Monday, January 22, 2018

Lindell T. Bates | Dazzle and Submarine Defense

 Cover of Bates Report / Courtesy James R. Dodge
In our most recent previous blog post, we reprinted an entire lengthy news article, initially published in 1919, about the measures that were used during World War I to prevent the sinking of Allied ships by German U-boats. Among the strategies employed were camouflage, zigzagging, and the use of smokeless fuel for ships. The article we reprinted was written by an American lawyer, diplomat and engineer named Lindell T. Bates. During the war, he had served as the secretary of the Submarine Defense Association, for which he compiled an extensive report in 1918, which his article was an overview and update of. Bates (pictured below) made vital contributions to the scientific assessment of ship camouflage, to effective zigzagging maneuvers, and to developing smokeless fuel. 

He was tireless and his achievements were prodigious. In addition, as we learn in the memoir published below, he was in part determined because his brother, Lindon W. Bates, Jr., had perished in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania at a time when he was working, with Herbert Hoover, on attempting to provide food and other relief to the civilian population of Belgium. 

The essay published below in its entirety was written by James R. Dodge from Worthington MA, whose family members lived in the same region and were affiliated with the Bates family. The essay copyright belongs to its author and is used with his permission. He has given related archival materials to the Hoover Institute.


The Bates Family Story
Copyright © 2018 by James R. Dodge

WHEN I WAS 8 years old my father drove the family car, with me sitting next to him, from our home in Pittsfield MA, up Lebanon Mountain on Route 20. I remember asking him what was in the small box on the back seat. He replied that it was Dr. Mary Bates! Imagine my anxious amazement!

The box contained the ashes of Dr. Mary Elizabeth Bates, a noted veterinarian and the late sister of Lindon Bates Sr.. My father brought a shovel and buried her ashes in the Bates family cemetery on top of Mt. Lebanon. Dr. Bates was also an early leader in the woman's rights movement and lived in Denver CO. She was the last member of the Bates family to be interred in this small plot surrounded by a wrought iron fence on the south side of Route 20. Many cars pass this spot every day, but few know the interesting history of this accomplished family.

My dad told me about other members of the Bates family and how her brother had a summer home on Chair Factory Road on over 500 acres purchased from the Shakers. I learned more about the people buried there, including her nephew Linden Bates Jr. who was lost on the RMS Lusitania.

Her father, Capt. Wallace Bates, was born in 1827 in Canada. He was brought up and schooled in the ship building community of Calais ME. He married Marie Cole in Saratoga NY in 1851. Captain Bates had a distinguished career as a naval architect building large ships that sailed on the Great Lakes. He lost his shipyard in the Great Chicago Fire. President Chester Arthur appointed him U.S. Commissioner of Navigation in 1889.

They had two sons including Lindon Bates Sr. who studied engineering at Yale. Lindon first worked building railroads in the Northwest and in Europe. He then engineered improvements to the Suez Canal, the ports of Shanghai, China and Calcutta, India and worked on raising the grade of Galveston TX after a disastrous flood. It was his innovative plans for dredging sections of the Panama Canal that brought him international acclaim and wealth.

Lindon Bates Sr. married Josephine White in Portland OR. They made their home on Broadway in lower Manhattan. They wanted a summer place in the Berkshire Hills and purchased acreage on the southern end of Chair Factory Road with 1/2 of the approximately 500 acres in New York State and 1/2 in Massachusetts. There is correspondence with Elder Ernest Pick of the Mount Lebanon Shakers about a upper parcel of open pasture that the family acquired. Their summer home was called Lebanon Lodge. While the house was under construction, the family stayed with Sister Sarah Collins, the manager of the Shaker Chair Factory. Lebanon Lodge was sited upon an open landscape with a wonderful view west to Lebanon Valley in upstate New York.

The Bates had two sons, Lindon Bates Jr. and Lindell Bates, who both loved their Berkshire summers exploring Lebanon Mountain. The younger Lindon was called Roxwell by the family.  He attended the Harrow School in England and started at Yale when he was just 16, graduating as an engineer in 1902. He worked for his father’s engineering company in Galveston and on New York City water tunnel projects. He became active in politics and was elected to two terms in the New York State Assembly. As V.P. of the Bates Engineering Company and as a consultant to several other companies, he traveled to remote parts of the world and was fluent in several foreign languages.

He wrote two books, The Path of The Conquistadores about his travels up the Orinoco River in Venezuela, and The Russian Road to China when he took the Trans Siberian Railroad across Russia. The later part of this trip was by a horse drawn troika across Mongolia to Beijing, China in the absolute dead of winter! This most interesting book on old Russia can still be ordered on Amazon.

The Bates family had a social and professional relationship with Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer who had made his fortune internationally. Germany had invaded Belgium in 1914 in preparation of their subsequent invasion of France. Britain responded by blockading ports of Belgium so that war material could not be transferred to aid the German Army. However, the people of Belgium were beginning to starve!

Herbert Hoover was then living in London and worked tirelessly to raise private U.S. funds to obtain American wheat to be shipped in bulk thru the blockade to the citizens of Belgium. Hoover was chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. Lindon Bates Sr. and his wife Josephine were on this commission as well. Lindon Bates Jr. volunteered to travel to London to meet with Hoover and then go on to Rotterdam to assist in getting American ships through. Unfortunately, he bought his passage on the Lusitania.

