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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 - Meeting Engagements - Part I

(Was Decisions, Pt. 1)

---- 5:35 PM, Philadelphia Inquirer Newsroom, Office of the News Editor

The stocky, perspiring man adroitly slid the stoogie to the left side of his mouth as he picked up the phone with his right hand.


"Chief, this is Freddie. We got it."


"He was legit, Chief. It's from Blue all right - it's his handwriting, Crawford agrees."

"Fine, fine, but is it like he said?"

"Omigod! Chief," the voice squeaked with emotion, "it's dynamite!"

"Good, get your scrawny butt back here, pronto. I'll hold the banner ...."

"Chief, this is Crawford."

"Yeah?" The editor extracted the chewed cigar, stared at it suspiciously, then went to stub it out.

"There're three rolls of film here, along with Blue's camera. Exposed, Chief."

The ash tray jumped off the desk and scattered its odorous contents on the floor.

"Get back here!"

"You got it, Chief. Just thought you should know...."

After he hung up, the man stared blankly out the window. His secretary stepped into the doorway, spotted the smoking mess, and opened her mouth to upbraid her boss. She caught sight of his face and closed it again. He had the "look," and she knew she'd be wasting her breath.

The front page would have to be ripped up, he was thinking, totally. The socialite scandal, nifty headline and all, would have to go to page 3, or even to Local. The fire in North Philly would have to slide below the fold and its pix to .... Pix! If Blue's pix were anything like the rest of it .... Once again, hundreds of man-hours would have to be thrown aside, to be done over again at a feverish pace. He reached sightlessly and accurately for another cigar. God, he loved it!

His secretary stepped out of the way as the editor stood up and headed for the doorway in which she stood. He didn't see her, or anything, really.

"Off to see the boss," he commented around his "fresh" Havana.

---- 5:45 PM, Salamis, course 270, speed 12 knots

Nik watched at the port rail as a fast launch approached the supposedly-Greek ship.

He preferred sailboats overall, but the aggressive cut of speedboats also appealed to him. This one was a beauty, but that was not what continued to hold his attention. Rather, the behavior of the man not at the wheel seemed peculiar. He was staring at Salamis, as well he (or anyone) might, Nik conceded silently. After all, he had stared goggle-eyed at her himself when she'd first come up on Chocorua Princess.

No, the odd part was that the man seemed to be looking for something specific. His gaze did not traverse the big ship's hull, or dwell on its plated over casemates, or linger on its truncated upperworks. No, his attention remained on one spot somewhere around the bridge area, or perhaps the con - Nik could not be sure exactly. Whatever it was that he was searching for, however, he did not seem to be finding it. Nik saw him frown and say something to the man at the helm, and the boat swung hard to parallel the Salamis about 500 yards off her beam. The man regarded them for another long moment, and the boat sped off back towards the Jersey shore.

Nik shook his head. What, he wondered, was all THAT about?

---- 6:00 PM, New York, course 120, speed 12 knots

It had taken a few minutes to hoist orders, get acknowledgments, and execute, but not many.

"Steady on course 120, sir."

"Very well," the CO replied.

Most of the watchers on the battleship had their eyes along the course vector, where the Germans were expected to appear. Up in the forward cage mast, the harried spotter team had the German charts spread out for quicker access. One minor complication had been anticipated: Strassburg did not match the one in the books. The senior enlisted man had photos of the modified Strassburg, taken from ten different angles, pinned to a corkboard. Off to one side were RN reference books, with paper slips showing at the entries for Sydney, Melbourne, and Berwick. The entries for the previously sighted AMCs also were tabbed, though in pre-war books that did not reflect their subsequent conversion.

Alone among those on the flagbridge, Admiral Alton had his eyes on a smallish sailboat. He saw now that her name was Chocorua Princess. He could not help but wonder if history would reflect her role. The man at her tiller was facing the New York, with his own binoculars raised. For a moment, they seemed to be regarding each other, but it was doubtless just an illusion. Alton saw the other's glasses swing to look to the southwest, and he looked along the same bearing.

