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Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 17, 1915 - New York, New York! - Part IX
(Late afternoon)

---- 4:30 PM, bridge of New York, ahead slow

"That's quite a ship, admiral," offered the admiral's chief of staff.

"Concur," replied Rear-Admiral David Alton. "In fact, we owe those cowboys a debt of sorts, for this visit of their's, almost no matter what happens."


"First, I'll take any excuse to get our lads local seatime," replied Alton, not lowering his binoculars. "A sortie like this is priceless training. But, George, look at her. How big is she? What, 4,000 tons? And she's mounting seven 6-inch guns on that hull, and some torpedo tubes, to boot. We've just begun to put 4-inchers on our Destroyers, and the Germans have already upgunned theirs to six."

"But fewer guns, sir, and lower rate-of-fire ...."

"We've been at peace, George. You're looking, right there, tied up at that pier, at design decisions made from the lessons of battle. They built her with 4-inchers and now they've upgunned her."

"But the Destroyers are smaller ships."



"We have dreadnoughts and Destroyers, and precious little in between. Old Chicago is just about her size, but she was a failure and we haven't built much in that tonnage since. The ACRs are much bigger and, in any case, were built for the Line, not for screening or scouting. Montana wouldn't have the slightest chance of catching her.

"George," continued Alton, nodding at Strassburg, "there's our proof. Just the kind of thing we can take to Congress."

Yes, continued the admiral to himself wistfully, a couple more such German ships, and even the most isolationist of senators would vote for increases in Navy funding.

---- 4:45 PM, bridge of Strassburg

"There're a lot of glasses on us from over there."

"True, XO," replied Captain Siegmund. "Very true."

Of course, a goodly number of Germans were staring back, just as intently. There, just a few thousand yards away, was the flagship of another fleet. A very big ship of a fast-growing and potentially unfriendly fleet, growing in perfect safety in numerous yards a full ocean away from Wilhelmshaven.

"Her third turret has a limited arc."

Siegmund did not comment, continuing to study this possible foe in silence.

The bright sun reflected off the many square yards of fresh paint on the big dreadnought's topsides out in the harbor. The New York glowed in the crossroads, radiating power and menace.

---- 5:15 PM, British consulate

"This is what the Americans have given them? Are you quite sure?" The speaker was obviously not happy with the paper he was gesturing with.

"Yes, sir. Quite sure."

"Helms, what do you make of this? We should lodge a protest!"

"Well, sir. The Americans seem to be within their rights, though one could have hoped they'd be less, er, generous in their terms. We can protest, of course, but this was not the local commander's decision. I understand this came from Washington."

"Washington? Who? Daniels?"

"His name was on the document, I understand, but I was told he'd been instructed on the matter."

Realistically, only one person could have given Secretary Josephus Daniels orders.

Wilson again, thought the senior diplomat. Damn, but he wished that Roosevelt fellow was back in office but, remembering Morocco, decided he might not be so keen after all. Wilson, at least, was predictable. Roosevelt had been called many things, some by the diplomat himself, as he recalled, but "predictable" had never been one of them. Damn Americans, he thought, but said no more, though his scowl was plain enough.

---- 5:55 PM, Strassburg quarterdeck

"Kommodore, arriving!"

Siegmund headed for the top of the gangway, reaching there as von Hoban and LT Lionel came back aboard.

"Kommodore," said Siegmund as they left the quarterdeck, "I had begun to get concerned ...."

Yes," replied von Hoban, "it took us longer to travel to the consulate than I had ever imagined. Never have I seen so many automobiles. Traffic just stopped, time and again. Also it took longer than I expected at the consulate. Far too long. It is all perfectly simple to me, but no one could seem to find Herr Schmidt. But, finally all was clear. At last, we can proceed; we can only hope that all will go as planned."

"Herr Ballin was asking ...."

"Yes, thank you, that's right. I must go and make a courtesy call to him, to explain. I'll do that shortly. But first, Captain, the number of soldiers out there is much greater than when we left. When did the Americans increase their sentry force? Did they give you any notice?"

"No notice , sir. It occurred just after you left for the consulate. Three trucks pulled up, two with soldiers, and the third with those barricades. Since then, two more trucks unloaded more barricades, over there, but those have not yet been positioned."

