Ralph Delahaye Paine.

The Corsair in the war zone online

. (page 3 of 20)
Online LibraryRalph Delahaye PaineThe Corsair in the war zone → online text (page 3 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ninety degrees either to port or starboard. Course will
be resumed before any vessel has proceeded ten miles
after ninety degrees change. If any vessel is damaged
by torpedo, that vessel will act independently and all
other vessels of convoy escape at best speed. The dam-
aged vessel may send out radio distress signals provided
for merchant vessels.

Owing to the presence of escorting ships it is not
probable that submarines will be caught on the surface
and therefore will not attempt to use her guns. It is
very probable that the first indication of the presence
of a submarine will be the wake of her torpedo.

Mines, floating or submerged, may be encountered.
All floating objects, the character of which is uncer-



tain, must be carefully avoided. Floating mines have
recently been encountered under the following condi-

(a) Two mines connected by lines.

(b) Secured to bottom of dummy periscopes which
were mounted in a box or other object.

(c) In waterlogged boats, used as decoys.

(d) Attached to wreckage of various kinds.

If submarine is sighted or if gunfire from any ship
indicates attack, destroyers and fast yachts of escort
will head at best speed in direction of submarine, force
it to submerge, and attack as conditions permit. They
will rejoin convoy at earliest possible moment. If any
ship is damaged by torpedo, two destroyers will stand
by ship, those nearest of escort, affecting such rescue
as may be necessary and possible.


THE Corsair stood out to sea with the trans-
ports and the escort in the morning of June
14th after a thick fog had delayed the departure
for several hours. As finally selected, the ship's
company consisted of 130 officers and enlisted
men. The shifting fortunes of war were to scatter
most of them to other ships and stations during
the long exile overseas, and when the battered
yacht came home, only Commander Porter and
Lieutenant McGuire and eighteen of the crew of
this first muster roll were left on board.

Changes were so frequent that from first to last
almost three hundred men served in the Corsair. 1
The ship proved to be a training school for officers,
and made an exceptional record in that thirteen of
her enlisted force and one warrant officer won com-
missions during the war, some taking the examina-
tions while on foreign service and others being sent
to Annapolis for the intensive course of three
months and receiving the rank of temporary en-
signs in the regular naval organization. On deck
and below, men were rated as petty officers as rap-
idly as they displayed aptitude, and few of the crew
failed to advance themselves. The spirit of the ship
1 See Chapter xiv.


was eager and ambitious from the start and drudg-
ery could not dull it.

As a proper man-of-war the Corsair lived a com-
plex and disciplined programme of duty through
the twenty-four hours of the day. When she steamed
past Sandy Hook, outward bound, the complement
included a chief boatswain's mate, one boatswain's
mate, six coxswains, seven gunner's mates, four
quartermasters, nineteen seamen, nineteen ordi-
nary seamen, three electricians, four radio oper-
ators, a carpenter's mate, two ship-fitters, a boiler
maker, a blacksmith, a chief machinist's mate, one
machinist's mate, a chief water tender, two water
tenders, four oilers, twenty-one firemen and coal
passers, a chief yeoman, three yeomen, a hospital
apprentice, a bugler, a cabin steward, four ship's
cooks, and eight mess attendants.

The complete roster of the ship on this famous
day of June 14, 1917, was as follows:

Lieutenant Commander T. A. Kittinger, U.S.N. (Commanding)
Lieutenant Commander W. B. Porter, N.R.F. (Executive)
Lieutenant Robert E. Tod, N.R.F. (Navigator)
Lieutenant R. J. McGuire, (JG) N.R.F. (First Lieutenant)
Lieutenant J. K. Hutchison, (JG) N.F.R. (Engineer Officer)
Ensign A. K. Schanze, N.R.F. (Gunnery Officer)
Ensign J. F. W. Gray, N.R.F. (Communications Officer)
Assistant Surgeon E. V. Laub, N.R.F.
Assistant Paymaster J. J. Cunningham, N.R.F.
Machinist W. F. Hawthorn, N.R.F.
Machinist A. V. Mason, N.R.F.
Boatswain R. Budani, N.R.F.

Aguas, I C.


Barko, A. W.

G.M. 3C

Ashby, C. N.

Sea. 2c.

Barry, H. A.


Balano, F.


Bayne, C. S.




Bedford, H. H.
♦Benton, E. M.

Bischoff, H. J.

Bonsall, T. C.

Breckel, H. F.
*Brillowski, A. J.

Byram, C. S.

Carey, N. J.
♦Carroll, O.

Clinch, T., Jr.

Coffey, A. H.

Connolly, C.

