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Part 67
Part 68
Part 69
Part 70
Part 71
Part 72
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PART 10: June 10, 1915  

Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Meeting Engagements, Part XXXV

(Afternoon, June 24, 1915)

---- Flag Bridge, USS North Dakota (BB-29), course 040, speed 15 knots

On a heading of 015, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, is just 50 miles from Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately for Admiral Higgins, that was irrelevant, as that was an overland course. Instead, ships had to go the long away past Nantucket and around Cape Cod, making the water route three or four times the "as the crows fly" distance. The earliest he could hope to finish a sweep of the waters immediately off Boston would be late evening.

Admiral Higgins lowered his glasses from the horizons empty of foreign warships and looked again at the map. (NOTE 1)

He had kept his dreadnought force together and tracking, somewhat, the Three Mile Limit on his way up the coast. The major exception was that he'd detached North Carolina (ACR-12) force to swing wide at a full 20 knots around Nantucket, while he took the rest past Martha's Vineyard and into Nantucket Sound. He had every intention of meeting the likely German squadron with his command undivided, but there would be ample time to rejoin on the way north along Cape Cod. No, the more serious disposition decisions would be later.

---- Washington Evening Star

"Schwab Sold Subs!"

"More Details Revealed"

"... with Admiral 'Jackie' Fisher, at the time the British First Sea Lord, and involved no fewer than twenty submersible warships of a design identical to the very latest built for the United States Navy. The contract was for no less than $10,000,000 with the work to be done at Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the Union Iron Works shipyard in San Francisco.

"Government sources revealed that only the intervention of senior State Department officials prevented the worst of the violations of international law, but that ...."

"Assembled and completed in Canada, the first four vessels, named by the British themselves to be 'H Class' submersible war vessels 'H1' through 'H4', were commissioned on May 25 at Quebec City in a ceremony presided over by the Governor General, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and his daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth. The four completed warships departed for Great Britain a few days later. British officials expressed their complete satisfaction with their new acquisitions and stated that they looked forward to receiving the next half-dozen in the near future.

"The Star has learned that the Canadian commissioning crews held the 'H Class' war submersibles in the very highest regard, calling them 'Ford submersibles' - in tribute to the American assembly lines from which they'd come. When asked for his reaction upon learning of the Canadian nickname, Secretary of State, the Honorable William Jennings Bryan declined to make any comment for the record. President Wilson ...."

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

Admiral Stennis was reviewing the latest position reports from Admirals Higgins and McDonald, with Admiral Alton's command steaming in company with McDonald's. Per his instructions, both forces were sweeping wide, with scouts ten or more miles outside the Three Mile Limit. Heavy seas between Boston and New York were slowing the pace of the force he had dispatched from off Long Island. The delays imposed by Secretary Daniels, however reasonable they might have been, were being compounded by Mother Nature.

They were not going to get there by dark, so McDonald - the senior admiral - was proposing to slow at dusk and remain just off Cape Cod overnight.

"Lieutenant," Stennis called out his partly open door.

"Yes, sir?"

"For Admiral McDonald, 'Concur; join Higgins NLT 0900; Stennis.' "

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Also, confirm receipt by Admiral Higgins."

Higgins. Higgins should still make Boston by twilight. If the Germans were there, he'd find them.

---- Philadelphia Inquirer

"Chief, I just got off the telephone with our DC stringers. The Star's already run the Bethlehem Steel British submarine story."

"Damn! Damn it to hell!" Had they gone soft so quickly? Gotten spoiled from Blue having such an in with the Germans? The Boston stories still coming in were nice, but the real action seemed to have drifted south to Washington and west to Bethlehem. Well, unless another sea battle .... He shook his head, recognizing that right then he had to remain focused on the stories now in play.

"Whatta' they got that we don't?"

"Lots of the political details, Chief."

The editor nodded. That sort of stuff would be crucial in the Star's market, but most of it would not play as well to his own readership.

