During World War I, the USS Jason usually carried coal to fuel U.S. Navy dreadnoughts. But in 1914, President Wilson let her set sail from New York harbor without coal. Instead, she held 5 million Christmas gifts bound for children in England and Europe whose fathers were fighting and dying in combat.
Nicknamed "The Santa Claus Ship," its cargo included 12,000 tons of stockings, petticoats, sweets, nuts, gloves, toys and other gifts. Stopping first in Plymouth, Devon, it unloaded presents for children across England, starting with those whose fathers had been killed in battle. The humanitarian mission resulted from a huge charity drive which started in Chicago but quickly spread all across the United States. English children who expected no Christmas gifts that year were thrilled to receive even the smallest present from boys and girls across the ocean in America.