1918 | May 27

Searchlights for positioning

On 27 May, 1918, as the submarine chasers were heading for their assigned ports, the captain of the Otranto Mobile Barrage Force issued a notice about plans to use searchlights on the shore to help the vessels on the barrage line maintain their positions. A schedule was set up to light different searchlights on shore during several different prearranged time periods. The chasers and other vessels on the barrage line could then refer to the schedule and maintain their positions relative to the searchlights. Soon they would be on patrol, hunting U-boats.

Document: Mobile Barrage Confidential Temporary Memorandum: Navigational Lights, 27.5.1918. G.S. Dole Collection.

Photo overlay: chasers at sea. From Hunters of the Steel Sharks: The Submarine Chasers of WWI. G.S. Dole Collection.

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photographs and diagrams, and rich with personal anecdotes, an up-close account of the early days of ASW based on rare, unpublished documents.