"Those at the consulate reported that there was talk of a demonstration of some sort, tomorrow at noon, at the end of pier. Their former president is making more trouble. Possibly that was the reason your trip took longer. The consular officers avow that this Roosevelt schemes to use us to get back in power."

"Ah," said Siegmund, "so the Americans make ready. Could they be planning some incident? To be blamed on us? I trust not this Roosevelt. Could he be a tool of the British?"

"Perhaps," replied von Hoban, "but he opposed us in Venezuela when he was in power the last time. He may well see us now as his stepping stone."

---- 6:00 PM, Admiral Stennis' office

"Admiral? Admiral Alton has exited the outer harbor."

"Good, confirm Montana received that. Then send the other signal I drafted; he's to rendezvous with New York just after dawn at the three mile limit."

Alton would be in position by then and would become Senior Officer On Station at that point. Stennis wanted no chance for confusion on the matter.

"Aye, aye, sir."

"And, Jenkins? I'll be leaving in a few minutes. This day's work is done and tomorrow will be another day, a long day, and the next one longer than that. So, don't stick around too late. Go get some sleep. We're all going to need to be wide awake starting tomorrow but, as I said, today's work is done."

"Aye, aye, sir. Thank you, sir, and good evening."

For others, however, the day was just beginning.

---- 5:56 PM, U-43, submerged, 47 miles SSE of New York outer harbor


The young CO was quite upset. This was his maiden deployment and he wanted all to go perfectly.

"Down scope," he said.

As he watched the tube come down, he turned to his XO.

"I saw three ships to the NE, and another two to the NW."

"All British?"

"No, I don't think so. The biggest one to the NW was some kind of pre-dreadnought. Not British."

"Ah, an American, then."

"Yes. Two days on station and both times we've missed the 6:00 PM. Again, we'll have to wait until after sunset for the midnight."

---- 6:05 PM, U-44, surfaced, 23 miles off Long island, ENE of New York harbor

"Sir! We've copied the signal from New York."

"Gut. Any change?"

"Yes, sir. The Americans must have released them. We have their sailing time!"

"Excellent! Have we acknowledged and confirmed?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well, begin the relay to Moltke. Let me know the instant they acknowledge."

The CO swept the horizon carefully with his binoculars, then lowered them.

"Ahead Full," he called down. "Come to course 090. Look sharp up there," called the CO to the lookouts, then raised his glasses again to stare to the east. There were a lot of ships out here, and he wanted to be seen by none of them.

(Early evening)

---- 6:30 PM, bridge of Moltke, course 285, speed 8 knots

"Sir, signal from U-44."

"Ah," replied Rear-Admiral Hanzik. "That may mean ... ." His voice trailed off as he reached for the message.

Captain Stang had made his way to the bridge when the word reached him about the signal. Now, he edged closer. After a few moments, the admiral looked up, saw him, and handed him the slip.

"At last," Stang said, a smile in his voice. It had been good to avoid battle so far, but the suspense and monotony of the passage was getting to everyone. They were much more used to sorties and battles than to long trans-oceanic transits.

"Yes," agreed Hanzik. "Signals Officer!"

---- 6:45 PM, 0.7 rods ENE of the buffet table

" 'Of course, we must attack! Attack! Immediately!' I shouted ..."

---- 7:00 PM, bridge of New York

"Captain," said Rear-Admiral David Alton, "you may alter course and speed at your discretion. Wyoming will conform."

"Aye, aye, admiral."

"I'd like to be about here," added Alton, pointing at a spot on the map, "well enough before dusk to see and be seen, but that's about it. I expect we'll be out here for a couple days or so, and I don't want anyone making any dumb mistakes in the dark. The Brits are likely gettin' a mite skittish by now."

Alton walked out onto one wing of the bridge. The early evening breeze whistled slightly past his ears. The smell of the land was still in the air. Landlubbers called it the smell of the sea, but sailors knew there was no such odor once well away from the shore. He looked back at the big dreadnought astern. It was always exhilarating to be in command at sea, operating in a formation, especially to be making a sortie of sorts. The lessons of the last war were ebbing. All the USN did now was patrol and transit, and Alton and the other commanders (and crews) were getting tired of it. What really built readiness and combat performance were sorties and battle.

