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board. At 4.52 sighted object ahead on horizon resembling heavy smoke. Firing
could be heard and gun flashes visible. Transports changed course to bring objects
abeam where they were last seen. Firing no longer heard. Briarleaf escaped and
headed for Bermuda. Shortly after the change of course was made at 5 p. m. the alio
from the Lucia was received. The alios were 150 miles apart.

The 11-152 may have been responsible for the alio sent by the
Japanese Kirin Maru on October 20, but this can not be stated as a

On October 20 the TJ-152 received the German order for all sub-
marines to retm'n to their bases and in obedience turned homeward,


entering the northern mine barrage area on the day of tlie ai-mistice.
She passed tlirougJi the lield running at full speed on the surface,
completing the passage in safety on the morning of the 12th and
arriving at Kiel three days later, November 15, 1918.


The possibility and probability of the interruption of transatlantic
cable service by the enem}^ was a subject of serious consideration even
before the United States entered the war. The conclusion of those
most familiar with transatlantic cable traffic was that the reason
the Germans did not interrupt these cables was not that it was
impracticable for them to do so but because it was probable that they
were using them for German messages and did not desire to do so.
There seemed to be good reasons to suspect that either thi"ough
friendly diplomatic channels or through apparently harmless mes-
sages, by whicir-the British censorship was evaded, the Germans were
making use of the cables for the transmission of their own messages.

All of these matters were discussed and carefully considered by the
United States authorities and seemed to offer the most reasonable
interpretation of the situation.

When the United States entered the war it was thought that the
attitude of the enemy might be entirely changed toward the cutting
of the cables and that the time might come when the advantages
to the Germans of cutting the cables might outweigh the disad-
vantages. The advantages which the Germans might gain by cutting
the cables were increasing rapidly as the United States forces in
Europe were increasing. At the same time, thek'hances of the use
of the cables by the Germans to carry their messages, were being
eliminated because of the vigorous methods that were adopted by
the Office of Naval Intelligence through naval censorship. These
factors all tended to introduce a new enemy motive into the situation
and gave the United States authorities both at home and in France
much concern because they considered that our transatlantic elec-
trical communications presented a vulnerable point of attack which
he might be tempted to exploit whenever the advantages of doing
so looked sufficiently promising; or when, in the final struggle, in his
various measures of desperation, he might include cable cutting and
interference in every possible way with the radio system.

On April 29, 1918, the Office of Nav^al Operations sent a memoran-
dum to the Director of Naval Communications, saying: "A new
phase of the employment of submersibles has developed in the cutting
of cables; Evidently one of these vessels is specially fitted for the
purpose, as there have been four cables cut within the last six *weeks,
presumably by the same vessel." The receipt of this warning


produced additional activity and alertness so as to be sure to be
ready in case the cables should be cut, which was then regarded
as being something that might occur at any time.

The service on the Commercial Cable Co.'s No. 4 Canso-New York
cable was interrupted at 12.35 p. m., May 28, 1918. On the same day
the Central and South American Cable Co.'s New York-Colon cable
began to fail at 3.30 p. m. and went out of service entirely at 9.30
p. m. The cable ship Belay made the repairs to the latter on June
25. At the break there was little sign of chafing or dragging on the
surface of the cable. The armored strands were, however, somewhat
distorted and showed indications of having withstood considerable
pressure and wrenching. The strands of the armor appeared to have
been cut approximately half through, either with a saw or possibly
some rough-cutting tool, and the other half of each strand wrenched
or broken off.

The Commercial Cable Co.'s No. 4 was repaired at 4 p. m. on July
4. This cut was an exceptionally clean shear, the cable sheath
within half inch of each side of the break being in almost normal
condition, very little distorted and showing no signs of chafing or
anchor rubbing on the surface. In this case also the armored strands
were cut approximately half through and broken off the rest of the
way. The Commercial cable was cut at 12.35, three hours prior
to the first indication of trouble on the Central and South American
cable, at a distance of approximately 28 miles north of the Central
and South American cable failure. The water at both points was
approximately 25 fathoms.

