U-Boat Engagements: France
German U-Boat U-61 captured the tank steamer SS Campana in the Bay of Biscay on August 6, 1917. Along with the ship's captain, four of the five Naval Armed Guards were captured before the steamer sank, and became the first American sailors to be taken prisoner. Chief Gunner's Mate Delaney received the Navy Cross for commanding the Armed Guard.
While escorting a convoy en-route to Brest, France, in the early hours, the patrol boat USS Alcedo (SP-166) was torpedoed and sunk by UC-71 on November 5, 1917. Twenty-one crewmembers were lost with the ship.
On December 17, 1917, the yacht USS Remlik reportedly encountered an enemy submarine during a storm at sea, but the weather prevented an engagement. While she was fighting the heavy seas, a depth charge broke loose on her after deck and was secured by Chief Boatswain's Mate John Mackenzie, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions.
On July 1, USS Covington (ID# 1409) was torpedoed by U-86 and sank the next day while in tow. Six lives were lost.
While streaming in a convoy towards France in August 1918, USS West Bridge (ID# 2888) had issues with her steam turbine on August 15, forcing her to drop out of formation and call for a tow. Seizing the moment, U-90 torpedoed SS Montanan, another member of the convoy, inflicting damage that ultimately proved fatal. Realizing the peril, West Bridge's commanding officer sent his crew to general quarters and evacuated most men from the machinery spaces. For helping to steer West Bridge 400 miles into port following this incident both Seaman Walter A. Leeck and Coxswain John Robert Nutall received the Navy Cross.
While en-route back to the United States and 200 miles west of France on September 8, 1918, USS Mount Vernon's (ID# 4508) lookouts spotted the periscope of U-82 and Mount Vernon 's crew opened fire. Though she attempted to evade the U-Boat attack, she was hit amidships. The resulting explosion blew a large hole in her side, putting half her boilers out of action. Thirty-six of her crew was killed and another thirteen injured. For his help in aiding the wounded, Pharmacist's Mate First Class James V. Murphy received the Navy Cross.
Image: NH 55509: USS Covington (ID# 1409) sinking off Brest, France, July 2, 1918. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.