Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XXXIV
(Morning, June 24, 1915)
---- Boston Globe
"Bands Serenade Harbor"
"Reprise Planned Tonight"
"An appreciative crowd of several thousand was treated to an evening
of music yesterday as the bands of the five German liners joined in an
unprecedented serenade of Boston harbor. In some pieces, the bands seemed
determined to outdo one another, to the delight of spectators, whose applause
"... To the surprise of many there, Mr. Ballin appeared to apologize
for what he called "harmonic weaknesses" in some of the pieces,
and attributed it to the lack of joint rehearsals. He noted that yesterday
was "the first time the five liners had shared a port since the start
of the unfortunate European war." Ballin promised that his musicians
would be practicing much of the day and vowed that tonight's affair would
show improvement and offer additional variety ...."
---- Flag Bridge, USS North Dakota (BB-29), ahead slow, Portsmouth, Rhode
"Sir, Michigan [BB-27] is clear and free of her tugs."
"Very well," Admiral Simon J. Higgins replied, keeping his
voice clear of any emotion.
It was always a relief to COs and admirals to be free of the need for
tugs, whether it be from getting securely tied up to the pier, or back
in open water. This time was no different and, actually, things were a
bit tenser today, as there was some urgency associated with this sortie.
For Higgins, though, the casting off of the last tug had always been symbolic;
it meant that his command had freed itself from the shore and become part
of the sea.
Higgins looked about, noting that Delaware (BB-28) was already falling
in astern, and was pleased with the progress of his force as it began
to organize and pick its way out of the Naval Station environs. About
a mile off his bow, North Carolina (ACR-12) kicked up some froth at her
stern, as she began her move out to what would soon be his van. With her
was a pair of Destroyers, shifting easily to conform to her movements.
Another four Destroyers were forming up in a rough line ahead on his port
Getting underway again, for whatever reason, gladdened him immensely.
Sorties yielded great training, though this one had not been budgeted.
There might be a price to pay there later, but for now the skies were
clear and he commanded a powerful force with a trio of dreadnoughts at
its core, a fine armored cruiser to anchor the van, and a half-dozen modern
Destroyers, all with experienced crews. His subordinate COs were solid,
capable professionals who worked well together. Higgins had made a career-long
study of the chemistry of large forces. Like a tenured professor at a
world-famous university, he had learned to recognize the wrong or missing
ingredients in a command by exhibited performance flaws. He had seen none
He felt the deck shift slightly under his feet as the first ocean swells
patted the hull, greeting his return to sea. Life was good.
---- Washington Post
"Senators Call for Investigation"
"Fear Neutrality At Risk"
"... led by Senator Robert La Follette (R-Wisconsin) called for
a 'most thorough, complete, and comprehensive investigation' into the
recently revealed sales by Bethlehem Steel of battleship guns, armor,
and other warship components to Great Britain. (NOTE
" 'We cannot stand by,' Senator La Follette thundered on the floor
of the Senate, 'idly, impotently. We cannot condone deeds such as this,
brokered in some smoke-filled room by some multi-millionaire industrialist
for his personal gain but at the expense of our nation's neutrality -
just three months after President Wilson proclaimed our neutrality to
the world and had it resoundingly endorsed by this body. And look where
Mr. Schwab's greed to pile up yet another million in his already bulging
coffers has left us! Greece, a long-valued ally and the birthplace of
Western thought, philosophy, and culture, has come to our shores asking
" 'We cannot tolerate the betrayal of our Nation's honor by such
flagrant acts of greed. Morality must know no holiday, no exception. Integrity
is not some sort of cheap suit, to be taken off and packed away when there's
a profit to be made!
" 'We cannot ever, ever relax our vigilance in protecting our nation's
honor, or we will have none, none at all, as this sordid and probably
criminal affair well proves. So, I put it to you, my Honored Colleagues,
that it is up to us now. Did the Executive Branch prevent this, this national
" 'No! No, it did not. Nor did the Judicial Branch and the laws
they oversee. And, to be fair, perhaps they COULD not.
" 'Well, my Honored Colleagues, let us let the world know that we,
the Congress of these United States, and in particular we the Senate -
WE stand ready to execute the duties and responsibilities specified by
the Founding Fathers, the leadership role discharged so faithfully by
those who have come before us here, in this hallowed chamber.
