Have you driven a Ford (submarine) lately? (Probably not and there’s a good reason for it) Reply

1915 – The world at war

In September of 1915, the war in Europe was over a year old. The combatants had long ago determined that the war was not going to be brought to a quick conclusion. The British Fleet successfully blockaded Germany and her allies while the German U-Boat war was fully implemented with devastating effects to shipping in the Atlantic. The British were stubborn in adopting a system of convoys and the plucky little German U boats were taking a serious toll.

America was not to remain isolated for very long

Despite the willful determination of many in high places to stay neutral in the war that had spread across Europe and the world, America was still dependent on international trade. The sinking of the Lusitania in May was a harbinger of things to come in an unfriendly sea.

Since even before the first shot had begun, American Naval leaders had been sounding the alarm bells about not being prepared for any war. The glorious days of Theodore Roosevelt had been replaced by years of austerity and limited growth. There was a strong peace movement within the country that felt like entering the war was just a perpetuation of the many wars Europe had fought for centuries.

But the summer of 1915 brought with it doubt. Enough doubt that all aspects of defending the country were under review. President Wilson was still publicly saying that he would keep us out of war. But he also had assembled some of the best minds of the day to examine the situation. One of those was Henry Ford.

Mr. Ford had been toying with an idea of a smaller gasoline powered submarine that was small in nature and strictly defensive. In the fall of 1915, he and others floated the idea of a fast submersible powered by petrol. Veteran submariners must have balked at taking a large step backwards. But the Navy is run by the civilians and when it was announced that Henry Ford would be making an inspection trip to look at some of the recent boats, they just followed the orders of their chain of command.

This article was in the New-York tribune on the evening of September 24, 1915

Ford Explores Submarine; 16 Times Too Big He Says

Inventor Sees Undersea Craft for First Time. Shakes Head Over Cost After Inspecting K-5 and E-2 at Navy Yard Docks.

Henry Ford, who proposes to revolutionize submarine warfare, had his first experience board a submarine yesterday. He visited two of the submersible craft of the United States navy at the New York yard, in anticipation of turning out one of his own invention.

No fewer than ten tout hawsers held each of the submarines to the wharf while the automobile man made his inspection. It had been rumored that he would be taken for an underwater trip about the harbor, but none of the sailors made a motion to release the craft.

Mr. Ford did not care to crowd his sensation

Fresh from a conference with Secretary Daniels and President Wilson, he came to New York from Washington Wednesday evening.

Emerging from the conning tower of the E-2, the second craft visited yesterday, Mr. Ford said:

“I think they are sixteen times too large and cost sixteen times too much.”

“Has your inspection of a submarine for the first time given you new ideas that will lead to a revolution in their construction or from which you will evolve a new type?” someone inquired.

Although he is a member of the President’s advisory board of naval defence, Mr. Ford is nevertheless a pacifist.

“I would like to abolish their manufacture,” was his answer.

Collection of images related to ships in New York city (various piers and Hudson River), 1915, including: USS Virginia, USS Tonopah, USS New York, USS Wyoming, USS Texas, and submarines K-6, K-2, K-5, & K-1

Considering his recent statement that a small type of submarine operated by a gasolene engine and manned by one or two men was the logical undersea defence of the future, Mr. Ford yesterday hardly seemed enthusiastic. He admitted that he picked up some new ideas – he never went anywhere without doing that, he declared and that he might submit them to the naval advisory board for what they were worth.

Mr. Ford arrived at the navy yard shortly after 11 o’clock. He was accompanied by his son, Edsal and Gaston Plantiff, manager of his plant at Long Island City. Lieutenant Ralph Craft, aid to Rear Admiral Usher, Commandant of the yard, met him and introduced him to Lieutenant Commander Karl P. Jessup, chief of the machinery division. Lieutenant Jessup took the visitors to one of the plants where a diesel engine, the largest in this country, was assembled. The huge motor, which will drive a now submarine, was set in motion. In response to a question, Mr. Ford said that automobile engines in which heavy fuel oil was burned would undoubtedly be manufactured.

The party was joined by Captain George E. Burd, industrial manager of the yard; Commander George H. Rock, Chief construction officer; Lieutenant C. W. Nimitz, in charge of submarine construction at the New York navy yard and Lieutenant R.C. Grady, commander of the submarine K-5. Mr. Ford elected to visit the latter vessel at once. Later he went inside the E-2.

Miller Reese Hutchinson, right-hand man to Thomas A. Edison and Walter Miller, another of the Orange inventor’s staff, were also at the yard, greeted Mr Ford. Then Elmer A. Sperry, another member of the advisory board, came along, and he and the automobile manufacturer went to luncheon at the Hamilton Club in Brooklyn.

Before leaving the navy yard the inventor spoke of the futility of war at the evils of war parties which dominated Europe in 1914.

“I will do anything I can for the President or for Secretary Daniels.” He added. “If we have to have a navy, believe we should have the best, most efficient and up-to-date of them all.

Regarding Secretary Daniels, he said:

“It seems to me that he is the most advanced man we have ever had at the head of naval affairs in this country. His only aim is efficiency, and when he achieves that state the parasites are not pleased. By the parasites I mean the militarists and preparedness parties, like those that rule the nations of Europe. They will not be pleased, because the government will build everything itself and build it properly.”

He declared that the war would probably last a year longer, until the industrial classes revolted. He denied that he had offered $10,000,000 for peace, but said that he would use whatever means he possessed to bring it about. Also, he was emphatic in denouncing the proposed loan to the Allies. “If any of the banks where I have money on deposit have any part in such a loan I shall draw my money out,” he said. After visiting the laboratories and factory of Mr. Sperry, Mr. Ford returned to the Hotel Biltmore.

Ford’s pronouncements were heard around the country:

The Bemidji daily pioneer. (Bemidji, Minn.) 1904-1971, September 24, 1915, Image 8

FORD BELIEVES HE CAN REDUCE COST OF U. S. SUBMARINES

New York, Sept. 24.Henry Ford of Detroit was in New York yesterday to take a trip in one of the submarines at the New York Navy yard in furtherance of his promised attempt to perfect a gasoline motor for use in such craft. Mr. Ford said that he did not intend to be submerged in a submarine, but intended to look them over. Secretary Daniels had authorized the commandant of the navy yard to place a submarine at Mr. Ford’s disposal for the day. Navy submarines do not now use gasoline power, but are propelled by oil engines when on the surface and by electric batteries when submerged.

Mr. Ford was insistent today that an efficient undersea craft could be built at one-sixteenth the cost of the present vessels. When he was asked how many of them he would suggest building, he replied “none.”

There were other voices that wanted to be heard regarding the size and propulsion of submarines. Shortly after Ford’s pronouncements were printed, additional inventors surfaced with ideas that challenged his assumptions

Cross-Section Plan of Prof. Parker’s 2-Man Submarine

Navy Magazine October, 1915 JITNEY SUBMARINES

STRANGE FISH IN STRANGER WATERS

Professor Herschel C. Parker, of mountain-climbing fame, and Mr. Henry Ford seem to be having a little difference of opinion as to which one deserves the credit for the miniature submarine of which a sketch, reproduced from the “New York Times,” is presented above.

Had Professor Parker not set forth in such detail the various particulars of this boat, we would have been unwilling to flatly deny that something of this sort might not be done, but when he proposes, though it be only as an outline sketch, to construct anything of the sort here illustrated, it is really hard to take him seriously. His outline description of his craft as given in the “New York Times” of September 24, should commend itself to one of the comic journals. Unfortunately we must expect to get a good deal of this sort of thing from inventors, both voluntary and authorized, suddenly transferred to new and unfamiliar fields. Mr. John Hays Hammond, Jr., in the fallowing letter from the “New York Times” of September 25, ably points out the fallacies that surround the Parker-Ford idea.

New York, Sept. 24, 1915.

In these days where the lesson of the European war is being taken to heart by the intelligent and thinking American, it is natural that many suggestions for the improvement of our national defense should be brought to the attention of the public. It is, however, necessary that for the public interest the chaff be separated from the wheat, so that an intelligent understanding be obtained by the general reader of what should and should not be done.

I have been working for the last four years on the problem of producing a high-speed type of submarine boat of the minimum possible displacement to achieve the purposes which I have in view. This boat resembles very much what Henry Ford and Professor Parker have been discussing lately in the press. In the research which I have carried on along this line I have had the very best advice from the leading engineers on the question of submarine architecture in this country. For any man to make the statement that under present conditions it would be possible to drive a submarine at the rate of forty miles an hour, and to, moreover, drive a submarine at this rate whose displacement is such that it would be capable of carrying several men, torpedo tubes, torpedoes, and the necessary equipment to enable it to function as it should, is, as far as I can see, nonsense. From the earliest days of development of the submarine boat attempts have been made to produce a small type of submersible craft under the control of one or two men and to handle these craft from the decks of battleships. The able French inventor, Goubet, spent his life to develop a satisfactory portable submarine.

His work ended in final disappointment and failure, although through it a great deal of valuable information was contributed to the art.

The whole tendency in submarine development has been toward the enlargement of the submarine, its increase in power, displacement, and length. A good deal of the fallacy in the small submarine idea is due to the fact that people imagine that because a torpedo can accomplish certain things it is possible for a submarine, or man-carrying torpedo-carrying device, to accomplish the same results. This whole illusion can be quickly dispelled by taking a vessel of the type, shape, and displacement of the torpedo and increasing it to a size which would enable it to carry several men and one or more torpedoes. On investigation it will be found that, in order to drive such a craft at the speed of the torpedo, a power would be necessary which would be out of all proportion to the carrying capacity of the craft. The torpedo achieves its results in having an ideal form of power plant for its work. With air pressure at two thousand pounds per square inch as a driving medium it is possible to cut down the engine to very small proportions. The range, however, is limited. The only other type of suitable prime mover that we have which can give us great power for a minimum of weight and size is the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine is almost as sensitive as a human being with regard to the question of having plenty of fresh air to operate with. The more powerful the engine the greater amount of air necessary per minute to enable it to run. It is incredible what amount of air is consumed in the explosions of an ordinary automobile engine, but it can easily be seen that this fact is true when one remembers that each time there is an explosion it is chiefly air that fills the cylinders of the gas engine and that the more cylinders the engine has and the greater number of revolutions that it makes, the greater the amount of necessary air is consumed in its operation.

I do not consider that the question of getting rid of the exhaust gases would be nearly as difficult as the question of supplying the machine air when running submerged. It must be remembered that if the submarine were supplied with tanks under pressure to give this necessary amount of air there again it is necessary to increase its carrying capacity, its size, and to multiply by a tremendous amount the power plant to drive it at the necessary speed. Thus the problem is very much like that of a dog chasing its own tail, and at this point it may be said that for the optimistic inventor only ignorance is bliss.

Outside of these general problems, on account of the uncertainty of torpedo fire, it is essential that more than one torpedo be carried, and these torpedoes cannot be diminished in size beyond a certain point, inasmuch as they must carry sufficient high explosive to achieve a definite destructive effect on striking the target.

Then there comes the all-important question of the necessity of the submarine maintaining what is known as an even depth line, that is, that it shall travel at a constant and practically unvarying depth below the surface, otherwise it becomes a dangerous proposition to control. It has been noticed that the shorter submarines are more prone to erratic diving movements than those of great length. If a short vessel were traveling at the tremendous speed of forty miles an hour any sudden dive would carry it immediately to a depth at which the pressure of the water would be sufficient to crush in the sides. This is a point brought out in the work of no less an authority than Commander Sueter of the British service. The inventor will again probably pooh-pooh this idea by suggesting that the hydrostatic depth regulator used in the torpedo be applied to the submarine. Any one familiar with the way in which torpedoes go clam digging, for no apparent reason, in the bottoms of harbors would be loath to risk his life on the dependability of such mechanisms.

On the whole, it is only necessary to acquaint one’s self with the development of the submarine art and to go into the actual cold figures relating to power and submerged propulsion to see that the small submarine of high speed is a fallacy.

While it is very commendable that there should be a nation wide contribution of thought to the question of national defense, it is nevertheless to my mind nothing but lost motion to advocate the impracticable. It should be understood that the adequate defense of our country can only be brought about by a national movement to back the recommendations of the army and navy experts in Washington. The great question of training officers and men to fill the thin ranks of our army and navy is of vital importance. The construction of material which present conditions of war have shown to be absolutely necessary is a matter that should be undertaken at once. The inventive ability of our citizens should be encouraged and monopolized by our Government; but while this is so, the people must remember that preparedness is a national movement, and that the genius of one man and the effectiveness of one weapon does not constitute more than an element in the great barrier of defense that will protect our home and country.

What of Henry Ford’s Submarine Idea?

Henry never built a single one. He actually made a lot of money in the War that he opposed so much in 1915 by being one of the principle builders of the Eagle Boats, a fast moving submarine hunting surface ship (among other things he sold at a great profit). His empire would continue to grow well into the next war.

Teddy Roosevelt once said that because Henry Ford was a genius at auto production, most people believed he was an authority on everything, which was a mistake. He was a complex person who was capable of inventiveness and persistence, but also of great hatred and mean spiritedness. Most importantly, once he left his immediate world, Henry Ford was often spectacularly, though proudly, ignorant.

I wonder what Lieutenant (later Admiral) Chester Nimitz had to say about Ford the day after Pearl Harbor.

Mister Mac

 

There are no GBF pins to be found anywhere (but I could be wrong) Reply

DBF – but not for you sailor

I was a sailor on board five nuclear powered submarines. Like many young men of my day, I had asked for an assignment to a diesel boat out of Key West Florida (or at least San Diego) but the Navy needed my skills (and those of most of my fellow submarine school graduating class in early 1973) on one of the many nuclear powered boats that had been pressed into service in the 1960s and 1970s. While the nuc boats were being built, the old diesel boats were slowly being decommissioned or given away to our “Allies” around the world.

Since that time, many of the men who did serve on the older smoke boats rightly earned a distinction for that demanding service. The amenities were rare and life was a lot harder than what those of us who rode these “Neptune’s Cadillac’s” were exposed to.

So it seems fair that the pride they exhibit would show up in many ways including the fabled “DBF” pins. For the uninitiated and those that are perplexed by letters, DBF stands for Diesel Boats Forever. After all, until the Nautilus was built, the main source of power for boats around the world was the ever reliable diesel engine coupled with electric motors. Those are the boats that sailed the seven seas and developed the type of warfare that would later help to end the War in the Pacific.

But before the smell of diesel penetrated the clothes of every submariner in those seven seas, there was another smell that came from the primary source of power.

By 1905, the British began to overcome their aversion to submarines and were building a small group of boats to counter the efforts of the potential enemies in Europe. By 1908, the rumblings of a future war between Great Britain and the Kaiser’s Navy were already being felt.