"But that's not the half of it," Crawford spoke up, joining in the conversation, with a tone of dejection. "They got the actual money number - 10 Million, Boss! - when and where they were finished, and even the name of some British princess who did the actual commissioning."

That was bad. Big dollar numbers and royalty - those were huge cards for newsprint in any market but most especially in the Philly one. Perhaps because of Philadelphia's American Independence history, including having been home to both the First Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, there remained an amazing fascination with titled European nobility with British Royals well at the top of the list.

"Pix?" Of the princess, obviously.

"No. And our morgue's empty, too, we checked."

"So, what DO we got?"

"Not much," Crawford admitted. "But the Star doesn't say how they got all that sub stuff into Canada. I doubt they know. We've pretty much got that nailed down now, and you were right, Chief. They used special freight cars, just like they'd done with those big guns. Shipped them right across the border. We know how and when, and even got some of the dates. Just like they were model kits ...."

"Nuts." That did have some potential, but he'd hoped for something better. "Anything else?"

"Well, they didn't mention that Church guy by name. We know he was right in the middle of it over there too. But I think he was pretty much just small fry though and, anyway, he's long gone now."

The editor sighed. Crawford had the right of it. Flashy British admirals might be worth a mention, but that failed foreign politicians were worth exactly nothing.

"All right. Lead with railroad company - by name," that would at least give them a decent local connection, anyway. "But be sure to get the money into the second headline, dollar signs and zeros. All of them."

---- Point Pleasant Beacon

"Hunt Parties Organizing"

"The Reverend and the Hounds"

"... and a full score of huntsmen, all determined to be the ones to find and dispatch the Jersey Devils that have been terrorizing the local communities."

"One major difference is that all are to be armed. The biggest departure, however, from what might be considered a traditional hunt is the inclusion of an ordained minister in each party. Another item under discussion was the possibility of adding crosses to the collars of each of the dogs in the hunts. According to Reverend ...."

---- Flag Bridge, USS North Dakota (BB-29), course 010, speed 15 knots

Admiral Higgins studied the distant silhouette on the eastern horizon. The distinctive cagemast had made it instantly clear that she was the North Carolina (ACR-12) rejoining on schedule. He would let others debate the merits of cagemasts versus other ways of providing a base for an elevated observation platform, but the ease of instantly identifying a vessel with one as undisputedly USN had proved of value to Higgins on more than one occasion. The only other cagemasts at sea nearby besides those of his own force were those with Admirals Alton and McDonald, several hours astern of him. Thus, he knew that ship out there to be the North Carolina just as surely as if she were 200 yards off his beam, instead of 20,000.

The two Destroyers he'd sent along with North Carolina had not been sighted, but that was expected. Not only were they smaller, but their stations would be much further out to sea.

This was neither a coincidence, nor a radical deployment. Visibility often varied, could not be trusted, and - absent some form of magic - would always be practically zero in fog or moonless night. The problem of getting caught at a tactical disadvantage, or even ambushed by enemy squadrons, was one every navy faced constantly while at sea. All navies had adopted the screen or buffer solution, placing the capital ship base within a larger formation, surrounded by progressively lighter, fleeter vessels. Just as he was using the North Carolina force as a buffer, so too would the armored cruiser be using her own escorts as scout and screen. Any sudden encounter or surprise attack would - like acid splashed on a solid object - initially affect only those outer, lighter ships and allow the heavier inner force able to respond.

The United States was not at war and had no "enemy" to guard against - at least not as of this morning when he'd cast off from Newport. War or peace, though, this was great training.

---- Boston

The two young reporters watched the army of workers questioningly. The men busily rigged awnings, carried chairs, constructed raised stages, hung bunting, and went at other less obvious tasks. These were all preparations for the second night concert, and were a scaled up repeat of the efforts of yesterday afternoon.

"I still don't get it," Blue said in an aside to Browning.

The question was not what the men were doing but, rather, why would there be a second concert? Or, more to the point, why were the Germans still here at all?

"You know the story," Max answered. "We couldn't prove him a liar."

They had been docked here for over 48 hours, after having been at sea only overnight, so topping off coal and provisions would not have taken this long. There had been no departure time - or even date - announced. Ballin had obviously been determined to remain vague on the matter. Kronprinzessin Cecilie needed some more repairs, was what he had finally stated, but the reporters remained skeptical.

"If she was in that bad a shape," Blue persisted, "then why'd they even stop here?"

"Maybe they didn't know?"

Blue just made a rude noise.

"Yeah," Max admitted. "I don't buy that one either. I'm pretty damn sure they had some of their own folk aboard within a day or two after Imperator tied up in New York." More than enough time to make successful repairs or declare failure.

"Me, too. We know for an ironclad fact that a bunch went across the pier to Kaiser Wilhelm II - they made no bones about it. We know some showed up down on Vaterland. It only stands to reason that they sent a team up here to Cecilie."

"But we can't prove it," Max pointed out. "Even if we could, maybe they really are having problems. Ones they hadn't expected."

Blue turned to face the other. "Are you telling me you believe 'm then?"

"No," Max sighed. "No, I don't."

"Yeah, well, okay then. What I think it is is that they're waiting for something. A signal, maybe a message."

"Okay, that's possible. But of what? What in the blue blazes could it be? And from whom? About what?"

"I don't know. And it's driving me crazy!"

"Me, too. So we sit here, twiddle our thumbs, and listen to music."

"And wait."

---- New York Times

The newsroom was not a happy place. They were getting hammered.

The post-battle Extra was old news, just as much ancient history as that battle the Greeks had named their silly ship after. Papers sold last week count for nothing today.

The German warships, which had practically guaranteed daily headlines even if they did nothing put pick their teeth, were gone. All of them, and the battlecruisers - and their long-anticipated front page exclusives - had never made their long-awaited appearance. All gone, as if they'd never existed. Nearly all the warships in the USN base were gone, too, with all the rest reportedly leaving in the morning. The Brits had gotten themselves all sunk, save two tied up under guard at a navy pier. Even the Greeks had taken their funny non-ship, Salamis, away, and then (to add insult to injury) had gone and docked her down in Philadelphia smack dab in front of the Inquirer.

It also wasn't helping that no British or other Entente merchants had started arriving again and that all the ones already in port were staying stubbornly tied up. The harbor had gone almost as quiet as a church. A few businesses were laying off and others were threatening to do the same. It seemed like commerce was slowing everywhere. That was news, alright, but pretty thin stuff. It was tepid gruel after they'd gotten used to sizzling steak. There'd been some talk of another mass political rally but, with the departure of the Germans, nothing looked to be coming of it.

Pity, thought the editor. A mob like the last one would have made for a lot of column inches, no matter what happened. And he was in sore need of column inches right now.

Instead, the national lead stories were now pouring out of Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. New York was practically in some sort of news "drought," made all the worse because it was raining headlines everywhere else up and down the coast. He'd already had one visit from the Publisher and did not relish another. Nor were his reporters immune to the whole mess.

Tempers were fraying all over the city, and his newsroom was no exception. It was damnably hot, and sticky, and everyone's clothes showed spots of sweat-through. The streets stank even worse than normal as the heat accelerated the pace of decay of garbage and refuse. As was usual in heat spells, many of the moneyed newsmakers had escaped to their summer homes in Lake Placid or Saratoga Springs, further reducing news opportunities.

Sometimes, sports could shoulder the load. Many men could forget their troubles for a bit, if their favorite team was on a streak, or even in the hunt for the pennant. They could live vicariously through their heros, rejoice in the success of their teams, sweat or no sweat. It was the first place the editor had looked at for a source of relief in times like this. Unfortunately, that would not work today, that was for sure. If matters weren't already depressing enough, things were downright grim for all New Yorker baseball fans this season. The teams were literally a litany of plain bad news.

