June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas -
---- 3:00 PM, Imperator, course 120, speed 15 knots
A ship was approaching the outbound formation, and was being welcomed
by their many steam whistles. The Germans knew why, but some of the others
did not. In fact, the newcomer was a complete surprise to them.
"Blue," exclaimed Browning, "what do you make of THAT?"
"Lord if I know! It looks like a battleship, but where're the cannons?
"German, you think?"
"No, the one it's flying certainly isn't the same as those."
Fox waved at the many German flags along the lines of the liner.
"I don't get it," said Browning. "Why would they take
the guns and turrets off her?"
"Converted to a fast freighter?" Fox offered.
"An awfully expensive freighter. Even at 25,000 tons, she couldn't
carry that much."
A dozen yards aft of the Americans, Hadi had looked ahead only briefly.
He had been mollified somewhat by the increase in speed 20 minutes earlier.
At the moment, his attention was focused on two other approaching vessels.
---- 3:00 PM, bridge of von der Tann, course 120, speed 15 knots
"Wunderbar," commented Captain Dirk. "They should make
harbor well before dusk."
"Yes," agreed Bavaria. His reply had a distracted sound. His
glasses were on Imperator, right alongside. Something white in
motion had drawn his eye to a spot on one of her upper decks. It appeared
to be a jacketed steward, pushing a cart with two glinting, silver-topped
covers of some sort on it. The kind that customarily were placed over
plates. He licked his lips. "Yes, wonderful."
"The Britishers can no longer interfere," Dirk said with great
"Jah," agreed Bavaria, with great salivation.
The two officers watched the vessels through their glasses for a minute.
"Sir, lookouts report Moltke and Kronprinz Wilhelm
are now in sight. Bearing 120."
"Gut. And the others?"
"Not yet, sir."
---- 3:15 PM, Bermuda
"Admiral," reported the commander, somewhat tentatively, "there's
been no reply from the Vice-Admiral. No response from Melbourne,
Berwick, or Niobe. They're down there trying the other armed
merchant cruisers now."
"We've not gotten much more from Patuca. There's a lot of
interference, sir. We're losing groups and needs must fill in as best
we can." He hesitated.
"Well, out with it, man!"
"Sir, the position she gave puts her in New York harbor."
---- 3:15 PM, Imperator, course 120, speed 15 knots
"Herr Heinlich," said Fox, "neither of us have ever heard
of this Salamis."
The two Americans had spotted the senior HAPAG official and sought an
explanation. Later, they might decide that it had likely been more than
chance that he'd been so readily accessible. However, they'd never be
"You're German," added Browning. "If she's really Greek,
why are you so sure she's heading for New York?"
"I am German," Heinlich admitted smoothly, "but Salamis
was being built at Vulcan, in Hamburg, when the war started. She's now
a Greek ship with a Greek crew, but she's incomplete, as you can see.
There are still some German shipyard workers aboard her, but they are
aboard her under contract just to assure that she could complete the crossing
safely in her current condition."
Actually, there were far fewer Germans aboard Salamis than Heinlich
"And, it was well that there were," Heinlich continued. "Salamis
developed engine trouble and had to slow. Imperator and Strassburg
went ahead because Herr Ballin had a schedule to meet and a highly perishable
cargo to deliver."
The liner was old news and their battle story was in route to their editors.
Salamis, though, was new. And there was something else, both Americans
could tell. There was a story here, but what it might be, they had no
"I don't get it, Herr Heinlich," said Fox. "Why not finish
Salamis before sailing across the Atlantic?"
"And," inserted Browning, "why send her here at all? Why
not to Greece, if she's Greek?"
Heinlich had, of course, been waiting for precisely those questions.
---- 3:30 bridge of Mina, course 135, speed 18 knots
"Admiral," said Commander Atanacio, "we're clear enough
now. With your permission?"
"By all means, Commander. By all means."
"Ahead flank," ordered Mina's captain. "Make turns
for 25 knots."
"Engineering acknowledges, sir."
"Very well. Inform the Engineer that I will be going to 30 knots,
"30 knots, aye, aye, sir."
Actually, Atanacio had discussed this with his Engineer long before the
Vice-Admiral had come aboard.
Stennis waited patiently. Time was of the essence, but he knew well that
the sea was a demanding mistress. Constricted, busy waterways demanded
vigilance, especially at any speed above slow. Only the absence of Entente
shipping had made this run possible so far. He had exchanged the formalities
of boarding a warship that was under his command, shifted responsibility
for escorting the RN AMCs to another, and ordered Atanacio to set course
for the USS New York and to "expedite, if you please."
There were several things he wanted to discuss with the still strongly-built
commander, but he knew that they must wait.
"I need to get out here more," the admiral thought to himself.
