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

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mixed up with the propeller wash. They never answered our signals and at the time
one could not see more than 200 feet ahead on account of the fog. We landed on the
night of the 16th, at 11 p. m., at Cranberry Island.

ITie second officer of the submarine told me that they had to sink the ship, as she
was chartered by an American firm.

Tlie vessel which the captain and first officer of the Marosa saw
sunk on July 8 was the Norwegian schooner Manx King, 1,729 gross
tons, bound from New York to Rio de Janeiro with general cargo,
and was sunk in approximately latitude 40° north, longitude 52°
west. The captain of the Manx /tin^jirotested against the seizure
of his vessel, pointing out that she was of neutral register, but the
submarine officer insisted that the type of cargo carried (oil, cotton,
barbed wire, sheet iron, and shoes) was contraband and that the
vessel must be destroyed. As in the case of the Marosa the crew of
the merchant vessel was given amjJe time to provision the boats
while the Germans were removing supplies to the submarine and
searching for other prey from the main gallant yard. They then
placed bombs in the hatches of the ship, using the victims' flag lines
for the purpose,'^ and after advising the Norwegian captain ''to sail

19 These bombs were described as being 18 inches in length and 3 to 4 inches in diameter, with small
plugs resembling "the binding posts of an electric battery" on top.


in a westerly direction, saying that he would be sure to be picked
U]) by a passing ship," ordered the lifeboats to get underway. The
crew of the Manx King did not see their vessel sink, as she disap-
peared in the fog after they had gone 2 miles.

After the sinking of the Manx King nothing was learned of the
whereabouts of the 11-156 ^° until an alio was sent out on the 17th
by the U. S. S. Harrisburg, giving her position as latitude 40° 10'
X., longitude 68° 55' W. The submarine, which was lying on the
surface, made no effort to attack, and after remaining in view for
10 minutes submerged at a distance of about 10,000 3'ards from the
Harrishurg ."^^

Four days after she was sighted by the Harrishurg the raider
raised a storm of excitement along the seaboard by attacking the
tug Perth Amhoy, 435 gross tons, and her tow of four barges m sight
of the Massachusetts coast and within a few miles of the Chatham
naval air station. The war diary of the first naval district gives a
graphic account of the attack:

A German submarine attacked the tug Perth Amhoy of the Lehigh Valley R. R.,
and her four barges, 3 miles off Orleans, on the southeastern elbow of Cape Cod,
Mass., at 10.30 a. m. to-day. The one-sided battle lasted one hour and one-half.
The tug was burned to the water's edge by shell fire, while the barges Lansford and
No. 766, No. 403, and No. 740 were simk by gunfire.. The barges were bound from
Gloucester, Mass., for New York, N. Y., and only one was loaded, her cargo con-
sisting of stone. Of the 41 persons, including 3 women and 5 children on board,
3 men were wounded.

The attack was witnessed by large crowds of natives and summer visitors, who had
flocked to the cape for the week end, seeking relief from the hot wave. All accounts
agreed that the submarine's shooting was very bad. Her torpedo work was no l)etter.
According to Capt. Ainsleigh of the Lansford, the U-boat launched three torpedoes
at the tug and all went wild. This is not believed to be true.

The attack occiu-red only a few miles from the naval air station at Chatham. Four
hydroplanes attacked the raider with bombs. The depth bombs dropped did not
explode. The fire was returned, keeping the planes high. Finally, the U-boat
submerged and was last observed heading south.

To-night the tug was still afloat, and it is thought she can be saved. The net result
of the raid was the sinking of barges valued in the aggregate at §90,000 and the serious
damaging of a tug valued at .$100,000, and the expenditure of some ammunition.

The appearance of the raider so near the treacherous shoals and tide rips of the
cape and her subsequent actions caused amazement to the thousands of eyewitnesses
rather than consternation. The natives of the cape could not undei'stand why she
should waste torpedoes and shells on barges running to a coal port.

A fog bank lying 4 miles offshore hid the U-boat from her approaching victims.
The Perth Amhoy, steaming leisurely through the calm summer sea, was unaware of
the presence of danger until a deckhand sighted a streak in the water shooting by
the stern.

so The U. S. S. Kroonland reported firing upon a submarine on the 10th when in latitude 36° 2S' N.,
longitude 62° .32' W.

a It is supposed that the time between the sinking of the Manx King and the sighting by the Harris-
burg was occupied in the sowing of mines, one of which sank the U. S. S. San Diego. (See page 126.)