A study of the causes of the failure of these two cables was made
by various cable experts including Mr. Loriot, cable engineer of the
Central and South American Cable Co., Mr. Pierce, cable engineer
of the Commercial Cable Co., and Capt. Oldham, the conmiander of
the cable ship. It is their opinion that the cables were cut on the
bottom or near the bottom and were not raised to the surface to be
cut. They believe the cables were cut maliciously by someone who
came to the spot with the intention of cutting the cables. They
do not think they were cut by a ship in clearing its anchor. The day
was calm with a slight westerly wind. Normally there would be no
occasion to anchor in this locality except during a storm with ex-
tremely adverse wind conditions. Neither of the breaks occurred in
a normal route of ship travel. Both breaks were within sight of
ship channels frequently used. The captain of the repair ship stated
that it was his opinion that a submarine could hardly work there
many hours in the daytime without being seen by passing ships.

These opinions were concurred in by Col. John J. Carty, vice-
president of the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., who per-
sonally exammed the cut in each cable.


While these facts are not conclusive, the evidence indicates that
the two cables were cut by parties with malicious intent, possibly
by an enemy submarine. The latter supposition seems quite

On May 25, 1918, the JJ-151 attacked and sunk the American
schooner Hattie Dunn, The Hauppauge and Edn/i off the Virginia
coast. Nothing more is positively known of the activity of V-lBl
until June 2, 1918, when she sank the Isabel B. Wiley, Winneconne and
Jacob M. Haskell off Barnegat Light, N. J. Dm"ing these seven or
eight days it is supposed that she was laying mines, and it is not
improbable that during that time she may have cut the cables on
May 28, and as will be plainly seen by reference to the chart, she
was in a location on May 25 from which she could easily have reached
the position of the cable cutting on the 28th, and afterwards reached
the position of her sinkings on June 2.


When the United States entered the war it was considered very
necessary to provide a system of transoceanic radio communication,
which would be capable of handling all official messages between
the United States and Europe, in case the enemy should cut any or
all of our cables; or in case the enemy made it difficult for us to repair
such cables as were put out of commission either by the enemy or
from natural causes.

In October, 1917, an Inter-Allied Radio Conference, consisting of
representatives from the United States, Great Britain, France and
Italy, met at New London, Conn. At this conference it was decided
that the United States would make provisions for the use of its
stations at Marion, Mass. (then under construction) ; Sayville, L. I.
(taken over from its German owners) ; New Brimswick, N. J. (under
construction by the Marconi Co.); Tucker ton, N. J. (taken over
from the German constructor) ; and Annapolis, Md. (a naval high-
power station just completed). The Allies were to organize their
stations at Carnarvon, England; Lyons, France; Nantes, France;
and Rome, Italy.

In the spring of 1918 the Navy Department, having been given
control of all high-powered transatlantic radio stations, was operat-
ing stations at Sayville, Tuckerton, Annapolis and New Brunswick,
which were then capable of transmitting to Europe approximately
30,000 words per day. The European stations were capable of
transmitting approximately 25,000 words per day. Inasmuch as


both the United States stations and those in Europe were capable
of transmitting and receiving simultaneously, this indicates a
capacity of 55,000 words per day in transatlantic communication.
This capacity was adequate to handle the important messages
between the War and Navy Departments and the forces in Europe.
Inasmuch as the cables were not all cut, or put out of commission,
the transatlantic radio system handled only a small amount of
the total traffic between the United States and Europe. It is esti-
mated that the greatest amount of traffic handled by radio was 50,000
words per day. However, this comparatively small amount relieved
the cables to a certain extent and was not only a means of facilitat-
ing communication but served as an insurance for effective com-
munication ; and gave assurance that the enem.y could not com-
pletely interrupt transatlantic communication. Had the enemy
cut all the transatlantic cables it would have been impt)ssible for
him to have stopped effective communication between the War
and Navy Departments and our forces in Europe.


As aU destruction of vessels by mines on the Atlantic coast was
by mines planted by the Germans, it is of interest to know what
submarines carried on these operations and how.