" 'We. We must seize this opportunity and make an example ....'
---- New York, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet
Vice-Admiral Stennis was staring at the map of the New England coastline
on a wall in his office, when the knock came at his open door.
"Enter," he called, turning. "Good morning, Jeff. Coffee?"
"Yes, sir. Please."
Stennis nodded to his yeoman, and the two admirals sat down at a side
"I've always found waiting to be the hardest part of command,"
he confided, casually.
Admiral Martin recognized that remark to be as close to criticism as
he was likely to hear. Stennis had announced his intent to dispatch one
or both of the dreadnought squadrons early yesterday, only to be over-ruled
later by Washington. Secretary Daniels had agreed that both admirals'
forces be sent up to Boston, but had required they be sent together and
that no break occur in the coverage off New York. Thus, they had had to
wait for Montana's return before the dreadnought squadrons could proceed.
Without that delay, Admirals Alton and McDonald would already be approaching
Boston. As it was, it would be several more hours before they could expect
to get word, and it would probably be the Portsmouth group that got there
"Arkansas and Utah will both be ready to sail at dawn," Martin
reported. They're reloading Arkansas's magazines right now -- I'd rather
not hurry that! -- with coaling to finish tonight. "Utah's Marines
are due back late this afternoon. If we do end up needing to sortie something
today, I've got Maine, Nebraska, Kearsarge and Kentucky all on two-hour."
The CO - Atlantic Fleet nodded at each of his deputy's statements, but
with some special warmth at hearing of the imminent return of Utah's marines.
They represented much of the recent combat experience of the USN, and
their performance had proved their worth at Vera Cruz. He hoped not to
have the occasion to use them, but .... (NOTE 3)
His steward, bearing a pair of steaming coffee mugs, interrupted matters
for a minute. Both flag officers thanked the steward, who then withdrew.
"We're running low on front line units, though," Martin observed,
when talk resumed.
Stennis acknowledged, aware that he had essentially emptied the base
of ready Destroyers in filling out the commands of Alton and Peace. Martin
went on to report that two would be ready by noon. Their maintenance jobs
were complete and it was a matter of testing and coaling. Another might
be ready next morning, if all went well today. The vice-admiral nodded
again, clearly thinking about the delay in learning what was going on
"Sir, Secretary Daniels may have had a point yesterday."
Stennis broke from his reverie and indicated that Martin should continue.
"I've been thinking. It was Augsburg's departure that got me started.
The Germans have been playing us like a violin."
He had his boss' attention now, no doubt about it.
"Each time, they went and established a clear pattern, kept to it
like clockwork, and then did the unexpected when they were ready. Then
what did they do? They established another pattern and repeated the process,
over and over again.
"They show up, blow the Brits out of the water, then hand over their
prisoners in penny packets every time we meet 'em or a ship of theirs
comes in and docks. Then they just dumped the rest on Chuck with no warning
"They sent in one ship at a time over and over, then pulled up stakes
and left with two ships still to go.
"Each ship they sent in had that tough-talking commodore of theirs
aboard - who by the way I'm positive knew a whole hell of a lot more English
than he tried to let on - and got us all used to him, until Augsburg shows
up without him. Every one of their ships stayed right up to the very last
second, until Augsburg suddenly cast off two hours early, just before
we might have wanted to hold her and ask her CO some tough questions."
"Alright, Jeff. I hate it, but I can't deny it. But what's that
got to do with Daniels?"
"It's another pattern. They came here for one liner, went down to
Philly for another. Now the liners show up in Boston where there's a third.
But are the German warships there? All of them? Or is THIS when they're
breaking THAT pattern?"
"Doubling back here? Some of them? Damn, it's possible. Okay, having
Peace's command out there in case they ARE pulling a fast one like that
might make sense, at that."
Stennis considered what his deputy had said. It had the ring of truth,
especially given what Colonel Anton had reported to him last night, a
"So. Maybe they think they've got us all figured out," he mused.
His hand massaged his jaw. "Maybe it's time we threw them a curve
"Columbia," Stennis said, with a bit of satisfaction. "Yes,
that's it. Add her to the sortie group for tomorrow." His weathered
face eased into a bit of a smile.