Submarining in those early days was a dangerous game. The low speed, limited technology and shipbuilding capabilities were always a factor in operating the small boats. A boat of the A Class, A8 was sunk on June 8, 1905 due to a loose rivet in the bow during exercises in Plymouth Sound, off Plymouth, England. While the boat was raised and repaired, the accident cost the lives of 15 crewmen killed while only 4 survivors were picked up by the trawler Chanticleer.

Other notable accidents included the loss of the A-1 and A-7 which occurred during mock torpedo attacks. Seven of the A class sank during their career, three with their entire crews. All but one (A-7) were raised. A-1 sank a second time.

What made all of the submarines of that class (any many of their contemporaries) fraught with danger  was the main mode of power: gasoline engines.

Yes, that volatile fluid that emitted vapors which in and of themselves could kill was the main source of energy for most of the submarines including the Holland. In fact, the A1 boat was based on the Holland design and many of its features remained throughout the rest of the A class.

For surface running, the boats were powered by a single 16-cylinder 600-brake-horsepower (447 kW) Wolseley petrol engine that drove one propeller shaft. When submerged the propeller was driven by a 150-horsepower (112 kW) electric motor. They could reach 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) on the surface and 6 knots (11 km/h; 6.9 mph) underwater. On the surface, A9 had a range of 500 nautical miles (930 km; 580 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph); submerged the boat had a range of 30 nautical miles (56 km; 35 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph).

But using petrol (gasoline) was adding a lot of risk to an already risky business. So it was in July of 1908 that the A9 joined the record books with a near miss that could have been fatal if not for the extraordinary actions of the officers in charge.

August, 1908 THE NAVY

GREAT BRITAIN – THE A9 ACCIDENT

What might have been a serious and fatal accident was narrowly averted aboard the British submarine A9 on July 14, and was converted into merely a minor mishap by the heroism of the craft’s officers. This submarine belongs to a series of ten of the most modern underwater vessels of the British Navy, designated A1 to A14, respectively, each of which displaces 204 tons submerged, the last of the type being completed early this year. The submarine was one of a flotilla of seven such boats which were on their way from Portland to Dover, accompanied by the second-class cruiser Aeolus as their parent ship.

While they were passing Folkestone about noon of the day of the accident it was observed that there was something wrong with A9, which was gradually falling behind.

When the Aeolus went back to ascertain the cause, it was discovered that there had been an escape of gasoline and that out of a crew of eleven men, including two officers, six were overcome by fumes, while five were affected but did not become unconscious. The men below were the first to feel the effects of the fumes and dropped at their posts. When the officers, Lieutenant C. H. Warren, who was in command, and Lieutenant E. M. Groves, second in command, realized what had occurred, they left the conning tower and attempted to reach the engines. The latter officer was successful in bringing them to a standstill, but his fellow-officer was overcome. Upon the arrival of the parent ship the officers and men were speedily removed to the Aeolus, restoratives and artificial respiration were tried, and all have since recovered. There seems little doubt but that for the gallantry of the officers all aboard the craft, including the officers themselves, would have lost their lives. The accident is understood to have been caused by a slight crack in a petrol tank.

Until recently every British submarine carried a case of white mice in her well. When any leakage of gasoline occurred the heavy, sickly fumes settling to the bottom of the vessel was supposed to make the mice shriek shrilly as they gasped for breath, and thus to warn the crews of impending disaster. Shortly before the A9 accident an order was issued by the British Admiralty directing the removal of white mice from submarines, and this action created some uneasiness among officers and men taking part in submarine operations during the recent maneuvers.

While some thought the removal of the white mice was calculated to endanger the safety of those working the submarines, others claimed that even if the mice were used, their presence would not be very valuable, because the noise of the machinery would make it very difficult to hear anything, much less the squeak of a mouse.

The A-13 was the first diesel submarine in the Royal Navy. She was fitted with a six cylinder Hornsby-Ackroyd diesel. They continued to operate petrol engines in the follow on B and C class boats. It wasn’t until the D class was launched as a purely diesel submarine that the British finally divorced themselves from petrol powered boats.

The evolution of the early submarines reflects the technological advances of their age. But you have to give great credit to the brave sailors of all nations that sailed on these small boats with all of their challenges.

And I am pretty sure there were no GBF pins to be had once the old boats were laid up for scrap in 1920.

Mister Mac

‘Here take us; you have won the game only too brilliantly.’ German Naval Surrender November 20, 1918 Reply

The day the German High Seas fleet was surrendered – November 20, 1918

From the diary of a German Naval Officer “Monday, Nov. 19 – The undefeated German fleet is going out to meet the enemy who anxiously avoided it for four years and says to him, ‘ Here take us; you have won the game only too brilliantly.’ … I wept and I am not ashamed of it.”

It has been a hundred years since the guns fell silent on that cold and bitter November day in Europe. The sound of silence had to have been deafening to the men who survived the last desperate bombardments that churned up the French countryside for the last time. The War to End All Wars was coming to a close but only on the land.

What about the powerful forces of the German Navy?

This story captures the end of the naval war and the end of the submarine campaign. Up until this day, German submarines had wreaked havoc in the Atlantic. The German fleet was largely intact even though it was affected by the same suffering of the people at home.  The submarine force was still a potent threat.

U- Boat is the abbreviation of ‘unterseeboot’, which when translated into English means ‘undersea boat’.

When the First World War began the German Navy possessed 29 U-Boats. The Imperial Navy had rejected submarines as a distraction in 1900 and were more inclined to follow the traditional growth patterns of the navy’s of their day. The main focus was on large gun bearing ships that would be able to slug it out with their English counterpart in dramatic open ocean battles. In fact, one of the most dramatic surface engagements of all time was a fulfillment of that vision.

But the little U boats would have a profound impact on the conduct of the war and were the main weapon that nearly brought England to her knees. England is highly dependent on other sources for food, fuel and raw materials and the German U-Boats were responsible for destroying around half of all the food and supplies transported by the British Merchant Navy.

  • In the first 10 weeks of the war they sank five British cruisers.
  • Between October 1916 and January 1917 a grand total of 1.4 million tons of allied shipping was lost to the U-Boats.
  • These losses were eventually curtailed when the allies introduced escorted convoys with merchant ships surrounded by military vessels.
  • During WW1 Germany built 360 U-Boat submarines, 178 of which were lost. In total they were responsible for the loss of more than 11 million tons of allied shipping.

The German Navy’s U-boats were also instrumental in the sinking of the passenger liner and auxiliary cruiser, the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915, which was one of the main events that led to the United States joining the war two years later in 1917.

As the war drew to a close, the German Naval High Command wanted one more chance to change the outcome. They developed in top secrecy Naval order of 24 October 1918

This operation resulted from the exchange of diplomatic notes, beginning on 5 October 1918, between the new German government under Prince Max of Baden and President Woodrow Wilson, in which Germany asked the President to mediate an armistice. One of Wilson’s preconditions was the cessation of Germany’s submarine war. Despite the objections of Admiral Scheer, the Chief of the German Admiralty Staff, the German Government made this concession on 20 October. The U-boats at sea were recalled on 21 October. In response, on 22 October Scheer ordered Admiral Hipper, commander of the High Seas Fleet, to prepare for an attack on the British fleet, utilizing the main battle fleet, reinforced by the newly available U-boats. Hipper’s order was promulgated on 24 October; Scheer approved it on 27 October. The Fleet then began to concentrate at Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven to prepare for the battle.

The German fleet still possessed a large capacity to inflict damage. The new availability of the U boats to support the operation was of great value to the commanders of the fleet. The boats would be able to penetrate English territory, broadcast their movement and create havoc by sinking the deploying fleets as they came into the channel.

The plan called for 25 U-boats to be deployed in six lines in the southern North Sea, in the hope of ambushing British ships sailing to counter-attack the German Fleet raiding forces. Other U-boats were to undertake special operations involving British Naval Bases. On 23 October seven U-boats at large in the North Sea (U-108, UB-86, UB-121, UB-125, UB-96, UC-58 and U-60) were diverted by wireless signals to take up positions off Rosyth, in order to give the alarm when the British Fleet sailed, and hopefully launch attacks. In addition, U-43, also at sea, was directed to take up a watching position near the Tyne. Starting on 24 October, the other U-boats began departing from their base at Heligoland to their patrol areas.

Two of these U-boats were lost. The first, U-78 (Oblt. Johann Vollbrecht), sailed on 27 October from Heligoland for a minelaying mission off the Scottish East Coast, but she was torpedoed and sunk the same day by the British submarine G2 in the central North Sea, roughly 280 nautical miles (520 km; 320 mi) east of the Firth of Forth. All 40 crewmen were lost.

The other submarine to be sunk was UB-116, which sailed from Heligoland on 25 October with special orders to attack the British fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow. She was commanded by the 26-year-old Oberleutnant zur See Hans Joachim Emsmann who, since first becoming a U-boat captain in February 1918, had sunk a total of 26 ships. She attempted to enter Scapa Flow submerged by the southern passage, Hoxa Sound, on the evening of 28 October. Hydrophones mounted ashore at Stanger Head, Flotta, alerted the British defenses, and the sea-bed magnetometer loops, designed to detect the magnetic signatures of incoming vessels and thus trigger remote-controlled mines, were activated. Emsmann raised his periscope at 11:30 pm, presumably to check his position, and was spotted by look-outs on shore; the mines detonated shortly thereafter, leaving the submarine disabled on the sea bed. She was finished off by depth charges from defense trawlers shortly thereafter; all 37 crew members were lost.

Two other submarines, UB-98 and UB-118 were damaged in collision with each other on 28 October, and had to return to port. Two others, UB-87 and UB-130 also aborted their missions due to breakdowns.

The remaining fleet faced difficulties of its own. Sailors on most of the German ships were in a rebellious mood. The news of the defeats on land and the entry of America into the war had made their plight untenable. Families at home relayed stories of mass starvation and privation and the thought of this desperate attack this late in the war was madness. There were mutinies on many of the ships and in the end the plan was cancelled.

Less than two weeks later, the war came to an end with the signing of the armistice;

From the book Bluejackets of 1918; being the story of the work of the American … Navy in the world war (Abbot, Willis John, 1863-1934.)

“It was on the 11th of November, 1918, at 11 o’clock A.M. — eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour the newspapers pointed out — that the World War was brought to an end by the signing of the armistice at General Foch’s headquarters at La Capelle.

German delegates had been brought, blindfolded, through the Allied lines the night before, for requests from Germany for a cessation of hostilities during the peace negotiations had been sternly refused. Foch had the enemy on the run and was in no mood to yield any shred of his advantage. It was an army peace, of course, and in the negotiations the navy had no share, although Vice Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, First Lord of the British Admiralty, and Vice Admiral William S. Sims were present.

Briefly summarized the conditions of the armistice affecting naval conditions were as follows:

The immediate surrender to the Allies and the United States of all German submarines, including mine-layers. The internment and disarmament of practically all the German surface men-of-war to await the action of the peace conference and their final disposition by treaty.

All German aircraft to be concentrated and demobilized at specified places.

Indication to the Allies and the United States of the location of all mines that the seas might be cleared of mine-fields.

Opening of the Baltic to all nations.

Evacuation of all Belgian ports and surrender of all vessels of every class therein.

The announcement by the Germans to the world of the abandonment of submarine warfare, and the conclusion of the war upon the sea.

In accordance with these terms of the armistice the chill and desolate harbor of Scapa Flow in the Orkneys was fixed as the place of internment for the German surface fleet.

The surrender was ordered for November 20, 1918.

Before the main fleet was turned over to the combined naval forces of England, France and the United States the first twenty submarines were delivered to Rear Admiral Tyrwhitt off Harwich at sunrise on that day. The British force that received the surrender of these sinister underwater boats consisted of five light cruisers and twenty destroyers. A big observation balloon hung over the fleet and as the ceremony took place at early dawn the picturesqueness of the occasion was added to by the sun rising in the east, while a great white moon still shone in the west.

No chances were taken on the British vessels. The paravanes were rigged outboard to divert any mines that might be drifting in the neighborhood. Officers and men put on their life-belts, and as the enemy appeared in the offing the gun crews went to their stations as though it were a battle, not an abject surrender, for which preparations were making. No flags flew over the enemy vessels as they steamed sullenly out from their coast, but strips of bunting flying from the British flagship gave them the peremptory order to fall in line and follow the British lead. They obeyed. From every vessel of the victorious squadron sharp eyes watched the defeated foe. Once two carrier pigeons were seen to rise from the tower of a submarine, and instantly a signal was flashed forbidding any repetition of this effort to communicate with the land they had left. Off Harwich the whole fleet came to anchor.

Two German light cruisers had accompanied the enemy fleet and to them the German sailors from each submarine were transferred. As the boats were thus abandoned white flags were run up on each with the German ensign below, and they were towed into the tidal basin at Harwich. The whole ceremony was conducted without any manifestation of triumph, and indeed in almost complete silence.

So ended the German effort to enforce the will of the Kaiser by undersea war.”

THE SURRENDER OF THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET, NOVEMBER 1918 (Q 19319) German submarine crews transferring to a motor launch to await repatriation, Harwich. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193797

The German submarines that were surrendered were meant for destruction but not before the victors in turn took a chance to see the technology that had wreaked so much havoc. Five of the boats ended up in American hands for a while. Improvements based on those discoveries were blended into American submarine technology. Despite the intent of the British to ban all submarine warfare in the naval treaties that were about to be written, submarine warfare survived. The technology, operations, and innovation would lead to a leap forward for the American Navy that prepared it for a surprising role in the Second World War.

 

Mister Mac

1899 – 1900 The Epidemic of Submarines 1

1899 – 1900 The Epidemic of Submarines

Chief, Bureau of Construction and Repair, Commodore Philip Hichborn –

July 1893-March 1899,  Rear Admiral Philip Hichborn – March 1899-March 1901

If you have never heard of Admiral Hichborn, don’t be too surprised. He had a long and glorious career but has faded into obscurity over the last 100 years. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has ever done something important that was not looked upon with favor while you were doing it.

In his role as the Chief of Construction and Repair, he was a powerful voice that helped the United States Navy obtain and develop the modern submarine. He did this in the face of overwhelming forces that were trying to minimize the submarine and prevent it from taking its place I the long line of naval inventions.

The late 19th century saw a Navy still reeling from the latest chaotic intervention of technology. Steam power was eclipsing the power of the sail and machines were suddenly the driving force of progress for a Navy steeped in tradition. As the new century began, the leadership of the Navy was just becoming adjusted to the lack of sails on board their prized battle fleet. Bigger and stronger ships bristling with new guns of monstrous calibers was the order of the day. The very idea that a smaller “boat” would someday take its place alongside these behemoths was, as one Admiral put it, crazy.