Yes, thought the American rear-admiral, the Salamis - whoever she was - was well hull down in that direction. She would already have disappeared from the small craft's lower perspective. He had surmised that the little yacht had picked up some RN survivors and transferred them to the mysterious vessel sailing under Greek colors. On a less-eventful day, the foreigner might have been hailed and, perhaps, even stopped, but not today. The unarmed ship posed no threat and could be left to the Coast Guard.

---- 6:15 PM (3:15 PM local time), Sacramento-Union Times, Office of the Editor-in-Chief

He had three phones on his desk, and the one ringing was the call he was expecting from New York, the New York Times, in fact. He picked it up, juggling it for a moment as he put down his coffee mug.

"So, have you got it?"

"Not yet," confessed the New York Times editor.

"Not yet?" He could not help but frown. If he didn't have it, why the call?

"No, but I just got off the phone with the man I sent to get it. It's from your man Browning, alright. If it's straight, I want to run with it, big."

The New York Times had carried several of Browning's pieces during the time Imperator had been tied up at the HAPAG pier, so the Sacramento-Union Times reporter was no stranger to the editor, nor to his staff.

"If it's really his, it'll be straight, alright - I'd bet my life on it. How big?"

"I'm gonna' lead with it." The Easterner paused. "I'll owe you one," he admitted, "a big one."

"Good! I'll be going with what I got over the phone, before I called you. If you can feed me something more before deadline, it'd help. Three or four column inches, anyway. I'll be here, or someone will, right by this phone. By the way, was there film? He always takes a camera with him, whenever he goes out on a story."

"Yep, four rolls, my man said. ‘Course, I won't know what's on'em for ...."

"Don't give me that! Okay, you can print'em, but there're ours, don't you forget it. And so's he!"

They sparred good naturedly for a minute.

"Okay," concluded the New York Times editor, "we owe you one and, I promise, you'll get that call - at this number - as soon as I've looked it over."

---- 6:25 PM (7:25 PM local time), Halifax

The duty officer was reviewing the watchlist when the yeoman knocked on the door.


"Commander? Sorry to disturb you, sir, but there is a priority message coming through from Bermuda."

"For us, or for London?"

"Both, sir."

"I'll come," he answered, rising from his chair.

---- 6:30 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

Colonel Anton had been listening to the approaching mob for the last hour. Gunny Fideles had gauged the distance at 2 - 2.5 miles. The heat had apparently slowed them, after their first burst. Or the mass of men might not have used quite the same route. In any case, they were not in sight yet, but they could hardly be more than a half-mile away. Four of the five officers stood together, in the middle of the position. Besides Colonel Anton, there were two lieutenants, a captain, and a major, with one of the lieutenants at the outermost post where cars would first approach.

"Sir, grocer's packing up!"

Anton turned and saw that the first truck had already begun to roll. Mittermann presumably had ears, as well.

"Lieutenant, take charge. Standard search."

"Yes, sir," the young officer replied, and began to stride back to the inner posts. At a glance from Anton, Sergeant Fideles ambled after the young officer.

"Be good," commented the major, "to have them out here."

"Affrimative," Anton replied tersely, already facing back toward the still-growing din. The noise was no longer a general roar, but had begun to differentiate into elements. "Captain, take two squads. Deploy behind the last line, facing the harbor. I want no surprises from our rear. And, Captain, you are to concentrate your attention, and that of your men, on that warehouse."

"Yes, sir. The warehouse?"

"The ships are long gone, Captain. With the pier empty, the men in that warehouse have become my major concern. In particular, I want glasses on every second floor window, and the watchers in plain sight."

"Snipers?" The captain went white, as he considered the consequences of just a few rounds fired from there into a mob of 15,000-plus hot, beer-emboldened men. The stampede could crush hundreds! After a moment, the captain decided it more likely that fury would drive them to tear down and torch the entire pier complex. Trampling everyone in their path. Especially them. If he could have, he would have paled further.

"Can't rule it out," Anton nodded, soberly.

The colonel had had hours for threat assessments, since the initial reports. Even absent the mystery men, he would have had to assume that HAPAG employed armed watchmen to protect their goods and property. Particularly if his Marines ended up having to discharge their own weapons, no after-the-fact investigation would ever be able to prove what shots came from where, and when. And those 200-plus men had to be there in for some reason.

"It'd never get sorted out," Anton added, "certainly not if we do not remain vigilant."

Or alive to tell, the major almost added, but did not.

---- 6:45 PM, Moltke, stopped

Commodore von Hoban was debriefing with Admiral Hanzik, Captains Stang and Dirk also in attendance. Von Hoban had just gotten to his final meeting with Vice-Admiral Stennis.

"Sir, multiple contacts, bearing 300."

"Range?" Captain Stang asked, as all four senior officers stood up and headed for the bridge.

"Estimated range is 22,000 yards."

"Very well."

Another report came as they entered the bridge.

"Lookouts report three ships with cagemasts."

Hanzik looked questioningly at Commodore von Hoban.

"Yes," said von Hoban, lowering his binoculars. "The Americans had two dreadnoughts and an older battleship with those masts. They also had several of those small light cruisers they call ‘Destroyers.' "

"They had a full flotilla," added Captain Dirk, "at one point, but some were detached to escort the British up the channel." Dirk had glanced only briefly at the horizon, before turning his attention to von der Tann, nearly alongside. The topsides of his command were teeming with working parties dealing with the effects of all-too-many RN six-inch shells. The other ships were no different in that respect, but he had eyes only for von der Tann.

"Did you expect this?" Hanzik demanded of von Hoban. While the commodore had not been afforded time to complete his debrief, failure to voice such a conclusion at the very beginning would have been a grievous error in judgement.

"Yes, but in the morning, not today. This takes me by surprise." (NOTE 1)

Hanzik nodded, mollified.

"Did you not say," asked Stang, after a moment, "that the pennant on the American flagship was that of a rear-admiral?"

"Yes," answered von Hoban, who had taken special delight in rendering passing honors from dead abeam of the New York. Dirk nodded, as well. He had taken care to look over the ship that had seemed, for a terrible moment, to have fired six-14" cannons at him.

"Their country is at peace," continued Stang. "A battle has been fought in a war they have no part in, outside their territorial waters, and we are out further still. Would a rear-admiral do this?"

"I schooled here, as you know," said Hanzik, "and I would have guessed not. But there they are." He looked at von Hoban.

"Their Vice-Admiral, Stennis, the one I was telling you of, he might have wanted to sortie, but I would guess that such orders would have to come from higher even than he."

Hanzik signaled in agreement, even as he wondered uneasily just what those orders might be.

The senior officers stared for another minute at the growing masts. The ships were still hull down.

"Admiral?" Dirk asked. "With your permission?"

"Ja, surely there will be no trouble, but best you return."

---- 6:55 PM, bridge of Montana, course 120, speed 12 knots

The CO and XO stood out on the starboard wingbridge, glasses raised.

"You were right, Skipper," commented CDR Campbell. "Two battlecruisers."

"Yes," acknowledged Peace, almost in a murmur. He still had been unable to divine any reason he deemed adequate to risk such assets. There had to be smaller ships, also, but they were (presumably) still beyond visibility.

"Sir, from New York, ‘Execute.' "

"Very well," answered Peace. He had left the OOD the Con, so Peace said nothing else and, a moment later, the deck tilted slightly as the ACR made the directed course change.

---- 7:00 PM, New York, course 090, speed 12 knots

"Steady on course 090, sir."

"Very well."

After the initial sighting reports, Alton had ordered the course change so as to put their track a bit north of the German force.

"Lookouts report two battlecruisers, three light cruisers, and the Nottingham Star."

"Second battlecruiser," came the next report from the Top, "is either Moltke or Seydlitz."

Alton tried to conceal his wince, even though Stennis made no outward sign.

"Captain asks for clarification on the battlecruiser report," said the talker up in the Top.

"Chief!" The officer was wet with sweat, as they all stared at the still-distant Germans through high-powered lenses.

"Boss," the chief protested, "I think she's Moltke, but I'm just not sure. Look at her! Her topsides've got more canvas than Barnum & Bailey!" (NOTE 2) Strassburg, for whom he'd gone to such lengths as to get photos and pin them to a corkboard, was nowhere to be seen. Of course. Instead, he had THIS unexpected conundrum. Canvas camouflage! He wiped the sweat off his face and stared again at the cryptic craft. The fabric rippled in the breeze, throwing off his depth perception. Ships were supposed to be solid things, but this one seemed to expand and contract as though it were breathing heavily. Like he was.

"I think she's the Moltke," he repeated in a low mutter. "Damn Germans," he said, not bothering to keep that part low at all.

---- 7:00 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

The trucks were exiting, and just in time, it seemed. The first of the mob should come into view any minute, Colonel Anton thought. The noise had grown to daunting proportions. There might well be 15,000 men about to come around that last corner, though it was difficult to tell with the way the sounds reverberated off the buildings.

Why would the German want an American mob to destroy this pier, and all the HAPAG buildings? With great loss of life?

There has to be a simpler explanation, Anton thought. Sure, the Germans had no love of Roosevelt, but they could hardly be sure of picking him off directly, or having a crowd crush him in a panic press. Hell, for that matter, the entire warehouse complex could be booby-trapped. Maybe the Germans didn't think they had to sharpshoot him. Would the loss of life and destruction of a major German civilian property fatally discredit Roosevelt? Certainly Anglophiles would openly rejoice at the German losses, but surely it would polarize the general electorate. Roosevelt would end up way out on the fringe: a German ocean liner docks, with one escort, and Roosevelt incites and leads a crazed mob of Americans to destroy millions of dollars in property with hundreds perishing in the disaster.

"No," Anton muttered, "I don't buy it. I don't know what's going on, but that can't be it."

It just can't be! For one thing, the ex-President was smarter than that - had to be! But what else could it be?

There! He abandoned his cogitations. Outriders of the mob had just turned the corner. The first couple wore leather-fringed jackets. Some of Roosevelt's Rough Riders? (NOTE 3) He'd forgotten all about them! They would probably be armed. Damn!



"Prepare to fix bayonets."

---- 7:05 PM (1:05 AM local time), London

The yeoman's eyes widened as he began to make sense out of the message from Halifax.

He gulped, and read further.

"Oh, sweet Mother McCree!"

"What is it, yeoman?"

"Sir, you better be reading this ...!"

---- 7:10 PM, New York, course 090, speed 12 knots

"Sir, second battlecruiser identified as Moltke. She is flying the pennant of a rear-admiral. No other ships are flying flag officer pennants. The three light cruisers ...."

"So," Alton commented to Stennis, as the report continued, "it looks like the commodore left with Strassburg."

"Or stayed aboard Moltke for some reason," noted Stennis.

Where did the two liners go? The question was on both of their minds, and on the minds of others, as well.

---- 7:10 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

Anton wanted to time this right. There were only a couple hundred in view, and he wanted more. Also, they needed to be closer.

He watched the numbers grow, as did the noise. The leading edge was now just a few dozen yards away. Damn, they were too spread out, such that the lead outriders were getting too close, while the key folk might still be too distant. However, like it or not, it was time.

"Companeeeee!" Anton made his voice carry, and was gratified to see heads swivel his way among the mob.

"Fix ..."

The slap of many palms was clear to Anton, but he knew it was not loud enough to be heard at any distance.

"... bayonets!"

The rasp of metal-to-metal as the long edged blades found their home on rifle muzzles traveled much better. The leaders of the mob slowed visibly, and cast uncertain looks back towards the mass of the host.

The lieutenant was returning with Fideles from the search of the grocer's trucks. He turned his head to the senior enlisted man.


"It's a form of communication, sir."

"Like the ‘Don't Tread on Me' flag?"

"Yes, sir," the sergeant looked at the young officer with some surprise; the lad had promise. "Nigh on exactly. Best hurry a bit, now."

"Major," called out Anton, a moment or two later.


"Take charge, First and Second Platoons."


"Sergeant Fideles, you're with me."

With that, Colonel Anton checked his sidearm, somewhat ostentatiously, and stepped forward the five last paces to the outer post.

---- 7:15 PM, New York, course 090, speed 12 knots

"Admiral," said Stennis, "bring your force to just north of the Germans. Lay New York alongside Moltke, a few hundred yards off her starboard beam."

Moltke pitched slightly in the Atlantic waves, bow pointed almost due South.

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Admiral, from Aylwin. ‘Completed rescue operations. Recovered 39, 11 wounded. Request instructions.' "

The admirals both nodded thoughtfully. Destroyers did not rate a medical doctor, thus CDR Leverett's report. He now had nearly a dozen seriously wounded British responsibilities - he would not have included minor injuries - minimum medical facilities, and no doctor.

"Montana?" Alton suggested. The big ACR had a doctor and full sickbay complement and, knowing Captain Peace, it would be fully prepped and staffed.

"Yes, sound idea. We don't need any distractions just now, neither here nor ‘board Wyo."

---- 7:15 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

The open area at the base of the line of piers could hold a great many men. It was doing so now, and more continued to straggle in. So far, they'd mainly kept a respectful distance from the line of barricades backed by the marines with their bayonet-tipped rifles. Eddies of the mob had curled close, but had re-condensed when Roosevelt had himself stopped in almost the exact center of the open area, over a hundred yards back.

"You've a better eye, Gunny," Anton remarked, not changing his parade ground stance. "How many do you figure?"

Fideles snorted, probably in denial. "Don't rightly know, Colonel. More than five thousand, but less'n ten, I'd reckon. Call it eight. If'n they started with 15,000, they lost plenty along the march."

Quite possibly, Anton now realized, Roosevelt had never intended any threat to the HAPAG terminal. He watched with detachment as the strongly-built ex-President mounted the empty flatbed of a parked truck, conveniently located just where he could best address the throng. Very convenient, indeed - suspiciously so, in fact. Even at over 100 yards, Roosevelt remained an easily recognizable figure. Yes, thought Anton, this all looks quite planned. He'd remained far enough away that he could disavow anything that might happen.



"Go back with the Captain. I still don't trust this."

"Sir." Fideles did not ask why; he did not need to.

It would be a bit over 400 yards from the warehouse upper windows to that flatbed. Not an impossible shot. Not at all. In fact, Anton had one man under his command who he'd personally witnessed take down a foe at that range. That man was Gunnery Sergeant Fideles.

---- 7:25 PM, Moltke, stopped

"More flag signals," Captain Stang commented. Vice Admiral Baron Letters signaled only when it was important. I've been through two days of sea battles with him, he thought, and this American Rear-Admiral has already ....

"Sir, lookouts report that the lead American dreadnought is flying a Vice-Admiral's pennant."

"Very well," acknowledged Stang, nonplused.

"Stennis," said von Hoban into the little silence. "It has to be Stennis."

Hanzik looked at him. "He was ashore when you left, you said."

"Yes, he must have made a flying transit downchannel, but he'd've had the entire base to chose from."

"This makes sense," said Hanzik, "only if he had received fresh instructions, ones that considered today's results. Is that possible?"

"Before this mission," began von Hoban, "I would have said ‘no.' Even a day ago, I would likely have said the same." The commodore struggled to fit a timeline to the events of the last hours. "Now, I am not so sure. Wireless and telephones, the world has changed so."

"It must have happened thus," interjected Stang, and gestured. "They are here." A force headed by two dreadnought battleships, coming right at his crippled battlecruiser.

"Ja," agreed Hanzik. "The decision could have been made. They would act quickly at such an opportunity as this."

"Ja," von Hoban grimaced. "It may be war."

It had been one of the possible outcomes. The Baron had considered it most unlikely, but Letters was on the other side of the ocean.

"Admiral," Stang began, strain showing in his voice. "Unless you object ..."

"Go ahead," said Hanzik, "but nothing that can be seen."

"Aye, aye, sir."

---- 7:30 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

It was in between cheers that the sentry came to his Colonel with the report.

"Sirens, sir."

Anton frowned. What now? The police? That didn't seem likely, as there was a full hand of them in view already, with the officers lingering in casual stances some distance away from the truck-podium. Could they be ambulances? He scanned the crowd, and saw no evidence of any in distress. Heat stroke, though, among one or marchers would not be much of a surprise, he realized.

Well, whatever the cause, it sounded like there were several of them, and they were coming closer.

He lost the sound when the men applauded their ex-President anew.

---- 7:35 PM, Kolberg, stopped

LCDR Dahm regarded the oncoming Americans with considerable misgivings.

"XO," he said. "I don't want anything visible, but get the men back at their battle posts."

"Aye, aye, sir," replied Lieutenant Diele. "There has been no signal, no flags."

"Nor will there be," Dahm replied. "There must be a hundred glasses on us now - especially up on those strange towers of theirs."

"Aye, aye, sir."

----7:35 PM, bridge of von der Tann, stopped

"Turrets manned, Captain," reported Bavaria. "Guns knows to keep them fore-and-aft until ordered otherwise."

"Gut," Dirk answered. He did not trust these foreigners, and the bizarre salvo this one had loosed while they were in International Waters had only confirmed to him the validity of his position.

"And the others?"

"The men are there, but they were instructed not to move their pieces, or even to stand at the openings."

---- 7:35 PM, bridge of Rostock, stopped

"Sir, the pre-dreadnought apparently has stopped."

Why would they drop back, wondered Captain Westfeldt. Could it be that their older main guns needed a slower speed? Hanzik's seemed to have worked at 15 knots, and his were of no greater age.

Surely they were still at peace, Westfeldt thought. That, however, had not kept him from considering the obvious "what-if" scenarios. It would be up to the two battlecruisers to take on the pair of massive dreadnought-battleships the Americans had sortied. The small American light cruisers would be a problem, but Kolberg and Augsberg were much closer to the battlecruisers than his own ship. Thus, Westfeldt had set his sights on the big armored cruiser or pre-dreadnought or whatever she was.


"4,500 yards, sir."

His prospective target had stopped just outside of torpedo range. Hopefully, that was just a coincidence.

---- 7:35 PM, bridge of Augsberg, stopped

Captain Speck coughed, and coughed again.

"Repeat your last," Speck ordered.

"Sir," LT Kessock, the OOD, repeated, "XO reports that Engineering is ready to answer bells on the main engine, but that he can't bring more on line without smoke."

"Understood," said Speck. "No smoke." He coughed shallowly. "Whatever is to be, we are to start nothing, threaten nothing, but be ready for anything."

"Aye, aye, sir."

---- 7:40 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

"Sir, over there, ambulances. Three of them, sir."

Anton looked where the sentry was pointing. Yes, the vehicles were approaching along the wharf road. They must have changed routes, because earlier the noise had been well inland. He still could not make out their destination. There was no knot of men clustered about any fallen figures.

"Sir, telephone. They're asking for you, by name."

Now what?

"Colonel Anton speaking, sir."

"Colonel, this is Captain Francis Barnett, Coast Guard. You're in command of the pier-side detachment, am I correct?"

"Yes, Captain. How can I be of service?"

