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


May 17. [1917]

At sea

     Last night it was too rough and uncomfortable to attempt to write anything- It is evident that the Orduña had not heard about the U.S. destroyers patrolling this neighborhood, or if he had heard, the Captain was very suspicious of us. When I asked his position by wireless (in code of course) he replied by asking me to spell the name of my ship in code. I did this, and then received the reply “What is the name of paymaster on board friend of Dr. Twigg”. I answered “White”.1 He then gave me his position but said he had no observation for forty eight hours.2 It was very rough going so I did not get any farther to leeward then was necessary. At half past three we sighted the Orduna and proceeded with her. We now had to head right into the big seas at a speed of 15½ knots. We pounded a great deal, took seas over our forecastle and spray over the bridge and smokestack continually. It was impracticable for us to zig-zag,3 and I was about to ask the captain of the Orduna to slow down, but changed my mind and decided to hang on- The Orduna had our first Red Cross contingent on board- among them 50 women nurses, who frequently waved little American flags when we were close.4 As we neared the coast of Ireland the swell gradually diminished and at half past three this morning we increased speed to 17 knots and zig-zagged ahead of the Orduna. Went to general quarters once on sighting a spar which was taken for a periscope- This is the first time we have steamed all along the southern coast of Ireland, and the thing that impressed me most was the large amount of shipping- The submarine may be able to get many ships, but the many they get is very small in comparison with the large number that are sailing the seas and making British ports- We went to quarters a second time in sighting a small British patrol boat which at first was taken for a submarine on the surface- At 9 p.m. I went close to the Orduna, hailed them and told the Captain there was a light showing through a port on his bow and called “good bye”. The Wadsworth then headed around and proceeded to our new patrol station with which this time is off the southeastern corner of Ireland.

     Tonight we picked up the wireless press news sent out from the Poldhu Station.5 One item was a statement that United States Destroyers had arrived in European waters and were cooperating with the British fleet. So at last a well known fact has been made public-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 date is written in that space. It is usually repeated when the diary entry continues on a second and third page, which is the case for this entry.

Footnote 1: Presumably, Samuel R. White, Jr., a passed assistant paymaster. In his memoirs, Taussig explained that he was puzzled by these challenges, and that some eight months later he met Dr. Twiggs who explained that the captain of Orduña feared that the wireless was sent by a German U-boat. However, the mention of Paymaster White convinced the captain that Wadsworth was a U.S. destroyer. Taussig, “Destroyer Experiences,” January, 1923: 67.

Footnote 2: The captain informed Taussig that the Orduña could not fix its position using a sextant and celestial navigation for the previous forty-eight hours and therefore the location he was giving was approximate.

Footnote 3: Taussig wrote something else—which is unreadable—crossed it through and added “zig-zag” above the line.

Footnote 4: Red Cross nurses served as the reserve for the Army Nurse Corps in time of war. With the consent of the individual nurse, they could be assigned to active duty. The first contingent of sixty-two nurses sailed from New York aboard Orduña. According to the head nurse of the contingent, Grace Allison, they were hastily assembled at Cleveland from all parts of the United States, sent to New York by train, and quickly transferred to Orduña, only receiving their newly-adopted uniforms, capes, and caps, along with their other equipment after they boarded. Lavinia L. Dock, et. al., History of American Red Cross Nursing [New York: Macmillan & Co., 1922], 414-15.

Footnote 5: Poldhu is near the southwest tip of Cornwall. It is on the Lizard Peninsula.

Footnote 6: Taussig’s destroyer division had landed at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland, on 4 May 1917.