Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Commander Allan S. Farquhar, Commander, U.S.S. Sterett, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S.S.Sterett,

BASE SIX,1

5 JUNE, 1918.

From:     Commanding Officer.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:    Report of action against submarine, 31 May,-1 June,1918.2

     1.   At 4:18 p.m. latitude 51-08 N., Longitude 9-09W, while Sterett and McCALL were escorting oiler ASTRAKAN from QUEENSTOWN, McCALL sighted a submarine on starboard bow of convoy, stood to the West, and at about 5 miles distant dropped a depth charge.

     2.   Sterett took position zigzagging at 16 knots ahead of convoy which was making 9 knots.

     3.   At 4:51 p.m. Latitude 51-04 N., Longitude 9-15 W Lieutenant W.D.Austin, U.S.N., Officer of the Deck, received a report from Chief Quartermaster Joseph F. Reed, U.S.N.,of the sighting of a periscope on the port quarter of convoy distant from it 500 yards and headed away.

          At this time convoy has just turned to the right, and Sterett was crossing ahead from port bow.

          Sketch 1 appended shows relative positions at time of sighting periscope.3

          The distance and time of the McCALL’S action makes it possible that the same submarine tried to force home his attack,

          Submarine reports received on morning of sailing indicate two were operating together on South coast of Ireland and this may have been a joint attack.

     4.   Signalled to convoy “submarine to port”, turned to left at full speed, and at 4:56 p.m., sighted and steadied in moving wake of submarine following it in course 105 degrees true.

     5.   At 5:02 p.m., with speed 20 knots, began laying first pattern of depth charges ahead of moving wake expending 10 as follows and as shown in Sketch 2.4

          No.1 U.S. Charge and marker buoy dropped when submarine propeller swirl and distinct form of submarine was close aboard under starboard bridge. Turned with 20 degrees right rudder.

          No.2 U.S. Charge – 10 second interval.

          No.3 & 4 U.S. Charges from port and starboard bomb throwers simultaneously – 5 seconds interval. From propeller swirl enemy appeared to have been deeply submerged.

          No. 5 U.S. Charge – 10 second interval. On course 110 degrees true.

          No. 6 U.S. Charge – 7 second interval.

          No. 7 U.S. Charge -10 second interval.

          No. 8 U.S. Charge 10 second interval.

          No. 9 British Charge – 8 second interval.

          No.10 British Charge – 8 second interval. All charges were set at 150 feet.

          The submarine’s position being known with a fair degree of accuracy, ceased barrage, continued turning with right rudder, passed first marker buoy close aboard and picked up submarine’s wake with oil and bubbles. Followed wake which turned sharply to left, or Eastward from marker buoy, and indicated submarine had avoided charged 8, 9, 10.

     5.   Concluded submarine was damaged. Slowed to 5 knots and steadied on course along wake following enemy. Estimated enemy speed at 3 knots. Approximated time of oil rising. At 5:22 went ahead 20 knots, dropped marker buoy and turned with left rudder at end of wake, and dropped second pattern of two U.S.Charges close together with setting at 150 feet. Turned to the left, picked up oil wake from last marker buoy and slowed to 5 knots following along enemy’s wake.

     7.   Enemy’s tactics as indicated by oil wake were to steady on course until ship was heard rapidly approaching and then to make deep irregular zigzags.

     8.   Decided to set all British charges at 200 feet. Estimated enemy’s speed at 7-1 2 knots and depth at 300 feet. From information in Force Commander’s letter No. 1359-25 of 8 March 1918,5 computed position of enemy relative to oil bubbles at the end of wake. At 5:28 p.m. from a position well astern, went ahead at 20 knots, dropped marker buoy at oil bubbles last sighted, started stop watch, and after one minute and 30 seconds had elapsed, turned with left rudder and laid third pattern of five charges at ten seconds interval. At 5:32 p.m., submarine broached, and port battery guns Nos. 1 & 2 fired five rounds before enemy could submerge. No hits were observed.

     9.   Picked up wake from last marker buoy, steadied on enemy’s wake, and at 5:39 p.m., laid fourth pattern of 7 charges at 6 second interval while swinging to left. This barrage was laid along enemy’s course with charges set at 150 feet at which depth they appeared to do little damage.

     10.  Picked up enemy’s wake from last marker buoy. Thick oil and air bubbles made tracking easy. Having expended 24 charges, and having only 11 charges remaining, decided to reduce number of charges in pattern while trying for a direct hit and to keep submarine running at maximum speed for 5 hours of daylight remaining, with expectation of running down his batteries. Having heard CUSHING’S radio close aboard, sent signal requesting assistance in bombing damaged submarine.

     11.  Maneovered ship from two miles astern and began approach at 23 knots. Enemy’s irregular zigzag was clearly noted toward end of wake. Attempted to anticipate enemy’s position. At 6:36 laid fifth pattern of two charges turning with right rudder. Enemy changed course to Southeast.

     12.  At 6:42 drew astern and stopped. At 6:46 sighted break in surface and went ahead full speed, passed swirl from enemy’s propellers and indications that he was turning sharply to the left. Turned to left and laid sixth pattern of one charge from port bomb thrower, causing enemy to break surface momentarily.

     13.  Turned to left and picked up wake from marker buoy. Approached at full speed, dropped no charges, but observed enemy’s zigzag attempt to avoid the expected mines. At this time the radio motor generator developed a dead ground, probably from concussion from depth charges. Radio was entirely disabled from 11 p.m., until 3:30 a.m.

     14.  From 6:46 till 7:18 circled enemy at high speed, causing him to zigzag. At 7:23 laid seventh pattern of four charges. CUSHING and FANNING stood towards marker buoy and laid barrage. This was too far astern of enemy to do any damage. Submarine began circling and finally steadied on course 230. Signalled “Cease firing” and requested CUSHING to follow Sterett and lay barrage when signal “commence firing” was handed down.

          Led CUSHING along enemy’s wake and signalled time to start barrage. There were no apparent results. CUSHING and FANNING departed on urgent duty.

     15.  From 7:27 till 9:55 enemy zigzagging submerged. At 9:55 drew well astern and stopped. As enemy did not come up, went ahead and at 10:07 dropped eighth pattern of two charges on estimated position. Last charge, No.33, brought up heavy oil bubbles about 3 feet in diameter containing some air bubbles. The wake was visible for several miles. At dark enemy was submerged maintaining 5 knots speed, changing course from south to southwest zigzagging. Followed at 5 knots having difficulty in keeping contact on account of darkness and large turning circle of this ship.

          At 10:02 established radio communication and requested Commander-in-Chief6 for assistance of ships equipped with hydrophones.

     16.  Weather conditions from 31 May, 4 p.m., till 1 June, 3 a.m. were – Slight haze, calm to light airs, sea smooth.

     17.  At 11:15 lost contact and began circling with full right rudder, easing after each circle. Then began two miles zigzag on East and West course. At 12:54 a.m., started retiring search curve, toward Southeast, through South and West to arrive at daylight on line joining enemy’s last position and Fastnet Light. Set course 130, speed 15 knots. At 1:05 began second leg of curve on course 158 degrees. At 1:10 smelled oil to windward and headed for it until 1:20 when picked up enemy’s wake trending to Southward. Zigzagged to Southward across wake keeping contact by smell until about 2:45 when moonlight showed wake distinctly. At 1:58 wake turned to Southwestward, and showed enemy trying to evade detection by running down rays of moon.

          At 3:40 increased speed to 18 knots and zigzagged along wake.

     18.  Continued pursuit until 4:26 a.m., when sighted enemy running awash about 500 yards ahead slightly on starboard bow. Headed for enemy at full speed, 22 knots, attempting to ram,and opened fire with bow gun. Several shots fell close. Submarine turned sharply to the left. Attempted to follow with full left rudder but missed ramming by 20 feet. Enemy showing conning tower and two periscopes passed along port side distance about 30 feet, too close for a torpedo. Attempted to release remaining two depth charges but failed on account of mistaken signals. Submarine submerged. Port battery opened fire as enemy went under.

     19.  Moderate breezes raised a choppy sea making it difficult to follow the oil wake. Circled for wake. At 6 a.m., began spiral search curve and picked up wake trending East into sun’s rays making it impossible to follow accurately. Enemy had reversed course and was running under his old oil slick.

          At 7 a.m., sighted white vapor and outlines of submarine to Eastward. Headed for it at full speed, and commenced firing with bow gun at maximum range 8000 yards.

     20.  At 7:45 H.M.S. JESSAMINE joined from Eastward, and commenced firing at enemy which was nearly between us.

     21.  At 8:00 lost sight of submarine. At 8:10 started spiral search curve at 20 knots. At 9:25 exchanged signals with JESSAMINE. JESSAMINE searched to Westward, Sterett to Eastward.

     22.  At 9:28 began zigzag toward sun along oil slick on base course 110 degrees, at 20 knots.

          At 11:24 WILKES and TERRY joined. Signalled WILKES an estimate of enemy’s position. WILKES took charge, formed scouting line, and searched area to South and West until 8 p.m., when proceeded on duty assigned.

     23.  From the study of this action the following items are suggested for consideration.

          (a)  When two ships are escorting, one should always remain with the convoy.

          (b)  The effect of the barrage on morale is not as great as is generally believed.

          (c)  While using hydrophones and zigzagging the enemy avoided direct hits.

          (d)  Although damaged and leaking oil enemy remained submerged from 4 p.m., until 11 p.m. running at about 7 knots.

          (e)  The estimated speed of enemy on surface was 16 knots.

     24.  It is suggested that our offensive firepower be increased by:-

          (a)  Depth charge settings at 300 feet.

          (b)  Depth charges of 500 pounds.

          (c)  More bomb throwers of longer range.

          (d)  At least 50 depth charges.

A.S. FARQUHAR           

Source Note: D, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 1347. Identifier “15-R” appears in the upper-left corner of the first page. All subsequent pages have a header that reads “15-R Sterett 5 June 1918./Subject: Report of action against submarine, 31 May – 1 June 1918.”

Footnote 1: Queenstown, Ireland.

Footnote 2: For a detailed response to this report, see: Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, to Sims, 10 June 1918.

Footnote 3: This sketch has not been found.

Footnote 4: For a copy of this sketch, see the June Illustrations page.

Footnote 5: This letter has not been found.

Footnote 6: Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly.

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