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
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
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.
"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
"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
---- 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
"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.
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
"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."
---- 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
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
"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."
"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,
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
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?"
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
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)