Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Flogging Not Allowed!

According to the shipping articles entered by an 1850 Act of Congress, each sailor hired for a voyage signed an agreement with the master of the vessel that declared his conditions of employment, guaranteed the wages to be paid and described the behavior expected of him. “No grog allowed, and non to be put on board by the crew, or by any of the parties hereunto, and no profane language allowed, nor any sheath-knives permitted to be brought or used on board.”

The captain had Congressional authority to suppress “immorality and vice of all kinds” against forfeiture of wages “together with everything belonging to him or them on board the said vessel.” For every day a man was absent without leave he forfeited three days wages; if he was absent for more than 48 hours he also had to pay the wages of a seaman hired to replace him.

On the good side, flogging was not allowed.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Civil War Blockade Runners and Gunboats

The capture of Hatteras Inlet in late August 1861 was accomplished with a minimum of effort and no ship losses or serious damage to the Federal Navy. While that battle was in progress, a second Federal fleet was being outfitted at Hampton Roads, this one for an attack on Port Royal, SC. Approximately 25 schooners, loaded with coal for the steamers of the fleet, left Hampton Roads for Port Royal on October 29, followed the next day by more than 50 other craft. In all, this was the largest flotilla ever assembled under an American commander up to that time.
     Some of them never got to Port Royal due to a terrific gale encountered off Cape Hatteras—known as The Expedition Hurricane of 1861.
     Two of the vessels foundered: the transport Peerless, loaded with stores and the steamer Governor, carrying a landing force of 600 marines and some 50 naval officers and crewmen. The Peerless was rescued by the Mohegan. At the height of the storm, the Governor’s smokestack was washed away, her engines failed, and she sank. The steamer Isaac Smith attempted to come to her assistance, but shipped so much water that her commander was forced to order the Smith’s guns thrown overboard to keep is vessel afloat. It was left to the sail frigate Sabine to rescue the 650 people aboard the Governor, a feat which was finally accomplished with the loss of only 7 men.

City of New York
     None of the remaining vessels were sunk in the campaign against Port Royal. At its conclusion a third, larger fleet was assembled at Hampton Roads. The destination this time was Roanoke Island and the other fortifications held by the Confederates in the North Carolina Sounds. This fleet was a collection of ferry boats, side-wheel steamers and river craft. Some were armed with a gun or two while others were used for transporting troops, horses and supplies.
     They reached Hatteras Inlet January 12, 1862. Strong winds and a rough sea forced them to anchor offshore until the tempest died down to effect a crossing of Hatteras bar. While anchored, a number of vessels grounded and the steamer City of New York was lost.
     It took nearly one month for the fleet to cross into the sounds and prepare for the actual attack. Once there they made quick work of it, engaging the small Confederate force in Croatan Sound on February 7. It's flagship, the  iron-hulled, side-wheel steamboat Curlew, was sunk off Roanoke Island and 6 Confederate vessels, with a total of 8 guns, were forced to retreat up the Pasquotank River.
     On February 10, a portion of the Federal Fleet, consisting of 14 vessels steamed up the Pasquotank to attack. It took them a mere 39 minutes to capture Elizabeth City and the small fort nearby at Cobbs point. All defending vessels were sunk but the Ellis, which was captured, and the Beaufort, which escaped through the canal to Norfolk—at the time still in Confederate hands:

Sea Bird / Confederate Gunboat / February 10, 1862
A wooden side-wheeler, the Sea Bird had taken the place of the Curlew as the command ship of the Confederate fleet. She was rammed and cut completely in two off Elizabeth City by the Federal gunboat Commodore Perry.

Fanny / Confederate Gunboat  & Balloon Carrier/ February 10, 1862
A former tugboat captured by the Federals at Chicamacomico in December 1861, the Fanny was run ashore and blown up by her commander.

Black Warrior (Prev. M.C. Etheridge) / Armed Confederate Schooner / February 10, 1862. Kept up a sharp fire until she was set ablaze and abandoned.

Appomattox / Confederate Gunboat / February 10, 1862
Attempted to flee through the canal but was “about two inches too wide to enter.” To prevent capture, it was set on fire and blown up near Elizabeth City.

Forrest / Confederate Gunboat / February 10, 1862
Damaged at Roanoke Island and burned at Elizabeth City to prevent capture.

More than 30 Confederate Blockade Runners Became Total Losses in the Vicinity of Cape Fear

