Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XIX
---- 11:05 AM, steps of NY base hospital
The reporters were busily jotting down notes. LT Lionel was blinking
away the spots from the camera flashes.
"... and, gentlemen, I must leave now," the young German officer
said. Beside him, Herr Schmidt nodded in affirmation.
"Leave? Where are you going?" The reporters clearly were puzzled.
"My consulate is now in charge of our German wounded here,"
Lionel replied. "Now, must I go to the pier. Rostock comes there,
um, docks there, in thirty minuten."
"What's a "rostock'?"
"Rostock ist one of our, er, German warships. Cruiser, a light cruiser."
"What? A 'German cruiser'?"
"Yes, Rostock," Schmidt answered this time, after a nod to
Lionel, and spelled the ship's name for the reporters. "She is another
one of the escorts who came across from Germany with the passenger liners,
including Vaterland, which you yourselves have seen. And who had to fight
the British fleet that was blockading New York harbor. Your authorities
have just informed us that she is, er, proceeding in to recoal and replenish.
In accordance with Treaty."
"Wait! Where is this? What dock? Today? When?"
Lionel had tried not to sigh audibly with relief when he accepted his
cue to go silent. Now, he just watched Schmidt work the reporters. The
consulate officer carefully did not smile as he replied to the follow-up
----11:20 AM, bridge of Rostock, speed 12 knots, outer NY harbor
Several of the crew probably felt elated, thought Kommodore von Hoban.
A few half-murmurs of excitement filtered in from off the bridge, cut
short by vigilant petty officers. Staring once again at the massive copper
statue that dominated the great American harbor, he found himself unable
to share their high spirits. Just two days ago, he had wondered when,
or even if, he'd ever see it again. Well, here he was again, and she was
every bit as daunting today as she'd been then. A gift from France, for
all to see, and remember. Standing very tall right in the middle of the
harbor of the greatest of all the Americans' cities. And his nation was
at war with France ....
Captain Westfeldt had had no idea what to expect. There would be a chance
to recoal and resupply; that had been the foremost thing in his mind.
If all went well, his crew might get a few hours rest ashore, with unlimited
hot water. That would be good, too, he wryly admitted to himself. Von
Hoban had said there even would be fresh food, in almost unlimited portions.
He almost choked on his saliva when Miss Liberty first came into view.
She was taller than the great lighthouse at Warnemuende! Much taller!
That she had been erected on an elevated site, out in the water, made
her all the more prominent. The cumulative effect was that the top of
the her torch was three times the height of the lighthouse he'd grown
up in sight of. (NOTE 1)
And, in the last three decades (NOTE 2), literally millions of Americans
had grown up in sight of HER. (NOTE 3)
"Now," Westfeldt paused to swallow. "Now, I begin to understand,
Von Hoban nodded without speech.
"Better would it be," Westfeldt continued, gesturing at the
statue and the vast metropolitan area all about, "if Gross-Admiral
Tirpitz, the General Staff, and the Kaiser were here to see."
---- 11:30 AM, Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island
Hanzik had left to review reports, including one that had led him to
arch an eyebrow and order LT Bornholdt to stand ready to be questioned.
The LTs at the time were trying to puzzle out such mysteries as what were
"Phillies," and why nine elected members of the senior body
of the US national legislature had met in some field in New York. Bornholdt
had respectfully acknowledged, and the other JOs had waited until the
Admiral and the other senior officers had left to quiz him on what the
hell THAT was about. Bornholdt had initially resisted, but his peers had
been determined not to let him get away with it.
Eventually, they wore him down. He told it straight, but he told it.
"Gott in Himmel!" LT Siegfried exclaimed. Wilhelm nodded in
stunned agreement. Diel's eye were wide with shock.
"In your left hand?" LT von Larg asked, mostly in disbelief.
"Ja," confirmed Bornholdt, his voice flat. "Luger as Main
Gauche. Perhaps I shall write a book." (NOTE 4)
LT Kessock had been about to say something, but the words evaporated
in his throat at the tone of the other's voice. Or, rather, at the lack
of tone. Or any emotion at all ....
