June 18, 1915 - Meeting Engagements
- Part IV
(Was Decisions, Pt. 4)
Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug - Decisions, Part IV
---- 10:00 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
"Gunny," asked Anton, "anything to report?"
Fideles and several others were staring through binoculars in the growing
gloom. The dusk was fading but there remained many artificial light sources
on the docks and from the city. The area where they had brought off the
British and the others, in particular, remained brightly illuminated.
"Been a steady stream going up and down that gangway, Colonel. Groups've
been coming off empty-handed, standing around the trucks eating and drinking,
then going back aboard hands full. Usually one crate apiece. Mostly fruit
and fresh produce."
No, sir. Maybe no operators."
"Possible," said Anton. "Quite possible, especially if
this was not their scheduled arrival time. Or place," he added.
The Port Authority rep had certainly been no help. After a brief, presumably
cursory walk-through, the man had been impatient to leave. Eager, Anton
had guessed, to get back to some cozy couch. The Salamis had papers ,
and held no contraband, no guns, no cargo, no paying passengers, no would-be
immigrants, and thus no interest for the minor official.
"Sir, more trucks coming up the shore road ... they're ours, sir!"
Excellent! The sight of one's relief was always welcome and this time
was far from an exception. Anton shook off his fatigue as he watched the
trucks make the turn towards his outer-most post. Like the rest of those
of his "command," a grin instantly plastered itself across his
---- 10:00 PM (4:00 AM local time), London
The duty RN flag officer looked at the two messages that had just come
across the cable from Halifax. The first was from Bermuda and the second
was from the embassy in the American capitol. They both said just about
the same thing. Both contained definite and horrific confirmation of the
earlier one. He had prepared for it, and it now only remained for him
to revise the texts of the messages he had drafted to reflect the additional
Many would get this by phone, but hand-delivered messages would be needed
"Standing by, sir."
Very well. I'll be just a minute."
No matter what method was selected, though, all would get the news with
the dawn. All that is except for Rear-Admiral Keyes, who was in transit
to Cromarty Firth and would not arrive there until mid-morning.
---- 10:00 PM, quarterdeck of New York
Rear-Admiral Alton and Captain West had been there when Stennis came
back aboard. The Vice-Admiral had begun giving orders the moment his head
drew even with the teak. Flags had gone up, including ones to bring alongside
Destroyers Aylwin and Mina.
"Now, Admiral, the numbers the Germans gave were 48 British and
twelve of their own plus an officer, but that could change. I don't want
us turning any away, so you are to remain here until you are confident
they've sent over all they're going to.
"Captain, have you made arrangements for the Germans?"
"Yes, sir," West replied. "We'll keep them separate. Use
the wardroom, if necessary."
"Good. By the way, Ensign Jones did an outstanding job over there.
You might want to leave him with the Germans, though the German officer
they're sending does speak English.
"Admiral," Stennis continued, "Commander Trimm was invaluable,
and I'm afraid that Im going to have to impose on you some more.
I need to need to take him back with me."
"Sir," Alton acknowledged, but his brow betrayed his question.
"He and Ensign Jones got a good look around Moltke's topsides. The
Germans offered before I could even ask. I need to pick his brain and
Washington will doubtless want to do it all over again when we get ashore."
Alton nodded, unhappily. The chances were he'd not get his chief of staff
back for days.
"Admiral," reported Stennis' aide, "Mina's gig is inbound,
50 yards out."
"I'll be riding her back in - along with CDR Trimm. My instructions
were to report in as soon as possible, and that means a fast run back
in the dark.
"Now, Admiral, you take your time out here. Once the transfers are
executed to your complete satisfaction, and then and only then, you are
to bring your force back within the Line. Begin your channel passage at
first light. I'll have medical personnel standing by."
Alton nodded, again. The three officers turned back towards the rail,
as lookouts called out the imminent return of the New York's launches,
now laden with British wounded.
"If you don't have need of me?" Captain West said and, getting
nods from the two flag officers, went off to oversee the arrivals.
"Oh," resumed Stennis, after a moment, "bring young Leverett
aboard, Dave, and brief him. I want you to leave him and Aylwin out here
to keep an eye on the Germans. For all I know, Strassburg may be half
way across the Atlantic by now, but that Commodore Hoban fellow is right
over there on Moltke."
"Aye, aye, sir," said Alton, but turned to face his superior
"Dave, you don't need to look at me like that. I'm not going to
leave him out here, twisting in the wind. Admiral McDonald was putting
into Boston at noon. Chuck's got Texas and Florida and a section of Destroyers
with him. I'll get off orders to him before I leave to cast off at dawn;
he was to remain on 8-hour notice, so that shouldn't be a problem."
That would leave Leverett out here on his own for most of a day, but
there was nothing Alton could do about it. Instead he considered how wars
contained such unexpected twists. Like this one here, today: Admiral Hanzik
had swept the coast clear of British warships with German guns, and was
now sweeping it clear of American warships with British wounded.
"With orders to expedite their transit?" Alton advanced in
a neutral voice.
Stennis gestured agreement, and headed for the flagbridge to draft the
---- 10:00 PM, Moltke
"... no reaction?" Kommodore von Hoban was surprised.
"Very little," said Hanzik. "And he knows tea. Even knew
it was Fortnum's. I'm sure he understood. I did not even have to ask him
if it was to his taste."
"Admiral, the launches are alongside the American flagship. Ours
are loaded and standing by."
"Lieutenant Lionel reporting, sir."
"At ease, Lieutenant. Has Kommodore von Hoban briefed you?"
"Do you have any questions remaining?"
"No, sir. No falsehoods. Nothing about our transit. Anything about
the battles I am to answer fully, using my judgement."