"Aye, aye, sir," Martin acknowledged. Columbia, going on 20
years old, had begun her career four years before HMCS Niobe, which had
been so casually destroyed off New York a few days ago. This represented
a dramatic departure from their previous strategy to put their best foot
forward by sending out only their latest, most powerful ships, but he
puzzled it out after a minute.
"Fully coaled?" Martin asked, with an answering grin. (NOTE
---- Philadelphia Inquirer
"No Guns For Salamis"
"Greece Files Formal Protest"
"...Schwab apparently closed the deal last November, during a visit
to London, perhaps a trip made just for that expressed purpose. The eight
massive 14" naval cannons began their trip on railcars that slipped
secretly across the border into Canada, presumably to avoid tipping off
the various federal authorities, including naval inspectors. The need
for such clandestine tactics rested on the fact that each gun barrel was
over fifty feet long and weighed over one hundred and forty thousand pounds
"The British Royal Navy was reportedly delighted to obtain the cannons,
so much so that they quickly designed and built from scratch an entire
new class of Monitors just to profitably use the powerful guns. Speaking
of profit ..."
---- New York, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet
"Sir?" Admiral Martin had been surprised at the summons, but
tried not to show it. The expression on the face of CO - Atlantic Fleet
signaled a problem of some sort.
"Sorry to have pulled you away from it, Jeff. Better come in and
Stennis despised being yanked around, but he hated even more when he
found himself forced to do it to others.
"Just got off the phone with Admiral Benson and Secretary Daniels.
Seems like all hell's broken loose down there over Salamis and her missing
guns. Anyway, I'll be taking the sortie tomorrow, not you as we'd planned.
Daniels has convinced himself that this whole business is going to come
to a head off Boston sometime over the next few days, and I'm to be there,
in person, with as much of the Atlantic Fleet as I can scrape up on short
So, instead of flying his flag from a sortieing dreadnought squadron,
Jeff realized that he'd get to remain at his desk. He kept a poker face
with some effort.
"But you're not staying here, either," Stennis announced, practically
reading his deputy's mind.
"I'll be taking Peace north with me, so you're to sortie right in
my wake and take the off shore station. See what you can put together.
Start with at least a pair of battleships, Kearsarge and Kentucky need
the sea time, but use your judgement."
"Aye, aye, sir!"
"Oh, and one other thing, concerning a former shipmate of ours.
Daniels told me that the Brits were sending Captain Smith back to us,
"Did he come down with something, sir?"
"No, the word is that he ruffled some feathers one too many times."
"Sounds like Brad, alright."
"Well, the Secretary really wasn't all that clear on the matter.
But, in any case, he's definitely gotten himself banned or something.
"The Secretary brought it up because down in Washington they've
been quite impressed with Captain Eberle, and he's got a new billet in
mind for him once all this dies down. (NOTE 5) He
asked me to find Brad a spot up here on my staff, maybe as his replacement,
once he gets back and settled. Since Brad was aboard Iron Duke during
that battle last month, they may keep him down there for a while, which
will leave us short ...."
"Yes, sir." Martin was noncommittal, already thinking about
his sortie, and all the preparations that had to be redone.
---- Point Pleasant Beacon
"Jersey Devils In Packs?"
" '...no doubt in my mind,' answered Sheriff Wilkinson, edgily.
'I haven't seen them myself, but I've heard them plain enough. Right around
sundown, last night and the night before, both. Like I said, whatever
they are, there sure was a bunch of them in there howling up a storm.
As y'all know, the Barrens gets right inhospitable some places, and I
wasn't about to take my men in there around dark just on account of some
strange noises, even noises like that.'
"Residents have also reported that at dawn each of the last several
days, there has been an eerie chorus of howls that lasted for several
minutes to almost an hour. "They're not wolves," declared Deputy
Sheriff Mike Turner. 'I've heard wolves out West aplenty and they sounded
different.' When pressed, the deputy remained firm that he could not be
mistaken. 'Look, I'm not saying that I know what these critters are, 'cause
I don't. All I'm saying is that, whatever they are, they're not wolves.
And they're not coyotes, either. Now, isn't that clear enough?' "
---- Letterschloss, Germany
"Wake up, dear," urged Lady Christine.
"All is well, my love. You're home, in your own bed. I'm right here
with you. You were having some kind of a nightmare, that's all."
"Ach, ja. A nightmare. Thank The Almighty that it was only that!"
"Would it help to talk about it?"
"Perhaps. Perhaps it would." The Baron got up, poured water
into a mug from a covered carafe on a bedside table, and gulped it greedily.
He realized suddenly that he was drenched with perspiration.
"It was about the war."
"Ahh," she murmured into the pause. There had been others,
and they had all been about the war. About the ships and the loved ones
aboard them. Ones lost. Ones still to be lost. She hated this war, its
costs in lives, and its toll on the living.
"No, this one was different. The war was just starting, all over
again. But, this time, all of First Scouting was gone, off in some distant
sea, trapped there and unable to return."
He swallowed more water, and almost shuddered at the recollection. It
had been horrible.
"The British. We could not catch their dreadnoughts; we could not
even find them. Their battlecruisers ravaged our scouting forces, leaving
us completely blind. And then, when we tried to return home, there was
their entire fleet, drawn up in battle formation, across our path."
Thank heavens that it had been only a dream. He went and poured himself
another glass of water. If he'd been alone, he knew that he'd've poured
himself something a lot stronger. A few more like that, and even he might
be tempted to go on a bender.
---- Hopewell Herald
"Jersey Devil Stalks Again"
"Menace? Or Opportunity?"
".... though none of the descriptions have perhaps been more bizarre
than 'homicidal green boys' from a Mrs. Wijn and 'flying vampire monkeys'
from a Miss Dorothy Garland who reported that they had scared her little
"Local citizens are reported to be fleeing or forting up, yet hotels
are apparently seeing a surge in out-of-towners intent on trying to see
for themselves ...."
The elderly admiral watched the palm fronds dip and curl in the breeze
coming in off the ocean. Beyond them, the waves threw up large whitecaps
even before they began their final approach to the beachline. The scene
was tranquil, serene, but he was not deceived, as he well knew that whitecaps
like those sprung from the fury of a powerful storm somewhere over the
From his current vantage, the entire world might be at peace. The sun
beamed warmly on the empty sea below it. This, too, was a deception. Yes,
the day had dawned without the appearance of German warships. Nor had
any been sighted off Halifax. Other than the liners in distant Boston
harbor, the ocean might have swallowed up the German battlecruiser squadron.
There had been that one distress call off Boston two days ago and, then,
nothing but silence.
But the admiral knew that the German warships were out there, somewhere
over the horizon, just like that storm. And, like the storm, would likely
cast waves and flotsam far and wide.
---- New York Times
"Wilson Faces New Test"
"Greeks Reported Furious"
"...coming as it does hard on the heels of the so-called 'British
Blockade' and 'The Battle Off New York' ....
"... almost lost in the background is the silence on the city's
waterfront. The number of empty slips is the highest its been since last
September. Nor is that the whole of it, as the British and French merchants
that were already here remain tied up, their masters refusing to sail
in the face of what some are now beginning to call "The German Blockade.'
American and Neutral ship activity is up about ten per cent, but total
merchant traffic has been cut in half or more.
"German spokesmen claimed that their forces have strictly complied
with all the treaty provisions of "The Hague 1907," and challenged
anyone to identify a single provision that they have violated. Officials
at the German Chancellery downtown hotly denied that their ships were
conducting a blockade, and pointed to the fact that their ships had a
treaty limited maximum stay time of 24 hours at a US pier, but that their
merchant ships required more time to unload and reload passengers and
cargo. In the meanwhile, Chancellery officials claimed, their warships
have conducted no patrols and have done nothing but wait just outside
the ports in International Waters to accompany German merchantmen as escorts
against the British Blockade ....
"British Blockade or German Blockade, merchants fear that the waterfront
is fast becoming an economic ghost town."
Vice-Admiral von Rudberg examined the scenario with discomfort. He commanded
ten dreadnoughts screened by four half-flotillas, each led by a light
cruiser. He could have hoped for more, but this had been about the standard
OOB for most of the previous scenarios. No, that was not the problem;
it was the battlecruiser force. Or, rather, the absence of a battlecruiser
force. Any battlecruiser force.