Copeland, A. T.

Cure, H.

Curtin, J. J.

Davis, I. S.

De Armosolo, V.

Donaldson, S. J.

Duke, W. M., Jr.

Egan, L. C.

Emmons, L. C.

Evans, W. F.

Farr, F. S.

Feeley, N.
♦Flynn, J. S.
♦French, L. A.

Fusco, N.

Ganz, C. A.

Giihooley, J. P.
♦Gillette, H. E.

Goring, H. D.

Graul, R. W.

Gray, A. O.

Griffin, L. H.

Haase, H. E.

Haling, C.

Hamilton, C.
♦Hanley, J.
♦Heise, W. F.

Herrman, H.

Hill, F. C.

Hiss, S. W.

Hollis, L. R.

Houtz, E. L.

Jetter, R. T.






Elec. 2cG.

Yeo. 3c.
S.C. 2C

Elec. 2cR.
M.Att. 3c.
Sea. 2c.

G. M. 3c.
Sea. 2c.

Q.M. 2c.
M.Att. ic.
M.Att. ic.
S.C. 3c.
M.M. 2c.
G.M. 3c.


H.A. ic.

Sea. 2c.





M.Att. ic.



CM. 3c.


Sea. 2c.



Jones, R. D.
♦Jones, T. W.

Kaetzel, H. D.

Keenan, A. E. :

Kerr, G. M.
♦Kleine, J. F.

Leal, R.

Lewis, F. W.

Lindeburg, F. R.

Loescher, H. A.

Loftus, J. P.

Luke, E. E.

Marsden, C.

Marsh, A. J.

Martin, O. F.

Martinez, M.

McClellan, R. B.

Miller, A. E.

Montaux, R. C.
♦Moore, J. E.

Moore, W. C.

Mulcahy, W. W.

Mullins, T.

Murphy, W. F.
♦Nardo, S.

Nolan, F.

Outwater, H.

Paulson, G.

Pease, A. E.

Phillips, E.
♦Plummer, J. A.

Prindle, E. B.

Rachor, J.

Rahill, W. J.

Regent, A. A.

Reynolds, F. J.

Robertson, C.

Rubein, S.
♦Schlotfeldt, H. B.

Schmidt, H. L.

Seger, R. G.

Sellers, E. H.
♦Sholander, E.

Simpson, J. F.

Skolmowski, S. J.



Sea. 2c.




M.Att. 3c.



Elec. 2cG.






M.Att. 3c.

B.M. ic.

Yeo. 2c.


Sea. 2c.

G.M. 2c.


Q.M. ic.


M.Att. ic.

M.Att. 2c.


C. Yeoman


S.C. 2C.

Elec. 2cR.

Q.M. 2c.



Sea. 2c.

Sea. 2c.




S.F. 2c.
Sea. 2c.
Sea. 2c.
G.M. 3c.
Sea. 2c.

Returned home on ship twenty-three months later.


Smith, A. C, Jr. Q.M. 2c. Underhill, P. W. Sea. 2c.

Smith, J.


Valyon, L. J.

Sea. 2c.

Smock, T. F.

Sea. 2c.

*Van Camp, L. R.


Stephenson, H.


Wallace, E.


Sullivan, V. J.


Walters, F.

Sea. 2c.

Swan, M. H.

Elec. 3cR.

Washburn, C. F.

Sea. 2c.

Tepelman, L. W.


Waters, C. W.

Yeo. 2c.

*Teuten, W. W.


Walters, F.

Sea 2c.

Thysenius, E.

Cabin St'rd

*Wheatcroft, W. A.

S.F. 2c.

Tibbott, D. W.


Wyllie, A. A.

G.M. ic.

Tucker, R.

S.C. 3C.

Wysocki, P. P.

Elec. 3c.

Many of these patriotic pilgrims were about to
undertake their first voyage on blue water, nor
could they foresee how much piteous woe can be
caused by the uneasy motion of a ship. The Corsair
was a lively boat, as the saying is, for her hull was
not moulded like a fat-bellied merchantman, and
she lifted to the seas with the graceful stride of a
Yankee clipper. And so when the transports plodded
out into the wide, wet Atlantic, not a few of the
bold mariners of the Corsair devoutly wished they
had enlisted in the Army. They were not disgraced,
however, for many a hard-shell of the regular Navy
has confessed to the pangs of seasickness. The nerv-
ous thoughts of submarines were forgotten in
wrestling with the immediate tribulation. The great
adventure was not what it had been cracked up
to be.

