Lieutenant Commander R. Drace White, Commander, Seattle, to Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, Commander, Convoy Operations in the Atlantic
U. S. S. Seattle,
June 24, 1917.
From: Lt. Comd’r., R. Drace White, U. S. Navy.
To: Commanding Officer.
Subject: Report sighting submarine on Thursday, 21st June, 1917.
Reference: C.D.F. Memorandum of this date.
I was on watch as the Officer of the Deck during the evening watch on the date in question, when the occurrence subject to this report took place.
The ship was zigzagging on base course 45 degrees true, speed twelve knots. At 10:15 P. M., while on base course, Lieut. Roberts, Staff Officer on watch, shouted that there was something in the water ahead. I was standing close behind him and immediately saw a long streak in the water about twelve or fifteen yards wide, somewhat sinuous in form. When first seen it was somewhat on our starboard bow but it developed rapidly to port, crossing our bow and continuing to develop further on as I watched it. My first impression was that we had run into phosphorescent water and that the current or whirl had caused a phosphorescent wash. I therefore stood on until the stem had passed through the streak. The Captain, however, who was on the bridge at the time, remarked that he thought it was a submarine and ordered the rudder hard right. This was done and the ship swung to starboard. She was brought to 135 degrees true. As we were swinging, a ship on the port hand sounded six blasts on the siren and fired a shot. I observed the tracer from the shot and it passed across our stern.
The course was continued 135 degrees true till 10:30, the engines making all speed possible with boilers in use 74 revolutions. At 10:31 the course was changed to 45 degrees true and speed was reduced to 63 revolutions.
At 11:25, while on this course, an object was sighted almost directly ahead. It looked like a large white cap, but it kept moving to port against wind, and when about two hundred yards from the ship, it turned to the right, moving parallel with the ship for a short time and disappeared. At the Captain’s order, the rudder was put left and the ship was brought to 20 degrees true. After the object disappeared the course, was, at the Captain’s order, changed to 70 degrees true and speed increased to 71 revolutions. An attempt was made to bring a gun to bear on the object, but this was not accomplished. This course and speed were continued until 12:18 A. M., when, there being danger of losing contact with the convoy, speed was reduced to 63 revolutions and the course somewhat later changed to 45 degrees true.
Before the first occurrence described herein, at about 10:05, the rudder jammed hard right and the ship swung to 160 degrees true. The port engine was stopped and an officer was sent to the steering engine room to clear the steering gear. The steering gear had been cleared and the ship brought to her course when the occurrence in question took place.
As I have stated, I was first of the opinion that the streak first observed was cause by tidal current or swirl of phosphorescent water. However, after watching the screw current from this ship and the destroyers, I am convinced that it was the screw current of a submarine running submerged or partly submerged.
It was similar in every respect to the screw current from this ship and it developed as the screw would develop from a submarine going ahead under water. I am of the opinion that our turning to the right with the rudder jammed, or to the left when coming back to the course, brought the ship to nearly ramming the submarine and caused it later to submerge.
I am unable to account for the second occurrence. The ship was at that time in phosphorescent water and there are many surprises under these conditions.
(Signed) R. Drace White.