Behind him, the captain soon sorted things out with his navigator and the call went out for the signalmen. Ropes squealed in their hoists as new course and speed information went up into the yards. Almost in reflex, the admiral snapped open his pocket watch to time the responses of the ships in his squadron.

---- 7:15 PM, 23 decimeters SSE of the buffet table

"... so I said, 'Why this delay? Are all you infidels cowards? Must I take the wheel myself? Engage! Line-to-Line ...' "

---- 7:30 PM, Imperator

Many of the diners were still at table, lingering over coffee and dessert. Others had left, perhaps to get the best seats at one of the shows. At the Captain's Table, only Ballin and Heinlich remained, deep in conversation with the Countess Marina. The lure for the Countess to return aboard for the evening meal had been the prospect of strawberry shortcake. Fresh ripe strawberries, draped in thick whipped cream, all atop slices of the Imperator's shortbread still warm from her ovens ....

A rare, for her, second helping lay still partially intact before her. Ballin had just finished describing the previous day's affair at the home of Thomas Fortune Ryan, though he deliberately neglected to include the exchanges in his host's Renaissance Room.

"I met Mr. Ryan, myself," interjected the Countess, "and his wife -- Ida, isn't it? -- at church this morning. Jean de Baptiste. Just after 7:00 Mass."

"Indeed? Did he seek you out? Or you, he?"

"A little of both, I suspect," Marina admitted with a slight smile. "They're staunch Catholics ...

Ballin nodded at that, remembering the contents of Ryan's home.

... and tremendous contributors to many charities and such. They go to Mass there almost daily, I learned. In fact, I was told that they pretty much endowed that church. I went there because they're known to support causes, not simply contribute to them for others to act."

"Ryan mentioned his working in the Belgium Relief," agreed Ballin.

"Yes, but I was surprised that he knew nothing of what has happened in Ireland, is still happening." Her tone was as much resigned as it was bitter.

Ballin nodded again, as the elegant red-haired lady attacked the shortcake for a moment.

"I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, though. Almost no one in this country has any knowledge of affairs in Ireland," she resumed after a bit. "They know a little of what's happening in Europe, but half the stuff they think they know is wrong. Worst of all, though, is that almost no one really cares." She shook her head as she swirled a berry in the rich cream.

"They're at peace," offered Heinlich. "They're an ocean away. They have no reason to care."

"I asked a few about Die Kaiserschlacht," said Ballin. "Of course, I did not call it that. Some had never heard of it. Others just remember some newspaper stories, but that it was over a week ago. And the British have obviously worked to defuse all news of the battle. For some, the only battle they knew about was in a moving picture about some fight with some of their western primitives."


"Yes," confirmed Ballin. "At some place called 'Crippled Leg,' I think. They didn't like the film, anyway, best I could tell."

" 'Crippled Leg' -- were they pulling, er, wool over your eyes?"

"No, I am positive. Someone named 'Buffalo Bill' re-enacted it and filmed it, and is trying to make money by charging for admission."1

"Americans," snorted the Countess, waving a forked blood-red strawberry. "Even some of the Irish here care less than I expected, though many have not forgotten. There is so much going on in their lives, they say. Keeping a job and bread on the table commands so much time and effort that, even if they want to help, they can do little. The British have agents everywhere, it seems. So far, we've avoided their traps, but if America becomes unfriendly, I'll have no protector, no place to turn. In Europe, there are so many borders, but here there are none nearby, besides Canada, and that's no shelter!"

Ballin nodded again. No wonder she had sought out the powerful Thomas Fortune Ryan, owner of banks and a railroad. What a setback to find he did not even know of the problems for which she crusaded!

"So," asked Ballin, with great daring, "what will you do now?"

"Now?" Marina asked, surprising him with a brilliant smile. "Now, I will finish these strawberries!"

"A good plan," Heinlich agreed and, after a moment of admiration, so did Ballin.

"Um," said Marina, her brow creasing. She swallowed and asked, "were you expecting the Kommodore?"

"No, I was not. That is certainly him, however, and it appears he bears news."

---- 7:45 PM, bridge of Aylwin

"Sir, the anchor appears to be holding."

"Very well, chief," replied Commander Leverett. "I want the watch to keep a careful eye on it."

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the bosun. "We've got good lines on Miss Liberty, Imperator, and some others. We'll start logging them on the quarter hour."

