THE BRIGHTON BOYS WITH THE SUBMARINE FLEET by Lieutenant James R. Driscoll
CHAPTERS I. Good-by, Brighton II. Down in a Submarine III. Sealed Orders IV. Somewhere in the North Sea V. The German Raiders VI. Rammed by a Destroyer VII. In a Mine Field VIII. A Rescue IX. Vive La France! X. Attacked from the Sky XI. In the Fog XII. Yankee Camouflage XIII. The Survivors XIV. On the Bottom of the Sea XV. The Human Torpedo XVI. In the Wireless Station XVII. Up from the Depths XVIII. In the Rat's Nest XIX. Capturing a U-Boat XX. The Mother Ship XXI. Trapped XXII. Yankee Ingenuity XXIII. Out of the Net XXIV. Into Zeebrugge XXV. Chlorine Gas XXVI. The Stars and Stripes
"Wanted: young men to enlist in Uncle Sam's submarine fleet for service in European waters."
The magic words stood out in bold type from the newspaper that Jack Hammond held spread out over his knees. Underneath the caption ran a detailed statement setting forth the desire of the United States Government to recruit at once a great force of young Americans to man the undersea ships that were to be sent abroad for service against Germany.
Stirred by the appeal, Jack snatched the paper closer and read every word of the advertisement, his eyes dancing with interest.
"Your country needs you now!" it ran; and further on:
"The only way to win the war is to carry it right home to the foe!"
Below, in more of the bold type, it concluded:
"Don't delay a moment—-while you hesitate your country waits!"
From beginning to end Jack read the appeal again. Before his eyes in fancy flashed the picture of a long, lithe steel vessel skimming the ocean, captain and crew on the lookout for the enemy, the Stars and Stripes flapping from the tailrail. For an instant he imagined himself a member of the crew, gazing through the periscope at a giant German battleship—-yes, firing a torpedo that leaped away to find its mark against the gray steel hull of the foe!
Up in the dormitories some chap was nimbly fingering "Dixie" on the mandolin. The strains came down to the youth on the campus through the giant oak trees that half obscured the facade of "old Brighton." Over on the athletic field a bunch of freshmen "rookies" of the school battalion were being put through the manual of arms by an instructor. Jack could hear the command: "Present arms!"
"I guess that means me," he said to himself. And why not? Hadn't Joe Little and Harry Corwin and Jimmy Hill left school to join the aviation service? Weren't Jed Flarris and Phil Martin and a bunch of Brighton boys in Uncle Sam's navy? And hadn't Herb Whitcomb and Roy Flynn made history in the first-line trenches? Yes, the boys of Brighton were doing their bit.
In another moment Jack had crushed the newspaper into his pocket—-his decision made—-jumped from the bench under the old oak tree and was speeding across the campus in the direction of the main dormitory entrance. Without waiting for the elevator he leaped the steps, three at a time, running up to the third floor, and thence down the corridor to No. 63—-his "home," and that of his chum, Ted Wainwright.
Out of breath, he hurled himself into the room. Ted was crouched over the study table, algebra in front of him, cramming for an examination.
"There you are! Hip, hurrah!" Jack cried excitedly, thrusting the folded newspaper under Ted's eyes and pointing to the bold typed appeal for recruits, all the while keeping up a running fire of chatter.
Ted was in the midst of a tantalizing equation. He was accustomed, however, to such invasions on the part of his chum, the two having lived together now for nearly three school years—-ever since they had come to Brighton.
Both boys were completing their junior year in the select little school for which the town of Winchester was famous. They lived at remote corners of the state and had met during the first week of their freshman year. They had found themselves together that first night when the "freshies" were lined up before the gymnasium to withstand the attack of the "sophs" in the annual fall cane rush. Together they had fought in that melee, and after it was all over, anointed each other with liniment and bandaged each other's battle scars.
Jack was a spirited lad, ready always for a fight or a frolic, impetuous and temperamental; Ted had inherited his father's quiet tastes and philosophical views of life, looking always before he leaped, cautious and conservative. So, when Jack came bouncing in, gasping with excitement, Ted accepted the outburst as "just another one of chum's fits."
