June 18, 1915 - Meeting Engagements
- Part II
(Was Decisions, Pt. 2)
---- 7:55 PM, New York, course 180, speed (slowing)
Vice-Admiral Stennis had been handed a wireless a minute earlier. Now,
he handed it to Alton, who saw that it reported that RN AMCs Paduca
and Manchester Star had moored at the base, and that their wounded
were enroute to the base hospital. Meanwhile, Stennis resumed his questioning
of CDR Trimm, Alton's chief-of-staff. Stennis had announced that his party
would be limited to three. Alton and the BB COs were out of the question,
Stennis had ruled, so Trimm was the obvious choice.
Alton might have put up an argument, under different conditions, and
almost did anyway. He watched not particularly stoically as the tall vice-admiral
gestured intensely to the spare, balding commander who was his own right-hand
man. Trimm's bulky glasses and slight frame masked an amplitude of intellect
and a zeal for observation. Alton, big-picture and action-focused, considered
the commander an ideal chief-of-staff. For Trimm, the world was a display
case constructed by the Creator expressly for him to examine.
"Sir, ENS Jones, reporting as ordered, sir."
"At ease, Mister," said Alton. "Captain West tells me
you speak German."
"Yes, sir," the young officer replied. "But, Admiral,"
he warned with perhaps a trace of unease, "I wouldn't call myself
"Yes, Jones' does not sound very German to me," Alton
commented, smiling to extract any sting.
"No, sir. My mother's name is Bodensteiner.' I grew up speaking
both languages, sir. Until Plebe year, that is."
Alton nodded. It was common enough.
"That should do, Ensign," said Stennis, wishing once again
for Commander Hausmann who, unfortunately, had not been in reach when
he lunged for the Newport. Nonetheless, the young officer had a
rugged, muscular physique and a craggy visage that engendered confidence
in the man's steadiness.
"The Germans brought their own interpreters with them. You're just
along to help keep them honest. As much as my aide as anything else."
At that, Stennis turned to his flag-lieutenant. " Sorry, Lieutenant,"
he said, "you'll have to remain board New York."
"Aye, aye, sir," his aide replied. What else could he say?
The turmoil in his guts would simply have to be mastered.
---- 7:55 PM, Chocorua Princess, approaching marina entrance
"Oh, I do hope he's all right," gushed Maggie, for something
like the thirtieth time.
Lannon winced, as he swung the tiller gently to line up the boat with
the inlet. He'd expected Maggie to be angry with her Nikkie for going
off and leaving her. Truth be known, he'd looked forward to her paroxysms
of rage. Maggie was quite erudite, and her rages were masterpieces of
the art. But, oh, no! Instead, she'd gone Earth Mother on him. Now it
was, "oh, Nikkie, sooo brave ...." Nate wanted to puke.
"He'll be fine, Maggie. They know Nate will be checking - don't
"Tell me again what they said," demanded Maggie, fists clasped
to her breast.
"Look," Lannon pleaded, hopefully, "I'm really kind of
busy just now ...."
---- 8:00 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
One ambulance had been checked, and most thoroughly at that. Colonel
Anton still did not know what to make of the call from the Coast Guard
captain. He knew the man by sight, though not his voice. His instructions
to Fideles had been to use a toothbrush as they searched. A small toothbrush.
Nonetheless, nothing had been found, and the second vehicle was almost
Anton noted that the break up of the crowd was continuing. Several men
with large cameras had begun to head their way, apparently drawn to the
ambulances like flies to ....
"What?!" Anton's head turned hard as a deep steam whistle sounded
behind him - the fourth of this very long day. It meant, he realized,
that Barnett had been right. It also meant that his day was far from done.
"Damn," he growled, as he caught sight of the large ship not
far off the pier, with tugs already nestled against her flank, slowly
shoving still another problem into his lap.
---- 8:00 PM, New York Naval Station, Office of the Commanding Officer,
"Sir," said the senior yeoman, poking his head through the
door to Stennis' office, "Admiral Benson should be coming on now."
He held the phone to his ear until he could confirm that both men could
hear each other.
"Paul," he heard the distant CNO say, "what have you got?"
The yeoman gently cradled the receiver, with a small, sad smile. Benson
had been clumsy again, or poorly staffed, or perhaps he was just tired.
