United States Lines was an American transatlantic shipping company that operated cargo services from 1921 to 1989, and ocean liners until 1969—most famously, the SS United States. The lines became well known in the 1920s when two valiant historic rescues were made using their ships', the SS President Roosevelt in 1926, and the SS America in 1929 by Captain George Fried (pictured below).
In World War II, the ships were converted into troopships. The Manhattan became the USS Wakefield, and the Washington became the USS Mount Vernon. The flagship America became the USS West Point.
In 1941, two Nazi spies, Franz Joseph Stigler and Erwin Wilheim Siegler, worked for United States Lines as members of SS America's crew.
While on the SS America, they obtained information about the movement of ships and military defense preparations at the Panama Canal, observed and reported defense preparations in the Canal Zone, and met with other German agents to advise them in their espionage pursuits. They operated as couriers, transmitting information between the United States and German agents aboard. Stigler worked undercover as the chief butcher. Both remained on the SS America until the U.S. Navy converted that ship into the USS West Point.
Stigler and Siegler, along with the 31 other German agents of the Duquesne Spy Ring, were later uncovered by the FBI in the largest espionage conviction in U.S. history. Stigler was sentenced to serve 16 years in prison on espionage charges with two concurrent years for registration violations; Siegler was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on espionage charges and a concurrent 2-year term for violation of the Registration Act.
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