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German submarine activities on the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada online

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gunfire after a battle lasting over two hours, in latitude 36° 40' N.,
longitude 73° 58' W. In his preliminary report to the naval authori-
ties, Capt. George W. Nordstrom said:

While on a voyage from Plymouth, England, to Newport News, Va., in ballast, on
August 4, 1918, in position 36° 30^ N., 73'^ 20' W., a torpedo was sighted about 1,000
yards, four points on port bow; by maneuvering ship, torpedo missed and passed 3 to
4 feet astern. At 9.30 a. m. the submarine opened fire from a distance of about 8
miles, and we immediately hoisted our flag and opened fire, after we broke our smoke
boxes out and made a smoke screen, changing coiu-se often to hide ship behind smoke
screen. At this time the submarine was observed five points abaft port beam. The
submarine followed us and kept shelling until 11.40 a. m., having our range finely all
the time, several shells bursting so close to ship that ship's side was punctured in
several places. At 11.40 a. m. a direct shot hit the engine room through the counter,
smasliing port engine and wrecking main steam line. Several men were woimded.
At the same time another shell hit magazine and exploded, destroying all ammuni-
tion. Previous to this one man was killed by gunfire and some minor wounded on
deck. I pulled my colors down and sent out wireless calls. I surrendered at 11.45
a. m. , ordered all hands in the boats, and abandoned ship. Pulling away from the ship,
the submarine came up and interrogated boat crews, took second officer prisoner,
asking the boat crew where the captain was, and the crew answered, that the captain
was killed. Then the submarine returned to ship and commenced to shell her. We
pxdled away to northward until out of sight, and then hauled around to westward. At
3 p. m. all boats together, sails set, course given by captain, compass regiUated, and
commenced to sail for land. During the night the first officer's boat and cliief
engineer's boat dropped out of sight. At 8.30 a. m. we were picked up by Italian
steamship Umbria and given food and relief. This ship took us down off Currituck
beach, put the boat into water, and we sailed for shore. We landed 3.30 p. m. August
5, 1918.

At 9.30 a. m. sent out alio call and at 9.50 approximately sent out SOS at irregular
intervals thereafter. The surrender call was sent out on emergency set, as dynamo
was smashed.

Breech locks for our guns were thrown overboard upon the approach of the submarine
to the life boats. The telescope sights were left with the chief engineer's boat. Mov-
ing pictures were made of the 0. B. Jennings and her lifeboats from the deck of the

A more complete description of the attack, together with the
conversation of the survivors with the crew of the submarine, a


description of the raider, and the account of the rescue of survivors
by the U. S. §. Hull, is given in the report of the aid for information,
first naval district, to the Bureau of Operations.

At 9 a. m. (ATS), August 4, 1918, while proceeding at a speed of 10 knots, a torpedo
wake was sighted four points off port bow. Helm was put hard astarboard and (juar-
ters was sounded and full speed ahead ordered. Jennings had been zigzagging and
continued to do so, holding the same course. About 9.30 a. m. several shots were
fired by the submarine, which was then sighted. The Jennings opened fire on the
submarine, which was then apparently 7 miles away. Shots from Jennings fell short.
Jennings continued at full speed, zigzagging and using smoke boxes. Submarine
continued firing, discharging about 40 or 50 shots at two-minute intervals. At 11.40
a. m. shot from submarine exploded in the engine room of the ship, disabling the
engine and wrecking the main steamline. A few minutes later another shell hit the
magazine, exploding and destroying all the ammunition remaining. Prior to this
time the Jennings had fired about 60 rounds at irregular intervals, causing submarine-
to submerge twice. During the engagement submarine fired 150 rounds at approxi
mately two-minute intervals. At 11.45 ship's flag was struck and wireless call sent
out that the Jennings had been captured. In this connection it had been the inten-
tion to use the word surrendered instead of captured.

