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Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 17, 2019: Willy’s Vulture

Deutsches Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C0105

Here we see the three-masted bark-rigged “kleiner geschutzter kreuzer” (small protected cruiser) SMS Geier of the Imperial German Kaiserliche Marine photographed at the beginning of her career around 1895. A well-traveled Teutonic warship named after the German word for “vulture,” she would repeatedly find herself only narrowly avoiding some of the largest naval clashes of her era.

The final installment of the six-ship Bussard-class of colonial cruisers, all of which were named after birds, Geier and her sisters (Falke, Seeadler, Condor, and Comoran) would today be classified either as corvettes or well-armed offshore patrol vessels. With an 1800~ ton displacement (which varied from ship to ship as they had at least three varying generations of subclasses), these pint-sized “cruisers” were about 275-feet long overall and could float in less than three fathoms. While most cruisers are built for speed, the Bussards could only make 15-ish knots when everything was lit. When it came to an armament, they packed eight 10.5 cm (4.1″) SK L/35 low-angle guns and a pair of cute 350mm torpedo tubes, which wasn’t that bad for policing the colonies but was hopeless in a surface action against a real cruiser.

Geier’s sister, SMS Seeadler, in a postcard-worthy setting. The six ships of the class ranged from the West Indies to Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Much more exotic duty than the typical Baltic/North Sea gigs for the High Seas Fleet

Constructed between 1888 and 1895 at four different Northern German yards, the half-dozen Bussards were a very late 19th Century design, complete with a three-masted auxiliary barquentine rig, ram bows, and a wooden-backed copper-sheathed hull. They carried a pair of early electric generators and their composite hull was separated into 10 watertight compartments. Despite the “geschutzter” designation given by the Germans, they carried no armor other than splinter shields.

The only member of the class built at Kaiserliche Werft, Wilhelmshaven, Geier was laid down in 1893 and commissioned 24 October 1895, with Kaiser Wilhelm himself visiting the ship on that day.

SMS “Geier” der kaiserlichen deutschen Marine

SMS “Geier”, Kaiser Wilhelm II. spricht zur Besatzung

SMS “Geier”, Kleiner Kreuzer; Besichtigung des Schiffes durch Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Notably, Geier was the largest and most developed of her sisters, using a slightly different gun arrangement, better engines and 18-inch torpedo tubes rather than the 14s carried by the preceding five ships of the class.

All six Bussards were subsequently deployed overseas in Willy’s far-flung colonies in Africa and the Pacific, a tasking Geier soon adopted. Setting off for the West Indies, she joined the German squadron of old ironclads and school ships that were deployed there in 1897 to protect Berlin’s interests in Venezuela and Haiti.

The next year, under the command of Korvettenkapitän (later Vizeadmiral) Hermann Jacobsen, Geier was permitted by the U.S. fleet during the Spanish-American War to pass in and out of the blockaded Spanish ports in Cuba and Puerto Rico on several occasions, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds to evacuate neutral European civilians.

The unprotected cruiser SMS Geier entering Havana Harbor, Cuba, in 1898, during the SpanAm War

However, Jacobson dutifully kept a log of ships that ran the American blockade and their cargo as well as conducted a detailed analysis of the damage done to the Spanish ships at the Battle of Santiago. These observations were later released then ultimately translated into English and published in the USNI’s Proceedings in 1899.

By 1900, Geier was operating in the Pacific and, operating with the German East Asia Squadron, was in Chinese waters in time to join the international task force bringing the Manchu Dynasty to its knees during the Boxer Rebellion. She remained in the region and observed the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, notably poking around at Chemulpo (Inchon) where the Russian protected cruiser Varyag and gunboat Korietz were scuttled after a sharp engagement with a superior IJN force under Baron Sotokichi.

GEIER Photographed early in her career, before her 1908-1909 refit that reduced her Barkentine Rig to Brigantine Standard. NH 88631

Returning to Germany in 1909 for repair and refit, her rigging was changed from that of a three-mast barquentine to a two-mast topsail schooner while her bridge was enlarged, and her boilers replaced.

Geier with her late-career schooner rig

Recommissioned in 1911, she was assigned to the Mediterranean where she spent the next couple years exercising gunboat diplomacy in the wake of the Moroccan Crisis while eating popcorn on the sidelines of the Italian-Turkish War and Balkan Wars, all of which involved a smattering of curious naval actions to report back to Berlin. By 1914, although she had never fired a shot in anger, our Vulture had already haunted five significant wars from Tripoli to Korea and Cuba, very much living up to her name.

