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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 16, 1915 - New York, New York! - Part III

--- 10:00 AM, United States Navy Yard, New York

"Good morning, admiral," said Rear-Admiral Fiske. "Good of you to see me."

"Nonsense, Brad." The tone of Vice-Admiral Stennis' voice was one of utmost sincerity. Fiske was already a legend in the USN, having pioneered several technical advances and then actually used them himself to good effect in battle in the last war. Besides being a friend of long-standing, Fiske was an out-spoken advocate for a stronger USN. His butting heads with the powers that be in the Navy's behalf had not gone unnoticed by his peers. The two admirals headed into Stennis' office; stewards hastened in to pour coffee.

"I cannot escape that man, even in the mess," said Fiske, bitterly, as he eyed the contents of his mug.

"Rum sure hasn't hurt the Royal Navy, it would seem," Stennis commented.

"That's just the kind of thing Daniels has had thrown at him, but he's paid it no mind. Nary a bit. Never argue with a man who owns a newspaper, that's what I've learned. The man's been in so many arguments in his life by now, John, that he doesn't even hear the other side any more. Hell, last week he suggested that maybe the Brits had started their Glorious First of June celebrations a day early with a bit too much rum punch!"

"German shells aren't rum bottles," snorted Stennis.

"Exactly! Now, this row you've got on your hands here has got all of Washington in a dither. I was telling Daniels yesterday, that this is just more evidence of just how badly we need more ships, bigger ships, stronger ships. We've got the makings of a sea battle right off New York harbor and all we're gonna' be able to do is watch and keep score. Hell, I told him, half the pleasure boats on Long Island are gonna' sail right out to watch! And there's precious damn little we can do about it. This last year with Mexico has stretched us thin, thinner than he's willing to admit. The damn British have ships lined up, up and down our coast, laughing their bloody heads off at us. We're never going to get their respect unless we've got a navy big enough to make them think twice about us.

"And you know what he said? It's only one little German cruiser, that's what! I sure hope Bill Benson has better luck. I don't know what a ‘Chief of Naval Operations' is supposed to do, and neither does Bill, by the way, but talking some sense into the Secretary should sure be in that job description of his." Fiske's glare into his mug was blacker than the brew.

"So, John, tell me about your ‘little German cruiser'."

"My cruiser, eh? Why don't I like the sound of that? Well, I met with their commodore yesterday noon. He certainly talked tough enough, but all he wanted was to get the heck out of Dodge before our rum-sipping friends pile up a fleet off Long Island. I told him he'd have to wait out some scheduled Brit merchant departures, and also that the British had lodged complaints. Then, bold as brass, he offered to give me any counter complaints I'd need to let him go."

"What have you got out there right now?" Fiske asked.

"Montana and most of 6th division."

"That enough, you think? The Huns aren't the only bold ones. I wouldn't put anything past the Brits. Not after getting thrashed, not once, but twice this year. The Germans have gotten their respect, all right, and they hate it."

"Well, I'm warming up Wyo and New York. Got them on 8-hour notice. I just haven't let that cat out of the bag yet."

"Ah, that's more like it. There's nothing a couple dreadnoughts won't make better."

"Brad, I'm worried about those liners."


"I don't know how many Americans are on them, but it's got to be hundreds. The man I've got guarding the pier, Colonel Anton, has been watching them board. They fired on Imperator coming in, sure as hell they'll fire on her going out. Brad, I can't keep Strassburg moored forever. We're talking about thousands of Americans dead, including women and children, in plain sight of the Statue of Liberty!"

The two admirals considered that prospect morosely.

"Well," sighed Fiske after a minute, "if that doesn't get Daniels' attention, I don't know what will."

--- 10:30 AM, Steps of St. Christopher's

The crowd was listening, spellbound in the wind swirls amongst the tall buildings, as the lady in black, her brilliant red tresses flickering like flames, held forth with great passion. Nor were the reporters immune. Their mouths sometimes gaped partly open and sometimes they forgot to take notes. They had heard her called "Countess," and they could well believe it.

"... and all he wanted was to be free, free at last from the English occupation, the English oppression, the English thievery, the English murders. Oh, they're slippery, they are! They deny everything, but they can't deny this. Not on your doorstep. They fired at an unarmed passenger liner in plain sight of your coast and in your own waters! Butchers! All of them! Can't you see the blood on their hands? How can they deny what is plain before you today? See this coffin? Surely America is not blind? Can't you see? The bloody-handed British will stop at nothing but, let me tell you, nothing will never stop us!"

