Rear Admiral Austin M. Knight, Commandant, 2nd Naval District, to Rear Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations
U.S. NAVAL STATION, NARRAGANSETT BAY,
NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND.
October 7, 1916.
FROM: Commandant, Naval Station, Narragansett Bay, R.I.
TO : Navy Department (Operations).
SUBJECT:- Arrival of German Submarine U-53.
1. I have to report that the German Submarine U-53 entered this port at 2:15 P. m. to-day, flying the German Man-of-War ensign and the commission pennant and carrying two guns in a conspicuous position.
2. Upon approaching the anchorage the U-53 signalled the BIRMINGHAM, Rear Admiral Gleaves, requesting that a berth be assigned. Rear Admiral Gleaves assigned Berth No. 1.
3. I sent my Aid alongside to make the usual inquiries, but with instructions not to go on board, as no communications had yet been had with the health authorities.
4. At 3:00 p.m., the commanding officer of the U-53. Lieutenant Hans Rose, came on shore in a boat furnished by the BIRMINGHAM and called on me officially. He was in the uniform of a Lieutenant in the German Navy, wearing the Iron Cross and stated, apparently with pride, that his vessel was a man-of-war, armed with guns and torpedoes. He stated that he had no object in entering the port except to pay his respects; that he needed no supplies or assistance and that he proposed to go to sea at six o’clock. He stated that he left Wilhelmshaven seventeen days ago, touching at Heligoland.
5. Shortly after the visit above described, I was called up by telephone from Providence by the Collector of Customs, who asked for information as to the visiting submarine. I gave him all the particulars and stated that the boat was going to sea this afternoon and that she had undoubtedly been at sea for many days since touching at any port. He stated that under the circumstances it would not be practicable for himself or the quarantine officer to visit the ship.
6. Following this conversation I sent my Aid to return the call of the commanding officer of the U-53, and to request that no use be made of the radio appartas of the vessel while in port.
7. The U-53 got under way at 5:30 and stood out to sea.
8. From my Aid (Lieutenant Puleston) and other officers who visited the U-53, I gathered the following details, all of which, with others, will doubtless be reported upon by the Commander of the Destroyer Force, many of whose officers visited and inspected the vessel.
9. The vessel is much larger than our L class, but I have no exact figures as to displacement or length. These figures will doubtless be supplied.
10. She has two torpedo tubes forward and two aft.
11. Carries ten torpedoes.
12. Carries one gun forward, thought to be about 4-inch, and one aft thought to be about 3-inch. These guns do not house within the superstructure.
13. Has radio poles on starboard side, fitted to fold down on deck where they stow compactly.
14. Carries 3 periscopes, one of these, leading to a compartment forward of the engine room, for the use of the Chief Engineer.
15. Carries gyro-compass, with repeaters.
16. Carries crew of 33, with 4 officers.
17. Has two engines, Diesel-Nuremberg type, 1200 H. P. each.
18. Speed 16 knots surface, 12-14 knots submerged.
19. Radius at economical speed 5,000 knots.
20. All officers who visited the ship were much impressed by the youthfulness of the personnel, their perfect physical condition, and their care-free attitude. One or two observers thought that the Captain seemed serious and rather weary, but all agreed that the other officers and the crew seemed entirely happy and gave no indication that they considered themselves engaged in any undertaking involving hazard or responsibility.
21. The freedom with which officers and crew conversed with visitors, and their willingness to show all parts of the ship were very surprising. They stated that they were willing to tell all that they knew and to show all that they had, - this to officers and civilian alike. As a large number of officers from the Destroyer Force spent much time on board, I assume that full and very instructive information will be received by the Department.
22. I learn that a letter to the German Ambassador at Washington was entrusted to a newspaper representative and by him posted.
23. I have nothing upon which to base an opinion as to the real object of the Commander in entering this port.
Austin M. Knight