The Yankees had won last night, but they were just three games above .500. The writers who were the most knowledgeable were all just shaking their heads in great shows of pessimism. The Yankees just didn't have it this year, they were all saying. Not only would the Yankees not win the pennant, they would not even finish close enough to be able to see the winner wave it. In fact, they'd be lucky to stay out of the cellar.

And the Giants! If anything, they looked worse. They had lost last night to the Philadelphia Phillies and stood at a miserable 21 - 27 - 3. As for the Brooklyn Robins, they'd lost their seventh in a row yesterday, falling to 24 - 31 - 1. Even the sad sack Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the failing Federal League were under .500 at 28 - 31 - 1.

No, if the Times played up the current status of baseball in New York, it wouldn't be the Publisher at his door, it'd be a lynch mob.(NOTE 2)

"Chief! Telegram for you."

"Give it here."

He looked at the Western Union envelope. It was from Los Angeles, California. He tore it open and looked at the terse note.

"Where British? -- Dave."

"How in the hell would I know?" He gritted his teeth.

"Chief?" The reporter hoped it was a lead of some sort.

"It's from my old friend 'LA Dave'," the editor said, sadly shaking his head. "He wants to know where the British are."

"They're all still in the hospital, right?"

"I don't think," the editor replied dryly, "that those're the Brits he's talking about."

"Oh. Oh!"

"Don't matter," the editor continued. "I'd put 'em on Page 1 no matter which ones showed up. Heck, right now, I'd welcome the Trojans with open arms, I'd kiss Frenchies on both cheeks and - hell! - I'd even dance with the Dagos!"

He rubbed his face, tiredly.

"Let me see what we've got so far on that Bethlehem Steel scandal. Hey! What about US Steel?"

"What about US Steel, Chief?"

"What IS this? Suddenly I'm surrounded by idiots! Look, boys, I'll make it simple. Just about everybody and his cousin've been making good money selling to the Brits. Everyone knows that. BUT, now it looks like all along that the biggest profits've really been in secretly selling other stuff under the table to the British. BIG dollars, serious cash, huge profits."

Thank heavens, mouths were opening and eyes blinking as realization hit them. For a moment, he'd begun to think he really WAS surrounded by idiots.

"Yeah, so y'all think Schwab's the only one? Maybe so. Problem is, between the Inquirer and the Star, he's sewed up tight. But if he's not, now, there's headlines out there for anyone who finds out. Now you got it?"

They did, wincing at his scornful tone.

"Okay, for now, we're gonna' have to go with Schwab and Bethlehem Steel. We're upset and it's a big disgrace and we're gonna' get up on our high horse and say so but - ladies and gents - we're riding drag on this one. It's only a one day - two day for us. Get me more, or bring me another story. Got it?"

Author's NOTEs:

1) To get a picture of the situation, see below, for a very simple gif map file. Portsmouth, Rhode Island - the USN Station location - would be roughly 20 miles NW of the last island on the left in the little map. Boston is at the vertex of the small peninsulas at the upper left. Thus, to get to it by sea, one must go all the way around Cape Cod.

2) The final baseball records in 1915 for the New York teams would be:

- 69-83-2 - Yankees
- 69-83-3 - Giants
- 80-72-2 - Robins
- 70-82-0 - Tip-Tops

Perhaps the most interesting baseball story to come out of June 23, 1915, happened in the game between the Detroit Tigers and the St. Louis Browns - and thus would not have been of that much interest to the New York Times editor. In that game, Ty Cobb had stolen home, for the FIFTH time that month! Cobb's career record of 54 still stands, and may be one record that will never be challenged. Ricky Henderson, for example, managed it just four times!

2) See: (note that the url links to a large pdf file map)

by Jim

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