By 1863 most of the Atlantic coast seaports as far south as Florida were in Federal hands or effectively neutralized by Federal forces. The lone exception was Wilmington, NC, which remained until January 1865, the main port of entry for foreign goods consigned to the Confederate States of America.
     The same vessels that engaged in the delivery of lumber and other peacetime exports from Wilmington, returned with the military stores and merchandise needed in the South. These were sailing vessels, schooners for the most part, and the Federal government quickly put a crimp in their activities by dispatching a small fleet of coal-burning steamers to blockade the port. The sailing ships, which were no match for the steamers, withdrew and were soon replaced by small, fast Clyde steamers, able to run past the blockading vessels under cover of darkness.
     The introduction of these steamers brought an intensification of the Federal blockade. At one time there were three separate lines of blockading vessels which the steamers had to pass; one about 40 miles at sea, a second about 10 miles out and a third close to shore.
     The blockade runners soon evolved a system where they approached close to land as much as 40 or 50 miles away from Cape Fear, waited for night, and then ran at full speed for Wilmington, hugging the shoreline in the process. A great number of the steamers stranded, and when unsuccessful in getting clear of the sand bars, were discovered at dawn the following morning by the Federal blockading vessels. In most cases a dramatic contest ensued between them. The most frequent result, however, was that neither one salvaged any appreciable amount before the stranded vessel was set on fire by the blockaders' guns or by demolition squads sent out by the Confederates.
     The newspapers of that day, books, magazine articles and pamphlets since published contain numerous accounts of the strandings.
     The Ella was the last of more than 30 blockade runners to become total losses in the vicinity of Cape Fear. But for every one destroyed there was at least one other captured at sea by the Federal naval vessals, which preferred to capture if possible because of the large prize money involved.
Modern Greece
Modern Greece / June 27, 1862 / Cape Fear
One of the first steamers lost in attempting to run the blockade. Modern Greece was an English vessel registered at about 1,000 tons. The crew escaped, and later troops from near-by Fort Fisher succeeded in removing a large part of her valuable cargo, including several badly needed Whiteworth guns, considerable clothing and enough liquor to keep the garrison in high spirits for more than a week.

Golden Liner / April 27, 1863 / Cape Fear River

Kate 2nd / July 12, 1863 / Smiths Island

Hebe / August 18, 1863 / Near Cape Fear
In the last 6 months of 1863 at least 10 blockade runners were destroyed on the coast, one of the finest being the Hebe, described by observers as "a beautiful little steamer," her hull and smoke funnels camouflaged with a coating of graish green paint, and carrying at the time of her loss a cargo of drugs, coffee, clothing and foodstuff.

Alexander Cooper / August 22, 1863 / Near Cape Fear
Arabian / September 15, 1863 / Near Cape Fear
Phantom / September 23, 1863 / Rich Inlet

Elizabeth / September 24, 1863 / Lockwoods Folly
Stranded and burned, supposedly through the activities of a Federal spy who was later found to have been on board.

Douro / October 11, 1863 / Wrightsville
Lost between Fort Fisher and Masonboro Inlet. Had once before been captured by Federal vessels, sold as a prize in Canada, purchased by the Confererate Government, and put right back in the blockage running business again.

Venus / October 21, 1863 / Near Cape Fear
Beauregard / December 11, 1863 / Carolina Beach
Antonica / December 19, 1863 / Frying Pan Shoals
Ranger / January 1864 / Lockwoods Folly
Bendigo / January 4, 1864 / Lockwoods Folly
Vesta / January 10, 1864 / Tubbs Inlet
Iron Age / January 11, 1864 / Lockwoods Folly
Wild Dayrell / February 1, 1864 / Stump Inlet
Nutfield / February 4, 1864 / New River Inlet
Dee / February 6, 1864 / Near Cape Fear
Fanny & Jenny / February 9, 1864 / Wrightsville
Emily of London / February 9, 1864 / Wrightsville
Spunkie / February 9, 1864 / Near Cape Fear
Georgiana McCaw / June 2, 1864 / Cape Fear
Pevensey / June 9, 1864 / Bogue Inlet
Florie / September 10, 1864 / Cape Fear Bar
Badger / September 10, 1864 / Cape Fear Bar
Condor / October 1, 1864 / Near Cape Fear
Ella / December 3, 1864 / Cape Fear
Cape Fear / January 1865 / Cape Fear River
North Heath / January 1865 / Cape Fear River

During the period following the original attacks on the North Carolina coastal fortifications other ships—both Federal and Confederate—foundered, stranded and were sunk.

R. B. Forbes / Federal Steamer / February 25, 1862
329-ton Federal steamer went down on Currituck Banks at about the time of the battle of Roanoke Island.

Monitor / Federal Gunboat / December 30, 1862
Lost off Cape Hatteras while under tow by the Rhode Island. Click HERE to visit my Monitor blog.


Monitor
Frying Pan Shoals / Confederate Lightship / December 31, 1862
Removed from its station by the Confederates and anchored in the Cape Fear River just above Fort Caswell as a sort of floating fortress. It was burned by a raiding party.

Bainbridge
Bainbridge / Federal Brig / August 21, 1863
Normally carried a crew of about 40. Foundered off Hatteras with all hands but one being lost. Surfaced after her cargo of salt dissolved.

Underwriter / Federal Gunboat / February 2, 1864
Sunk at New Bern.

Southfield  / Federal Gunboat / April 19, 1864
Sunk at Plymouth by the powerful Confederate ram Albemarle.which was patterned after the Merimac but much improved.

Raleigh / Confederate Gunboat / May 7, 1864
Abandoned up the Cape Fear River and destroyed.

North Carolina / Confederate Gunboat / 27 September 1864
Found sunk on the Cape Fear River; bottom eaten out by worms.