In the midst of all the bluster, some voices were still determined to experiment with a new type of warship. The submarine had been around in various configurations for a long time but its usefulness and dependence on operating on the surface for much of its time made them less than desirable. Many of the Admirals considered them a distraction at best but a waste of precious funds for battleships. Some in Congress agreed but some also saw that if a submarine craft could be built at a lower cost and offer a way to protect the country, the savings would be really pleasing to the folks back home. That last reason alone was enough to frighten the Navy brass.

Around the world in 1900, most of the major players were already experimenting with submersible craft of their own. This post has a number of stories form a publication known as the Army Navy Journal.

During its time, this journal was a sure fire way to keep up with the latest trends and activities of all of the world’s navies. It was also a sounding board for those in power and out to try and influence the direction of the armed services. So it’s not a surprise that al lot of articles showed up with the excitement of the new Holland Boat.

Not everyone was a fan though. Whether here or in the many countries involved with this “submarine epidemic”, the opportunity was sorely weighed against the threat. If the growth of these pesky little craft was not managed well, there could be real consequences to the participating fleets in any future war. Since success was still being measured by “tonnage” and gun caliber and size, these craft posed a threat before they had even fired their first torpedo in way.

I celebrate the birth of the submarine Navy every April.

I had no idea how close we were to not having a submarine Navy at all.

Admiral Hichborn was a bit of a visionary. His vision was rare in a time when most men were looking backwards, not forwards as they tried to protect the nation.

Here is the story:

The story is told in sequential order through the eyes of the reader of the Army Navy Journal. It captures the submarine challenges of the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and France… noticeably absent is any talk of the Japanese who were also developing a submarine capacity on their own)

 

November 11, 1899 Army and Navy Journal – TRIAL OF THE HOLLAND SUBMARINE BOAT.

The Holland submarine torpedo boat underwent a successful test over a course between Little Hog Neck and Great Hog Neck, Long Island, on Nov. 6, in water 20 feet deep. The test was made before the following Navy officers, members of the Board of Inspection, and Survey: Rear Adml: Frederick Rodgers, Capt. Robley D. Evans, Comdr. William H. Emory, Comdr. Charles R. Roelker, Naval Constructor Washington L., Capps and Lieut. Richardson Henderson, recorder. The first run was one mile under water, submerged to a depth of ten feet over her deck. The run was made in exactly nine minutes.

On coming to the surface she discharged a torpedo which weighed 840 pounds, , ten seconds later. The torpedo shot past the mark, which was a stake with a flag on it, and came within 25 feet of the stake, although it was discharged nearly 400 feet distant. The torpedo traveled 800 yards.

Under water the Holland turned completely around in one and one-half times her own length, which is 54 feet. A second trip was made in which the boat was at times under water, then, with deck awash, and again with her upper parts completely out of water. While completely submerged a torpedo was again discharged simply to show that it could be done. Running against a strong ebb tide and a strong wind blowing across her the boat ran, with decks awash, a quarter of a mile at the rate of 8 knots.

The Holland was launched from Lewis Nixon’s yard, at Elizabethport, N. J., in March, 1896. She is 54 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. , Her hull is a perfect sphere amidships, the so-called deck being merely a flat superstructure designed to give the crew a foothold as they step from the conning tower. The Holland will be taken to Washington for any further inspection that the Navy Department may desire. The trip will be made through the Raritan Canal.

November 18, 1899 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL. – THE HOLLAND BOAT A SUCCESS.

The Inspection and Survey Board, which recently made tests with the submarine boat Holland, reports the trials were highly successful. Chief Engr. John Lowe was specially ordered to witness all trials and the official tests. His report is of great interest, as it highly commends the Holland. He says:

“I report my belief that the Holland is a successful and veritable submarine torpedo boat, capable of making a veritable attack upon the enemy unseen and undetectable, and that, therefore, she is an engine of warfare of terrible potency, which the Government must necessarily adopt into its service.”

Mr. Lowe says it is his opinion “that this Government should at once purchase the Holland and not let the secrets of the invention get out of the United States, ”and that the Government ought to create a submarine torpedo boat station for the purpose of practice and drilling of crews, and says: “We need right off and right now, fifty submarine torpedo vessels in Long Island Sound to protect New York, preserve the peace, and to give potency to our diplomacy.” The Holland will be sent around to Washington, the early part of December and will give an exhibition in the Potomac River for the benefit of Congress and the Navy Department officials.

December 9, 1899 ARMY AND NAVY .JOURNAL. – SOME FOREIGN ITEMS.

Before the Society of Naval Architects, at Charlottenburg, Dec., 8, Geheimrath Busley read a paper on “Submarine Boats” in which he said they offered no good prospects for the future, and congratulated the German Admiralty on, abstaining from “costly and protracted experiments.”

January 27 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – TORPEDO BOAT REPORT

The Naval Board on Construction on Jan. 19 (1900) decided by a vote of 4 to 1 against recommending the purchase of the Holland submarine torpedo boat. The majority report says that the proposition was to buy the boat for $165,000 as she stands, or two larger boats for $170,000 each. The report says: “The Board does not recommend the purchase of the Holland.” Then it goes on to cite the delinquency of the company in the case of the boat Plunger, and says when that craft is out of the way and settled for it will be time to discuss further contracts. The signers of this report are Rear Admls. O’Neil, Melville, Bradford and Comdr. Clover. They take pains to point out that they refrain from any criticism or discussion of the merits of the Holland and merely consider it a bad business transaction to buy it when larger and better boats can be got for nearly the same money.

The minority report is signed by Admiral Hichborn, and takes the ground that the question of possible improvements in the Plunger have been in the hands of a Naval Board for some months, the report of which has itself been held in abeyance, it is believed, pending the result of official tests of the Holland. The express intention of the company to proceed, as soon as authorized, with the necessary alterations to the Plunger, without expense to the Government, seems in every way satisfactory, and will, the Admiral believes, be promptly carried out. Considering the comparatively small cost of submarine boats, he believes that the Government should encourage their development, in view of their possibilities in time of war, and, furthermore, that it should have the boats in its possession for purposes of experiment and drill. Admiral Hichborn holds that the Department would be fully warranted in contracting for two boats of the Holland type; the Holland itself being acceptable, in his opinion, although less desirable than the proposed boats of slightly greater dimensions.

The immediate possession of the Holland, however, in the event of a sudden emergency, is to be considered an advantage. The fact of our having possession of the Holland, in her present state of efficiency, in the spring of 1898, would have been very marked in its effect.

Other countries do not appear over-sanguine regarding the submarine boat. Germany seems to have decided altogether against it. Recently Geheimeath Burley, at a naval meeting held in Charlottenburg, spoke with disdain of submarine boats, and averred that the German Navy had nothing to fear from anything of this kind which might be built by foreign powers.

In France, from which have come very favorable reports of trials, there are indications of a reversal of opinion. The “Yacht,” that Parisian nautical authority, referring to recent trials at Cherbourg, says: “There is too great a tendency to exaggerate the importance of submarine and submersible boats, and that they are at present purely serviceable for coast defence.” Taking the experience of all nations that have tested submarines, the chief objection appears to be the difficulty of maneuvering them under water, which has been found insuperable in practice up to the present time. It would be unwise, of course, to assume, because all previous attempts to devise a boat capable of practical and really effective action beneath the surface of the water have proved abortive, that therefore the submarine vessel may be regarded impracticable. The submarine vessel may ultimately become a source of real danger to the warship, but so far as it is possible to forecast the future of any invention, that day appears to be yet far distant.

February 10, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL  – Great Britain’s Point of view

The two problems now agitating the engineering world of Great Britain and the United States seem to be of the same type, and they relate to the feasibility of petroleum for fuel on the torpedo boats, and the value of the submarine torpedo boat. Neither question has advanced much beyond the experimental stage, and the results thus far are far from satisfactory in either matter. The position of the submarine torpedo boat has received somewhat of a setback by the lately promulgated adverse report of the Board appointed by the United States Navy Department, and the future of sub marine warfare remains about where it was at the beginning—a matter of opinion.

April 14, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Purchasing Holland

The recent tests which have been made by, the United States and France with types of submarine ships of war have caused considerable comment among military and naval experts of Europe. The problem of the submarine torpedo boat seems so far solved that attention is being directed to the means of meeting their attacks. Our Government has decided to purchase for $150,000 the Holland with the understanding that, the Holland Company deposit in, some national bank the sum of $90,000 as a surety that it will complete the construction of the submarine boat Plunger, already contracted by for the Government. Few officers of the Navy have, until recently, realized just what, the Holland and ships of like construction are capable of performing. The tests made this spring in the Potomac River have been witnessed by naval experts of this, as well as other, governments, Congressmen and representatives of the press. After seeing, the little craft dive all have been greatly impressed with the invention.

April 21, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Holland’s Capabilities

The Holland, which has just been bought by our government, is, strictly speaking, a torpedo; but a torpedo controlled in all its workings by human agency inside the craft, instead of being automatic in its operations. It is claimed that the vessel can go 1,500 miles on the surface of the water without renewing its supply of gasoline. It is further claimed that it can go fully 40 knots under water and that there is enough compressed air in the tanks to supply the necessary number of men for running the craft with fresh air for thirty hours, if the air is not used for any other purpose, such as emptying the submerged tanks. It was demonstrated in one of the recent tests that the Holland is capable of diving to a depth of twenty feet in eight seconds. It can stay at sea under an emergency for a week. Such has been the interest excited in this submarine vessel that Japan, as usual one of the leading nations, has directed her military attache in Washington to carefully examine into the merits of the vessel. On April 7 he was allowed to be present on the Holland during one of the official tests. Attaches of other nations also are taking great interest in the little craft. Mr. Goschen, 1st Lord of the Admiralty, in reply to a question by the House of Commons with reference to submarine boats, disparaged them except as weapons of defense, and said: “It seems certain that a reply to this weapon must be looked for in other directions than in building submarine boats ourselves, for, clearly, one submarine boat cannot fight another.”

April 28 1900 Army and Navy Journal – Army and Navy Appropriations Hearings

In regard to sheathing of ships Mr. Cummings (Congressman) said: “The Navy Department is peculiarly constructed. One year its board decides it is best to have sheathed ships. That was done a year or two ago. Afterward England built some unsheathed battleships; ships intended for use on her own coast, and not to be sent to foreign harbors. Of course, our Navy was compelled to follow the example set by England. Whether the Secretary of State was consulted or not I cannot say. The new board decided that sheathed ships were not needed. Boards are at times necessary contrivances, but not necessarily useful. Take the case of the Holland. Here was a board that were to make a report on the submarine boat Holland. They came back and reported in her favor but at the same time expressed the opinion that submarine boats were useless—England was not building any of them. The Navy Department, however, has bought the boat, and I have had the honor of introducing a bill providing for the purchase of 20 more of them. I am strongly of the opinion that the provision to have been inserted in this appropriation bill and I think those who have seen the Holland’s surprising performances will agree with me. I will answer for Admiral Dewey.”

May 19, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL.     News: 1900 NAVAL APPROPRIATION BILL APPOVED

The Secretary of the Navy is hereby authorized and directed to contract for five submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type of the most improved design, at a price not, to exceed one hundred and seventy thousand dollars each: Provided, That such boats shall be similar” in dimensions to the proposed new Holland, plans and specifications of which were submitted to the Navy Department by the Holland Torpedo Boat Company November twenty-third, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine.

The said new contract and the submarine torpedo boats covered, by the same are to be in accordance with the stipulations of the contract of purchase made April Eleventh, nineteen hundred, by and between the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, represented by the secretary of said company, the party of the first part, and the United States, represented by the Secretary of the Navy, the party of the second part.

The Secretary of the Navy is hereby directed to cause construction of vessels fitted to transport two. four, and plans and estimates of cost to be made for the construction of six submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type, respectively, and to lower and hoist them with the utmost expedition, said vessels to carry also such guns as may be best suited to their uses as armed craft to be used also as transports of submarine torpedo boats. The Secretary of the Navy is also directed to cause plans and estimates to be made for the conversion ” one or more transports now belonging to the United States and which he may deem best suited for the conveyance of submarine torpedo boats of the Holland type.

May 26, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – Another view from London

The London “Engineer” says: “The assumption that the French submarine navy is a form of lunacy is very comfortable, but one cannot forget that fifty years ago our Admiralty doubted French sanity because they went in for screw warships across the Channel—a fact that makes the doctrine of official infallibility difficult to hold. Theories against submarine boats are just as bad as wild theories in their favor—we want facts on both sides. The sous marine are hardly as yet potent factors maybe; but they appear to be pretty much where torpedo boats were about 1876; and they have displayed quite enough in the way of “possibilities” to make the antidote worth thinking about.” It adds that, if one-quarter of the reports of successful submarine navigation in the French press are true, the British Admiralty occupy a “tolerably criminal position” in not experimenting with this method of warfare.

June 30 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – ADMIRAL HICHBORN ON SUBMARINES.

Rear-Admiral Philip Hichborn, Chief Constructor, US. Navy, in “The Engineering Magazine” for June discusses “The Demonstrated Success of the Submarine Boat.” The findings of the so-called “Endicott Board” in 1886, he says, first called his attention to the matter. This Board, composed of prominent Army and Navy officers with the then Secretary of War as president, expressed the opinion that submarine boats had not passed the experimental stage. An exhaustive and complete history of this type of naval vessel was appended to the Board’s report by a sub-committee of which General Abbot of the Engineers, and Commander, now Admiral Sampson were members. To one accustomed to the actions of Boards and to reading between the lines of a report. it was apparent that General Abbot and Admiral Sampson desired to accentuate the probable value of submarines, although the Board as a whole could only be brought to an expression in regard to them which was the merest platitude.

His attention thus drawn to the matter Admiral Hichborn continued a study of the submarine. It appeared that the art of brain-directed submarine navigation has been in process of development for at least three hundred years, and that many of the attempts to make it practicable would have been near enough to success to insure continued effort toward improvement, had it not been for the ultra-conservatism of seafaring folk. William Bourne, an Englishman has the credit of operating the first submarine boat, as such, in contradistinction to a diving bell. The records of Bourne’s operations have, however, been lost as his labors ended more than three hundred years ago.

In 1624 the Hollander, Cornelius Van Drebbel, took twelve persons for an under-water run in his submarine boat worked by twelve pairs of sculls, and carried “quintessence of air” for them to breathe——probably compressed air. During the succeeding twenty years the main principles of submarine navigation were well grasped. And in 1633 a Frenchman, whose name has been lost, built and operated a submarine boat at Rotterdam.

Later in the century an Englishman named Day is reported to have lost his life in a submarine boat of his own invention, through the crushing in of her hull by water pressure due to depth on her second attempt at submersion. After a long hiatus, in the records at least, Bushnell, of Connecticut, projected in 1771 and made operative in 1775, a small one-man-operated boat devised for work against ships at anchor. The boat possessed many of the features recognized to-day as essential for submarine navigation, notably buoyancy.

Fulton, in 1707, was pushing submarine navigation in France. Borrowing the ideas of Bushnell and applying them to more powerful craft, he made a long stride in the methods of under-water work. Fulton’s Nautilus was, for her time as efficient as the Holland of to-day- and met with the same kind of encouragement.

The first Napoleon appreciated submarines, just as he appreciated breech-loading small arms. But in both cases he submitted the designs to Boards, and the devices were promptly condemned. The French did not wholly abandon the submarine idea. In 1810 a committee of the Institute reported, after trials of the Coessin_ boat, that “there is no longer any doubt that submarine navigation may be established very expeditiously and at very little cost.”

From 1810 to the time of the United States civil war submarine boats were designed every few years, nearly all of them driven by manual power and most of them following the ideas of Bushnell in forcing them down by an application of power apart from the diving rudder.During the civil war both the Federal and Confederate Governments tried to develop submarines, and failed of success only because the “state of the art” was not studied, and crude devices were tried.

In 1863 the Brun boat, the Plongeur, was built at Rochefort, France and was one of the first to have mechanical motive power. She lacked diving rudders, attaining her depth solely by variations in weight. As a result there was no control in the vertical plane. Horizontal rudders were fitted, and the boat worked very well—-with the usual result, Admiral Hichborn adds that she was declared useless by a Board, and made into a water tank.

The importance of horizontal rudders was not grasped in spite of experience with the Plongeur. In fact one of the curious circumstances connected with the development of submarine navigation is that in very few cases does any evidence appear of the study of the art. Almost all inventors began de novo with the consequence that that our late patent files show designs had been reached a couple of centuries ago. During the last forty years attempts to solve the problem of submarine navigation have been almost constant and the progress has been generally forward, and these years may he considered the era of the power-driven boat

One of the last hand-worked submarine craft was the Intelligent Whale which attracted much attention because she was bought by our Government and became a United States vessel, although she possessed no feature superior to Fulton’s design a half century earlier and in many principles of design was inferior. She was an example of the power of conservatism, which practically prevented her use for studying the laws of immersed bodies, and was responsible on the one occasion she was operated, for manning her with an incompetent crew and trying her under ridiculous conditions which worked up a fright about the danger connected with her. A press account appeared crediting her with a total of forty-nine victims. As a matter of fact, no life has been lost in her from the time she was built in Galveston, just after the close of the civil war to the present day.

Since 1880 Europe has been experimenting with submarine boats, and in France, Spain and Italy the governments have encouraged the experiments. In France alone has there been government encouragement through a series of years; progress has been so great as to call forth official estimates and requests for the building of a submarine flotilla of 38 boats. The French type developed by the trials with an electric-storage motor boat, the Zede is a good one, deficient in import but sufficiently good for the economical French to be impressed with the great service submarines will bring to their mobile coast…

June 30, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – The doubt lingers on In the America Naval Leadership

Of Admiral Hichborn’s article, of which we give a synopsis on another page, the “Army and Navy Gazette” says: “We cannot think that the Admiral has made out his case either in regard to the satisfactory nature of the Holland, or of her use, but in any case the same conditions do not rule for us as for the United States. We are inclined to believe also that the Narwal has proved herself a better boat than the Holland. But, as we have said before, it is the duty of the authorities in this country to find an answer to the ‘submarine,” and everything points to the fact that such an answer will not be found in a boat to operate under water.”

August 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – THE FRENCH NAVY.

A certain number of naval experts in France incline to the opinion that it might be better to substitute smaller vessels, of 6,000 to 8,000 tons, for the 15,000-ton battleships, these smaller ships to have equal powers of offence and defence, but a slower speed. To this idea M. Normand lends the great authority of his name, and he supports his views by extracts from the latest work of Captain Mahan.

Analyzing the French naval programme the “Engineer” says: M. Chautemps told his colleagues that the commercial war was a mirage, since there will be no such war. If the occupation of the commerce destroyers is gone, the French have found other reasons for abandoning their policy of relying entirely upon swift cruisers. The strongest of these is that, once blocked up in a port, they never could get out again. Moreover, France is the only country which has persisted in giving attention to this type of vessel, and as all other countries are pinning their faith in the battleships, the French naval authorities are beginning to see that they are perhaps wrong in not doing likewise. The failures of the new cruisers to come up to expectations are also largely r sponsible for this change of opinion. The Guichen is regarded as a disastrous experiment. Everything has been so far sacrificed to speed that her armor is inefficient, and she only carries two heavy guns. French naval critics are now wondering what is to be done with her.

This question of speed has also given rise to a disappointment. Vessels which, in trials, go up to 23 knots will not do more than an average of 18 knots or 19 knots in long runs. Not only do M. Lockroy and his followers find their predictions with respect to the cruisers entirely falsified, but they are even more severely hit by the results of the trials carried out with squadron torpedo boats and the submarine boats. The torpedo boat is at the mercy of the quick-firing gun, and in future it will be reserved solely for coast defence.

The Government has abandoned any idea of building squadron torpedo boats, but will replace them with destroyers.

As for the submarines, the Minister would scarcely care to shock public opinion by condemning them, but he damned them with faint praise, so faint, indeed, that no one could have any illusions as to their value. It is obvious that the trials carried out with these vessels, which are to terrorize a hostile fleet, have not been a success. The submarine boat has got its famous “eye,” but it appears that the moisture condensing upon it renders it blind, and in any event the speed under water is so slow that there is little chance of reaching a vessel which refuses to remain still to be hit. The Minister, however, looks hopefully to the carrying out of improvements, which will make the submarine boat a formidable weapon. With this end in view a sum is to be set apart for organizing competitions of plans similar to that which produced the Narval a few years ago. Meanwhile, the place which the submarine boat is to occupy in future strategy is to attack blockading ships in the daytime, while the torpedo will be employed for the same work at night.

August 18, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL – FOREIGN ITEMS

Forest, a well-known French Naval Constructor, familiar with submarine boats and an enthusiastic admirer of them, has joined M. Noalhat, a civil engineer, in the publication of a work on submarine boats. Their history is traced to an apparatus described by Aristotle, as employed at the siege of Tyre. Cornelius Van Drebble, a Dutch physician, 1620; Merseune, 1634, and Simons, 1747, are given preference over Bushnell, whose design for a submarine boat dates from 1773. Fulton’s Nautilus and the submarine suggestions of the Frenchmen, Marquis de la Feuillade, Dr. Payerne, Phillip an American, Bauer a German, and James Nasmyth are also included in the early history of subaquatic, warfare, and Admiral Aube is given a prominent place. M. Forest contends that submarine vessels have now reached the stage of successful experiment, and must be reckoned with hereafter in the calculation of naval strength. He believes that the Narval will prove a complete success, and that the type of vessels, she represents will, impose peace upon the world. , Ericsson also reached the conclusion before he died that submarine attack in some form, would bring low the pride of great navies and equalize the conditions of naval warfare, by giving the weaker nations a, powerful means of defence within their possibilities.Battleships Ericsson was accustomed to speak of as “torpedo food.”

August 18, 1900 ARMY AND NAVY JOURNAL

The “Journal de la Marine” of France discussing the Holland submarine says: “Admiral Dewey holds that there could be nothing better for the defence of coasts and ports than submarines, but doubts their ” for service on the high seas. We do not share this latter belief and we believe that the use of extra swift under water craft would have if nothing else a great moral effect and in certain circumstances would play an important role. There would have to be special arrangements made, but these could be made.” Our French contemporary hopes that instead of the “epidemic of submarines” coming to an end as the English would like to see it, it will develop more and more, for we have in our hands a weapon which though not yet perfect can produce terrible effects and in certain cases annihilate the most powerful fleets.” The assurance of this French writer may be called extravagant considering that no submarine has yet been tested in actual warfare. Plenty of other weapons have in times of peace prospectively wrought great destruction, but have proved of little value in real war.

The last word:

In the February 2, 1901 ARMY –NAVY Journal article on the Congressional Hearings about the Holland’s first year, Admiral Hichborn probably save the day for submarines but sank what was left of his career.

Shortly before he testified, three senior ranking Admirals had just stated that continuing with the submarine experiment was not advised. One even stated that a few supporters of the mere idea were “crazy”.

Congressman Hawley of Texas was direct when it came to asking Hichborn his opinion.

Mr. Hawley: “Do we understand that your judgment with respect to these boats is that they are of such a character, and will play such a prominent and important part hereafter, that it will inevitably become the policy of this Government to construct this or a similar-boat’!”

Admiral Hichborn: “Without any question. It is also my opinion that the English Government will be following it up in a very short time: and I have more than just an ordinary reason for saying that, because I have communications from some of the leading architects of the English Government who take the liberty to write me and ask my advice. I can judge from the tone of their letters; and their whole disposition is to very soon have submarine bouts. No nation can be without them. You have got to have in war what every other nation has. It is no new thing for inventions of this kind, or changes of this kind, to be made in modern warfare to meet great opposition. if you will look at the history of our Government, you will find that all new undertakings have been opposed by the Navy Department, opposed by the people connected with it, and have always met with great opposition, and they have to develop themselves. I heard the Monitor referred to in that connection. If anyone follows up the history of the Monitor, he will fin that it took President Lincoln’s order to build that vessel, the opposition was so great.”

 Congress approved the growth of the submarine force. While there would be many struggles in the years to come, Admiral Hichborn’s willingness to take a personal risk ensured the Navy would have the submarines that in a few decades would make the difference in the Pacific while the sunken and damaged battleships were left aside.

Mister Mac

Tigers of the Sea – Nerves of Iron and Steel Reply

I’ve heard submarines called many things in my life but this was the first time I have ever heard the term “Tigers of the Sea”. It’s been over a hundred years since “THE MARVEL BOOK OF AMERICAN SHIPS”, by Captain Orton P. Jackson, U.S.N., and Major Frank E. Evans, U.S.M.C. was published. The term is one that they included in their writing.

There is no preface in the book that explains the purpose for which it was written. Since it was published in 1917, it is almost assured that most of the material was written before the Americans entered the First World War. The book is broken into types of chapters one would expect from a contemporary book about the US Navy. In over 380 pages, the authors cram in a lot of information about the American Navy past and present. But surprising to me was the placement of the submarine section.

Up until 1914, the giant battleships were considered the most powerful weapon afloat. Indeed, even in 1917 when this book was published, that had not changed. Pearl Harbor and the annihilation of the British Battleships by Japanese airplanes was a faraway series of events. So it was surprising that the authors chose to place submarine warfare in the second chapter rather than at the end as an afterthought. Maybe the sinking of the Lusitania and many other ships by the Huns was fresh on their minds and maybe the authors were just enthusiastic about the new weapons and their potential.

For whatever the reason, the story of the American submarine occupies a very significant place in the book they ended up publishing.

Who manned the “Tigers of the Sea?

The character of the men who pioneered the use of submarines has always been described in heroic terms. The sea is a dangerous place to begin with. The testimony is how many ships throughout man’s history have been damaged or lost even in times of peace. The sea is unpredictable, ever changing and possesses more power in its bosom than nearly anything else on earth.

The sea can also be relentless when it is in the wrong mood. I have ridden her waves on everything to a submarine that was nearly as old as I was at the time to the largest carrier of its day (USS Nimitz). Both offered little comfort when the waves were on the rise and we were far from land.

But operating a submarine in the early days was particularly challenging. The construction of the boats limited their ability to dive in very deep waters and the modern safety devices that are taken for granted in this age simply did not exist. The men who sailed on the fledgling “subs” were simply audacious in their courage. The authors called the boats “The Tigers of the Seas” and simply stated that the men who operated them required nerves of Iron and steel.

The US Navy was still focused on the power of its battleships for future influence. But it is interesting to see how some were impressed enough to capture the life of these sub sailors and their craft. It’s also interesting to note that some of the same challenges they face then are still challenges today.

From: The marvel book of American ships, by Captain Orton P. Jackson, U.S.N., and Major Frank E. Evans, U.S.M.C. With twelve colored plates and over four hundred illustrations from photographs. (1917)

OUR UNDERSEA FIGHTERS

OF all the craft that make up the Fleet, from the grim dreadnought and its powerful fourteen-inch monsters to the fussy steam-launch and its one-pounder gun in the bow, there is none that should have the same interest for the American boy as the submarine. Of all the units of the Fleet it is the one distinctively American product of inventive genius. It was an American, Robert Fulton, then living in France, in 1800, who designed the first submarine. It was another American citizen, John P. Holland, who built the first submarine that met its tests successfully, and which carried within its steel skin practically all of the principles of the modern submarine.

As far back as the sixteenth century men dreamed of a boat that could travel beneath the seas, just as men dreamed of a craft that could sail through the skies with the freedom of a great bird. Not until the two Americans, Fulton and Holland, made their practical contributions to this end did the submarine of to-day emerge from the realms of visions to its grim power. Jules Verne, in his remarkable romance, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, only sketched the wonderful possibilities of the craft that he dreamed of.

Of all ships, the submarine is the only one that can maneuver beneath the waves as well as on the surface, and the dreadnought of 27,000 tons is an easy victim to the submarine of one-fiftieth her tonnage when the submarine takes her unawares.

It remained for the European War, more than a century after Fulton’s design, to vindicate the prophecies that the submarine would play a great part in the struggle for the control of the seas. The war stripped the submarine of much of its mystery, for every American boy now knows something of the part it plays in naval warfare, of how it fights and how, in turn, it is hunted to be either captured or sunk.

It must be a matter of national pride that Americans gave to that war one of its mightiest engines. American-built submarines, too, showed to the world that the tiny undersea craft, assembled in this country, were heard from in the fighting at the Dardanelles, having, traveled five thousand sea leagues away.

SECTIONAL VIEW OF A SUBMARINE

Ever since the United States Government accepted the first successful submarine, the Holland, in 1898, all navies of the world have built, and are building, fleets of submarines. They have increased in size, power, and seagoing abilities until Germany produced the super- submarine, the Deutschland, with its displacement of 2,300 tons submerged, in the summer of 1916. The Deutschland was the first demonstration of the part that the big undersea craft are destined to play in the development of commerce as well as its destruction. Unarmed, she ran the formidable British blockade from Bremen to Baltimore and back, her hull loaded with priceless contraband, and returned, making Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the second trip.

The ordinary type of submarine used by the United States Navy has about 500 tons of submerged displacement, much smaller than the seagoing submarines used by the European nations in their raids on commerce and in their blockades. It was left to them to prove that the submarine was even a more formidable weapon, in some respects, than those who knew it best under peace conditions had claimed. There had been practically no chance to test out its efficiency except under peace conditions. Naval officers not only had had no practical opportunity to prove out their theories of attack, but there had been no practical chance to build up a defense against the untried weapon.

