Norman Meeker served on submarine chaser SC 89. This is excerpts from Norman’s account of the sketch below, drawn by his father, Edwin Meeker.
This little episode involves my father and the black and white sketch in my room at Belmar. The rough sketch my father made of the chasers in action is so realistic you would think he had served on one. We hunted for subs in packs of three or more chasers. This was my third ship, ‘Sub Chaser #89’. [continued below]
May 1919 toward end of World War One: We had just picked up an S.O.S. while on patrol. Within a few minutes we were on our way to a station off entrance to NY Harbor. A large passenger steamer out bound passed so close we could see passengers plainly. Suddenly I recognized my father on the after deck. I found out later he was on his way south to Cuba to illustrate many of the interesting buildings and landmarks for a NY publisher.
Hours later, south of NY they came upon life boats full of passengers from the S.S. Carolina that had been sunk a short while before. This was the S.O.S. we had picked up. They took all aboard and with lights out made a safe run to Cuba.
Some weeks later an S.O.S. call took us to a point off Fire Island. We arrived to find a plane circling overhead dropping bombs. Large bubbles were surfacing. Thinking it was a sub we made a run over the spot and dropped two ash cans each 300 lbs. of T.N.T. Suddenly up shot a large spar. We knew then it was not a sub. We stayed there all night. After a time divers went down. They found that we had dropped our depth charges on the hull of our U.S. Cruiser San Diego which had been sunk. The spar was one of the yard arms from her mast. She still lays at the bottom fifty odd years later. It always remained a mystery to us.
The months that followed until the Armistice was spent on long, hard convoys. Fritz steered clear of these convoys for some reason. I don't know why. He had a good chance at over forty ships stretched out over miles of ocean with only three sub chasers on each side led by a very old destroyer. Fritz was very active off this coast however, but confined his hunt to lone vessels.
It was during this period in August that sub chaser 209 met her fate, sunk one moonlit night by an American steamer on her way in. Sub chaser 209 was with four other chasers scattered on listening station. This was also off Fire Island. At night with all lights out a chaser resembles a submarine. The gun crew on the freighter were at quarters. The look out spotted the 209, which looked exactly like a sub, and they opened fire at 400 yards. The first shots passed overhead. The forth hit her amidships, blowing her to pieces. Eighteen sailors including the officers were lost.
Subchasers, Painting by E. J. Meeker, father of a Subchaser Club member Norman H. Meeker of SC 89. From the Subchaser Club of America newsletter, January, 1921. G.S. Dole Collection. Story by Norman Meeker, courtesy of his nephew, Rick Glasby.
In the photo set: A scan of the original etching, courtesy of John Doughty.