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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Meeting Engagements, Part XV

E-X-T-R-A ! E-X-T-R-A! Read all about it! (Afternoon, June 19, 1915)

---- BRITS LOSE AGAIN! (New York Times)

The British Royal Navy lost not one but TWO naval battles just outside New York harbor yesterday. On the scene correspondent Maxwell Browning (on loan to the Times from the Sacramento Times-Union) confirmed total British losses for the day included at least nine warships, with no losses to the German squadron (See "Chart," on Page A-3). Four modern cruisers were confirmed sunk: the British HMS Berwick, the Australian HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne, and the Canadian HMCS Niobe. Another four British warships, known as "armed merchant cruisers," were also witnessed destroyed (See related article, "The British Blockade of New York," on Page A-24). As of press time, only two of the lost armed merchant cruisers had been conclusively identified: the HMS Val's Tract and the HMS Otway. British officials declined to comment ...."

---- Philadelphia and New York

Blue Fox and Maxwell Browning were both dozing in the offices of their newspapers. Blue (in Philly) was sitting in an old understuffed chair, while Browning (in New York) was half-stretched out on a battered sofa. It was a lull, an anti-climax of sorts. The EXTRAs were off the press and heading to the stands. The frenetic excitement had ended and two full nights of basically zero sleep had finally caught up with them. Blue had held out longer, as he'd intended to get to the evening's festivities aboard Vaterland. Neither would sleep more than a few hours, and it would be an uncomfortable rest at best in the heat and tobacco smoke.

Nonetheless, nap they did - the both of them. The deadline for the next morning's edition was still several hours away, but the post-Extra lull was nearly over. Max's snore was lost in the slowly growing noise in his semi-adopted newsroom on the other side of a thin wall. Blue - 78 land miles away on bearing 235 - was not snoring. The older reporter's head rested more comfortably on a pillow carefully fashioned from three scarves that he had retained in his desk since the previous winter. In another demonstration of the value of experience and home field advantage, Max would awake with a headache and a stiff neck, while Blue would have only a headache.

---- Daniels Denies USN Opened Fire - Promises Investigation (New York Times)

" '... solely to preserve American lives and Neutrality, and the inviolate character and sovereignty of our territorial waters,' but promised that there would be a full investigation. Rear-Admiral Alton was not available for comment."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"Admiral? Captain Eberle to see you."

"Thank you, send him on in."

"Admiral, thank you for seeing me."

"Not at all, Captain," Stennis replied. Then as the door closed, "My door is always open to you, you know that. It was on Oregon, and when you had the Washington - always will be. Now, what's on your mind?"

Eberle relaxed, reassured. He was between permanent assignments and hated it.

"I had a visit from Admiral Alton's chief of staff ..."

"Yes, Commander Trimm. I borrowed him last night. Took him with me over to see the Germans aboard their flagship - Moltke, a battlecruiser."

"He served with me back when I had the torpedo fleet," Eberle explained. "He's concluded that the Germans must have completely surprised Patey - a real old fashioned ambush - and he's been trying to figure out how they did it."

"Hmmm," murmured Stennis, and nodded him to go on.

"Well, sir, he realized he HAD seen a clue but didn't tumble to it 'til this morning."

"And what was that?"


---- Senator Newland Blasts Reports (New York Times)

Senator Newland (D - Nevada) today labeled reports of British losses yesterday "preposterous." "After all," he declared from his office in the Nation's Capitol, "everyone knows Britannia rules the wave." Senator Newland admitted that he had not yet read the Times or any other morning papers from beyond the Washington, DC area. When informed of the content of this morning's New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, Senator Newland declined further comment.

"Spokesmen for the Senator indicated that he would make no more statements until he had looked into the news accounts and personally investigated their veracity."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"Soot?" Stennis was fascinated. He leaned back, water glass in hand.

"Yes, sir. The German heavies couldn't catch those cruisers of Patey. Not in a thousand years. A scatter would've saved most all of the merchant cruisers, though one or two might have ended up deep in our waters."

