

The battleships of the Third Reich have been written about exhaustively, but there is little in English devoted to their Second Reich predecessors. This new book fills an important gap in the literature of the period by covering these German capital ships in detail and studying the full span of battleship development during this period. The book is arranged as a chronological narrative, with technical details, construction schedules, and ultimate fates tabulated throughout, thus avoiding the sometimes disjointed structure that can result from a class-by-class approach. Heavily illustrated with line drawings and photographs, many from German sources, the book offers readers a fresh visual look at these ships. A key objective of the book is to make available a full synthesis of the published fruits of archival research by German writers found in the pre-World War II books of Koop & Schmolke, Großmer's on the construction program of the dreadnaught era, Forstmeier & Breyer on World War I projects, and Schenk & Nottelmann's papers in Warship International. As well as providing data not available in English-language books, these sources correct significant errors in standard English sources.

Click here!






This post is also available in: Deutsch (German) Français (French) Italiano (Italian) 简体中文 (Chinese (Simplified)) Русский (Russian)

Comments are closed.

error: Content is protected !!