Current History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 online

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a German submarine in European waters about midnight on April 11, with a
loss of five officers and thirty-nine men. Five officers and twelve
enlisted men were landed at an English port. Eleven men, including five
navy gunners, were lost when the Old Dominion liner Tyler was sunk off
the French coast on May 3. The Canadian Pacific Company's steamer Medora
also was sunk off the French coast. The Florence H. was wrecked in a
French port by an internal explosion on the night of April 17. Out of
the crew of fifty-six men, twenty-nine were listed as dead or missing,
twelve were sent to hospital badly burned, two were slightly injured,
and only thirteen escaped injury. Of the twenty-three men of the naval
guard only six were reported as survivors.

Six officers and thirteen men were reported missing as the result of two
naval disasters reported on May 1 by the British Admiralty. They formed
part of the crews of the sloop Cowslip, which was torpedoed and sunk on
April 25, and of Torpedo Boat 90, which foundered.

According to Archibald Hurd, a British authority on naval matters, the
area in the North Sea which was proclaimed by the British Government as
dangerous to shipping and therefore prohibited after May 15 is the
greatest mine field ever laid for the special purpose of foiling
submarines. It embraces 121,782 square miles, the base forming a line
between Norway and Scotland, and the peak extending northward into the
Arctic Circle.

A Secret Chapter of U-Boat History

How Ruthless Policy Was Adopted

_The causes that led to Germany's adoption of the policy of unrestricted
submarine warfare on Feb. 1, 1917, were revealed a year later by the
Handelsblad, an Amsterdam newspaper, whose correspondent had secured
secret access to "a number of highly interesting and important
documents" long enough to read them and make notes of their contents.
The Dutch paper vouched for the accuracy of the following information:_

At the close of the year 1915 the German Admiralty Staff prepared a
semi-official memorandum to prove that an unrestricted submarine
campaign would compel Great Britain to sue for peace "in six months at
the most." The character of the argument conveys the impression that the
chiefs of the German Admiralty Staff had already made up their minds to
adopt the most drastic measures in regard to submarine warfare, but that
they wished to convince the Kaiser, the Imperial Chancellor, and the
German diplomatists of the certainty of good results on economic and
general, rather than merely military, grounds. To this end the
memorandum based its arguments on statistics of food prices, freight,
and insurance rates in Great Britain. It pointed out that the effects on
the prices of essential commodities, on the balance of trade, and,
above all, on the morale of the chief enemy, had been such, even with
the restricted submarine campaign of 1915, that, if an unrestricted
submarine war were decided upon, England could not possibly hold out for
more than a short period.

The memorandum was submitted to the Imperial Chancellor, who passed it
on to Dr. Helfferich, the Secretary of State for Finance. He, however,
rejected the document on the ground that, in the absence of authentic
estimates of stocks, it was impossible to set a time-limit to England's
staying power, and also that he was exceedingly doubtful as to what line
would be taken by neutrals, especially the United States. Dr. Helfferich
maintained that so desperate a remedy should only be employed as a last
resource. The authors of the memorandum then sent a reply, in which they
developed their former arguments, and pointed to the gravity of the
internal situation in Germany. They emphasized the importance of using
the nearest and sharpest weapons of offense if a national collapse was
to be avoided. They reinforced their argument by adducing the evidence
of ten experts, representing finance, commerce, the mining industry, and
agriculture. They were Herr Waldemar Müller, the President of the
Dresdner Bank; Dr. Salomonsohn of the Disconto Gesellschaft; Dr. Paul
Reusch of Oberhausen, Royal Prussian Councilor of Commerce; Dr.
Springorum of Dortmund, Chancellor of Commerce, member of the Prussian
Upper House, (Herren Haus,) General Director of Railways and Tramways at
Hoesch, an ironmaster, and a great expert in railways; Herr Max Schinkel
of Hamburg, President of the Norddeutsche Bank in Hamburg and of the
Disconto Gesellschaft in Berlin; Herr Zuckschwerdt of Madgeburg,
Councilor of Commerce, late member of the Prussian Upper House; Herr
Wilhelm von Finck of Munich, Privy Councilor, chief of the banking house
of Merck, Finck & Co., Munich; Councilor of Economics R. Schmidt of
Platzhof, member of the Württemberg Upper Chamber and of the German
Agricultural Council; Herr Engelhard of Mannheim, Councilor of Commerce,
President of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the Baden Upper

These experts were invited to send answers in writing to the three
following questions: (1) What would be the effect on England of
unrestricted submarine warfare? (2) What would be its effect on
Germany's relations with the United States and other neutrals? (3) To
what extent does the internal situation in Germany demand the use of
this drastic weapon?