As we have no reports from them the procedure is largely a matter
of conjecture. Any conclusion as to the respective dates and places
of planting mines by the submarines can be, at this time, only a
logical deduction, taking into consideration the general German
policy regarding mine laying, the character of the cruises of those
submarines, the speed, longest period of apparent inactivity, the
lapse of time between sightings of or attacks by the submarines,
and the dates and locations of reported sightings or destruction of
enemy mines.

This procedure has been foUowod: A careful analysis of the track
of the submarine with dates of her presence in certain localities and
the corresponding date and locality of the damage to a ship by a

According to Lieut. Commander Lafrenz, of the German submarine
U-65, which was sunk by the French submarine TJ-16, on November
3, 1917, the German policy as to mine laying is to sow mines in the
vicinity of harbors and in harbor approaches. The object of all
mine laying, as Lafrenz pointed out, is not merely to sink ships, but
it is considered just as important to keep enemy mine-sweeping craft
so that those vessels are not available for offensive operation. Mines
are nearly always laid in slack water and in theory, according to the
German officer, it is best to lay four mines off one harbor and then


four off anotlior, and so on, as the same sweeping operations are
necessary to sweep up four mines as eighteen. In practice, he said
that the submarine commanders are usually too anxious to get rid
of their mines and so lay them in groups close to one another. It is
left to the commanding officer as to where his mines are to be laid.
Lafrenz stated, also, that there was little danger in laying mines
in the same place in which mines had been previously laid, but that
if he went to the same place a second time he would always make
it a point to come in at the high-water mark.

THE U-151.

From the character of the operations of the TJ-151 just after she
arrived off the American Atlantic coast, it is apparent that her
commanding officer was extremely anxious to plant his mines as
soon as possible before engaging in his other activity. After the
submarine had engaged the steamship Crenella in latitude 37° 50' N.^
longitude 75° 50' W., on May 21, 1918, she seems to have taken a
course southward and to have proceeded to the vicinity of Currituck
Sound where she possibly laid mines near False Cape. Then moving
northward she came to the entrance to Chesapeake Bay where she
laid mines near Capes Henry and Charles.

Having completed her mine laying in these waters, the submarine
continued her course northward. On May 25 she made the attacks
on the American schoonere Hattie Dunn, Hauppauge, and Edna,
within about 30 miles of the coast. The commanding officer did
not see fit to begin his active raid upon coastwise shipping at this
time, however, but continued his northward route, planting mines
as he went. On or about the morning of the 26th, the submarine
possibly visited waters along that portioji of the coast south and
north of Winter Quarter Shoals.

In moving northward the submarine soon reached the vicinity of
the entrances to Delaware Bay. Here she planted mines near Cape
May and Cape Henlopen. On June 3, at 3.35 p. m., the Herbert L.
Pratt, an unarmed American steamship of 7,145 tons gross, owned
by the Standard Refinery Co., of Philadelphia, Pa., was damaged
by a mine at his point. This fact furnished the only convincing
evidence of the mine-planting operations of the U-151 up to this
time, for as no mines had been placed by the United States Govern-
ment, and as it was known that the U-151 was in this vicinity two
or three days previous, it is evident that she laid the mine that
damaged the Ilerhert L. Pratt.

On May 28, 1918, the U-151 probably found and cut two cables
leading from New York, one to Europe and one to Central America,
60 miles southeast of Sandy Hook.


On June 23, the steamship Gloucester reported sighting a mine off
Shrewsbury Light, Ambrose Channel. This report indicates that
the TJ-161 may have visited the neighborhood of the entrance to
Ambrose Channel. Even though the 11-151 may have laid a few
mines along the coast of Long Island, it is thought that the mine that
sank the cruiser U. S. S. San Diego, July 19, near Fue Inlet, was one
of those deposited there by the JJ-156 which later appeared off the
American coast and was engaged in mining activities from July 8
to July 18.

The majority of the mines swept up in waters that the TJ-151
possibly visited, conform to the description of the mines that the
TJ-151 was known to carry. The dimensions in the main were:
Diameter, 19^ inches; length, exclusive of horns, 4 feet 9^ inches.
They held in their center a charge of approximately 200 pounds of
trinitrate of toluol. They were usually of ihe fom^-horned variety
with a single mooring.

Having unburdened herself of her mines, during the interval May
25 to June 2, the TJ-151 recommenced her activities against coast-
wise vessels, begijuiing her harvest with the attacks on the vessels
Isabel B. Wiley and the Winneconne.

THE U-156.

As no activities of U-156 were reported between July 8, 1918, when

she sank the Norwegian schooner Manx King in latitude 40° N. and

longitude 53° W., and July 17, when she was sighted by the U. S. S.

Harrislurg in latitude 40° 10' N., longitude 68° 55' W., it is probable

that the interval of eight days was utilized in laying mines in the

approaches to New York. The chart evidence shows that TJ-156

was in a position from which she could easily have performed this

task which was, of course, a part of her mission. It is, therefore,

altogether probable that the mine which sank the U. S. S. San Diego

on July 19, 10 miles from Fii-e Island Lightship, was laid by this


THE U-117.

On August 29, 1918, the U. S. S. Minnesota struck a mine 20 miles
from Fenwick Island Shoal Lightship in latitude 38° 11' 05" N.,
longitude 74° 41' 05" W., sustaining considerable damage but was
able to make port. The chart evidence indicates that this mine was
in all probabihty laid by the TJ-117 while she continued her course
southward off the coast of Maryland. The steamship San Saba also
struck a mine on October 4, 15 miles southeast of Barnegat, in lati-
tude 39° 40' N., longitude 73° 55' W., which was probably in one of
these same mine fields.



Between the attack by 13-155 on the Newhy Hall on September
13, 1918, in latitude 42° 18' N., longitude 58° 22' W., and her next
reported attack on October 20, when she captured and sunk the
American fishing vessel Kingfisher in latitude 43° 31' N., longitude
61° 53' W., it is probable that the intervening seven days of her
inactivity may be attributed to the fact that it was reported in
advance tliat one of her purposes was to lay mines off Halifax and
Nova Scotia coasts. The sighting of an enemy submarine there and
the chart evidence showing that U-155 was in that vicinity and that
mines were discovered off Halifax confirm that report.



The story of the submarine mines on the Atlantic coast can be
briefly told.

There were no mines laid on the Atlantic coast either by the
United States Government or any of the AUies. All destruction was,
therefore, by mines placed by the enemy.

The sailor does not fear any of the terrors of the sea or of the enemy,
so long as those terrors are in sight. Whether the vessel be under
sail or steam, he enthusiastically prepares to meet the storms or the
enemy. It is the hidden, invisible enemy that gives him greatest
concern. These enemies were the fog and the submarine mine, to
which in this war has been added the submarine vessel.

Seven vessels, three of which were of great value, were damaged
on the Atlantic coast by the enemy's mines. These were the steam-
ship Herbert L. Pratt, U. S. S. San Diego, steamship Mirlo, U. S. S.
Minnesota, steamship San Saba, steamship Oha'parra, and the U. S. S.
Saetia. Some details are herewith given concerning these vessels.

Steamship "Herbert L. Pratt," June 3, 1918. — On June 3, at 3.35
p.m., the Herbert L. Pratt, an unarmed American steamship of 7,145
tons gross, owned by the Standard Refinery Co., Philadelphia, Pa.,
came in contact with one of these mines and sent out a S. O. S. :

Overfalls Lightship Delaware Breakwater: Have either struck mine or am

Upon striking the mine the Herbert L. Pratt headed for the shore
and was beached before she sank. " Capt. H. H. Bennet, master of the
Herbert L. Pratt, stated the following in regard to his vessel having
been mined 2 J miles S. 45° E. of Overfalls Lightship:

We sailed from Mexico May 26 bound for Philadelphia with full cargo of crude oil
in bulk. We experienced very good weather on the voyage from Tuxpam, and nothing
unusual occurred until we got warnings of submarines operating along the Atlantic
coast, by a wu-eless which was warning ships to make the nearest port. To the best


of my recollection this message was received by us at 8 in the morning on June 3.
I ordered the chief engineer to connect up a boiler that was out of operation, for the
purpose of getting all the speed possible in case of attack. We were at this time
approximately off the Winter Quarter Lightship. I was keeping the regular course
and followed up the usual track.