Rear-Admiral J. Paul Martin's friends called him "Jeff."
"Admiral Benson? Good evening, sir. Admiral Martin, sir. We just
got a situation report from Admiral Stennis. He has the German force in
It was no accident that the door had remained ajar one-quarter inch.
The yeoman glanced up and down the corridor and eased into position.
"Yes, sir," he heard Martin reply to some question. "Battlecruisers
Moltke and von der Tann. The light cruisers are Rostock,
Augsberg, and Kolberg."
"No, sir. No mention of Strassburg, or the liners, for that
"Yes, sir. I think that's a safe assumption, sir."
---- 8:00 PM, bridge of Wyoming, stopped
"Sir, New York's lowering a small boat."
"Very well," replied Captain Griff evenly, though really no
more stoically than Alton had been minutes before.
All day, his dreadnought-battleship had quietly maintained station on
the New York. He'd gone to General Quarters when Strassburg
had come into view, and they were there still. He'd thought he knew Alton,
but the rear-admiral had proved him wrong with those four jets of smoke
from his flagship's forward turrets. As for Stennis, Griff had always
considered him an enigma, and his madcap run out from the naval station
and on out to meet the Germans had only confirmed his view.
The Germans had just got managed a break-out, completed a long transit,
and fought two or more battles. Why in the hell couldn't Stennis at least
wait until morning to let them calm down? They all knew the RN officers,
if not personally, then as the product of their culture, their system.
They were known commodities. No one knew a damn thing about Germans, and
their trigger fingers just might still be a mite itchy, right now.
"Sir, small boat appears to be heading for Moltke."
"Very well," Griff said. And now, why couldn't Stennis let
him in on what was going on? Didn't his dreadnought count for something?
Alton could be depended upon to use the hoists to keep his captains informed.
Was there something about vice-admiral epaulettes that kept them from
signaling? He bet the German navy had no such problem! He raised his glasses.
Who was that going over in ...? No! He wouldn't!
"Sir, Admiral Stennis is board New York's launch."
Griff just shook his head as he acknowledged. Here he was, in command
of one of the mightiest warships in the world, and yet he felt like he
was simply a silent lurker, invisible to all who were actually involved
in this thing.
---- 8:05 PM, Chocorua Princess, approaching berth
They'd been due back at 6:00 PM, and they were not even tied up yet.
Lannon knew what that meant. It meant Claire's Aunt Terrorland; that's
He scanned the pier and didn't see her, nor that spineless husband of
hers. Maybe they'd given up and left? Or got it wrong where they were
coming back to? Now, that last was a cheerful notion!
"Who's that?" Claire asked, drying her hands as she stepped
up out of the hatchway. She'd gotten her hands and arms clean, but her
white and yellow garments would be stained red forever.
Lannon had overlooked the kid now coming out on the boat dock.
"Whoever he is," he commented, with more than passing relief,
"he's not your Auntie Terror."
"You slip like that once with her," admonished Claire, with
a bit of a glare, "and you'll regret it, Mister."
"Ain't it the truth," he mumbled, drawing another sharp look.
---- 8:05 PM (9:05 PM local time), Halifax
Sir, priority cables coming in from London."
"The first one was for Bermuda. This one's for us, and the one still
coming is for the Embassy in Washington."
"Have we sent on the one to Bermuda?"
"Going out now, sir."
"Hmmm, very well." He thanked the petty officer and began to
looked over the two messages.
"Damn," he thought. The one for Halifax demanded an "immediate"
response, and asked for locations of ships at sea, the names of all ships
ready to sortie, estimates of readiness of all others. And so forth. He
stopped at one line ordering separate attempts to contact Vice-Admiral
Patey and to report results.
"Admiral Patey still has not responded to any of our wireless inquiries,
"No, sir." Of course, not, he did not add. As if he would have
kept it a secret! "Last signal went out on the hour, sir."
"Very well," the officer replied. That last one, unfortunately,
would be the easiest part of the Admiralty's message with which to comply.
---- 8:05 PM, New York's small boat, enroute Moltke
"Gentleman," Stennis began, to the officers in the boat's stern,
"I regret we've so little time."
The khaki-clad pair obediently gave CINCLANT their full attention.