Preparations were immediately made for abandoning the ship< and at 12.20 p. m.
all survivors had left the ship in three small boats. Position of Jennings at this time
was latitude 36° 40' N., 74° W. Submarine then approached the Jennings and con-
tinued shelling her. The boats drew away from the vicinity and at 2.20 p. m. the
Jennings turned on port side and sank slowly, disappearing from view 15 minutes
later. At this time the lifeboat in charge of the first officer, W. J. Manning, was
about half a mile away from the Jennings. The lifeboat in charge of the chief engi-
neer, Albert Lacy, was 2 miles ahead of the first officf.r's boat and the boat in charge
of the captain was ahead of the chief engineer's boat, thus the actual sinking of the
Jennings was observed only by the first officer's boat. After the crew abandoned
the ship and before they were permitted to leave the vicinity the three boats were
called to the side of the submarine, and a conversation between the second officer of
the submarine and the men in charge of the three lifeboats took place as follows:
The officer of the submarine said: "We got you at last; I knew we would. What
damage did the shell in the engine room do?" Reply: "Put the engine out of com-
mission." Question: "Where is the captain?" Answer: "He is dead." Question:
"Where is the chief wireless operator?" Answer: "1 don't know; he must be dead,
too." The above conversation was carried on by one of the men in the captain's boat,
during which time the captain and the chief wireless operator were both present, but
the captain's clothes had been placed on the body of the second steward, who had
been killed and left on the deck of the Jennings.

The chief engineer was in charge of one of the lifeboats, and in this lifeboat was also
one Rene Bastin, second ofllcer on the 0. B. Jennings, who had joined the ship at
Southampton, England. Bastin insisted that he be permitted to speak with the
officer on the submarine and, despite the fact that he was slightly wounded, jumped
from the lifeboat to the deck of the submarine and began speaking rapidly in German
to the officer and men on the deck, finally shaking hands with them and without
further conversation with his companions in the lifeboat went below decks of the
submarine and never returned. The men and officers on the 0. B. Jennings had been
suspicious of this man during the entire voyage. At the time he joined the ship in
Southampton he claimed to be a Belgian and produced proper credentials to sub-
stantiate his claim. He spoke French and German fluently. The captain of the
0. B. Jennings feels confident that this man could have been carrying no confidential
documents to the officers aboard the submarine. "

THE U-140. 75

The submarine was about 300 to 325 feet in length, and the top of the conning tower
was about 20 feet from the surface ol the .water, very rusty looking, with a guard
around the propeller. It was armed with two guns, 6-inch caliber, barrel 2Cf feet long.
They were placed fore and aft and about 6 feet from the conning tower. There were
two periscopes about 5 inches in diameter on the conning tower. No masts or wireless
xdsible. Three officers and 30 men were observed on the deck of the submarine, all
dressed in regulation blue uniforms. The hat of the men had the inscription: "Under-
eee Boat Deutchland Undersee Hamburg."

At 2.20 a. m., August 5, two boats in charge of the first officer and chief engineer
were picked up by the U. S. S. Hull. About 30 minutes before this occurred a sub-
marine was sighted mo\'ing slowly along the surface. Submarine passed about 50
yards from first officer's boat and about 300 yards from the captain's boat. Submarine
was about 300 feet long, conning tower about 20 feet from the surface of the water.

The U. S. S. Hull searched the ^dcinity for 30 minutes, endeavoring to locate the
captain's boat, but without success, as the captain refused to show any lights or
answer any signals, believing, as he stated later, that the U. S. S. Hull was the sup-
posed submarine sighted about 30 minutes earlier. The only fatality was that of the
second steward. Several of the crew sustained minor injuries from shrapnel.

The reference to Rene Bastin made in the account of the rescue
of the survivors of the 0. B. Jennings is explained and ampHfied by
the following letter from the American Consulate at Havre, France:

I have the honor to report that, on January 4, 1919, Mr. Rene Henry Bastin, formerly
second officer of the American S. S. 0. B. Jenniyigs, of New York, came to this con-
sulate and asked for relief and transportation to the United States, gi\ing the following
explanation of his^tuation:

The American S. S. 0. B. Jennings (gross tonnage 10,289 and net tonnage 7,890),
owned by the Standard Oil Co., Capt. Nordstrom, sailed from Plymouth, England,
for Newport News, Va., on July 20, 1918. On August 4, 1918, when about 60 miles
east of Newport News, it was attacked by a German submarine and sunk by gunfire.
Mr. Bastin was taken aboard the submarine as a prisoner of war. remaining on the
submarine for nearly three months, until its arrival at Kiel on October 25, 1918, when
he was transferred to a prisoners' camp.

The enemy submarine was U. K. 140, being an armored cruiser submarine, 375 feet
long, drawing 23 feet, with freeboard 3 feet above the water line, armed with four
6-inch guns, carr>'ing 35 torpedoes and having eight torpedo tubes and seven sets of
engines. Mr. Bastin says that the submarine carried a crew of no less than 102 men,
including t'ne captain, seven officers, and a special prize crew.

