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New York World, 30 January 1918



Prey of Submarines Totalled 171,061 Gross Tons, but

Seized Enemy Ships Alone More Than Made Up for This




Vessels Sent to the Bottom Only a Small Percentage of Those

Which Have Made the Voyage Through War Zone in Safety


  In the twelve months of unrestricted warfare launched against American and Allied shipping by Germany one year ago Friday, sixty-nine American vessels, totalling 171,061 gross tons, were sunk by submarines, mines and raiders, according to a careful compilation of records of sinking which have been made public in that period.

  Offsetting this loss of American vessels, most of which were sailing ships, the United States, since Feb. 1, has added to her merchant marine by the seizure of former German and Austrian owned ships a total of 107 vessels having a gross tonnage of 6,686,494.

  This leaves on the credit side of the American ledger in the account with the Central Powers a net gain of 515,435 gross tons. The loss of life caused by the sinking of the sixty-nine American ships was more than 300 persons, however.

Many Pass Through Zone.

  The percentage of sinkings of American ships compared with the number of vessels which have sailed through the war zone successfully is small. Record of the Department of Commerce show that between Feb. 1 and Dec. 1 last year there were cleared from American ports in the foreign trade ships aggregating 17,738,900 net, or approximately 24,834,400 gross tons. The number of ships making up the total of tons was not made public by the department.

  Further offsetting the loss of tonnage occasioned by the submarine warfare, the United States, through the Shipping Board, requisitioned in American ship yards 426 vessels totalling more than 2,000,000 gross tons and contracts have been awarded for 884 ships, a large number of which are now under way and are being rushed to completion.

  In addition the Shipping Board on Oct. 15 last placed under Government requisition 393 American vessels of over 2,500 tons dead weight capacity, which were already afloat, and immediately assigned them to the task of carrying supplies for the Allies and the American forces abroad.

Adding to Nation’s Fleet.

  Included in these requisitioned vessels were twenty-one ships in Great Lakes trade, and in addition there were commandeered twenty-four steamers building on the lakes for foreign account and ready for launching. Virtually all of these were brought to Atlantic Coast ports and immediately put into service. Almost one-half of them had to be cut in two to get them through the Welland Canal, but the task was accomplished and the ships rejoined in less than three months from the time the contract was awarded.

  Another difficulty which faced the United States in the task of putting to sea vessels to offset the ravages of the U boats was the repairing of the “willful damage” done to the former German ships by their officers and crews before the ships were seized. This cost millions of dollars and in many instances called for the highest engineering skill to make and replace parts of foreign built engines and boilers removed or broken.

Seized German Ships Busy.

  Indicating that the task has been attended by success, the statement was made to-day by a prominent official connected with the Shipping Board that every seized vessels was now completely repaired and in service. Many of them have made three and four round trips through the war zone.

  Theree [i.e., Three] of the former German vessels have been the objects of successful attack by the submarines. The Actaeon, formerly the Adamsturn, and the Owasco, formerly the Allemannia, were sunk, and the Armenia was hit by a torpedo, but was saved after being beached. Several other former German ships have been attacked, but escaped.

  The announced sinkings of British ships for the year up to and including the week ending Jan. 23 last have been 1,033 vessels, of which 763 were over 1,000 tons and 270 were under that figure. The joint losses of France and Italy have averaged three to four large vessels weekly.

Source Note: New York World, 30 January 1918. A copy of this article was cut out by Colville Barclay, First Secretary at the British embassy in Washington, and sent to British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Arthur J. Balfour on 1 February 1918. UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1621.

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