Stennis nodded again, finding himself drawn into the scenario. Eberle's point was that the Germans could not have scattered in pursuit, as their light cruisers couldn't face Patey's alone. Even singleton battlecruisers would be at risk to a trio of well-handled RN lights. In fact, that last point had been amply demonstrated yesterday.

"Niobe," the admiral mused. The old Diadem would have had no chance to get away into the Atlantic.

"Yes, sir. But she's just one, and Canadian, at that."

In other words, she could well have expected, and probably gotten, special consideration in US waters.

"The best the Germans could have hoped for," Eberle continued, "it would seem, was to bag a picket or two, and maybe Niobe.

"Unless," he added, after a pause, "they could lure 'em in, well into gun range, before Patey - or anyone - could see they had battlecruisers with them."

---- SANCTUARY? (New York Times)

"British warships HMS Patuca and HMS Birmingham Star, both damaged extensively during the battles off New York yesterday ("BRITS LOSE AGAIN" - Page 1), escaped into American waters and requested the protection of the United States Navy. ....

".... Both ships are currently tied up and under US guard at the New York Naval Base. Both crews apparently suffered heavy casualties. Those injured were taken by ambulance to the Base hospital, where they were joined today by dozens more of their countrymen. (See related story, "Wounded" - Page A-3) British spokesmen declined today to comment on the possible fate of the two ships ...."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"Visibility was excellent," mused Stennis, leaning back in his chair. "Smokescreen? Is that where the soot comes in?"

"Yes, sir. Commander Trimm said there was visible soot on all the decks he saw, in the superstructures, on clothes, faces. At the time, he attributed it to their low potable war levels, and the fires and other damage they'd just taken."

It made a lot of sense, judged Stennis, including why Trimm had gone to Eberle. The captain sitting across from Stennis had quite literally written the book on smokescreens. Of course he'd've gone to him to sound him out on his theory.

"If correct," Eberle then paused, and met Stennis' eyes squarely before he went on, "and I think he is, then this is new. Our doctrine screens against superior force. The Germans HAD superior force, but wanted to conceal it. They screened against superior SPEED."

The implications were very troubling.

"Good work, Ed. Can you nail this down? Interviews and such? I'd like you and Trimm to work up a proper report on this - I'll square it with Admiral Alton. If this pans out, it'll really open some eyes."

"Aye, aye, sir. It sure looks to me like we need to rewrite the book." (NOTE 1)

---- Battle Wounded Recovering at US Hospital (New York Times)

" .... Hospital spokesman declined to provide names or even the numbers of new patients. "Our job is to care for them, not count them," declared LCDR Cecil Starling O'Brien, MD. (NOTE 2) Reporters on the scene estimated the numbers of wounded to be about ten for the Germans and well over a hundred British, Australian, and Canadian. There was no information on the number of dead, but hospital sources revealed that several bodies from both sides in yesterday's battles were awaiting disposition instructions or reclamation by their respective Consulates. The hospital medical staff had been augmented earlier on order of Vice-Admiral Stennis, Commander - Atlantic Fleet ...."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"Admiral Alton, sir. And Captain Stiles, Judge Advocate General."

"Send them in."

"Admiral, Captain, have a seat. Report?"

"It's done, sir," Alton began. "They objected - no surprise there, of course. They cited this and that, but, well, I'll let Captain Stiles tell it. He was invaluable."

"Pursuant to your instructions, sir," the senior JAG officer took over, with a pleased nod of thanks to Alton, "I accompanied the Admiral ...." (NOTE 3)

The British apparently had argued for more time, a chance to repair damage to restore seaworthiness, and/or bring the two crews back up to strength. Captain Stiles, however, had had to bone up on The Hague 1907 as a result of Strassburg's stay and had a solid command of the articles of the treaty. The most novel British argument had been aimed at consolidating the two crews onto the least damaged AMC. That, too, was not in accordance with the treaty, Stiles related confidently.

"Their heart wasn't in it, sir," Alton added, "if you ask me. Just going through the motions."

"You agree, Captain?"

"Sir, both vessels are armed, acknowledged members of the Royal Navy, flying flags and Ensigns. They're visibly listing at the pier from battle damage - a battle they fled into US waters to escape - and their crews are mostly dead or wounded. So, yes, sir. I'm confident that their protests were pro forma."

