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February 6, 1918, had appointed a special Planning Board to study
the situation and to formulate a plan for the defense of the coast
and the control and protection of merchant shipping. The plan
prepared by the board was approved March 6, 1918. (See Appendix,
page 143.)

Following the approval of this plan the department forwarded on
March 28, 1918, to the commandants of Atlantic coast naval districts
a general plan for coastwise shipping, and directed commandants to pre-
pare detailed recommendations for each district. (See Appendix, page
152.) This general plan placed the control of coastwise shipping in the
hands of the district commandants, and in order to avoid misunder-
standings as to jurisdiction, district boundaries were extended to

" Nine passengers and four of the crew of the Carolina were lost; two were women, one a passenger, and
the other the stewardess of the ship.


seaward and sharply defined and the location of the office having juris-
diction over each area was given.

This was followed on May 4 by a circular letter to all shipowners
and masters containing the general plan itself and giving instructions
as to the procedure to be followed in case it became necessary for the
Navy to assume control of shipping. (See Appendix, page 153.) A
letter was also sent on May 8 to commandants informing them that
upon the receipt of the dispatch ''Assume control of coastwise ship-
ping," they were immediately to put into effect the general plans
previously prepared. They were further instructed that prior to the
receipt of this dispatch they should assure themselves that all the
routing preliminaries and requirements of coastwise shipping and the
military and commercial requirements on shore were fully developed
and well understood by the various parties interested. (See Appen-
dix, page 155.)

On May 12, 1918, another letter w^as issued to commandants
advising that war warnings for coastwise shipping would be sent out
only from the office of Naval Operations upon receipt of information
from the naval districts and other sources.

On the morning of June 3, therefore, the ofhce of Naval Operations
sent the following dispatch to district commandants:
Assume control of coastwise shipping and handle traffic in accordance therewith.

A little later in the morning of June 3 Naval Operations sent out
the following message :

Unmistakable evidence enemy submarine immediately off coast between Cape
Hatteras and Block Island. Vessels not properly convoyed advised to make port
until further directed .

On the same day, June 3, a Coastwise Routing Office was organized
at Washington, D. C, and became a part of the office of Naval

Thereafter, Navy control of coastwise shipping became an actual
fact, and through the Routing Office the work of protecting shipping
became centralized and proceeded along the following general plan:

1. In all cases the control of shipping within a district will be in the hands of the
district commandant. In order that the proper coordination may be obtained along
the whole coast, this control will follow a general doctrine, and the commandant of
each distiict will be informed of the control of those districts adjacent to his own.

2. The l)est practice is to have coastwise shipping to proceed by day liugging the
shore and keeping within the 5-fathom curve or as near it as practicable. Also,
since it is the policy of the Shipping Committee charged with such work, to allocate
the smallest and least valuable ships to the coasting trade, it, as a matter of expediency,
should be the policy to protect such shipping by means within the districts through
which coastwise shipping passes.

3. When it is found expedient to route coastwise shipping by night, it should
proceed independently, being routed with due regard to the war warnings received
concerning the location of enemy submarines.


General instructions were also laid down to cover the routing of
shipping within the districts and of coastwise shipping passing
through the district.

In the case of providing escorts for convoys passing through
successive districts, the commandant of the district in which the
convoy was made up routed it and provided an escort for it through
his district and arranged with the adjacent district for relief of the
escort upon the convoy's arrival within the latter's jurisdiction,
and each successive district in turn arranged for the relief of its
escort. Thus, convoys proceeding south in the third naval district
were escorted by vessels of that district to the vicinity of Barnegat
Light, Vv^here the escorting craft were relieved by vessels of the
fourth naval district, which acted as escort to the convoy until
reaching the vicinity of Winter Quarter Shoals, where in turn the
escort duty was assumed by craft attached to the fifth naval district,
and so on along the coast.

This same practice prevailed in the case of northbound convoys.
All arrangements were made through the Communication Service,
the details of the convoy, the facts relating to the rendezvous, and
other matters of a confidential nature being transmitted in code.

