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Diary of Commander Joseph K. Taussig, Commander, Destroyer Division Eight


Aug 29

At sea

     The past three days have been miserable ones for a small ship at sea. And those on board the eight destroyers out on this present duty1 have been having a most uncomfortable time.

     Sunday morning found nine of our ten merchant ships together. The tenth one was hull down astern and I decided to abandon her as we were making less than 6 knots good, and I could not afford to endanger all the ships by holding them back. Sunday was uneventful, but we had an unpleasant day bucking a big head sea. At midnight the barometer suddenly began to fall by leaps and bounds. The wind gradually increased and the sea kept getting bigger. By one o’clock Monday afternoon the barometer had fallen to 28.78 and a half hour later the storm broke with its full strength.     The rain came down in torrents and the spray from the top of the waves was blinding. There was no danger from submarine attacks in this kind of weather, and the vessels of the convoy could not possibly keep together. So I ordered the destroyers by wireless to part company with the convoy and to make the best of their way to the rendezvous at noon the next day where we were to meet the morning convoy. I gave orders for them to heave to if necessary and not to risk damaging their ships. I headed on a course that brought the sea on our starboard quarter and kept the engines turning over for 8 knots. Although the waves were tremendous, we rode them easily, but with much discomfort owing to the motion of the ship. I think I never saw it blow harder. Fortunately the wind began to go down about 8 o’clock and it gradually decreased all night until it steadied to a regular 5 during Tuesday.

     We were to have met the incoming convoy at noon Tuesday. First we had word that they were 3 hours late. Then that they were six hours late. It eventually appeared that they were 10 hours late and considerably to the southward of their supposed line - Although the destroyers were much scattered, 7 of the 5 [i.e., 5 of the 7] succeeded in joining company with the convoy before dark last night. There were 17 merchant ships and the Auxiliary Cruiser Columbella. We had an uneventful night. This morning the Sterrett, which was the missing destroyer, joined about nine o’clock. The Wadsworth went close to the Columbella and some of the other ships to send signals in regard to change in orders and change in destination. This gave Lt. Grant an opportunity to take some photographs.2 A little later the Paulding signaled that they had a case of acute appendicitis and wanted our doctor. So we stopped while the Paulding sent a boat. It was quite rough and I think Turner who had been sea sick all the time did not relish the idea of the trip in the small boat. But he went without a murmur.3 Later the Paulding signalled that they would let me know by tonight whether or not an immediate operation is necessary. If it is I will direct the Paulding to proceed full speed to Queenstown.4

     There is not so much wind to-day but there is a long rolling swell that keeps the ship jumping. The convoy is making about 8 knots good and the Wadsworth is making 12 knots - zigzagging across the rear of the formation.

     I have been a Commander one year today. I must do another year sea service and at least three years altogether, before I am eligible for selection to the next higher grade.5 I am ready to do the sea service, but hope that most of it will not be on this side of the ocean.

Source Note: D, RNW, Joseph K. Taussig Papers, Mss. Coll. 97, Naval Historical Collection. The diary is written on ruled paper with a vertical line one inch in along the left margin. The place and date is written in that space.

Footnote 1: In his diary entry for 28 August, Taussig listed the eight American destroyers, they were: Wadsworth, Porter, Shaw, Ericcson, Jacob Jones, Paulding, Burrows, and Sterett. Ibid.

Footnote 2: H.M.S. Columbella was an armed merchant cruiser. Lt. Grant was Lt. Geroge D. Grant, National Naval Volunteers.

Footnote 3: Dr. Harry W. P. Turner.

Footnote 4: In his diary entry the following day, 31 August, Taussig noted that he had ordered Paulding to return to Queenstown so an operation could be performed. Ibid.

Footnote 5: Despite what he wrote here, Taussig was promoted to the rank of temporary captain in August 1918. Taussg Diary, 13 and 14 August 1918, Ibid.

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