There was a scattering of applause that quickly grew in volume until the lady raised her hands.

"It was just 140 years ago, on March 25, 1775, that Patrick Henry proclaimed, ‘Give me liberty or give me death.' That was the same British Empire that murdered Thomas, here, in this casket. Thomas wanted liberty, too; they gave him death. Bloody murdered him they did, by naval cannons, and him on an unarmed passenger liner heading for safety here, the land of Patrick Henry."

There was a brief embarrassed murmur from the crowd. The lady paused. The only sounds were from the pens of the reporters as they frantically scribbled their notes.

"It was exactly 140 years ago," she resumed, "just yesterday, that the American Continental Congress named George Washington ‘Commander-in-Chief' in the American struggle for freedom. Let me tell you all. The English don't want any more George Washingtons. And certainly not in Ireland. It was exactly 140 years ago today, that Americans began planning to go up to Bunker Hill. You all know what happened there. The British Empire doesn't want any more Bunker Hills, either."

The Countess Marina continued her speech, to an occasional burst of applause. The reporters continued to write. Colorful personalities quoting local themes were always wonderful copy!

---- 11:00 AM, June 16, Bermuda

"Sir, from Sydney, re-coaling complete. On one hour notice."

"Very well, thank you, Butler," said the commander.

Vice-Admiral Patey had arrived with Sydney the previous evening, having left Kingston early on June 13, as soon as it became clear that the German cruiser had been pinned against the US shore, with Melbourne shortly to join the others on station there. Melbourne had, in fact, rendezvoused with Niobe just after dawn on June 14. Once committed to the US, the German could be kept immobile and unable to threaten commerce for days, and maybe indefinitely, under the rules of The Hague 1907. Sydney's flying passage of the roughly 1,400 nautical miles from Kingston to Bermuda had gone through about half her bunkerage. If Sydney were to picket off New York, still almost 700 miles away to the NNW, for any extended time and then possibly chase after Strassburg or a liner, re-coaling now had been imperative.

Patey and his deputy had been in meetings all morning. The commander had been dispatched to take another look at the traffic and to check on Sydney. The run to New York would be another 30 - 36 hours, and heavy weather could make it longer. Now, finished his tasks, he stared out into the harbor, less than eager to return to that hot and stuffy room. One AMC and Sydney were the only ships of size in view. The AMC was not going anywhere, having wiped two bearings, cracked a pump casing, and fountained scalding water all over one engineroom. Sydney, though, had a lean and hungry look, like Cassius in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," the commander thought. He wiped his face and sighed; it would only be worse back in the conference room.

"... not just a raider, admiral." He heard as he opened the door. "They've been replacing lead ballast with tin and nickel billets. They've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on them, and on drums of rubber."

"The money doesn't convince me in the least. Tell me about the so-called passengers," he heard Patey say.

"They haven't told us much, sir. I think they were caught out on it. What our men say, though, is that the ones they've been able to check out really were Americans, and not just Germans pretending to be Americans."

"And the women and children? Are they real, too?"

"Yes, sir. I'm afraid so. Americans, too."

"Damn!" Patey was livid. Running down a raider was one thing, but this promised to be a diplomatic disaster!

"Commander?" The tone was odd; his own boss also was showing clear signs of strain.

"Sydney's re-coaled, sir, and on one hour. No new cables on this."

"Thank you, commander."

"Damn their eyes!" Patey burst out. "Would they really sacrifice a spanking new cruiser and a couple liners just to make an incident off the US coast? Have the Americans extended the hold?"

"They haven't said so, at least not officially, sir. But, they did let Greencastle leave this morning."

"Ah, a bit of good news, at last! Very well. Commander, draft a cable to Admiralty ...."

---- 12:30 PM, United States Naval Yard, New York

"Thanks again for seeing me, admiral."

"Thank you for coming up and dropping dropping by, Brad. Is Josephine up here with you? If she is, what are you doing for supper tonight?"

"Not yet, she stayed down in Annapolis last night. Bill and his wife coming down for a weekend on our boat. She's catching the train up this afternoon, but I'm afraid we're already committed. You know, John, you're welcome aboard anytime you find yourself down our way. Josephine likes company and loves showing off ‘The Maid of Athens' to any and all she can get aboard her."

"Sounds wonderful. Maybe when this blows over ...."

jim (Letterstime)

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