Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23
Part 24
Part 25
Part 26
Part 27
Part 28
Part 29
Part 30
Part 31
Part 32
Part 33
Part 34
Part 35
Part 36
Part 37
Part 38
Part 39
Part 40
Part 41
Part 42
Part 43
Part 44
Part 45
Part 46
Part 47
Part 48
Part 49
Part 50
Part 51
Part 52
Part 53
Part 54
Part 55
Part 56
Part 57
Part 58
Part 59
Part 60
Part 61
Part 62
Part 63
Part 64
Part 65
Part 66
Part 67
Part 68
Part 69
Part 70
Part 71
Part 72
Part 73
Part 74
Part 75
Part 76
Part 77
Part 78
Part 79
Part 80
Part 81
Part 82
Part 83
Part 84
Part 85
Part 86
Part 87
Part 88
Part 89
Part 90
Part 91
Part 92
Part 93
Part 94
Part 95
Part 96
Part 97
Part 98
Part 99
Part 100
Part 101
Part 102
Part 103
Part 104
Part 105
Part 106
Part 107
Part 108
Part 109
Part 110
Part 111
Part 112
Part 113
Part 114
Part 115
Part 116
Part 117
Part 118
Part 119
Part 120
Part 121
Part 122
Part 123
Part 124
Part 125
Part 126
Part 127
Part 128
Part 129
Part 130
Part 131
Part 132
Part 133
Part 134
Part 135
Part 136
Part 137
Part 138
Part 139
Part 140
Part 141
Part 142
Part 143
Part 144
Part 145
Part 146
Part 147
Part 148
Part 149
Part 150
Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas - Part III

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Dilemmas, Part III

---- An Excerpt from Decent Interval by Frank Snepp (Captain, USN - Retired), Chance Publishing, NY, NY

The crisis that began with the June 12, 1915 arrival of SMS Strassburg and the HAPAG liner Imperator would pass through many stages, each with its own embarrassing moments for the decision makers in the US Navy, the Congress, and the White House. There was the initial shock of the damaged liner, then the funerals and a multitude of troubling human interest stories. Those in power took great pains not to acknowledge German allegations of a British Royal Navy blockade of the US East Coast. US reporters' questions on the matter were never answered. The furor was expected to die almost as quickly as the Germans.

Perhaps the first sign for US policy makers that the situation might unravel was the unprecedented public auction on June 14. It drew a great and enthusiastic crowd and enjoyed significant, largely positive, newspaper coverage. Nonetheless, the US fully expected SMS Strassburg to slip away before the RN could prevent it. Imperator would require four days to fully recoal, and Strassburg would be allowed only a single day's stay. Once out to sea, she could await Imperator at her peril, or flee into oblivion - the US could hardly care less which course she chose. It would be the British who would refuse to let the matter drop so simply. They knew that, should Imperator not be ready, Kaiser Wilhelm II, docked at the same pier, most certainly was. Ready, too, were Vaterland near Philadelphia and Kronprincessen Cecile in Boston, which provided several other attractive options to the recoaled light cruiser. The British sortied a steady stream of merchants from New York harbor, cited The Hague 1907, and prevented Strassburg from leaving until Vice-Admiral Patey had arrived off New York with what he and the Royal Navy were confident was an overwhelming force.

The US Navy and government were then forced to consider the effects of the inevitable slaughter that would follow, in sight of the US mainland, of the German warship, the liners, and their American passengers. The RN blockade would be proven as fact, making it impossible for them to continue to ignore it. The US Navy would be publicly humiliated; careers tainted, maybe even ended. Thousands of American families would be militantly aroused, and the press might dun them all for the rest of their few political days. Confidential meeting notes, memos, and internal letters all lamented the outcome's anticipated impacts, but mostly only on themselves.

The "master-stroke" was hatched in the Oval Office around noon, on June 17, 1915. All those in that meeting were quite willing to "write off" the Americans on the liners. Indeed, likely they all had already done so in their minds. American lives and American honor apparently meant little or nothing to them. The British blockade had long been quietly accepted, but all in that meeting knew that the voting public would be far less tolerant. It was necessary, then, for events to be arranged such that the Germans and American passengers would meet their fate well out of sight of the American shore, and the American voting public. The Germans would be invited to steal away at night. After a carefully measured escalation in military force, the massed American firepower would assure a safe exit and extend the peace long enough for the American public to disconnect the pull out from the events thereafter.

Those in the Oval Office that day did not demand an honorable solution. What they wanted was a decent interval.

They didn't get it.

---- Foreword, pages 3 - 4.

---- 11:00 AM, Chocorua Princess, hove to

"Nate!" Claire called down from Nik's former perch. "Three more, off to the left!"

"To port," Lannon corrected silently, but only nodded his head as he strained to pull a dazed seaman aboard.

