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

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The torpedo struck the ship in the engine room in the after part of the ship on the
port side, and I attempted to give the signal to clear the engine room, but communi-
cation had already been cut off, and stepping out on the fly bridge I pulled the whistle
until the steam was out, and turning my head once more toward aft I saw the ship
completely under water and sinking rapidly by the stern. The engine room and
fireroom were together.

29 The Frederick R. Kellogg was salvaged before the end of the month of August.

THE U-117. 93

The torpedo must have been close to the water for the reason that it blew up two
steel decks and a wooden deck and a lifeboat on the port quarter clean into the air.
There was one engineer, the third assistant, one fireman, and one oiler on watch,
and all three were killed. Four others were killed or drowned. These men were
in the \'icinity of the engine room. They were the second engineer, one mess boy,
and two cadets.

The ship was imarmed. However, she was measured last trip for gun platforms.
It was impossible to do anything for the defense of the ship, for she was torpedoed
without warning and the sinking was instantaneous. Even if the ship had been
armed nothing could have been done.

On the 14th the U-117 halted the American schooner Dorothy B.
Barrdt, 2,088 gross tons, about 6 miles from Five Fathom Bank
Lightship. The crew of the Barrett took to their boats and the sub-
marine after following them for a time returned to the prize and de-
stroyed her. William Merritt, master of the schooner, tells the fol-
lowing stoiy of his escape from his ship, his rescue by the U. S. S.
Kingfisher, and the action of the latter vessel in warning an unknown
tanker of the presence of the raider:

The schooner Dorothy Barrett was at 9 o'clock about 6 miles NE. of Five Fathom
Bank Lightship, heading NXE., when from the WNW. a submarine on the surface
about 4 miles away ESE. fired one shot. The Dorothy Barrett hove to and lowered
her jib sail and abandoned ship. The submarine came within 2 miles and sub-
merged. I started my boat NW. to try and get some assistance. After getting within
1^ miles of the submarine I stopped the boat for awliile and then thought I had better
try to secure some help.

I was to the north and west of the submarine. Then he made a short circle and then
I had to go on the outside. I then had him on a line between me and the ship. Now
I was between him and the shore. He waited a while to see what I would do. I
thought if he wanted that vessel he would take it, and in the meantime I would try
to get some help. I then gave our boat a NW. course, then headed WXW. and ran
in on that until I found the Kingfisher. The submarine followed me for a while and
then stopped and showed his conning tower. I kept going and bye and Vjye I got
away. He was going to the ship again, and worked on to a line between me and the
ship with his conning tower still up. Then for about 10 minutes after that I saw the
Kingfisher coming from the northward, I laid my course to the Kingfisher to see if
he could not give us some assistance. He swung around as soon as I signaled him
and I went aboard.

I asked the captain what he had to fight with. He said he had three-inch guns,
and I told him that the submarine was too big for him to tackle with that kind of
gun. I then went up on the bridge and asked him what he was going to do. He
said he was going to run for shoal water. We had been running about west only a
short time when we sighted the oil tanker. I said to the captain, " He is going to get
that fellow, also, and to shift our course to warn the tanker." The submarine was
on our starboard quarter and we commenced firing. We were then heading about
west and that submarine was about 2^ miles on our stem, just so we could fire by the
pilot house. I did not see the conning tower then, but the gunner said he saw it,
and he fired a couple of shots.

When I saw the tanker she was headed SE. By this time she had also seen the
submarine, I guess. We did not have but little time to go down toward him, and
started to fire on this submarine, and then we had to watch the fellows. We kept
right on down that way toward him and started to fire and put on all the steam we
cotddj but, as I said before, we wanted to get in shoal water.


Then the submarine came up and went right ahead of us and we fired about three
shots. From the time we abandoned our ship to the time these shots were fired, I
judge it was about three-quarters of an hour.

Some of them came pretty near. Just before we shot the last few times a big black
smoke cloud came up out of the water. It was coming up just like steam. Then,
about five minutes later, another big black steam cloud seemed to rise from the water
from near the vicinity of the submarine and kept coming up for about 10 minutes.
I called the captain's attention to it, but he said he could not tell what it was. I do
not believe it was over 5 fathoms deep where that submarine was. The last thing I
did before I left my vessel was to heave the lead and it showed 15 fathoms. If we
had only had one of your fast submarine-chasing boats there we could have gotten
that fellow because he was in shallow water and could not turn very fast.

