There were 303 U.S. 110-foot submarine chasers in the American force during WWI. Of these, only six were lost during the war. SC 117 and SC 219 caught fire and burned, SC 60, SC 132 and SC 187 were sunk in collisions with other vessels, and SC 209 was mistaken for an enemy submarine and shelled by a USN freighter.
Recently a contact asked about SC 132, and the correspondence brought to mind the array of dangers the men on these little boats faced, even setting aside enemy submarines. Fire in the engine rooms was a regular danger, with open crankcase engines and poor ventilation. And on hunts at night, chasers and much larger vessels ran with lights off, and stopped to operate listening equipment with lights off and engines off. Whether underway or not, the 110-foot boats were no match for a large vessel underway.
Here is an account of the sinking of SC 132:
June 5, 1918 at 3.43 a.m. sunk in collision with the American Cruiser U.S.S. TACOMA off Barnegat Light.
Both vessels were running without lights. At 3.41 a.m. the TACOMA sighted on the starboard bow a red light flashing recognition signals which proved to be Sub Chaser No. 219. At 3.43 a.m. a bright white light suddenly appeared while the TACOMA was in the act of answering the recognition signals. The light appeared about 20 degrees on the TACOMA's starboard bow about 60 yards distant. TACOMA's rudder was put hard to left and engines stopped as soon as the boat was seen.
The TACOMA was unable to clear in time and struck S.C. 132 a few seconds after she turned on the white lights. The TACOMA's bow struck the Sub Chaser about 15 feet forward of its bridge abreast the bow gun cutting a hole to nearly the midships line. The TACOMA's engines stopped just as the collision occurred but the ship was still underway through the water.
The Sub Chaser headed over to starboard and kept under the TACOMA's bow, going along with her until the way was off then slowly dropped back of the TACOMA's starboard beam. Sub Chaser 219 picked up a man overboard from S.C. 132. At 4.40 a.m. the TACOMA started towing S.C. 132 toward shallow water.
At 5.17 a.m. the Sub Chaser was unable to stay afloat and the TACOMA was forced to cut the tow lines and the Sub Chaser sank rapidly at 5.21 a.m. The officers and crew of S.C. 132 were rescued by the TACOMA and taken to Tompkinsville, N.Y. There was no loss of life.
There are many things in the queue to post in coming months. Until next month, best wishes, and enjoy the autumn.
--Todd Woofenden, editor