"First, keep in mind that you're both on my staff. Ensign, your
first name? Kevin? Fine. Try to stay at my left elbow, unless I direct
Stennis saw an unspoken question in the other's eyes.
"I like my right hand clear," he explained, consciously and
deliberately relenting his stern demeanor a bit - he did not want "his
aide" to appear tentative or ill at ease with him. "And I lost
some hearing in my right ear on Oregon, off Santiago."
Stennis glanced at the nearing Moltke, gauging how much time remained,
playing out dialogue in his head.
"Your mother's name again?"
" Bodensteiner,' sir," the robust ensign replied. "It
translates something like rocky ground.' "
Appropriate, nodded Stennis, then he turned to Trimm. This man he knew,
having kept an eye on him since he made commander, and his fitness reports
from Alton had only reinforced his conviction.
"Commander, be advised that it is my intent to rely completely on
your tact and discretion. I intend to ..."
---- 8:10 PM, Molkte, stopped
"So," commented Captain Theargus, "THAT's why they tied
off most of the non-wounded."
"What?" Captain Dedmon asked. His vision had fully returned,
but so had all the headaches he had ever had in his entire life. And past
lives, as well. "What are you talking about?"
"The Yanks, mate," he said, pointing out an opening in the
canvas. "The Yanks have come to pay us a visit. Two bloody big dreadnoughts
full of them."
With a groan, Dedmon edged up onto an elbow to follow the other's gesture.
"The Huns are the enemy," Theargus declared. "How long
before they finally realize that? They should have been with us, not just
gawking like bloody vultures."
"Maybe this will do it," Dedmon got out, then clasped his head
as his words reverberated about his skull.
"You think?" Theargus brightened for an instant.
---- 8:15 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
All three ambulances were through the checkpoints now. Anton was torn
between accompanying them and remaining at the main position. The crowd,
now just in the hundreds, had pretty much dispersed, but there were still
knots of men loitering, perhaps discussing matters. The reporters had
reached his barricades and had begun asking questions. The reporters would
probably already have tried to slip around, Anton thought, but they probably
had never faced bayonets before.
"Major, take Second Platoon, escort the ambulances."
The major acknowledged and stepped away. Anton began to adjust the lines.
"Sir?" Fideles packed a lot into that word.
"Go ahead, Gunny."
---- 8:20 PM, Philadelphia Inquirer Newsroom
The sun was low in the sky, but it remained bright enough in the large,
smoke-filled room that only a few lights had been turned on. It was oppressively
hot. Burnt coffee grounds were generating the dominant odor, though the
acrid fumes from several cigars were putting up a nauseating fight for
the atmospheric turf. Almost lost in the odorous battle were the reeks
of stale lunch meats, flaccid pickles, browning onions, and human sweat.
Phones rang stridently and sometimes were answered. Men and women were
ignoring it all as they pounded loudly on massive typewriters, shouted
questions, or just plain cussed.
This was normal.
Night was approaching, and so were deadlines.
The News Editor bent over one battered wood desk, apparently oblivious
to the chaos all about. Indeed, he stood much like a sea captain on his
bridge, as deep water combers tilted the deck this way and that. Four
typed pages and a fifth scrawled in pen were arranged on the stained surface
before him. He scratched his head, somehow keeping the cigar clear of
his bristled scalp.
"Alright," he said, and pointed. "Lead with this. Get
me a headline. A real one. Short. Big and bold as all hell. Make a companion
out of that. That can head Three, but it needs a rewrite. Where the hell's
Freddie?! He damn well should have called in by now. Here, this part can
follow on the overleaf...."
"What about this, Chief?" Crawford posed, pointing himself.
"Slide what you can into the Three, but it's Editorial Page for
most of it. I warned them that something like this was coming.
"Hell," he said after a particularly vicious chomp on his cigar.
" Take it back. Lead on Three with it. The Brits had a blockade
going, alright. No one's gonna' be denying that now. The editorial bunch
will just have to deal with it.
"And where the hell," he bellowed across the fetid room, "are
those damn photographs?!"
---- 8:20 PM, Molkte, stopped
The whistles and trills and sideboys were done, and the men regarded
each other for a frozen instant before the introductions began. Hanzik
regarded the tall American with the golden epaulettes guardedly. Von Hoban,
at his side, raised his eyebrows when he recognized Commander Hausmann's
absence. Captain Stang and LT Lionel completed the German reception group.