Capt. Frederick Rouse, master of the Brazilian motor schooner
Madruqada, which was the next victim of the TJ-117, made the fol-
lowing report of the loss of his vessel:

The Madrugada had a gross tonnage of 1,613, and a net tonnage of 1,288. Her home
port was New York, and she left on August 13 at about 11 a. m., bound for Santos,
Brazil, with a general cargo.

On August 15 at 7.15 a. m., in latitude 37° 50^ N., longitude 74° 55' W., the first
mate sighted a vessel about 2 milesoff. This vessel was entirely out of the water,
and did not look like a submarine when we first saw her. The first mate called me
and said, "I don't know what to make of her; she looks like a destroyer to me."
She then opened fire on us, her first shot falling about 100 feet over the starboard
bow, and the next shot falling about 20 feet ahead. She then fired a third shot,
which fell slightly over her port bow. By that time we had stopped our engines,
putting the wheel hard down. A fourth shot was then fired, which struck the engine
room. They then fired a fifth shot right on the water line, and seeing there was no
chance to save the vessel, I ordered the crew to take to the boats, which we all did
without mishap. \Miile we were pulling away they fired two more shots, staying at
the same distance from the ship all the time. They did not fire at the lifeboats.
After we got well away from the ship the submarine steamed right up under her stem
and put two shots in her stem, at a distance of about 20 feet, and then put another
shot through the cabin, setting fire to the oil tank. She was burning as she went
down, and the last we saw of her the whole bowsprit was sticking out of the water.
She had 1,000 tons of cement on board at the time, and I think when this cement
settles to the bottom it will cause the bowsprit to remain above the water, making it
a menace to navigation. The submarine did not signal us at any time, nor did she
offer to render us any assistance. The sea was calm during the attack.

After they had fired the first shot at us, my wireless operator, F. L. Cook, who is
stationed at the City Port Barracks, Armed Guard, Brooklyn, N. Y., sent out an
SOS rail, but we had not time to wait for any response. My vessel was not armed.
At the time my ship was sunk the weather was a little hazy, and as the submarine
was about 2 miles off, I could not get a good look at her; I could barely make out
the forms of two or three men at the guns.

The submarine was the ordinary type, about 400 feet in length. This I judge
from the fact that my ship was about 250 feet long, and when the submarine was
standing by before sinking her, she overlapped my vessel on both ends. The sub-
marine had a wireless rigged up. She had two guns, one fore and one aft of the con-
ning tower, which I judge to be 6-inch guns. She was painted dark and had no
distinguishing marks at all on her. Owing to the fact that she did not come near
us at any time, and the weather being hazy, I did not get a very good look at her.
After sinking my ship she kept right on to the westward, without submerging, and

THE U-117. 95

disappeared. We were picked up by the Taunton at about 11.30 a. m. 10 miles
southwest of Winter Quarters Shoals. Nobody from the submarine boarded the

The day after the sinking of the Madrugada the Norwegian bark
Nordhav, 2,846 gross tons, bound from Buenos Aires to New York
with a cargo of hnseed, was halted by shell fire in latitude 35° 42' N.,
longitude 74° 05' W. The statement of Capt. Sven Marcussen of
the Nordhav may be summarized as follows:

On August 17 at 6.30 a. m., when his vessel was 120 miles east southeast of Cape
Heiury, heading north northwest, a submarine was sighted 1^ miles astern coming
slowly. The submarine proceeded until it was abreast of the ship on the port side
still 1^ miles distant.

At 7 a. m. the submarine fired a shot over the ship followed quickly by two more
shots. The Norhdav was hove to and the lifeboats made ready. The submarine
signaled for papers to be brought aboard. The captain took 12 men in the ship's
boat and was rowed to the submarine. He delivered the papers to the submarine
and was asked where ship came from and where bound and what cargo she had.
These questions were answered.

Capt. Marcussen with his men together with four Germans, one of whom was an
officer returned to the ship. The German officer spoke excellent English. He said
that he had been first officer on vessels trading between Hamburg and South America.
He asked the captain if he had any potatoes on board.

