1918 | July 07

Learning to hunt submarines

"The submarine presents a problem such as the world at large has never dreamed of before. The Kaiser's deep sea monsters represent the most perfect engines of Hell that the evil genius of man has been able to devise," writes Ens. George S. Dole of submarine chaser SC 93, on 7 July, 1918. The chasers were on the barrage line, learning on the job how to detect and pursue enemy subs.

The technology was new, the boats were new, and the crews were green. "There are many tough problems to be solved, but they will be solved quickly," Dole remarks. For the remaining months of the war, U.S submarine chasers would serve on the barrage lines, learning the science of antisubmarine warfare and working to prevent U-boats from gaining access to open ocean.

Photo: Subchaser SC 95 and other chasers on the barrage line. From Hunters of the Steel Sharks: The Submarine Chasers of WWI.

Hunters of the Steel Sharks: The Submarine Chasers of WWI

Hunters of the Steel Sharks: The Submarine Chasers of WWI
Woofenden, 2006. Softcover, 224 pages. $23.95. Available on Amazon.com

In 1918, a war time fleet of 303 U.S. submarine chasers formed a new offensive against the enemy, armed with depth charges, deck guns and an array of new, top secret submarine detection and pursuit devices.

These miniature wooden war ships, the smallest commissioned vessels in the American navy, were the first major deployment mechanism for early antisubmarine warfare equipment, and were remarkable in their capabilities and service: Chasers crossed the Atlantic Ocean on their own power; performed submarine hunts and attacks from bases in Plymouth, Queenstown (Cobh) and Corfu; assisted with post-war diplomacy along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea; helped facilitate troop evacuation in northern Russia; and participated in the clearing of the North Sea mine barrage.

This is the history of the submarine chasers of the Great War, extensively illustrated with period photographs and diagrams, and rich with personal anecdotes, an up-close account of the early days of ASW based on rare, unpublished documents.