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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 17, 1915 - New York, New York! - Part X
(Late evening)

---- 9:00 PM, HAPAG Terminal, Kaiser Wilhelm II

"Good evening, Herr Ballin," said the liner captain.

"And a good evening to you," replied the owner of HAPAG.

"Ah, you have news? A sailing time, perhaps?"

"Yes, precisely ...."

---- 9:30 PM, Imperator

"You're staying aboard tonight, then, Countess?" Heinlich asked.

"Yes, Herr Ballin promised to hold my suite for me - as a sanctuary should there be trouble - for as long as you remained in port. I accepted his gracious offer, of course ..."

Heinlich nodded to confirm his knowledge of the arrangement.

"... so most of my baggage is still here. I came aboard tonight not just for the strawberries, exquisite as they were, but to be able to see and perhaps meet this Roosevelt."

"I see," said Heinlich, though his tone indicated that he did not.

"This is the only place that I could be sure Roosevelt would come near, this pier. There were thousands pressing close to hear him, I was told. Approaching him is nigh on impossible with the mob that he seems to gather. And with all that insipid beer," she shuddered, adding a disgusted wave of one hand. "But not here, tomorrow, from THIS side of the barricades."

"Very good, then," said Heinlich with a bow. "If I may, I'd consider it a privilege to escort you to your suite myself."

"Thank you, sir. You are most kind," smiled Marina, enchanting him even more deeply, and extended her hand onto the proffered arm.

---- 9:45 PM, flag quarters, BB New York

The formalities went crisply: sideboys, the trilling of the bosun's whistle, the customary greetings and introductions there on the holy-stoned teak quarterdeck, bows, the shaking of hands, and the careful ascent up to the flag area. Rear-Admiral Alton was confident that the Vice-Admiral would not be able to fault matters and manners on what had almost overnight become the flagship of a BB division, HIS BB division. Alton harbored some modest hope that his ship's huge twin 14" turrets would, with Wyoming's six 12" twins to port, help set the tone of what he expected would become a somewhat tense meeting.

Even once seated, the pleasantries and small talk took time, but the American was not going to stint. Eventually, they progressed to the business of the meeting. The Aussie admiral was not too pleased with the news, Alton realized, as he watched the other sip his coffee. Alton had offered that and tea, but it was coffee, ‘black as coal' that his guest had requested.

Neither, though, had the RN officer been surprised by it. In fact, the American admiral had instantly concluded that this was not really news to him at all. Patey made no attempt to appear unaware of the precise instructions that Vice-Admiral Stennis had received from Washington and had given to the Germans.

No, Alton thought, as he sipped at his own cup, this was no surprise at all. And His Majesty's Royal Navy clearly was of the view that the end of this messy little matter was near at hand, and had assembled overwhelming force to ensure just that. The only potentially discomfiting aspect for the RN was the appearance of the USN in even greater strength. Far greater.

"They'll leave after dusk, you realize," Patey commented, with perhaps a shade of bitterness. "It'll be dark when we face them."

Both men went silent as Alton's steward entered, freshened their cups, and withdrew, leaving the new pot.

"I do hope you chaps will stand clear," Patey continued. "Anything can happen in the dark. Mistakes, even bloody Hun mischief."

"My orders are to preserve the neutrality of American waters," Alton replied. "That means German and British, too."

Patey bristled almost imperceptibly at that, but it could have been calling him and his ships ‘British' as much as anything else, Alton decided. He knew the Aussie admiral for a proud man and one who'd just completed a pounding passage up from Jamaica.

"And that I shall do," the American went on without showing any reaction. "My squadron is out here for that reason, and no other." At least for the moment, Alton qualified, but to himself.

"My ships will stay out of your [‘bloody' not actually stated, but there was a slight give-away pause] waters but, mark this, what happens outside the three-mile limit is no affair of yours."

This had been what Alton had been waiting for.

"If there're American citizens in need, especially if they're in the water, be advised that I will make every effort to rescue them. Wherever they are."

The two admirals locked eyes. Neither flinched.

" ‘Every' effort," Alton repeated, with a little extra emphasis, and with the deck of one dreadnought under his feet and another 300 yards to port. " ‘Wherever' they are."

Vice-Admiral Patey nodded minutely, eyes glacis hard. "Aye, then," he said, "if they're in the water."

---- 10:00 PM, HAPAG Terminal, Owner's Office

Ballin and von Hoban had begun what both hoped would be their final cargo assessment.

The stacks of white and ivory papers before them contrasted sharply with the dark wood of the table in the suite. Blue ribbons bound some of the more bulging packets near the bottom of each manifest, with red ribbons around others on top. Each pile was secured by a paperweight; four of which were inscribed brass ingots in the shape of liners. The other paperweights were blocks of wood, which identified warehouses.