Albemarle / Confederate Ram / October 27, 1864                                    
The Albermarle made the North Carolina sounds untenable for the Federals who were faced with either retreating from the area or of destroying it. The latter was decided on, and a small fleet of powerful naval vessels was sent out for the purpose. They encountered the Albemarle in the sound for which she was named. Lieutenant W.B. Cushing succeeded in sinking it with a torpedo-like bomb while she was at anchor at her new home base in Plymouth.

Louisiana / Federal Gunboat  / December 24, 1864           
General B.F. Butler, in command of attacking Federal troops, had figured out a scheme whereby he thought Fort Fisher, its defenders and the handful of Confederate ships aiding in its defense could all be leveled at the same time without incurring any loss of life on the part of Federal forces. In carrying out this plan, the old Federal gunboat Louisiana was filled with 300 tons of gunpowder, a special fuse and firing mechanism was rigged out. Late on December 23 the Louisiana was towed close to shore opposite the fort, the time fuse was ignited and the men on board removed.
   General Butler, apprehensive of the disastrous effects of the pending explosion, anchored his fleet off Beaufort, over 50 miles away. The Confederate defenders had heard rumors that a powder boat was being sent to attack, but having no idea of the magnitude of Butler’s plan they prepared for a more conventional attack. The Louisiana blew up at 1:30 a.m. on the 24th, the resultant explosion heard as far away as Wilmington, but even in Fort Fisher it was more like the sound of a large cork being expelled from a bottle of champagne. General Butler himself was not aware that the ship had exploded until a dispatch vessel brought him the news later that morning: About the only thing destroyed was the Louisiana

Tallahassee / Confederate Gunboat / January 15, 1865
Blown up by a Federal gunboat near Cape Fear.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

World War I

The United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917. The Germans had already demonstrated that their submarines were capable of making extended cruises of distances up to 12,000 miles, and shortly before the war the Deutschland, Germany's first large merchant sub, had visited our east coast. To guard against submarine attacks, the U.S. Navy commandeered innumerable small vessels and armed them as sub chasers and mine sweepers. Huge steel nets were spread across the entrances to the larger, more important harbors, and in certain sections aircraft units were assigned to antisubmarine patrol.
     The night of May 21, 1918, the government radio station at Arlington terminated its regular news report with the same announcement it had been broadcasting for months: "No submarine. No war warning." Many a radio operator, master and crewman slept more soundly that night as a result of the reassuring message, but none received it with more relief than the 77 men aboard the U-151, which at that moment was cruising on the surface at the very mouth of Chesapeake Bay.
     The U-151 was the first enemy ship to invade our waters since the war of 1812. Commanded by Korvettenkapitan Von Nostitz und Janckendorf, it left Germany in April and was well supplied with mines, ammunition for her two deck guns, torpedoes and a cable cutting device. Her immediate assignment was to lay mines across the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Her mines deposited and her cable cutting assignment completed, the U-151 headed south to inflict what damage she could on coastal shipping.

Harpathian / British Steamer / June 5, 1918 / Off Currituck
Captain Owens
Torpedoed by U-151 (Korvettenkapitan Von Nostitz)
 
The 4,588-ton Harpathian, bound from Plymouth, England to Newport News, was torpedoed 60 miles off the Carolina coast. She had a crew of 40 men of which 26 were Chinese. One fireman was injured during the attack and taken aboard the U-151 where he was treated by its boarding officer and surgeon, Dr. Frederick Korner. While he was being cared for, bully beef, tobacco and fresh water was passed to each of the Harpathian’s lifeboats. The wounded fireman was placed on board one of the boats and Von Nostitz gave Captain Owens the course toward land. They were sighted by the British steamship Potomac and transported to Norfolk.
 
Vinland / Norwegian Steamer / June 5, 1918 / Off Currituck
Captain Bratland
Torpedoed by U-151 (Korvettenkapitan Von Nostitz und Janckendorf)
 
The 1,143-ton Vinland was en route from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to New York with a full cargo of sugar. When Captain Bratland first signed the U-151, he mistook her for a tramp steamer and continued on his course. Only when Von Nostitz fired a warning shot over the vessel was he aware that he was under attack. Dr. Korner and his crew boarded the steamer and, while they placed small bombs in strategic positions, Captain Bratland and his crew gathered their personal belongings, loaded them in lifeboats and rowed clear. The Vinland was sunk approx. 50 miles east of the spot where the Harpathian went down.
 