"Thanks, mate," the man gasped, after a moment. "Th-thought I was a goner, I did."

"Oh, Nikkie," exclaimed another feminine voice from out of sight aft. "He's bleeding."

"Maggie," Lannon called, "bandages are in the locker, below, next to the head." He turned to the man he'd just settled. "Can you help, she means well, but ...."

"A-aye, sir," the seaman replied, still shivering, "and gladly."

"Nate, that's the last of them."

"Okay, Nik, I mean, ‘Nikkieee,' " Lannon called back. Maggie was safely out of earshot. "Claire, how far? Can you tell?"

As he loosed the rope from the wheel, he scanned about. Several other sails and two steam yachts were joining the effort.

---- 11:00, bridge of Nottingham Star, stopped

"Sir, we've got the fire mostly out. She's taking water, but the pumps look to be keeping pace for now. No sign of scuttling. They had to abandon the engineroom before they could do mishief."

"Good," answered LT Lionel. "Prisoners?"

"Twelve able-bodied, sir, and another eight hurt. Three have bad steam burns - they'll not live, I'm thinking."

"So few?"

"Yes, sir. Both gun crews were hit, and a shell fragment from von der Tann opened a steam line in the engineroom. Those that couldn't get out died."


"And that brings me to the next problem, sir."


"No steam. Until we can patch that line and relight, we're dead in the water, unless we can get a tow."

"Very well. I don't think the commodore is going to tow us anywhere. How long?"

"I've got three on the patch job now, and the metal is still warm. An hour? Maybe less."

No wonder they surrendered, Lionel thought. No officers, no guns, no steam, and no way out.

"Very well. We don't seem to be drifting inshore. If that changes, I'll try the anchor."

"Aye, aye, sir."

---- 11:00 AM, bridge of Aylwin, stopped

CDR Leverett had his boats in the water, but his eyes were on Strassburg. She had left her prize and had proceeded to where Niobe's bow still poked out of the water. Her stern might be touching bottom, he realized. If so, she might remain like that for hours.

He'd left the Germans to their own efforts and had moved his Destroyer to stand off the smoldering wreck of one of the AMCs. He'd thought he understood the Germans; he knew now he'd been mistaken. It was as though he had tried to befriend a wild animal and, lulled into thinking it tame by its peaceful demeanor, had been shocked when it attacked its natural prey.

He had actually put that analogy to good use. For now, he was treating Strassburg like a bear, and her prize like her cub. Thus he had stayed well clear the German's prize, and had taken great care not to come between it and Strassburg. He was improvising. They didn't teach protocols for this kind of situation at the Academy, he reflected.

---- 11:00 AM, bridge of Rostock, stopped

The men at the bow mounts had been given little time to rest, Westfeldt noted, approvingly. The Gunnery Officer had made good use of the time to have additional shells brought forward, to replenish the ready stocks. His XO had gone aft to supervise the torturous manual lowering of the one small boat that had been aboard when they had sprinted to follow von der Tann. Actually, they were lucky to have even the one. It had been retained inadvertently, fouled in the winches or pulleys. Von der Tann - currently ghosting near - had none; all hers were either back with Hanzik or in splinters.

Actually, Westfeldt thought, Rostock's small boat constituted a stroke of good fortune for the Britishers in two respects. Without that delay, if that boat had been in the water, he was certain that they would have dispatched their second AMC target well before the Americans would have been able to intervene. As it was, they had a boat to get their victims out of the cold Atlantic, mid-June, or not.

---- 11:15 AM, bridge of von der Tann, steerage way

"There's little for us here," groused Captain Dirk.

He was more than a bit nervous. He had faced Sturdee's battlecruisers without a qualm. Charging across the vans at Die Kaiserschlacht had been a trial, but at least he'd been firing back at his tormentors. Not so today, with the two American dreadnoughts. The orders could not have been more plain.

The damned American admiral, whoever he was, obviously considered this pestilent swarm of pleasure boats to be inviolate. The civilians, Dirk decided, displayed the thrill-seeking boredom and innocent arrogance of a full and placid peace. Their jaunty sailboats and painted steam yachts were determined to intermingle with those busy about the stark business of war.

Woe betide him, though, should one of these Trottel blunder across his bows!

To Dirk, it was if a vast Frau Burgermeister was looking on fondly as her lapful of slobbering schnauzers bounded about him, yipping and nipping, with him trying to remain polite and resist the urge to punt them across the parlour.

---- 11:15 AM, United States Naval Yard, New York

"Sir, from Admiral Alton."

"Thank you, Meyers," Vice-Admiral Stennis replied, with the slightest of frowns. The senior yeoman had extended the message almost gingerly. This did not bode well. He looked past the man and out into the sitting area. The face of his young flag-lieutenant standing out in the entry area bore a strained expression.