When the ship was reached the crew were allowed 20 minutes in which to get
together their effects. During this time the Germans placed hang bombs over the
port side of the vessel, one forward and one aft and one amidships.

The captain and his crew then returned to the submarine and were all ordered
below except four sailors, who were left in the boats. The men were kept aboard the
submarine four hours; when they came on deck, their ship was laid over at an angle
about 45'^. She sank in half an hour. The men remained in open boats for 29 hours
and were picked up on August 18 about 6 p. m. by the U. S. S. Kearsarge. They
arrived at Boston on August 20 about 3.30 p. m.

The following is a description of the submarine which attacked the Nordhav: 250
to 300 feet long, 25 feet beam. She was painted dark gray. In places the paint
appeared to have been chipped which made some spots on her hull darker than
others, which the captain said somewhat resembled camouflage. The hull of the
submarine was fairly clean and in good condition except in places where chipped
as previously described. The captain did not see any name or number on the sub-
marine, but states that his steward claims to have seen U-117 on the hull. The
bow was nearly straight being but slightly curved and a little slanting from the peak
to the water Une. The captain did not get a good view of the stern and declined to
describe it.

The main deck was about 4 feet above the water. The conning tower was located
amidships, and was 8 or 9 feet high from the deck forward, and about a foot lower aft.
The metal plate around the forward part of the conning tower was carried about three
feet above the deck of the tower, serving as a protection to the men stationed there.
The remainder of the tower about 1 foot lower than the forward part was surrounded
by a railing a little lower than the plate.

She had three guns, one large, probably a. 6-inch, forward, half way between the
bow and the conning tower and two others which he thought were smaller than the
6-inch gun, located aft, about half way between the conning tower and the stern.
His recollections of the appearance of the after guns was a little hazy, and he declined
to commit himself on these points. The captain did not see any periscope.


Capt. Marcussen stated that he had not seen any torpedo tubes or cables on board
the submarine. She had no boat so far as he knew.

At the bow she had a sawtooth arrangement running fore and aft for a distance of
about 4 to 6 feet. It started low over the bow and was higher at the other end being
about 4 feet above the deck at the point where the wireless was attached. There was
a railing running around the whole main deck.

The captain entered the submarine through a hatchway, just aft of the forward gun.
He passed through the chart room. (He declined to give any description of the chart
room, stating that he only passed through it and did not notice anything about the
furnishings or navigating instruments, etc.) He next passed into a room about 6
feet by 9 feet, having two bunks on one side and a sofa on the other. He thought that
this made sleeping accommodations for four men. This room had no other furnishings
so far as he could tell. None of the remainder of the interior of the submarine was
\'isited by the captain. He saw 20 to 25 men on deck. The commander of the sub-
marine informed him that he had a crew of 40. The men looked well fed, but had
a pale yellow color and appeared dirty. He thought the officers were from 25 to 40
years of age, and the men were mostly younger. All the officers had uniforms of
material similar to khaki, with some sort of a mark on the shoulder. They wore caps
with \"isors, having an insignia over the visor. The crew were mostly dressed in
dungaree and khaki. Some of the men said that they sunk a ship nearly every day.
WTien asked how long thay had been away from Hamburg, one of the men said four
weeks, and others laughed at this remark and said it was nearer six months.

On August 20 the Italian S. S. Ansaldo the Third encountered the
U-117 in latitude 38° 57' N-., longitude 70° 48' W. The submarine
was first sighted at 7 o'clock in the morning. She attempted to cross
the bow of the steamer and was prevented from so doing by gunfire.
Thwarted in this she drew up abeam the Ansaldo at a distance of
2 A miles and began a gun duel which lasted for almost three hours
during which 200 shots were exchanged. The steamer having ex-
hausted her supply of ammunition, put on all possible speed and suc-
ceeded in making her escape. Several shells from the submarine
took effect; the afterpart of the Ansaldo was damaged, one gun put
out of commission, and three members of the crew wounded.