----11:50 AM, bridge of Rostock, speed 6 knots, inner NY harbor
The vast city was just as he'd left it, thought von Hoban, but Westfeldt
continued to express quiet amazement.
"Larger than Paris," Westfeldt commented. (NOTE 5)
"Ah! Gut," said von Hoban, "we are to be met, and by more
than a single naval officer."
"Strassburg, two days ago. Only one naval officer met us, along
with a company of foot soldiers."
"Well," said Westfeldt, his binoculars raised, "there're
certainly more there than that today."
---- 11:55 PM, New York, HAPAG Pier
As he strode up to the checkpoint, Rear-Admiral Martin waved a hand to
displace the exhaust of the HAPAG truck as the driver pulled away from
the soldiers and down the pier towards the warehouses and offices.
"At ease," said Admiral Martin. "Colonel, a word if you
"Certainly, sir," replied Anton. He nodded to the others to
carry on, and stepped away from the checkpoint. There was a line of various
vehicles seeking admittance, including four from now-familiar firm of
"Mittermann and Sons." Drivers of several of the others had
stepped out and, in various poses of patience or impatience, awaited their
turn. Separately, about a dozen men waved their hands with desperate energy
as they implored the stolid, at-attention sentries. None made any attempt,
however, to break past the Marines, possibly due to the bayonets that
Savage had somehow "forgotten" to order removed. The senior
Marine officer feared that the admiral was about to "remind"
him of that fact, and was considering how he might respond.
"Colonel," Martin began, after they had gone a dozen paces,
"last night, Admiral Stennis explained to the Greek consulate why
we'd be maintaining this post. Any problems today?"
"No, sir. There's been a lot of traffic, of course, but there've
been no complaints." Whoa! Wait a minute, Anton thought. Why hadn't
there been? After all, they'd been slowing down access and egress both,
including fresh food. Why hadn't he looked it that way earlier? "At
least," Anton amended, "none I've heard of."
"Good, good," said Martin with a nod. "Once that cruiser
docks, there won't be any argument over us keeping you here. Which brings
me to my next point. The Germans said they'd have that Commodore of theirs
riding Rostock, and she's been sighted flying their swallow tail. (NOTE
6) I'll be meeting them when she ties up, but I want to keep it small
- just one officer, my translator. However, I'd appreciate one squad of
yours, under a good non-com, one with a good eye, as well as a good head
on his shoulders."
"Yes, sir. I have just the man. Gunnery Sergeant Fideles."
Martin and Anton turned as a line of vehicles turned onto the pier. The
Marine frowned slightly as he made out the red crosses on the trucks.
"Almost forgot. They're here to meet Rostock," Martin explained.
"If the Germans have done as they said, they oughta' have 20 or 30
British aboard, to be turned over to us as soon as they get a gangway
"More British wounded," said Anton. "That helps explain
the reporters. Do the British know about the wounded?" The German
consulate delegation was just beyond the barricades, engine idling. All
he needed was for the British to ....
"Yes," Martin agreed. "They agreed to keep their distance,
as long as getting their men off was our first order of business. So,
I'll ask you to pass the ambulances through now, but keep them here with
you until I give you the signal."
"Yes, sir. And the gentlemen from the German consulate?"
"Take your time with them. The food trucks, too, for that matter.
As for the reporters, they have no business out there at all, as far as
I'm concerned. None whatsoever."
Anton nodded in relief. With that, Martin started back towards his car,
Anton at his side.
"Oh," said Martin, pausing as leaned to get back in the car,
"and, Colonel, that squad? No bayonets, if you please."
"And it's your post, of course, but are they really necessary? Well,
give it some thought."
"Yes, sir." The admiral was probably correct, conceded Anton,
with a small sigh, as he turned to inform Fideles.
---- 12:05 PM, Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island
"Lieutenant," began Konter-Admiral Hanzik, "I've read
your report, as well as your commanding officer's endorsement. Is there
anything you wish to add at this time?"
