Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Commander Benyaurd B. Wygant, Commander, Tucker, to Lieutenant Commander Joseph F. Daniels

                    U. S. S. Tucker,      BBW-P

                         25 May, 1917.

My dear Daniels:

          Last Monday afternoon1 I thought I would try out some of the depth charges that had been supplied in Boston, in the vicinity where I had last seen two submarines their position being too uncertain to risk the loss of one of our two big ones supplied in Queenstown, so I tossed a couple over but nothing happened.2 On examination it was found that the bouy part did not separate from the mine part readily and also it was found that the reel upon which the distance wire is rove worked stiffly and one of these two causes was probably the reason for their not having functioned.3 I suggest that everybody be advised as to this and at the next opportunity I am going to separate the bouy from the mine before heaving it overboard and try it that way.

Very sincerely,         

Wygant.

The aforesaid subs were at least four miles off and had evidently been communicating with each other. The rascals ducked as soon as we commenced firing and although I dashed around for a couple of hours or so saw nothing more of them.4

Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. The signature and postscript are handwritten.

Footnote 1: 21 May 1917. This was the start of Tucker’s first patrol from Queenstown.

Footnote 2: The depth charges supplied at Boston were American MK I 50 lb depth charge. The two “big ones” supplied at Queenstown were likely British type D depth charges and were 300 lbs. The U.S. destroyers were not supplied with appropriate gear for depth charging and at first the crew deployed the depth charges by hand.  Early in the war the destroyers also had a limited number of depth charges on board, usually two, because of a scarcity of the weapon in Great Britain and America. Friedman, Naval Weapons of WWI, 390.

Footnote 3: The MK I used a float and lanyard pull-out. When working correctly, the explosive and attached line would descend from the float and when the explosive reached a predetermined depth the taut lanyard would fire the charge and set off the explosive. The blast had an effective radius of 30-40 ft.  Ibid., 397.

Footnote 4: Before the submarines submerged Tucker engaged them with its rapid fire 4-inch guns.

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