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tainty which filled the ship with rumors, are re-
flected in the letters and diaries of the youthful
seamen whose motto was, "We don't know where



we're going but we're on our way." One of them
wrote as follows:

April yd. 1917. The President of the United States
to-day declared this nation to be at war with Germany.
. . . qth. Have determined that I had better join the
Army or Navy, as we are really at war. Most of my
friends are going to try to go to Plattsburg and get
commissions. I do not think I shall do this. . . . 6th. A
lot of men are planning to go to the Mosquito Fleet
school at Newport. I can't see it. Will go on a foreign-
bound ship or none. Have decided to learn radio and
join the Navy as an operator if I can learn it soon.

April 13th. Still plugging at radio. I am getting a
little impatient. Think I shall enlist very soon. . . .
20th. Almost ready to leave the office. Hate to go, but
war is war and it's no fault of mine. Sorry there is war,
but there is only one thing to do — see it through. . . .
26th. Finished all my work in the office and took away
my things. I wonder if I '11 ever get through the war
and come back to my old job. . . . 27th. On this day
I made my final determination to enlist in the Navy.
Saw Lieutenant Tod and Captain Porter who recom-
mended me for the Corsair. Was enrolled in the Navy
and assigned to this ship, with orders to report at once.
My rank is seaman. . . .

May 2nd. First day of decent weather on this ship
and we worked like slaves. Coaling, cleaning decks,
and drill. The food so far is good. Home liberty for the
night. . . . yd. Was elected to mess, with Jack Faison.
Worst job in the world. We washed hundreds of dishes,
knives, etc., but got the fo'castle clean for the first
time. . . . dftt. Same kind of work, although we added
setting-up exercises and semaphore. We were signed
out of the Reserves (for coast patrol) into Class II,



regular U.S.N, service. . . . 5^. Spent most of the
morning learning knots in ropes. Also had to clean
decks. Brought aboard the small arms. Stood watch
from noon to 4 p.m. Chased away two suspicious look-
ing Wops. Six men are to be sent off the ship soon.
If I am elected there is going to be one awful kick.

May Sth. This morning we had boat drill and I
stroked the cutter. Then the head gunner and I showed
the rest of the men how to take down, sight, and load
a Springfield rifle. After that we practiced signals and
had infantry drill with full equipment. The new boat-
swain treats 'em rough and he bawled me out all day.
Rumors on this ship spread like wildfire. First we are
to be a flagship and then a dispatch boat and then to
patrol the English Channel until nobody knows any-
thing. There goes the boatswain's whistle which means
turn to.

May nth. Spent the entire day at the Armory get-
ting clothes. The only decent thing about Navy red-
tape is the cheap price which we pay for stuff. We
stood in line just seven hours. The Corsair now looks
like a real battleship. The paint is all on, also the gun
mountings. We hear that the Kaiser has offered a big
reward to the U-boat captain who sinks this boat, be-
cause it belongs to J. P. Morgan. Here's hoping he is
disappointed! I learned a new way yesterday of mak-
ing a deck-mop out of canvas. It is very useful. . . .
14/&. We got our orders to-day and sail for the Navy
Yard to-morrow. The dope is that we leave for good on
Friday. We expect to be sent to the coast of Maine for
two weeks' target practice, then to Newport where we
get definite sailing orders for some foreign service. . . .
15th. Had a good trip from Fletchers' to the Navy
Yard and then a terrible day. We had to coal ninety
tons of soft coal in buckets and shovels. The crew is


dog-tired and I never saw such a dirty crowd. I pray
we may never have to live to-day again.

(Note. Inserted later. This day was repeated in
France once a week. We soon got so used to it that it
became routine.)

May 16th. We had been asleep two hours when the
fire call was rung and all hands had to march double-
quick to the Princess Irene, a converted German liner.
It was a pretty bad fire and we were detailed to haul
hose for three hours. To-day was spent in washing the
ship and loading meat aboard. We are taking on provi-
sions for six months. The work here in the Navy Yard
is something fierce and I shall be glad to go to sea. I
bought shore liberty from another gob for two dollars
to go home and take a bath.