"Intended for a different audience, perhaps," Stennis considered out loud. "Good work, Captain. There's another matter we need to consider. What about the wounded? Are they all equal?"


"I take it that the status of the AMC crews, wounded or not, is quite clear?"

"Yes, sir. The Hague ...."

"Fine," Stennis interrupted, "but what about the others? We fished some of them out ourselves, some we got from the Greeks, but most were POWs turned over to us on humanitarian grounds, and then there're the Germans. The German wounded were never prisoners at all, and were handed over to us in International Waters."

"Uh," Stiles was nonplused, "the treaty may be silent on that."

"And what about the bodies?" Alton added. "What do we do with THEM?"

---- Tour Operator Denies Refunds (New York Times)

" .... Spokesman for Porter Tours stated that tickets for yesterday's 'Victory Tour' excursion aboard Damita (Jackson Line) did not include a refund guarantee ...."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

The JAG captain had left, frown lines engraved deeply in his forehead, just as Admiral Martin had returned. Stennis had asked Alton to remain, which brought the flag officer count in his office to three. The Commander - Atlantic Fleet summarized the visit from Captain Eberle, and his own "volunteering" of Alton's Chief of Staff to the "Smokescreen Report."

"These cowboys are looking tougher every day, sir," Alton commented. Stennis gestured for him to continue.

"The Brits invented the battlecruiser, but the Germans are the ones who've made it work. And take Strassburg. Like I said yesterday, they've upgunned her based on what they've learned from battles. These guys have been learning and getting better as they go. We haven't fought a real battle since your Oregon, sir, but that ship out there of Hanzik's - Moltke - has been in three just this year."

"And clobbered the Brits each time," Martin observed, nodding in agreement. Some went further then that, Stennis recalled, holding that Dogger Bank, in particular, had left the Royal Navy looking like canoes manned by village idiots.

"And now," continued Alton, with an appreciative glance at Martin, "we've caught them inventing brand-new doctrine that even Eberle is surprised at? Who knows what else they've got up their sleeve?

"Now, don't get me wrong," Alton added, quickly. "Ship-for-ship, our dreadnoughts can take those battlecuisers of theirs, 'cept we can't catch 'em, of course. But if they show up over here with a dozen or so of those real heavies of theirs, all bets are off."

"Technology, admiral," Martin took up. "New technology. Turbines, torpedoes, and real live long range shooting. Smith was there and said they were hitting each other at over 18,000 yards last month. They're using it, and we're watching it, and most of our sea time's been twiddling our thumbs off Mexico.

"It's like you've been saying, sir. We need new ships. Big ones. And if we're gonna' fight Germans, we'll need fast ones."

---- Navy Fiddled while British Burned (NY World)

"... were condemned by Benson, who claimed that the military engagement had occurred entirely in International Waters ...."

---- Moltke, stopped (Roughly 40 miles SE Coney Island)

"Sir, lookouts report multiple contacts, bearing 030. Cagemasts, sir."

"Very well," Captain Stang replied. Admiral Hanzik soon joined him and the two looked at the distant dots together. Watched as they grew out of the horizon, seemingly transforming from lowlying ship bridges to august armored fighting tops.

"Two more of their dreadnoughts, Admiral. Just as you had predicted."

"Ah, not precisely, Captain."


"There were additional dreadnoughts in the New York harbor. I had expected one or two of those. These must be from somewhere else."

Stang's eyes widened slightly. Hanzik nodded in agreement. The implications were stark.

The Americans, deep in the repose of a two decade long peace, had sortied a modern dreadnought pair from New York on hardly a day's notice, then sortied another pair from somewhere else with even less warning. Both complete with screen forces. Who could know what they were building in all those shipyards, untroubled by attrition? Yet just those six, if added to Jellicoe's two dozen, would have massively reversed the tide at Die Kaiserschlacht. (NOTE 4)

The closing words of Ryan, the American industrial baron who sat at their president's right hand, echoed in their ears: "when we build things, we build the biggest, the fastest, the strongest, and the meanest there is. ....if we do get dragged in, we'll be coming across the Atlantic with dozens of battleships and millions of men armed to the teeth."

