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

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Ceased firing at 5.50 p. m., G. M. T., after enemy had ceased, and proceeded on course
at full speed. Submarine disappeared about 5 minutes later.

For a week following the engagement with the Pastores nothing was
heard of the U-I4O, and when, on August 21, she resumed her activ-
ities she was far to the northward of the scene of her former opera-
tions. At that time she attacked and, after a brief fight, sank the
British steamer Diomed, 7,523 gross tons, bound from Liverpocl to
New York.

3< Statements of Louis Hansen, master of the Mariners Harbor, to United States naval authorities.

3S On a subsequent visit of the S. S. Uberaba ta the United States, in Febniary, 191'J, a request was made
by the ofhcers and men of that ship through the Brazilian naval attach^at Washington, for permission,
whicji was granted by the Navy Department, to present to the ofhcers and men of the U. S. destroyer
StriTU/ham an American flag in silk and a silver loving cup brought from Brazil to express their heartfelt
esteem for the timely succor given, and to further strengthen the bonds of confidence and affectionat«
gratitude between the United States and Brazil.

I



80 GERMAN SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES ON ATLANTIC COAST.

We left Liverpool in convoy with the Harrisburg, Plattsburg, Baltic (White Star
steamer), Belgic (White Star), Katoomha, Diinvegan Castle, and the guide ship Lanca-
shire. We were joined afterwards by the Ortega. There were eight destroyers in the
convoy. They left at approximately 15 W. As soon as the convoy was Vjroken up,
the various vessels dispersed and followed the routes and courses prescriljed in the sail-
ing instructions. All the vessels were transports so far as the chief officer is advised,
and with the exception of the Harrisburg and Plattsburg were commanded by a cap-
tain of the Royal British Naval Reserve. The average speed of the Diomed was 15^
knots. The day before the Diomed was sunk she ran 400 miles.

I came on watch at 4 a. m., relieving the second mate. At 4.30 a. m. I took stellar
observations. I just finished the work on these observations at about 4.50 when an
object was sighted on the starboard beam, distant about 4 miles. By this time it was
about half daylight, perfectly clear sky, smooth water, and light air. I ordered the
helm hard a starboard for the purpose of bringing the object astern. I sent the mid-
shipman to tell the gunners to stand by. but not to open fire until they got further orders,
as I could not tell from the first examination whether the object was a submarine or
whether she was a torpedo boat.

In the meantime the ship was swinging and when the object was about a point off
the starboard quarter she opened fire. I am under the impression that she was not
moving in any direction. As soon as she fired her first shot we opened fire at about
5,000 yards distance, but I could not observe the fall of the shot. The captain was in
the chart room when the submarine was sighted and came on the bridge whilst the ship
was swinging under a starboard helm. As soon as our first shot was fired I left the
bridge and ran to work the after gun, the captain taking charge of the ship. The gun
was a 4.7-inch British Admiralty gun. The foiu-th shot that the submarine fired struck
the Diomed's starboard quarters, and from then on the submarine registered several hits.
By the time we fired 12 rounds the steampipe to the steering gear, which was on the
poop, had been carried away and we could not get to our ammunition locker, which was
located just on the foreside and underneath the steering engine house, on account of
the dense volumes of steam; the shot which carried away the line completely disabled
the steering gear.

We had a hand-steering gear, but it was impossible to hook it up and use it because
it would have taken half an hour to rig it under the most favorable circumstances.
No orders were passed to connect the hand-steering gear because the dense volume of
steam which prevented our getting at the ammunition locker also stopped any pos-
sibility of so doing.

In the meantime the submarine was dropping shells all around and upon our poop.
The splash of the German shells made our spotting observations almost impossible.
We were spotting from the roof of a locker immediately forward of the gun, because
under the circumstances it was impossible for the spotting officer to make himself
heard bv the gunner from the top, since there were no voice tubes from the after gun
to the maintop.

As soon as I found that passing the ammunition was impossible on account of the
dense volume of steam, and also from the fact that the officer in charge and his petty
officer in the ammunition party were severely wounded, I gave the command to cease
firing. We then made an attempt to ignite the smoke boxes, but as these did not
Ignite readily I ordered the poop to be left in order to try and prevent casualties.