"What's all the grand shebang about this time?" he queried, shoving the algebra aside and taking up the newspaper that had been thrust upon him.
"I'm going—-I'm not going to wait another minute—-all the other fellows are going—-my grandfather fought through the Civil War—-it's me for the submarine fleet—-I'm off this very——-"
But before he could ramble any farther Ted took a hand in the oratory.
"What's the matter, chum? Flunked in anything, or been out to see a new movie show, have you?"
Jack ran his finger down the newspaper column to the advertisement for recruits.
"There you are!" he shouted. "And what's more, I'm going to sign up this very afternoon. What's the use of waiting any longer? Here's a great chance to get out with the submarines—-think of it!—-and, gee, wouldn't that be bully? Look! Look! What do you say, old boy; are you going with me?"
Jack's enthusiasm "got" Ted. Taking up the newspaper he read every word of the appeal, slowly, deliberately. Then he looked up at his chum.
"Do you mean it, Jack; are you in earnest?" he asked, after a long pause.
"Never meant anything so much in all my life," was Jack's quick rejoinder.
For an instant the two boys faced each other. Then out shot Ted's hand, clasping that of his room-mate in a firm grasp.
"Well, chum, I guess we've been pretty good pals now for nearly three years. You and I have always stuck together. That means that if you are going in, I'm going too!"
"Great!" bellowed Jack with a whack on the back that made Ted wince. "Let's beat it quick for the recruiting station. Are you on?"
Hat in hand he bolted for the door, but stopped short as Ted interrupted:
"Don't you think we'd better tell the home folks first?"
The impetuous Jack turned. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Of course we will," answered his chum. "We'll send them a telegram right away, telling them we are going to enlist tomorrow."
It was agreed, and no sooner said than done.
There was not much sleep in 63 that night. Long after lights were out the two boys were huddled together in their den, gazing out at the stars and speculating on the new adventure for which they were heading.
The morning train into Winchester brought among its passengers two very much perturbed mothers and two rather anxious fathers. The Hammonds and Wainwrights had met in the spring during commencement week festivities and had much in common this morning as they came together in the Winchester terminal. Ted and Jack were at breakfast when word was brought to them of the presence of their parents in the president's reception room.
It was a joyful little reunion. Only a few minutes' conversation was necessary, however, to prove to the parents that each of the boys was dead in earnest in his announced intention to enlist in the navy.
"I don't suppose there is much to be said here," concluded Ted's father after listening to the son's impassioned appeal for parental sanction. "You seem to have decided that you owe allegiance to your country above all other interests. I shall not interfere. As a matter of fact, my boy, I'm proud of you, and so—-here's God bless you!"
Jack's father felt the same and so expressed himself. Only the two little "maters," their eyes dimmed with mist, held back; but they, too, eventually were won over by the arguments of the eager lads.
It was decided that the party should have dinner together in town and that in the afternoon the boys would present themselves for examination at the recruiting station. The remainder of the morning was spent in packing up belongings in 63 and preparing to vacate the "dorms." The boys decided to wait until after they had been accepted before breaking the news to their school chums. Each felt confident of passing the necessary requirements. They had made the football team together in their freshman year. Jack had played, too, on the varsity basket-ball team for two seasons, while Ted excelled on the track in the sprints.
Dinner over, the entire party repaired to the recruiting station. It did not take long to get through the formalities there and, needless to say, each lad passed with flying colors.
"All I want to make sure of," ventured Jack, "is that we get into the submarine service. I'm strong for that, and so is chum."
There was a twinkle in the eye of Chief Boatswain's Mate Dunn, in charge of the recruiting station.
"I reckon Uncle Sam might be able to fix it for you," chuckled the bronzed veteran. "He's fitting out a great submarine fleet to get right in after the Prussians, and, since you fellows seem so dead set on getting there, I guess maybe it'll be arranged."
Jack and Ted were in high spirits, and eager to be off for the naval base at once. Officer Dunn had informed them they might be forwarded to the nearest navy yard that night with a batch of recruits signed up during the week. He told them to report back to the recruiting station at seven o'clock "ready to go."
