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C. D. Smith’s WW I 1916-1920 Navy Cruise Diary

  • A fascinating account of submarine warfare during the Great War era. Seaman Charles D. Smith wrote on the beginning page of his 32-page ink-written account—“Log of my second cruise in the United States Navy, from July 20, 1916 to July 19, 1920. Some of the most interesting events that occurred on board ship.” The ship was the destroyer Ammen, which according to Smith, who reenlisted at Birmingham, Alabama on July 20, 1916, was at White Stone, Long Island, doing neutrality duty. The account contains many interesting accounts. One in particular captures the German “Great War” submarine warfare. “Over going 24 days at sea per month”, Smith wrote, “on the 20th (July 20, 1917) we were convoying H.M.S. ship Neversbrook bound for England with copper from Tunish, Africa. Sea was like a mill pond. At 5:15PM sub torpedoed her. She sank in 6 min(utes) after being hit. We made 30 knots until dark but was unsuccessful in seeing any trace of submarine. Picked up crew of 28 men. All safe except engineer who died three days later. She was a 3,290 ton ship and our first ship to loose (lose) under our escort.” Then, on August 20, 1917, Smith wrote “While doing patrol duty off Southern coast of Ireland, we sighted an oil wake at 8PM off Kinsal light near where Lousitaina (Lusitania) was sunk, and dropped our first dept (depth) charge. After the explosion the water was covered with oil. We got credit for sinking our first submarine.” On February 23, 1918, he wrote: “While patrolling about 8 miles off Holyhead we discovered an oil wake and dropped two depth charges. Went in to Holyhead and oiled on 26th. Went back to sea, sighted moving wake. Circled and followed wake, dropping several depth charges. 4:30 P.M. water became covered with oil. After explosion captain got sample of oil which also proved to be sub oil.” The account contains more descriptions of submarine encounters.
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