Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Arthur S. Carpender to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

CONFIDENTIAL.

U. S. S. FANNING,

18 November, 1917.

From:  Commanding Officer, (Lieutenant A.S.Carpender,U.S.N.).

To:    Commander U.S.N. Force Operating in European Waters.

Subject:  Engagement with, and destruction of German Submarine, S.M.,U-58. 17 November, 1917.

Inclosure:  (A)  Report of Executive Officer, Lieut.G.H. Fort, U.S. Navy.1

  (B)  Plan showing relative positions of Convoy, Destroyers and Submarine.2

  1. At about 4:10 p.m., 17 November, 1917, 7 miles South (magnetic) from Daunt Light Ship, while escorting Convoy O.Q.20, which was forming up, a finger periscope about 1-1/2" in diameter and 1 foot above water was sighted 3 points on port bow, distance about 400 yards, and headed across the bow at about two (2) knots.

  2. The FANNING was swinging with left rudder, speed about 15 knots, into position covering left rear flank of Convoy, about 1000 yards from same. The NICHOLSON was on starboard bow standing down from ahead, to her position in rear of Convoy.

   3. Rudder was put hard left and speed increased to 20 knots, working rapidly to full power. The periscope disappeared, and when ship had turned about 30 (thirty) degrees the rudder was righted to bring ship in position for dropping depth charge, which was dropped at about 4:13 p.m., slightly ahead of estimated position of submarine. The ship then continued to turn with full left rudder.

  4. NICHOLSON changed course to right, turned and headed for spot where depth charge had been dropped, and at about the time her turn was completed the conning tower of submarine came to surface between this ship and Convoy, and about 500 yards from spot where charge had been dropped, in a direction towards Convoy. NICHOLSON headed for submarine at full speed, and FANNING turned into her (NICHOLSON’S) wake to attack. NICHOLSON dropped depth charge alongside submarine and turned to left, firing three shots from her stern gun while turning. The bow of submarine then came up rapidly, and it was estimated she was down by the stern at an angle of about 30 (thirty) degrees, and was apparently making about two (2) knots. She righted herself, and seemed to increase speed to about five (5) knots, somewhat down by the head. As NICHOLSON cleared, FANNING headed for submarine and opened fire with bow gun, firing three shots. (The Commanding Officer of submarine later stated that no gun hits were made.) After the third shot, the crew of submarine all came on deck, and held up their hands, and submarine surrendered at 4:28 P.M.

  5. FANNING and NICHOLSON circled keeping batteries trained on submarine. After circling twice, FANNING on orders from NICHOLSON went alongside submarine at 4:32 p.m., to pick up prisoners; NICHOLSON covering. A line was gotten to submarine but apparently at this time she was scuttled, as two of her crew were seen to disappear below through conning tower hatch, remaining below for about one minute; until this time the crew made no effort to leave her deck. At 4:38 p.m., she sank, line was let go, and crew of submarine jumped into water and swam to FANNING. They were taken on board, heaving lines being used to assist in rescue, and all were on board at 4:45 p.m.3 One of the crew of submarine died on board FANNING, having been hauled out of water, and efforts to resuscitate having failed. All officers and the remainder of crew, except one man, were picked up, and made prisoners of war. The Commanding Officer of submarine surrendered to the Commanding Officer of FANNING, and gave parole for his officers while on board FANNING. The crew was placed on main deck aft under guard, and searched; officers were also searched before they gave their parole. It is believed the remaining member of the crew jumped overboard before FANNING went alongside, and was picked up by NICHOLSON.

  6. The officers were:-

               Captain-Lieutenant Gustave Amberger,

                       Lieutenant Freidrich Wilhelm Muller,

                  Ober-Lieutenant Otto Von Ritgen,

                  Ober-Engineer   Paul C.Shröter,

And crew of 35 men, in addition to member of crew who died (Franz Glinder), first machinist (petty officer).

  7. From note books taken, life belt picked up, and statements of Lieutenant Muller and members of crew, the submarine was S.M. U.-58, which had been six (6) days at sea.

  8. The Commanding Officer and officers of U-58 informed Commanding Officer of FANNING, that the first depth charge (the one dropped by FANNING) damaged his ship seriously, forcing him to come to surface, and that the second depth charge (the one dropped by NICHOLSON) additionally damaged him. Later information from Officers and crew of U-58, developes the fact that the depth charge dropped by FANNING, wrecked the motors, diving gear and oil leads. She then sank to a depth of about two hundred (200) feet,4 and was entirely unmanageable. She blew tanks and was coming to surface in a helpless and unmanageable condition, when NICHOLSON dropped depth charge. The officers reported that inner hull of submarine was intact, but that she was wrecked and helpless as stated above.

  9. No damage to submarine could be seen from FANNING, other than apparent breakage of false work abaft conning tower on port side. When on surface submarine was decidedly down by the head, her stern torpedo tubes showing.

  10. The submarine was painted light grey, black water line about two (2) feet broad with white band underneath. No number or other distinguishing marks showed. Decking was of wood, and submarine coincided in all particulars with place shown in C.B.#1182 C of U-53 to 62 class, with following exceptions:-

(a) One gun forward of conning tower:- 4.1"Two guns abaft conning tower:- one anti air craft, and one 22 pounder.

(b) Abaft tower, she was lower than forecastle and stern, giving a well deck, but with no break, well being formed by an easy curve.

(c) There was no periscope showing, and it could not be determined whether they were housed or broken off.

  11. The shock of discharge of depth charge, temporarily disabled FANNING’S main generator by deranging circuit breaker. No other apparent damage was done to FANNING. The depth charge was set at 80 feet, but apparently detonated after about 4 seconds, and shook ship heavily, though she as making 20 knots.

  12. Sea smooth, wind S.W., force 2, visibility poor (light mist and fog.)

  13. FANNING proceeded to Queenstown and transferred prisoners under guard to boats from MELVILLE.5

  14. After transfer of prisoners, the Commanding Officer read the Burial Service over the body of the dead German sailor (Franz Glinder), and FANNING proceeded to sea and buried him with full military honors. FANNING then returned to harbor.

  15. The following miscellaneous information was obtained from crew of U-58, and from observations:-

     (a) The Commanding Officer of U-58 stated that when attacked by FANNING, he was manourvering into position to attack the S.S. WELSHMAN, in Convoy, position of WELSHMAN was second ship second column from left. (See plan attached).6

     (b) U-58 had been off Daunt Light since morning of 16 November, and was waiting to make attack on Convoy. She expected Convoy to sail on 16 November, and seemed to know definitely that a Convoy was due to sail.

     (c) U-58 had been at sea since 12 November.

     (d) All of the officers of the U-58 commented on the dazzle painting, and probably had not seen it before. The Commanding Officer when questioned as to visibility of destroyers with dazzle painting, stated that he could see it as well in daylight, as if we were painted one color, but he thought the dazzle painting would be effective at night.

     (e) The physical condition and general appearance of the officers and crew of U-58 was excellent, and they exhibited an apparent stolid indifference to capture.7

     (f) Several note books and miscellaneous articles which may prove of interest, had been turned in to MELVILLE.

   16. After being taken on board, the crew were given hot coffee, sandwiches and cigarettes, and though kept under strict guard, they seemed well contented, and after being on board a short time commenced to sing.8 The officers and crew were transferred to MELVILLE in separate boats, and it is interesting to note that when the prisoners (crew) were shoving off, they gave three cheers.

  17. A life belt was recovered which had written on it in ink, the name of a member of crew to whom it belonged; S.M.U-58, and at the base of one supporting shoulder strap “KAISER”, and at the base of the other “GOTT”.9

  18. The conduct of the officers and crew of FANNING was excellent

  19. The Commanding Officer considers that particular credit is due to Lieutenant Walter O.Henry, U.S.Navy, who was Officer-of-the-Deck when submarine was sighted. Lieutenant Henry instantly called for emergency speed, and turned the ship to such heading, that when the Commanding Officer, who was on the Bridge at the time, took over the con, the ship was so headed that she was in position to right the rudder, and drop the depth charge in the estimated position desired.

  20. The periscope was sighted by Coxswain David D.Loomis,U.S.N., port bridge lookout, and as periscope was of finger type, and moving very slowly, the alertness of this lookout is considered very commendable.10

  21. While prisoners were being taken on board, Chief Pharamcist Mate Elzer Harwell, U.S.N., and Coxswain Francis G. Connor, N.N.V., jumped overboard in an effort to rescue a member of the crew of U-58 who was drowning. They managed to hold him up, and get him on board FANNING, but efforts to resuscitate him failed, and he died in a very few minutes. The Commanding Officer considers that the actions of these two men is worthy of commendation.

A.S. Carpender.    

Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: FANNING, Folder 6. There are several identifying numbers. In the upper left-hand corner: “128-3-17/B. 25/6/4.” The latter number is repeated in the upper right-hand corner of the first page. At the top of each page of the report is “CONFIDENTIAL.” That word is sometimes underlined.

Footnote 1: Fort’s report is with Carpender’s in RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: FANNING, Folder 6. His observations, where relevant, have been included in the notes below. For another account of the capture, see: Diary of Angus W. Wiggins, 17 November 1917.

Footnote 2: See FANNING and NICHOLSON Capture of U-58 in the illustrations section for: November 1917.

Footnote 3: In Fort’s report he noted that although U-58 sank within fifty feet of FANNING and the German crew all wore life preservers, “a number of them reached our side in an exhausted condition.” Lines were thrown to the crew but “at least ten” were so weak that they could not haul themselves up. “Lines were passed under the arms of these men and they were hauled on board.” He added that several of the submarine’s crew had been snagged by the submarine’s radio aerial and carried underwater before they could disentangle themselves.

Footnote 4: In a later discussion of the capture of U-58 published in 1935, Lt. Fort wrote that according to a chart of that area of the coast, the depth was 165 feet. George H. Fort, comment on “The Capture of the U-58,” U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 61 (January, 1935), 99.

Footnote 5: There is a list of the prisoners with Carpender’s report at DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: FANNING, Folder 6. For the “plan attached,” see footnote #2. In his comment published in Naval Institute Proceedings, Fort noted that the German submariners “seemed confident that they could escape detection by destroyers” as evidenced by the fact that “U-58 was in perfect position to fire at the largest ship in the convoy at a range of about 1,000 yards,” but “elected to run the risk of going inside the destroyer screen in order to reduce the range.” George H. Fort, comment on “The Capture of the U-58,” U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 61 (January, 1935), 100.

Footnote 7: Fort noted that when stripped and searched, the U-58 crew “looked like a college football squad. They were more mature and of a higher average physical development” than the crew of FANNING.” Ibid., 99.

Footnote 8: In his report, Executive Officer Fort noted that the crew also gave the Germans “warm coats and clothing” where needed. RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: FANNING, Folder 6.

Footnote 9: “KAISER” was the title of the ruler of Germany; “GOTT” translates as God.

Footnote 10: In his later article on the capture of U-58, R. B. Carney mentioned that Loomis was renowned on the ship for his eyesight and although the periscope was “invisible to all on the bridge but the lynx-eyed lookout,” the fact that the information was “good” and intelligently given” caused the officer of the deck, who never saw the reported periscope, to act on the sighting. Carney, “The Capture of the U-58,” U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 6 (October, 1934), 1401, 1402.

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