Monday, April 13, 2020

U-boat destroyed by deck guns on American tanker

HMS Balmoral Castle (1918)
Above HMS Balmoral Castle [not the ship described below], a camouflaged British troopship as photographed in New York harbor in November 1918. Digital coloring.


During World War I, it was common to anticipate that Allied ships were in danger of being torpedoed by German U-boats. But in March 1918, an American tanker, the USS Paulsboro, spotted an enemy submarine on the surface. By setting its deck guns at an extreme elevation, the tanker was able to find the range of the submarine and to begin shelling it from a distance. The U-boat fired 50 rounds, while the tanker fired 88 3-inch shells, and succeeded in sinking the U-boat.

The incident was reported on March 30, 1918, in Town Talk, in the San Francisco Daily Times, p. 9, which included the following excerpt—

The [tanker USS] Paulsboro attracted a lot of attention in the harbor because of her camouflage, which is said to be unique in ship decoration and quite helpful in bewildering the marksmanship of the submarine gunners. Her sides are painted sea color, with wave effects starting from the waterline and ending about fifteen feet up. The superstructure, masts, and funnel are bediamonded, spangled, triangled and otherwise geometrically treated in red, green, blue, black and yellow. Some of the paint was scraped off where the shrapnel struck, and in many places the pelting of the metal hail has improved the camouflage. A part of a rail and funnel were liberally punctured, but no damage was done near or below the waterline.