"Been trying to get you. Sorry for the delay. We've been having some difficulty getting a call through to your position. Colonel, I've dispatched several ambulances to the pier there."

"Yes, sir. We have three inbound now, about half a mile distant."

"Good, good. You'll need to pass them, and I'll appreciate any additional assistance you can render."

"Captain Barnett, ‘pass them through,' you said?"

As he spoke, Anton stepped out of the post, almost pulling the phone cord right out of the machine. He stared at the warehouses. Nothing. No movement at all.

---- 7:45 PM, Moltke, stopped

Hanzik realized he was holding his breath, taking only those sips of air absolutely essential for consciousness. This is ridiculous, he thought, but normal respiration remained impossible.

"More flags going up on the lead ship, sir."

Stang did not even grimace as he switched his stare from the forward-most turret to the halyards of the tall American flagship, now north-north-west, about 1,500 yards distant.

"It's for course 180, six knots."

The Americans had slowed to 9 knots five minutes before. Hanzik was heartened, in that the other admiral was publicly announcing each step of his approach.

"There's the ‘execute,' sir."

"Very well."

---- 7:45 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier

"A ship with wounded aboard?" Anton was incredulous.

"Captain," he continued, "with all due respect, I have a mob of roughly 10,000 men just outside my perimeter and what they're demonstrating against is what I'm supposed to be guarding."

Anton recognized that he was exaggerating, but forgave himself instantly.

"Yes, yes, I agree that there's no immediate threat of attack, but I can not be ..."

In fact, the crowd seemed to be thinning. Anton was not sure even Roosevelt was still there, at this point. He had expected to have a face-off with the ex-President - complete with reporters and cameras; he almost felt disappointed. Not even a delegation had made an approach. Yet.

"No, sir. I am not refusing. I'll spare what I can, but I cannot promise very much.

"Good evening to you, too, sir. Thank you for the information. And ...

"Yes, sir. This post, where the phone is, will remain manned. Good bye, sir."

---- 7:50 PM, bridge of Moltke, stopped

"Sir, more flags on the American."

"Ah," said Hanzik, after he read the signals. He felt his lungs begin to function more normally.

Stang scowled, but for a completely different reason than before. His prized command was a shambles of wreckage, cordage, canvas, and strangers.

And the American Vice-Admiral was requesting permission to come aboard!


NOTE 1: The wording of Commodore von Hoban used "überrumpelt," as in "to take by surprise" a sentry or an objective, rather than a "surprise" like a gift or prize ("Überraschung").

NOTE 2: Barnum, who may have been the greatest huckster and promoter ever, first called his show a "circus" around 1881. Bailey, his associate, broke away in 1885 and formed his own, but they rejoined into one circus in 1888. The Ringling Brothers (five then six of them) from Baraboo, Wisconsin began theirs not long after and operated in Wisconsin and Illinois. Barnum died in 1891, Bailey in 1905. Ringling Brothers bought Barnum & Bailey in 1907, but preserved the original name, continuing to run it as a separate operation. They did not consolidate the two circuses into one until 1919, when labor shortages and rail travel problems associated with the World War made it a necessity. Thus, the Chief in the story was familiar only with Barnum & Bailey, which was still operating under that name in 1915 on the East Coast.

One good site for more related historical background:

NOTE 3: Members of Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" seemed to have been a fixture at all of his post-Spanish-American War media events. Photographs of such consistently show them, almost like a private bodyguard. They served, among other things, as constant public reminders of TR's glorious roots. These former ~25-year olds were in their mid-40s in 1915, but they were still showing up, best the author can tell, at such events. A few little known facts about the fiercely-loyal (to TR) Rough Riders: 23,000 applied, 2,000 were accepted, 1,250 deployed, 37% casualty rate, and all were mustered out after only 137 days in the Army! An even lesser known TR fact is that he once reviewed German army maneuvers with Kaiser Wilhelm II, personally! See:

The site even contains a photograph of TR with Wilhelm together on horseback!

by Jim

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