During Mr. Bastin's enforced stay aboard the submarine he had many exciting
experiences. On August 5, 1918, the submarine sank the American S. S. Stanley
Seamayi (?), of Boston. On August 17 it sank the liamond Shoal Lightship and four
steamers, whose names are unknown to Mr. Bastin. On August 22, 1918, the sub-
marine torpedoed and sank a large British passenger steamer called the Diomed, '
of Liverpool (gross tonnage 4,672). On September 20, 1918, the submarine attacked
a British tanker, the S. S. Lackawanna, of Liverpool (4,125 tons), which, being armed,
succeeded in shooting away the conning tower of the submarine. (Note: It might be
stated here that on August 16 the Lackawanna had an engagement with the German
submarine U-156, which is described in detail in this publication, under activities
of the U-156.) On October 1, 1918, the submarine attacked a convoy but was driven
away by destroyers. It succ'eeded, however, in torpedoing an unknown ship.

While confined in close quarters aboard the German submarine Mr. Bastin naturally
suffered great hardship and mental torture. On several occasions the submarine was
closely attacked by destroyers, which dropped depth charges in dangerous proximity.
On these occasions Mr. Bastin said that the faces of the entire German crew blanched


with terror and he himself and the four or five other prisoners from different ships
sunk by the siibmarine awaited momentarily their end. The effect of this long con-
tinued Biental strain may well be imagined. Only those of robust physique and
well-balanced mentality could stand the strain.

Mr. Bastin said that the prisoners received the same food as the crew, this being,
in rotation, boiled barley one day, boiled rice the next day, and boiled macaroni the
third day, with roasted barley as a substitute for coffee. The prisoners were permitted
on deck only one and one-half hours each day, of which one hour was in the morning
and one-half hour in the afternoon. The remainder of the time was passed in the close
and noisome atmosphere of the engine rooms in the depths of the submarine. While
the ventilation was as good as can be attained on a submarine, the air was so heavy
with odors that the men were in a drowsy condition and slept most of the time. On
the whole, Mr. Bastin said that the treatment of the prisoners aboard was bad and the
supply of food inadequate. He felt sure that the German crew had been forced
aboard in Germany and everything was done according to the strictest military disci-
pline. As above stated, the submarine arrived in Kiel on October 25, 1918. For
some days previously there had been great discontent among the crew and plans were
made to attack their officers and join with other submarine crews as soon as they

On October 29 the crew received an order to put to sea to fight the British fleet-
They refused to obey the order and, joining with other submarine crews under the
leadership of a sailor from the Seidlitz, who had been for two years in a submarine,
they began the revolt, the signal for which was a bombardment of the main street of
Kiel by a German cruiser in port. The prisoners of war were released for the day
only with orders to return aboard at night.

On November 5, Bastin, with his comrades, was transferred to Wilhelmshaven and
was then interned on the German cruiser Hamburg.

On November 9 the prisoners were told that the armistice had been signed and
that a revolution had broken out in the British, as well as the German navy; that
Marshal Foch had been shot and that the peace conditions would be favorable for
Germany. In confirmation of these statements the Germans showed the prisoners an
article in a local newspaper.

On November 10 there was a great illumination of the German fleet and a celebra-
tion in the city of Wilhelmshaven. On November 11 the real terms of the armistice
being known, everybody was depressed and everything was quiet.

On November 21 the prisoners were escorted from Wilhelmshaven to the American
officers' camp at Karlsruhe, where, according to Mr. Bastin, there were about 20
American officer prisoners from the Flying Corps.

Mr. Bastin was Released and left the camp at Karlsruhe on November 29 and pro-
ceeded to Villingen, about 20 miles from the Swiss frontier, where he was cared for
by the American Red Cross. On December 1 he arrived at American Base Hospital
No. 26, AP. O. 785, and it was from that point that he came by rail to Havre and
presented himself as a destitute American seaman, entitled, under our laws, to relief
and transportation.

Naturally, Mr. Bastin had none of his original papers, all having been lost or taken
from him by the Germans. He showed me, however. Special Order No. 445, of the
adjutant of the American base hospital above mentioned, relating to him, and also a
permit issued to him at the German camp. Mr. Bastin stated that he was born in
Ostend, Belgium, on June 21, 1889, and that he went to New York in June, 1918, and
took out his first papers for American citizenship. Not being yet an American citizen
1 could not issue to him an American seaman's identification certificate. As a desti-
tute American seaman, however, I relieved his immediate needs, provided for sub-
sistence and lodging and, after conferring with the American naval port office, I
arranged with the master of the U. S. S. Newton to accept him as a consular passenger

THE U-140. 77

al)oard that vessel to the United States. The U. S. S. Newton sailed from Havre for
Newport News, Va., via Plymouth, England, on January 11, 1919.