Among the bluejackets was a Princeton under-
graduate, Arthur Herbert Coffey, rating as a sea-
man, whose misfortune it was to suffer serious
trouble with his eyes, so that he was sent home
shortly after the Corsair reached France. Later he



entered the aviation service and died of influenza
on December 31, 191 8, greatly mourned by his
former shipmates. He wrote, at some length, his
impressions of the voyage and so entertainingly
caught the spirit of it that he must be permitted to
tell you how they went rolling out to find the
11 Bay of Biscay, O":

I shall never forget the morning of June 14th as
long as I live. It was three a.m. and very foggy when
our bos'n's mate roused us from our hammocks and
told us to "rise and shine" as we were going to shove
off. I'll admit that I had many fears and misgivings
at these harsh words, "shove off." I had never been
out of sight of land before in my life, and to cross the
ocean on your first trip in a yacht three hundred feet
long seemed to me to be some adventure, just then.
Up to that time I had n't given it much thought. In
fact, I had been impatient for the event, like the rest
of the men, but as I was pulling on my socks that
morning (and three a.m. is a rotten time of day any-
how), I began to reflect that perhaps I had been just
a little bit hasty in rushing into the war. And 1 could n't
help thinking how pleasant it would be to be snoring
in a good, soft bed at Princeton with nothing between
me and complete enjoyment of the day excepting a
ten-thirty recitation hour.

Well, I got dressed anyway and turned to. We
dropped down the river slowly and anchored off the
Battery, for the fog was so thick that you could hardly
see your hand before your face. All about us there was
the moaning of fog-horns and I felt forlorn inside. But
soon the fog lifted a bit and that, together with Bill
Rahill's grin, made things feel a little bit better. "Well,



we are off for the big stunt,' ' I said to myself. " I won-
der when we'll see this old town again."

I had the watch in the crow's nest that afternoon,
from two to four, and enjoyed myself very much. It
had turned out to be a fine day, the sun was bright,
and we had lots of company, seven ships in all, four
transports, a cruiser, and two destroyers. After an
hour in the crow's nest I happened to glance down at
the deck and noticed some very odd actions among
the crew. Several of them were leaning over the rail
and appeared to be staring very intently at something
in the water. I watched them for a while and then
suddenly it occurred to me that they were seasick.

I felt like a hardened old sailor, for here I was high
up in the crow's nest, swaying from side to side, right
over the water, and in tip-top form with a husky appe-
tite for the next meal. I still felt fine when I climbed
down to the deck, but was too wise to kid anybody.
And it was a good thing I kept quiet, for an hour later
I was as miserable as the rest of them. We certainly
had a seasick crew for a couple of days. The green fire-
men were so sick that they were unable to stoke prop-
erly and we failed to keep up with the rest of our

We kept dropping farther and farther behind, the
firemen still shy their sea-legs and also some of the
crew. Nobody saw the doctor and the paymaster for
four days. . . . Then the doctor made a brief appear-
ance in the sick-bay. He looked at a cut in a man's
hand, clapped his own hand over his mouth, and we
did n't see him again for two days more. But he came
around in fine shape after that, on the job every min-
ute, although he was not needed often, I am glad to

To make a long story short, we abandoned all hope

. 34


of staying with the first division and ploughed along
by ourselves for a few days, then picking up the second
group consisting of four transports and the same type
of escort. Everything went along smoothly for four
days and then our destroyers came out to meet us
from Queenstown. There were five of them and a
bully good sight they were to us who were getting
pretty close to the danger zone with our precious
transports. The destroyers came zipping up like gray
streaks and were on us almost before we knew it. We
stood on deck and cheered ourselves hoarse. They
were the boys who had gone over early, the first of the
Navy to see active service. They were glad to see us,
too, it appeared, and many messages were wig-wagged
back and forth. They fell into position and all hands
.felt as safe as a church.

About two o'clock in the afternoon of the next day,
I was below getting a drink of water when suddenly
there was a loud explosion. I remember that at the
time I thought somebody had dropped a hatch cover
directly over my head. I realized in a moment that it
was something else, for I heard loud shouts and the
tramp of feet on deck. I was top-side in no time and
rushed for my gun as I was the loader of Number
Three gun.

The transports had all stopped. One of them, nearest
to us, was giving the submarine warning, a number of
blasts on her whistle which sounded uncanny to us
because it was the first time we had heard anything
from the transports since leaving New York. They
had moved across the ocean like so many ghosts. It
was a beautiful, clear day and the sea was as smooth
as a carpet.

I took my position at the gun, broke open a box of
ammunition, and laid hands on a shell. The doctor



came rushing aft with a handful of cotton which he
told us to stuff in our ears. Then we were all set to be
torpedoed. I was n't scared — I was too busy, I guess
— but I was a little bit jumpy. I looked at my watch
and it was just five minutes of two. I wondered how
long it would take our yacht to sink after the torpedo
hit us.

The transports, as I have said, were making no head-
way and were all grouped together like a flock of fright-
ened sheep, while the destroyers were just getting into
motion. This was one of the prettiest sights I ever saw.
No sooner had the transports halted than the destroy-
ers, six in all, darted out in a fan-shaped formation
and then worked back and forth, looking for all the
world like greyhounds on a scent. And maybe they
did n't make knots! We were moving at top speed our-
selves, but those destroyers gave us the impression
that we were standing still. Zoom, one would cut across
our bow at about thirty knots, then another would
flash astern at the same rate.

For a time we could discover nothing else out of the
ordinary. Then suddenly the captain of Number Four
gun gave a yell and pointed astern. "There she goes!"
he shouted. "It's a torpedo as sure as you live, or I
never saw one." We all rubbered astern with our eyes
sticking out like onions, and there, sure enough, was a
wake foaming along at tremendous speed about fifty
yards away, but it was not heading in our direction,
thank goodness. I don't know whether it was a torpedo
or not. I have never seen one, but our regular Navy
men swore it was.

The paymaster was sure it was, although he had
never seen one either, and he dashed up and down
the deck, clapping his hands and loudly exclaiming,
"Oh, it is a torpedo! It is a torpedo!" This relieved the



strain considerably. We all laughed until we almost
cried. The officer upon the after deck-house suddenly
cried out, "Stand steady, boys. Don't get excited.
A school of porpoises is coming toward us." We saw
them, and I imagine there would have been a heavy
mortality in that bunch of porpoises if the keen-eyed
officer had not warned us in time.

That was about all I saw of the submarine attack,
but I heard other stories from the deck and bridge.
The explosion at the outset had been caused by the
dropping of a depth charge from a destroyer, quite
close aboard the Corsair. No wonder I thought some-
body had banged a hatch cover over my head! The
firemen below thought we had been torpedoed and
were all for erupting on deck for a breath of fresh air.
That depth charge was powerful. Our men said they
saw the destroyer's stern lift high in air while a great
spout of water leaped just astern. We saw oil smeared
over the water and I hope the destroyer was given
official credit for sinking a submarine.

One of our officers told me that more than one sub-
marine must have been in the attack, and that the
activity of the destroyer escort drove them off. There
was one incident which some of the men thought rather
a joke, but I felt sorry. In the morning an old British
tramp picked us up, and seeing all the destroyers, etc.,
concluded that we were good company to travel in,
so she stuck with us all the forenoon, keeping a mile
off to port. No sooner did she hear the submarine
warning than she lit out at full speed, about ten knots,
for safer waters. Two hours after that, our radio men
got an S.O.S. from her, that she had been torpedoed
and was sinking. It seemed too bad that we could n't
go and help her.



This submarine alarm was the famous episode
which thrilled the American public as elaborated
by George Creel for the newspapers of July 4, 191 7.
The Corsair witnessed only what occurred among
the second group of transports, and although some
of her men declared they saw the wake of a torpedo,
Commander Kittinger failed to confirm it in his
official report of this busy afternoon. Rear Admiral
Gleaves carefully considered the statements of the
officers of ships in Group Two and drew the follow-
ing conclusions, omitting the names of the vessels
engaged because of the naval censorship in force
at that time:

The H, leading the second group, encountered two
submarines, the first about 11.50 a.m., June 26th,
about a hundred miles off the coast of France, and the
second submarine two hours later. The I investigated
the wake of the first without further discovery. The
J 1 sighted the bow wave of the second at a distance
of 1500 yards and headed for it at a speed of twenty-
five knots. The gun pointers at the forward gun saw
the periscope several times for several seconds but it
disappeared each time before they could get on, due
to the zigzagging of the ship.

The J * passed about twenty-five yards ahead of a
mass of bubbles which were coming up from the wake
and let go a depth charge just ahead. Several pieces of
timber, quantities of oil, bubbles, and debris came to
the surface. Nothing more was seen of the submarine.
The attacks on the second group occurred about eight
hundred miles to the eastward of where the attacks

1 Destroyer Cummings.





had been made on the first group. ... It appears from
reports of the French Ministry of Marine and from
the location of the attack that enemy submarines had
been notified of our approach and were probably
scouting across our route.

The story of Seaman Arthur Coffey is less exag-
gerated than might have been expected in these
wholly novel circumstances. It may have been a
torpedo or, perchance, it was a porpoise that was
seen from the Corsair. If it was the latter, no blame
is to be laid to the young sailors who were so tre-
mendously excited. To their unaccustomed eyes the
ocean swarmed with periscopes and U-boats. Many
a seasoned skipper had blazed away at blackfish or
shivered in his shoes at a bit of floating spar. The
destroyer Cummings, at any rate, blew up some-
thing from the vasty deep with the "ash can" that
plopped from her fan-tail. As for the soldiers packed
in the transports, all girdled with life-belts and eye-
ing the ocean with morbid suspicion, they would
have told you that the submarines were coming at
them in droves. It was one of the dauntless dough-
boys of this First Expeditionary Force who wrote
home to his trustful kindred:

Dear Mother and the Folks:

We had n't more than got out of New York than you
could see submarines bobbing up all around us. The
periscopes were as thick as cat-tails in a swamp. I
counted seventy-five and then the ships began to fire.
The gunner near me fainted. Shell shock, I guess.
I sprang to the gun and began shooting. The first shot



I fired hit a submarine square on top of the back and
tore out its whole back-bone, just like tearing out a
whale's back-bone. There was blood all over the water,
and some oil.

I kept on shooting. I sank twelve of the submarines
myself. The battle lasted a good while and I heard that
fifty of the submarines had been destroyed. None of
us was killed. The submarines, what was left, finally
quit us. We have n't seen any more of them. Give this
to the newspapers.

Love to all the folks, from your soldier boy


At this early period of the naval war, the employ-
ment of the depth charge as the most efficient
weapon against the submarine had not been fully
developed. The traditions of accurate gun-fire as
the best offensive were not easily set aside. It was
true of the destroyers at Queenstown, as of these
yachts bound to France, that their crews felt sub-
limely certain of smashing Fritz with the batteries
at which they drilled like so many skilled football
teams. Soon they came to realize, however, that the
chance of catching the enemy napping on the sur-
face was extremely remote and that shooting at
periscopes, even when they were not imaginary,
was futile business.

The Corsair was armed with four three-inch
rifles, and their crews were very capably trained
under the direction of Ensign Schanze. This arma-
ment was not heavy enough to match the guns of
a U-boat if the latter had been plucky enough to



stand up to a duel, but it served to drive him under
and to inspire a wholesome respect. The superior
speed of the yacht made her particularly well
fitted for using depth charges, but at the outset
she was equipped with no more than ten of the
small and rather crude "Sperry mine" loaded
with from thirty to fifty pounds of TNT. This
device was exploded by means of a buoy and wire
cable which unwound as the steel canister plunged
through the water, releasing the detonator at the
proper depth. These mines frequently failed to
function and the destructive effect was feeble.

The Navy Department later perfected a terrific
1 'ash can" packed with three hundred pounds of
high explosive which was set off by means of a
hydrostatic valve and could be relied upon to
devastate a submarine a hundred feet below the
surface of the sea. These great bombs were dropped,
not one or two in an attack, but fairly dumped
overboard by the dozen or the score in a cataclys-
mic barrage, after listening devices had located and
"fixed" the enemy. The "Y gun," or twin mortar,
was also invented to hurl these metal kegs a con-
siderable distance from the ship. Such were the
perfected tactics learned from experience, which
would surely have doomed the U-boat to extinction
if the armistice had not intervened. The Corsair
was fitted out in this manner later in her service,
but she blithely sailed for the war zone with her
four small guns and a few "Sperry pills" and could



have felt no more pride in her task if she had been
a first-class battleship.

Concerning the voyage, Commander Kittinger
reported as follows, in the War Diary of the yacht:

Got under way at 4 a.m., June 14th, and stood down
the river, anchoring at 6 a.m. off Governor's Island on
account of fog. Got under way again at 9.40 a.m. Laid
to off Ambrose Light Vessel at 1.20 p.m. Joined Group
No. 1 at 1.50 p.m. and took departure from Ambrose
Light Vessel at 2.09 p.m., standard speed 12 knots.
At 2.30 p.m. weather became misty again which neces-
sitated closing in to keep the convoy in sight. The 4 to
8 p.m. watch had difficulty in keeping steam for 12
knots. Blowers were used to assist. Ship lost distance
which was recovered in the next watch and position

At 11.40 p.m. the fog set in thick and lasted until
about 1.25 a.m., June 15th. At 3.20 a.m. the convoy
was sighted on the port bow, distance four miles.
During the watch the ship logged over 12 knots by
revolutions of main engines, but due to deep draft was

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryRalph Delahaye PaineThe Corsair in the war zone → online text (page 3 of 20)