Saturday, April 21, 2012

Diamond Shoal Lightship (LV-71) ~ 6 August 1918

The LV-71 was built in Bath, ME in 1897 for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and for 20 years served as a floating lighthouse and aid to navigation in the waters of the Mid-Atlantic Coast. The majority of her service life was spent marking the treacherous waters off Diamond Shoals.

Commanding Officers

1898: August B. Blom, Master (Mar-Nov)
1907-?: George Selson, Mate
?-1913: William L. Montague, Mate
1913: John M. Kendle, Mate
1913: A.T. Loss, Mate
1913-1915: C.H. Pertner, Mate
1914: Ole Axdal, Mate
1915-1916: A.M. Thistel, Master
1914-1917: Thomas Simmons, Mate
1917: Frederick J. Pusey, Mate
1917: William Harvey, Master
1917-1918: Edwin E. Holm, Mate
1918: Walter L. Barnett, 1st Mate

Construction Modifications & Historical Notes
  • 14 Feb 1898: Delivered to Edgemoor Depot, DE. Although built for Overfalls Shoal, LV-69 on Diamond Shoals needed repair so LV-71 was placed there 9 Mar, then alternated with LV-69.
  • 7 Oct 1899: Replaced LV-69 which had blown ashore 18 Aug; station apparently vacant from 18 Aug to 7 Oct.
  • 1900: Dragged off station in heavy weather 9 times during the year; regained station unassisted on each occasion.
  • May 1900-22 Jun 1901: Temporary duty on Tail of Horseshoe until LV-45 arrived; showed oil lights while on this station; steel stem, keel, bilge and sheer strakes reinforced with diagonal steel braces keel to sheer; wood planked keel to main deck level; steel plated from main deck level to weather deck.
  • Jan 1904: Supplied with wireless telegraph equipment by Navy Dept.
  • 1904: Fitted with special submersible mooring buoy.
  • 1905: Equipped with 18" searchlight maintained in southeasterly direction at 45 degrees to horizon while on Diamond Shoal station.
  • 1905: While on Diamond station, showed searchlight with beam kept southeasterly at 45 degrees to horizon "to provide earlier warning than masthead lights".
  • 1906: Cluster lights replaced with single 375mm electric lens lantern at each masthead.
  • 1908: Converted to electric arc lights.
  • 1910: Converted back to electric incandescent.
  • 1910: Submarine bell signal installed.
  • 1912: Equipped with radio provided by USLHS.
  • 9 Jan 1912: Rammed by schooner John Bossert; considerable damage to starboard hull plating and to engine room machinery.
  • 1915: Dragged off station during severe coastal storm; regained station on 14 Jan.
  • 24 Apr 1915: Took aboard the Master, his wife and 10 crew from wrecked 5-masted schooner M.D. Cressy; provided food and clothing and transferred to passing vessel.
  • Jul 1917: Arrangements made with the U.S. Navy and Weather Bureau to provision LV-71 with meteorological equipment so that she could record and report weather observations which she did twice daily by radio.
With the U.S. at war with Germany and her allies in WWI, the waters off the Carolinas were infested with U-boats attacking allied merchant shipping. The LV-71 maintained her vulnerable station during the war and was required to be unarmed, such was the importance of her role guiding ships past the shoals, where she found herself the night of August 5, 1918.

After a nearby merchant ship was torpedoed early that evening, the LV-71 rescued the survivors and transmitted a radio warning to other ships in the area. Possibly either the The message was intercepted by the submarine U-104, and after giving the crew opportunity to abandon ship in the boats, LV-71 was sunk by surface gunfire.
The Merak or Stanley M. Seaman which were lost off Cape Hatteras at about the same time.

According to the document German Submarine Activities on the Atlantic Coast of the US and Canada (Office of Naval Records & Library), 8 U-boats operated off the U.S. coast during WWI: U-53 in 1916 and 7 others in 1918.

Many American sailors on sunk vessels were captured and taken aboard U-boats for days or weeks. Their eyewitness accounts of U-boat operations and living conditions make for interesting reading. Raiders of the Deep by Lowell Thomas includes interviews with WWI U-boat skippers with a big section devoted to operations off the U.S. east coast in 1918.

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