June 14, 1915 - New York,
New York! - Part I
---- 8:15 PM, New York harbor
As Strassburg crept towards her berth at the HAPAG terminal, Kommodore
von Hoban continued to be amazed at the massive metropolitan area he could
glimpse, and the industrial might that was displayed for all the world
to see. The city spread up the river valley and on the other side of the
various rises of land he could see. Smoke, the badge and bane of heavy
industry, plumed into the sky from countless sources everywhere. The city
appeared to have no end, as far as he could discern, and what he had seen
already made it the equal of Berlin. And this was not even the American
Up one finger of the great harbor was the United States Naval Yard, New
York - though the USN had other yards, as well. Numerous piers had warships
tied up several deep, and the distant blocky shapes of dreadnoughts could
just be made out in the coal haze in the harbor. The big ships sported
those bizarre cable towers in the superstructure that only the USN affected.
No recognition problems there, he thought. He still shivered when he thought
how near he had come to firing on that small USN light cruiser! Of all
the Baron's strictures, that was the one most seriously emphasized. Von
Hoban swallowed yet again at how near disaster had been.
"Understand now, far better, the Baron's instructions," he muttered.
This was no colonial-provincial backwater of a nation with a third rate
navy. This was a rising industrial giant! One already flexing his muscles
without the fetters of war or even serious enemies on his borders!
"Captain Siegmund, it appears more salutes and ceremony are ahead."
"Yes, sir," replied Siegmund, looking away from his scrutiny
of the tugs' progress. "Ah," he added, as he espied the small
knot of uniformed personnel awaiting them on the pier, "I understand.
XO, are we ready for the formalities?"
"LT Lionel," called von Hoban.
"Sir?" The young officer had initially welcomed this extra adventure,
but had begin to have his doubts a couple days ago. That was when it looked
like Strassburg was about to take on a sea of enemies. Now, he
was already beginning to play tourist, gaping at the exotic sights of
New York. Every day was a gift, he'd concluded, after his experiences
"What have you learned from the pilot?"
Lionel glanced at the heavily tanned American, almost swarthy in fact,
with deep creases in his leathery face. The truth was that the pilot had
been taciturn to the point of being effectively mute, except when giving
"Just the usual, sir. Bearings and depths, that is all."
"Hmmph, ask if there are any British, French, or other belligerent
warships in the harbor." Von Hoban had realized the port was big
enough to hide whole fleets from his view. The next 24 hours or so were
going to be complicated enough as it was.
"Aye, aye, sir."
Lionel was positive he phrased the question properly, but the old salt
just gazed at him as if he were spouting Swahili, or something. The young
German felt both his kommodore's stare and his own perspiration beginning
to bead under his arms. Eventually, the older man shrugged his shoulders,
and looked back into the harbor. Lionel suddenly had a suspicion.
"Sir, I do not think he has any knowledge of what ships are in his
harbor." The kommodore shrugged, and resumed his examination of the
group on the dock. Perhaps a tiny spark flashed in the eyes of the American
but, if so, it came and went too quickly for Lionel to be certain.
After another few minutes, there was the expected jar that shook the ship
slightly. They had eased up nicely into the fenders and linesmen went
about their tasks. Gangways were brought into position. All the normal
things that Lionel expected were going on around him; only the place was
different. It was a weird combination of normal and abnormal, and he felt
"Guten Abend, Kapitan zue See, Kommodore," the pilot
suddenly called faultlessly up to the bridge. He smiled at Lionel and
just nodded, and went towards the water side.
"Und Sie, aber naturlich," replied von Hoban clearly,
but without inflection.
"Wiedersehen," he said at last to Lionel, as he
swung down nimbly to the tug just below.
"Of course," commented Siegmund to the slightly embarrassed
Lionel a few moments later, "in a harbor with this traffic, pilots
of all languages must be easily obtained. You did well, lieutenant."
"Yes," agreed von Hoban, "that was a shrewd remark you
draped over him. But your serious duties begin ahead." He nodded
at the party on the dock. "Remember, your Kommodore does not speak
English, though I can read it somewhat and some of the speech I may understand.
Less, and they might be suspicious. Take your time, I will need it all."
And likely more, he added to himself.
---- 8:45 PM, quaterdeck of Strassburg
"Our intentions, sir," repeated a perspiring Lionel, "are
to obtain coal and supplies in accordance with The Hague 1907. Do you
want to see one of our copies? I regret we have them only in German."
"So," said the American captain, "you state that you intend
to leave within 24 hours?"
"We intend to comply with The Hague."
"Perhaps you would be so kind as to explain what you believe compliance
"You want Kommodore von Hoban to explain kindly?" Lionel had
lost the idiom. Von Hoban worked hard to contain his smile.
"Please provide more details on your intentions."
"Ah," said Lionel, and he turned to von Hoban to explain.
"You know The Hague and our intentions well enough. Explain them."
"Aye, aye, sir." Lionel could feel the moisture pooling in his
lower back. "Um, Captain, we intend to recoal as quickly as we are
able. If recoaled we are, then in 24 hours will we cast off our lines
and leave your territorial waters. If coal there is not, then another
24 hours might we need."
"There's ample coal, I'd say," the American remarked dryly.
"Mountains of it, in fact." Though, truth be told, the liners'
holds had made decent inroads already.
"Never mind. And the liners? Do you intend to escort them out?"
"In 24 hours, I hope them ready to be. Escort them? That is why we
are here. With The Hague will we comply."
"Very well, sir. I will hold you to that. To all of the provisions.
Commodore," said the American, moving on to another subject, "there
are many British, French, and others on the streets of New York this day,
like every day. I am concerned there will be trouble."
"On these docks, shall my crew remain."
"Very well, that solves that one. I thank you for your understanding.
I will establish a cordon at the end of the pier for your safety and convenience.
I'll have my MP officer meet with LT Lionel here on the docks, over there
by that crane, to work out the details. Also, Kommodore von Hoban, Admiral
Stennis would appreciate it if you would pay him a visit at his offices
in the morning. You may bring your interpreter, of course. The United
States Navy and Admiral Stennis himself personally will guarantee your
safety and prompt return."
The American handed over an envelope. Lionel read it, gave a translation,
and handed it to von Hoban.
"It would be my honor. However, with my embassy first must I meet.
Would closer to noon be acceptable?"
"Yes, noon would be fine. I will be back then." The American
officer looked at his notes, cleared his throat, and raised his voice
slightly. "Kommodore, you are cleared for entry. Let me bid you welcome
to the United States of America."
The American left and began to shout orders and make signals to various
others ashore. Lionel hardly noticed what went on dockside after that.
He felt wrung out, his blouse stuck wetly to his back.