Almost in reflex, he put down his coffee mug before beginning to read.

It was well that he did.

He read the message several times. It remained the same each time.

"Meyers, I need to speak with Admiral Benson. He should be in his office."

Of course, Benson would be waiting. He'd told him as much already this morning. Stennis wouldn't even be surprised if Daniels were there with him, or in earshot.

"This one," Stennis muttered to his empty office, "might even drive Daniels to drink!"

---- 11:20 AM, United States Naval Yard, New York

"Good morning, admiral," began Stennis. The call had gone through almost instantly.

LT Jenkins and Meyers were, unbeknownst to Stennis, listening at the door. They, of course, could only hear Stennis' side of the conversation.

"I've just heard from Admiral Alton. New and unexpected developments, sir. It was an ambush, alright. A German ambush!

"Yes, sir. That's what I said. More German warships showed up just as Patey was forming up to meet Strassburg. They must have been ....

"Alton doesn't know. Some of them have stayed out. He .... Yes. Battlecruisers. Alton's got one in sight and .... Yes, sir."

Stennis went silent. The two men outside the door looked at each other as the pause stretched to nearly a minute.

"Good morning, Mr. Secretary. As I was telling Admiral Benson, the Germans showed up with more warships, including at least one battlecruiser. They must have had them waiting offshore. They hit the British just as Strassburg and the liners were coming out.

"I don't know how long, sir.

"Best Admiral Alton can tell, every one of their warships.

"Yes, sir. There's no sign of Patey. None whatsoever, sir. But two of their Armed Merchant Cruisers are still afloat. They fled into US waters. They're both damaged, but underway. That's correct, sir. They're being escorted by .... Here, sir. To here. The admiral really had no choice, Mr. Secretary. No, sir. Technically, they're warships - both of them - and they ran into our waters for us to keep the Germans from sinking them.

"That's correct, sir. Yes, sir. I'll leave that to Admiral Benson and you, sir. And there's one other thing ...."

There was more, but footsteps coming down the corridor drove the two listeners back to their assigned posts.

"Good morning, major, lieutenant," said LT Jenkins. "The admiral is on the ...."

"Meyers," called Stennis from within his office. "Is Jenkins out there?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Good, oh, Major. Be with you in a moment. Jenkins, find out who's got steam up."

The flag lieutenant did not have a poker face. Stennis had sent off "everything that can get steam up" late yesterday.

"It may be nothing," Stennis added, reading the young officer's face easily.

"I understand that. Just find out. Also, I want to know the instant Mina's sighted."

---- 11:20 AM, Nottingham Star, stopped

"Sir, we've got steam. Ready for bells on the main, but I recommend keeping the pressure low."

"Excellent," said LT Lionel. "Bosun, one long."

The bosun went over and pulled on the rope lanyard. No sound emerged.

Lionel looked wanly at the first petty officer, who grimaced, profoundly embarrassed.

"Forgot to cut that in, sir. Be a moment, no more."

---- 11:25 AM, Imperator, stopped

Fox and Browning sat on the edge of their deck chairs as they pounded on the keyboards of the typewriters that Ballin had had rolled up on their own little tables.

Both American reporters had sealed their envelopes several minutes ago. Now they were adding feverishly to what the launch men would report by phone.

Imperator's whistle sounded.

"Gentlemen," Ballin said, "it is time."

The reporters pulled out the paper from their typewriters, and added it to each's leather case.

" ‘Kay, gents. I calls these two numbers, asks for the gents you've put here, and tells them the gig."

"They're not expecting you, Mike, so ...."

"Yeah, yeah, I got that part. That's why this stuff. Anyways, there's no chance of them not paying. Is there?"

"Not a chance!" Fox assured him. Browning nodded vigorously in agreement. "Not with what you'll be delivering. And there's an extra fifty in it for you if you get it there by deadline. That's what the notes say, the same in each case. Our editors'll pay, alright, just as long as the seals aren't broken."

"HAPAG will stand good for it," added Ballin. "You have my word on it. Obey their instructions, and you will get the money."

"I'll get it there, don't you worry," said the man named Mike, with $100 already nestling crisply in his pockets. "This ain't the first special like this.

"Mr. Ballin, sir?" Mike asked at the top of the ladder leading down to his courier boat. "Will, this'n be all for today?"

"Perhaps not. I would appreciate it if you would have someone standing by, just in case."

The man nodded and began down the ladder.

"What else, Mr. Ballin?" Browning asked as they watched Mike get back onto his craft. Both reporters gasped as the man nearly fell when the small boat sank abruptly away from his foot with the passage of a swell. Both had a sudden vision of their front-pagers disappearing into the waves. The man seemed quite unperturbed and stepped into his craft when the next surge brought it back within reach.