"Welcome aboard His Imperial Highness' Battlecruiser Moltke,"
began Hanzik, "Vice-Admiral, Commander, Ensign. I am Rear-Admiral
Hanzik, and I command this squadron of the Kaiserliche Marine."
"I thank you for your hospitality," replied Stennis, surprised
at the English from the German admiral. "Vice-Admiral Stennis, Atlantic
Fleet. Welcome to American waters. Please let me introduce ...."
Stennis sized up Hanzik even as he presented his "staff." He
saw a man a few inches shorter than himself, thin, with broad shoulders
and hands that would have been at home on a steel worker.
"... to help with translation from our side."
" Jones'?" Hanzik remarked, politely. He had let the
"American waters" comment pass without reaction. For now.
"Yes, his mother's name is Bodensteiner,' correct, Ensign?"
"Yes, sir. She ruled the kitchen, and if we wanted something while
we were in there, we had to ask for it in Deutsch."
There were courteous smiles at that, even from Stang, once LT Lionel
completed his translation.
"Admiral," said Hanzik, "you've met Commodore von Hoban,
I understand. And this is Captain Stang, commanding officer of Moltke.
And this is LT Lionel of my own staff."
" Lionel'? Was that not the name of your interpreter in my
"My brother," said Lionel, who would gladly have exchanged
places just then with the current CO of Nottingham Star.
Formal, stilted pleasantries continued as they moved towards the spaces
set aside earlier by Hanzik.
---- 8:25 PM, bridge of New York, stopped
Once Stennis had debarked, taking Trimm with him, Alton had moved to
the bridge. There he joined the battleship's CO where he, and a great
many others, were monitoring the German reception of CINCLANT and his
two other "staffers." The New York CO was a tall slender
reed, hunched far over to better steady his large binoculars by resting
his elbows on the rail.
"So far, so good," Captain West murmured. Alton made a small
noise of agreement.
After a few moments, the group on Moltke began to proceed through
hatches into the superstructure.
"Admiral," West began. "I know we're not expecting any
trouble, but I sure wish they'd stayed out where we could see em."
"Me, too," Alton replied. "Me, too."
---- 8:25 PM, Bermuda
"Admiral, Front Street on the phone." (See NOTE
"Thank you," replied the white-haired senior officer. He stepped
around the table, with its tray containing his evening meal - one he could
not bear to touch. He even wrinkled his nose in distaste at its fragrant
odors as he took the call.
He listened as the officer there read the cable from London. It sought
confirmation and directed all ships at sea be alerted and all efforts
to contact Vice-Admiral Patey be continued. He frowned at the instructions
until he remembered that it would be after two in the morning back there.
This had not been composed by Their Lordships at the Admiralty at all,
but by the flag officer on duty there. They could hardly offer him anything
more, he admitted reluctantly. After all, neither they nor he had any
idea just what the bloody Germans had off New York harbor.
"Very well," he said at the end. "Thank you, Lieutenant.
Best remain there, for now. There's sure to be more."
Truer words were never spoken.
"Sir!" This from the doorway as he cradled the phone.
"We've intercepted a wireless from the American Admiral Stennis
---- 8:25 PM, Chocorua Princess, mooring at marina
Lannon was still tidying up the lines when the kid startled him.
"Are you Mr. Lannon, sir?"
Nate rounded at the voice, somewhat in surprise. The speaker was not
a young teen, as he'd originally thought, but an adult of small stature.
"Yes," he admitted. "That's me. What can I do for you?"
"Freddie Burke, Philadelphia Inquirer. Were you ...?"
The wood beneath their feet began to tremble. Both turned to face the
Nate could not help but swallow. Claire's aunt was making a flying passage
down the pontoon pier, scarf flapping like a battle ensign, heavy skirts
billowing like main sails, massive cheeks puffed out like spinnakers.
"Omigod," breathed Freddie. Nate agreed, barely retaining the
sense to do so silently.
---- 8:30 PM, Salamis, HAPAG Pier
The ship was just yards away from the pier now, and edging ponderously
Nik was relieved to see the waiting ambulances, but the sight of the
US Marines fetched forth an outright grin. The senior officer looked to
be a major, which was fine. The soldiers had bayonets on their rifles,
he noted, as the gangway landed with a hollow boom, which might not be
fine at all.
