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Action of 5 September 1918
Part of World War I
First Battle of the Atlantic
USS Mount Vernon torpedoed.jpg
USS Mount Vernon after being torpedoed and under escort by another allied ship which is laying a smokescreen.
Date September 5, 1918
Location off Brittany, France, Atlantic Ocean
Result German submarine driven off.
Belligerents
US Naval Jack 48 stars.svg United States Navy German Empire German Navy
Commanders
Captain Douglas E. Dismukes unknown
Strength
1 auxiliary cruiser,
4 destroyers
1 submarine
Casualties and losses
36 killed,
13 wounded,
1 auxiliary cruiser moderately damaged
none,
1 submarine slightly damaged

The Action of 5 September 1918 was a naval battle 200 miles off the coast of France in the North Atlantic during World War I. The action was fought between a German navy U-boat and United States navy warships.

Contents

Background

USS Mount Vernon was a former German ocean liner named SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie. On August 4, 1914 she was intercepted off New England by the then-neutral United States and taken into Bar Harbor, Maine, where she was interned. After America entered World War One in April 1917, the ship was seized and turned over to the Navy who renamed her USS Mount Vernon in honor of Mount Vernon.

Mount Vernon's primary objective in the Great War was to transport troops across the Atlantic to France. SM U-82, a German submarine, was on a mission to sink any and all allied shipping.

Action

On the morning of September 5, 1918, Mount Vernon and four destroyers were off France and steaming in convoy towards the United States when Mount Vernon was attacked by U-82. The German vessels' periscope was spotted 500 yards (460 m) off the starboard bow, by a man of Mount Vernon's gun crew; they immediately fired a round from the gun.

The shot was a hit. Apparently unaffected by the shot which reportedly did not harm anyone, U-82 surfaced. The U-boat fired a single torpedo at USS Mount Vernon and then submerged. The American captain ordered "right full rudder" but the ship could not turn fast enough and was hit.

Torpedo damage to USS Mount Vernon's hull at a naval yard, in Brest, France in 1918.

The four destroyers USS Winslow, USS Conner, USS Nicholson and USS Wainwright responded immediately and approached the battle area. Once they arrived near Mount Vernon, they observed the damage from a large explosion on Mount Vernon's side.

The German commander, seeing the fast approaching American destroyers, decided not to follow up with a second torpedo so no further damage to the US auxiliary cruiser was sustained. The four destroyers dropped depth charges for many minutes after Mount Vernon was hit, but they failed to sink the U-boat which slipped away.

Despite this the American destroyers were credited with saving Mount Vernon from being sunk. Mount Vernon steamed safely back to Brest with the loss of 36 out of the 1,450 persons on board. Thirteen others were wounded, all of the American casualties were the result of the single torpedo explosion.

The ship suffered considerable damage but after immediate improvised repairs, she was able to return to Brest under her own steam with an allied warship for additional protection.

Aftermath

USS Mount Vernon in Boston Harbor, 1919. After receiving repairs to damage inflicted on her hull by U-82.

Further temporary repairs were made at Brest and from there Mount Vernon proceeded to Boston, Massachusetts for a complete repair. This was Mount Vernon's last battle of the war and one of the bloodier days for the United States Navy during the conflict with Germany. U-82 continued to fight, as did the four United States destroyers.

See also

References

  • Drechsel, Edwin (1994). Norddeutscher Lloyd, Bremen, 1857–1970: History, Fleet, Ship Mails, Volume 1. Vancouver, British Columbia: Cordillera Pub. Co. p. 191. ISBN 9781895590081. OCLC 30357825. 
  • Putnam, William Lowell (2001). The Kaiser's Merchant Ships in World War I. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 9780786409235. OCLC 46732396. 
  • Halpern, Paul G. (1995). A Naval History of World War I. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1857284980. 
  • Roessler, Eberhard (1997). Die Unterseeboote der Kaiserlichen Marine. Bonn: Bernard & Graefe. ISBN 978-3763759637. 
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