Vindeggen / British Steamer / June 8, 1918 / Off Currituck / 1 killed
Captain Ballestead
Torpedoed by U-151 (Korvettenkapitan Von Nostitz und Janckendorf)
 
Shortly after dawn June 8, the 3,179-ton Vindeggen was sighted by the U-151. At 5:30 a.m. Captain Ballestead halted his vessel and ordered his crew to abandon ship. The starboard boat capsized as she struck the water and one of the crewmen drowned. By that time, the U-151 had come close enough to establish contact and learned the Vindeggen carried 2,000 tons of copper bars in addition to 6,000 bales of wool and hides. Von Nostitz decided to try to transfer part of the cargo to his own vessel but the sea was too turbulent to attempt a transfer. He ordered Captain Ballestead to get his men back aboard and, with the U-boat following close behind, the Vindeggen headed toward the open sea.
     Shortly afterward, another steamer appeared and, using the Vindeggen as a decoy, the U-boat was able to approach almost within hailing distance before being seen. This was another sugar ship, the Pinar Del Rio (see next).
     The U-151 and the Vindeggen proceeded further offshore and, when the sea calmed down, a woman and child—the wife and young daughter of Mate Ugland—were moved to the sub, where the officers’ quarters were turned over to them. The crews of the two vessels transferred some 80 tons of copper bars to the sub, replacing pig iron ballast which was thrown overboard. On June 10 the Vindeggen was exploded and sunk after her crew was put into their lifeboats.
     Throughout that day Mrs. Ugland and her daughter remained aboard the sub while the Vindeggen’s lifeboats were towed along behind. During the afternoon, the 4,322-ton Norwegian steamship Heinrich Lund, and her lifeboats were added to the flotilla of open boats being towed by the U-151. That evening the sub sighted the steamer Brosund, which was given a choice of taking aboard the survivors of the Vindeggen and Heinrich Lund or being sunk; 15 minutes later the Brosund, with Mrs. Ugland, her daughter and 66 crewmen from the two sunken vessels, safely left the scene.
 
Pinar del Rio / British Steamer / June 9, 1918 / Off Nags Head
Captain John MacKenzie
Torpedoed by U-151 (Korvettenkapitan Von Nostitz und Janckendorf)
 
The 2,504-ton Pinar del Rio was bound for Boston from Cuba. Her crew of 34 launched two lifeboats and, when they were clear of the vessel, the U-151 began shelling her at short range. She sank, with 25,000 bags of sugar, approx. 80 miles northeast of Nags Head. Eighteen of her crew, including the captain, were picked up shortly thereafter by a fruit steamer en route to New York, and the remaining 16 were discovered by a second steamer bound overseas. The story that came out of Manteo the following day was that a submarine which had sunk the Pinar Del Rio was accompanied by a large “mother” steamer which presumably was serving both as a supply ship and as a decoy.
 
O.B. Jennings / Standard Oil Tanker / August 4, 1918 / Off Wash Woods / 1 killed
Captain George Nordstrom
Torpedoed by U-140 (Fregattenkapitan Waldemar Kophamel)
 
The U-140 encountered the O.B. Jennings approx. 60 miles S.E. of Cape Henry on August 4 and immediately fired a torpedo at the tanker’s port bow. A Standard Oil Company tanker, the Jennings carried a full gun crew and was returning empty from Plymouth, England to Newport News. Captain Nordstrom spotted the torpedo shortly after it was fired and managed to elude it. He then ordered full speed ahead, manned the single four-inch gun on the after deck and for the next hour engaged in a running gun battle with the submarine.
     Nordstrom gave good chase, zigzagging time and again to confuse the U-boat’s gunners, and dropping smoke boxes overboard to screen his vessel. The U-140 fired 40 shells—one tenth her total supply—before finally making a hit. At 11:30 her gunners began making contact at almost every shot, and 10 minutes later a shell struck the engine room. A second hit the taker’s magazine, causing a tremendous explosion. Her ammunition spent or destroyed, and her engines out of commission, the Jennings was beat. Crewman, Second Steward James H. Scott had been killed and several others were wounded. Nordstrom sent a frantic wireless message for assistance and, as the crew lowered the boats, he exchanged clothes with the dead steward and joined the others in the lifeboats at 12:20 p.m.
     Three lifeboats were launched: one in command of Captain Nordstrom (dressed as a steward), the second under Chief Engineer Albert Lacy and the third under First Officer William J. Manning. The U-boat came up alongside the three boats to inquire for the Captain but was informed that he had been killed. They then took on board Second Office Rene Bastin as a prisoner, fired several more rounds at the Jennings, and as she rolled over and sank left the scene with Second Officer Bastin still aboard.
     During the night the three boats became separated. The USS Hull, which had intercepted the Jennings’ wireless message, arrived shortly after dark and located the lifeboats commanded by Lacey and Manning. Nordstrom’s lifeboat was located the following morning by the Italian steam Umbria.
 
Stanley M. Seaman / Schooner / August 5, 1918 / Off Cape Hatteras
Captain William McAloney
Torpedoed by U-140 (Fregattenkapitan Waldemar Kophamel)
 
A 1,060-ton sailing craft, the Stanley M. Seaman was loaded with coal and en route to Puerto Plata, San Domingo from Newport News. On August 5, U-140 spotted the Seaman and shot through her rigging. Captain McAloney lost no time in taking the U-boat’s hint. He and his eight-man crew abandoned their ship in such a hurry that they took off in a yawl instead of spending the extra time to lower their motor launch. In their haste, the men also failed to take water or provisions of any kind.
     When the sub came up alongside, Kophamel learned of this and suggested they return to exchange boats; the U-140 waited while ample provisions were stored in the motor boat and the 9 men again pulled clear. The Seaman was sent to the bottom with bombs and for the next three days her crew wandered about off Cape Hatteras, finally being picked up by a British steamer which landed them back at Newport News.
 
