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scribed by the "Orders for Ships in Convoy" of the commander cruiser and transport
force were at their stations and on the alert. All reasonable and necessary orders to
safeguard the water-tight integrity of the ship in dangerous waters had been given
and were being carried out.

The following is a report by the Secretary of the Navy regarding
the sinking of the U. S. S. San Diego:

At about 11.05 a. m., July 19, 1918, an explosion took place in proximity of the
skin of the ship, at about frame No. 78, on the port side and well below the water line.
As a result of this explosion the ship began to list to port and she finally rolled over
and sank bottom up at about 11.25 a. m., July 19, 1918. The explosion was an ex-
terior one and as a result of this explosion the skin of the ship was ruptured in the
vicinity of bulkhead No. 78, at the level of the port engine room; and bulkhead No. 78
was so deformed that water-tight door No. 142, between the port-engine room and No. 8
fixeroom, was opened to the ingress of water to No. 8 fireroom. The effect of this
rupture was to immediately fill the port-engine room and adjacent compartments,
and No. 8 fireroom was soon filled also. The effect of this water would give the ship
a list of 17^° to port. With the increased displacement water entered through 6-inch
gun port No. 10, which was justifiably open to permit using that gun, when the ship
had listed 9^°. This resulted in flooding the gun deck and accelerated the heeling
of the ship and her final capsizing. Relatively small quantities of water entered the
upper dynamo room through nonwater-tight voice tubes, but this had no appreciable
effect on the sinking of the ship.

The captain properly withheld the order to abandon ship until he was certain that
the ship would capsize and sink. JThe ship was abandoned in good order, and ex-
cellent discipline prevailed. Gun crews remained at their guns and continued firing
at all suspicious objects until they were forced to jump into the water. The captain
was the last to leave the ship.

The radio apparatus was put out of commission by the explosion. As no radio
reports of this disaster had been sent, Lieut. C. J. Bright, United States Navy, was
ordered to proceed with a dinghy crew to Long Island to report the disaster and
request rescue vessels. The boat reached shore safely and carried out its orders.

The steamships Maiden, Capt. Brown; Bussum, Capt. Brewer; and F. P. Jones,
Capt. Dodge, hove in sight later and rescued the men in the water and transported
them to New York. The court states the captains of these steamers showed courage


and a splendid spirit in taking their ships into these waters, where a submarine had
apparently been operating, and deserve commendation for their actions and it is
recommended that suitable acknowledgment be made by the Navy Department of
their gallantry.

On the day subsequent to this disaster six contact mines were located by the naval
forces in the vicinity of the position where the disaster of the U. S. S. San Diego

As a result of this disaster six enlisted men were injured and six lives lost.

The six men lost in the sinking of the San Diego were Clyde Chester
Blaine, engineman, second class; Thomas Everett Davis, fireman,
first class; Paul John Harris, seaman, second class; Andrew Munson,
machinist's mate, second class; James Francis Rochet, engineman,
second class; Frazier O. Thomas, machinist's mate, second class.


The British steamship Mirlo, 6,978 gross tons, was smik at 3.30
p. m. on August 16, 1918, about one-half of a mile off Wimble Shoal
Buoy; caused by an explosion. The ship took fire, being loaded with
gasoline, and was abandoned after an attempt to beach her. Due to
later explosions, she broke in two, in approximately latitude 35° 30'
N. and longitude 75° 18' W.

The credit for the destruction of the Mirlo has formerly been given
to the activity of the German submarine 17-117, which was operating
off the Atlantic coast at that time. The commanding officer claimed
that the ship was torpedoed. However, no one saw a submarine or
the wake of a torpedo. There was nothing to confirm the first report
that a submarine was sighted.

There were nine other vessels in the vicinity, one within sight of
the Mirlo, and no reports of sighting a submarine were made by any
of them. The Mirlo was located at the time of her destruction over
a now well-known mine field. (See Chart No. 2.) The U. S. S. Taylor
sighted a floating mine the next day 1 mile east of the wreck. It,
therefore, seems highly probable that the Mirlo was sunk by a sub-
merged anchored mine, notwithstanding the captain's very positive
statement that the ship was torpedoed.


On August 16, 1918, at 3.30 p. m. A. T. S., when the steamer was steering a north
course off Wimble Shoal Buoy, bearing north by west half a mile distance, she was
struck on the starboard side aft by a torpedo, bursting No. 2 tank and blowing up the
decks, which was immediately followed by another torpedo, which struck farther
aft and set fire to ship in stokehold and after end . The explosion causing the dynamos
to be put out of commission, also breaking engine room, and destroying telegraph
and putting wireless gear out of commission.

The orders were then given to make boats ready for lowering and efforts were made
to put the ship toward the shore with some success. The starboard lifeboat was
then lowered first, which got away from the ship. The port lifeboat was then lowered














and entered the water all rit^ht, when it was noticed that the tiller fouled the after
falls, causing the boat to shear off from the ship and capsize. All the men that were
in her were thrown into the water. At the same time the boat capsized she cleared
herself from the ship. The starboard boat tried to go to the rescue. The orders were
given to clear the after boats and lower same.

After ascertaining that all hands were off the ship we lowered away. During these
operations the boat's falls caught fire, and it was with great difficulty that we suc-
ceeded in pulling away from the vessel. In a few minutes after leaving it the
ship exploded with terrific force fore and aft, at the same time catching fire fore
and aft. It was with difficulty that we managed to clear the fire and smoke that was
floating on the water, caused by the ship bursting and all the cargo coming out.

The ship had been towing her otter gears from Florida Straits, and was towing
them at the time of accident. The ship was steering a straight course north, mag-
netic, and in my opinion it would have been impossible for these explosions to have
been caused by mines — the explosions being 12 to 14 feet below the water line. The
two explosions were almost simultaneous.

A careful lookout had been maintained throughout the passage, and neither sub-
marines nor mines had been sighted. There was no wake of either torpedo observed
nor warning given.

The ship was armed with one 4-inch breech-loading gun aft and manned by a gun
crew of three men, British Navy ratings. As soon as the torpedoes struck, the ship
took fire aft. The gun crew was on the lookout, but nothing was seen to fire at.

After clearing the ship 1 lost sight of the other two boats, owing to the fire and
smoke which I thought had enveloped them. After pulling away and sailing clear
of the fire and smoke we looked for the other two boats, but nothing was seen of them.
It was then decided to take the boat inshore. After proceeding inshore for sometime
a motor boat was sighted, which came to us and spoke to us, and turned out to be
from Coast Guard Station No. 179. He asked if there were any other boats about,
and I requested him to go to the fire, as there were two other boats with 34 men in.
He then directed me how to make for the landing and he went away toward the fire,
as nothing was then seen of the ship.

The captain of the Coast Guard station succeeded in locating the upturned boat
and the other boat which was intact. He took six men from the upturned boat.
It was found that 10 men had been drowned from the upturned boat. The men
who were rescued from the upturned boat stated to me that some of the men were
under the boat when she capsized, and were not seen again. The second officer
jumped from the boat into the sea, and told the others it was best to try to swim clear
of the fire, which threatened to envelop them, as they assumed the fire was then
only 10 yards from them. The boat then drifted away faster than the men could
swim, and they were unable to reach the boat and were seen to drown by the rescued

I could attach no blame to anyone for this disaster, and had it not been for the
heroic manner in which the Coast Guard went in and out of the fire to rescue the loss
of life would have been much greater; and I take this opportunity to congratulate
and thank them for their heroic work of rescue, and their kindness and attention to
all after the rescue.

U. S. S. Minnesota,

S October, 1918.
From: Conomanding officer.

To: Commander Battleship Force One.

Subject: Report of damage sustained by striking mine.

1. At 3.15 a. m., September 29, 1918, when this ship was proceeding on course

13° (true), speed 96 revolutions, and was 20.5 miles from Fenwick Island Shoal Light

181062°— 20 9


Ship, bearing 346° (true), a heavy explosion under the starboard bow, about abreast
frame 11, occurred.

2. At this time I was in the chart house examining the chart. I immediately
repaired to the bridge and took charge. Collision and torpedo defense quarters had
been sounded and officers and men were repairing rapidly and quietly to their stations.
The ship had settled by the bow without appreciable list. Early reports showed
that the ship was intact abaft frame 16 but that f orw-ard of that frame all compartments
were probably flooded. The shoring of the water-tight bulkhead at frame 16 was
immediately started and pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. At 3.18 a. m. the
engines were slowed to two-thirds speed (64 revolutions) to ease the pressure of bulk-
head at frame 16. At 3.20 a. m. changed course to 270° (true) in order to get into
Bhoaler water should the shored bulkhead fail. At 4.23 a. m., having reached the
10-fathom curve, changed course to 0° (true), and at 4.32 a. m. to 10° (true). Passed
2.7 miles to the westward of Fenwick Island Shoal Light Ship and proceeded to Dela-
ware Breakwater via McCries Shoal gas and whistling buoy and the s^vept channel.
Arrived off Delaware Breakwater at 9.30 a. m.; took on board pilot and proceeded to
na\T yard, Philadelphia, where arrived about 7.45 p. m., and was successfully docked
at 9.30 p. m.

3. When the dock had been unwatered, it was found that on the starboard side,
between frames 5 and 16, and from the lower edge of the armor belt to the keel, the
ship's structure was practically obliterated. The skin plating had been ruptured
and blown in past the centerline, the forward and after portions folding in sharply
over the edges of the bulkheads at frames 5 and 16. Compartments A-3, 4, 5, 21, 36,
and 37 are practically obliterated. A-38 is badly dished in and corresponding com-
partments on the port side are no longer water-tight. The protective deck is intact.
A detailed examination has been made by the yard authorities and estimates of time
and material for necessary repairs are being prepared.

4. At the time of the explosion the sea was smooth and the night dark, the waning
moon, about two and one-half hours high, being obscured by clouds. The \'isibility
was such that the U. S. S. Israel, the escorting destroyer, was visible when about
800 yards distant.

5. No one saw any trace of a submarine or a periscope nor was the wake of a torpedo
near the site of the explosion seen by any one either before or after the explosion
occurred, and I am of the opinion that the damage was caused by the explosion of an
anchored mine. There is but one piece of testimony that might indicate that the
cause was a torpedo. A few minutes after the explosion occurred and while the course
was being changed to west (true), L. 0. Griggsby, electrician, second class, who was
stationed at No. 7 searchlight, reported the wake of a torpedo crossing the stern from
starboard to port. He is quite positive that he saw this wake, though no one else
observed it. If there was such a wake it should have been seen by the Israel, as it
must have passed very close to her. She made no report of sighting such a wake,
and as, after escorting this ship to Delaware Breakwater, she proceeded on other
assigned duty, I have had no opportunity to get information from her upon this point.

6. Notwithstanding Griggsby's testimony, I am of the opinion that the cause of
the damage was the explosion of an enemy mine. Fortunately, it is believed that the
cause can be definitely determined by a thorough examination of a nearly complete
composition casting found by the yard authorities in the damaged section of the ship.
This casting has all the appearances of being one of the bushings into which the
protruding horns of a German mine are screwed. Fragments of steel to which the
casting was evidently brazed are attached to it. The color of the metal of the casting
indicates a copper content much lower than any alloy used in the United States
Navy. The internal screw threads are sufficiently intact to enable a determination
to be made whether or not the threads are metric or English standard.

J. V. Chase.


[1st indorsement.]

United States Atlantic Fleet,

Battleship Force One,
U. S. S. "Minnesota," Flagship,

6 October, 1918.
From: Commander Battleship Force One.
To: Commander in Chief.
Subject: Report of damage sustained by striking a mine.

1. Forwarded.

2. The Minnesota was proceeding in accordance with prescribed routing instruc-
tions; there was no loss of life; the efficient condition of the ship as regards water-
tight integrity was demonstrated.

3. Under normal conditions, investigation by means of a court of inquiry of all the
circumstances attendant upon this casualty would be held. It would, however,
seriously interfere with important operations to order a court of officers of appropriate
rank at the present time; therefore, in view of the facts set forth above, unless other-
wise directed by the department, a court of inquiry will not be ordered.

4. The ability of the ship to proceed to port after sustaining so severe an injury
reflects credit upon the officers and crew of the Minnesota and her efficient condition
as to water-tight integrity.

A. W. Grant.

U. S. S. "Minnesota,"

9 October, 1918.
From: Commanding Officer.
To: Commander Battleship Force One.

Subject: Supplemental report on damage sustained by Minnesota September 29, 1918.
Reference: (a) Report of damage sustained by striking a mine October 3, 1918.
Inclosures: (6) Statement of L. O. Griggsby, El. 2cl.

" A. E. Lynn, Sea. 2cl.

" E. J. Meyer, Yeo. Icl.

" L. S. R. Steadman, Cox.

" W. Kent, Sea. 2cl. ■ ■ ;

" A. W. Singer, Sea.

1 . I have to submit the following report supplementing and modifying paragraph 5
of reference.

2. In paragraph 5 of reference it is stated that L. 0. Griggsby, El. 2cl., reported the
wake of a torpedo crossing the stem from starboard to port, but no one else observed this
wake. A more thorough investigation than had been possible at the time reference
was written shows that five other men state that they observed a torpedo wake crossing
from starboard to port. The statements of all six men are inclosed.

3. An examination of these statements indicates that whatever it was that these
six men saw, they probably all saw the same thing. Two of the men were on lookout
watch at the time of the explosion, the other four were awakened by the shock of the
explosion. If these men did see a torpedo wake, it is evident from their statements
that the torpedo had no direct connection with the explosion, as when they saw the
wake the ship must have been at least 1,000 yards from the scene of the explosion.

4. It will be noted that four of these men state that at the time they observed the
wake the ship was swinging to the right. As a matter of fact no such change of course
was made, the only change of course being to the left, when the course was changed
to west (true). This change of course to the left was made just about the time the
report of the torpedo wake reached the bridge, my recollection being that the ship
had begun to swing to the left when the report reached me. At that time the Israel,
which had been on the port quarter when the explosion occurred, was coming up
rapidly on the starboard side.


5. It waa about this time that a dark object on the port bow was reported from the
forward netting, and I directed the Israel to investigate this object. She turned
passed under the stern, and proceeded off the port bow.

6. This ship continued to turn to course west (true), as I deemed this the best course
to pursue under the circumstances, for the ship was thus being brought parallel to the
reported torpedo wake and heading for the dark object, should it prove to be an enemy
submarine. As a matter of fact I did not believe either report to be correct.

7. Through a duplication of orders, the siren was sounded a second time. This
duplication was caused by a misunderstanding of a report which led me to believe that
the general alarm had been sounded but the siren had not been blown. This second
blast was about three minutes after the first blast.

8. After careful consideration of the inclosed statements, I still doubt very seriously
if a torpedo wake was really seen and believe that what was seen was some commotion
in the water caused by the Israel, combined possibly with the debris that must have
been washed from the wrecked storerooms in wake of the explosion. As for the dark
object reported on the port bow, nothing came of it and it apparently disappeared.
I do not believe it had any real existence.

9. The fragment found by the yard authorities in the damaged section of the ship
has been photographed and forwarded by the commandant to the Office of Naval
Operations. It is hoped that an examination of this fragment will determine definitely

the cause of the damage to this ship.

J. V. Chase.

October 6, 1918.
From: Commandant, Fifth Naval District.
To: Chief of Naval Operations.

Subject: American S. S. San Saba, formerly S. S. Colorado, 2,458 tons gross, owned by
the Mallory Line until taken over by the United States Railroad Administration.

1. The above vessel left New York October 3, 1918, at 5 p. m., bound for Tampa,
Mobile, with a general cargo. The master was ("apt. B. G. Birdsall.

2. Just prior to the sinking her course was from Ambrose Light, vessel sailing south
by west i west. At 11.30 p. m., October 3, 1918, she had Barnegat on four points at
12.25 a. m. ; October 4, 1918, Barnegat was abeam. At 12.30 a. m., her course was
changed to southwest, and 15 minutes later while on this course she was struck. Ship
had not been zigzagging. At 12.45 a. m. the vessel was struck amidship well below the
water line with such force that she practically broke in two and sank in five minutes,
being completely submerged by 12.50 a. m., with her colors flying. There was no
moon, and the vessel was under full way when she was struck.

3. As stated by the second officer in inclosure (A) at 12.30a. m. October 4, 1918, he
sighted a very dim green light two points to the port boAv about 500 feet distant; after
the vessel was struck this light disappeared, and because of this circumstance second
officer is convinced that the light came from an enemy submarine and was exposed
with the intent of deceiving the San Saba. It is felt, however, that this opinion is
not conclusive, as the light may have come from a sailing vessel which, warned by
the destruction of the Sa7i Saba and assuming there was an enemy submarine, extin-
guished her light and escaped without attempting to render assistance to the crew of
the San Saba. No signals were seen other than the above light to indicate the presence
of a submarine. At the time the Sayi Saba was struck another vessel heading north
one point to the starboard bow, about one-quarter of a mile distant from the San Saba,
changed her course and headed for the beach. No signals passed between this vessel
and the supposed submarine.

4. The San Saba was not fitted with wireless, and the only secret code or papers
aboard were the routing instructions which went down with the ship.

5. The second officer, figuring from memory, stated that officers and crew totaled 34
persons. This will be verified by Mr. John Staples, assistant marine superintendent,


Pier No. 36, North River, N. Y., who has the crew list and insurance papers. At the
time the vessel sank there was no chance to launch the boats or get buoys, and it is
believed that many were killed by the force of the explosion, which was so great that
the belief is entertained that it came from an anchored mine. It will be noted in the
third answer to inclosure (A) the second officer expressed himself as having "heard a
heavy noise knocking on the ship's side which followed with an explosion a minute or
80 afterwards." There was in all probability a shorter lapse of time than the minute
described by the second officer between his first hearing the knocking and the subse-
quent explosion. This was probably the mine bumping along the bottom of the vessel
from the bow back to amidship where the explosion took place.

6. Referring to inclosure (D), Adolph Beer, the second officer; Edwardo Simona,
seaman; and Pedro Aceredo, coal passer, are the only survivors known to ue. Mr.
Beer sustained himself by means of a life buoy, and was taken up, according to his own
statement, at 4 p. m., by the Norwegian S. S. Breiford. The other two men, according
to their statements, sustained themselves on an improvised life raft made in the water
from wreckage, and were taken up at 4.30 p. m. by the S. S. Breiford. These two men
further stated that two other members of the crew shared their life raft, but that one
died from exposure at 6 a. m. and the second at noon on October 4. These three sur-
vivors as noted in reference (E) left Norfolk for New York via the New York, Philadel-
phia & Norfolk R. R. at 6 p. m., October 5, 1918.

On November 9, 1918, the U. S. S. Saetia, one of the naval overseas
transportation ships of 2,873 gross tons, owned by the United
States Shipping Board, bound from France to Philadelphia, with 10
officers and 74 enlisted men, one Army officer acting as quartermas-
ter, a total of 85, struck a mine 10 miles SSE., magnetic course. Fen-
wick Island Shoal, from the statements of the members of the crew,
about 8.10 or 8.30 a. m. Lieut. Commander Walter S. Lynch, the
commanding officer of the U. S. S. Saetia, says he was in the wheel-
house when the accident occurred and that he went immediately to
the side of the ship and saw that the explosion occurred abreast
No, 3 hatch, and that the boats were gotten away immediately, or in
about five minutes after the explosion. Sixty-six men were in boats
1, 2, 3, and 4, and 19 men on two life rafts. The papers of the ship
were placed in a weighted bag and thrown overboard, as the captain
believed the ship had been torpedoed by a submarine.

The ship was returning to the United States in ballast. The chief
engineer was injured and the barber (a seaman) sustained a sprained
back; two other men were hurt. One had his head split, and the
other a split nose — making three men injured slightly and the chief
engineer seriously. The chief engineer was in his room ; the explosion
took place right under his room, and the debris thrown up wounded
him. He thinks himself a piece of torpedo went through his shin.
No other fragments of a torpedo were found.

Lieut. J. W. Flemming, executive officer of the Saetia, placed the
confidential papers of the ship in a weighted bag and threw it over-


Two of the men, Ensign E. E. Cornell and C, E, America, an oiler,
are certain they saw the conning tower of a submarine not more than

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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 19 of 23)