Men went to work securing the gangway on the pier and on Salamis.
Why in the world, Nik wondered, grin dying, had they fixed bayonets?
He looked over the tableaux for clues. The marines appeared calm, but
they were trained to look like that - no clue there. The officer had his
eyes all over - on his men, the ship, the medical folk, the dockyard workers,
everywhere. No clue there, either. The sergeant though .... That weathered
worthy had his eyes on the warehouse itself, and seldom did he look elsewhere.
Nik half-ignored the tread of feet up and down behind him as he tried
to work it out. Then he watched a small truck making its way down the
pier. It was almost certainly someone from the Port Authority, he decided.
It was the Marine major.
"I understand that you came aboard this vessel out in International
Clearly, Vassillios Kokovinos and the major had been conferring while
Nik had been absorbed with the going-ons ashore.
"That's correct, Major," Nik replied, and identified himself.
Fortunately, he and Lannon had seen ahead to this and so he had his passport
with him. Both men always brought their passports along when they sailed
offshore; winds and storms could deposit a vessel anywhere.
"What Mr. Kokovinos seems to be saying," the major resumed,
perhaps a bit plaintively, "is that he has eight injured men aboard:
three British, three Greek, and two German. Could you help me here, sir?"
"Certainly, Major," Nik replied. "I was on an American
sailboat, Chocorua Princess, with some friends, just off the coast.
Then, just before noon, German and British ships showed up and started
shooting at each other. A Brit one went down near us, and so we went out
to help. We pulled seven of em out of the water."
"Seven? All British?" He had eight injured - the major was
"Yes. I wrote down their names. Here," and he handed over a
small sheet of paper. (NOTE 2)
"The last three are the British injured," Nik added. "Those
men right there. Those others are Salamis crewmen, I think. Best I can
tell, they got hurt in something that happened belowdecks, before I came
"Major," called Kokovinos, from behind them. "May we help
place the men into the injury automobiles?"
"Yes, sir," the increasingly harried Marine officer replied.
"Sir," he said to Nik.
"I'd appreciate it if you'd come with me, sir." The look on
Nik's face led him to continue. "I'm really going to need your help
explaining all this to my Colonel."
"Okay, Major," Nik sighed. "I came this far, I guess ...."
"Sergeant," called the Marine officer, as he stepped over to
the exit ramp. "Detail a squad to assist in disembarking the wounded."
---- 8:30 PM, Chocorua Princess, tied up at marina
Freddie edged clear of the line of fire.
"Boom!" The planking echoed at the impact. The opening salvo
from the dreadnought dowager had been punctuated by the stamp of one meaty
foot encased in something apparently like armor plate.
Freddie edged a bit further off at the sight of the cheeks of the onrushing
figure visibly swelling from a vast in-draught of breath for the next
"Auntie Terri ...," Claire began, bravely enough, thought Lannon.
He stood his ground, albeit with more than a fleck of fatalism.
"WHAT - BANG! - is the MEAN - BANG! - ing of this!"
Nearby gulls took startled wing. Freddie cringed and began another sidestep.
Belatedly, he discovered the next step would be a wet one.
"... the most amazing thing ...," Claire continued, moving
"You were to have them back here at six o'clock - BANG! - SHARP!"
More gulls flew up, screeching entreaty. The grand-dame, in full rant,
hardly spared the interposing Claire a glance. She drew in another mighty
breath. Lannon began to straighten up; it had been a long day and he had
had just about enough ....
They all ignored the nondescript middle-aged man who had made his way
uneasily down the floating pier to them. They also remained oblivious
to Freddie's windmill imitation.
"Aunt Terrilyn! You STOP it! This - BANNNG! - INSTANT!"
Lannon turned to Claire in shock, as did the Dowager. The jaws of both
went slack, in formation. The gulls fled out to sea.
"How DARE ...! Your dress! That's, that's blood! Oh, dear God!"
She flung out her arms and fainted dramatically back into the arms of
her surprised husband.
"Help!" Freddie called. "I - blub - can't swim!"
It really had been a long day.
(1) As noted in "Dilemmas, Part X," the
Bermuda cable office was at Front Street, and was not co-located with
the naval base and shipyard.
(2) The names on the list were: