Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

Thursday

May 3 [1917]-

At sea-

     The past week have been a most uncomfortable one- For six days we traveled eastward with half a gale, the wind blowing steadily from SSE giving us a rough sea on our starboard beam. We have been steaming at 12 knots which was sufficient for the state of the sea,1 and we have been rolling so much the mess table has not been set up since April 25th- We have been holding our plates on our laps-

     On April 30 we had to stop for three and a half hours while the Wainwright opened her main condenser and located and stopped a leak- We had to do the same thing again this morning. This makes a total of 10 hours that we have been delayed on account of necessary repairs- It might have been much worse. And the weather might have been much worse- And the weather might have been much worse also for if the wind and the rain had come from ahead instead of from abeam, we would have had a much more miserable and uncomfortable time, and we would have had to slow down materially-

     We sighted several steamers which undoubtedly will report us sooner or later-2 One ship stopped and I thought it possible that she might be a German raider so hoisted the signal for general quarters.

     Day before yesterday while it was quite hazy, the big Adriatic of the White Star line hove in sight quite close- She started to run away, but when we hoisted our colors, she resumed her course and dipped her colors in salute as she passed-3

     Yesterday we were in radio communication with H.M.S. Parthian which ship has evidently had been sent out to meet us. We exchanged several messages in regard to position course and speed, using a special code provided for that purpose. The Parthian failed to find us before dark so he sent a message that he would steam same course and speed during night and pick us up at day-break- But it was hazy and the visibility poor so she failed to find us. Then when we stopped for the Wainwright to repair condenser-4 I sent the Porter, Conyngham, McDougal and Davis out five miles to try to find the Parthian but they were unsuccessful. Later in the day as we were proceeding, the British destroyer Mary Rose fell in with us and remained with us as escort. She hoisted the international signal “Welcome to the American Colors”, and the Wadsworth answered: “Thank you”, “I am glad of your company.”5

     The sea is now smooth and we are proceeding at 15 knots. We should arrive at Queenstown tomorrow afternoon. I have been wondering if it is generally known there that a division of American destroyers are en route-6

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 repeated when the diary entry continues on a second page. On the second occasion, Taussig initially wrote “Wednesday” but then crossed it through and wrote “Thursday” immediately below followed by the date.

Footnote 1: In his diary entry of 25 April, Taussig wrote that he hoped his division could “steam at 14 or 15 knots.” Ibid., 17.

Footnote 2: In his diary entry of 25 April, Taussig said he planned to follow the “east-bound steamer route for this time of year” until he reached latitude 50° north, longitude 20° west. Ibid. From that point the British commander at Queenstown, Ireland was to direct the division. William S. Sims to Josephus Daniels, 22 April 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 3: RMS Adriatic was a passenger liner that was also used to transport troops during World War I. Taussig later wrote that the war taught him that it was easy to mistake the low silhouette of a destroyer for a submarine. Taussig, “Destroyer Experiences:” 2028.

Footnote 4: According to Charles M. Blackford, a signalman serving in McDougal, it was Conyngham that needed repairs. Blackford noted that all the destroyers in the division came to a stop and gathered around Conyngham in waters known to be frequented by German submarines, that no lookouts were posted, and that Wadsworth sent out a radio call for “about fifteen minutes.” According to Blackford, the men of the division later “shuddered” when they considered their recklessness on this occasion. Blackford, Torpedoboat Sailor: 73.

Footnote 5: Taussig later wrote that the Americans also signaled the British destroyer Mary Rose as to which course they should follow to Queenstown and if they should zigzag. Reportedly, Mary Rose replied: “It is safer to zigzag, but it is a terrible nuisance.” Therefore, the entire group proceeded to Queenstown on a direct course. Taussig, “Destroyer Experiences:” 2029.

Footnote 6: According to Blackford, when the flotilla arrived off Queenstown they waited while the channel into that port was cleared of mines. Those mines, according to Blackford, were laid in anticipation of the arrival of the American destroyers, an opinion seconded by Sims in his report to Daniels of 11 and 21 May. See: Babcock to Daniels, 6 May 1917; Sims to Daniels, 11 May 1917; and Sims to Daniels, 21 May 1917.

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