"I cannot say, but it seemed best to have them be ready."

The Americans nodded, and they watched the small boat cast off and pivot sharply. It threw up a quick rooster tail as the prop bit hard at the waters. They stood there silently and watched their stories' progress towards the shore long Ballin had returned to Imperator's bridge.

---- 11:30 AM, bridge of New York, course 150, speed 6 knots

Rear-Admiral Alton had slowed his force and now watched suspiciously as the small boat that had briefly tied up at Imperator flitted back across the water, heading for the coast. He frowned, but there was nothing he could do about it. There were at least 20 assorted civilian craft out here; several out there had gotten men out of the water.

"Admiral, the Germans are getting under way."

"And the one they captured?"

"That one also, sir. We got her name now. She's the ‘Nottingham Star.'

"Or was," he added. After all, the Germans could damn well name her anything they pleased now.

"Sir, lookouts report that the Cost Guard Cutter Onoddaga is in sight, bearing 225, range 19,000 yards."

"Very well."

---- 11:30 AM, New York, shore end of HAPAG Terminal

"Sir, the grocer's back."

Colonel Anton turned away from his study of the pier and looked back at the first roadblock. Yes, he thought, there were again three trucks. They looked like the same ones that had been here in the morning.

Yes, that was definitely Mr. Mitterman, or his twin brother. The salt-and-pepper hair was clearly visible in the hot noon sun. The grocer was again kneading his hat nervously in his work-hardened hands.

Anton had hoped to hear from his chain of command before this, but there'd been no word. Apparently, they must have something more important on their minds than 200 - 250 unannounced and possibly armed Germans lurking in a warehouse. A warehouse on a pier that just happened to be where a fractious mob was likely to migrate to in a couple or three hours. A mob who'd've gotten their full of warm beer and hot rhetoric. It was already getting hot, and there was none who could make it any hotter than ex-President Teddy Roosevelt.

The Marine officer sure hoped the-powers-that-be would get off their butts soon. He could already hear murmurings of crowd noise off in the direction of the rally.

---- 11:45 AM, bridge of Kolberg, course 260, speed 16 knots

Dahm was studying the smoking forms of Moltke and Augsberg. He'd missed a battle, it seemed, though he'd had his own. Canvas awnings had been rigged over the battlecruiser's stern, creating shaded enclosures. Sentries with rifles stood at various locations about the tents. Apparently, he was not the only one to have prisoners to deal with.

"Sir, Moltke's hoisted ‘come alongside' with both our number and Salamis'."

"Very well," replied Dahm. "Acknowledge."

Moments later, he saw Salamis acknowledge, as well.

More flags went up on Moltke.

"Sir, ‘commanding officers report.' And, sir, I don't think I understand the others. They're for Salamis, though."

"It appears," offered LT Diele who had joined them on the bridge, "to order ‘LC' and ‘JG' to come with the Salamis captain."

"Do you know who they are?" Dahm heard himself ask. This is silly, he thought; I'm stalling.

"No, sir."

"Very well. XO, take us in close aboard." Dahm hid his sigh as he turned away. "I'm on my way down to the boats."

"Aye, aye, sir," Diele replied to Dahm's back.

Dahm was tacitly admitting that he would need several minutes to negotiate the ladders. As he turned away, Diele shot a hard glance at a burly seaman out on the wing. The enlisted man nodded and darted down the other ladder. The lieutenant had detailed him to get ahead of their new Captain to make sure nothing was ever in his way. Diele had lost one commanding officer today, and had no intention of losing another.

---- 11:45 AM, aft of the quarterdeck of Augsberg, stopped

"Are you okay, Captain?"

The boat was down and the crew was nearly finished going aboard.

"Jawohl," answered Speck, standing back up. "I just needed to sit for a moment."

In truth, Speck only felt tired and a bit out of breath. It was no wonder, though, he thought defensively. They'd been shot at all morning - and hit - by just about every Britisher who'd had guns, as he frantically shell-chased and played hide-and-seek in the smoke from Val's Tract. Then, afterwards, he'd climbed to the lookout's top to take his own look about the battlefield. Unwisely, it now seemed. His heart hammered in his chest from his exertions, and his limbs felt heavy and numb.

Except for his left arm, he realized, clenching and unclenching his left fist. It tingled, and he liked that least of all. He would rest on the way to Moltke. It would be alright.

by Jim

Home | Gaming Model | Dogger Bank | Intermission Stories | Jutland | After Jutland | Side Stories | Ein Geleitzug | The Humor of jj | NEW!

Content Copyright 2010 Lettertime. All Rights Reserved.
Web Design 2009-2010 Kathryn Wanschura
Contact Letterstime