Routing offices were established later in every Atlantic port
wherein coastwise shipping was likely to originate, at Halifax, in
West Indian ports, and on the station ship at Tampico, Mexico.
These offices were controlled from the District Routing Office at the
district headquarters. They were kept well supplied with the latest
information as to routes to be issued, and dangers to be avoided.
Masters of coastwise vessels were required to call at these offices
before leaving port and to receive written instructions which were
carefully explained to them. These instructions specified the routes
to be followed, and areas to be avoided; they also included latest
war warnings, war-Warning schedules, and the location of the speak-
ing stations with the signals that would be displayed at each. Mas-
ters were instructed to turn in their routing instructions at the port of
arrival and submit to the routing officer a report of delays at speaking

In order that no vessel should leave port without proper instruc-
tions, guard ships at harbor entrances were required to turn back
any ship not possessing them.

It soon developed that masters were willing to report to routing
officers for instructions and little difficulty was encountered in
securing their compliance with this requirement.

If vessels after leaving port failed to foUow their instructions, it
was found that a report of the fact to the owners resulted in orders
being issued t© masters to comply strictly with instructions received
from the Navy.


Routing officers in each port were able to communicate with the
shipping interests through the customs officials, the Maritime
Exchange, and the pilot associations. This close cooperation
mutually benefited all organizations concerned.

The speaking stations were established at points along the coast in
order to expedite the flow of coastwise shipping from one district to
another, to provide a means for communicating with vessels not
equipped with radio, to call vessels into harbor if necessary, and to
divert vessels which might be proceeding into danger. These
stations were manned by Navy personnel and were equipped with
gear for day and night signaling according to a simple code of distance

Vessels were instructed to speak to all stations along their route,
but they were not to be delayed. Sand Key and Jupiter Stations
were called reporting stations. All vessels passing out of the Gulf
coastwisebound were required to speak to Sand Key; all vessels
northbound through Old Bahama Passage were required to speak to
Jupiter. These stations proved valuable in diverting vessels for
their owners when it was desired to change a vessel's destination
after she had sailed.

The successful consummation of convoying activity according to
the general scheme laid down necessitated a considerable fleet of
escorting vessels, usually subchasers, of fair speed and armament,
and meant that the work of these small ships was to be one of inces-
sant activity.

The fact that no convoy was attacked off the American coast
indicated clearly that the presence of these small men-of-war meant
security to the very essential cargoes, both of men and the material
transported up and down the coast.

On the morning of June 3, the day that plans for the protection
of coastwise shipping were being evolved, the U. S. S. Prehle reported
that she was engaging an enemy submarine in latitude 39° 31' N.,
longitude 73° 31' W. The U. S. S. Henley was immediately dis-
patched to the position indicated, and at 1 p. m. reported that she
had searched the vicinity in which the U. S. S. Prehle had made con-
tact, but had found nothing.

Though the American tanker Herbert L. Pratt, 7,145 gross tons,
was mined and sunk at 3.35 p. m., June 3, 2^ miles off Overfalls Light-
ship, as the result of the mining activity of the U-151 in that vicinity,
it was not untO 6 p. m. that the submarine registered her first sinking
for the day by attack, when she overhauled the Sam. C Mengel, an
unarmed schooner of 915 tons gross, owned by C. C. Mengel & Bros.,
Louisville, Ky., and sunk her by. bombs placed aboard in 38° 08' N.,
73° 35' W.


John W. Wilkins, the fust officer of the Mcngel stated that he
overheard a conversation between the boarding officer and Capt.
Hans T. Hansen in which the officer said his name was Kohler;
that the submarine had been out six weeks and had sunk 17,000
tons, three schooners and three steamers, off the coast. According
to Wilkins, when the crew of the schooner left their ship the boarding
officer shook hands with them and said, ''Send Wilson out here and
we will finish him in 10 minutes. Wilson is the only one prolonging
the war."

Early next morning the submarine attacked by gunfire and finally

sank with bombs the Edward R. Baird, jr., an unarmed American

schooner of 279 gross tons, owned by D. J. Fooks, Laurel, Del. Her

location was off the coast of Maryland. Approximately 37° 35' N.,
740 ^

They placed bombs on the schooner, one on each side, suspended from the rigging.
It was about 7.30 a. m. sun time (8.30 a. m. Na\'y time) when we shoved off from the
schooner. They shoved off and went after and fired at a steamer wliich appeared on
the scene. When they shoved off after the steamer they were towing their dory
astern the submarine. The bom1)s went off five minutes after we left the schooner.
The weather was fine and clear; the sea was calm.

