The United States was the lifetime creation of the hugely talented American marine architect William Francis Gibbs. Conceived as the strongest, fastest and safest liner ever constructed, she was built at Newport News, Virginia, by the Newport News Ship Building & Dry Dock Company and was launched -- or rather floated in her building dock -- on 23rd June 1951. Engined with Westinghouse geared turbines producing 240,000 s.h.p., she was accepted by her owners, United States Lines, on 21st June 1952, her final costs having totalled US $73 million. Justifying everything that was spent on her however, she made a remarkable 38.32 knots on her trials and smashed the record for an eastbound North Atlantic crossing on her maiden voyage from New York to Southampton that July by averaging 35.39 knots. The return passage, only marginally slower at 34.51 knots, likewise set a new westbound record and both still stand as the fastest ever crossing by a conventional steamship. With extremely stylish accomodation for 871 First Class, 508 Cabin and 549 Tourist Class passengers, she was the acme of modernity and made Cunard's pre-War Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth seem positively dowdy by comparison. The biggest merchant ship ever built in the United States, she was registered at 53,329 tons -- calculated using the British system so as to appear even larger than she was -- and was 990 feet long with a 101½ foot beam. Claimed to be virtually fireproof, she had an aluminium superstructure and enjoyed considerable acclaim as well as commercial success until she fell victim to the inevitable competition from jet aeroplanes, a problem exacerbated by the seemingly insoluble dockyard labour problems in New York. Laid up in November 1969, first at Newport News and then in Hampton Roads, she was bought by the U.S. Maritime Administration in February 1973 and thereafter mothballed indefinitely at Norfolk, Virginia. Several schemes to restore her and return her to sea have each come to nothing, one of the major problems being the amount of asbestos within her hull, and she was last seen dwarfing the lower environs of the city of Philadelphia in the autumn of 1996, her future as the fastest ocean greyhound of them all uncertain to say the least.