TPIE U-156. 55

Before he realized that it was a torpedo, two other missiles sped by, wide of their
mark. He shouted a warning. At the same time there was a flash from the fog and
a shell crashed through the wheelhouse. A fragment of the flying steel took off the
hand of a sailor as he grasped the spokes of the steering wheel. In quick succession
came other shots, some of which went wide and some of which struck home.

Capt. J. P. Tapley, of the Perth Amboy, who was in his cabin at the time, ran out
on the deck just as the submarine loomed out of the fog bank, her deck gun flashing
out its storm of steel. The bombardment set the tug on fire, and the German then
turned his attention to the helpless barges.

Shrapnel biu'sting over the Lansford, second in the tow, struck down Charles Ains-
leigh, master of the barge. The shooting of the enemy was amazingly bad. For
more than an hour the blazing tug and the drifting barges were under fu'e before the
enemy succeeded in getting enough shots to sink them. In the meantime, the sub-
marine crept nearer until her range was only a few hundred yards. This at length
proved sufficient, and the barges disappeared beneath the surface one by one until
only the stern of the Lansford was visible. The tug was a burning hiilk.

The crews, with the three women, the five children who were aboard and the
wounded, rowed ashore, landing in Nauseet Harbor, Cape Cod, Mass. (Coast Guard
Station No. 40), while naval hydroairplanes came out, located the U-boat in the haze,
and engaged her.

Some of the summer residents grew uneasy when they saw how wild the German
gunners were shooting and feared stray shells woidd hit their cottages. Many of
these residents went to cottages which had substantial cellars and watched the firing
there, ready to seek shelter should the German try his markmanship on shore targets.
Some residents reported shells falling on shore. ^^

On July 22, 1918, the day following the attack on the Perth Amboy,
the U-156 sank the American fishing schooner Robert and Ricliard
60 miles southeast of Cape Porpoise, in latitude 42° 42' N"., longitude
68° 23' W. The submarine fired her first and only shot at a distance
of 2 miles. The schooner hove to and the submarine approached.
A German officer ordered one of the fishermen's dories alongside,
and with two sailors boarded the schooner. On 'the way to the
Robert and Ricliard the German officer seemed willing to talk: "He
said he had a big house in the States. I asked him what he was
going to do with us, andhe said he was not going to do anything,
and when we got ashore he vv^anted us to tell the authorities that we

22 A thrilling story of how the Boston fishing boat Rose, on a seining trip, was fired upon several times
by a German submarine off Orleans, Cape Cod, Mass., being missed by only 10 feet, together with her
flight for safety, was told to-night upon her arrival in Provineetown by Capt. Marsi Schuill. The captain
and his crew of seven witnessed the attack on the tug Perth Ambo;/ and the four barges. The captain said:

"We were about 5 miles ofT Orleans at 10.30 this morning, and the sea was as i aim as a mirror. About
2 miles ahead of us the tug and her tow of four barges was steaming lazily along. Suddenly we heard the
report of a big gun. We looked toward the tug and her tow and were startled to see a submarine break

"She looked like a big whale, with the water sparkling in the sunlight as it rolled off her sides. Then
we saw the (lash of a gim on the U-boat and saw the shell strike the pilot house of the tug. A few minutes
later we saw fire break out and the crew running toward the stern. Then the U-boat turned her attention
to the barges. We then saw one of the deck guns on the U-boat swimg around toward us and there was
a flash. A shell came skipping along the water. I ordered full speed ahead, and the Kosie jumped ahead
through the brine, making us feel a Uttle bit more comfortable. The Germans must liave fired as many
as five shots at us, the nearest coming within 10 feet of our stem but we were traveling pretty fast and
when the submarine crew saw their shots were falling short they gave up. A few minutes later we saw a
naval patrol boat bearing toward the submarine, but we didn't stop," — War Diary o/ the First Naval Dis-


do not do anything to those on the vessels we sink. He said 'You
think too much of what Wilson tells you.' They acted as though
they had plenty of time. They only brought one bomb aboard and
they carried this m a canvas bag. This they swung underneath the
ship by the use of a sounding lead. They started on the stern end
of the ship and pulled it up to about midships." ^^

In this instance the submarine crew removed nothing from their
victim other than the flag and the ship's papers.

On the 23d and the 27th sighthigs were reported by the American
S. S. Temple E. Dorr and by the British S. S. Gymeric. The Dorr
was 8 miles east of Fire Island at the time, while the Gymeric was in
latitude 38° 27' N. and longitude 70° 42' W. In the latter case it
was reported that two submarmes were seen and m the former the
object was far away when sighted; it is doubtful, therefore, that the
TJ-156 was seen in either case, although it is possible that American
submarmes, which were operatmg in the vicinity at the time, might
have been sighted.^*

The next victim of the 11-156 was the Biritsh motor schooner
Dornfontein, which was sunk August 2 m latitude 44° 17' N, and
longitude 67° W.

The war diary of the first naval district furnishes a good account
of the sinking :

The little cloud of emoke rising to-day from the hulk of the British schooner Dorn-
fontein. 7 miles south of Grand Island, at the entrance of the Bay of Fundy, marked
the scene of the most recent German submarine attack on the Atlantic coast.

The schooner, lumber laden, from St. Johns, New Brunswick, for a port south,
was overtaken just before noon yesterday by a German submarine, her crew driven
into their dories, and the vessel robbed and burned. After rowdng three hours the
men reached Grand Island.

The fact that the submarine ventured so close to the shoals and shallows of the
Bay of Fundy, as did the one which sank four coal barges in the dangerous waters
close to Orleans, on Cape Cod, Mass., two weeks ago, led shipping men to believe
that it was the same German craft. This belief was substantiated by the fact that
the second officer of the submarine which sank the Robert and Richard told Capt.
\^'^^arton of that schooner that he had maintained a summer home on the Maine coast
for 25 years prior to the war. It is believed that no navigating officer of a submarine
would vent'Lue so close inshore unless he was very farniliar with the details of the
coast line.

The schooner was just getting into open sea, 25 miles off Briar Island, the western-
most point of Nova Scotia, when the submarine rose from the water and fired two
shots across her bow. The schooner quickly came to and a few minutes later was
boarded by a party of Germans who left the submarine in a small boat.

The Germans wasted no torpedoes, shells, or bombs, but set the vessel afire. Every
stitch of available clothing owned by the crew, together with a six-months' stock of

23 Testimony of Capt. Robert A. Wharton before American Naval Intelligence officers.

" It appears likely that on this day the U-156 was operating in the vicinity of Bamegat Inlet. At 9.30
a. m., the 27th, the Florence Olson reported a sighting ofl Bamegat Light. At 5.03 in the afternoon the
U. S. S. Calhoun reported an attack in latitude 38° 35' N. longitude 70° 40' W. A Mttle over an hour latei'
the British S. S. Melitia reported an attack in latitude 38° 36' longitude 70° 20' W

THE U-156. 57

provisions, was taken off by the German raiding jiarty. The ofhcers and crew of the
Bchooner made the best of their time while in contact with the Germans and brought
in the best account of the vessel and her crew that had been obtained up to date.
Part of their report is as follows: "The sul^marine was the (1-156, and the crew num-
bered 73. Theii" ages would run from 20 to 35. They were well clad and appeared
t,o be in good health and condition. The men stated that the only thing they suffered
from was a lack of vegetal^les. The captain of the submarine was a stout man, aj^par-
ently about 32 years of age and about 5 feet 7 inches tall, and the crew were pretty
much the same type of men. The captain spoke only broken English, while the
second lieutenant spoke English fluently. Nearly all the crew spoke English."

Many false statements were made to the Englishmen by the sub-
marine crew, but these were mixed with truths that aided the navy
men in tracing the activities of the vessel."

Following the destruction of the Dornfontein, the U-boat turned
its attention to the fishing fleet operating in the vicinity of Seal
Island, Nova Scotia. On August 3 the American schooners Muriel,
120 gross tons, Sydney B. Atwood, 100 gross tons, Annie Perry, 116
gross tons, and the American motor schooner Roh Roy, 112 gross
tons, were destroyed by bombs. The affidavit of the master of the
Muriel before the American consul at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, is as,
follows :