Merak / American Steamer / August 6, 1918 / Little Kinnakeet
Unknown
Torpedoed by U-140 (Fregattenkapitan Waldemar Kophamel)
 
Kophamel’s next target was the 3,024-ton coal-laden Merak, en route to Chile from Newport News. The day was calm with a moderate S.W. breeze and hazy sky. The Merak zigzagged down the coast at full speed as more than 30 shots were fired at her without a hit. But the shifting sands of Diamond Shoals proved a more fatal foe to the Merak, for she suddenly grounded on its fringe and stuck fast. Two lifeboats were quickly launched, with 23 of her crew boarding one and 20 on the other.
     Seeing the Merak was aground and being abandoned by her crew, Kophamel turned his attention to Diamond Shoals Lightship No. 71 (see next story). As that went on, one of the life boats from the Merak reached shore and the other picked up at sea by a patrol boat. After sinking the lightship, U-140 returned to pick up the Merak’s papers and finish her off with bombs.
 
Diamond Shoals / Lightship #71 / August 6, 1918 / Cape Hatteras
First Mate Walter L. Barnett
Torpedoed by U-140 (Fregattenkapitan Waldemar Kophamel)
 
First Mate Walter L. Barnett was in command of the lightship on the day it was attacked by U-140. Shortly after noon he heard the sound of shellfire north of the lightship and climbed the mast, attempting through binoculars to locate the source of the firing. Suddenly he spotted a puff of smoke, then another, and as the haze lifted slightly he could make out the low-slung outline of a submarine and the vessel it was shelling, less than half a mile away. He hurried back to the wireless shack and send the following message: “Enemy submarine shelling unknown ship E.N.E. ¼ mile off lightship.”
     That message may have been the lightships undoing, because until then the U-140 had not turned its guns on the anchored vessel. “Her first shot took away our wireless,” Barnett said, “but the next five were aimed wide and missed us. We had been painting our yawl boat that morning and she was hauled up on the davits with nothing inside but a small canvas sail. I called for her oars, and had the yawl lowered to the water.”
     Lightship #71 was a 124-foot coal burner, held in place by 185 fathoms of heavy chains firmly attached to a 5,000-pound mushroom anchor embedded in the sandy shoal. At best, it took five hours to get her underway, so Barnett stood no chance of eluding the U-boat. The wise decision was to quickly abandon ship before the sub’s gunners found the range again.
     “Within ten minutes we had the whaleboat overboard, and the twelve of us shoved off from No. 71,” Barnett said, “We had seven oars, six fourteen-footers for rowing, and a sixteen-foot sweep oar. I put the large oar over the stern and six of the crew grabbed the others, and we headed to the west’ard as fast as they could row. Roberts, the chief engineer, had left his false teeth behind, and none of us had saved anything but the clothes we had on our backs, but nobody seemed bothered too much about that.
     “We rowed for maybe five miles and all the time the sub kept firing at No. 71. Finally, we could just see her go down in the distance. By then the sub was way out of sight, so I told the boys to pull in the oars, and I mounted the sail, using the sweep oar for a mast.”
     Barnett’s whaleboat left the lightship at 2:35 p.m., 14 miles from the point of Cape Hatteras, but land was not sighted by the 12 survivors until just before dark. They landed at a point opposite the Cape Hatteras wireless station at 9:30 p.m.
 
Mirlo / British Tanker / August 16, 1918 / Chicamacomico / 10 killed
Captain W.R. Williams
Mines from U-117 (Kapitanleutnant Droscher)

Mirlo
The 6,679-ton Mirlo, with a crew of 52, picked up a full cargo of gasoline in New Orleans and headed for Norfolk on August 10. Despite the absence of the Diamond Shoals Lightship, she passed Cape Hatteras in safety soon after noon on the 16th and proceeded north toward Wimble Shoals.
     The wind was light and the sea somewhat calm when, opposite Wimble Shoals Light Buoy, a terrific explosion rocked the ship, wrecking the engine room and putting the lights and wireless out of commission. Captain Williams ordered his lifeboats made ready for lowering and attempted to reach the beach. He reported later that his vessel was torpedoed, though he did not actually see a torpedo and the absence of enemy subs in the area makes it quite certain that the Mirlo struck an enemy mine.
     The original explosion was witnessed by the lookout in the Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station, 7 miles N.E. of the light buoy. Keeper John Allen Midgett was summoned and ordered out his power lifeboat. While the lifesavers were making ready to put to sea, a second explosion took place on the Mirlo, her cargo of gasoline caught fire and Captain Williams, having given up all hope of beaching the ship, ordered his lifeboats lowered away. The first lifeboat to be lowered fouled the stays and capsized—it’s 16 men all managed to reach the overturned boat and were able to hang on. The other two boats were lowered safely—one with the Captain and 16 men, the other with Boatswain Donalds and 18 men.
     The third and final explosion took place cutting the ship in half and spewing its cargo of highly inflammable gasoline over the water in all directions. The Captains boat was soon clear of the sea of fire; the second, without oars, drifted aimlessly in the increasing wind; and the third, capsized boat was in the path of burning fuel that was gushing from her hold—the men were covered with gasoline—their clothes, hair and bodies on fire. Ten men disappeared from view, leaving six holding onto the overturned boat. Only by repeatedly submerging themselves under water were they able to remain alive.
     Captain John Allen Midgett of Chicamacomico Station and 6 surfmen headed for the towering cloud of flames rising from the sea on Wimble Shoals. On the way he met the Captain’s lifeboat and gave instructions to proceed to shore and wait for his return. The wind had freshened almost to gale intensity and the waves were building up in size and force. Midgett learned that two other boats had been launched and that one of them had capsized near the sinking ship. Midgett and his crew proceeded within a few hundred yards of the Mirlo where they were confronted by a sea of fire and great cloud of black smoke. They circled the cloud, coming up on the lee side and finding an opening in the blazing surface of the sea. Down this opening they saw the overturned lifeboat, with men still clinging to it.
     Without a moment’s hesitation, Midgett turned his wooden boat toward the blazing sea and ordered the crew to man their oars. He  skillfully maneuvered her down the open passage, moving directly through great sheets of fire at times, constantly wrapped in black smoke and barely able to see through the darkness surrounding them. Six men—exhausted, burned and blackened, hysterical and unbelieving—were pulled into the surfboat. One of Midgett’s men collapsed in the bow and had to be replaced. His mission complete, Midgett turned about and headed toward the open sea. But his job was not yet finished.
     Boatswain Donalds’ boat was the smallest of the three, but it carried the most men. The gunwales were now almost level with the water and she shipped water with every wave. Flame, blown by the wind, seared the flesh of the men huddled in the tiny boat and set fire to its sides. Shirts were taken off and used to beat at the fire, then trousers and all other clothing, until the men were naked. The boat continued to burn, their flesh was singed and they could see nothing through the cloud of black smoke surrounding them.
     Captain Midgett circled the burning mass but was unable to find the third boar until dusk, when he saw it drifting before the wind with its cargo of nude, blackened men. He and his crew  hurried toward the boat, passed a line aboard, headed back for the beach and safely landed 42 of the 52 who had been aboard the Mirlo.
     Captain Midgett and his crew (Zion S. Midgett, A.V. Midgett, Prochorns L. O’Neal, L.S. Midgett and C.E. Midgett) received Gold Lifesaving Medals from the U.S. government, and Victory Medals from the British. Their own burns healed, they returned again to their lonely vigil on the coast.

Nordhav / Norwegian Bark / August 17, 1918 / Off Bodie Island
Not Known
Torpedoed by U-117 (Kapitanleutnant Droscher)

The 2,846-ton Nordhav was loaded with linseed oil and en route to New York. It was torpedoed and sunk by the U-117 on August 17.

U-117

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lose Talk Can Cost Lives!

Espionage has been with us since early time. But the immigrant/melting pot based nature of the United States and our relatively late involvement in WWII made 1940s America a lucrative environment for spies and potential saboteurs.

Naturally, the dangers and concerns of national security intensified whtn the U.S.entered the war and America's overseas military and homeland patriots urgently needed additional protection. The U.S. Government had a great need to alert its' military and private citizens to the presence of enemy spies and saboteurs lurking in American Society.

A major advertising blitz involving all media eventually produced thousands of remarkable "careless talk" posters to warn people that small snippets of information regarding troop movement or other logistical details would be used by the enemy and could easily compromise national security and U.S. military personnel safety.

This striking and effective poster was designed in 1942 by famous artist/illustrator Stevan Dohanos. It's a realistic painting of half sunk cargo ship headed for the bottom of the ocean. The poster, which depicts an all too common news story of the time, involves a ship sunk by a German U-boat.

WWII ~ Battles of Torpedo Junction

On the morning of March 18, 1940 the 516 foot tanker E.M. Clark, under the command of Captain Hubert L. Hassell plus a crew of 40 was enroute to New York City from Baton Rouge with a cargo of 118,000 barrels of fuel oil when they were struck by an enemy torpedo as they approached Diamond Shoals. One crewman was killed during the initial attack.
     As the crew were assessing the damage and attempting to run an emergency antenna a submarine was spotted about 300 yards off the port side. A few minutes later another torpedo struck amidships and the Clark immediately started by the bow. The command was given to abandon ship and the survivors loaded onto the two remaining lifeboats.
     Believing everyone to be onboard, the lifeboats pulled away from the stricken vessel. Then another survivor was spotted on the deck of the Clark. He slid down a line and was successfully taken on board. As they attempted to circle the vessel in order to pick up other survivors the submarine was spotted once more, it’s spotlight outlining the stricken Clark.
     Captain Hassell wisely decided to make their departure. The 26 seamen in lifeboat #4 were picked up and transported to Norfolk, VA and the remaining 14 men were rescued by the USS Dickerson and taken to the Ocracoke Coast Guard Station. The only casualty, Thomas Larkin, was sleeping where the first torpedo struck and was presumed dead.

