Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain David C. Hanrahan, Commander USS Santee, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

 

 C O P Y                                  

                                            U.S.S. Santee ,1    

                                                Base Six,         

                                           29 December 1917.

                                          

From:     Commanding Officer.

To:       Force Commander.

 

Subject:    Torpedoing of U.S.S. Santee by enemy submarine.2 

 

1.     I have to report that this ship was torpedoed by an enemy submarine at 8:45 a.m.3 on the night of December 27, 1917, in latitude 51-23 North, longitude 8-38 West.4 It was a cloudy moonlight night, visibility good, speed of ship 8-1/2 knots, zigzagging. Wind was Northeast, sea moderate.

 

2.     We were enroute to Bantry Bay, for training, having left Queenstown at 4.00 p.m. of same date.

 

3.     We immediately sent the crew to stations and called away“Panic Party” to abandon ship. The port after lifeboat was destroyed by the explosion, the panic party leaving in the other three boats, in charge Ensign (T) A.D. Warwick, U.S. Navy,5 and Pay Clerk J.P. Killeen, U.S. Navy6 and took their pre-arranged stations on our port quarter close aboard, Ensign Warwick taking station with his boat 400 yards on the starboard beam, where he remained. We remained at stations at the guns for over five hours, keeping a lookout all around for a sight of the submarine. Visibility was so good that we could have seen a periscope four hundred yards to windward and about six hundred yards to leeward. The submarine was not sighted by anybody. After 2-1/2 hours waiting for the submarine’s appearance, I recalled the starboard lifeboat (Ensign Warwick) by pre-arranged sound signal. When this boat came alongside, the officer in charge came aboard and received instructions from me, made inspection of the ship, called all of his men out of the boat, and started fires in donkey boiler.7 I then sent a radio to the Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland,8 and informed him of the damage done and the condition of the ship at the time. This signal was sent about three hours after we were torpedoed. I then attempted to recall the other two boats of the panic party but they were to the windward and did not hear the signal. The Cummings arrived at this time (About Mid-night) and I gave instructions to search for our two boats. Pay Clerk Killeen after circling the ship several times finally pulled alongside. The other boat was picked up by the Sterett, having taken a position to the windward of the ship and in sight of her. All these boats reported no sign of the submarine.

 

4.     The tug Paladin II joined about one a.m. and took us in tow immediately, the tow line parted, she got out another line and took us in tow at 2.30 a.m. Arrived at Queenstown, noon on the 28th escorted by Cummings, Sterett, Trippe, McDougal, H.M.S. Viola and H.M.S. Bluebell and in tow of the tugs Paladin II and Fylde.

 

5.     The torpedo struck the ship on the port side just abaft the engineroom bulkhead in #6 hold, and a point at about 6 or 8 feet below the waterline, extinguishing all lights on the ship. The engineroom watertight bulkhead was blown in on the port side, engineroom and fireroom filling immediately, water leaking into #4 hold. Holds 6 and 7 filled immediately, #4 had 18 feet of water in it when we arrived at Queenstown.

 

6.     There were no injuries to the personnel and the behavior of everyone was most excellent, all hands going to their stations when signal was given, guns and torpedoes were ready in regular drill time. There was a total absence of noise or confusion, the interior of the ship was black, lights being out, and the “panic party” got away in fine “panicy style.”

 

7.     The lookout on the port bridge reported on the following day that he saw the wake of the torpedo a short distance from the ship, apparently coming from abeam, but before he could report it the explosion took place, he going immediately to his gun station. Another man who was standing on the deck just above where the torpedo struck, saw the wake of the torpedo a short distance from the ship and coming from a direction one or two points abaft the beam. He was knocked down by the explosion but not injured, and went immediately to his gun station. At the time of being torpedoed there was a lookout on each end of the bridge and a lookout aft. The Officer of the Deck, quartermaster and helmsman were the other people on the bridge at the time. The ship had changed course 15 degrees (zigzag) five minutes before being struck.

 

8.     Part of a torpedo air flask and other small parts of a torpedo were found after ship was docked, the portion of the air flask being found in the wrecked lifeboat on the after deck house.

 

/s/ D. C. HANRAHAN.

Copies: F.Com’dr 4

     War Diary 5

     File 1

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. Document Identifier handwritten on the upper right-hand corner of first page: “Spare 1/3/C/H.” Upper-left corner of second page: “Santee.”

Footnote 1: Santee (formerly Arvonian) was a screw steamer that had been armed and heavily modified to lure in German submarines, much as the British had attempted to do with their “Q” ships.   

Footnote 2: U-61 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Victor Dieckmann

Footnote 3: Presumably, Capt. Hanrahan meant 8:45 PM rather than 8:45 AM.

Footnote 4: This would have placed her just 14 miles south of the Irish port of Kinsale.

Footnote 5: Ensign Arthur D. Warwick.

Footnote 6: Pay Clerk John P. Killeen.

Footnote 7: A donkey boiler is a small auxiliary boiler on a ship’s deck capable of providing steam to other equipment such as winches or providing power when the ship’s main boilers are shut down.

Footnote 8: Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N.

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