The reader will do well to remember that the replies were written in
February, 1916 - nearly two years ago. All agreed on the first point - the
effect on Great Britain. The effect of unrestricted submarine warfare on
England would be that she would have to sue for peace in six months at
the most. Herr Müller, who seemed to be in a position to confirm the
statistics given in the memorandum, pointed out that the supply of
indispensable foodstuffs was, at the time of writing, less than the
normal supply in peace time. He held that the submarine war, if
relentlessly and vigorously pursued, would accomplish its purpose in
less time than calculated in the memorandum - in fact, three months
should do it. Dr. Salomonsohn also thought that six months was an
excessive estimate, and that less time would suffice.

On the question of the effect on neutrals the experts were divided. Dr.
Reusch suggested that the neutrals despised the restricted submarine
warfare of 1915, and held that every ship in British waters, whether
enemy or neutral, should be torpedoed without warning. According to him,
the world only respects those who, in a great crisis, know how to make
the most unscrupulous use of their power.

Herr Müller predicted that ruthless submarine war would cause a
wholesale flight of neutrals from the war zone. Their newspapers might
abuse Germany at first, but they would soon get tired. The danger was
from the United States, but that would become less in proportion as
Germany operated more decisively and ruthlessly. Dr. Salomonsohn adopted
the same attitude. He recognized the possibility of war with the United
States, but was loath to throw away so desirable a weapon on that

As to the third point, all the experts agreed that the internal
situation in Germany demanded that the most drastic methods of submarine
warfare should be employed. Herr Zuckschwerdt urged the advisability of
the most drastic measures owing to the feeling of the nation. The nation
would stand by the Government, but not if it yielded to threats from
America. Such weakness would lead to serious consequences. Herr Schmidt
admitted the possibility of Germany not being able to hold out, and
emphasized the importance of taking drastic steps before disorder and
unrest arose in the agricultural districts.

Sea-Raider Wolf and Its Victims

Story of Its Operations

_A third chapter of sea-raider history similar to those of the Möwe and
Seeadler was revealed when the Spanish steamship Igotz Mendi, navigated
by a German prize crew, ran aground on the Danish coast, Feb. 24, 1918,
while trying to reach the Kiel Canal with a cargo of prisoners and
booty. The next day the German Government announced that the sea-raider
Wolf, which had captured the Igotz Mendi and ten other merchant vessels,
with 400 prisoners, had successfully returned after fifteen months in
the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. The story of the Wolf's
operations, as gleaned by Danish and English correspondents from the
narratives of released prisoners, is told below. Some of the most
interesting passages were furnished by Australian medical officers who
had been captured on the British steamer Matunga:_

The Wolf, a vessel of about 6,000 gross tonnage, armed with several guns
and torpedo tubes, carried a seaplane, known as the Wolfchen, which was
frequently used in the operations of the sea raider. On some days the
seaplane made as many as three flights. The Wolf, apparently, proceeded
from Germany to the Indian Ocean, laying minefields off the Cape,
Bombay, and Colombo. Early in February, 1917, she captured the British
steamship Turritella, taking off all the officers and putting on board a
prize crew which worked the vessel with her own men. In every case of
capture, when the vessel was not sunk at once, this procedure was

The Wolf transferred a number of mines to the Turritella, with
instructions that they should be laid off Aden. A few days later the
Turritella encountered a British warship, whereupon the prize crew,
numbering twenty-seven, sank the Turritella, and were themselves taken

Three weeks later the Wolf overhauled the British steamer Jumna. The
Wolf thought that the British vessel was about to ram her, and the port
after-gun was fired before it was properly trained, killing five of the
raider's crew and wounding about twenty-three others. The Jumna remained
with the Wolf for several days, after which her coal and stores were
transferred to the raider, and she was sunk with bombs. The next vessels
to be captured and sunk were the British steamships Wordsworth and Dee.