"The red ribbons are what was loaded today?" Commodore von Hoban inquired.

‘Yes. As you can see, little has changed since yesterday. I had hoped more rubber would arrive, but ...."

"And it did not?"

"No, ‘late tomorrow,' was the best the shippers could suggest, and they were unsure, at that. I kept the contract, for delivery, but I agreed that nothing was likely to get loaded here tomorrow, even if it did arrive. That much is clear to all."

"Indeed," mumured von Hoban.

"So, instead," Ballin went on, "once they completed our recoaling this afternoon, I had them shift what seemed to be the most suitable out of the warehouses and into what space was left on board. A few truck loads did arrive, though, at all three ports. Here, another hundredweight of chromium, some more mercury and tin that showed up in Boston, and, in Philadelphia, something called ‘oxide of molybdenite' that my factor decided should be taken."

"What is that?" Kommodore von Hoban asked, unable to completely hide his puzzlement.

"I'm not sure, but the crew of Vaterland have made many friends there. One of them reported that the local steel companies were in the midst of trying out various additives in alloys and forgings, and that this one showed great promise. My factor seemed to recall that we used it ourselves in some steels, back home. I'm not sure it's the same material, though. I thought what we used was a copper byproduct, and that is not the case here, I understand."

"And your man could just buy it?"

"Well, he tells a strange story. Some place called ‘Leadville,' in their state of Colorado. It seems that their silver mines have played out ..."

" ‘Silver' in ‘Leadville'?"

Ballin simply nodded, and continued with a shrug.

"... and the town fathers and major property owners of this dying mining town are casting about desperately to find someone who'll buy any of their remaining indigenous metals. This ‘molybdenite' is one of the things they can still get out of the ground there, I understand, so they're trying to market it, and probably five or six other things, as well. Anyway, they shipped some of the stuff by rail to Bethlehem, more than they needed for their trials, supposedly. Truth, or not, I don't know. As I said, the Vaterland's crew has made many friends .... They've got it in one of their holds now, in barrels, in some granular oxide. It was costly, but since enough rubber cannot be had ...."1

"I know warships and battle far better than commerce and trade, I fear," admitted von Hoban. "You know these things far better than I ever could."

Still, the commodore thought, we could be wasting what little we can take. Should we not be taking just what we know is of value?

"How much of this, er, ‘granular oxide' did they obtain?"

"About one car, maybe 40 tons."

"Hmmm, very well," he said without expression. Inside, though, all he could think was, "things are coming to a climax, and how am I ever going to explain to Vice-Admiral Baron Letters that I traveled over 8,000 miles and brought back two score tons of worthless metallic sand?"

"And coal?"

"The Americans, with likely some British among them, scrutinized our loading most carefully. Our bunkers are full, but they made it quite clear we could load no more than that."

"Did you try?" Kommodore von Hoban asked, almost sharply.

"No," Ballin's unspoken ‘of course not' was clear in his tone, "but they apparently expected us to try for more. Some of them were surprised our bunkers were so large. ‘Is this a liner or a collier?' one of them asked my Engineer. Thankfully, the senior inspector knew more about liners than his assistant. He even agreed that we could top off at the end of each day, since we use coal keeping our boilers warm and supplying hotel loads."

"Gut. It is the same with Strassburg. Full bunkers, but no more. We topped off our own, coal and oil both, just an hour ago. Gott, but it will be good to be at sea again."

---- 10:30 PM, one percent of a furlong from the (now-empty) buffet table

"... and the rest of the cowardly curs escaped into the night ..."

jim (Letterstime)

Author's Notes

1. Leadville, Colorado went through many wild boom-bust cycles as first gold, then silver, then gold again, and then molybdenum were mined and then mined out. The US Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Act in 1893 which made silver mining far less attractive, and Leadville was soon in danger of becoming a ghost town. The remaining gold deposits had some other minerals like bismuth that helped keep the town from completely collapsing as many others did in the West. Not until 1918, however, did molybdenum really recover the town's fortunes. The town fathers tried many things, like building an ice park out of ice blocks, to attract folk. Their efforts included trying to identify items (especially minerals) that they had locally that companies would pay good money for. Molybdenite, which had been found there earlier (the claim on Bartlet Mountain is dated 1879), was among them but it had not come into wide use yet in 1915. What molybdenite there was that was being used in Europe was generally produced as a byproduct of the mining of copper and tungsten.

I recommend the following url: Leadville Colorado - A Capsule History.

Nor would the town fathers be the last to try aggressively to market molybdenum from Leadville, as the following url describes: The Rise of Climax Molybdenum

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