James Wallace McIntireMy great-great-great uncle James Wallace McIntire (a,f) served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. He was stationed on the U.S.S. Maui, which brought American soldiers across the Atlantic. The Maui’s adventures included dodging torpedoes, avoiding mines, battling U-boats and surviving storms on its journeys between America and France.

James McIntire is the son of my great-great-great grandparents George William McIntire and Emma Charlotte Whitaker. His sisters include Lula Pearl McIntire, the mother of Edith Amelia O’Brien, and Pauline Margaret McIntire, the mother of Ida DeVern Swartz.

James McIntire enlisted in the U.S. Navy in December 1915, at the age of 22. I don’t have record of him until 1918, when he was an engineer, listed as a Fireman First Class on the SS Maui. This job would have likely involved working with the broiler to keep the ship running.

The SS Maui was originally a civilian ship. It was built in 1916 and ferried passengers between San Francisco and Hawaii. In 1918, the Navy commissioned the ship for use transporting soldiers between Europe and the United States.

U.S.S. Maui

It took several weeks to prepare the ship for service in the Navy. McIntire may have helped with the work in Baltimore that involved overhauling the turbines, reconfiguring most of the ship, and adding four 6-inch guns and machine guns.

The Maui sailed to New York, where 478 troops packed on board. It finally set sail for Europe on April 16, 1918, but had to turn back four days later due to engine problems. I imagine the headache this must have caused McIntire.

maui ready to go

The Maui packed with soldiers, ready to leave across the Atlantic.

While sailing back, a seaman named G. F. Conway was passing a medicine ball with his shipmates when he fell into the sea. Sailors threw him life preservers, but he was unable to grab onto one and he sank to his death.

The Maui was able to undergo repairs and then meet up with a convoy of ships in the Atlantic, including destroyers. They continued across the ocean until word came over the radio that German U-boats lay in wait, ready to torpedo the American ships.

A submarine was sighted twice the morning of April 27, and the ships passed a tense night in the fog. American hydroplanes joined the convoy to help protect them from U-boats. The deterrent worked, and the Maui made it to France safely.

The Maui returned across the ocean again, where two major changes were made: The ship was reconfigured to fit now 4,000 troops, and camouflage artists gave it a paint job to protect it from U-boats.

camouflaged Maui

Camouflaged U.S.S. Maui docked at Basseus, France

[How dazzle camouflage worked and why ships used it during World War I]

The next trip across the Atlantic was even more eventful. The Maui was the center of a convoy that dodged mines and came under submarine fire twice. The second attack was described in a book about the ship:

“Exactly one half hour later the destroyers sighted another U-boat to starboard of the convoy and again took up their mighty disturbance. Great jets of water streamed skyward as the sullen detonations of depth bombs rent the air above the bedlam of whistles. Then, emerging from the turmoil of seas churned to white fury, came a streak on the surface of the water. It told its own tale.

Crossing the bow of The Tenadores, it lengthened and sped toward the center of the convoy, bearing directly upon The Maui. But the the maneuvering of The Maui triumphed over the marksmanship of the German gunner who fired that shot. The torpedo passed twenty yards astern and spent itself harmlessly in the water.”

dirigible escort

Dirigible escort for the Maui in the war zone

The Maui was in New York Harbor when word of the November 11th armistice came. The ship sounded its sirens in celebration through the night as the harbor, the country and the world marked the end of the war.

The Maui continued to bring soldiers across the Atlantic after the war ended. Troops danced, played games and even watched a film on a screen rigged up on deck. They organized into baseball teams that competed in the “Deep Sea League” on board.

Of course, the armistice didn’t mean the Maui and its crew were out of danger — a severe storm took the lives of four men in early 1919.

deck sports

Soldiers and sailors playing “deck sports” aboard the Maui

I don’t have details of James McIntire’s Naval career either before or after the Maui. He moved to the Los Angeles area by 1930, and died there in 1968. I hope to learn more one day — as if this weren’t story enough!


Ancestry.com, Utah, Military Records, 1861-1970 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.Original data – Utah State Historical Society World War I Service Questionnaires [1914-1918]. Series 85298. Microfilm, 25 reels. Utah State Archives and Records Service, Salt Lake Cit), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Wallace James McIntire. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=utmilrec&h=65737&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt.

Hennerich, W. E.; Stewart; Reagor; Kenna; Johnson; Binder (1919). Being the “Log” of the U.S.S. Maui in the World War. New York: Brooklyn Eagle Press. Retrieved 7 November 2018. https://ia800201.us.archive.org/0/items/beinglogofussmau00mauirich/beinglogofussmau00mauirich.pdf

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