"Very well. The loss of life was regrettable but, under the circumstances,
not excessive. I will endorse your actions to Vize-Admiral Letters."
Bornholdt remained mute. Belatedly, Hanzik realized that he had not asked
a question or otherwise required a response. Still, he had expected at
least some reaction.
---- 12:15 PM, New York, HAPAG Pier
Colonel Anton had chosen a position that would allow him to view the
proceedings unobtrusively. Through his binoculars, he now watched as the
Rear-Admiral Martin, standing on the pier, went through the formalities
- via his translator - with the German officer aboard the cruiser. Things
seemed to go about as the admiral had expected and, when Martin nodded
and turned to face the shore, Anton lowered his glasses and stepped fully
"Lieutenant," called Anton at the admiral's gesture, "send
the ambulances on down."
"Sir." The engines gunned and the junior officer turned back.
"And the ones from the consulate?"
"I'll tell them myself."
And with that, Anton began to walk to where the Germans were waiting.
1) At this point, some statistics may be in order. The Warnemuende lighthouse
is about 102 feet tall, while the tip of Miss Liberty's torch reaches
305 feet, aided somewhat by her 89 foot tall base. Her base, fashioned
from the former Fort Wood, required 24,000 tons of concrete - then the
largest single mass of concrete ever poured at one time. In fact, she
was the tallest structure in New York at the time she was finished, and
did not lose that title until 1899. In 1915, especially on a ship coming
into the harbor, she would still have completely ruled the skyline. See
also the url in NOTE 2.
2) Miss Liberty was unveiled in New York on October 28, 1886. It was
rainy and foggy, but over 250 ships and a million folk were on hand anyway.
Reports of that event recorded that all there, all about the harbor and
on the ships, cheered at the same instant. What a thrill that must have
been! One url on her history:
3) In 1915, the population New York City alone was well over 5 million.
The url below is linked to a pdf file on census-related site:
For comparison purposes, in 1915, the population of Berlin was about
the same as it is now: ~3.5 million.
4) To gain some insight into Bornholdt's comment, one must understand
that, prior to the start of The Great War, gentlemen still wore swords
and were still expected to be able to use them. Gentlemen learned at various
places including fencing academies ("Die Selohaar Fechtschule"),
as Bornholdt himself did at Hansa. The higher level, more famous institutions
or "schools" for edged blade combat were secretive caricatures
of the martial arts domos of today. Much of the secrecy was due to the
fact that duels had long been - and still were - a fact of life in formal
circles. Thus, "secret" technique not only added to the mystique,
but also potentially meant the difference between winning and losing a
duel, and one does not want to lose a duel!
The German "domos" on the Kunst des Fechtens (Art of Fighting)
had become quite ritualized, as had others on the Continent. Often the
school was centered on an ancient or arcane treatise or manuscript ("Fechtbücher")
of a famous master of the 14th or 15th Century. For example, the studies
of one Fechtschule included "La Jeu de la Hache" - a manuscript
on the pollaxe. Schools hoarded and hid their lore, as evidenced by the
followers of a Fechtbücher written by a pair of German 15th Century
masters (Sigmund Ringeck and Peter von Danzig), who themselves had worked
off the "secret verses" of a 14th Century master (Johannes Liechtenauer)!
Nor was the interest restricted to German masters, as one group studied
the treatises of Fiore dei Liberi, an Italian who began his martial studies
in Germany in the late 1300s before returning to his native country.
With the introduction of the rapier, shields were replaced by a long
dagger to be wielded by the left hand, both to catch the other's blade
and as a weapon in its own right (pun unintended). Of course, it gained
a name of its own: "main gauche" or "left hand." See
the examples below:
5) Quite correct. In 1915, Paris was still under three million in population.
In fact, New York was the second most populous city in the world in 1915,
and well on its way to overtake the largest: London (which had held that
"title" for many years). Though New York would become the most
populous, it has long since been overtaken. Meanwhile, London would drop
out of the top 10 entirely. See:
6) This has been referenced before, see: