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


June 17 [1917]

At sea.

     It was seven o’clock Thursday evening before the work on our propeller blades was completed, and eight o’clock befo when we got underway and stood down the harbor.1 There was a fresh southwesterly wind blowing which caused sufficient sea to give us an uncomfortable motion- Stood well off shore to avoid the shipping, some of which we sighted before dark— destroyers and sloops escorting merchant ships. At 10 oclock I turned in on the transom in the Chart house and was on the bridge at 1:00 to remain three hours as I do every night at sea — sometimes from 10 to 1 and sometimes from 1 to 4. The last light we could see was the Bull and it was lost in the haze at half past three.2

More than 15 knots was uncomfortable and caused much spray to fly over the forecastle and bridge, so we contented ourselves with that speed instead of the usual 18 knots. In the early forenoon [Friday, 15 June] intercepted a wireless message from the Paulding saying the periscope of a submarine was sighted, and later a second message stating that the submarine had fired torpedoes which missed.3 Judging from the wireless reports to d since we have been at sea this time, the subs are not very active at present. Probably due to the rough sea, the large number of patrol boats out, and perhaps the return to Germany of a number to refit.

     Friday night at about eight o’clock we fell in with the British merchant steamer Port Macquarie, with a cargo of wheat bound for Birkenhead. Decided to escort her, so zig zagged ahead until 5 a.m. Saturday [16 June] when parted company and started back for my patrol station. At noon we sighted the oiler Cuyahoga, and we joined her, escorting ahead until 4 p.m. when the Jacob Jones relieved us. I had sent a wireless to the J.J. giving our position course and speed. Returned to patrol station and was looking for the merchant steamer Tarantia when sighted the oiler Cheyenne about eight O’Clock. Decided to accompany the Cheyenne as all oilers are valuable and did not know what the Tarantia was carrying- Remained with the Cheyenne, and at 3 a.m. [Sunday, 17 June] sighted a steamer about two miles away—steaming on nearly parallel course. This turned out to be the Tarantia. At 4 am the Benham came along in reply to my wireless message and took over both ships.4

     We are now (10 a.m.) on the way back to our patrol station, but I suppose it will not be very long before we pick up another valuable ship; that should be escorted. Since yesterday afternoon the weather has been fine, and the sea gradually subsiding. I do not mind this business much in good weather, but in bad weather I feel as if I had had enough at any time and am willing to let a younger man have my job.

     This picture of Admiral Sims I just cut out from the “Who’s Who and Why” page of the Saturday Evening Post.5 All of us in the flotilla are much pleased that we are operating with him as our commander, and believe he received a well merited promotion when the President recently commissioned him Vice-Admiral.6 He has made a great hit with the British and French, and it is undoubtedly due to his characteristic energy and ability to demonstrate the important, that our government decided to send the Destroyer Force over here. Admiral Bayly is going on five days leave very soon. He informed me during a conversation recently that he had requested the Admiralty to allow Vice Admiral Sims to take charge of the South Coast of Ireland station during this period that he was the only man in England to be trusted with the job! That is cooperation with a vengeance. And who, a few years ago, would have expected to see an American Admiral taking command of an important Europe British station on the European side of the Ocean.7

     Our New York times is usually two weeks old when we get it, so the clippings inserted are not quite up to date. But I seldom see the papers of this side of the ocean, and those I do see appear to either have very little news, or else the news is so modestly printed I am unable to find the item of interest.8

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. It is sometimes repeated when the diary entry continues on a second and third pages.

Footnote 1: On how the propeller blades of the destroyer Wadsworth were damaged, see: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 14 June 1917.

Footnote 2: On the location of Bull Rock, see: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 10 June 1917.

Footnote 3: According to the War Diary of Paulding, two torpedoes were fired at the destroyer at 9:18 P.M. on the evening of 14 June 1917. The bubbles of the first torpedo passed “close under the stern of the ship, and those of the second passed under the ship amidships, indicating that the first torpedo passed under the ship amidships, and that the second passed close ahead.” Paulding followed the wakes of the torpedoes to their seeming point of origin and dropped a depth charge. While still maneuvering, the wake of a third torpedo crossed under the destroyer’s bow, but the ship's crew was unable to track its wake to the submarine in the darkness. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Jesse B. Gay, commanded Benham.

Footnote 5: Taussig included the clipping with the picture of VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, in his diary. The picture of Sims with his son has the caption:

William Sowden Sims. Two generations of the Sims family are represented in the upper right-hand picture. It ought to be encouraging to the Fraternity of Flunkers to know that Rear Admiral Sims began his successful naval career by failing his entrance examinations to the Naval Academy. At the time his Congressman was advised to appoint a more promising candidate! He is particularly well known for what he has contributed to the development of the science of gunnery. Last February he became President of the Naval War College. He is 57 years old and will be 58 next October.

Footnote 6: On Sims’ appointment as vice admiral, see: Volney O. Chase to Sims, 26 May 1917.

Footnote 7: Sims discussed temporarily replacing Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly as commander at Queenstown in letters to his wife on 13 and 20 June 1917.

Footnote 8: At this point in the diary, Taussig included a clipping from the New York Tribune dated “London, May 30” and bearing the headline “Week’s U-Boat/Toll Lowest/Since Feb. 1/Only 21 British Ships Sunk;/Scale of Losses Is 1/in 300/Berlin Tones Down/Its Celebration/United States Destroyers’/Aid Valuable in Fight-/ing Menace.”