Nothing further occurred until about 3.35 p. m., when 1 heard a slight explosion
and felt the vibration of the ship which Im-ched forward apparently striking a sub-
merged object and with indications of bouncing over; only one explosion occmred.
I stopped the engines and started them immediately heading ship for the beach,
ordered men to lifeboat stations, went below for my signal code books, and ordered
wireless to send the position of the ship, her name, and that she had been either
mined or torpedoed. I then went back on bridge of ship, gave chief officer orders
not to allow the men to take the boats until I had given orders: I ran the ship for
approximately 15 minutes until she refused to stii-, then I ordered the men out of the
engine room, and all hands into boats. We then left the ship.

Just previous to this, I hailed a guard boat (I don't know her name or number)
and ordered her to stand by that I was sinking. This guard was approximately 2,000
feet on my port side. He signaled me "All right," and stood by until we left in
boats. The pilot boat came up in the meantime.

We rowed over to the pilot boat where the crew was taken aboard, and I was put
on board the guard boat. The guard boat started for Cape May and met another
guard boat and hailed him. We then turned around and started for Cape Henlopen.
We hailed the same guard boat again. While speaking to this guard boat I saw the
wake of what appeared to be a submarine approximately 1,000 feet from starboard.
This wake, I should say, was about 2 miles from where my vessel, the Herbert L. Pratt,
was struck. I do not suppose the time or duration of this wake lasted more than a
minute. I desire to state again in connection with the explosion that prior to the
explosion I observed nothing that led me to believe that a submarine was operating
in this ^dcinity. Both guard boats started immediately, the one I was on running
toward Cape Henlopen and the other toward Cape May.

Shortly after, we heard guns fired from the guard boat that had gone in the direr'tion
of Cape May. I could distinctly see from my position a hitting %i the shells in the
water. I do not recall how many he shot, but I heard the explosion at least three or
four times. We continued on to the naval base at Lewes, landing there and waiting
for the crew which was being brought in by the pilot boat. All the crew was landed
and taken to the naval base where they were fed.

Immediately upon the receipt of the SOS message from the
Herbert L. Pratt, a number of S. P. boats were dispatched to the
rescue. On June 3, at 9 p. m., the Herbert L. Pratt was visited by
Naval Constructor Davis and at 4 p. m., June 4, preparations to
raise her were begun; on the same date she was floated and brought
to anchor in the breakwater. The Herbert L. Pratt left the Break-
water at 11 p. m., on Wednesday, June 5, 1918, and arrived in Phila-
delphia on the same day.

Armored cruiser San Diego, Jul'§ 19, 1918 — ^The court of inquiry
which investigated the sinking of the U. S. S. San Diego reported the
f ollowmg conclusions :

The court is of the opinion that the loss of the U. S. S. San Diego was due to an
external explosion of a mine.

That the loss of the ship, loss of life, and injury to personnel incurred was in no
way due to any negligence, failure to take proper precautions, or inefliciency of the
captain or any of the personnel of the ship.


That the loss of life and injury to personnel was incurred in the line of duty and
in no way due to their own misconduct.

That at the time of the disaster and thereafter the conduct of the captain, officers,
and crew was in the highest degree commendable, and that the remarkably small loss
of life was due to the high state of discipline maintained on board.

That no officer should be held responsible for the loss of funds or property for which
he was accountable, and that no further proceedings should be held in this cflse.

The court in its report reviews the maia points in the testimony
as follows :

The U. S. S. San Diego, under the command of Capt. H. II. Christy, United States
Navy, was making passage from Portsmouth, N. H., to New York, N. Y., and at or
about 11.05 a. m. July 19, 1918, she was in approximate latitude 40° 30' N., longitude
73° W., on base course 304 true, and zigzagging by an approved plan; speed, 15 knots.

The captain was steering a safe and proper course at the time to minimize the sub-
marine and mine dangers in those waters. A careful inspection watch had been
maintained while last coaling ship to prevent the introduction of any foreign matter
in the coal bunkers. All lookouts, gun watches, fire-control parties, etc., as pre-

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Online LibraryUnited States. Office of Naval Records and LibraryGerman submarine activities on the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada → online text (page 18 of 23)