---- Fletcher Denounces Germans - Calls for Senate Probe (Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Senator Fletcher (D - Florida) today denounced press reports of German naval victory in sea battles outside New York harbor. 'This is a sad day for the United States. We simply cannot continue to allow the Germans to abuse our precious Neutrality,' Fletcher decried, from the steps of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. 'The only way for America to stay out of the European War is for us to remain Neutral. And the only way to stay Neutral is to keep German ships on their side of the Atlantic. And the key to that is to keep them out of our ports.'

"When asked if he would care to define the word 'Neutral,' Senator Fletcher angrily responded, 'Look at what just happened off our coast. How many ships were sunk? At what cost in human lives? We wouldn't be in this situation if we'd refused to let that damnable German warship into New York in the first place. President James Monroe understood it perfectly, so why can't President Wilson? If the Germans understand that their ships are not welcome here, they won't send any more, and there'll be no more battles. Is that so hard to understand? President Roosevelt understood it, understands it right now, in fact. Sadly for our Nation, he's not President now, when we really need him. I expect voters will rectify this in the next election.' "

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"No, sir. I do not know how the Times and the Inquirer ...."

Admiral Stennis was on the phone again with Secretary Daniels. Spread out before him was a copy of the New York Times (EXTRA Edition). Others were piling up steadily on his yeoman's desk just outside his door.

"Yes, sir. A Destroyer would not be wise, in my opinion. I have the Montana raising steam even as we speak. I will, though, be sending a pair of Destroyers along with her to patrol off Philly.

"No, sir. I'd rather not do that. Admiral McDonald has enough to do keeping track of those battlecruisers. At last count, they've seized fourteen Entente merchantmen out there in International Waters. I do not want to ...."

"Oh, excuse me, Mr. Secretary. My mistake. I misunderstood your question. Cagemasts, that's why. Montana - and all of the Tennessee class - has one each. No chance at all of any misunderstandings or misidentifications."

---- German Liner Fleet Arrives (Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Crowds gathered this morning at the Hamburg-Amerika Line terminal as bands played and great steam whistles blew. ... The three joined the great liner Vaterland which, because she has been idle since the start of the European War almost a year ago, has practically become a part of the skyline .... Mr. Ballin said that the liners would leave as a fleet in company with the German warship force now off New York (See "Battle," Page 1). Mr. Ballin claimed that the presence of British warships blockading the American coast made the accompaniment by German warships a necessity for German goods to reach the United States, and for German citizens to be able to buy American goods.

"When asked about departure plans, Ballin stated that an exact date had not been determined, but that he dared not risk his passengers before the German warships currently off New York were ready to escort them on the return trip to Germany. 'I learned my lesson,' Mr. Ballin said, 'when several aboard Imperator, including one of my passengers - Mr. Constantine Kallikantzari, were killed by shell fire from HMCS Niobe during our arrival here.' Ballin noted that one of his crewmen was still a patient at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, recovering from wounds inflicted by the shells from Niobe.

"HMCS Niobe was one of the warships lost ...."

---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet

"Would you ask Admiral Martin if he would step in here?

"Jeff," began Stennis a minute later, "Daniels has notified the British ambassador that he's going to hold him to his publicly announced pause in British and other Entente-flagged sailings from here. I need you to take charge, inform the harbormaster ...."

"Aye, aye, sir."

"As for me, I have "The Hammer" raising steam in Mina. I'm off to see the Germans again."

---- Kronprinz Wilhelm Auction Announcement (Philadelphia Inquirer)

"A public auction will be held tomorrow (June 20, 1915) at noon in the warehouse at the foot of the dock where Kronprinz Wilhelm is berthed (see directions below). Sealed bids will be accepted up until 11:00 AM. Lots to be placed under the gavel include the following:

- Lots 1 - 25: freshly brewed, imported German beer, in kegs, 10 to a Lot. These kegs have been maintained cold since shortly after brewing in the refrigerated compartments of Kronprinz Wilhelm. See below for details of brews, including brand and source.