Early in June the Wolf, while at anchor under the lee of an island in
the Pacific, sighted the British steamship Wairuna, bound from Auckland,
N. Z., to San Francisco with coal, Kauri gum, pelts, and copra. The Wolf
sent over the seaplane which, flying low, dropped a canvas bag on the
Wairuna's deck, containing the message, "Stop immediately; take orders
from German cruiser. Do not use your wireless or I will bomb you." The
Wairuna eased down, but did not stop until the seaplane dropped a bomb
just ahead of her. By this time the Wolf had weighed anchor and
proceeded to head off the Wairuna. A prize crew was put on board with
orders to bring the ship under the lee of the island and anchor. All the
officers, except the master, were sent on board the Wolf. The following
day possibly a thousand tons of cargo were transferred.


While the two vessels were anchored, the chief officer and second
engineer of the Turritella let themselves over the side of the Wolf with
the intention of swimming ashore. Later, the Wairuna was taken out and
sunk by gunfire, the bombs which had been placed on board having failed
to accomplish their purpose. The next captures were the American
vessels, Winslow, Beluga, and Encore, which were either burned or sunk.

For nearly a week following this the Wolf hove to, sending the seaplane
up several times each day for scouting purposes. Apparently she had
picked up some information by her wireless apparatus and was on the
lookout for a vessel. On the third day the Wolfchen went up three times,
and, on returning from its last flight, dropped lights. Early the next
morning none of the prisoners was allowed on deck. A gun was fired by
the Wolf, and it was afterward found that it was to stop the British
steamer Matunga, with general cargo and passengers, including a number
of military officers and men.


It was on the morning of Aug. 5, when the Matunga was nearing the coast
of the territory formerly known as German New Guinea, that she fell in
with the Wolf, which was mistaken for an ordinary tramp steamer, as the
two vessels ran parallel to each other for about two miles. Then the
Wolf suddenly revealed her true character by running up the German flag,
dropping a portion of her forward bulwarks, exposing the muzzles of her
guns, and firing a shot across the bows of the Matunga. At the same time
the Wolf sent a seaplane to circle over the Matunga at a low altitude
for the obvious purpose of ascertaining whether the latter was armed.
Apparently satisfied with the seaplane's report, the German Captain sent
a prize crew, armed with bayonets and pistols, to take possession of the
British ship. Before their arrival, however, all the Matunga's code
books, log books, and other papers were thrown overboard. During the
time the prize crew, all of whom spoke English well, were overhauling
the Matunga, it was learned that the Germans had been lying in wait for
her for five days, as they had somehow learned that she was carrying 500
tons of coal, which they needed badly, and that the German wireless
operator had been following her course from the time of her departure
from Sydney toward the end of July.

The two ships, now both under German command, proceeded together to a
very secluded natural harbor on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea, the
entrance to which was watched by two German guard boats, while a
wireless plant was set up on a neighboring hill and the Wolf's seaplane
patrolled the sea around for about 100 miles on the lookout for any
threatened danger. The two ships remained in the Dutch harbor for nearly
a fortnight, during which time the Wolf was careened and her hull
scraped of barnacles and weeds in the most thorough and methodical
manner, after which the coal was transferred from the Matunga's bunkers.
The latter vessel was then taken ten miles out to sea, where everything
lying loose was thrown into the hold and the hatches battened down to
obviate the possibility of any floating wreckage remaining after she was
sunk. Bombs were then placed on board and exploded, and the Matunga went
down in five or six minutes without leaving a trace.

Before the Matunga was sunk all her crew and passengers were transferred
to the Wolf, which then pursued a zigzag course across the Pacific Ocean
and through the China Sea to the vicinity of Singapore, where she sowed
her last remaining mines. According to stories told by the crew, they
had sown most of their mines off Cape Town, Bombay, Colombo, the
Australian coast, and in the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New
Zealand. They also boasted that on one occasion, when off the coast of
New South Wales, their seaplane made an early morning expedition over
Sydney Harbor (the headquarters of the British Navy in the Pacific) and
noted the disposition of the shipping in that port. They also claimed
that the seaplane was the means of saving the Wolf from capture off the
Australian coast on one occasion, when she was successful in sighting a
warship in sufficient time to enable the Wolf to make good her escape.