"For today's scenarios, we are to assume that First Scouting has
been detached. The objective is ...."
Rudberg knew what the objective was, and accepted it. He just didn't
like the conditions and it took no more than a single glance to see that
he was far from alone in this opinion. They were near the edge of the
scenario sortie envelope and the RN dreadnoughts could sustain one or
two knots higher speed than his could. It was like the last hours of Die
Kaiserschlacht, when the Baron and First Scouting had left him alone with
the Grand Fleet Main Body, but worse - far worse. Then, the day had been
fading and the Britishers intent on escape. Here, conditions were bright
noon and the Grand Fleet would be intent on revenge.
If this were reality, the Grand Fleet might not even be at sea today
but, in this exercise, they most certainly would make an appearance. He
would be outnumbered again. The High Seas Fleet always was.
Beside him, Admiral Necki muttered what was obviously some sort of sour
remark. Necki had missed most of the earlier scenarios and so may have
been less used to this sort of thing. No one knew exactly where he'd gone,
or what he'd been doing. Well, the Baron surely knew, but he may have
been the only one.
"It could be worse," Rudburg noted. "The British could
still have their battlecruisers."
Necki blanched at that image. "That would be a raging nightmare!"
"Indeed it would," agreed the Baron from behind them. "Indeed
1) Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin was
a fiery, reform-minded, progressive Republican who served three turns
in the US House of Representatives, was then elected three times to the
Governorship of Wisconsin, and then served four terms in the US Senate.
He is one of the great men in public office in the US during the period
of Letterstime. He had been a US Senator since 1906 and, upon his re-election
in 1911, was considered the undisputed leader of the Progressives in the
Senate. Throughout his long career in public office, he would rail against
bribes, kickbacks, backroom deals, and all other forms of corruption,
and he would relentlessly press for reforms to prevent such abuses. For
example, he led the effort to change the method for choosing Senators
to one of direct election, vice the former appointment methods that had
routinely been exploited for personal gain. La Follette had begun to challenge
Taft in the Republican Presidential primaries when Theodore Roosevelt
returned, upsetting the political process and leading to Wilson's election.
Interestingly enough, La Follette then ended up supporting Wilson, in
preference to both Taft and Roosevelt, and would continue to support President
Wilson as long as he remained a clear isolationist. La Follette feared
that war would prevent progressive domestic reforms and that any great
industrial expansion to support the military would benefit only the great
industrialists and their investors. The clandestine sales by Schwab were
precisely the kind of deeds that La Follette so tirelessly and publicly
decried -- one early Senate floor speech went three full days. The sinking
of Lusitania and USW increasingly marginalized La Follette, though he
would still rise to lead a successful filibuster in 1917 opposing the
arming of US merchants. In Letterstime, neither of the events that historically
reduced La Follette's stature have occurred, and any public backlash from
the revelation of Schwab's peccadillos should only increase his influence.
La Follette and His Legacy, by Alice Van Deburg, 1984, and republished
by the University of Wisconsin System 1995. Excerpts from this book can
be found on the web at:
- Arkansas completed repairs in New York and left for Newport, Rhode
Island on June 25, 1915,
- Kearsarge and Kentucky both recommissioned on June 23, 1915, and
- USS Columbia (C-12) recommissioned on June 22, 1915.
3) Utah's US Marine battalion won seven Medals of
Honor at Vera Cruz (April 21, 1914), after having been towed in under
fire. See the following remarkable photograph:
The Vera Cruz operation may have been the first time the US Marines experienced
house-to-house urban combat, with some startling similarities to the Iraq
conflict at Fallujah. The ~1,000 man ad hoc unit that first deployed was
formed from the contingents of several USN ships, including battleships
Florida, Michigan, and Utah. Utah may have contributed the most of a single
ship: 17 officers and 367 men. See:
One more note, the commissioning CO of USS Utah (BB-31) in 1911 was Captain
William Shepherd Benson, the first and "current" CNO in June
4) A mysterious tip of the ball cap to Flag Captain
5) Eberle historically went from the staff of CO -
Atlantic Fleet to Superintendent, US Naval Academy at Annapolis, taking
that billet on September 20, 1915. He still gets that in Letterstime.
For more details, see Footnote #1 at: