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

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on deck.

At about 2 p. m., shortly after leaving the submarine and when
about 4 miles distant, the submarine opened fire on the dories of
the Starhuck. There is no question in Capt. Sanchez's mind but
what they fired on the dories, the shells landing in their vicinity,
and the submarine afterwards coming toward them and looking
them over.

About 6.30 p. m., Sunday, August 11, after sailing since Saturday
afternoon about 2 p. m., the trawler Acushla was met and the crew
of the Starhuck went on board of her and were brought to Boston,
arriving at 9 a. m., Tuesday, August 13, 1918.

James Nickerson, the master of the fishing schooner Reliance, gives
the following account of the attack:

It was about 10 o'clock Saturday morning and I was lying down, and one of the crew
came down and said there was a shot fired alongside of us. There were four boats close
together, all fishing boats. So I came on deck, and just as I came up a shell struck
alongside and I saw them lower sails off of her. Then he shelled one outside of us a
little, and we started our power and swung away from her, and then he threw two
shells at us; one struck about 50 feet from us and the other about 150 feet.

She was not a mile away from us when we sighted her, and, of course, then we stopped
our machine and let her lay. There was no use in trying to get away, and we put our
dories over and took some provisions and water and got all ready to leave, and then we
went back on board.

I don't know the first one sunk; she was about 2 miles away from us. The second,
the Progress of Edgartown. We went aboard, then got some canvas to make sails and
stayed there until the second one went down, and when he came toward us we pushed
off and lay perhaps 200 or 300 yards from her. He had a yellow dory at the
stern of the submarine. He came within about 200 feet between us and the boat.
Of course some of our dories were farther off; we had three dories. One man I saw

THE U-117. 87

getting over the side of the pul marine with a bag. I think he was an ofTco-. He
had a white cap and oilskins; all of them had. It was an officer's cap. They were
perhaps 20 minutes aboard her before they left her, and they just got aboard the
submarine and did not move very far before she went up. There wasn't much of
an explosion; she went down stern first. We saw three more schooners just about the
time we left; the Starhick was about north by west from us. After he sunk the
Slarhuck he steamed in that way. There were about 10 or 11 shots fired there at those
other three.

The wind was about ENE. She wasn't going very fast. She had the dory astern.
There was very little noise; just smoke. She fired perhaps 10 or 11 shots. Just about
noon the Slarhuck went down and we got aboard the Katie Palmer about 5.30. Ten
minutes before we boarded her we heard four more shots. We got aboard and started
power and started about west by south. We didn't go 40 minutes when we saw her
coming behind us, and, of coiu-se, when she was about 2 miles from us we sighted her.
Her bow was about 12 or 14 feet out of water and her stern was awash. The center
was about G or 7 feet out of water. So, of course, he says there is no use of us trying to
get away. He stopped his engine and we got into our dories again and started out.
The Katie Palmer is owned, I think, in Boston. The master is Edward Ruseell. He
had no dory out that time and had no boat of any kind because the first of his dories
came along with us, and the submarine was perhaps 300 yards from us and there was
a fellow signaling to one of the last dories that left her and that dory went alongside.
It was getting dark then. We heard this slight explosion. Of course we started then
for land. We never saw anything after we left her until Sunday night about 8 o'clock
we heard — I suppose there was a fishing vessel coming up. About noon Monday
•we were picked up by the schooner Corinthian about 14 miles around South Channel.
The owner of my boat is John Nelson, of Gloucester. The crew of the Katie Palmer all
left her. The Palmer looked like a dory alongside the submarine. He was a))out 17
mile.s about west from where we were. Her bow was round, just like a schooner bow.
1 was within 200 feet of her when she came down alongside of ovu* boat. They all had
some kind of coats on. She had two guns aft. One heavy gun on the bow. It was
covered. It was as long as one of those G-inch guns. Must have been 50 men on her
forward deck. There wasn't over 12 men in sight when she was alongside us. She
was twice as long as the Starbuck, and the Starbitck I should judge to be about 90 feet.
She was 250 feet at least. She was close to the Starbuck. She was newly painted.
The Starbuck looked like a jolly boat alongside her. There wore no rough spots on her.
She looked new.

The following is the statement of Manael Dias, captain of the
schooner Mary E. Sennett:

The crew consisted of seven, all being saved.

Saturday, August 10, 1918, between 3 and 4 p. m., SE. part of Georges Bank, known
as latitude 41^, 160 miles SE. Island Light; weather very good. Friday night, August
9, 1918, weather was stormy, raining, and rough.

The Cruiser from Boston, a fishing boat, told me that they heard some shots east of
them and that they thought we had better go to port, but owing to the fact that the
captain had heard these reports from other fisherman from time to time, did not pay
any attention to this report. Cruiser, Old Time, and this boat, the Mary E. Sennett,
were all fishing together around I o'clock, and captain was on mast looking for sword
fish when two submarines were sighted ESE. of where this boat was. One submerged
and was never seen again, and the other was making circles trying to fool the fishing
boats — that is, the submarine zigzagged around so that the fishing boats would come
near to it. Whereas, the captain thought these were other fishing boats at first, and
sailed toward them. Cruiser and Old Time sighted and recognized what they really


All boats tried to run away toward the NW. Then speed was put on; when about
a mile off three shots were fired at same time, one at each one of the fishing boats.
Then we faced vessel SE. and then two more shots were fired, one at stern and one
at bow. Then we took to dories and went WNW. and the vessel SE. jogging along
by itself. Only saw one shot hit water and went under keel. Cruiser was sunk and
Old Time was also sunk; none of men believed saved.

Germans were not seen going on board any of these vessels. After Cruiser and Old
Time were sunk, it went toward the Mary E. Sennett. Lost sight of vessel and did
not pay much attention as we were using our best efforts to get away.

Around 5.30 or 6 p. m. nine shots were heard in direction where submarine was
seen. Sailed NW. for home. Sailed until Sunday 2 p. m. Goodspeed, a knockabout
trawler on Clarkes Bank, brought us to fishing grounds. We then got on board a United
States chaser and were brought to the S. S. i?ync?y7f, which was at Island Light, and it
brought us to harbor, where we were taken to the immigration office.

The submarine was about 200 feet long, nothing less, and looked gray. We saw two
brass guns, one on stern and one on bow. The gun on the stern was of solid shell.
Fire came from forward gun and smoke from the stern gun when fired . Believe there
were more guns on it.

There was no wireless seen. No flag. Conning tower quite high, about 8 or 9 feet.

Ijost sight of vessel and therefore do not know whether or not they boarded my

Statement of Edward Russell, captain of the Kaiie L. Palmer:

The Kate L. Palmer was a fishing schooner formerly owned by William and W. S.
Jerden and taken over by Mr. Jack O'Hara, Boston, Mass. She plied between Boston
and the fishing banks.

It left Boston, August 6, with a crew of seven men, including the captain, bound
for Georges Banks, about 200 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.

On Satiu^day three gun shots were heard about 10 a. m. The weather was clear
and the wind was NE. During the day several shots were heard, but nothing was
seen till about 3.30 p. m., when a submarine was seen about S miles away. It con-
tinued coming nearer until it arrived alongside the ship. The submarine was about
300 feet long and was a war-gray color. It had two gims, fore and aft. The fore gun
was 6 to 8 inch and about 15 feet long and looked to be about 3 feet in diameter. No
overhead wires were seen. The conning tower was about 25 feet high. On the
outside of the submarine were about 20 or 25 men. I^ater I boarded her and saw
several men on board. I was questioned as to whether or not I was armed. Four of
my men boarded the submarine, but the other three did not. I was told to go below.
The crew were sociable and said, "Don't hurry," and asked if we had water and pro-
visions. I replied that we had. The submarine crew then took our stuff out of the
dory. I had a drink with some of the members of the crew and was given a bottle of
cheap rum, unsealed. An officer of the crew asked aboirt the mines and tried to get
us to talk. We said we were not permitted to know anything about these matters.
He then asked if we would like to have peace. I answered, "Yes." He next asked
if our people wanted peace, and I said that I thought they did. He asked when I
thought the war would be over and I answered that I did not know. He then said,
"What do your people think about it." I said that they had different opinions.
He said, "I suppose President Wilson knows." I did not answer. He said, "I saw
President Wilson's picture with a great big nose," and he laughed.