The affiant, Eldridge Nickerson, states that he is a n aturalized American citizen
living at Everett, Mass. ; that he was the master of the fishing schooner Muriel, belong-
ing to the Atlantic Maritime Co., of Boston, Mass.; that the said schooner's gross
tonnage is 120 and net tonnage 83; that the said schooner sailed from Gloucester on
August 2, 1918, bound for Browns Bank, intending to call at Pubnico, Nova Scotia;
that about 11 o'clock of August 3, 1918, when the said schooner was about 45 miles
W. by N. of Seal Island, Nova Scotia, a submarine was sighted about 4 miles to the
south; that the said schooner's position was about the same when abandoned and
sunk; that the said schooner's course at the time was due east, sailing at a speed of
10 knots, and that no flag was flying; that the submarine was steaming on the surface
at about 10 miles an hoiu", headed NE. and flying three German flags; that he
attempted to escape and was drawing slightly away from the submarine when the latter
fired two shots, one across said schooner's bow and one across said stem; that he
immediately hove to and waited for the submarine's approach; that the commander
of the submarine ordered the crew of the said schooner into their fovir boats and to
come alongside of the submarine; that the submarine's commander then went aboard
the said schooner with some of his own seamen and took away the said schooner's
American flag, the ship's papers, and some of her pro\'isions, such as eggs, and then
tied a bomb to said schooner's sounding lead, placing it under said schooner's stern,
and that about a quarter of an hour after noon he fired off said bomb by means of a
time fuse; that the said schooner sank in about two minutes, going down by the
head; that the submarine remained on the surface and steamed away to SE. at a
speed of abo^t 6 miles an hour; that the submarine's commander wore a uniform

26 Some of the statements made by the Germans to the crew of the Dornfontein were: That prior to enter-
ing the Bay of Fundy the submarine had waited 3 miles ofl Portland, Me., but as no shipping appeared
they had proceeded to the Bay of Fundy.

That they had been operating off the American coast for six months.

That they had sunk the San Diego.

That there were two larger submarines and one the same size operating on the American coast.

Tell Wilson that in six months there would be 200 submarines operating on the American Atlantic and
Pacific coasts and against Japan.


which looked old and worn and that the sailors wore rough f•i^•iliall clothes; that the
submarine's commander looked about 40 years of age, was of medium height and thick
set, being of a dark complexion, and wore a beard and mustache; that about 20 of
the submarine's crew appeared on deck; that the commander of the submarine asked
him from what port he came and where he was bound, and tonnage of t/he said schooner,
and demanded said schooner's papers and flag; that the said questions were asked in
English; that after the submarine steamed away the four boats rowed for the Nova
Scotia coast, arriving at Yarmouth on the morning of August 4, 1918; that as the
weather was good the crew did not suffer from cold, but suffered a little from hunger,
owing to the fact that the said schooner's bread placed in the dories was soaked ^itli
water at the time the said schooner was sunk and was not fit to eat.

The Atwood was the next victim, followed at 2.30 p. m. by the
Perry. The Roh Roy was sunk at 6 p. m. A statement of a member
of the crew of the Annie Perry tells of their capture and treatment
by the Germans:

Mr. Charles H. Swain states that they left Boston, Friday noon, August 2, 1918, and
that on Saturday about 2.30 p. m. they sighted a boat about 5 miles due north. They
did not know it was a submarine till it was about 4 miles away. The submarine
then fired a shot across the bow when about 3 miles away and they hove to. Mr.
Swain states that they saw the Rob Roy sunk. The crew then put off in four dories
with 19 men. They were 35 miles from land off the Nova Scotia coast, W. half south
from Seal Island. The sub came close to dory and the officer of the sub called for
the captain to go aboard. Our captain and four men went aboard. The German
captain was a young man, German, about 23 years old. He said, "Don't be afraid,
we won't hurt you, but we're going to sink yom- ship." He further stated that we
were fortunate to be near land, and told us that he sank one ship 400 miles from land,
and that he was the man who had sunk the San Diego. He said that he had supplies
to remain out three months. The sub crew consisted of 60 or 70 men and about 30 or 35
were on deck. The submarine was battleship gray and had two large guns fore and
aft. The submarine was clean. They took all the supplies from our ship and the sub
captain gave the crew in dory brandy and cigarettes. The sub captain then asked
for newspapers.

On the 4th the Nelson A., a Canadian schooner, was captured and
sunk by bombs and the day following the Canadian schooners Agnes
B. Holland and Gladys M. Hollett -^ were disposed of in the same
manner. The sinkings of the 5th took place 15 miles off Lehave
Banks, about 50 miles SE. by S. of the locality in which the attacks
of the two previous days were made." The Gladys M. Hollett was
later towed to port.

At 11.40 this same morning the Canadian tanker Luz Blanca, a

vessel of 4,868 gross tons, which had cleared the port of Halifax

bound for Tampico, Mexico, five hours before, was struck by either
^ ^

'-6 These two fishing vessels were formerly reported as Agnes B. Halliard and Gladys FrehaUit. The
British Admiralty give the names as above

'■' The rumor that one of the ofllcers of the submarine was well acquainted in the United States recurred
continually. Fishermen claim to have identified the commander of the German submarine that ha ^ been
sinking fishing boats as a skilled navigator, formerly in the fisheries service of the United States. Two
men from different schooners that were sunk claimed to have recognized a former acquaintance, who has
changed little except that he has grown a beard since they last saw him. Shipping men are satisfied that
one of the officers of the submarine had an exact knowledge, as he operated the most dangerous waters in
safety. The suspected man is said to know these waters, from Wood's Hole, Mass., to Nov a Scoria, as
well as anyone who has ever sailed them. — From Diary of the First Naval District.

THE U-156. 59

a torpedo or a mine. She put about with the intention of return-
ing to Halifax to repair the damage caused by the explosion. At
2 o'clock in the afternoon the 11-156 appeared between 4 and 5
miles off her port quarter and opened fire. The Lviz Blanca carried
one 12-pounder aft, and although the explosion in the morning
had tilted the gun deck, making it impossible to use the gun to the
best advantage, its crew returned the fire of the enemy. The sub-
marine quickl}^ found that she outranged the Luz Blamca and there-
fore kept at a safe distance, firing in all 30 shots. Meanwhile the
tanker, which at the beginning of the engagement had been making
12 knots an hour in spite of her injuries, suddenly stopped. The
master w^as of the opinion that one of the shells from the submarine
which struck just astern of the vessel destroyed the propeller. The
shells of the submarine now began to strike home, two men were
killed and several others \Nounded aboard the tanker, and at 3.15
the vessel, afire in several places, was abandoned by her crew.
The submarine continued to shell the burning hidk which, when
last seen by her crew, was settling rapidly, in latitude 43° 48' N.,
longitude 63° 40' W.^^

On August 8 2^ the V-166 overhaided the Swedish S. S.. Sydland,
a vessel of 3,031 gross tons, in latitude 41° 30' N., longitude 65°
22' W. This vessel, which had before the present trip been engaged
in Norwegian-American trade, had been chartered by the Allied
Governments for use as a Belgian relief ship and was proceeding
from Bagen, Norway, to Hampton Koads to receive her orders and
her cargo. The statement of Capt. Alexandre N. Larson, master
of the Sydland, was summarized as follows by the aid for informa-
tion at New York :

On August 8, at 2.30 p. m., the captain and chief officer were standing on the deck,
and first knew of the presence of the submarine when they heard the report of a gun
and saw the splash of a shell about 20 fathoms in front of the Sydland. The captain
then stopped his vessel, although he did not see the submarine. About 2.33 p. m.
another shot was heard and a shell landed about 10 fathoms amidships. A short
time afterwards the submarine appeared apparently 6 or 7 miles astern of the ship,
about ESE. from the vessel and was at the time heading SW. by W. J^ W.

The submarine was next observed signaling, International Code "A F," which
meant "Bring your papers on board." Orders were at once given by the captain
to put out a small boat to the submarine. The captain himself, with three of his
crew, first mate, boatswain, and one sailor, put off for the submarine, which at that
time appeared within 2 miles of the Sydland. The captain gave his papers to a mem-
ber of the crew, who in turn gave them to the prize officer of the siibmarine. The
captain stated that the submarine appeared to be about 300 feet long. The sub-
marine had two guns, one forward and one aft. The guns ajjpeared to be about
5.9. No other guns were observed.

M Newspaper reports that the boats of the Luz Blanca were shelled are not borne out by the statements
of the crew.

a On August 7 the Belgian relief steamer Elizabeth von Belgie was halted in latitude 42° 15' N., longitude
64° 17' W. Her papers were examined and her officers questioned by the Germans. She succeeded In
establishing her character to their satisfaction and was allowed to continue her voyage.


^^^len the captain came alongside of the submarine there apjieared to be about 40
men of the crew standing on deck. They appeared to be men between 30 and 40
years of age. The prize officer was the only officer seen by the captain. He was a
short man, brown eyes, and dark hair, clean shaven, and had about three or four
days' growth of beard. He looked like a Spaniard, and had on a brown leather coat
with a blue cap. The captain talked to the prize officer, first in German, which he

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