A week or more was spent by the Wolf in the China Sea and off Singapore,
whence she worked her way to the Indian Ocean for the supposed purpose
of picking up wireless instructions from Berlin and Constantinople.

[Illustration: An American regiment marching through a French village

(_American Official Photograph_)]

[Illustration: American troops, with full equipment, on parade in London

(© _Western Newspaper Union_)]

[Illustration: A French château shelled by the Germans after they had
been driven from the village by Canadians

(© _Western Newspaper Union_)]

On Sept. 26, while still dodging about in the Indian Ocean, the Wolf
met and captured a Japanese ship, the Hitachi-maru, with thirty
passengers, a crew of about 100, and a valuable cargo of silk, copper,
rubber, and other goods, for Colombo. During the previous day the
Germans had been boasting that they were about to take a big prize, and
it afterward transpired that they based their anticipations on the terms
of a wireless message which they had intercepted on that day. When first
called upon by signal to stop, the Japanese commander took no notice of
the order, and held on his way even after a shot had been fired across
his ship's bow. Thereupon the Wolf deliberately shelled her, destroying
the wireless apparatus, which had been sending out S O S signals, and
killing several members of the crew. While the shelling was going on, a
rush was made by the Japanese to lower the boats, and a number of both
crew and passengers jumped into the sea to escape the gunfire. The
Germans afterward admitted to the slaughter of fifteen, but the Matunga
people assert that the death roll must have been much heavier. The
steamer's funnels were shot away, the poop was riddled with shot, and
the decks were like a shambles. All this time the Wolf's seaplane
hovered over the Japanese ship ready to drop bombs upon her and sink her
in the event of any hostile ship coming in sight.

After transferring the passengers and crew and as much of the cargo as
they could conveniently remove from the Hitachi-maru to the Wolf, her
decks were cleared of the wreckage their gunfire had caused, and a prize
crew was put in charge of her with a view of taking her to Germany. Some
weeks later, however, that intention was abandoned for reasons known
only to the Germans themselves, and on Nov. 5 the Hitachi-maru was sunk.


The Wolf then proceeded on her voyage, and on Nov. 10 captured the
Spanish steamship Igotz Mendi, with a cargo of 5,500 tons of coal, of
which the Wolf was in sore need. The raider returned with this steamer
to the island off which the Hitachi-maru had been sunk, and one evening
all the married people, a few neutrals and others, and some sick men
were transferred from the Wolf to the Igotz Mendi. The raider took
aboard a large quantity of coal, and, after the Spanish vessel had been
painted gray, the two vessels parted company. The Wolf reappeared on
several occasions and reported that she had captured and sunk the
American sailing vessel John H. Kirby and the French sailing vessel
Maréchal Davout. On Boxing Day the Wolf attempted to coal from the Igotz
Mendi in mid-Atlantic, but, owing to a heavy swell, the vessels bumped
badly. It was afterward stated that the Wolf had been so badly damaged
that she was making water.

A few days later two large steamships were sighted, and both the Wolf
and the Igotz Mendi hastily made preparations to escape. The officers
and crew changed their clothes to ordinary seamen's attire, packed up
their kitbags, and sent all the prisoners below.

Among the latter was the first officer of the Spanish ship, who saw a
German lay a number of bombs between the decks of the Igotz Mendi ready
to be exploded if it became necessary to sink that ship with all her
prisoners while the Wolf looked after her own safety. These bombs were
temporarily left in the charge of the German wireless operator to whom
the Spanish officer found an opportunity of communicating a message to
the effect that he was wanted immediately on the bridge. The ruse was
successful, for the operator promptly obeyed the instruction, and in his
temporary absence all the bombs were thrown overboard. The German
commander, Lieutenant Rose, was furious. He held an investigation next
day and asked each prisoner if he knew anything about the bombs. When
the Spanish Chief Officer's turn came he answered:

"Yes; I threw them overboard. I'll tell you why. It was not for me,
Captain Rose, but for the women and little children. I am not afraid of
you. You can shoot me if you want to, but you can't drown the little

Rose confined him to his room, and the next time the Igotz Mendi met the
Wolf, Commander Nerger sentenced him to three years in a German military

Coaling having finished, the vessels proceeded north in company. During
the first week of January the Wolf sank the Norwegian bark Storkbror, on
the ground that the vessel had been British-owned before the war. This
was the Wolf's last prize. The last time the two raiders were together
was on Feb. 6, when the Wolf was supplied with coal and other
requirements from the Igotz Mendi. Thereafter, each pursued her own
course to Germany.


About Feb. 7 the Igotz Mendi crossed the Arctic Circle, and,
encountering much ice, was forced back. Two attempts were made at the
Northern Passage, but as the ship was bumping badly against the ice
floes a course was shaped between Iceland and the Faroes for the
Norwegian coast. On the night of the 18th a wireless from Berlin
announced that the Wolf had arrived safely. At 3:30 P. M. on Feb. 24 the
Igotz Mendi ran aground near the Skaw, having mistaken the lighthouse
for the lightship in the foggy weather. Three hours later a boat came
off from the shore. The Igotz Mendi was boarded at 8 o'clock by the
commander of a Danish gunboat, who discovered the true character of the
ship, which the Germans were endeavoring to conceal.

Next day twenty-two persons, including nine women, two children, and two
Americans, were landed in lifeboats and were cared for by the British
Consul. Many of them had suffered from inadequate nourishment in the
last five weeks. There had been an epidemic of beri-beri and scurvy on
board the vessel.

The Danish authorities interned the German commander of the Igotz Mendi.
The German prize crew refused to leave the ship.

The Berlin authorities on Feb. 25, 1918, issued an official announcement
containing these statements:

The auxiliary cruiser Wolf has returned home after fifteen months in
the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. The Kaiser has telegraphed
his welcome to the commander and conferred the Order Pour le Mérite,
together with a number of iron crosses, on the officers and crew.
The Wolf was commanded by Frigate Captain Nerger and inflicted the
greatest damage on the enemy's shipping by the destruction of cargo
space and cargo. She brought home more than four hundred members of
crews of sunken ships of various nationalities, especially numerous
colored and white British soldiers, besides several guns captured
from armed steamers and great quantities of valuable raw materials,
including rubber, copper, brass, zinc, cocoa beans, copra, &c., to
the value of many million marks.

Career and Fate of the Raider Seeadler

A German Adventure in the Pacific

_Fitted out as a motor schooner under command of Count von Luckner, with
a crew of sixty-eight men, half of whom spoke Norwegian, the German
commerce raider Seeadler (Sea Eagle) slipped out from Bremerhaven in
December, 1916, encountered a British cruiser, passed inspection, and
later proceeded, with the aid of two four-inch guns that had been hidden
under a cargo of lumber, to capture and destroy thirteen merchant
vessels in the Atlantic before rounding the Horn into the Pacific and
there sinking three American schooners before meeting a picturesque fate
in the South Sea Islands. The narrative of the Seeadler's career as here
told by CURRENT HISTORY MAGAZINE is believed to be the most complete yet

On Christmas Day, 1916, the British patrol vessel Highland Scot met and
hailed a sailing vessel which declared itself without ceremony to be the
three-masted Norwegian schooner Irma, bound from Christiania to Sydney
with a cargo of lumber. As nothing was more natural, the vessel was
allowed to pass, and soon disappeared on the horizon.

A few days later, in the Atlantic, running before a northerly gale, this
neat-looking, long-distance freighter threw its deck load of planks
and beams into the ocean, brought from their hiding places two four-inch
guns, six machine guns, two gasoline launches, and a motor powerful
enough to propel the vessel without the use of sails on occasion. Then a
wireless dispatch sent in cipher from aerials concealed in the rigging
announced that the German raider Seeadler was ready for business. On the
bow the legend, "Irma, Christiania," and at the masthead the flag of
Norway remained to lure the raider's victims to destruction.

The Seeadler had formerly been the American ship Pass of Balmaha, 2,800
tons, belonging to the Boston Lumber Company. In August, 1915, while on
its way from New York to Archangel, it was captured by a German's
submarine and sent to Bremen, where it was fitted out as a raider. Under
the name of the Seeadler it left Bremerhaven on Dec. 21, 1916, in
company with the Möwe, ran the British blockade by the ruse indicated
above, and began its career of destruction on two oceans. While the Möwe

Online LibraryVariousCurrent History, Vol. VIII, No. 3, June 1918 → online text (page 16 of 30)