The submarine crew were all Germans. They spoke broken English. 1 asked the
length of the submarine and was told that it was about 300 feet and they had 500
different types of submarines in Germany, some 500 feet in length. He said, "I sup-
pose you have submarines over in this country?" I answered, "Yes." The officer
to whom I was talking seemed to feel that Germany knew all about submarines and

THE U-117. 89

that America knew nothing. He said, "You have about 100 men in Europe, haven't
you?" 1 said that we have more than 1,000,000. He evidently did not believe it,
and shrugged his shoulders. He told me not to go ashore and tell any lies. I answered
that I would not.

Before leaving, the crew of the submarine returned all of my goods to my dory.
We left the German sub about 8. We exchanged greetings and headed west. The
Bub marine headed south. I was asked by the creAv of the submarine about how many
fishermen were about and I answered 25 or 30 eastward. I said that for the purpose
of going west f)urselves, in the hopes of finding a boat to help us. The oflicer said
that they were going to give us a boat but later said they had changed their minds.
We were aboard the dory until about 11 p. m.

When we were sunk, we were about 200 miles SE. of Highland Light in 50 fathoms
of water. We went west toward the South Shore Lightship for the purpose of meeting
some vessel to take us up. We were picked up about 10 o'clock by the Helen E. Murley
and landed at New Bedford, Mass., about 3 a. m. The officer I talked to looked like
the second mate. I don't think he was the captain. The men were dressed in leather
jackets and wore regular German hats.

The officers wore slate-colored clothes and caps. The machinery looked as if it
were operated by electricity. All the bells and lights were electric. They had two
engines running lengthwise in the vessel. There were three passageways. 1 headed
through the conning tower, then through another deck and then another and then
another deck into the submarine. It was divided into compartments, with round
doors that closed so thai; the compartments could be shut off. The engines were aft
of the submarine. The galley was aft of the sub. I saw no anchors, ammunition,
torpedo tubes, or numbers. There was a life rail about 3 or 4 feet in height.

Evidence that the German plan of breaking the morale of the
American people and leading to a demand for the recall of the de-
stroyer division was not badly calculated is shown by the fact that
James J. Phelan, assistant States administrator of Massachusetts,
at the instance of the mayor of Gloucester, reported to Washington
that the fishermen and their families were greatly alarmed by the
U-boat activities and desired additional naval protection on the
fishing grounds.

The statement of Louis Amirault, a member of the crew of the
schooner Katie L. Palmer:

On August 10 at about 10 a. m. gunfire was heard to the eastward which was repeated
several times during the day up until about 2 o'clock, when it was distinctively recog-
nized as being gunfire.

About 3 p. m. the man at the masthead reported three dories which came from the
eastward . These dories proved later to belong to the American fishing schooner Reliance,
a swordfish vessel from Gloucester. There were two men in each dory.

The crew of the Reliance stated that the Starbuck, Progress, and Lida May were
sunk about 7 or 8 miles to the eastward of the position of Katie L. Palmer. The
Reliance was sunk some time between 12 m. and 2 p. m. All of these vessels were
sunk by bombs after shots had been fired across their bows to bring them to.

About 4 o'clock the submarine was sighted, coming from the northeast. She was
coming very fast, and it was said by the crew of the submarine that she was making
about 21 knots an hour. When first seen she was about 5 or 6 miles away. During
this time the Katie L. Palmer was trying to get away from the submarine but. was
overtaken in 45 minutes. As the Palmer was going about 6 knots an hour, it is esti-
mated that the submarine was making about 12 knots.


When the submarine came to about 100 yards of the Palmer, the Palmer was aban-
doned by its crew and that of the Reliance. After they had got into the dories, the
submarine creAv beckoned to one of the dories of the Palmer to come alongside. In
this dory were Capt. Edward Russell of the Palmer, Fred Quinlan, Forman Belliveau,
and the subject, Louis Amirault.

The submarine appeared to be about 300 feet long. Her deck appeared to be about
9 feet above the sea level. Conning tower was about 13 feet long, 6 feet wide. She
had two guns, the one forward appearing to be 12 feet long and the caliber is estimated
as being about 6 inch. The after gun was very much smaller, and appeared to be not
more than 4 or 5 feet long. The forward gun appeared to be mounted about 30 feet
forward of the conning tower. The other gun appeared to be about 20 feet aft of
the conning tower.