- Lots 26 - 50: white wine, in jeroboams, 10 to a Lot. These containers have been maintained cold since departure from Germany and include various brands. All vintages date from before 1900. See below for details, including vineyards of origin.

- Lots 51 - 100: Bavarian pretzels, 5 barrels to a Lot. These pretzels were all hand?cooked by Bavarian chefs on or after June 2 and all seals will be available for inspection prior to bids.

- Lots 101 - 150: Cheese rounds, 5 rounds to a Lot. These rounds are all aged (details are Lot?specific) and sealed in wax and represent a great variety of types and flavors.

- Lots 151 - 350: Dye Intermediates, 1 barrel to a Lot. Information on each barrel, including specific chemical contents, manufacture date, and origination remain affixed from source and will be available for inspection prior to bids.

- Lots 351 - 400: Hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments, 8 to a package, 4 packages to a crate, one crate per lot.

"Other cargo brought by the SS Kronprinz Wilhelm included goose feather Christmas trees and additional Christmas ornaments. Those items, however, and others were delivered in accordance with pre-existing contractual agreements and have been accepted by the purchaser, reportedly FW Woolworth Company, for resale.

"Mr. Ballin expressed regret and offered his own personal apology to all those who had attempted to place pre-auction orders, but that Kronprinz Wilhelm had not carried within her manifest any additional prints of the famous painting 'Derfflinger at Dogger Bank.'


1) Any Lots that do not reach minimum may be broken into smaller Lots and re-offered.

2) Bonded purchasing agents are invited to attend a pre-auction party (7:00 PM) at which time portions of the beer, wine, cheese, pretzels, and other items not listed will be freely available for sampling.

3) Accredited journalists are also welcome to attend the pre-auction party."


1) Edward W. Eberle is historical, and as described. While he commanded the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet, he developed the USN doctrine for the use of smokescreens by Destroyers. That was not even the first instance of Eberle creating doctrine! Around 1905, while flag lieutenant to Admiral Barker of the Atlantic Fleet, he developed the USN's first wireless doctrine, including codes. His most recent command, at the time of Letterstime, was the command of the Washington (ACR-11, Tennessee Class, a sister ship to Peace's Montana) from April 1914 to about the end of the year.

In June 1915, Eberle is between permanent assignments - probably on the staff of Commander Atlantic Fleet. Eberle's expertise at developing doctrine and authoring the relevant reports was well known in the USN at this point. In fact, this acknowledged expertise played a major role in his getting his next assignment: Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, commencing on September 20, 1915. He will get his flag there and will eventually become the third CNO.

Ironically, Eberle "must know" Stennis! They were both on BB Oregon at Santiago together! Among Eberle publications are a pair of neat first person accounts of Oregon's voyage and battle that survive to this day on the Cornell website. Sharing that experience together would have left them likely to remain personal friends despite the rank difference. See:

(The Captain picture in the above was taken circa 1915, according to the url below.)

He was a child of emigrated Swiss parents, and so likely not a complete stranger to Deutsch:

2) Doctor O'Brien is historical, and was a wonderful personality known for his Irish temper. However, I have taken a bit of liberty with him here, as he did not get to the New York naval hospital until 1919. He commanded a battlefield station near the battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 while attached as a surgeon to the USMC 11th Regiment. Doctor O'Brien would go on to become a significant force in the field of ophthalmology. See:

3) The US Navy's Judge Advocate General has its own interesting history. In 1915, the posts at the top of the JAG still were not flag billets. A summary history can be found at:

Also, in 1915, the JAG's independence had not yet been elevated to parallel that of chaplains and physicians (that would occur in 1967). Thus, in Lettertstime, the JAG officers are presumed in practice (no pun intended) to report to the major station commanders like Stennis. See:

4) Of course, battleships Delaware (BB-28), Florida (BB-30), Wyoming (BB-32), and New York (BB-34) did just that, becoming the 6th Battle Squadron of the Royal Navy Grand Fleet upon arrival in British waters in December 1917.

by Jim

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