On August 5 the Stanley M. Seaman, a four-masted schooner of
J, 060 gross tons, hound from Newport News to Porto Plata, San
Domingo, with a cargo of coal, was halted in latitude 34° 59' N.,
longitude 73° 18' W. by a shot from the V-I40. The crew of the
schooner took the boats at once and rowed to the submarine, where
they delivered their papers. They informed the German officers
that they "had left the schooner in a hurry and were without suffi-
cient food and water," whereupon the submarine took their boats in
tow and returned them to the schooner, where they were permitted
to provision. They were ordered to run a line from the stern of the
schooner to the bow of the submarine and after so doing were
permitted to leave the vicinity.

The day following the sinking of the Stanley M. Seaman the U-I40
sank the American steamship MeraTc (formerly Dutch), 3,024 tons gross,
4 miles west of Diamond Shoals Lightship. The MeraTc wvts proceed-
ing at about 8 knots an horn-, when at 1.40 p. m. a shot from the sub-
marine crossed her bows. The weather was so hazy that the subma-
rine, which was 4 miles off the port bow, was invisible, but the flashes
of her guns could be seen. The Meralc put about at once and made
for shore, steering a zigzag course. The submarine pursued, firing at
intervals of about a minute. The Meralc, which was not armed, ran
aground after the submarine had fu-ed her thirtieth shot and the crew
took to the boats. The Germans drew up to the steamer, boarded her
from the deck of the submarine, placed their bombs, and as soon as
these had exploded, called the lifeboats alongside and questioned the
captain of the Merak. After checking up the captain's answers in
Lloyds, the submarine officer gave him the distance to shore and
turned his attention to other vessels which were in sight at the time:
The Diamond Shoals Lightship, 590 gross tons, the British steamer,
Bendeuch, and the American S. S. Mariners Harbor. Of these
vessels the ffi'st was sunk by gunfire, the second escaped after being
chased and gunned for some time, and the third escaped attack of
any kind. The Mariners Harhor was, however, close enough to the
lightship to observe the attack upon her, and a summary of her
captain's story as submitted to the naval authorities tells of the
afternoon's work ot the U-I4O:

The Mariners Harbor, of 2,431 tons gross, operated by the New Ydrk and Porto Rico
Steamship Co., and commanded by Capt. Hansen, left Porto Rico for New York
July 31, 1918, with a cargo of sugar.

Atl.45 p. m. (Saturday), August 6, 1918, in latitude 35° OF N., longitude 75° 24' W.,
proceeding to Diamond Shoals Lightship at 9 knots, the report of gunfire was heard
offshore and south of the lightship. At this time the sea was choppy, weather fine,
visibility excellent.


The firing was off the starboard bow of the Mariners Harbor. The course was altered
to NW. for about 15 minutes. Through the glasses the captain could see the lightship
and one ship on either side of her. One of the ships appeared to be of about five or
six thousand tons, and the other one was much smaller. The larger ship seemed to be
inside the lightship and the smaller one appeared to be outside of the lightship.

Shells were observed to be dropping about the ships into the water, causing a con-
siderable spray to arise. The firing was not regular. Usually two shots were reported
with an interval of a few seconds between them. Then an interval of from three to
five minutes and sometimes longer would follow. The captain estimated that about
eight shells were fired during the first 10 minutes of the attack.

At 2.12 p. m. (Saturday) the Mariners Harbor intercepted the following radio mes-
sage: "KMSL S. 0. S. Unknown vessel being shelled off Diamond Shoal Light
Vessel No. 71. Latitude 35° 05', longitude 75° 10'."

The course of the Mariners Harbor was then changed to N. and it was observed that
the report of the firing became more distinct. Subsequently the course was changed to
NW. and then to due W. for a short time, and the report of the firing became quite faint.
Finally the course of the Mariners Harbor was steered N . and the engines were stopped
when the ship reached a point about 10 miles WSW. of Cape Hatteras, in 8 fathoms of
water. It was then about 5 o'clock.