To catch us up on the rest of the class, by the eve of the Great War, the Bussards was showing their age. Sisterships Seeadler and Condor in 1914 were converted to mine storage hulks in Wilhelmshaven and Kiel, respectively. Bussard and Falke had already been stricken from the Naval List in 1912 and sold to the breakers. Meanwhile, in the German Chinese treaty port of Tsingtao (Qingdao), Cormoran was laid up with bad engines.

Speaking of which, when the lamps went out across Europe in August 1914, Geier was already en route from Dar es Salaam in German East Africa (where she had been relieved by the doomed cruiser Konigsberg) to Tsingtao to join Vizeadmiral Count Maximilian von Spee’s East Asia Squadron in the Pacific.

Once the balloon went up, she was in a precarious situation as just about any British, French, Russian or Japanese warship she encountered could have sent her quickly to the bottom. Eluding the massive Allied dragnet, which was deployed not only to capture our old cruiser but also Von Spee’s much more serious task force and the downright dangerous SMS Emden (which Geier briefly met with at sea), Geier attempted to become a commerce raider and, taking on coal from two German merchant ships, managed to capture a British freighter, SS Southport, at Kusaie in the Eastern Carolines on 4 September. After disabling Southport’s engines and leaving the British merchantman to eventually recover and report Geier’s last position, our decrepit light cruiser missed her rendezvous with Von Spee’s squadron at Pagan Island in the Northern Marianas and the good Count left her behind.

Alone, short on coal and only a day or so ahead of the Japanese battleship Hizen (former Russian Retvizan) and the armored cruiser Asama, Geier steamed into Honolulu on 17 October, having somehow survived 11 weeks on the run.

After failing to leave port within the limits set by neutral U.S. authorities, she was interned on 8 November and nominally disarmed.

Bussard Class Unprotected Cruiser SMS Geier pictured interned in Hawaii, she arrived in Honolulu on October 17th, 1914 for coaling, repairs and freshwater– and never left

Meanwhile, the Graf Spee’s East Asia Squadron had defeated the British 4th Cruiser Squadron under RADM Christopher Cradock in the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, sinking the old cruisers HMS Good Hope and Monmouth and sending Cradock and 1,600 of his men to the bottom of the South Atlantic Pacific off the coast of Chile. A month later, Spee himself along with his two sons and all but one ship of his squadron was smashed by VADM Doveton Sturdee’s battlecruiser squadron at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.

Schlacht bei den Falkland-Inseln (8.12.1914) Battle Falklands Islands, German chart

Our Vulture had evaded another meeting with Poseidon.

As for Geier, her war was far from over, reportedly being used as a base for disinformation (alleging a Japanese invasion of Mexico!) and espionage (tracking Allied ship movements) for the next two years.

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

German cruiser Geier shown interned in Honolulu. Photo by Herbert B Turner. NARA 165-WW-272C-006

Finally, in February 1917, the events came to a head.

According to the U.S. NHHC:

German reservists and agents surreptitiously utilized the ship for their operations, and the Americans grew increasingly suspicious of their activities. Emotions ran hot during the war and the Germans violated “neutrality,” Lt. (j.g.) Albert J. Porter of the ship’s company, who penned the commemorative War Log of the USS. St. Louis (Cruiser No. 20), observed, “with characteristic Hun disregard for international law and accepted honor codes.” Geier, Korvettenkapitän Curt Graßhoff in command, lay at Pier 3, moored to interned German steamer Pomeran when a column of smoke began to rise from her stack early on the morning of 4 February 1917. The ship’s internment prohibited her from getting steam up, and the Americans suspected the Germans’ intentions.

Lt. Cmdr. Victor S. Houston, St. Louis’ commanding officer, held an urgent conference on board the cruiser at which Cmdr. Thomas C. Hart, Commander SubDiv 3, represented the Commandant. Houston ordered St. Louis to clear for action and sent a boarding party, led by Lt. Roy Le C. Stover, Lt. (j.g.) Robert A. Hall, and Chief Gunner Frank C. Wisker. The sailors disembarked at the head of the Alakea wharf and took up a position in the second story of the pier warehouse. Soldiers from nearby Schofield Barracks meanwhile arrived and deployed a battery of 3-inch field pieces, screened by a coal pile across the street from the pier, from where they could command the decks of the German ship. Smoke poured in great plumes from Geier and her crewmen’s actions persuaded the Americans that the Germans likely intended to escape from the harbor, while some of the boarding party feared that failing to sortie, the Germans might scuttle the ship with charges, and the ensuing blaze could destroy part of the waterfront.

The boarding party, therefore, split into three sections and boarded and seized Pomeran, and Hart and Stover then boarded Geier and informed Graßhoff that they intended to take possession of the cruiser and extinguish her blaze, to protect the harbor. Graßhoff vigorously protested but his “wily” efforts to delay the boarders failed and the rest of the St. Louis sailors swarmed on board. The bluejackets swiftly took stations forward, amidships, and aft, and posted sentries at all the hatches and watertight doors, blocking any of the Germans from passing. Graßhoff surrendered and the Americans rounded-up his unresisting men. 1st Lt. Randolph T. Zane, USMC, arrived with a detachment of marines, and they led the prisoners under guard to Schofield Barracks for internment.

Her crew headed off to Schofield Barracks for the rest of the war, some of the first German POWs in the U.S. (Hawaii State Archives)

Wisker took some men below to the magazines, where they found shrapnel fuzes scattered about, ammunition hoists dismantled, and floodcocks battered into uselessness. The Germans also cunningly hid their wrenches and spans in the hope of forestalling the Americans’ repairs. Stover in the meantime hastened with a third section and they discovered a fire of wood and oil-soaked waste under a dry boiler. The blaze had spread to the deck above and the woodwork of the fire room also caught by the heat thrown off by the “incandescent” boiler, and the woodwork of the magazine bulkheads had begun to catch. The boarders could not douse the flames with water because of the likelihood of exploding the dry boiler, but they led out lines from the bow and stern of the burning ship and skillfully warped her across the slip to the east side of Pier 4. The Honolulu Fire Department rushed chemical engines to the scene, and the firemen and sailors worked furiously cutting holes thru the decks to facilitate dousing the flames with their chemicals. The Americans extinguished the blaze by 5:00 p.m., and then a detachment from SubDiv 3, led by Lt. (j.g.) Norman L. Kirk, who commanded K-3 (Submarine No. 34), relieved the exhausted men.

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

German cruiser Geier with boilers on fire being sabotauged by her crew Honolulu Feb 4 1917 Photo by Herbert NARA 165-WW-272C-007

The Germans all but wrecked Geier and their “wanton work” further damaged the engines, steam lines, oil lines, auxiliaries, navigation instruments, and even the wardroom, which Porter described as a “shambles.”

As such, she was the only German Imperial Navy warship captured by the U.S. Navy during World War I.

Coupled with the more than 590,000 tons of German merchant ships seized in U.S. ports April 1917, Geier was reconditioned for American service and eventually commissioned as USS Schurz, a name used in honor of German radical Carl Schurz who fled Prussia in 1849 after the failed revolution there. Schurz had, in turn, joined the Union Army during the Civil War and commanded a division of largely German-speaking immigrants in the XI Corps at Second Manassas, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga, rising to the rank of major general.

[Of XI Corps’s 27 infantry regiments, at least 13 were “Dutch” (German) regiments with many German-born/speaking commanders prevalent. Besides Schurz, brigades and divisions of the XI Corps were led by men such as Col. Ludwig Blenker and Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr, formerly officers of the Royal Armies Bavaria and the Duchy of Brunswick, respectively.]

Postwar, Schurz was a senator from Missouri, where a large German population had settled, and later served as Interior Secretary in the Hayes Administration.

Don’t let his bookish looks fool you, although Schurz was a journalist who served as editor of the New York Evening Post, he also fought in the German revolution and saw the elephant several times in the Civil War.

Under the command of LCDR Arthur Crenshaw, the new USS Schurz joined the fleet in September 1917 and served as an escort on the East Coast. Her German armament landed; she was equipped with four 5-inch mounts in U.S. service.

USS Schurz off the foot of Market Street, San Diego, California, in November-December 1917. Note the U.S. colors. Courtesy of the San Diego Maritime Museum, 1983 Catalog #: NH 94909

While on a convoy from New York for Key West, Fla., on 0444 on 21 June 1918, she collided with the merchant ship SS Florida southwest of Cape Lookout lightship, North Carolina, about 130 miles east of Wilmington.

As noted by the NHHC, “The collision crumpled the starboard bridge wing, slicing into the well and berth deck nearly 12 feet, and cutting through bunker no. 3 to the forward fire room.” One of Schurz’s crewmen was killed instantly, and 12 others injured. The 216 survivors abandoned ship and Schurz sank about three hours later in 110-feet of water.

A later naval board laid the blame for the collision on Florida, as the steamer was running at full steam in the predawn darkness in the thick fog without any lights or horns and had failed to keep a proper distance.

USS Schurz was stricken from the Navy list on 26 August 1918, and her name has not been reissued. The Kaiserliche Marine confusingly recycled the name “Geier” for an auxiliary cruiser (the former British merchant vessel Saint Theodore, captured by the commerce raider SMS Möwe) as well as an armed trawler during the war even while the original ship was interned in Hawaii with a German crew pulling shenanigans.

Of SMS Geier‘s remaining sisters in German service, Seeadler was destroyed by an accidental explosion on the Jade in April 1917 and never raised, Cormoran had been scuttled in Tsingtao and captured by the Japanese who scrapped her, and Condor was broken up in 1921.

Today, while she has been extensively looted of artifacts over the years the wreck of the Schurz is currently protected as part of the NOAA Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and she is a popular dive site.

NOAA divers swim over the stern of the USS Schurz shipwreck. Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

Photo: Tane Casserley, NOAA

East Carolina University conducted an extensive survey of her wreckage in 2000 and found her remarkably intact, with her boilers in place as well as brass fasteners and copper hull sheathing with nails still attached.

Specs:

Displacement, full: 1918 tons
Length: 275 ft oal, 261 wl
Beam: 34 ft. 10.6
Draft: 15 feet 4.74 mean 5.22 deep load
Machinery: 2 HTE, 4 cylindrical boilers, 2880 hp, 2 shafts
Coal: 320 tons
Speed: 15.5-knots max
Range: 3610nm at 9kts
Complement: 9 officers, 152 men (German) 197 to 217 (US)
Armor: None
Armament
(1895)
8 x 1 – 4.1″/32cal SK L/35 single mounts
5 x 1-pdr (37mm) revolving cannon (removed in 1909)
2 x 1 – 450mm TT with 5 18-inch torpedoes in magazine
(1917)
4 x 5″/51cal U.S. mounts

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Meanwhile, off the HoA

Here we see the Spanish Navy replenishment oiler ESPS Patiño (A14) providing refueling at sea for EUNAVFOR Flagship, the Italian Navy frigate ITS Carlo Margottini (F592), in support of counter-piracy and maritime security patrolling duties, April 2018.

A 17,000-ton offshoot of the HNLMS Amsterdam of the Royal Netherlands Navy, Patiño was commissioned in 1995 and has been very busy– enforcing the NATO/WEU trade embargo against the former Yugoslavia and during the Kosovo War in 1998, capturing the North Korean freighter So San and her cargo of Scud missiles bound for Yemen in 2002, and several times serving in the anti-piracy operations off Somalia to include repelling an armed attack on her by seven pirates in a trawler in 2012.

Margottini, a Bergamini-class FREMM-type multipurpose frigate of the Marina Militare, was commissioned in 2014. A score of FREMMs are in commission or on order for the French, Italian, Moroccan and Egyptian navies, while the U.S. is considering the type for its new frigate program, so you could very well see these 6,700-ton warships operating in haze gray soon.

The ships are assigned to the European Union Naval Force (Op Atalanta) Somalia, conducting anti-piracy duties at sea off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. Since 2009, Atalanta ships have protected 437 World Food Programme (WFP) and 139 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)-chartered humanitarian aide vessels without losing one to pirates yet.

Russki piratoopasnyye

According to the Russian Navy, they have been really involved in counter-pirate ops the past decade, with some years being more involved than others:


Since 2008, Navy ships have carried out 32 trips to the Gulf of Aden and other pirate destinations, escorting 152 convoys and 727 ships (56 ships under the Russian flag).

Ten attempts were also prevented, seven boats and 80 Pirates were detained. In addition to the Gulf of Aden, Russian military vessels have conducted anti-pirate patrols in the Singapore and Malacca Straits, South China and the Caribbean Sea.

The Russians also seem to be fans of breaking lots of eggs, no matter how small the omelet.

It sucks to be held hostage by Somali pirates

Humans At Sea’s Save Our Seafarers organization interviews a mariner who, as an Indian Naval cadet, was held hostage for eight months (!) by a pirate action group armed with RPGs off the coast of Somalia in 2010. The guy seems really sedate, but make no mistake, what he went through was pretty rough and went past getting just a little roughed up.

The video also features an interview with the EU naval force patrolling the area, who seems like he is trying to walk a dozen beats with one cop. Pretty sobering if you are a seafarer in that part of the world.

Just when you thought the Red Sea was a nice place again

On Saturday 25th March the Italian Navy Maestrale class frigate, ITS Espero, joined the EU Naval Force off the coast of Somalia. Odds are, they are going to need it, and a few minesweepers.

Saudi Naval forces along the Hodeida coast have found and cleared a number of Houthi-placed sea mines.

From Al Arabiya:

Saudi and Yemeni naval engineers cleared Iranian-made mines which Houthi militias planted along the coast of the Hodeida area.

Mines were swept by the water currents to the sea so the coalition forces had to look for them and remove them to protect fishermen and oil tankers in international waters.

Few days ago, a mine blew up killing a number of fishermen and injuring others.

The largest number of mines was planted along the coasts in north and south Hodeida with technical help from Iranian and Hezbollah experts who entered Yemen for this particular task, according to the Yemeni legitimate army.

Meanwhile, it’s apparently open season on Somali refugees encountered at sea, with 42 reportedly killed off the Yemeni coast near Hodeida in a helicopter-borne attack. Word on the street is that the chopper came from allies of the recognized Yemeni government (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all reportedly used AH-64s in the conflict), while other sources pin it on the Houthi who are lacking in helicopter gunships.

And, to further amp up regional tensions for mariners, Somali pirates recently returned from retirement due to bad fishing grounds have reportedly hijacked a dhow in the vicinity of Eyl, a city in northern Somalia that was once a hub for maritime piracy. Local authorities suggest that they may intend to use the small vessel for hijacking a merchant ship further offshore.

And the beat goes on…

Puntland Pirates, ahoy

The EU Naval Force, which is currently operating off the coast of Somalia, has received positive confirmation from the master of the Comoros-flagged tanker, Aris 13, that his ship and crew are currently being held captive by a number of suspected armed pirates in an anchorage off the north coast of Puntland, close to Alula.

Reuters is reporting the Aris 13 has eight Sri Lankan crew on board. Somali authorities said the incident is the first time a commercial ship has been seized in the region since 2012 and they are going in to effect a rescue.

“We are determined to rescue the ship and its crew. Our forces have set off to Alula. It is our duty to rescue ships hijacked by pirates and we shall rescue it,” said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, director general of Puntland’s marine police forces.

Update: The Somali “pirates” were apparently fishermen who used to be pirates who seized the tanker as a warning to the government to get the lead out to help the fishermen keep their fish by running off those using their waters illegally. Apparently, it was kinda of a “you better do right by us, or we will pick up the Kalash and start doing this crap again” kind of statement. Anyway, they have released the oil tanker and crew, unmolested.

NATO hangs it up on Blackbeard

NATO’s last counter-piracy surveillance aircraft is flying her final mission, as part of the now-shuttered Operation Ocean Shield. The Royal Danish Air Force crew a Boeing Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, a modified Bombardier Challenger 604, and talks about how much the coast of Somalia has changed since the height of pirate activity in the Horn of Africa.

The operation, which began in 2009 as part of a broader international effort to crack down on Somali-based pirates who had caused havoc with world shipping, was conducted alongside Operation Atalanta— the EU operation in the area which current have a frigate each from Holland and Spain supported by a German P-3– and the 25-nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, both of which are on-going.

At the height of piracy in January 2011 over 700 hostages and 32 vessels were being held by Somali pirates, with huge ransoms demanded for their release.  Today, no vessels or hostages are being held by Somali pirates. The most recent pirate incident occurred on 22 October 2016, when a chemical tanker, CPO Korea, was attacked by six armed men 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia.

“The global security environment has changed dramatically in the last few years and NATO navies have adapted with it,” NATO spokesman Dylan White said in a statement. “NATO has increased maritime patrols in the Baltic and Black Seas. We are also working to help counter human smuggling in the Mediterranean.”

As for the EU operation, on Friday 25 November 2016, the European Council extended Operation Atalanta’s mandate to deter, disrupt and repress acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia, until 31 December 2018.

Warship Wednesday May 25, 2016: The Kaiser’s Pirate of Nauset Beach

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday May 25, 2016: The Kaiser’s Pirate of Nauset Beach

u156

Here we see one of the few images remaining of the Deutschland-class handels type unterseeboot SM U-156 of the Kaiserliche Marine. Built to schlep cargo, she was converted to a U-Kreuzer and went on to wreak havoc off the coast of New England.

In 1915, with the Great War dragging into its second horrific year, Imperial Germany was cut off from overseas trade by the might of the combined British, French, Italian, Russian, and Japanese fleets, who certainly had a warship in every harbor from Seattle to Montevideo. That’s when an idea was hatched to cough up a fleet of large commercial submarines for shipping vital cargo to and from locations otherwise verboten to German freighters.

These handels-U-boots (merchant submarines) were helmed by 28-man civilian crews employed by the Deutsche Ozean-Reederei company, unarmed except for five pistols or revolvers and a flare gun, sailed under a merchant flag, and could carry as much as 700-tons in their holds.

A staggering 213-feet overall and some 2,300-tons, while small by today’s standards, these were the largest operational submarines of World War I.

uboat commerical

You get the idea…

The first of the class, Deutschland, was launched 28 March 1916 and in June voyaged across the Atlantic as a blockade runner carrying highly sought-after chemical dyes, carried medical drugs, gemstones, and mail to Baltimore where her crew were welcomed as celebrities before returning to Bremerhaven with 341 tons of nickel, 93 tons of tin, and 348 tons of crude rubber– worth seven times her 2.75 million Reichsmark cost. Her second trip to New London with gems and securities, returning to Germany in November was her last as a commercial venture.

You see Deutschland was taken up into the service of the German Navy in early 1917 and rechristened SM U-155, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Between 1916-17, a further six freighter u-boats were built to the same design as Deutschland in four yards, numbered in military service U-151 through U-157. These ships, however, were built to fight rather than make money (one other boat, Bremen, was completed for commercial work and she vanished in Sept. 1916 on her maiden voyage to New York–she was never part of the German Navy).

The subject of our particular tale is U-156, the only one of her class built at Atlas Werke, Bremen as Werke #382.

In war service these ships were completed with torpedo tubes and a torpedo and mine magazine rather than cargo holds and given a pair of large 150mm deck guns with a healthy supply of 1688 shells to feed them. Gone was the civilian crew, replaced by a 7 officer/69-man military crew that could spare up to 20 for prize crews.

Prize crews?

Yes, these huge subs would act as submersible cruisers (U-Kreuzer), hence the large battery and stock of shells.

ukrezuer storm

duestchland as ukreusier

Those are some serious popguns

U-156 was commissioned 22 Aug 1917 under the command of Kptlt. Konrad Gansser. Under Gansser’s command and that later of Kptlt. Richard Feldt, over the next 13 months the huge submarine successfully attacked 47 ships of which she sunk 45 (for a total of 64,151 tons) and damaged two.

A list of her kills over at U-boat.net shows that most of her “victories” were small craft, with only one merchant ship over 5,000 tons, the Italian flagged steamer Atlantide (5,431t) sunk off Madeira on 1 Feb 1918.

In fact, some 32 of her kills were against trawlers and small coasters under 950-tons, making her the scourge of the American and Canadian coasts.

151

Speaking of which, U-156‘s most important victory at sea came not from her guns or torpedoes, but from a mine.

The 13,680-ton USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6), formerly the USS California, hit a mine sown by U-156 southeast of Fire Island on 19 July and sank in just 28 minutes, taking six bluejackets with her to the bottom. She would be the only major warship lost by the U.S. in the Great War. Her skipper at the time, Capt. Harley H. Christy, was a Spanish–American War vet who went on to command the battlewagon Wyoming with the British Grand Fleet in 1918 and become a Vice Admiral on the retired list.

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Painting by Francis Muller, 1920. It depicts the ship sinking off Fire Island, New York, after mined by the German submarine U-156, 19 July 1918. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 55012-KN

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser No. 6) Painting by Francis Muller, 1920. It depicts the ship sinking off Fire Island, New York, after mined by the German submarine U-156, 19 July 1918. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 55012-KN

It was after this strike on the San Diego that the good Kptlt. Feldt sailed to the coast of Cape Cod and got into a little gunplay in shallow water and spread “schrecklichkeit” (fear) along the coast.

At about 10:30 a.m. on the morning of 21 July 1918, the Lehigh Valley RR. Company’s hearty little 120-foot/435-ton steel-hulled tugboat Perth Amboy was hauling a series of wooden barges some three miles off Orleans, Mass when she came under artillery fire from U-156‘s big guns. While the barges were sunk and the tug damaged, no casualties were suffered.

Via Attack on Orleans

Via Attack on Orleans

This led to a frantic call to the newly-built Chatam Naval Air Station who dispatched two Curtiss HS-1L seaplanes (Bu.No 1695 and 1693, the latter of which suffered engine problems and couldn’t sortie) and two R-9s (Bu.No. 991 and another) that arrived on scene about a half hour later. The freshly minted Navy/Coast Guard pilots dropped a few small bombs, which did not damage the submarine, who dutifully submerged and motored off.

Curtiss HS-1L seaplane (Bu. no. 1735) of the type flown against U-156, here shown at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida Caption: On the ramp at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, circa 1918. Note insignia (patriotic, "Uncle Sam" hat), presumably of Training Squadron Five. Description: Catalog #: NH 44224

Curtiss HS-1L seaplane (Bu. no. 1735) of the type flown against U-156, here shown at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida Caption: On the ramp at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, circa 1918. Note insignia (patriotic, “Uncle Sam” hat), presumably of Training Squadron Five. Description: Catalog #: NH 44224

In all, the attack lasted about 90 minutes from the first shot to the last bomb, and caused little practical damage.

The submarine ticked off some 147 shells, some of which landed on shore and the subsequent impact zone became a tourist attraction into the 1930s.

However, it was the first attack on the U.S. mainland by a uniformed European enemy since 1815 and the first time enemy shells landed on her soil since the failed siege of Fort Texas near Brownsville by General Pedro de Ampudia’s light artillery in 1846.

v61001

Damage suffered by Perth Amboy-- she would later go on to be sunk by a mine in WWII while in British service

Damage suffered by Perth Amboy– she would later go on to be sunk by a mine in WWII while in British service

U-156 then headed north to the Nova Scotia coast and captured the 265-ton trawler Triumph, which she used for three days in August as the first (and only) German surface raider to operate in Canadian waters. Using at times Canadian and at others a Danish flag, Triumph and U-156 worked in tandem, with the trawler creeping up on small craft, Germans taking said small boat over, rigging demo charges and allowing the Canuk mariners to row away in their dingy while the craft sank.

From an excellent article at WWI Canada:

One of Triumph’s first victim was the Gloucester schooner A. Piatt Andrew, which was fishing in Canadian waters. The schooner’s skipper told the U.S. Navy that when Triumph hailed him to heave to, he thought it was joke until “… four shots were fired across our bow from rifles. We brought our vessel up in the wind and the beam trawler came up alongside of us and I then saw that she was manned [by] German crew.’’

The Lunenburg schooner Uda A. Saunders was another score for Feldt. The vessel’s captain gave the U.S. Navy this description of the encounter: “The Huns hailed us and ordered a dory alongside. I sent two men out to her in a dory and three of the raider’s crew came aboard. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ said the one who appeared to be in command. ‘We are going to sink your vessel. I will give you 10 minutes to gather up food and water enough to last you until you get ashore.’”

However, U-156‘s days as a pirate were numbered.

On her way back to Germany, the U-Boat failed to report in that she had cleared the North Sea passage and it is surmised that around 25 Sep 1918 she struck an Allied mine and disappeared with all hands, leaving 77 dead.

With the exception of U-154, torpedoed in the Atlantic 11 May 1918 by HM Sub E35, U-156s sisters largely survived the war, but not by much.

SM U-151 was surrendered to France at Cherbourg and sunk as target ship at Cherbourg, 7 June 1921.

U-152 and U-153 went to Harwich, England, where they were surrendered to the British and sunk by the Royal Navy in July 1921 (image below).

Note how large the U-153 is compared to other common German submarines (IWM photo)

Note how large the U-153 is compared to other common German submarines (IWM photo)

U-157 was interned at Trondheim, Norway at the end of the war but later taken over by the French and broken up at Brest.

Deutschland/U-155, was surrendered on 24 November 1918 with other submarines as part of the terms of the Armistice and exhibited in London and elsewhere before being sold for scrap in 1921.

The Control Room. U155 (The Deutschland) Moored in St Katherine's Docks, London, December 1918 (iwm)

A British Jack secures the the Control Room of U155 (The Deutschland) Moored in St Katherine’s Docks, London, December 1918 (iwm)

German U-Boat U-155 surrendered to the British, lying alongside the British mystery ship HMS SUFFOLK COAST at St. Katherine's Docks in London, 4 December 1918 (iwm)

German U-Boat U-155 surrendered to the British, lying alongside the British Q-boat mystery ship HMS SUFFOLK COAST at St. Katherine’s Docks in London, 4 December 1918 (iwm)

German submarine U-155 on display in St. Katherine docks, London, England, December 1918

German submarine U-155 on display in St. Katherine docks, London, England, December 1918

With that being said, U-156 is better remembered than most of her class, at least in New England.

Today a historical sign on a private Nauset Beach in Orleans, Massachusetts marks the occasion in which the Kaiser reached out and touched the sand there.

For more information on the Attack on Orleans, here is an hour-long lecture by Jake Klim done in 2015 for the Tales of Cape Cod historical society.

Klim runs the most excellent “Attack on Orleans” website and social media page from which I borrowed the map above and recommend his book of the same title.

For more on these blockade breaking U-boats overall, check out this site in German.

Specs:

ukreuzer
Displacement:
1,512 tonnes (1,488 long tons) (surfaced)
1,875 tonnes (1,845 long tons) (submerged)
2,272 tonnes (2,236 long tons) (total)
Length:
65.00 m (213 ft 3 in) (o/a)
57.00 m (187 ft) (pressure hull)
Beam:
8.90 m (29 ft 2 in) (o/a)
5.80 m (19 ft) (pressure hull)
Height: 9.25 m (30 ft 4 in)
Draught: 5.30 m (17 ft 5 in)
Installed power:
800 PS (590 kW; 790 bhp) (surfaced)
800 PS (590 kW; 790 bhp) (submerged)
Propulsion:
2 × shafts
2 × 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in) propellers
Fuel oil supply merchant submarine: 200 t
Fuel oil supply cruiser submarine: 285 t
Surfaced speed as merchant submarine: about 12 kn
Underwater speed as merchant submarine: about 6.7 kn
Surfaced speed as U-Kreuzer: about 11 kn
Underwater speed as U-Kreuzer: ca 5,3 kn
Dive time: 50-80 seconds depending on crew training
Compression depth: 50m
Range:
25,000 nmi (46,000 km; 29,000 mi) at 5.5 knots (10.2 km/h; 6.3 mph) surfaced
65 nmi (120 km; 75 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) submerged
Test depth: 50 metres (160 ft)
Complement, commercial service: 28
Complement, military service: 6 / 50 Mannschaft
1 / 19 Prisenkommando
Armament:
2 50 cm (20 in) bow torpedo tubes
18 torpedoes
2 × 15 cm (5.9 in) deck guns with 1688 rounds

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

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Intrepid meets Waterworld

fishervillage on intrepid

Click to big up

Pretty neat depiction of USS Intrepid (CV/CVA/CVS-11) as a fisher-village in a post-apocalyptic scenario by zsolti65 on Deviant Art

Known as the “Fighting I,” Intrepid was laid down just a week before Pearl Harbor and was one of two dozen Essex-class fast fleet carriers completed.

USS Intrepid in the Philippine Sea, November 1944

USS Intrepid in the Philippine Sea, November 1944

Decommissioned on the Ides of March, 1974, she picked up ten battlestars from the Marshall Islands to Vietnam and has been moored as a museum in in New York City since 1982, where she serves as an emergency operations center when needed.

She’s also the only aircraft carrier in the world with her own Space Shuttle

Former Sea Shepherd Ship still causing problems

 

PHOTO CURTESY OF SEASHEPHERD.ORG -- Japanese Whaling Vessel Kaiko Maru Confronted by Sea Shepherd 12 February 2007

PHOTO CURTESY OF SEASHEPHERD.ORG — Japanese Whaling Vessel Kaiko Maru Confronted by Sea Shepherd 12 February 2007

Farley McGill Mowat* was a Canadian novelist and a pretty good one. Odds are you may have read People of the Deer or Never Cry Wolf (which was made into a film in the 1980s that wasn’t all that bad a retelling).  His non-fiction account of the HMS Frisky/ salvage tug Franklin, The Grey Seas Under, is one of the best ship tales ever written.

The Grey Seas Under

If you come across a used copy at a great price, pick it up.

Mowat also chipped in a fair amount of bread late in life to the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling fleet of piratical environmentalists and the group repaid the honor by naming a couple of their “Neptune’s Navy” patrol ships after him. The most current is the former USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), bought by the group earlier this year. (Somewhere a Coastie CPO is twitching.)

The first Mowat, however, was a 172-foot (650-ton) Norwegian fisheries research and enforcement trawler who started her career as the R/V Johan Hjort in 1956. The Norwegians laid the old girl up after 40 years of hard times in the Arctic and Barents Seas and the S/S group picked her up for a song.

In service to the pirates she carried the moniker Sea Sherpherd III, the Ocean Warrior, then finally Farley Mowat as well as a number of various groovy paint jobs as she shuttled her port of registry at least four times in her 12 year career as a hooligan afloat, conducting 100 cruises for the group all over the world. (Images via Shipspotter et.al.)

Farley Mowat (Seashepherd)

487923

860132

FARLEY_MOWAT

seashepherd58

Well in 2008 the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans seized the S/S flagship over Fisheries Act violations during the seal hunt off the west coast of Newfoundland and she sat tied up at dock for a year when Ottawa ordered her sold at auction, where she brought just C$5000. A breaker picked her up and she apparently changed hands again to a group looking to put her back in the oceanography game in 2011, which never materialized and she sank at her moorings in Nova Scotia last week while being scrapped.

The scrapper owes some C$14,000 in dock fees on her and she is leaking oil.

According to the National Post :

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, for the most part, has expressed delight its former flagship has become an administrative headache for marine and municipal authorities.

“Farley would be smiling to know that the ship that bears his name continues to be an annoying irritation for Canadian authorities,” wrote Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson, in a 2014 social media post.

However, Watson has since claimed his plan all along was to have the ship seized by Canadian authorities, arguing that it was cheaper than paying to have the Farley Mowat decommissioned.

“The retirement didn’t cost Sea Shepherd a dime and for that we thank the Canadian government,” wrote Sea Shepherd member Alex Cornelissen in a 2008 post to the group’s website.

*(As a sidebar, Mowat was a subaltern in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment during WWII and helped bring back tons of captured German kit for museum use all over Canada after 1945, so when in the Great North and you see something heavy and Teutonic on display, thank Farley)

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