Zac McDorrI was saddened recently to learn that another of Bath’s historic ships has passed into history. The USS Williamsburg, presidential yacht for Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, was scrapped last year.

The 243-foot yacht, originally named Aras II, was built by the Bath Iron Works in 1930 for Hugh Chisholm, heir to the International Paper fortune. Like many such vessels, it was purchased by the Navy during WWII and converted into a gunboat. The ship spent most of the war patrolling Iceland, and served as flagship for the admiral in charge of training for the Atlantic fleet.

The Williamsburg underwent conversion after the war, and became the official presidential yacht in November 1945, replacing the old Potomac.

Soon it was known as Truman’s “Floating White House.” Truman met with dignitaries, presidents, and prime ministers aboard the ship, including Winston Churchill.

President Eisenhower only took one cruise on the Williamsburg, in 1953, and then he ordered the ship decommissioned. Afterward it was converted into a research vessel for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and renamed Anton Bruun. In 1968, the ship was severely damaged in a dry dock mishap that ended her career.

The Williamsburg sat for years in Washington D.C. and New Jersey. Plans to turn it into a floating restaurant never came to fruition. The ship was sold to an Italian company in the early ‘90s, and plans were made to turn it into a luxury cruise ship. The project went bankrupt, and the Williamsburg rusted away in an Italian shipyard for the next two decades.

The Italian government protected the hulk from the scrapyard because of its history, and there were hopes that the Williamsburg could be saved. Sadly, the hull eventually sank to the bottom and damages were too severe to fix.

The scrappers came for her in January 2016.