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WWI: War Comes to America: U-boat attacks

War Comes to America

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War Comes to America

In the summer of 1918, German U-boats arrived off America's east coast to keep anti-submarine vessels at home and to reduce the protection given to convoys.   Countering the Germans, the U.S. Navy continued to send anti-submarine forces to Europe and convoys still steamed to and from Europe.   In some instances, though, the enemy was successful.

USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser #6) struck a mine from U-156 off Fire Island, New York, July 19, 1918.  The cruiser sank in 28 minutes with a loss of 6 men and was the only major warship lost by the U.S. in the war.   Two days later, U-156 surfaced and fired on U.S. tugboat Perth Amboy and four barges, three miles off Nausett Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on July 21.   HS-2L and R-9 seaplanes from Naval Air Station Chatham attacked U-156, but the submarine submerged and escaped.   U-156 finally met her fate when she was appartently mined in September 1918 transiting the Northern Passage on her way back to Germany. 

U-117 arrived off the east coast of U.S. on August 10 and laid mines, which played a part in sinking of 13 Allied ships and vessels.   The most notable ship struck was USS Minnesota (Battleship #2) on September 29, 1918, 20 miles off Fenwick Island Lighthouse.   Receiving minor damage to her starboard side, she returned to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and later returned to duty in March 1919.   After the war, U-117 was sunk during the Mitchell Bombing Tests in 1921 by the new light weight bombs dropped by U.S. Navy F-5L aircraft.  

U-155 sank 2 vessels during her time in U.S. waters.   Her journeys took her 200 miles from the east coast of America.  She was handed over to the United Kingdom in reparation for war claims after the war.   After being shown in various British ports, she was broken up in 1922.  

U-140 sank 4 merchant vessels during her time off the U.S.  On July 22, 1921, she was sunk as a gunnery target by USS Dickerson (DD-71) off the Virginia Capes.  

U-151 sank 13 U.S. merchant vessels off the Atlantic coast.  In May 1918, the U-Boat damaged three small schooners northeast of Cape Charles, then returned to Germany on August 1.   She was sunk as a target ship off Cherbourg, Frane, in June 1921. 

Image:  NH 55012:  USS San Diego (Armored Cruiser #6) sinking off Fire Island, New York.   Artwork by Francis Muller, 1920.  Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection.  U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.