She had a hand rail which began about the forward gun and ran aft slightly behind
the conning tower. She appeared to have two hulls, and had square holes out of
which the water was running.

The four men of the crew of the Palmer remained on the deck of the submarine
about one-half hour, standing between the conning tower and the forward gun, chatting
with the crew of the submarine of which there were^about 30 or 40, and three of whom
spoke English. The majority of the crew were dressed in khaki trousers and under-
shirt, some barefooted, and only one appeared in white uniform.

One of the three men who could speak English asked the subject, Amirault, from
what port he hailed, to which he replied, "Boston." He told them that they were
150 miles from the nearest land, and that they would be picked up Saturday.

One of the officers of the submarine later asked the captain of the Palmer if he had
any information in regard to mine field off the United States coast, to which he was
given the answer that such information was secret, and that they knew nothing
about it.

After standing for about one-half hour on deck, the four men were ordered below,
where they went, going down a manhole in the conning tower, by climbing a ladder
on the starboard side. The manhole appeared to be about 3^ feet in diameter.

They went through three manholes to get to deck below. At the foot of the man-
hole he found himself in an alleyway about 3J feet wide, with a steel floor.

The men then went aft down the passageway through three or four bulkheads,
which had round manholes about 2 feet from the floor. These manholes had steel
doors. When they reached this compartment they were told to sit down on some
small boxes. On either side of this passageway was machinery which they were told
was electric on one side and motor power on the other side.

A member of the crew of the submarine, who stated that he was mate on the sub-
marine, conversed with the crew of the Palmer, and asked them how long the war was
going to last. They stated that they did not know, and the mate answered that
Wilson knew anyway. At this time a member of the crew in white uniform brought
in a bottle of liquor and were told to drink it as it was not poison.

This man asked if the United States had 100,000 soldiers over there, and we told
them that they had 1,000,000. He said, "I saw an American paper, and the Amer-
icans captured 24 Germans, and the next day the Germans captured twice as many."
He said, "You have got a lot to eat in this country anyway." He also said, "1 heaj
you have got a lot of aeroplanes in this country. I would like to get a couple of them."

He asked the skipper whether he was a pilot and asked him if he knew the loca-
tion of any mine fields on the United States coast. He asked the same question of
the members of the crew. It appeared to Amirault that mine fields were the only
thing that they were afraid of. The mate of the submarine stated that he had been
in New York and in the Southern States. It is understood that he said that he was
on a steamer. He stated that there were 500 U-boats in Germany, and said that he
was going back to Germany in six months.

THE U-in. 91

The crew of the Palmer remained in the compartment about one hour. All the
time that they were below the engines were running and after about one hour they
etopped and the men went on deck. Amirault does not know whether they sub-
merged or not during this hour.

The crew of the Palmer were then put into their dory and were told by the man on
the submarine to tell the truth about the way they had been treated on the submarine,
and he wished them good luck.

While on board the submarine the cook of the Palmer was questioned as to whether
there were any potatoes on board the vessel. At the time they came on deck of the
submarine there was no vessel \-isible, and it was thought that the Palmer was sunk.
When the crew of the Palmer went below deck of the submarine, some of the crew of
the submarine went over to the Palmer carrying with them what appeared to be a
bomb. This was red in color, flat on both ends, somewhat like a tomato can and
about the same size. It appeared to have a fuse 1 inch long coming out of one of
the ends.

No boats were seen on the deck of the submarine, but the crew of the Reliance
stated that there was a dory on the submarine.

The submarine was painted a light gray and appeared to have been freshly painted.
What could be seen of the bottom appeared clean.

She had two hea^'y wires about 1 inch thick strung from the bow over the conning
tower to the stern. No anchor or other devices were noticed.

The guns appeared to be darker in color then the hull of the submarine, and the
forward gun had a tampion on the muzzle. No plug was visible, and the cook of the
Palmer told subject that he noticed a periscope about 25 feet long. It was very hot
in the hold of the submarine.

At 11.20 p. m. on August 10 the dory of the Katie L. Palmer was picked up by the
Helen E. Mvrley, of New Bedford, and immediately set sail for shore water on Georges
bank and from there headed for New Bedford, arriving there about 12 p. m. August 11,

The man who said he was mate on the submarine stated that he was 38 years and
that he was the oldest man aboard. The mate of the submarine was questioned as 'o
how many vessels he had sunk, and he replied that the Palmer was the ninth vessel
sunk on August 10.

They had about three or four weeks' growth of beard.' About 75 men in the crew.
Stated that they had been here for six months. The crew of the submarine seemed
to be tired of the war, and one said that he wished it would end shortly. He said
that the submarine business was a hard job and that he did not like it.

Mate on submarine stated to Amirault, "Don't put any guns aboard any fishing
vessel because if you do we will consider yon pirates and cut your throat." He
stated that the French had placed guns aboard their fishing vessels.

After sinking the fishing fleet off Georges Banks the next activity
of the U~117 was two days later, when on August 12 she torpedoed
and sunk (about 25 miles SE. of Fire Island) the Norwegian S. S.
Sommersiadt, 3,875 gross tons, in latitude 40° 10' N., longitude 72°
45' W. The officers and crew of the ship declared that the torpedo
fired by the submarine made a circle and returned, exploding against
the side of their vessel.

A summary of the report of Capt. George Hansen tells the story:

The Somvierstadl left Halifax August 9 in water ballast. A little after 8 o'clock
on the morning of August 12, 1918, I came out on the bridge, where my chief officer
and second officer were at that time. I went over to the port side of the bridge and
looked out, and I thought I saw something on the water. I went and took the glasses,
but I could not make out what it was. I stood for a few minutes looking throu<:h


the glasses and then saw a torpedo coming along a little aft from abeam of the ship
about 150 fathoms away.

As soon as I saw the torpedo I stopped the A'essel and ordered the engines reversed
and full speed astern. The torpedo went under the vessel, barely missing it, a little
on the fore part of the bridge, and came up on the other side.

I walked across to the other side and I then gave the orders for full speed ahead.

The torpedo went about 1,300 fathoms on the starboard side; then it started to
turn to the left. WTien I saw the torpedo start to swerve around I gave oiders for full
speed ahead . After it passed the bow it made two turns, making a complete circle,
and then struck our vessel aft on the port side exactly between the third and foiirth
hold, right at the bulkhead.

The submarine didn't come to the surface, but after we got into the boats I saw a
stick, and somebody said, "There's the periscope." I was expecting the submarine
to come to the surface.

My ship was drawing about 7 feet, and when the torpedo passed under the ship
she only missed it by about a foot. At first she was traveling at a depth of about 8
feet, but gradually started to come to the surface, and when she finally struck us
she was about 5 feet under.

At 6.25 the next morning the British steamer Pyirhus, when 1
mile north of Fire Island Lightship, sighted a periscope abeam. A
little over an hour later the periscope was again sighted, this time
astern. The Pyrrhus opened fire at a range of 2,600 yards, and the
enemy submerged. Late in the afternoon of the same day the
Frederick R. Kellogg was torpedoed and sunk 30 miles south of
Ambrose Channel Lightship. The statement of Capt. C. H. White
is as follows :

My ship, the Frederich /?. Kellogg, was torpedoed at 5.10 p. m. August 13, 1918,
12 miles north of Barnegat and 5 miles off shore. -Latitude and longitude is not given
for the reason that the ship was sunk in 15 seconds.

I was steering at the time of the attack north by east magnetic. The ship is owned
by the Pan-American Petroleum & Transportation Co., and was carrying a cargo of
oil for the United States Government. It was coming from Tampico, Mexico, boimd
for Boston. The Kellogg had a gross tonnage of 7,127 tons, net tonnage of 4, 418 tons.
The port of registry is Los Angeles, Calif., where the ship was registered when built.
Immediately she was taken around to the east coast.

At the time of the accident there were moderate southerly winds, water smooth.
No sign of a submarine, no periscope, nothing suspicious before the attack was seen.
Nothing was seen until after the torpedo exploded, and then for about 150 yards the
wake of the torpedo was seen by me. No warning was given, and for about an hour
after the attack I looked for some trace of the submarine, expecting that the bow
would be shelled, and absolutely nothing was seen. The ship went down in less
than 15 seconds in shallow water, stern first, and it looked as though the stern were
resting on the bottom. It is my opinion that this ship might possibly be salvaged

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