While the submarine was chasing the steamer mentioned above,
the U. S. S. Hull, a coast torpedo vessel, hove in sight; the sub-
marine immediately abandoned the chase and submerged. The
Hull then picked up the survivors of the Edward R. Baird at about
8.20 a. m., three quarters of an hour after their ship had been sunk.

The destroyer had intercepted an attack upon the French tanker
Radioleine and later sent in the following message which w^as received
at Norfolk at 11.30 a. m.
From: U. S. S. Hull.

To: Commandant Fifth Naval District.

Rush intercepted attack enemy submarine on steamer Radioleine lat. 37° 38^ N.
long. 73° 42^ W. 9.30 a. m. Took on board crew of Schooner Edward Baird bombed
and sinking 11304.

The commanding officer, R. S. Haggart, U. S. S. Hull, made the
following report concerning the attack upon the Radioleine:

At 8.30 a. m., June 4, 1918, while this vessel was proceeding to station in accordance
with radio orders from the commandant, fifth naval district, making 15 knots speed,
course 61° true, latitude 37° 15^ N., longitude 74° W., sound of firing was heard nearly
ahead. Full speed was put on at once and shortly after SOS signal was recei\ ed
from the steamship Radioleine and the steamer which appeared to be firing ^\'as seen
on the horizon about one point on starboard bow; headed for the submarine and
sounded general quarters ; noted steamer to be headed in our direction zigzagging and
firing her stern gun. Splashes from enemy shells were seen falling near steamer
between her and this vessel. Firing ceased when we \\ere about 400 yards from
steamer. No sight of enemy was seen. The steamer proved to be the French steam-
ship Radioleine, which in passing headed to\^ard Hampton Roads at full speed; she
signaled, "Large enemy cruiser hred on sailing ship, then on us." We proceeded in


the flircction of the sailing vessel dead ahead aV)oiit 3 miles distant. We sighted an
object in water and heacied I'or same; it proved to be a dory containing crew of Ameri-
can schooner Edward E. Baird, Jr. They reported their ship fired upon and bombed
by German submarine and boarding officer had forced them to abandon ship.

We searched the vicinity for submarine, but found nothing. We went close aport
the schooner, which was still afloat, to determine if she could be saved. The executive
officer of this vessel (U. S. S. Hull) went on board with crew of schooner and found
decksawash and holds full of water from bomb holes inside; the vessel was floating,
due to the cargo of lumber. A device believed to be a German percussion fuse igniter
was found on board and is forwarded herewith. We took the crew of the schooner on
board once more and circled in the vicinity searching for the enemy. We sighted
full-rigged ship Boon and warned her out of the danger area. We remained in the
vicinity until 1 p. m., when we proceeded toward station."

The master of the French tanker Radioleine in reporting the at-
tack on his vessel said that on June 4, at 7.10 a. m., in latitude 37°
10' N., longitude 74° W., they were attacked by a German sub-
marine which chased them for an hour, at the end of which time tHe
American torpedo boat Hull appeared in answer to S O S calls of
the Radioleine, and the submarine gave up the chase. A number
of shots were fired by the submarine and the Radioleine returned
the fire. Tlie Radioleine finally exhausted her supply of ammunition.

After abandoning the chase of the Radioleine about 8.30 a. m.,
the submarine continued her route southward and about 4.15 p. m.
when in latitude 37° 12' N., longitude 73° 55' W., made an attack
upon and subsequently sank the Norwegian steamship Eidsvold,
an unarmed vessel of 1,570 tons, chartered by the United Fruit Co.
Capt. J. Johnson, master of the Eidsvold, told how his vessel was
overhauled and sunk by the submarine:

On June the 4th, at 4.15 p. m. in latitude 37° 12^ N. and longitude 73° 55' W., a
submarine appeared off the starboard bow about 500 yards. She fired one shot over
the steamer; we then stopped our engines. He signaled me to send a boat over to
the submarine; one of the mates, three seamen, and I took the ship's papers over to
the submarine and boarded her. I told him we were bound from Guantanamo, Cuba,
to New York with a cargo of sugar. When he heard that it was sugar for New York
he said that he was sorry that he had to sink the ship.

I then asked him for a reasonable length of time to get into the lifeboats, as I had
my wife on board. He stated that he would give me as much time as it would take
to get into the boats. I then returned to my ship and at 5 p. m. the boats got clear of
the ship.''^

They then fired three shots into the starboard side, then turned around and fired
three shots into the port side, all shots taking effect at the water line. My ship dis-
appeared at 5.20 p. m.

The submarine remained in view till dusk. She seemed to follow us slowly wait-
ing for some vessel to come along and try to pick us up, when she would become easy
prey for the submarine.

When about 40 miles south of where she had sunk the Eidsvold,
the submarine registered her next sinking at 9 a. m. on June 5,

12 The boats of tho Eidsvold were picked up next day by the Morgan Line steamer Proteus, after having
been at sea 22 hours.


when she torpedoed, without warning, the IlarpatTiian, an unarmed
British steamship of 4,588 tons gross, en route from London to New-
port News in ballast. The master of the llarpathian supplied the
following information to the commander, Newport News, Division
Transport Force:

The Harpathian was sunk without warning by a torpedo from an enemy submarine
at 9.30 a. m. June 5, Cape Henry bearing N. 70 W. (true) 90 miles.'"" The ship was
torpedoed in latitude 36° 30^ N., 75° W.; sank in about seven minutes. All hands
were saved. One member of the crew, a Chinaman, was struck between thoVmres
by a piece of the torpedo that sunk the ship. The captain did not see the submarine
till after the ship was hit, and only a few of the crew saw the torpedo before it struck.

The crew got away in the boats. The submarine commander called the boats
alongside and asked if all were saved and if any were sick; he also asked if they had
food and water. The Chinaman was given treatment aboard the submarine and was
then returned aboard the lifeboat. The submarine commander gave each boat a
bucket of water and asked the captain of the vessel if he had sent a wireless and on
being told that there had been no time, gave the boats the course to the nearest land.

The crew of the Harpathian was picked up by the British steamer
Potomac on June 6, at 10.30 p. m.

At 3 p. m., June 5, the American schooner Ella Swift sighted the
submarine in latitude 36° 80' N. and longitude 73° 40' W.; less than
an hour later the American whaler Nicholson was halted at the same
spot. The master of the whaler urged the submarine officers to
spare his ship saying that it would ruin him financially if the vessel
was destroyed. After a brief conference the submarine officers
informed him that he might proceed and ordered him away from
the vicinity.

The same day the U-151 sank the Norwegian steamer Vinland,
1,143 gross tons, in latitude 36° 32' N. and longitude 73° 58' W.

The Vinland sailed fi'om Guantanamo for New York with a cargo of sugar. On
June 5 at 6 p. m. a German submarine sent a shot over the ship which landed 300
yards on the other side. The submarine was about 3^ miles away and one point
abaft the port beam. I went aboard the submarine and they told me to get the boats
ready as quickly as possible. I went back to my ship and told every man to get as
many clothes as he could. About the same time one German officer and four or five
men came aboard. They took two bags of sugar. After that they placed a bomb on
the outside about 2 feet below the water line. It was cylindrical in shape and pointed
at both ends and they dropped it down with a piece of rope. The attitude of the
Germans while aboard was very nice; they said they were going to give us as much
time as they could and it was 20 minutes after they came aboard before we left the

One of the men struck a match and lighted the fuse it being a fuse bomb and it
exploded in about five minutes.

When first sighted about 4 miles away the submarine looked like an ordinary tramp

w Evidence of the difficulty wliicii the Navy Department experienced in keeping correctly informed
of the submarine situation is shown by the fact tlmt two .submarine chasers reported the probable sinking
of a submarine late in the morning of June 5. It was found by a comparison of distances that tlio U-151,
the only enemy submarine on the coast at the time, would have boon obliged to cruise 100 knots in two
hours to have been in the position given the object fired upon by the chasers.


On June 6, at 10 a. m., the British S. S. MantcUa reported a sub-
marine in latitude 36° 2' N., longitude 73° 41' W.

On the same day at 2 p. m. the American steamship Cacique
reported sighting a submarine in latitude 31° 5' N., longtitude 75° 35
W. Tliis position, however, was too far south and too far west at
the time to have been that of an enemy submarine.

On June 7, Coast Guard Station No. 115 reported that a submarine
had l)een sighted in latitude 39° 41' N., longitude 74° 5' W. On
the same date the British S. S. Huntsend reported an oil patch in
latitude 39° 45' N., longitude 73° 42' W. Tliese positions were also
too far north to have had any connection with the enemy submarine,
which, even on this date, was still operating further south as shown
by the fact that on June 8, at 5.30 a. m., in latitude 36° 25' N., longti-
tude 74° 20' W., the submarine captured the Norwegian S. S. Vin-
deggen, a vessel of 3,179 gross tons owned by Jens Folkmans hailing
from Skien, Norway, and after transferring part of her cargo of copper
to the submarine, sank the steamship on June 10, at 11.07 a. m., in
latitude 36° 25' N., longtitude 73° 20' W.

The statement of Edward Ballestad, master of the Vindeggen,
covers the story of his experience with the submarine:

The steamship Vindeggen left Chile May 31 bound for New York to discharge a
cargo of wool, copper, and salted skins. Everything went all right until June 8,
5.30 a.m. in 36° 25' N., 74° 20'' W., when a submarine immediately came to the
surface in easterly direction about three-quarters mile off. The submarine fired
two shots and hoisted signals to stop immediately. We lowered the port-side boat
and it went over to the submarine with the ships papers. During the work of lowering
the starboard boat some Chinamen jumped into it and it capsized and one of the
Chinamen was drowned. At 7.30 a. m. we sighted another steamer and the submarine
proceeded down to the eastward and ordered us to follow. At 11.30 the submarine
came back to us. It was the intention of the submarine to sink the ship right away
but when they found out we had copper they decided to bring it over to the submarine.

At 9 a. m. on the 9th they commenced bringing copper to the submarine and they
continued until 8 p. m. Next day they began work again at 5 in the morning and
continued until 11. Then the submarine commander gave orders that the ship
should be sunk and said he would tow us to port. They planted bombs and in seven
minutes the ship disappeared. The submarine then proceeded westward with the
boats in tow. At 6.30 p. m. another steamer was sighted and the captain of the sub-
marine gave us orders to cast off the ropes and sail in a westerly direction. He went
for the steamer and sank her; he was back in half an hour. The submarine picked
us up again and towed us till 8. .30 p. m., when they sighted another steamer and cast
us off again and submerged.

They did not say how many tons of copper they took from my ship, I should say
about 70 or 80; they estimated the value at about 1,000,000 marks. One of the officers
told me that off Cape Henry they dived in water so shallow that when he got to bottom
he was about the water line. He said he could easily sink a battleship, but had orders
not to sink it that day. He called all the officers to look through the periscope and
see what a fine target that ship would make.

The first steamshi]) that ajipeared on the scene about two hours
after the Vindeggen had been captured was the Pinar del Rio, an


American steamship of 2,504 tons gross, en route to Boston from
Cuba with a cargo of 25,000 bags of sugar. The crew of the steamer
took to the boats at once and the submarine coming within 100 feet
of the ship sank her with gunfire in latitude 36° 16' W., longitude
73° 50' W., at 8.15 a. m., June 8, 1918.

Early in the morning of June 9 the U. S. S. Battleship South Caro-
lina,^* with the U. S. S. C. No. 234, sighted and fired upon a periscope,
S. 0. No. 234 dropping depth bombs in the neighborhood of Cape
Henry, and on the afternoon of the next day the Hcmick Lund, a
Norwegian vessel, of 4,322 gross tons, was overhauled and sunk by
the U-151, >^ in latitude 36° SO' N., longitude 71° 29' W.

On June 10, at 6.40 p. m., the Coast Guard Station No. 82 reported
sighting a periscope bound east. At 7.22 ]). m. on the same date the
U. S. S. L-5 reported a submarine running awash 2 miles distant in
latitude 37° 32' N., longitude 73° 49' W. ^At 9.22 p. m. the U. S. S.
L-5 reported that the submarine fired a torpedo which crossed the
bow of the U. S. S. L-5 at 10 yards distant. On June 10 when in
latitude 39° 15' N., longitude 74° 15' W., the steamship Sodral
sighted a submarme and at the same time saw an American ship on
the starboard bow turn her guns on the object and fired three shots,
one of which fell close to the object. The object disappeared; seven

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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 6 of 23)