"That should do it," agreed Leverett. "This is no place to be dragging ...."

"No, sir," the chief nodded vigorously. "It sure ain't."


"Aye, sir?"

"If the Germans keep their word, Strassburg can't sail before 6:09 AM. Now, I really don't think they'll try to pull a fast one on us, but I want a close watch on her, just the same. I want to be notified if there's any sign she's getting ready to get under way. Now, the liner, Imperator, is free to leave at any time, I'm to be called if it looks like she's casting off. They've had tugs come alongside an hour before dawn each of these last two days -- maybe just to annoy the Brits -- so be looking for them."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Almost on cue, band music from aboard Imperator could be heard to start up, carrying easily across the water in the harbor. Leverett listened for a moment, but could not quite recognize the tune.

"I'll be putting that in the Night Orders," he concluded, "along with logging those bearings on the quarter-hour. Also, #1 Boiler will remain on-line with the others warm in Standby. If Engineering asks, we'll be shifting during the 12-16 ...."

---- 8:00 PM, flag bridge of New York

"Admiral, the captain reports that we're on station, and that the British have replied to our signals. Their Senior-Officer-On-Station is Vice-Admiral Patey, himself. He's aboard Sydney and is proceeding to rendezvous with us per your request. The Captain expects they'll be alongside in about 30 minutes."

"Good," Rear-Admiral Alton replied. "Jenkins, did you get that? Pass the word for my steward, if you would."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Alton thought for another moment. "Send a signal to Peace on Montana," he ordered his chief of staff, "I don't want any ...."

---- 8:15 PM, HAPAG Pier

"Sir, do you really think we need barricades?"

"Yes, damn it," Colonel Anton half-snarled. Then the officer shrugged his shoulders and relented. "I don't want to be short with you, Lieutenant, but it's been a long day. I spent all morning answering inane questions from men who damn well should've known better, and probably did, for that matter. My whole afternoon was a packed train trip at 90-something degrees practically in one the laps of a fat slob with bologna breath or worse with a pair of screaming brats behind me kicking my seat all the way from Baltimore to Philadelphia. The last thing I need is ....

"Lieutenant," he said, reining himself in again as a senior sergeant came up to report something, "have you ever dealt with a mob? An angry mob? One whipped into some sort of frenzy by some demagogue or other?"

The enlisted man blanched.

"No, sir," the lieutenant responded.


"Nossir. Seen 'em, oncertwice. But, deal with one? Nossir."

"Thank you, Gunny. Lieutenant, Gunnery Sergeant Fideles is being modest. He was with us in China with the Boxers.

"Lieutenant, the plain fact is that one can not 'deal with' an angry mob. One can confine them with stone walls -- if they're high enough and thick enough, one can get out of their way, or one can shoot them down until the rest either over-run you or they lose heart and flee. What you can't do, is 'deal with' one.

"Now, Lieutenant, just what do you think is gonna' happen when 15 or 20 or 30,000 men get their fill of free beer out in 90 degree noon sun, and listen to our Mr. Roosevelt as he pulls out all the stops to be President again? With them there," Anton pointed, "the Germans there, and us here in their way?"

The Lieutenant paled and swallowed. The silence stretched. Tugs hooted in the harbor

"Barricades will stop them?" The young man's voice quavered only a little.

"No. It might calm them down, though. Give them a place they can stop at and yell and scream and carry on, if that's all they want to do. But it won't stop them."

The young officer saw Fideles nod in agreement.

"But, if, then what, sir?"

"Then, son, we follow orders. Do our duty."

---- 8:30 PM, 47 inches WNW of the buffet table

"... and then I ordered them to pursue the British dogs ..."

jim (Letterstime)

Author's Notes

1. Mr. William Frederick Cody ("Buffalo Bill") formed the "W. F. Cody Historical Pictures Company" and, in 1913-4, filmed on location in the American West and began his several attempts to market in 1914 a re-enactment of "Wounded Knee" and as many as three other battles in which he had participated. The film seems to have been titled, variously: "The Indian Wars," "The Indian Wars Refought," and "The Adventures of Buffalo Bill." Only three minutes of this film are known to still exist today. Unfortunately for Mr. Cody, the effort was not a commercial success under any of the titles, including the last version that was re-titled and released upon Cody's death.

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