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



June 4.


     I am glad to be back in port- The last few days have been most disagreeable – not overhead, but underfoot. A big sea was running all the time, and we had no excitement except the dropping of a depth charge over a phosphorescent spot that looked as if perhaps it was the wake of a submarine- Our patrol station was to the westward of the English Channel. For two days did not see anything. Yesterday passed three mercha[n]t steamers, a sailing vessel and one special service ship bound west eastward.1 Did not escort them as I believe was sent to this area to look for submarines which have recently been reported. We heard many wireless reports of submarines sighted, but received reports of very few sinkings

     When we arrived this morning at 8:30 found the fourth installment of our destroyers here, they having arrived on the 1st- In this division are the Patterson (J.H. Newton), Paulding (Berleon), Warrington (Dortch), Drayton (Howard), Jenkins (Lee), Trippe (Giffen).2 After oiling, the Wadsworth moored to buoy alongside the Paulding. . . .

     Received our third mail from home- Last date May 18th- Lulie is studying French and first aid-3 She wants to come over here, but it would not be right for her to risk it, and our movements are too uncertain to be sure that it would be worthwhile. She sent me the attached clipping from the Norfolk paper. The despatches are the same as those in the New York papers and other papers that I have seen. The dispatch is quite true so far as generalities are concerned, but there are numerous errors when it comes to particulars.4

     My reported conversation with the British commander never took place as reported. It is possible that in conversation with him I said we were ready for immediate service, but there was not anything spectacular about it as the papers attempt to apply.

     None of the division escorted any merchant ship while we were en route over here, nor did we see a submarine- After we had been operating on our patrol areas, the Conyngham escorted the Adriatic part way to Liverpool, and this is what is undoubtedly referred to- No submarine was seen. So not even with censorship do we get the real truth and nothing but the truth. But if most things were not exagerated they would not be worth reading- or telling about!

     In reply to my letter to Captain Evans thanking him for his services tendered us I received the following:5

18 Savile Row


May 27 – 17-

My dear Taussig,

     I was so pleased to get your letter. I missed the Wadsworth very much on my return to Queenstown – I am more than glad that I was of some use to you-

     Yes I did the 5 days altho I thought 4 was enough but I heard the English Destroyers here did 5 and you wouldn’t have liked being treated different to them. My wife has written to Mrs. Taussig. Write to me to do whatever you wish & tell the others to use me as much as they like. If you want any thing got or sent over let me know wont you.

     My nicest thoughts to you all dear Wadsworths-

Yours very sincerely        

Edward R.G.R. Evans-        

     The five days he refers to is in regard to the number of days to be spent on patrol- The Vice Admiral said we would operate 6 out and 2 in- Both Evans and I thought this a little too strenuous, and he said he would tell Vice Admiral Bayly he thought so, but would not mention my having said anything about it-

     I also received the following from Lieutenant MacGregor, one of our Paxton survivors: I reproduce it intact as besides showing appreciation it gives some news in regard to the other survivors whom we failed to find-

14 Muirfield Gardens

Fitzjohn’s Avenue, N.W.

31st May, 1917.

   Dear Captain Taussig

     I was very sorry indeed that I could not Lunch with you on Tuesday, but on Monday the Fleet Surgeon said I could go to London, so I rushed round and caught the mail.

     I wish to send you and your officers my best thanks for all your kind attentions to the survivors from HMS Paxton, I am sure they were all deeply grateful to be picked up by such a splendid ship.

     My eye is fast recovering, thanks to your competent pharmacist.

     I am being married on Tuesday the 5th. I shall have a clear week then as I have to report at the Admiralty on the 13th June.

     Today I hear that the lifeboat arrived at Kellybegs on Monday. They took eight days pulling all the way, 25 officers and men were landed, unfortunately two died en route. They apparently commenced their trip shortly after our sailing boat. They were without provisions or water for four days.

     I expect to be under the Irish Command soon, and I hope I may have the good fortune to meet you all again.

     Best of luck to you and your ship, many actions, and a safe return to your country when the Allies have settled the Huns properly.

Yours very sincerely,  

J. Gregor Macgregor-6

Source Note: 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 repeated when the diary entry continues on a second page.

Footnote 1: Taussig orginally wrote “west” but then crossed through it and wrote “east” above.

Footnote 2: This division was composed entirely of “flivvers,” a nickname applied to the 700 to 750-ton destroyers built before the war. Taussig, “Destroyer Experiences,” 57. The officers listed were: Lt. Cmdr. John H. Newton, Lt. John S. Barleon, Lt. Isaac F. Dortch, Lt. Douglas L. Howard, Lt. William H. Lee, Lt. Robert C. Giffen.

Footnote 3: Lulie Johnston Taussig, his wife.

Footnote 4: In the midst of this entry Taussig has included clippings from the Norfolk Virginia Pilot and the Philadelphia Ledger, both of 17 May 1917. The article from the Virginia Pilot, which Taussig comments on, carries the headlines:





“We Can Start at Once, Commander’s Reply

To British Officer’s Question As To When

Ships Would be Ready For Service





Men Given Royal Welcome at Queenstown-

Men And Ships Fit and Ready, Say British

--Acted As Convoy to Big Liner

The clipping from the Philadelphia newspaper includes a box at the bottom of the page and set apart by a black border. It reads:

U. S. Navy Upholds Traditions


This is the question and answer which assured our allies that American ships and American bluejackets were on the European firing line:

     British Commander

              “When will you be ready for business?”

     American Commander

              “We can start at once.”

Taussig drew an arrow to this box and wrote in the comment: “If I read this often enough I will begin to think that it really happened! (Note: On seeing Tobey in London in September he says he heard me say this!) JKT” Lt. Cmdr. Eugene C. Tobey was a member of VAdm. William S. Sims’ staff.

Footnote 6: Paxton was a special service or Q ship. In his “Destroyer Experiences,” Taussig recounted its destruction on 20 May as told to him by MacGregor, the ship’s executive officer:

The Paxton was proceeding on her route at about 8 knots when a submarine appeared and commenced to shell her. A bluff was made at trying to get away, lots of smoke, but no extra speed, etc. The submarine closed and pretty soon her shells commenced getting uncomfortably close. The captain of the Paxton lost patience and opened fire on the submarine with the stern gun. The submarine evidently concluded that the Paxton was a trap and disappeared. The crew of the Paxton were then sent over the side and painted the name of a neutral ship and country in large letters. Just as this was finished a torpedo struck without warning, and, while the panic party was carrying on, a second torpedo struck, the ship sinking in a very few minutes without having an opportunity of sending S. O. S. calls. The submarine took the captain prisoner and disappeared.

MacGregor, who sustained a deep cut over his eye from the second torpedo blast, took charge of the three boats carrying survivors but then “more or less dazed” decided to take the sailboat in search of help, leaving the boat and raft, neither of which had sails, to proceed together. The sailboat encountered Wadsworth some twenty-four hours later. As it was night, Wadsworth had to wait until the next day to initiate a search for the boat and raft. According to Taussig, “It was then blowing half a gale, the sea was rough, and our especially vigilant lookouts failed to see anything of the boat or raft.” As seen in MacGregor’s letter copied here, seven days later the boat and raft arrived on the Irish coast. The survivors reported that they had twice seen Wadsworth’s masts in the distance. Taussig, “Destroyer Experiences,” 65-66.

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