May lyth. To-day a strict censorship was put on us.
All our mail is read by the executive officer before we
send it out. Also no news of any kind is handed to us.
We are not even allowed to tell our families when or
where we sail. All the dope is that we are going abroad
soon. I visited the Noma and the Harvard to-night, but
they can't compare with the Corsair. We also looked
over some of the battleships and destroyers. Eleven of
them left for France to-day. We now get home leave
once a week. I washed some clothes to-day. They were
in awful shape. We loaded ten tons more of provisions.
Also got shot in the arm for typhoid and was vaccin-
ated. I am all in to-night.

May 1 8 th. To-day has been more like the real Navy.
I was on anchor watch from 4 p.m. to 6 and again in
the morning. I went aboard a submarine to-night and
it was the most interesting craft I have ever seen, but
I would not care to ship in her. My arm is a lot better
to-night, but still sore. The food is not nearly as good
as it was, mostly because the cook is lazy, but I think



the skipper has got his number. . . . igth. It looks very
much as if we would sail any day now. All stores,
ammunition, etc., are aboard and we are living a life
of comparative ease. Now they say we are going to
convoy the United States Commission to Russia. I
hope we do. . . . 21st. Captain Kittinger told us this
morning to get all the warm clothes we could as we
are going to a cold climate. This sounds like Russia
or the North Sea. Everybody says for sure we are going
over soon, so I guess that must be right. I was recom-
mended by the chief boatswain for a coxswain's job
and I hope I get the appointment. Dave Tibbott got
one, too. Pay-day to-day, but I did not get a cent, as
by some error of the Department my name was not on
the list. Am studying hard on the deck and boat book
and the seaman's manual.

May 22nd. Got offered a job as yeoman, but I don't
want to be a pen-pusher if I can help it. Mr. Tod
advised me to take it and say nothing if the com-
mander makes a point of it. . . . 24th. This has been
a trying day. In the first place a lot more men were
transferred off the boat and it makes us all nervous.
So far eight have got the gate. I painted the skylights
and covers all the afternoon. We are still at the Navy
Yard. Because of the Mongolia accident all our ammu-
nition was condemned, so we had to unload it. The
weight to carry was enough to pull all the rivets out
of your backbone. I suppose it will be the same when
we load it again. We still don't know for sure whether
we will be kept on the boat. Several more men expect
to get the hook.

May 26th. I have the P.O. mess. Dirty job. Another
man got canned to-day. I do wish they would settle on
the crew. I understand now that the Corsair will sail
for Gravesend, England, on Thursday. Mr. McGuire


Copyright by Kudel and Herbert, N. Y.


told me last night that he is afraid some more men will
have to be put off for lack of room. It certainly keeps
us feeling jumpy. . . . 29/A. Coaled ship all day. It was
a frightful job. It was shot onto the decks and we
shovelled it into the bunkers. We took on 350 tons and
the dirt and coal dust are unspeakable. To add to the
discomfort it rained all day. To-morrow is a national
holiday, but not for us.

May 30. To-day we spent washing the ship. We
turned loose the hose for four hours and it looks better,
but is not clean by a long shot. I have caught a rotten
cold. To-day more of the crew got fired. Thirty-two
regulars from the South Carolina came aboard to fill up
the crew. We now have a full complement. . . . 315/.
Still raining. I have never known such beastly weather.
We are still loading stores and I don't understand
where all the stuff is put. We are carrying the fleet
paymaster and the fleet postmaster, so it looks as if
we would also be the fleet dispatch boat on the other
side. Heaven only knows when we will sail. We have
been expecting to go every night. Liberty is very
scarce these days.

June 1st. Still more rain. I don't expect a decent
day this summer. We are still loading, loading, loading.
Food, clothes, and ammunition. A hundred and fifty
pounds on my back is nothing any more. They first
announced that we were to have liberty to-morrow and
then cancelled it. Have n't been mess cook or on
watch for five days. Hope my good luck continues.
The regulars are a good bunch, with few exceptions,
and I am surprised that most of them are so young.
They run from nineteen to twenty-two on an average,
barring the petty officers who are older.

June 4th. We sail definitely to-morrow, nobody
knows where. In the afternoon I went to the Sub-



treasury with the paymaster to get money. We both
carried guns and brought back $10,000 in gold to the
ship. It was some load to carry. . . . $th. We shoved
off from the Navy Yard at 8.30 a.m. and are now head-
ing north in Long Island Sound. No idea yet where
we are heading for. We cruised in the Sound all day
and anchored at Whitestone for the night. Got our
battle billet to-day. I am as follows:

Fire. Extinguisher in crew quarters.