Nineteen allied merchant vessels were being escorted around Diamond Shoals when they came under enemy submarine attack. The Bluefields was sunk immediately and the Chilore and M.E. Mowinckel were badly damaged. They headed for shallow water which placed them inside the protective minefield. They both struck mines and were anchored to await assistance.
     On July 19 the ocean tugs Keshena and J.P. Martin were on duty trying to move the Mowinckel out of danger when the Keshina accidently strayed on a mine. The explosion sunk the tug immediately, killing two of the crewmen. Captain Oscar Johnson ordered the vessel abandoned. Without a lifeboat another one of the crewmen drowned but the remaining 15 survivors were soon picked up and taken to the Ocracoke Coast Guard Station.
   Shortly after the attack the German submarine U-5767 was sunk taking all hands to the bottom with her.

Nazi raiders first struck off the Tar Heel coast on January 18, 1942. Several hours before the dawn of that day the oil tanker Allan Jackson was proceeding northward in a calm sea 60 miles off Cape Hatteras. The tanker transported crude oil from Colombia, South America to New York.
     At 1:30 a.m. a German U-boat lurking in the area fired two torpedoes that struck the Allan Jackson and exploded. The second explosion split the ship in two and spilled its cargo of 7.5 million gallons of crude oil into the Atlantic. The vessel and the oil-soaked sea around it were engulfed in flames.        
     Unfortunately most of the tanker’s lifeboats were not serviceable and many sailors died. Some of the crew who managed to abandon ship clung for hours to wreckage. Later that day the United States destroyer Roe picked up the survivors. The first submarine attack along the Tar Heel coast had been costly. The tanker and its valuable cargo were lost, and only 13 of the 35 crewmen survived. The sinking of the Allan Jackson marked the start of the large-scale destruction of Allied shipping that quickly earned the North Carolina coast the wartime name of "Torpedo Junction."

The following list of ships sunk by German U-Boats off the NC Coast includes links to sites where you'll find detailed information on the loss:


Allen Jackson
Allan Jackson / American Steam Tanker / January 18, 1942 / 22 dead
Master Felix W. Kretchmer
Sunk by U-66
City of Atlanta
City of Atlanta / American Steam Merchant / January 19, 1942 / 43 dead
Master Lehman Chapman Urguhart
Sunk by U-123

Ciltvaira
Ciltvaira / Latvian Steam Merchant / January 20, 1942 / 2 dead
Master Karlis Eduards Skebergs
Sunk by U-123

Norvana
Norvana / American Steam Merchant / January 20, 1942 / 29 dead
Master Ernest Jefferson Thompson
Sunk by U-123

Empire Gem / British Motor Tanker / January 24, 1942 / 49 dead
Master Reginald Broad
Sunk by U-66

Venore / American Steam Merchant / January 24, 1942 / 17 dead
Master Fritz Duurloo
Sunk by U-66

Amerikaland
Amerikaland / Swedish Motor Merchant / February 2, 1942 / 5 dead
Master Ragnar Schultz
Sunk by U-106
Victolite
Victolite / Canadian Motor Tanker / February 11, 1942 / 47 dead
Master Peter McLean Smith
Sunk by U-564

Blink
Blink / Norwegian Steam Merchant / February 11, 1942 / 24 dead
Master Sigvart Ulvestad
Sunk by U-108

Buarque
Buarque / Brazilian Steam Merchant / February 15, 1942 / 1 dead
Master Joao Joaquim de Moura
Sunk by U-432

Olympic / Panamanian Steam Tanker / February 23, 1942 / 35 dead
Sunk by U-66

Norlavore as the Quantico
Norlavore / Cargo / February 24, 1942
Master Chauncey Homer Williams
Unconfirmed sinking by U-432
May have gone down during heavy weather.
Marore / American Steam Merchant / Febuary 26, 1942 / 0 dead
Master Charles Ernest Nash
Sunk by U-432
Arabutan
Arabutan / Brazilian Steam Merchant / March 7, 1942 / 1 dead
Master Anibal Alfredo do Prado
Sunk by U-155

John D. Gill
John D. Gill / American Steamer Tanker / March 12, 1942 / 23 dead
Master Allen D. Tucker
Sunk by U-158

British Resource / British Motor Tanker / March 13, 1942 / 46 dead
Master James Kennedy
Sunk by U-124

Ario
Ario / American Steam Tanker / March 15, 1942 / 8 dead
Master Thorolf R. Hannevig
Sunk by U-158

Ceiba / Honduran Steam Merchant / March 15, 1942 / 44 dead
Sunk by U-124
Alcoa Guide
Alcoa Guide / American Steam Merchant / March 16, 1942 / 6 dead
Master Samuel Leroy Cobb
Sunk by U-123

Olean / American Steam Tanker / March 16, 1942 / 6 dead
Master Theodore Bockhoff
Damaged by U-158

Australia
Australia / American Motor Tanker / March 16, 1942
Master Martin Ader
Sunk by U-332

Liberator / American Steam Merchant / March 19, 1942 / 5 dead
Master Albin Johnson
Sunk by U-332
Kassandra Louloudis
Kassandra Louloudis / Greek Steam Merchant / March 19, 1942 / 0 dead
Master Themistokles Mitlas
Sunk by U-124

Empire Steel
Empire Steel / British Motor Tanker /March 24, 1942 / 39 dead
Master William John Gray
Sunk by U-123

Naeco
Naeco / American Steam Tanker / March 23, 1942 / 24 dead
Master Emil H. Engelbrecht
Sunk by U-124
Narraganset / British Motor Tanker / March. 25, 1942 / 49 dead
Master Michael Blackburn Roberts
Sunk by U-105

Equipoise
Equipoise / Panamanian Steam Merchant / March 27, 1942 / 41 dead
Master John Anderson
Sunk by U-160

City of New York
City of New York / American Motor Passenger / March 29, 1942 / 24 dead
Master George T. Sullivan
Sunk by U-160
Malchace
Malchace / American Steam Merchant / March 29, 1942 / 1 dead
Master Arnt Magnusdale
Sunk by U-160

Rio Blanco
Rio Blanco / British Steam Merchant / April 1, 1942 / 19 dead
Master Aiden Blackett
Sunk by U-160

Otho / American Steam Merchant / April 3, 1942 / 32 dead
Master John Makkinje
Sunk by U-754

Byron D. Benson
Byron D. Benson / American Steam Tanker / April 5, 1942 / 10 dead
Master John G. MacMillan
Sunk by U-552

British Splendour
British Splendour / Tanker / April 6, 1942 / 12 dead Master John Hall
Sunk by U-552

Kollskegg / Norwegian Motor Tanker / April 6, 1942 / 4 dead
Master Leif Soyland
Sunk by U-754
Lancing
Lancing / Norwegian Whale Factory Ship / April 7, 1942 / 1 dead
Master Bjerkholt
Sunk by U-552

Atlas
Atlas / American Steam Tanker / April 9, 1942 / 2 dead
Master Hamilton Grey
Sunk by U-552

Tamaulipas under her former name Hugoton
Tamaulipas / American Steam Tanker / April 10, 1942 / 2 dead
Master Allan Victor Falkenberg
Sunk by U-552

San Delfino
San Delfino / British Motor Tanker / April 10, 1942 / 28 dead
Master Albert Edward Gumbleton
Sunk by U-203

Empire Thrush
Empire Thrush / British Steam Merchant / April 14, 1942
Master George Frisk
Sunk by U-203

Desert Light
Desert Light / Panamanian Steam Merchant / April 16, 1942 / 1 dead
Master Charles B. Dunn
Sunk by U-572

Harpagon
Harpagon / British Steam Merchant / April 19, 1942 / Cape Hatteras
Master Robert William Edward Laycock
Sunk by U-109

Empire Dryden / British Steam Merchant / April 20, 1942 / 26 dead
Master Robert Powley
Sunk by U-572

Agra
Agra / Swedish Motor Merchant / April 20, 1942 / 6 dead
Master Sture Selander
Sunk by U-654

Chenango / Panamanian Steam Merchant / April 21, 1942 / 31 dead
Master Alfred Rasmussen
Sunk by U-84

Bris / Norwegian Steam Merchant / April 21, 1942 / 5 dead
Master Einar Hansen
Sunk by U-201

Ashkhabad
Ashkhabad / Soviet Steam Merchant / April 29, 1942 / dead
Master Alexey Pavlovitch
Sunk by U-402

Lady Drake
Lady Drake / Canadian Steam Passenger / May 5, 1952 / 12 dead
Master Percy A. Kelly
Sunk by U-106

City of Birmingham
City of Birmingham / American Steam Passenger Ship / May 5, 1942 / 9 dead
Master Lewis P. Borum
Sunk by U-202
HMS Bedfordshire
HMS Bedfordshire / British Antisub Trawler FY-141 / May 25, 1942 / 37 dead
Lt R.B. Davis, RNR
Sunk by U-558

West Notus / American Steam Merchant / June 1, 1942 / 4 dead
Master Hans Gerner
Sunk by U-404

Manuela
Manuela / American Steam Merchant / June 5, 1942 / 2 dead
Master Conrad G. Nilsen
Sunk by U-404

Pleasantville / Norwegian Motor Merchant / June 8, 1942 / 2 dead
Master Johan Wildhagen
Sunk by U-135

F.W. Abrams
USS YP-389 / American Anti-sub Trawler / June 19, 1942 / 4 dead
Sunk by U-701

Ljubica Matkovic / Yugoslavian Steam Merchant / June 24, 1942 / 0 dead
Sunk by U-404

Nordal / Panamanian Steam Merchant / June 24, 1942 / 0 dead
Sunk by U-404

William Rockefeller / American Steam Tanker / June 28, 1942 / 0 dead
Master William R. Stewart
Sunk by U-701

Tennessee
Tennessee / British Steam Merchant / September 23, 1942 / 15 dead
Master Aage Henry Albrechtsen
Sunk by U-617
Libertad / Cuban Steam Merchant / December 4, 1943 / 25 dead
Sunk by U-129

Belgian Airman
Belgian Airman / Belgian Steam Merchant / April 14, 1945 / 1 dead
Master E. Cailloux
Sunk by U-857