Launched in 1906, Cunard's RMS Lusitania was once the world's largest and fastest passenger ship. She was scheduled to leave New York for Liverpool on May 1, 1915, just as submarine warfare was intensifying in the North Atlantic. Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom a war zone that February. The Imperial German Embassy placed advertisements in New York newspapers warning against travel on British flagged vessels to this war zone.

On the afternoon of May 7, The Lusitania was struck on the starboard side by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland near Kinsale. As the ship listed to one side, she continued her forward momentum plowing through the sea until she sank 20 minutes later. Out of 1,962 passengers and crew on board, 1,198 people died in this tragic sinking, including Lindon Bates Jr.

There are first hand accounts of how Lindon acted selflessly as the ship was going down. In the midst of confusion and panic, he went below decks to search for three missing children of the Pearl family. Most of the passengers were just leaving the dining areas after having lunch when the torpedo hit, however their life jackets were stored in their sleeping quarters. Bates got his cork life jacket on but then, heroically, took it off and secured it on an unknown woman. Lindon then assisted the crew in their attempts in launching several lifeboats. He was last seen diving overboard as the last waves washed over the decks of the sinking ship.

There is a book that was on the New York Times best sellers list by Eric Larson, titled Dead Wake. It reviews in great detail the historical events leading up to the sinking of the Lusitania. In his account Larson gives a timeline where Captain Schweiger and his German submarine, U-Boat 20, were located and under what rules of engagement they were operating. His log claimed that only one torpedo was fired as the Lusitania steamed into range, however there were two large explosions within the hull of the doomed liner.

An on-going argument suggests that 5,000 rounds of Remington small arms munitions, gun cotton and other armaments, not listed on the ship's manifest, were stored in a compartment in the ship and were ignited. Some say that it was one of the ships boilers that exploded. Larson asks the greater question about what role did the British Admiralty play in not protecting the Lusitania adequately by having two destroyers stay in port that fateful afternoon. British intelligence had been tracking U-20 but did not inform Capt. Turner on the Lusitania. The sinking built support for America's involvement for the British side and the U.S. entered the war two years later.

Lindell T. Bates / Courtesy James R. Dodge

In the hours and days immediately after the sinking there were many cables between Hoover in London and Lindon Bates Sr. in New York. Being a good swimmer, perhaps young Lindon, aged 32, had survived, making it to one of the lifeboats or possibly to the coast. Younger brother Lindell Bates was in London planning to greet his older brother and went immediately to join the search with an associate of Hoover to Cork Harbor where much of the rescue mission was taking place. They were immediately arrested by a local police sergeant, who suspected that they might be German agents, until their identities could be proven. Lindon Bates Jr.'s body was found weeks later 230 miles up the Irish coast off Galway.

There was a memorial service that August at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan that included an address by Lou Henry Hoover [wife of Herbert Hoover] who related Roxwell’s [Lindon Jr.’s] many accomplishments.  When the last dyke at Culebra was dynamited, he jumped in to his canoe to paddle the rushing waters making him the first person to pass thru the Panama Canal! There were many messages of sympathy including letters from King Albert of Belgium, Ambassador to England Walter Page, and Teddy Roosevelt.

The Bates family proposed constructing a 115’ marble tower to be called The Monument of Sacrifice on the top of Lebanon Mountain. It was to be illuminated at night and dedicated to all who lost their lives on the Lusitania including their son Lindon. It was never built. Lindon Bates, Jr. was buried in the family cemetery with a large cross as his headstone.

After the tragedy, the father became involved in developing camouflage patterns called "dazzle" for American ships for the War Department, what later became the Department of the Navy. He felt it imperative to combat the threat of submarine warfare and spent much of his time and fortune in this effort. Father Bates compiled a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of every German U-boat that was sunk during the war! The Bates engineering firm eventually closed down as the father declined into ill health, dying in France in 1924.

After his father’s death, Lindell Bates continued working on camouflage ship designs with Eastman Kodak until the end of WW1. Even though he was an international lawyer, he developed the math formulas for a ship at sea to perform zigzag maneuvers to better outwit lurking submarines. He also worked on an efficient formula for coal dust to be mixed with fuel oil to be burned in a ship’s furnace that left the smokestack with less visible smoke compared to using regular coal as a fuel. His efforts, along with his father’s, were with the Submarine Defense Association. He became an officer in the Military Intelligence Reserve in 1926 and was considered an expert on military affairs in Europe, becoming a Major in 1931. Lindell Bates had the American Legion Honor Guard give a six gun salute at his funeral on Lebanon Mountain in 1937. Sister Sarah Collins, of the Lebanon Shakers, Second Family, and my father, Harold Oscar Dodge of Pittsfield MA, were also in attendance. 

Lindell T. Bates gravesite photo / Courtesy James R. Dodge

Lebanon Lodge on Chair Factory Road fell into disrepair, but was still standing in 2017. Lindell's summer house “The Seagull” on the summit just west of the cemetery was torn down with the land on the Massachusetts side of the border becoming state forest known as Bates Memorial Park.

Herbert Hoover, an alumni of Stanford University, endowed the Hoover Institution there to document and archive the origins of international conflicts. The cables he sent to the Bates family during the search for their lost son are on file as are the scrap books on the Lusitania and German U-boat sinkings. The wooden ship models that Mr. Bates developed with camouflage designs with Eastman Kodak were on display in an exhibit on the Lusitania in May 1915. These materials from the Bates family are available at the Hoover Institution website.