Boat. Big motor sailer.

Gun. Fire control aft.

Arm and away. Fire control aft.

This is a joke on me. It was raining the other morn-
ing and we were getting under way. Everybody was
dressed in dirty working whites. The bos'n yelled at
me, "Hey, get the messenger for'ard." I immediately
rushed down to my locker, broke out a clean suit of
whites, and reported to the bridge for messenger watch.
I could hear the bos'n cursing all over the deck. The
mate finally spotted me and asked what I was doing
on the bridge. I told him the bos'n had put me on
messenger watch, and the mate said, "Messenger
watch! Hell! The messenger is a rope, you poor boob!"
It turned out that the "messenger" was a long line
which was stowed forward and he was wondering what
in Sam Hill had happened to me. The "messenger" is
used to hoist the motor sailer.

June 6th. Spent the morning overside, scrubbing the
ship. At one o'clock we hove anchor and cruised down
to Staten Island. There are eleven warships here with
us. . . . yth. Coaled ship all day at the Navy Yard.
Filled the bunkers and then put thirty tons on deck
in bags. The ship was a holy mess. Before breakfast
we were over the side scrubbing. . . . 8th. Spent most
of the day washing the whole ship. We left the Navy



Yard and are tied to a dock at the foot of 8oth Street
in the Hudson River. The Seattle, Birmingham, and
the Aphrodite are anchored near us. Got paid $13.00
to-day. So much money makes me dizzy.

June nth, I got what amounts to a promotion. I am
signal-man on the bridge. I handle all the signals,
flags, semaphore, blinker, and searchlights, excepting
radio. It lets me out of all the hard deck work. It will
take lots of practice to make good, but I am coming
along fairly well. . . . 12th. Three large transports are
anchored off us, crowded with regular infantry. We
hear we are to convoy them across. We shall be start-
ing very soon. The dope is that we are to act as convoy
all summer. . . . 13/&. We are told that there will be
no liberty to-night, so that means business. I called
up father and he came to see me and said good-bye.
The day was spent in putting on the finishing touches
for sea. We think we are going over with about thirty
other ships. The Seattle is the flagship. There will be
cruisers, destroyers, our type of vessel, and the trans-
ports. . . .

This young sailor and his comrades were about to
take part in one of the most memorable voyages
in American history. The crowded transports at
which they gazed bore Pershing's first contingent,
the vanguard of an army two million strong. They
presaged the enormous flow of troops and material,
the bridge of ships which should finally shatter the
military power of Germany. There was nothing
outwardly dramatic in this sailing of this little fleet
of transports. It stole out in secret and no news-
paper hinted at its departure. The men in khaki



belonged to regular regiments whose names and
numbers meant nothing to the people of their coun-
try. It was to be the destiny of most of these un-
known men to fall, dead or wounded, on the fields
of France, but the regiments came back, and then
the country knew them as they marched down
Fifth Avenue, wildly cheered and pelted with
flowers — the stern, bronzed ranks of the First

They filled the decks of this first convoy, com-
panies and battalions of the Sixteenth, the Eight-
eenth, the Twenty-Sixth, and the Twenty-Eighth
infantry regiments which were to win glory at tre-
mendous cost in the victorious assaults at Toul, at
Cantigny, at Soissons, at Saint-Mihiel, and in the
desperate advances of the Meuse and the Argonne.

It was the Navy's job to shepherd them across
the sea in safety. While the crew of the Corsair was
busied with rumor and conjecture, her official record
or confidential "War Diary " briefly noted the facts
in the case:

April 28th. Corsair taken over by the Government
at Fletchers' Ship Yard, Hoboken, New Jersey.

April 28th to May 15th. Fitting out for duty as scout
patrol, Third Naval District. During first week in
May information was received that ship would oper-
ate with Nantucket Patrol when ready for sea.

May 15th. Sailed from Fletchers' Ship Yard to
Navy Yard to receive battery and continue fitting out.
Commissioned as per following letter:


Copy to Navy Department I r> t


Office of the Commandant Third Naval District

Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y. May 14, 1917

From: Commandant, Third Naval District.
To: Lt. Com'dr T. A. Kittinger, U.S.N.,

Commanding Officer.
Subject: Corsair, S.P. No. 159, placed in commission.
1. As authorized in reference (a) the Corsair, S.P.
No. 159, is hereby placed in full commission, 15 May,
1917, 3.00 p.m. N R UsHER

Rear Admiral, U.S.N.
Commander Patrol Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

May igth. Received orders to fit out for distant
service, to be ready on May 30, 191 7.