The firing seemed to cease for about a half hour, when it commenced again, SSW.
of the ship's position, and continued until shortly after 6 o'clock.

At 5.50 (Saturday) the Mariners Harbor received the following radio message:
"Gunned, steering S. 55 E. Bencleuch."

At 6 p. m. a ship was sighted astern of the Mariners Harbor proceeding at a low rate
of speed on about an ENE. course. She came alongside the Mariners Harbor and
Capt. Hansen hailed her captain through a megaphone. The name of the ship was
the American S. S. Cretan, of about 1,000 tons, engaged in passenger service.

The captain of the Cretan inquired about the firing and asked Capt. Hansen if
he was going out. Capt. Hansen informed him of what he saw, and stated that he
intended to proceed after dark.

At 6.25 (Saturday) the Mariners Harbor received the following message: "Ceased
firing after 37 shots, 23.25, steering toward Lookout."

The Cretan and the Mariners Harbor stood together until 6.30 p. m., when the
Mariners Harbor proceeded along the beach, followed by the Cretan. After about a
half hour the Cretan stopped, but the Mariners Harbor continued on her E. by N.
course until Cape Hatteras was reached.

At dusk (7.15 p. m.) the Cretan came up to the Mariners Harbor and the course was
resumed. When offshore about 7 miles the captain observed that the Diamond Shoal
Lightship was not in sight, although the ship was in range of its visibility.

At 8.30 p. m., what appeared to be a small steamer was observed off the starboard
bow coming from the southwest and steering northeast for the position of Diamond
Shoal Lightship. She was showing a masthead light, and a red side light could be
seen through the glasses. The lights were very low in the water and proceeding at a
high rate of speed. The Mariners Harbor and the Cretan were running completely
darkened. The night was dark, with no moon to be observed.

The captain believes this vessel to be a submarine, and the Mariners Harbor's helm
was ported, followed by the Cretan, and a due west course steered for about 2 miles.
The lights on the unknown vessel remained in view for about 15 minutes.

The Mariners Harbor and the Cretan then followed the course which the unknown
vessel was steering.

Capt. Hansen is of the opinion that this unknown vessel was a submarine, and that
it was steering this course expecting to meet his ship. The submarine undoubtedly
observed the ship during the attack and saw her head for the shore. At that time the
sun was between the submarine and the Mariners Harbor, and the captain believes

THE U-140. 79

this accounts for the fact that the submarine did not shell him, although his position
was about the same distance away from the sulimarine as the lightshij)^ — the three
positions forming a triangle.

During the entire attack the captain estimated that between 50 and 60 shells were

At 10 p. m. a message was received that the Diamond Shoal Lightship had been

On the morning of August 10, the following radio message was
intercepted by several ships and stations: "SOS 36 N. 73 W.
Help. We are running extreme danger. We are being attacked.
Lat. 36 N., long. 73 W. S. D. Z." The U. S. S. Stringham
hurried to the assistance of the endangered vessel, which proved to
be the Brazilian steamer Vhaala. The result of her mission is evi-
denced by the following message received by~ the Bureau of Opera-
tions: "Enemy submarine sighted lat. 35° 51' N., long. 73° 21' W.
Dropped 15 depth charges. Searchi^g vicinity Brazilian steamer.
Call letters S. D. Z. Escaped undamaged. "^'^

Three days later the U. S. S. Pastores engaged the U-I40. The story
of this action is taken from the war diary of the Pastores dated
August 13:

At 5.32 p. m., G. M. T., this date, in latitude 35° 30' N., longitude 69° 43' W., this
vessel changed course from 269° true to 330° true in order to cross a restricted area in
approach route before moonset. Zigzag combined plans Nos. 1 and 2 had been
carried on all day. At 5.43 p. m., G. M. T., the officer of the deck noted a splash about
2,500 yards distant, a little on the starboard quarter, and heard the report of a gun.
With his glasses he discovered a large enemy submarine lying athwart our course
6 or 7 miles distant, a little on the starboard quarter, and firing at this ship, apparently
with two guns. From size of splash it appeared that these guns were of about 6 inches
in caliber. Went to battle stations and commenced firing at sulimarine at extreme
range with armor-piercing shell at 5.46 p. m., G. M. T. The enemy fired about 15
shots, none of which came closer than 1,500 yards, after which she headed around
toward us or away from us and ceased firing. This ship fired nine rounds at extreme
range from after 5-inch 40-caliber guns, all of which fell more than 3,000 yards short.

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