Like the torpedo, without the use of which the undersea boat would have remained little better than a toy, the submarine is so shaped. In reality it is a submerging or diving torpedo-boat, driven on the surface by oil engines, below the sea by electric power, and discharges torpedoes at its enemy.

The torpedo tubes of a submarine vary in number according to the size of the boat. Some types carry their tubes aft, some on the broadside, but the majority carry them forward. The torpedoes used are the same as those fired from destroyers and from battleships.

The torpedo itself is astonishingly accurate because of the gyroscopic mechanism which, acting on a vertical rudder, holds it true to its course. The difficulty in aiming the torpedo in submarine work is great and this alone has saved many ships from destruction.

Because the submarine does the greater part of its deadly work while partially or totally submerged, and because its only protection against an enemy ship lies in diving, it is built to meet the great pressure on its hull. Unlike other craft it is therefore usually built in circular sections, because this form gives it the strength needed.

When the submarine runs on the surface it is driven by oil engines with a speed which ranges around 15 knots. When the “sub,” as its crew calls it, dives and runs submerged, it is propelled by electric motors which are fed by storage batteries. At target practice they run submerged at about 8 knots, and one improvement for which all navies are striving is to increase this speed below water.

The new submarines that are now building for our Navy will average about 800 tons displacement when submerged, be about 250 feet long and will have a speed on the surface of about 19 knots, and a maximum speed below of nearly 14 knots. The “subs” of this type will cost $1,200,000 without figuring on the armor and the armament. To build them longer would increase the danger in diving, but they will be as seaworthy, speedy, powerful, and comfortable as any submarine afloat.

At one stage of the submarine’s development carbonic acid gas was a danger to which running awash the crew was exposed and it was customary to carry white mice as pets on the “subs,” for they quickly collapsed at the first trace of it. Now mechanical devices show the formation of any gas, such as hydrogen, which is odorless. As the current developed while running submerged is quickly used up at high speed, the undersea fighter usually runs at slow speed, using the high speed only for short spurts. The current can only be replaced by coming to the surface, operating the oil engines, and recharging the batteries; so that the maximum speed can only be made while on the surface.

Like the torpedoes that have made the submarine the most dreaded of all sea fighters, the modern submarine is divided into watertight compartments. These are the torpedo, crew, battery, diving, and engine compartments; spare torpedoes are carried in the crew quarters.

Life on a submarine is no bed of roses, but the Navy never lacks for volunteers for the flotilla. It carries extra pay to make up in part for its discomforts, but more than all the lure of danger attracts the American bluejacket.

The living quarters, built for crews ranging from ten to thirty men, are damp, cramped, and the air is usually foul with oily vapors and stale air. At best the amount of fresh air in a submarine is one- third that which a man enjoys on a surface-operating ship. In rough weather, whether running above or below water, the percentage of seasickness is high even with men who never have felt its pangs on board a battleship in the worst of storms. On the surface, in nasty weather, everything is closed but the conning tower hatch and then conditions within the “sub” are almost as bad as when running submerged.

In the regular channels it is hard to sink to a depth that will bring any relief, but out in the open sea, when a gale rages, she can sink to a depth of one hundred feet. Even then there is an up and down motion, which the crew calls “pumping,” that cannot be escaped. It is only on cruises of a fortnight or so, however, that a submarine crew gets no relief from these conditions. Between runs, and while in port or at the submarine base, the crews live in airy barracks or sling their hammocks in tenders that are detailed with each flotilla as a mother ship.

Little shows above the deck of the submarine on the surface but the conning tower, which stands about six feet above deck. The surface navigation is done exactly as with other vessels, the captain and helmsman using the conning tower for their station. Below the water the periscope takes the place of the conning tower. A rapid-fire gun, running in caliber up to one that fires a fourteen-pound shell, and the radio for signaling purposes, are housed in the superstructure or recessed in the hull when the submarine makes its dive. The gun is used both for halting merchantmen that try to escape and in blockade duties. A submarine bell for use while submerged has been added to the modern submarine’s signal equipment; and another great improvement ite the use of electric stoves for cooking, the current being taken from the storage batteries.

When the submarine finds it necessary to submerge preparatory to an attack, to escape an enemy ship, or for practice, all openings in the hull are closed by watertight hatches. The Holland type has diving rudders, and the Lake boat—our two leading types—flat projecting fins forward and aft, called hydroplanes, and both sink nearly on an even keel. Water is then admitted to destroy the natural buoyancy of the craft, by way of the ballast tanks. The diving rudders, forward at the bow, and aft at the stern, are deflected, and the water closes over the sea tiger, leaving but a few bubbles to mark its going.

A gauge registers the depth to which she sinks. The greatest depth at which she operates is ordinarily one hundred feet, but submarines have operated as far down as from two hundred to two hundred and fifty feet. Here the pressure of the water is so powerful that there is danger of crushing the sides and being unable to rise to safety. To test the strength of a new submarine’s hull they must submerge to one hundred and fifty feet, if they are of the large type, as this has been found to leave the right margin of safety.

When running submerged the swish of a ship’s propellers in the vicinity can be heard inside the submarine; and when the captain is thus warned of the enemy’s presence he can rest in peace on a clean bed of sand while the submarine hunters cruise vainly above.

Without the periscope the submarine would be a blinded fighter. It’s most deadly work is done at a submerged distance which shows but a foot or two of the periscope’s tip. The periscope is a long vertical tube of small diameter, with prisms at either end and the necessary lenses. Eighteen feet above the deck it runs; and below, where the other end pierces the hull, is the eyepiece for the observer.

It can be turned in any direction, and when an enemy ship, or a merchantman trying to run the blockade, comes within its field, the submarine is suddenly transformed into a formidable and stealthy sea tiger. The periscope becomes its eyes, and the dials, compasses, and other instruments of the fire-control its brain. The engines that carry it to effective range are its swift, tireless legs, and the destructive charge of 250 pounds of gun-cotton in the unleashed torpedo the death- dealing jaws and rending claws of the great cat that has seen its prey and steals up on it with the skill of a tiger stalking a buffalo.

The submarine chooses to fight at as close quarters as can be had with safety, to cut down the chance of missing its big quarry, and because an unlimited supply of the $8,000 torpedoes cannot be carried. As soon as its target is discovered—it may be miles distant—the captain takes his bearings and down goes the “sub” and with it the telltale periscope that, once seen, draws a shower of shells which would crush its skin as though it were but an eggshell. Then he dives and steers by his bearings to a range as close as is wise. Up goes the periscope for a final aim, just high enough to make it certain, and the submarine swings about to bring its torpedo tubes in line with the target. In the time that the torpedo covers a thousand yards a dreadnought will steam twice her length; and this, and the conditions of the weather, must be quickly and accurately considered by the “sub’s” skipper. The war has shown that when a submarine is discovered the only safety for a vessel is to steer a zigzag course and crowd on enough steam to let the torpedo go tearing by. The slightest error in aim is fatal to a submarine’s chances of a telling hit.

When the exact position is determined comes the word: “Stand by to fire a torpedo! . . . Fire!” Straight as an arrow speeds the cigar-shaped missile and its deadly gun-cotton, traveling ten to fifteen feet below water to make its hit beneath the vulnerable waterline of its target. The compressed air that is its motive power shows in the torpedo’s wake in a sinister track of light air-bubbles. The impact of the torpedo’s head on the hull of the luckless ship explodes the shattering charge of gun-cotton and this first explosion is felt slightly within the hull of the waiting submarine. Often there is a second explosion if the torpedo finds the ship’s boilers or her powder magazines.

Then the diving rudders are reversed, the ballast tanks pumped out by compressed air, and the long, shark-like body creeps warily to the surface for a “look see,” as the sailors have it. The critical moment, whenever a “sub” rises, begins when the periscope has climbed to a point where it reaches the depth of a ship’s keel. It ends only after the periscope’s tip shakes off the water and the captain can sweep the surface with its aid.

All this time his craft is like a great, blinded fish, helpless against attack. As the tip clears the surface the dark shade of the sea fades to the grass green of the undersurface, and then white air-bubbles can be seen as the silver touch of daylight signals the return to the surface. With the nerves of the crew at high tension, iron men though they are, comes the search for the enemy. A seething white cloud of steam pouring from the open hatches and ports of the crippled vessel tells its tale. A few minutes later there is nothing but a huddle of wreckage to show where the submarine has added another to its grewsome toll.

Just as the European War brought the possibilities of the submarine to a skill never dreamed of, so has it brought to the front the methods of hunting down and destroying or capturing it. On blockade duty trawlers, towing between them grappling lines, sweep suspected areas for them. To protect the clumsy trawlers torpedo craft patrol outside with unceasing vigil and tow explosive-laden sweeps behind them. At other points where submarines have been reported are stretched stationary nets with mines above. The explosive sweeps and the mines, when detonated by the touch of the submarine, explode with deadly effect.

Many submarines in the course of the war were caught in nets of wire. Their propellers fouled in the meshes, and as the submarines were closed tight against the water, it was impossible for them to cut the net away. When trapped in this manner their fate was sealed. The initial air carried inside a submarine lasts but little more than half a day. Then air had to be used from the air flasks or “banks” and the foul air could not be pumped out, as then would come a vacuum in which the crew could not live. Three days or possibly four and the trapped sea tiger held only a dead crew.

Seaplanes, when the sea is calm, the bottom light in color, and the air conditions good, can spot and follow submarines when they are within fifty feet of the surface.

It calls for men of iron nerves and quick decision to man our submarines either in peace or in war. Submarine experts look upon the factor of nerves as the most important of all, and they have given to it the title of calculation. Within the cramped walls that are the home of the crew are housed the most intricate mechanisms that man has invented for warfare. Outside its steel walls are mines, great nets of wire, explosives, shells, and seaplanes, all devised for its destruction, and the sharp keels of ships that slice through a submarine as a knife cuts cheese. The smallest shell can penetrate the steel skin, and nets can hold the submarine as helpless as a child in the grasp of a giant.

Danger lies everywhere for the tiger of the seas. The ocean in which it lives is a powder tank that needs but a spark. Only nerves of iron can cope against such an array of enemies. The slightest hesitation of its captain in the face of any one of them means the end of his ship and his crew. As one expert has put it, the whole A B C of submarine warfare is the ability to meet any situation at an instant’s warning and then to act with nerves of steel.

I have often wondered how long ago someone came up with the term “Steel Boats and Iron Men”.

Seems pretty close.

Mister Mac

Winning the Dollar Bet – Every Submariner Understood What Losing Meant 7

Buried Treasure

One of the great things about researching old books and documents is finding the odd story buried in one of them. Taken by itself, the fact or story would not mean much but pulled out and given perspective, it gives an insightful vision to something that happened along the way that would have greater consequences.

In 1906, the US Navy and many of the world’s Navy’s were still focused on projecting power through the building and utilization of battleships and other supporting ships that supported them. Coal was still king in 1906 and the Navy still possessed a number of sailing ships that were modified with some steam systems but still made largely of wood.

The very first US Navy submarine of the modern age was purchased in 1900 so it was still going through its birth pangs. Small, uncomfortable and limited in its operating scope, the Navy probably still saw the submarine in the same jaundiced eye it viewed air ships. They were a distraction that syphoned money away from the real Navy and of limited use in the doctrines of the day.

The “Old Navy”

The book I discovered today was written from the perspective of an enlisted sailor named Thomas Beyer. The first edition was published in 1906 and he paid for it to be published by himself. Later editions were published by the Navy but his attempt to show life as a sailor was a very unique view of the Navy of his day.

Some of the old traditions of the Navy were surely lost in the subsequent wars and periods of expansion and contraction of the fleet. This book captures a snap shot look at what it would have been like to live and travel with the fleet as it grew under Theodore Roosevelt’s guiding hand.

“The American battleship in commission as seen by an enlisted man, also many man-o’-war yarns.” Pub. By the author. Beyer, Thomas, 1906

The entire contents of this book concern the Navy.

I, the author, am an enlisted man. This preface is not to make excuses for my book; the work speaks for itself. Many sailors keep a log in which all important events are recorded. Were it not for the log which I have kept, I would undoubtedly have been unable to write this book, since much of the contents were derived from this record. My main object is to furnish the general public with as much information about the Navy as possible, and by having a plain education it has caused me to write the contents in a style of my own, but the book, however, contains the material. Although the book is entitled “The American Battleship in Commission,” it does not signify that the contents pertain only to battleships. It has taken me two years of steady work to complete this book. I am writing about the Navy from an enlisted man’s point of view, and not in a single instance have I intentionally misrepresented the service in any particular. What I have written represents the actual conditions as I have found them to be.

Thomas goes into great detail on describing the parts of the battleship, the men who were assigned to various duties on board and travel around the ports that the fleet visited. In 1906, many of the countries that would later grow into allies and opponents were still quite primitive by today’s standards. The description of Japan and Guam certainly hit home to me as I was able to imagine the streets and people that unfolded before their eyes as they went on liberty.

For most of the boys that joined, the Navy offered them a chance for substantial amount of pay. In exchange for the arduous duties, many of them would be paid in amounts that were very generous for the day. Advancements were difficult but still achievable. A man with limited formal education could rise to the rank of Chief Petty Officer and earn as much as $75.00 a month in 1906. Lower rates were given lower pay but even the lowest seaman was probably earning more cash than the average farmer of the same period.

“In regard to the benefits that an enlisted man derives from service, there are a great many. A bluejacket is well taken care of, and, best of all, he is well paid. The opportunities for advancement in the Navy are far greater to-day than at any previous time.

Recently the rates of several different new petty officers have been created, and more will be added from time to time. These new rates, with the old ones, have promoted a great many of the crew to the rank of petty officers. The initial pay of a petty officer varies from thirty to seventy dollars a month. This, however, does not include his extra pay, such as gun-pointer, continuous service benefits, etc.

A large number of new battleships and cruisers are being rapidly completed and commissioned. The majority of these ships carry a complement of over eight hundred men, and there are a great many openings for advancement. When a member of the crew is rated a petty officer more work is not expected of him because his pay has been increased. He is rated a petty officer for the fact that he has acquired sufficient knowledge to enable him to command a more responsible position. As a general rule, the higher an enlisted man advances the less manual labor he is required to perform. A petty officer, however, is clothed with considerable authority, and many responsible duties are assigned him. Naval life is very congenial to the enlisted man, and he gains a vast fund of knowledge and experience in his travels. Most important of all, however, he is well disciplined.”

Buried in the story about regular pay was a detailed breakdown of how a sailor could earn Extra Rates (pay). This is a copy of the chart that detailed exactly how much extra pay:

EXTRA RATES

There are many extra rates in the Navy which entitle the holder thereof to extra pay in addition to his regular monthly pay.

Rate Pay per month

Coxswain of Steam Launch $5.00

Messmen 5.00

Signal-man, first-class 3.00

Signal-man, second-class 2.00

Signal-man, third-class 1.00

Ship’s Tailor (large ships) 20.00

Men on submarine boat duty 5.00

Tailor’s Helper (large ships) 10.00

Heavy Gun-pointers, first-class 10.00

Heavy Gun-pointers, second-class 6.00

Intermediate Gun-pointers, first-class 8.00

Intermediate Gun-pointers, second-class 4.00

Secondary Gun-pointers, first-class 4.00

Secondary Gun-pointers, second-class 2.00

Men detailed for submarine boat duty receive five dollars a month extra; also one dollar a day additional thereto when submerged.

The Dollar Bet

To show the way the Navy viewed the submariners of the day, look at the chart again. Submariners were paid less than Tailors helpers on a large ship. Apparently getting stuck with a needle was considered more hazardous than serving on a submarine. To be fair, the extra dollar a day for each day submerged probably inflated the paycheck of the aver submariner. But considering how many of the early boats went down and never came back up, it was like making a bet each time the hatch closed with a dollar being the winning wager.

Theodore Roosevelt was the main person responsible for submarine pay. That is probably why I still celebrate his birthday every year. He was also one of the few American Presidents that ever rode a submarine until modern times which gave him a sense of the possibilities for these little craft.

Note: By 1913, the Paymaster received some additional instructions

A landsman’s log, by Robert W. Neeser; with an introduction by Rear Admiral Charles J. Badger. New Haven, Yale university press; 1913 records that there were some limits on how much a Submariner could actually earn.

Service on Submarines. All enlisted men of the Navy shall receive $5 per month in addition to their pay while serving on board of submarine vessels of the Navy. Besides the $5 per month extra pay allowed them for submarine service, enlisted men serving with submarine torpedo boats, and having been reported by the commanding officers to the Navy Department as qualified for submarine torpedo boat work, shall receive $1 additional pay for each day during any part of which they shall have been submerged in a submarine torpedo boat while underway. Provided, however, That such further additional pay shall not exceed $15 in any one calendar month.

A dollar doesn’t seem like much these days. Of course it was worth much more back then. But in comparison, for my first two tours on boats in the 1970’s, we earned an extra fifty five dollars a month. If you break that down to a 365 day year, that is about $1.81 per day. All of that to ride a boat that was built by the lowest bidder (as submarines always have been).  It did increase significantly in the 1980’s and I was glad to have my sub pay for the remaining part of my career. But the exchange still seems to be a bit one sided even today compared to what could happen to the boat.

In time, the use of the submarine expanded as the technology improved. In today’s modern Navy, a submarine is capable of performing feats that even Jules Verne would have been surprised by. The nuclear powered boats are capable of staying submerged for months at a time and the only limits seem to be the supply of food and the endurance of the crew. I wonder what it would be like to be able to bring one of the early boat sailors into the future for a ride on a modern boat. I can only imagine their reactions as the boat advanced to flank speed silently flying in the deep recesses of the ocean.

Then again, I wonder if some young submariner will someday wonder that about my generation.

Mister Mac

 

By God’s Help and Teamwork – The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal November 1942 Reply

Thanksgiving Weekend 1942 – Washington DC

The headlines on the front page of the Washington Evening Star on November 28th, 1942 were focused on the recent events in the Battle of Tunis in Northern Africa. Thanksgiving was just completed and the Navy football Team was lauded for a surprise win over Army in the annual traditional game. Mrs. Tom Girdler of Cleveland was granted a divorce in Reno Nevada from her husband who was a Cleveland Steel Manufacturer (Republic Steel) and manufacturer of airplanes in San Diego for the war effort. (buried later in the paper on page A-11 was the announcement of his nuptials to his 36 year old secretary on the same day).

But the interesting story was buried on page A11. Eugene Burns (associated Press War Correspondent) was finally able to file his reports on a battle that had happened between the dates of November 12-15.

In recent conflicts, the American people have been treated to nearly instant reports from the press about the actions of our armed forces. Almost as soon as the missile leaves the tubes of a submerged submarine, reports are made available to the public. Live shots from the shock and awe campaign in Iraq were spread all over the globe with the accompanying sirens of the Iraqi air raid system as a backdrop.

But things were different in November of 1942 and throughout most of the Second World War. Restrictions on information were considered necessary so that the enemy could not gain any advantage from having too much information. The full report from Pearl Harbor’s disaster was not even released until the following year. While rumors of the extent of the damage had already been shared by returning servicemen and civilians who fled the island, official confirmation was rare and sketchy.

So it is no surprise that the Navy and the press would be reluctant to share the complete story of what was later known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

The battle that raged from November 12th to the 15th was both heroic and horrific. The stunning losses would not be revealed for quite some time after the battle but the losses in men and ships on both sides had consequences that changed the course of the war. Combined with the sacrifices of Marines and Army troops on the straggled little island of Guadalcanal, the road to Tokyo took a decidedly sharp turn on the final day of the battle.

To read the story in the Washington Star, however, you would have a sense of the battle but little detail of any use.

From the beginning of the battle to the end, the United States would lose more ships and Navy men than in any battle of its kind to date. It would also be one of the most significant surface actions ever recorded in US Navy history. But at a tremendous cost. 

Washington Evening star. [volume], November 28, 1942, Page A-11, Image 13

Jap Task Force Demolished Off Guadalcanal By ‘God’s Help’ and Teamwork of All Hands
Here are three delayed dispatches from Eugene Burns, Associated Press correspondent, giving an eyewitness account of the naval battle at Guadalcanal November 12 to 15.

By EUGENE BURNS,
Associated Press War Correspondent. WITH THE UNITED STATES PACIFIC FLEET, Nov. 16 (Delayed).

We have been slaying the Japs for the last four days. We left some 20,000 of their best pioneer troops swimming in the ocean. We sent tens of thousands of tons of their irreplaceable forced steel into the Jap sinkhole off Guadalcanal. As we steam away from that wreckage the “well done” from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet, is still ringing over our loudspeaker system.

This we know: The entire Jap transport fleet of 12 vessels was hopelessly destroyed.

A Jap battleship was badly damaged and perhaps sunk by cruiser gunfire, and then seven torpedoes and several heavy bomb hits. Five Jap cruisers were badly damaged and perhaps sunk by shellfire and heavy bomb hits and torpedoes. Many Jap destroyers were hit and sunk. A Jap air group was knocked from the sky. Some of our heavy ships have yet to send in their bag. Indications are that it will be considerable.

(A Navy communique November 16 describing this action listed the Japanese losses as one battleship sunk, three heavy cruisers sunk, two light cruisers sunk, five destroyers sunk, eight transports sunk, one battleship damaged, six destroyers damaged and four cargo transports destroyed.)

The smashing victory, the biggest since Midway, took a Navy pilot to fly beyond the safe distance of his gasoline supply to locate the Jap transport fleet and to send back a more accurate disposition of the enemy than yet achieved in the Pacific war.

San Francisco Waded in.

It took the cruiser San Francisco, already damaged by a flaming crash-diving plane, to wade in and polish off a Jap destroyer, explode a Jap cruiser, and then slug it out with a Jap battleship of the Kongo class—8-inch batteries against 14 or 16 inchers at a range of 2.000 yards.

It took the Army’s B-17s and fighter planes to keep the Jap fleet harassed, to knock down their fighters, to soften the opposition, to demoralize the Jap air force and to give our attacking force much-needed protection. It took an Army transport with 6-inch guns to get into the fight. It took men in compartments deep below the water line to man their battle stations while relief crews stood by hour after long hour, until night came, ready to replace instantly worn out crews.

It took the marines, who had been bombed and shelled and harried for four months and who had talked of home and had cherished pocketbook pictures of loved ones and who had been sick with dysentery and joked about pulling their belts up tighter to stand off the Jap and to hold Henderson Field so that air superiority never was lost.

Battle Took God’s Help.

It took God’s help. The seamen will be the quickest to acknowledge it. Our striking forces moved in on the Jap with everything but numbers in our favor. The weather  was right. The disposition of the Jap was right. The disposition of our forces, gathered from thousands of miles, was right.

To fill out the background of the picture: For four months the Jap had perfected his plans for this knockout blow to keep this Tokio Guadalcanal air express, via Jap mandated and occupied islands, intact. His schedule was upset the dawn of August 7, when the biggest United States naval force ever assembled in the Pacific landed marines who proved a five-to-one match with the jungle-fighting Japs.

He then used Rabaul as a terminal to his hop, skip and jump route from Tokio by making his airpower available to the tips of his conquest. Because his planes from Rabaul could not gain supremacy of the air over Guadalcanal, he projected a terminal to Buin, Faisl, Rekata Bay, Gizo and Buka. The Jap used everything in the book to wipe out American forces from their projected Guadalcanal base. Submarines shelled positions, transports attempted and made landings. Small patrol boats, landing barges, destroyers, cruisers were used to bring in overwhelming numbers of Japs. They hacked at the marines. United States Army forces. Coast Guardsmen, day in and day out, night in and night out.

Camouflaged Invasion Barges.

At one time they had 50 invasion barges camouflaged with trees and brush on their way to Guadalcanal. Two young Navy carrier pilots hit that group and strafed it and sent it back to its base, after which the marine pilots joined with the Navy pilots to wipe it out. The Jap then prepared for a giant frontal assault to overcome any opposition and to take the field at all costs and to drive American forces into the sea.

On October 25 the Japs had what seemed overwhelming power massed to shell the island with battleships, to knock it out with a carrier-based airplanes, and to occupy it with a strong transport force.

On October 26 an American task force sought out the enemy ships in his own submarine filled waters northeast of Santa Cruz and although outclassed 2-to-l engaged him. We lost a carrier and a destroyer. The Japs suffered damage
to one carrier, perhaps the loss of a second and damage to several heavy
warships. More important, perhaps, the Japs had four air groups consisting of 167 to 177 planes chewed up. A carrier attacked by 84 planes knocked down 34.

Reorganized Striking Force

Without air protection the Japs retired and quickly reorganized a surface striking force to move into the Solomons in sufficient numbers for a frontal assault supported by heavy night bombardment by battleships. heavy cruisers and destroyers.

It was an A, B, C maneuver. The battleships, cruisers and destroyers would lie out 250 miles out of reach of our aircraft and protected by carriers farther back. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon they would begin steaming in at high speed for their night shelling.

On the afternoon of November 12, 25 Jap torpedo planes and eight fighters struck at our cruisers screening force and transports at Guadalcanal. One of 30 which were shot down crash-dived on the cruiser San Francisco as announced
by a Navy communique.

That night off Guadalcanal the Japs sent in their mighty sweeping force. They were engaged by what seemed a puny screening force of American cruisers and destroyers.

The hopelessly outmatched American force waded in. Typical of that night’s action was the work of the already damaged cruiser San Francisco. While blowing up a Jap cruiser, she engaged a destroyer on the side and sank it. Then she closed in on a Jap battleship of the Kongo class, called the Pagoda by our flyers because of its superstructure, and hit it 18 times at 3,000 yards. Other Jap units also were hit.

Dead in Water.

The Japanese battleship was observed next morning dead in the water. She got under way at seven knots when seven torpedoes were rammed through her hull and some heavy bombs penetrated her deck. The San Francisco received no vital damage.

This determined action of our staunch little cruiser force and destroyers prevented any shelling of Henderson Field that night, thus enabling aircraft to operate from it to maintain local air superiority.

The next morning, Friday, November 13, two hours’ before day break, Lt. (j. g.) Martin D. Carmody, 25, San Jose, Calif., took off on search and found the Japanese transports by flying beyond his assigned area despite the fact that this endangered his return by lowering his fuel supply. After making his report—described by Lt. Hubert B Harden, Iowa Falls, Iowa, air operations officer, as the most accurate of any aerial report of the war in the Pacific—he flew his Douglas Dauntless back to the Japanese convoy and his bomb was a near miss off the stern of one transport. His group attacked other units, causing heavy damage to two heavy cruisers, perhaps sinking one of them. It was a raging furnace when the flyers left.

Led Flyers for Kill

Lt. Carmody returned to his carrier long overdue and later led attacking bombers and strafers in for the kill. Planes raked the transports with a murderous fire from guns capable of driving projectiles through thick steel plate. Discharged from screaming dive bombers the machine gun bullets can sometimes penetrate several decks and even pass out through the hull of a transport.

After the first group finished knocking out the escort opposition a pilot going in inquired of a returning pilot, “Did you leave any opposition?” “A little but nothing to worry about.” “There isn’t any task force there anymore. Just some transports. I’d say about five good ones left,” it was reported by one of the pilots of the second group which participated. A third attack group was told “I’d suggest you attack the good ones and dump ’em all. Just pick out any one and go to it.”

Carrier Strength Expended

Apparently the carrier strength of the Japanese had been expended the day before when 33 planes attacked our cruiser screening force and as they were engaged in protecting transports. The carriers during this last action apparently had pulled out and were streaking for safety.

On the afternoon of the 14th Lt. Macgregor Kilpatrick. 26, of Southampton. N. Y. “found and downed” a second Kawanishi which sighted our attack force. His wingman. Ensign William K. Blair. 26, of Toledo, said that it took about 40 shots apiece to drop the four-motored job flaming into the water.

During the night of the 14th one Japanese transport and three cargo vessels succeeded in getting to Guadalcanal attempting to land about 10 miles from the American Henderson field positions. These four ships were met with gunfire. A heavily damaged American cruiser limped out of port and completed the utter devastation of the Japanese transports. That night to complete the carnage several of our heaviest units moved into Guadalcanal and gave the Japanese a taste of heavy caliber gunfire. Marines who watched the engagement off Guadalcanal said that today’s firing was the heaviest they had heard.

Planes’ Attack on Battleship Left Only Oil Slick


WITH THE UNITED STATES FLEET IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 17 (Delayed) (A5).

Lt. Albert P. Coffin submitted the first report of how one small squadron of torpedo plane pilots torpedoed a Kongo-class Japanese battleship, two cruisers and four transports.

Lt. Coffin, who was graduated from Annapolis in 1934, was leading his flight through some protective clouds when he saw the enemy battleship, accompanied by a cruiser and four destroyers, steaming slowly past Savo Island, off the northwest coast of Guadalcanal. It was the morning of Friday, the 13th. (He was to learn later that the battleship had been hit earlier that morning by a torpedo from a Marine Corps plane.)
Lt. Coffin’s squadron climbed for a torpedoing position. The planes then dived and swooped down from opposite sides for their prize. Columns of water funneled into the air as the Americans’ torpedoes struck the ship’s vitals. The battleship stopped dead in the water.

This action occurred when the battleship was only about 20 minutes from a position to shell Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, where American Marines and Army troops were expecting a Japanese offensive to recapture the island.

May Have Saved Day.

By stopping this battleship short of its objective, Lt. Coffin and his fellow flyers may have saved the day for the Americans in their sea victory over the Japanese fleet during the November 12-15 fight. Navy officers said that if the battleship had succeeded in shelling Henderson Field, it might have been Impossible for our planes to use the field for takeoffs to help the surface ships during the fight.

Lt. Coffin’s torpedo squadron scored more hits on the battleship and, when last seen that evening, the ship’s stern was afire and men were abandoning the vessel. The next morning, the scene was marked only by an oil slick 2 miles in

diameter.
That was November 14. That day more Japs ships were intercepted by the squadron which torpedoed two cruisers, leaving one of the Mogami class, burning fiercely. The planes also set upon transports, making life most unpleasant for perhaps a division of 15,000 amphibious troops bound for an attack on Guadalcanal.

Turned to Landed Troops.

The flyers then turned their attention to troops and equipment that had been landed on Guadalcanal from four transports which had managed to escape the fire of American planes and surface ships.

Many bombs were dropped on these troops, Lt. Coffin said. During the entire action, every plane in Lt. Coffin’s squadron received at least one anti-aircraft hit, but not one man was injured. Lt. Coffin gave credit for his squadron’s performance to Marine Corps fighter pilots who “gave my planes splendid fighter protection which was beautifully coordinated.”

Log of Action.

“Those marines don’t know fear,” Lt. Coffin declared. “If one of them sees something he’ll go up and take a poke at it regardless.” The log of the attacks gives a picture of what Lt. Coffin’s pilot, with marine fighter protection, did during the battle:

November 13 – first attack. Fish (torpedo) on port side forward and on starboard side amidships. About 13 Zeros overhead. Moderate antiaircraft fire. Second attack. Hits on starboard side of the battleship and on her port bow. At this time the Kongo vessel was about 10 miles north of Savo Island and heading north at about two knots.

November 14—Third attack consisted of intercepting Japs’ ships 170 miles away. Found five cruisers and four destroyers. Lead cruiser of Mogami class. Hits on right flank starboard side. Hit and one near miss and direct bomb hits on second cruiser. Leading Mogami – class cruiser observed burning fiercely and second cruiser observed smoking. Fourth attack against Jap transports some 125 miles distant. Two undamaged transports hit with torpedo amidships. Six Zero fighters gave opposition. Thousands of Japs seen jumping overboard. Fifth attack diving on two transports dead in the water. Hit and near miss scored on each. The hit broke one transport in half.

November 15.—Raids made on four transports which had been aground west of Point Cruz. Direct bomb hits scored and ships burning fiercely. Remnants of Japs estimated at three divisions amphibious troops bombed and received Molotov baskets (bomb clusters) with our compliments

Opening Battleship Salvos Made Direct Hits on Japs

ABOARD A UNITED STATES BATTLESHIP IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC, Nov. 18 (Delayed).

Opening salvos of two United States battleships scored direct hits on the surprised Japanese fleet from a distance of about 8 miles in the historic naval battle off Savo Island the night of November 14-15.

The action was related today by the communications officer on “unidentified ship” which participates in the mighty blow which, sank one Jap battleship or heavy cruiser, three heavy cruisers and at least two Jap destroyers in addition to several ships damaged. Here is his story:

“On the morning of the 14th we received reports of heavy Jap bombardment of Guadalcanal. Our first job was to get there. We were too late. That day we milled out of sight of the Japs. We received news that two large groups of Jap transports with escorts were on the way to Guadalcanal. One group consisted of two battleships, one heavy cruiser, two light cruisers and about six destroyers.

‘‘Engage and Destroy.”

‘‘Orders were given to us “engage and destroy Jap transports which were crippled by air attacks during the day.’ “About 6 p.m. we made our first definite change of course to Savo Island. At sunset, about 7:46 p.m., we went into battle stations. An announcement of our task and known disposition if the enemy was made to the men in keeping with our normal policy of keeping our men intelligently informed.

When that news was delivered the men were asked ‘Men, what is your answer?’ Every man responded ‘Yea!’
A captain or Marines said over the speaker system, ‘the Marines are ready to give them hell any time.’
“Our best record of going into general quarters, was bettered by one and one-half minutes. The men were out to break records. This was the chance we wanted.

“Shortly after 9 o’clock we saw fires which appeared to be explosions to the northwest, about 30 to 40 miles west of the Russell Islands. It is my belief that the Japs were either firing upon their own units or that they were dispatching their own damaged ships to the ocean floor.

Tension on Ships Increased.

“As we approached Savo Island the tension of our ships increased. Our men began seeing things that were not there. Innumerable false reports were received. Rocks looked like ships and shadows like submarines. The men were straining to get a Jap target. “As we came around at 11:15 p.m. we passed over the spot where the cruisers Astoria, Vincennes and Quincy had been sunk August 9.

This word was passed to all hands. Our men were even more determined to get the “There was a quarter moon, the sky was overcast about 60 to 70 per cent. The water was nice and smooth, perfectly calm. “At 12:50 a.m. I sighted what first suspected to be the enemy. My eyesight is unusually good at night. “Right after that others saw three ships. “We received orders, ‘Commence firing when ready.”

Direct Hit on First Salvo

“Our first ship’s first salvo set her target on fire. It was a direct hit. “Within 15 to 20 seconds our target was lined up. We also got a hit on our first salvo. I could see fires start. “The Jap fire started after we got off three salvos. I counted at least six and possibly eight Jap ships returning the fire.

“After firing several minutes, our ships saw two large explosions near Savo Island and silhouetted against them were two large ships, either heavy cruisers or battleships, about 12.000 to 14,000 yards away.

“This engagement lasted about 10 minutes, I would Judge. It was furious. Then we had about a 5 minute lull. During the lull three Jap ships were reported on our starboard beam and suddenly the Japs illuminated us with searchlights. They were right on us. Their range was about 5.500 yards.

One of our ships started firing almost as soon as the Jap searchlights showed up.

Jap Searchlights Went Out.

“Our salvo was still in the air en route to the Jap ship when the Jap searchlight on the leading ship went out.

“The Japs did not begin firing until 20 seconds after their illumination. This is slow.

“The leading Jap ship was enveloped in smoke. It billowed up in great volumes. I am of the opinion that it was a battleship because it had four searchlights on it.

“Our battery concentrated on the second Jap vessel, and her search lights were knocked out. Smoke issued from her also. I believe she was a light cruiser.

“The enemy ceased firing. We fired several more salvos at her in the general direction of the smoke, but the engagement was finished. We ceased firing at 1:02 a.m., the engagement including a five-minute comparative lull lasting 44 minutes.

Jap Fire Opened Safe.

“During the illumination of the second engagement, they hit us. The hits sounded like big chunks of hail dropping on a tin roof. “We had a useless safe aboard which we could not open because the combination was lost. The Japs opened it for us with an 8-incher.

“The supposition that we caught the enemy by surprise I believe is correct.

“Our losses were about 2 per cent of our crew killed and 3 per cent Injured.

“Our bag was one possible battleship or heavy cruiser; three heavy cruisers; at least two destroyers.

“The enemy knows we hit him well.”

 

The actual battle was much more remarkable in its dramatic fury and devastation on both sides

The Task Force that was employed by the American on the morning of Friday the 13th was badly mauled. Admiral and seaman both shared the crushing blows from the Japanese guns and torpedoes.

In the 34-minute Cruiser Night Action of 12-13 November, one of the most furious sea battles ever fought, our ship losses admittedly were large. The enemy, however, suffered more severely, and his bombardment of Guadalcanal was frustrated with results which became impressively apparent during the next two days. United States losses were as follows:

Sunk                                                 Damaged

CA      0                                                          2 (Portland, San Francisco)

CL      0                                                         1 (Helena)

CLAA 2 (Atlanta, Juneau)                                     0

DD 4 (Barton, Cushing, Laffey, Monssen) 3 (Aaron Ward, O’Bannon, Sterett)

Casualties on both sides were heavy, with the American force having the serious misfortune to lose both its commander, Admiral Callaghan, and its second in command, Admiral Scott.

In the opening salvos, Both Admiral Scott and Callaghan were killed along with MOH awardee Cassin Young and many others on the bridge of the USS San Francisco. The Atlanta was sunk in a blaze of gunfire and the Juneau infamously was sent to the deeps by a Japanese submarine’s torpedo taking along with her the five Sullivan Brothers.

Tenacity is such a mild word compared to what they showed.

It is probably just as well that the country did not have a better idea of how significant the victory in the waters off of Guadalcanal were or how costly. In the end, it was the sheer tenacity of the American Naval fighters that carried the day. It was the spirit of never giving up that the Marines and Army troops on the little island displayed that proved that the Japs could be stopped and their fortunes reversed. These men were giants.

“The fight for this small corner of the south Pacific had cost the Allied navies 24 destroyers and larger warships totaling 126,240 tons, which included two fleet carriers and six heavy cruisers. The Japanese lost two battleships among a total of 24, totaling 134,839 tons. While naval losses were relatively even in terms of tonnage, on the ground Japan lost a great deal more men compared to their American opponents. Japanese lost 25,000 men in action or to starvation and disease out of 60,000 deployed; meanwhile, the Americans had only lost 1,600. Far greater numbers were lost on the seas, but neither side ever counted how many sailors and naval officers were lost during the campaign. Before this campaign, Guadalcanal was an out-of-way tropical jungle island that hardly any had heard of. After, the battles on and near Guadalcanal would come to be known as among the bloodiest in the war across Pacific. “For us who were there,” said Morison, “… Guadalcanal is not a name but an emotion, recalling desperate fights in the air, furious night naval battles, frantic work at supply or construction, savage fighting in the sodden jungle, nights broken by screaming bombs and deafening explosions of naval shells.”

General Alexander Vandegrift, the commander of the troops on Guadalcanal, paid tribute to the sailors who fought the battle:

We believe the enemy has undoubtedly suffered a crushing defeat. We thank Admiral Kinkaid for his intervention yesterday. We thank Lee for his sturdy effort last night. Our own aircraft has been grand in its relentless hammering of the foe. All those efforts are appreciated but our greatest homage goes to Callaghan, Scott and their men who with magnificent courage against seemingly hopeless odds drove back the first hostile attack and paved the way for the success to follow. To them the men of Cactus lift their battered helmets in deepest admiration.

Mister Mac

 

The unluckiest day Reply

Sailors by and large are a very superstitious lot.

The things that set a sailing man or woman on edge are as ancient as the sea itself. I am not sure if it is the dangers they know they will face once they are divorced from the shore or just a strong feeling that fate will reach out and touch them in return for all they did on their last liberty.

One of the oldest traditions that causes sailors to be concerned is setting sail on a Friday. In a few old books (including Lovette’s Naval Customs and Traditions) this is alluded to a number of times. It’s just bad luck to sail on a Friday. As someone who spent more than a few weeks at sea, I can assure you that being underway on any Friday had its down side but on a rare occasion, you would add weight to the day when it happened to fall on the 13th day of the month.

From Legends and superstitions of the sea and of sailors. Bassett, Fletcher (1885):

Ancient Irish chronicles record that a certain king was not allowed to sail on a marauding expedition on Tuesday, or to go in a ship the Monday after Bealtaine (May-day).

Wednesday was consecrated to Odin, who, as Hnickar, was the Northern mariner’s chief deity. Hence it was a lucky day to undertake a voyage. And so with Thursday, which was also dedicated to a favorite deity (Thor) with the Northern warlike mariner.

Saturday seems also to have generally borne a good character. But we are told in an old English work,* ” Certayne craftsmen will nocht begin their worke on Satterday; certain schipmen or mariniers will not begin to sail on the Satterday — quhilk is plane superstition.”

But Friday is of all days the one proverbially unlucky for sailors. Its bad character on shore is well known, and we should not wonder that it also obtained such at sea.

As Marryat says of one of his heroes: “His thoughts naturally reverted to the other point, in which seafaring men are equally bigoted, the disastrous consequences of sailing on a Friday; the origin of which superstition can easily be traced to early Catholicism, when, out of respect for the day of universal redemption, they were directed by their pastors to await the ‘morrow’s sun.’ ”

Southey says, “Many a ship has lost the tide which might have led to fortune, because the captain and crew thought it unlucky to sail on Friday.”

The earliest account of this superstition that I find is in the “Itinerary” of Fynes Moryson (1553), who, speaking of the king of Poland at Dantzig, says: “The next day the king had a good wind, but before this, the king and the queen, whilst sometimes they thought Monday, sometimes Friday, to be unlucky days, had lost many fair winds.”

Cooper says of a certain hero: “As for sailing on Friday, that was out of the question. No one did that in 1798, who could help it.” Brand tells that a London merchant said, in 1790, that no one would begin any business or voyage on Friday.

Thatcher writes, in 1821: “Seldom would a seaman then sail on Friday.” And Cheever, in 1827: “He (the sailor) will never go to sea on Friday, if he can help it.”

0lmstead also writes, in 1841: “There has been a singular superstition prevalent among seamen about sailing on Friday; and in former times, to sail on this day would have been regarded as a violation of the mysterious character of the day, which would be visited with disaster upon the offender. Even now, it is not entirely abandoned; so if a voyage, commenced on Friday, happens to be unfortunate, all the ill luck of the voyage is ascribed to having sailed on that day. An intelligent shipmaster told me that, although he had no faith in this superstition, yet so firmly were sailors formerly impressed with superstitious notions respecting the day, that, until within a few years, he should never have ventured to sail on a Friday, for the men would be appalled by dangers which they would think light of on common occasions.”

For the United States Navy, one of the worst Friday the 13th’s occurred on November 13th, 1942.

Pearl Harbor’s horrendous attack was less than a year before that fateful day. The battleships that were meant to repel any Japanese incursion into the Pacific were either laying on the floor of the harbor or in various stages of repair. The Battle for Guadalcanal had been raging since August and a superior Japanese surface fleet was wreaking havoc on the Marines trying to defend a tenuous position on this little island in the Solomons.

The US Navy could muster some cruisers and destroyers but the new battleships were still being held in reserve for a later attack. On November 12th, a battle group under Admiral “Fighting Dan” Callaghan on the USS San Francisco came to the defense of the battle weary Marines. They had accompanied supply ships and reports reached them of a superior Japanese fleet coming down the slot that would try and pound the airfield into the Stone Age.

Callaghan hastily prepared his forces to try and counter attack the incoming force of surface ships. What he was unaware of at the tie was the size and scope of the opposing forces. The Japanese Commander was bringing the Battleships Hiei and Kirishima along with her escort of a cruiser and destroyers to bombard the island in a night attack.

A bad way to begin

The day before the main battle did not start out well for the San Francisco. The Japanese air forces were still within range and they saw an opportunity to sink the American supply ships and weaken the garrison. The cruisers and destroyers put up a brave fight but one of the Japanese planes was able to hit the San Francisco causing damage and many deaths. Her new Captain, Cassin Young had only been on board for a few days and was already receiving his baptism of fire. Young had been awarded the Medal of Honor after the Pearl Harbor attack but had to feel the weight of a thousand anchors as he helped his ship battle the fires and get back into line for a night action that was still to come.

As nightfall on the 12th arrives, there are storms north of the island in which the approaching Japanese fleet is hidden. Callaghan initially has no idea of the size and makeup of the forces he will oppose. It probably didn’t matter. He was a fighting Admiral and he was going to use his forces in whatever way he could to help the Marines.

After midnight on the 13th, the two forces converge. Utter chaos ensues. As one officer would later record, it was like a ballroom brawl with the lights turned off.

Before the battle is over, the American force is bloodied but not completely beaten.

Admiral Callaghan and Captain Cassin Young, among many others on the bridge of the San Francisco are killed by the blasts from Hiei’s fourteen inch guns.

The battle proper only lasted around twenty minutes with sporadic fighting occurring well into the daylight hours.

At 1101, Commander Yokota Minoru’s submarine I-26 fires three torpedoes at retiring San Francisco. They miss, but one continues on and narrowly misses Helena. Another continues on and hits JUNEAU port side amidships near where she was hit the previous night. A minute later, a magazine explosion blows Juneau in half. She sinks in about 20 seconds.

On board the Juneau are the Five Fighting Sullivan Brothers. None would survive the sinking.

The Japanese retired that night and the Marines got a precious reprieve. For them, Friday the 13th ended up being one of the luckiest days they would ever know. The Naval Battle continued on for a few more days and the Japanese would end up losing their two battleships. That battle marked the turning point in the overall campaign and even though the Japs fought on tenaciously, they were never again able to mount a serious attack that could topple the forward progress of the allies through the Pacific.

What happened to the Sullivan’s?

Eight days after the sinking, ten survivors were found by a PBY Catalina search aircraft and retrieved from the water. The survivors reported that Frank, Joe and Matt died instantly, Al drowned the next day, and George survived for four or five days, before suffering from delirium as a result of hypernatremia (though some sources describe him being “driven insane with grief” at the loss of his brothers); he went over the side of the raft he occupied. He was never seen or heard from again.

Security required that the Navy not reveal the loss of Juneau or the other ships so as not to provide information to the enemy. Letters from the Sullivan sons stopped arriving at the home and the parents grew worried, which prompted Alleta Sullivan to write to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in January 1943, citing rumors that survivors of the task force claimed that all five brothers were killed in action.

This letter was answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 13, 1943, who acknowledged that the Sullivan’s were missing in action, but by then the parents were already informed of their fate, having learned of their deaths on January 12. That morning, the boys’ father, Tom, was preparing for work when three men in uniform – a lieutenant commander, a doctor and a chief petty officer – approached his door. “I have some news for you about your boys,” the naval officer said. “Which one?” asked Tom. “I’m sorry,” the officer replied. “All five.”

After this unlucky day, the Navy adapted a policy where brothers were no longer able to sail together. It remained in effect for many years.

USS San Francisco SSN 711

When I reported on board the USS San Francisco (a nuclear fast attack submarine) she was in the Newport News Shipyard being constructed. My brother Tom was a Machinist Mate on board a destroyer that was stationed in nearby Norfolk Virginia. The 711 boat was my third submarine and I had learned to love the submarine life. After a number of conversations, Tom finally volunteered for sub duty and upon completion he was assigned to the boat with me.

My Mom, who was old enough to remember the Sullivan Brothers incident, was a bit concerned. But we convinced her that being together on the same boat we would be able to keep an eye on each other. I have had many men who were qualified that I still call Brother, but this one was both a submariner and a Brother. We had a lot of great adventures together and at one point the 711 boat had four sets of brothers on board.

We are all either retired or closing out our working lives but I can assure you that the bond will never be broken.

It was an honor to serve on board a submarine named after the famous USS San Francisco that was the centerpiece of that fateful action. While it was the unluckiest day for them, it helped to shape the fortunes of the country on its way to Tokyo Harbor in 1945. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten. I think of them every time I hear the Navy Hymn.

Eternal Father, strong to save…

Special Note: I am putting the finishing touches on my book this week that tries to capture the Amazing Life of Captain Cassin Young. I will be telling you more about that in the coming weeks.

Mister Mac

What’s it like to live on a submarine? 9

Arguably one of the most asked questions most Submariners hear once they reveal their sordid past: What’s it like living on a submarine?

Every generation probably has their own version of life on board.

A Diesel Boat sailor would certainly have a very detailed description of what is was like to never be able to shower and the cramped spaces of a boat that was crammed with machinery and very little space for people and comfort.

Later submarines would be larger to accommodate the large weapons and increased nuclear power plants that drove them to greater depths and faster sustained speeds than their older ancestors could dream of.

But in the end, you are living on a craft that was designed by engineers and in most cases built by the lowest bidder. You separate yourself from the surface world for long periods of time and sacrifice more than you are aware of at the time. Ask anyone who has served when they were younger and now deal with all manner of health issues.

So here is a brief capture that tells what it was like for some of us that road the boats:

What’s it like living on a Submarine? This pretty much sums it up!

For everyone that has ever asked me “what was it like living on a submarine”, here is the answer in terms everyone can understand. How to appreciate what it’s like to be deployed on a nuclear submarine.

1. Buy all the groceries and supplies you think you’ll need for 2 months, with the following exceptions: no milk, cereal, fruits, vegetables or alcohol. Take what you buy home and bring it one item at a time into the house. You may not keep any food in your cabinets or closets as these will be set aside to store spare parts. You may not use the refrigerator as this will be turned into a freezer. Any pre-made candies, cookies, or snacks must be kept in bed with you.

2. Lock the door, close the windows, draw the shades and tear out the phone.(Modern Update: No cell phones either)

3. Turn on the oven with the door open; turn the air conditioner all the way up. Setup enough fans so that the whole house is windy.

4. Replace all your lights with 100 watt bulbs and turn them all on.

5. You may sleep on any shelf you choose.

6. Whenever you are not asleep, your “bed” must be occupied by any garbage man you do not like.

7. You must wear the same clothes a week at a time. You may do laundry once a month. You must sleep with your dirty laundry in a bag in bed with you.

8. Every week on Saturday morning, you must go to the basement, crawl between the pipes and clean the same 10 foot by 10 foot area for four hours.

9. You may be in the shower for 10 minutes at longest, but you may not run the water for more than 60 seconds.

10. You have one week to study the instruction manuals for every appliance, utility and piece of equipment in your house. At the end of this week you must be able to quote any passage out of these from memory and pass a written exam. Until you can do this, you may not have access to TV or radio and you may not sleep for more than 3 hours at a time, with 9 hours awake between sleeping.

11. After this week, you must walk around the house for 6 hours and record every temperature, pressure, tank level, setting, and complete status of every piece of equipment in your house. You may not go to the bathroom or eat during this 6 hours. These 6 hour periods must start every 15 hours.

12. Once a week when you would otherwise be asleep, take your television completely apart and put it back together.

13. You may not go to the bathroom for one hour after you eat because during that time you have to clean it.

14. Each Monday through Friday morning whether you would normally be awake or not, you must pretend to start a fire in your house, put on a gas mask, and pretend to put the fire out. Wear the gas mask for at least one additional hour each time.

15. Each Monday through Friday afternoon whether you would normally be awake or not, you must study the same instruction manuals for 2 hours that you studied the first week.

16. Continue the above for 3 months even though you have only 2 months’ worth of food.

Behold the throne… the only place on board a submarine where you may expect a small modicum of privacy… unless of course a drill is called away

 

Reporters noted: “There is a typical submarine smell” Stories from the U 111 Archives Reply

This week was the annual Veterans Day remembrance in the United States and around the world. Of course, this year was the Centennial of the original celebration of Armistice Day when the land armies in Europe stopped fighting on 11-11 -1918 at 11:00 AM.

The Navy’s involved did not have the same cease fire. In a few days, I will write more about the surrender of the High Fleet which was nearly nine days later.

What is it like to live on a submarine?

Many of my submarine family celebrated this year with memories of their own times. It was great seeing the stories and pictures of their own and their families individual experiences. One of the cool things that popped up was an old list of things that might help you to understand what it was like to live on a nuclear submarine. I will include that as part of another post.

As I was reading the article below about the U 111, it occurred to me how much things have not changed much in 100 years. Well, to be honest, maybe they have a bit since the newer boats are rumored to have real showers and much better accommodations. And the crew get to entertain themselves with much fancier gear than even my generation could have imagined. But at the end of the day, one thing remains the same: you spend more than your share of time in an enclosed series of metal compartments under the ocean.

So with no further delay, here is one reporter’s impression of a “state of the art” German Undersea Boat in 1919.

The Bridgeport times and evening farmer. (Bridgeport, Conn.) 1918-1924, May 05, 1919, Image 9

LIVING IN A SUBMARINE OF HUN MAKE NOT ALL FUN

“If you would like to have a new experience suppose you do this:

Take a series of hat boxes and knock the bottom out and take the covers off. . Then Join them together until you have, say, a dozen in line. Smear the Interior with grease as thick as possible. Cover the walls with gages, pumps, little wheels and fill the centre spaces with machinery. In any odd corners place a few bunks.

Then crawl in, eat in one of the little compartments, and sleep in another and all the while have someone violently rock the Joined boxes.

If you do this you will have a fair Idea of the life led by the American crews which recently brought to America for the benefit of the Victory Liberty Loan Campaign five ex-German submarines, during the days of their passage across the ocean.

One of them will be exhibited in Bridgeport on May 10.

The lives of the officers and men aboard the vessels of the regular navy are so many days spent in paradise compared with the days of the crews aboard the five ex-Hun pirates. The men of the regular navy can have baths whenever they want then. Aboard the submarine there is no such thing as a bath, Huns not usually caring much for bathing, as is the custom among savage tribes.

So when the U 148 and the U 88 got to Sandy Hook the other day ahead of the U 97 and the UC 117 officers made haste to land and go to Fort Hancock where with one accord they demanded the bathtubs of the fort’s garrison.

“And I can tell you that that bath was the best of my life,” said Lieutenant-Commander Edward O’Keefe of U 148 in describing the voyage.

The U Boats numbered five when they set out with the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, the U 111 being the fifth. Each had a crew of approximately 27 men and three officers, all Lieutenant Commanders.

The largest of the U Boats Is the 117. She is 216 feet long with a beam of 22 feet and draws twelve feet and eight inches. She has a deep Interest for America, as she is believed to be the U Boat which made a raid off the American coast, attacking with true Hun chivalry a barge with woman and children aboard off the New England coast. She is a combined mine layer and cruiser having apparatus for laying mines and for discharging torpedoes.

The others are 190 feet long with a beam of 18 feet 10 inches and draw 11 feet and 4 inches of water when they are navigating on the surface.

The little fleet was manned for the trip across by men detailed from other ships and not of necessity familiar with submarines. Hence it was decided to make the voyage on the surface. The fleet set out, five U Boats and the submarine tender Bushnell from Harwich, England, on April 8. They kept together and reached the Azores on April 10. They remained together until within three days of New York when the U 97 cracked a piston and had no power as only one engine was running.’ .The sea was high and rough but the UC 97 signaled to the Bushnell that she would make repairs. She did so and no sooner were they completed and the boat able to proceed under her own power than a storm developed. The crews had to fight the seas night and day and it took the most careful navigation and handling of the boats to carry them through. Their low lying decks were constantly under water and only the conning tower high above the decks was dry. There were only two days of the latter part of the voyage that the crews could be on deck.

The U 111 and the U 117 reached port ahead of the others, having been separated during the storm. The U 148 and 88 followed, lying at Sandy Hook while the U C 97 with the Bushnell passed into the port of New York and eventually found their way to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The U 111 left for New England ahead of the arrival of the others and so four U boats were there together when the U 88 and 148 reached the Navy Yard.

In England, at the present time is the U 140 which has been assigned to the United States. She has no engines aboard and will not come to this country for some time. The other five were sent here at the request of Secretary Glass for the purpose of the Victory Loan Campaign. They will, however, be exhibited in American ports long after the Victory Loan Campaign closes.

New York will be especially interested in the U 148 as she is to be exhibited on this part of the seaboard and along the Hudson River. The U 88 goes to the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi and finally to the Pacific Coast for exhibition purposes while the U 117 will visit southern ports, stopping at Philadelphia on the way. The U C 97 will appear on the Great Lakes and visit all of the principal ports, spending considerable time in Chicago.

Reporters who visited the former Hun pirates at the Brooklyn Navy Yard the other day did not envy the crews their voyage. There is a typical submarine smell. It is a mingling of odors. Entrance to the craft is through hatches of iron which are securely fastened in place when the boat submerges. So the smell is retained. It is made up of oil smells, the smells from the batteries the machinery, the electrical apparatus, and the food which the crew get in a more or less canned shape. Practically the only cooking aboard a submarine is the heating of coffee. The typical submarine smell is a cross somewhere between the smell of a new Manhattan subway and that of a jail. Perhaps It partakes a little of the character of each. In any event it is not pleasant.

Students in efficiency and concentration would do well to visit a submarine. All of the operation is assembled in one of the little compartments in the centre of the craft In a room immediately under the conning tower with an opening in the floor of the conning tower connecting. All of the ship is in a series of compartments with steel doors which may be securely fastened in case of accident or leakage in any one compartment. So the ship is divided naturally Into stove pipe sections.

In the room from which the operations are directed are assembled a multitude of valves. Through, a use of these water Is admitted Into the tanks on the sides of the vessel, so that by using the sinking rudder the craft can be run beneath the surface of the sea. Most of the submarines have a reserve buoyancy that is if their engines were stopped they would come to the surface of their own volition, being in reality driven beneath the surface. Some of them, however, have extra tanks which when filled with water destroy that reserve buoyancy and the submarine -sinks like a stone. When the desired depth is reached air is forced into tanks in the (proportion desired to maintain her at any designated depth. Within the operating compartment are many guages. On their dials can be read the revolutions of the engines, the depth of the craft and the direction in which she is travelling. The steering is done here and the periscopes are also located here.

When they are on the surface the submarines are driven by oil engines of the Diesel type but when’ they are submerged they are driven by electric motors which are fed from storage batteries.

Usually in wartime a submarine runs at an average depth of 30 feet with her listening apparatus active.

When she heard the sound of some approaching craft she rises only far enough to project her periscope when she takes a look and then either rises to discharge her torpedo or discharges it without rising to the surface.

The visits of the captured Hun pirates, harmless and toy like now, will do much to call to the attention of the people the daring of our men who fought these underseas dastards and the right they have to ask that we finally settle the bills of the war and help the country to a peace basis.”

Make sure you visit the original stories about the U 111 here:

https://theleansubmariner.com/2014/01/26/grand-theft-submarine-stealing-the-u-111/

Mister Mac