June 4th. Received orders to report to Rear Admiral
Albert Gleaves, U.S. Navy, for temporary service.

June 5th. Left Navy Yard, New York, for shaking
down cruise in Long Island Sound.

June 6th. Proceeded to anchorage at Tompkinsville
for conference with Captain W. B. Fletcher, U.S.N. ,
on the U.S.S. Noma.

June yth. Proceeded to the Navy Yard for coal.

June 8th. Joined U.S.S. Seattle at anchorage, North
River, New York.

June 14th. Sailed with First Expeditionary Force
from United States to France.

The troop-ships in Group One of this First Ex-
peditionary Force were the merchant steamers Tena-
dores, Saratoga, Havana, and Pastores. The escort
assigned to them comprised the cruiser Seattle, flag-
ship of Rear Admiral Gleaves, the yacht Corsair,



the armed transport DeKalb, and the destroyers
Wilkes, Terry, and Roe. Three other groups followed
in a similar arrangement. The secret orders received
by the commander of the Corsair were as follows:

From: Commander Destroyer Force, Commanding

U.S. Convoy Operations in the Atlantic.
To: Convoy Group Number One.

Subject: Movement Order.

I. Execute Operation Order No. I of 7 June, 1917.
Escort arrive Ambrose Channel Lightship at 7.00

a.m., 14 June.
Convoy arrive Ambrose Channel Lightship at

7.30 a.m., 14 June.
Group One will, on arrival at Ambrose Channel
Lightship, assume following formation:

Terry O

DeKalb O

O Wilkes

O Seattle (2 points starboard
bow of leading transport,
distance 2000 yards)

O Tenadores

Havana O
Roe O O


O Corsair (On
beam 3rd trans-
port, distance
2000 yards)

Pastores O
Distance between transports 600 yards.

(Signed) Albert Gleaves


. :


The instructions for warding off submarine at-
tack have more than a passing interest. They sig-
nified a new chapter in the work of the American
Navy, with no doctrine as precedent — the task of
transporting an army across three thousand miles
of ocean and protecting it against an enemy which
was supremely confident that its undersea warfare
could not be thwarted, which had boasted that it
could prevent the landing of an American army in
France. In a way, this was a momentous experi-
ment. How thoroughly and intelligently the Navy
had studied the problem may be discerned in these
extracts from its confidential orders to the Corsair
and the other ships of the escort:

Reports of enemy submarine activity indicate that
the area of greatest activity is east of Longitude
Twenty West, and within a circle radius five hundred
miles from Fayal, Azores. Submarines may be oper-
ating on the Atlantic coast of the United States and
Canada. Every effort has been made to hold secret the
sailing of the convoy but it may be assumed that the
departure of convoy from the United States and the
hour of departure will be communicated to the enemy.
It is possible that particular effort will be made by the
enemy to accomplish the destruction of the convoy,
and no part of the water traversed may be assumed to
be free from submarines.

Ships will make every effort to maintain distance
accurately and will be careful not to drop astern, par-
ticularly at night or in thick weather. Speed will be
assigned by signal. During daylight every effort will
be made to determine the revolutions necessary to



make the speed of the convoy in order that each ship
may maintain a more nearly constant speed during
the darkness.

Convoy will be manoeuvred as necessary by the
Battle Signal Book. Ships will manoeuvre independ-
ently in accordance with the Rules of the Road in all
cases when necessary to avoid collision. When convoy
alters course each ship of the convoy will turn in the
wake of the next ahead except in zigzagging when all
turn together.

There will be two well-protected and arranged look-
out stations aloft; one on each side of the mast as high
as possible, capable of holding four lookouts each.
There will be four well-protected and arranged look-
out stations on each side of the ship, capable of hold-
ing two lookouts each. During daylight there will be
an officer in each top, in addition to lookouts. At all
times there will be an officer in charge of lookouts on
deck who will make periodic inspections. The com-
munication system from lookout stations to bridge
will be tested frequently.

Lookouts will be carefully selected for their fitness
for lookout duty — keen eyesight, intelligence, and
freedom from seasickness are essential qualities. A
school for lookouts will be held daily. They will be
instructed to report everything they see. In so far as
practicable they will be furnished with binoculars and
each lookout will always use the same glass. Each
lookout will be assigned a definite sector and will be
required to maintain the closest possible watch within
that sector, no matter what may be happening in other

Gun crews will be at all times in the immediate
vicinity of their guns. One man of each crew will be
at all times on watch. Daily pointing, loading, and fire



control drills will be held. When conditions permit
and upon orders from the Group Convoy Commander,
target practice will be held in accordance with the
General Signal Book.

No radio message will be sent except in great emer-
gency involving the safety of the ship. A continuous
radio watch will be maintained. If it becomes neces-
sary to communicate by radio, the cipher contained
in the operation order will be used.

All vessels will be darkened so that no ray of light
shall show outboard between sunset and sunrise.
A single gleam of light may cause the loss of the ship.
Sentries will make constant rounds to insure the strict
enforcement of this order throughout the ship. Navi-
gational lights will not be shown except when specifi-
cally ordered by the convoy commander or when imme-
diately necessary to avoid collision and then only long
enough to meet the emergency. Range lights will not
be shown and all lights will be dimmed to two miles

Smoke from the funnels must be reduced to a mini-
mum both by day and night. All vessels will keep fuel
so trimmed that maximum speed can be maintained
toward end of voyage. Neither the whistle or the siren
shall be used in submarine waters except in case of
emergency. Care will be exercised that the leads of the
siren and whistle cords are such that these cannot be
accidentally pulled or become jammed.

A station bill will be prepared showing the stations
at fire quarters and abandon ship. Daily drills at fire
stations and abandon ship will be held until all persons
on board become familiar with their duties.

Necessary instructions in regard to rendezvous and
courses will be found in the sealed instructions. These
will be opened only as directed on the outside of the



envelope. Before dark a rendezvous for 4 p.m. of the day
following will be signalled by the Escort Commander.
Nothing that floats will be thrown overboard. All
waste material that can be burned will be burned. Tin
cans must be well punctured before being thrown over-
board. Garbage that cannot be burned shall be accu-
mulated in suitable receptacles and thrown overboard
from all ships simultaneously one hour after sunset
each night.

Submarine Attach

The following is generally accepted:

Submarines on surface are visible on the horizon.
Submarine awash is visible about five miles. Submarine
submerged, periscope showing, is not visible more
than two miles unless periscope appears against sky-
line. Porpoising of submarine as it comes to the sur-
face to obtain sight through periscope creates a dis-
tinct wake which is more clearly visible than the wake
of periscope when submarine is steadied.

Under poor conditions of atmosphere and sea the
probability of detecting a submarine decreases. It
follows that constant vigilance alone will insure the
early detection of a submarine. The wake of a torpedo
is distinctive and can easily be picked up in smooth
water at a distance of two thousand yards. In rough
water it is difficult to observe the wake.

Daylight attack by surface craft (enemy raider),
will be handled by signal from the Convoy Com-
mander. Daylight attack by submarines shall be
handled as follows by each vessel:

(a) Open fire instantly on any submarine sighted.
Don't delay the first shot even if it is apt to go wild,
— it will show the direction of the submarine and will
have a pronounced moral effect.



a -■



[• .


(b) Continue to fire as rapidly as possible. Short
shots interfere with the ability of the submarine to
see and aim.

(c) If submarine appears less than six points on bow
and not more than 2000 yards away, head for sub-
marine at best speed.

(d) If submarine appears more than six points on
bow, abeam, or on the quarter, head directly away
from submarine at best speed.

(e) If torpedo wake only is seen, fire gun immediately
and indicate direction to other ships and manoeuvre
to avoid torpedo as in case of submarine, i.e. — turn-
ing towards torpedo if less than six points.

(f) Other ships of convoy turn from direction of
submarine and scatter at best speed, maintaining
keenest lookout for torpedo wake and for a possible
mate of the attacking submarine.

(g) Resume course when it is deemed that your
vessel is outside the danger zone of attacking sub-

Night Attack: — All vessels instantly change course

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Online LibraryRalph Delahaye PaineThe Corsair in the war zone → online text (page 2 of 20)