"Ja," said Hanzik. "Moltke's torpedo hit can be no secret,
but best you admit to no more than that."
---- 10:15 PM, shore end of HAPAG pier
They had all been busy these last 15 minutes. The new men - who presumably
had expected to sleep in barracks this night - had gotten out of the trucks
and deployed. Their officers had greeted Anton and the others, and their
senior, a major, had expressed readiness to relieve them. The approach
of Mittermann's trucks coming off the pier had delayed matters but those
inspections were nearly complete.
"I intend to take advantage of our combined forces, Major,"
Anton stated, as the last of the grocer's trucks began to roll.
"I will retain command for a bit longer. You and your men have taken
over the positions. I intend to investigate those warehouses before we
stand down. If there really are 200 armed men in there, I want to deal
with them now, while both our forces are present. Also, the hour works
They all understood perfectly. The night is the soldier's friend and,
here, would also work to reduce any publicity or friendly fire concerns.
Of course, they needed to come up with an excuse to go barging into civvy
property, even German civvy property.
"You know, Gunny," remarked Anton, in a suitably grave tone.
"I think I smell smoke."
---- 10:15 PM, marina
Lannon was back on the phone with Nik. The reporter had made his call
and left a few minutes before. Lannon had had to promise he'd call Nik
back at his room. The Auntie Terror story had put Nik on the floor, laughing.
"Did you see that power launch that met us?" Nik asked.
"No, what launch?"
"It looked like Doc Erickson's Viking,' but bigger. Longer,
"Well, Perkins did have to shorten her," Lannon remarked. "Did
you get her name?" (NOTE 1)
"Yeah, Sea Skimmer.' She pitched pretty good, but - man! -
she was flying!"
"One of Bowen's, you think?" (NOTE 2)
"Dunno' - could be. She didn't come right aboard. I couldn't make
out if she was a Standard Marine' or a McDuff.' "
"Hmm, who was on her? What did they want? Why did they meet up with
"I don't know that, either. They didn't come aboard. They just ran
up alongside, stayed on our beam a few minutes, then ran back in towards
shore. Mistaken identity, maybe."
"Hard to think what that Salamis' could be mistaken for. Sea
Skimmer,' eh? Maybe we should look her up."
---- 11:00 PM, warehouse on HAPAG pier
As he stared about the warehouse, Colonel Anton controlled his expression
only with great difficulty.
The watchmen - there had been only two - had been armed, but only with
batons. And, if they'd been soldiers, it'd've been back in the Franco-Prussian
war, and not the one now going on in Europe.
And they'd been the only men in here!
Now, of course, there were 50 US Marines. And almost as many Greek sailors.
The Salamis had sortied dozens of her crew, once the hue and cry of "fire"
had gone out and been understood. Not surprising, Anton realized, as the
Greeks would have a vested interest in a warehouse going up alongside
"All clear, Colonel," Fideles reported.
"You've checked everywhere?" Anton meant, of course, all the
buildings and not for fire.
"Yes, sir." Fideles did not want to meet Anton's eye.
"Very well," Anton sighed. "Get the men back and into
He turned and began to walk out the great double-doors. Ahead of him,
in the water alongside the pier, was the bulk of the tied up Salamis.
He stopped then.
"Gunny, they're on Salamis."
The sergeant muttered a word rarely spoken by enlisted men in the presence
of their officers. Thought frequently, yes, but seldom spoken. Of course,
he thought. They'd suckered him; done it in plain sight. He kicked himself
lustily. All it would have taken would've been for varying sized groups
of, say, 8-to-10 to come off, hang around at the trucks, and go back aboard
in groups of 10-to-12. Particularly, if the next group was easing past
at the same time.
Anton tried to work out the "why," but it had been a really
long day. For some reason, two hundred men had ridden over on Imperator
just to board Salamis in New York. They were probably sailors and they
were probably Greek, since Salamis' master would have to show their papers
in the morning. He got that far. But why hadn't they just been aboard
Salamis all along? Why in the devil had Salamis made her crossing shorthanded
200 men? Two hundred who were in a ship that supposedly had sailed across
side-by-side with Salamis?
"I don't get it," Anton concluded, and saw the English-speaking
Greek ship's officer coming up to him. He wanted to throw it in the other's
face, but could not.
"Mr. Kokovinos," Anton began, apologetically, silently gritting
his teeth, "I want to apologize for the disturbance. There was a
report of smoke, but it must have been in error."
"It is of no consequence, uh, Colonel, I assure you. But, I must
admit that one thing does puzzle me."
"Do you fight fires in America with bayonets?"
1) Dr. Erickson of New Hampshire was attracted to a boat design he saw
while on a vacation in Scandinavian countries. He commissioned construction
of its twin to Perkins Boat Shop. He named it "Viking," due
to its origin and long boat look - the good Doctor obviously took his
name seriously! She was intended to be 40 feet long, but the Perkins Boat
Shop was itself only 35 feet long. "Viking" ended up 33 feet
long when she was completed in 1910, and still can be seen gracing the
waters of Lake Winnipesaukee.
2) Fay & Bowen built close to one thousand boats between 1903 and
1929. Ernest S. Bowen was the engineer, and Walter L. Fay was the businessman.
Like the Wright Brothers, their original business involved manufacturing
bicycles! Their designs were famous and those still in existence are still
greatly prized. Their craft operated mostly on the Fingerlakes in New
York State. Two of the power plants for power launches of this era were
the "Standard Marine" (which used a complicated - but effective
- ignition system that was very water resistant, called "make-and-break")
and the McDuff (a two cycle engine). Fay & Bowen preferred the two
cycle engine, and only went to 4-cycle late. By the way, Fay & Bowen
would build the floats for many US WWI "Flying Boats"!
Edited by: jim 1 at: 7/30/02 11:01:06 am