At 9 a. m. the following morning the British S. S. Thespis sighted
the periscope of the U-117 in latitude 39° 54' N., longitude 69° 25 W.
The Thespis turned stern to and made off at full speed. The subma-
rine then dove and it was believed she had been shaken off. At
10.40, however, the wake of a torpedo was observed. The steamer
having succeeded in avoiding injury by the narrow margin of 20 feet,
the submarine rose to the surface and opened fire. Tlie TJiespis
replied and after a running fight lasting half an hour outdistanced
her enemy.

At 6 p. m. the same day, when in latitude 40° 30' N., longitude
58° 35' W., Capt, Eric Risberg, of the Swedish steamer Algeria, 2,190
gross tons, sighted the raider about a mile oft', on the port beam of
his ship.

The captain states that the next thing he knew the submarine fired a shot which
fell about 600 feet off the port beam; he then stopped the engines and gave two long


^ tJD



THE U-117. 97

blasts of the whistle to indicate that there was no headway of his ship. The sub-
marine then hoisted the international code letters "T. A. R.," and the captain of
the Algeria replied, "I can see your letters but can not make out the meaning."

The submarine then fired the second shot, which fell on the port side very close to
the ship. After the second shot the captain ordered the boat lowered and proceeded
to board the submarine. The submarine in the meantime swung under a starboard
helm and came astern of the Algeria, laying starboard side to the stern of the Algeria's,
distant about one-quarter of a mile. While in this position the captain pulled along-
side and boarded the submarine from the starboard side.

When he approaced the submarine, he was told to go up on the conning tower, and
when he got on the conning tower the commander first said to him, "WTiy did you not
lower a boat at once when you saw the submarine ; your actions were not those of a
neutral." The captain answered, "You were showing no flag, and it not being the
first submarine I have seen and being so close to American waters, I assumed it to
be an American submarine." He then asked where the captain was bound. He
replied Gothenburg to Sandy Hook for orders.

He then took the Algeria's log and examined it, and when he found that she had
been operating on the United States coast he said that was the "end." The captain
replied, "You should not be guided by what I have been doing in the past but by
what I am doing in the present." The chief officer of the submarine said to the
captain of the submarine that the captain of the Algeria was correct; that they had
nothing to do with what he had been doing before. At this point several of the officers
of the submarine joined in the conversation, all of which was in German, and took
the side of the chief officer, stating among other things that if they sank the Algeria
the German Government would have to pay for it.

The discussion lasted about 45 minutes to an hour. The commander of the sub-
marine then turned to th« captain of the Algeria and stated he was sorry, but he would
have to let him go; but the next time he caught him, he would sink him without
warning. He asked the captain if he would give him his word of honor that the
Algeria was not under charter of the United States Shipping Board, and the captain
said "Yes," but added that all he knew was that he was under sailing directions to
report to New York for orders. The other officers on the submarine addressed the
commander, who was the man the captain of the Algeria spoke to,as(Herr Kapitiin-
Leutnant.) The captain of the submarine was not over 5 feet 4 inches tall, thick set,
round face, black hair, dark eyes, clean shaven, and about 35 years old. The first
officer of the submarine was about 5 feet 8 inches, and had light hair. The submarine
was about 300 feet long, high bow, but stern was not awash. The conning tower was
about 10 to 12 feet, on top of which was a wireless leading from the bow to the con-
ning tower and to the stem, insulated at places with glass. The captain saw no
periscope, and no identification marks; she had two guns, the forward one appeared
to be 6-inch and the after gun was 75-mm.; there were no torpedo tubes. There was
a hatch midway between the conning tower and the after gun, which appeared to
be an ammunition hatch. The submarine was of the double hull tj^pe, with numerous
portholes on her outer shell. According to the marks, she was at the time drawing
about 4.2 meters of water. Capt. Risberg saw no net-cutting device. There was a
life rail around the midship portion of the submarine, but whether it extended clear
forward and aft, the captain is unable to tell.^"

On the 24th, the Canadian three-masted schooner Bianca, 408
gross tons, bound from Brazil to Canada with a cargo of tobacco,
was attacked by shell fire in latitude 43° 13' N., longitude 61° 05'

• Report of the Aid for Information, New York, N. Y,
181062°— 20 7


W. The crew abandoned the vessel and the Germans boarded and
bombed her. They apparently did not remain to see the vessel sink,
for three days later she was picked up at sea by a Boston fishing
schooner and towed to Hahfax, her cargo of tobacco having swelled
and stopped the leaks.

The next victim of the TJ-117 was the American steam trawler Rush,
162 gross tons, which was overhauled and sunk in latitude 44° 30'
N., longitude 58° 02' W., on August 2Q.*'

Statement of Joseph Golart, seaman from the American schooner

The Rush, owned by the Commonwealth Fishing Co., of Boston, Mass., under the
command of Alvro P. Quadros, left Boston on August 20, 1918, on a fishing voyage
to Quero Banks. At 5.45 a. m., August 26, 1918, in latitude 44° 30' N., longitude
58° 02' W., or about 135 miles southeast of Canso, we sighted a submarine and it
came within 50 feet of us across our stern. They told us to lower our forward sails,
which we did, and the captain and three members of the crew, Joseph Golart, Joseph
Telles, and Joseph Tasida, got into one of the boats and we went alongside of the
submarine. When we got alongside, they took our boat and ordered us to go below,
and we stayed below on the submarine for three hoiu-s, and when we came on deck
again we saw the wreckage of our vessel, but we did not hear any explosion.

The submarine was about 250 feet long, painted a light gray, with a dark-brown
daub above the water line; no distinguishing mark; large conning tower; no masts
seen; two guns, one forward about 12 feet long, one aft about 6 feet long, both looked
to be of 5-inch bore, wireless running from the conning tower forward and aft; side
lights on the conning tower; had German Diesel engines, depth about 50 feet.

There were about 60 men in the crew and we only saw 2 officers. They were not
dressed in uniform, but wore brown leather trousers and some wore leather coats.
The captain of the submarine was short, thick set, blond hair and beard, wore an
officer's cap, but no coat. When we were taken below, they put us in the motor or
battery room, and from there we could see the engine room and its force. Several
of the crew in the engine room spoke to us in English and told us that they had sunk
nine vessels off Georges Banks. The captain of the submarine showed our captain
a list of the vessels he had sunk. I do not recall all of the names, but some of them
are: Progress, Old Time, Katie Palmer, and Mary Sennett.

The second officer was short, thick set, blond, clean shaven; spoke Spanish, Por-
tuguese, and very good English. Said that he had been at St. Michaels in the
Azores, but did not state whether he was in a submarine or not. Also, stated that
he was outside of Boston Light 14 days ago. One of the engineers told us that they
could not keep us on board because they did not have enough room, but that they
had larger submarines. I think they were short of fuel, for when we came aboard
they measiu-ed their oil tanks and found only 4 inches in the tanks. They took
1,200 gallons of fuel oU from our vessel. They said that they had been getting news-
papers and magazines, and the captain of the submarine told our captain that others
had been reporting they only had four guns on board the submarine, and that he
was to report they had eight. They treated us courteously.

We came on deck about 8.35 a. m. and they ordered ua to shove off. Our captain
told the captain of the submarine that we had no food, and they supplied us with two
buckets of fresh water and some of our own crackers, which they had taken from our
vessel. They took everything from our vessel, including stores, fuel oil and tools.

« The Pluos was reported sunk on the same day, but the United States Commerce Department report
that there was no such American ship as the Pluos and that the report undoubtedly referred to the Rush.

THE U-117. 99

We pulled away from the submarine about 9 and at 11 a. m. we sighted the John J.
Fallon, who picked us up and landed us at Canso.

The sea was calm and there was a thick fog. The vessel was unarmed and nobody
was injured.

The day following the sinking of the fishing vessel, the Norwegian
steamer Bergsdalen, 2,550 gross tons, was sunk by a torpedo in latitude
45° 10' N., longitude 55° 10' W., about 110 miles SW. true from
Cape Race. The attack was made without warning and the sub-
marine was not sighted by the crew of the steamer. The Bergsdalen
sank so rapidly that there was not sufRcient time to launch all the
boats. Many of the men had to leap overboard and one was lost in
so doing.

The last operation of the U-117 on this side of the Atlantic was
the sinking of two Canadian fishing schooners on August 30, in
latitude 50° 30' N., longitude 47° W. The two vessels, the Ehie
Porter and the Potentate, were overhauled while in company and were
both sunk by bombs. Some of the details of the encounter as given

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