As far as maneuvering of the ship is concerned, the chief officer is not in a position
to give any information, except that from the time the steam line was carried away
up to the time the vessel surrendered she was going ahead at full speed. She swung
somewhat to port after the main steering line was carried away. When the chief
officer left the quarter-deck the submarine was shelling the port side of the ship.
After leaving the quarter-deck I reported to the captain that the gun was out of




80-4



THE U-140, 81

action and offered the suggestion, in order to prevent unnecessary waste of life, that
the ship be abandoned. The captain agreed to this suggestion and the ship was
abandonea in good shape.

Tlie captain's boat, in which I left the ship, was lield alongside the ship as long
a? we thought it proper to hold her there. By the time we joined the other boats,
which were lying about a quarter of a mile off the ship waiting for us, the submarine
had steamed to a position quite close to the other boats. I was never less than 250
yart's from the submarine, but I tried to observe all I could of her construction and
general appearance. The submarine passed our boats as she went to take up her
position to sink the ship, which she did by firing three salvos of two rounds each from
a distance of about ."00 jards, and the ship immediately commenced to list to port
and finally sank on her port side abotit 15 minutes after the first salvo had been fired.
Wlien the ship sank we were about 600 yards from her. The position at the time of
sinking was latitude 40° 43^ N., longitude 65° 15' W.''«

The day after the sinking of the Diomed the U-I40 attacked the
American cargp vesse Pleiades, 3,753 gross tons, bound from Havre
to New York. The submarine, which was lying awash and not under-
way, was sighted at 7.10 p. m. from the crow's nest of the ship by a
member of the armed guard crew.

The Pleiades, of 3,700 gross tons, owned by the Tjuckenbach Co., left HaATe August
4, 19LS, for New York. On August 22, at about 7 p. m. (ship's time), in latitude
39° 43' N., longitude 63° II' W., a member of the armed guard in the crow's nest
reported a suspicious object two points off the starboard bow, distant 5 or 6 miles.
The weather was clear, but the first oflScer on the bridge could not make out the
object and ascended to the crow's nest. By this time the object was dead ahead.
The first officer recognized that what the lookout had taken to be a funnel was the
conning tower of the submarine.

The submarine was awash, not under way, and in the slight swell of the sea the first
officer could make out the bow and stern alternately exposed below the water line.
He noticed a gun forward and aft, but could not distinguish other details at that dis-
tance beyond the fact that she was a big submarine, at least 300 feet long, and that
her conning tower was amidships.

At 7.10 p. m. the course of the Pleiades was changed from S. (true) to SW. by W. f W.,
at her regidar speed of 9^ knots. A few minutes later the lookout reported that the
submarine had submerged.

At 8 p. m. the flash of a gun was seen off the port beam and a shell fell 1,000 yards
short of the Pleiades. A submarine was sighted, lying awash, distant between 3 and 4
miles. The position of the ship was 39° 34' N., 63' 25' W. There was a full moon,
in the rays of which the submarine lay, making an excellent target. The Pleiades
swung her stern to the submarine and worked up a speed of 12 knots.

All told the submarine fired four shots, the interval between the first and second
being thi'ee of four minutes and between the other two about two minutes. The
second shot fell off the ship's port quarter from 500 to 1,000 yards short; the third and
fourth shots struck astern from 700 to 1,000 yards short.

The Plenides fired 13 shots from her after gun, a 4-inch 40. Beginning with the
fourth shot the range was got and thereafter the shells fell close, although none of
them hit the submarine. The submarine was heading S. and quickly moved out of
the moon's rays after the first half dozen shots and no longer presented such a good
target. Within 15 minutes after the first shot the submarine submerged. It was then

» From the examination of Chief Officer Alfred E. Batt by the aid for information at New Yorls:.
181062°— 20 6



82 GERMAN SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES ON ATLANTIC COAST.

two or three points off the port quarter. The first officer believes the submaVine
fired only four shells, because the armed guard's shots wero so well aimed as to lead
the submarine to decide to submerge quickly.

The first officer explains the failure of the submarine either to pursue the Pleiades
or to maneuver around her to get her in the path of the moon's rays on the grounds
that she was not of a speedy type.

Two radio messages were sent out by the Pleiades. The first was an ALLO, sent
at 7.15 p.m. The other was an S O S S S S S message, sent at 8.15, approximately. It
was acknowledged by a shore station, but the first officer was unable to state which one.

The Pleiades arrived at New York August 25."

After the attack on the Pleiades the U-I40 began her homeward
voyage and on September 5 made an unsuccessful attack on the
British tanker War Ranee, 5,559 gross tons, en route from Grange-
mouth, England, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in ballast. At 11.30 a. m.
in latitude 51° 27' N., longitude 33° 24' W., the War Ranee sighted a
periscope and then the track of a torpedo close alongside, which
passed immediately under the engine room, but did not hit the ship.
The ship had been stopped for minor engine repairs and when the
submarine was sighted orders were given for "full speed ahead,"
After a delay of five minutes she steamed ahead, zigzagging, until
the submarine was well astern. The submarine came to the sm-face
and gave chase. Later the submarine opened fire. Two rounds
were fired at three-minute intervals between shots. The last seen
of the submarine, she was heading south and the War Ranee escaped.

The U-I4O having sustained some damage resulting in a slight
leakage, delayed her passage and she was joined on September 9
by the 11-117 which came to her assistance. The two then pro-
ceeded in company for a time toward Germany by way of the Skaw
and Albach Bay. The TJ-lJfi arrived at Kiel on the 25th of October,

1918.

THE CRUISE OF U-117.

The JJ-117,^^ commanded by Kapitanleutnant Droscher, left her base
early in July, 1918. This vessel was one of the cruiser, mine-laying
type of German submarines, and combined the errand of sowing
mines on the American coast with that of destroying tonnage by
direct attack. Her approach to the American coast was heralded
by an attack on the British steamer Baron Napier, July 26, when in
latitude 45° 26' N., longitude 32° 50' W.

On August 10 she attacked the fishing fleet in the vicinity of
Georges Bank. Before the day had ended the submarine had sent
to the bottom nine small motor schooners — the Katie L. Palmer,
31 tons; the Aleda May, 31 tons; the Mary E. Sennett, 27 tons; the
William H. Starhuck, 53 tons; the Old Time, 18 tons; the Progress,

w statement of John McNamara, chief officer of the Pleiades, to the American naval authorities.
88 After the surrender at Harwich the U-117 was one of the submarines sent to America for use in the
Liberty loan campaign.



THE U-117. 83

34 tons; the Eeliance, 19 tons; the Earl and Nettie, 24 tons; and the
Cruiser, 28 tons. The Albert W. Black, 54 tons, was fired on but
succeeded in escaping, and the Gleaner, 45 tons, after seeing one of the
victims disappear under the waves, fled without molestation.

All of the fishermen witnessed the sinking of at least one schooner
besides their own; some had conversation with the officers and crew
of the submarine, while others, who were taken aboard the submersi-
ble were able to furnish fairly good nontechnical descriptions of the
raider.

I am a French Canadian,

said Fred Doucette, engineer of the Aleda May,

and 32 years old. Have been in the fishing business 15 years. We sighted the
submarine when we were SE. of Georges Banks. I think that the water there is
about 70 fathoms. We sighted the submarine between 9 a. m. and 10 a. m. I was
engineer, and the first I knew about it was when I w^s told to start the motors.
Just at that time I heard the first shot, which jarred the boat. I opened the
engine wide open, then we heard another shot. The submarine was then about one-
fourth mile from us, coming toward us. A shell struck and cut our mainsail off. The
smoke from the shell was black. Then we got into oiu- dories. They took the skipper,
a young fellow, and myself and told us to go aboard the submarine. They took our
dory and then three Germans, two of whom were sailors, got on board with Aleda
May. The officer had a jersey sweater on, with blue serge pants. Had devices on hat.
He spoke English. They took our picture from the bridge, as we came alongside,
with a small camera.

They were aboard the Aleda May and took all our food. They took onions, candles,
watermelon, bananas, and, meat, and cleaned out all our provisions. They took a hose
which I had there, also a can of gasoline and a can of cylinder oil. Took rubber boots
and shoes. Also took the bow line and dumped it in the dory.

The bomb was painted red, about the size of a big tomato can. They screwed a
fuse into the metal on the top of the bomb. They then lowered it down the side of
the vessel. They tied the fuse with piece of rope when they lowered it down the side.
They then took a screw driver and shoved it into the end of the fuse and it snapped.
Then they said, "Row off quickly. We have seven minutes." About every minute
there seemed to be a snap. It seemed more than seven minutes to me. I should say
it was nearer 10 minutes. The officer began to look anxious, and then it exploded,
without much noise. The boat settled slowly, and the officer said "There she is;
that is war." There was a handle on the side of the bomb to carry it with. There
was a second bomb in the dory and this gave me a good chance to get a description of
it. It was 7 or 8 inches high; 6 inches around; nose was 3 inches long and about
IJ inches in diameter. The handle was just large enough to take hold of. We were
on the deck of the submarine for a whole hour. The bow slanted; top was round;
stem went right down to the water. There were two tight wires stretched from for-
ward aft, over conniAg tower.

There was a steel plate (washboard) on each side of submarine to keep the spray
off their feet. This board was about 2 feet high. There was a saw tooth for cutting the
wires which ran about 14 or 15 feet from the bow, and seemed to be quite heavy.
There were tumbuckles at after end of wire for torting up wire.

The submarine was about 300 feet long. Her hold was about 6 or 7 feet above water.
There were two guns, one forward and one aft. The forward gun was about 50 feet
from conning tower. The after gun was closer to conning tower, probably 30 feet.



84 GERMAN SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES ON ATLANTIC COAST.

The forward gun looked to be larger than the aft gun. The forward gun was about
12 feet long. The after gun was about 10 feet. The recoil cylinder was conspicuous
on after gun.

There was a wire handrail the entire length of the submarine held up by iron.

When the crew got on deck they were covered by four men. They took an empty
shell from the gun, which shell was about 5 inches, with a brass nose fuse, about
2^ inches. They loaded the empty gun again. They took up a wooden grating
from floor where shells were kept. There was an iron bar holding wooden grating
down. There seemed to be about 200 shells. They picked up the shell, turned it
up, nose down, and unlocked case which held shell (brass case). They put the
shell into gun and took the empty shell and put it with the other shells and cov-
ered it over again with iron bar.

No wireless or periscope was noticed. There was a pipe on each side of conning
tower, about 6 feet above conning tower.

The smallest gun was aft. There was no flare on the submarine. She ran straight.
There was a small German flag on after end of conning tower, red, white-black.

The deck of the submarine was perfectly smooth except for the grating. The
conning tower was about 12 feet. She was battleship-gray color. She set up in
water pretty well forward, and went down low aft.

The men stayed on deck about one hour. She was steaming up to sink the Progress,
and made a sign to the captain to push away. They got into the dory, and they told
us to come down the conning tower. We went down the hatchway through the
conning tower, and when we got down we walked a few steps to another manhole
about the same size, and then to another manhole, which made the third, and we had
to stoop down to get through it. It was a little aft.

On the first level nothing was noticed. Nothing was noticed on the second level.
On the third level, we went through manhole, and there were two big motors there,
one on either side, probably dieselators. They were about 2 feet apart. They were
very noiseless in running, and kept going all the time. The engine was started from
up above by a turning wheel, and went very smooth. There was no vibration what-
ever. It was a reversible engine. When she ran on reversible she was just as noise-
less. The engine room was short distance from conning tower.

The men sat on tool chest and there was a small dynamo running all the time. A
bell would ring, and the switch was thrown, which would result in a loud noise.
This would happen quite often. There were a number of men handling the motors.
When bell would ring there would be indications above (lettered) and a certain
man would throw lever on. There were five or six men handling the switches. They
were kept busy all the time.

There were no crosspieces or wire running from bow. The men stood back of con-
ning tower for about one hour. The beam was about 30 feet wide amidships. Con-
ning tower was about 12-15 feet wide. Did not have double flare.

When they were sitting on the tool chest there was a manhole opposite, and it
seemed as if the crew of the submarine did not want them to see into it. They were
very careful about closing the door every time they went in, and when the door
was left open, they hollered to close it. You would have to stoop to get into manhole.

The door on manhole opened inside port side. The crew of ihe submarine, went
into manhole and brought out a large pot of pea soup. They gave Doucette a dish
and offered the other men some, but they would not take it. Doucette took it. They
gave him a large dish and spoon, but no marks on it. The soup was quite thick,
with peas and beans. One of the crew of the submarine took enough to last Doucette
a couple of days, and ate it standing at his post. The men had on leather suits
and wooden soled shoes.

The captain of the Lena May asked one of the crew of the submarine if they had
Bunk many vessels, to which he replied that he had sunk quite a few. It was 1 o'clock



THE U-117. 85

when the men went down in submarine, and 3.15 when they came out. Quite a
few men shook hands with them and wished them luck.

All the supplies of the crew of the Zf7i« May were taken away. Also all their
clothes.

This man on board the submarine, who appeared to be an officer, stated that he had
been in New York and Providence. He stated that he was married. He said, "Do
you think the people of America think they are going to win the war?" He said,
"I suppose you people think the same." He said that nobody would win. He
said that Germany had a good chance to win, as they had plenty of men. He asked
about the draft. He asked Doucette how old he was, to which Doiicette replied 33.
He said that the draft age in America was between 20-30. He also asked if there
was many training. He asked Doucette how many men there were in France, to
which Doucette replied that there was three million in France, and one-half million
in Italy. He wanted to know if we had any charts. They seemed to be very much
afraid of mines, and wanted to know if there were any that we knew of.

They got some ketchup from the Lena May and were quite pleased with it. They
said, "Oh look, Sniders." They threw open the hatch on the Lena May and found
fresh goods.

They looked like a crowd of pirates, and were very yellow.

It was very hot in the submarine, the air was very foul from crude oil.

At about 9.50 a. m. on Saturday, August 10, according to R. A.
Sanchez, owner of the William H. Starbuck,

the man on the lookout on the Starbuck first sighted the submarine. At that
time the Starbuck was about 220 miles SE. by S. from Graves Light. It is believed
that the Starbuck was the first one of the fishing fleet to sight the submarine, which
was coming from E. by SE. and about 5 miles off; it was recognized at once as a sub-
marine. She showed a great deal of foam and appeared to be coming fast. When
at a distance of about 3 miles from the Starbuck, she started to shell that vessel, which
was attempting to escape. The Progress, Reliance, Aleda May, and one other vessel
were in the fleet. After several shells fell very close to the Starbuck, she hove to.
This was after fragments of shell had fallen on the deck of the Starbuck. This was
probably about 10 o'clock a. m. Three dories were prepared to abandoned the ship,
and at about 10.30 the Starbuck was abandoned. The dories were close by and after-
wards approached the submarine, and during this time witnessed the sinking of the
Aleda May, the Progress, and possibly the Reliance, sunk in probably the above order.
At about 2 p. m. the submarine sank the Starbuck with a bomb. No sound of the
explosion was heard, but the concussion was distinctly felt in the dories.

Mr. Sanchez states that he thinks the submarine was somewhere
between 200 and 300 feet long, and he thinks that she was certainly
not over 250 feet. Her after gun was considerably smaller than her
forward gun. The after gun appeared to be very large at the bridge,
and what appeared to be the barrel itself was no longer than 5 or 6
feet, and the larger part toward the bridge appeared to be even
longer than this. The caliber of the gun appeared to be about 3
inches. It was a peculiar looking gun and entirely different from
anything the captain had ever seen in the American Navy. The
forward gun apparently was about 25 feet long.

There was apparently a solid wire stay which stretched from bow
to stern, running over the conning tower itself. The whole length
of this stay, from the bow to the conning tower, had what appeared



86 GERMAN SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES ON ATLANTIC COAST.

to be teeth like a knife fastened to it. This stay appeared to be about
3 inches in diameter, made of wire. Her bow was sharp, sloping
forward from the water line like the bow of a schooner, and her deck
ran down from amidships aft.

As many as 20 of the crew were standing in the conning tower
laughing as the Starhuck was being rifled of all her provisions by some
of their mates.

About 20 feet from the bow of the submarine appeared a con-
trivance, which looked like the davit on board a vessel for hoisting
purposes. No boats were visible on deck. The submarine was
painted lead color, as were also her guns. Attached to the stay run-
ning fore and aft was what appeared to be a wireless apparatus
leading to the conning tower. Mr. Sanchez is absolutely positive that
the after gun was much smaller than the forward gun and appeared
to be about half the caliber. About 10 feet from the bow there
appeared to be a spar, which lay on deck, and which apparently
could be forced forward to an upright position. This spar appeared
to be about 20 or 25 feet long and appeared to be fitted to a hinge


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