"I have to keep from letting myself get walled up ashore." His
brief trip on Newport, and now this heady sprint were doing him
a world of good, he'd already concluded.
He covertly studied the Destroyer's young CO, and liked what he saw.
The other's short, dark hair flickered in the wind as he looked ahead
for ships that might impede their passage. When he lowered his glasses,
the sun almost glowed off his bronzed visage. He had not lost the athleticism
that the older officer had admired years before and, from his call for
30 knots, he had not lost his determination, either.
The commander seemed to have true style and presence, and those who served
under him showed enthusiasm. This was far more valuable input than praising
but dry text of any fitness report, and Stennis could not help thinking
of what should be next for Atanacio. An XO tour on one of the more modern
dreadnought battleships? Possible. The normal course of affairs, though,
would more probably call for a staff billet after this one.
Stennis was confident, however, that Atanacio would hardly welcome a
desk but would see many anyway in his career and, if he were offered his
pick of the Atlantic Fleet, his first name would be Mina. Now,
here, with 25 knots of Atlantic air across the bridge, Stennis felt much
"Sir, lookouts report New York ...."
The two officers raised their binoculars to study the cagemasts looming
If they ended up in the European war, the admiral reflected, there was
no telling what might happen. That was the future. For now, he'd let "The
Hammer" enjoy his fast ship, the admiral decided. Stennis had had
his and, at that moment, would have traded his stars to have another.
---- 3:45 PM, Bermuda
The RN admiral was pale, the commander noticed as entered in response
to the summons. Whether it was shock, or rage, or something else entirely,
the commander was unwilling to speculate.
"There have been enquiries from our people in Washington,"
the older officer said. "Whatever this is all about, they are getting
wind of something. Something that happened just off the coast of New York.
Quite possibly a battle, from the sounds of it."
That, of course, was precisely where Vice-Admiral Patey had been, as
he awaited Strassburg and the two supposed liners. The two men
stared at each other as they considered that unspoken fact. Also remaining
unspoken was the word "battlecruiser." Out the windows, the
distant cracks of thunder heralded the imminent arrival of the storm that
had been visibly approaching them since noon.
"There was no mention of sightings in New York harbor. How sure
are we of that bit?"
"They sent it twice," the commander replied miserably. "It's
the last thing we got before we lost her altogether. She said she was
in company with Manchester Star. There were two of the Stars
off New York, sir, she and Nottingham. And neither of them has
acknowledged any of our transmissions."
"C. O. Wardin, you're quite sure of him?"
"Yes, sir. He's real enough."
---- 4:00 PM, Imperator railing just aft of the bridge, course
120, speed 15 knots
"Countess," said Gavilan, his grey shirt showing a few spots
of perspiration, "my guess is a torpedo."
"Yes," Marina replied, as the two of them stared through their
binoculars. "That would explain it. And the others?"
"They both show damage, too. But not from torpedoes. No lists. Shell
fire. Look at Kolberg. She's got a bow chaser destroyed."
"The British must have had more out here than the Baron had expected.
Can you tell what they lost?"
"Not for certain, MiLady. But that, over there, is probably what's
left of a Chatham. Melbourne, perhaps. That, there, off to port,
that's not a warship. Probably what's left of an armed merchant cruiser.
Over there, that looks a lot like a Townie's bow. There was no mention
of a Townie in these waters. Nothing at all. And, from the debris fields,
there must have been others. But there're pretty scattered by now, Countess.
All this happened hours ago."
As Marina twined one stray crimson lock, the two Americans were busy
with their cameras, exclaiming to each other what to remember to write.
---- 4:15 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
"There they go again, sir."
Colonel Anton acknowledged the young officer's remark somewhat tersely.
"Walk with me, lieutenant," he said, after a moment. They headed
towards the barricades on the road entrance. "You have good reason,
if you're feeling a bit edgy," he remarked, once they were clear
of ears. "Not showing it, or not letting it show too much, is part
of the job."
"Gunny," Anton greeted, as they neared Fideles. "Sounds
like the Dodgers scored again."
"Yes, sir. It do at that." There were small grins and even
a solid laugh or two among the sentries.
"Good to hear them cheering."
"Yes sir, it is at that. On a hot one like this, cheering'll give
a man a real thirst. They'll not budge from the beer, Roosevelt or no
Roosevelt. They'll stay right there till it runs out."
"And," commented the captain who had come with the trucks a
couple hours ago, "if they start moving, we'll know long before's
they get here. How far off to you make it, Gunny?"
"Two and a quarter, sir. Nigh on two an a half." The certainty
in the senior enlisted man's voice made it clear that he had paced it
himself, probably last night.
"Almost an hour's walk, then," said the lieutenant, who was
immediately embarrassed by the trace of relief in his voice.