The boys were anxious, too, to get back to Brighton and break the news. It was arranged they should spend the dinner hour at the school bidding farewell and later meet their mothers and fathers at the recruiting station.
There was a great buzz of excitement in the mess hall at dinner when the news spread that Jack Hammond and Ted Wainwright had enlisted in the navy and were soon to leave. As the bell sounded dismissing the student body from dinner, Cheer Leader Jimmy Deakyne jumped up on a chair and proposed three cheers for the new recruits. And the cheers were given amid a wild demonstration.
Out on the campus the boys had to mount the dormitory steps and make impromptu speeches, and then submit to a general handshaking and leave-taking all around. "Fair Brighton" was sung, and the familiar old Brighton yell chorused over and over, with three long 'rahs for Jack Hammond and three for Ted Wainwright.
"Makes a fellow feel kinda chokey, don't it, chum?" stammered Ted as he and Jack finally grabbed their bags and edged out through the campus gate.
They turned for another look at old Brighton. The boys were still assembled on the dormitory steps singing "Fair Brighton." Up in the dormitory windows lights were twinkling and the hour hand on the chapel clock was nearing seven.
"Come on, chum, let's hurry," suggested Jack. They walked in silence for a moment.
"Pretty nice send-off, Jack," sniffed Ted, finally. "We'll not forget old Brighton in a hurry."
"And you bet we'll do our best for Uncle Sam and make old Brighton proud of us," added Jack.
At the recruiting station all was lively. The boys were told they must be at the depot ready to leave on the seven-thirty express. A score or more lads were waiting for the word to move, some of them taking leave of their loved ones, others writing postcards home. Ted's folks were waiting; Jack's came along in a few minutes.
A special car awaited the recruits at the railway terminal. The girls of the Winchester Home Guard had decked it in flags and bunting and stored it with sandwiches and fruit. In another ten minutes the express came hustling in from the west. A shifting engine tugged the special car over onto the main line, where it was coupled to the express. All was ready for the train-master's signal to go.
"Good-by, mother; good-by, dad," the boys shouted in unison as the wheels began to turn and the train drew out of the train shed. A throng filled the station, and everyone in the crowd seemed to be waving farewell to some one on the train. The Winchester Harmonic Band had turned out for the send-off to the town's boys and it was bravely tooting "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Soon the train was creeping out into the darkness, threading its way over the maze of switches and leaping out into the cool country air. All the boys were in high spirits, mingling boisterously in jolly companionship, the car ringing with their songs and chatter.
Jack and Ted lounged together in their seat, chatting for a while; and finally, when the tumult had abated and the boys were getting tired, dozing away into slumber to dream about the new world into which they were being carried.
Behind them, Winchester and Brighton! Before them, the stirring life of "jackies" aboard one of Uncle Sam's warships—-bound for the war zone!
DOWN IN A SUBMARINE
Daylight found them rolling through the suburbs of a great city. The long night ride was nearing an end.
All around them as their train wended its way through the railway yard were evidences of the unusual activities of war times. Long freight trains were puffing and chugging on the sidings; the air was black with smoke, and the tracks filled everywhere with locomotives and moving rolling stock.
In a few minutes the train slowed down into the railway terminal and the score or more of "rookies" were soon stretching their legs on the platform. A detail of blue jackets, spick and span in their natty uniforms, awaited the party. Jack and Ted stared at the fine looking escort, thinking what a wonderful thing it would be when they, too, were decked out ready for service in such fine-looking attire.
They had not long to wait. Breakfast over, the entire party boarded trolley cars bound for the navy yard. Soon, across the meadows, loomed the fighting tops of battleships, and in the background the giant antennae of the navy yard's wireless station.
"Here we are at last, chum!" chortled Ted with a broad grin, as he and Jack piled out of the car.
Passing the armed sentries at the gate, the party of recruits were marched first to the commandant's office, where their arrival was officially reported. After roll call and checking up of the list of names, the boys were all marched over to the quartermaster's depot to be fitted for uniforms. Probably the most impressive moment of the morning to the boys was the ceremony of swearing them into service—-when they took the oath of allegiance to their country.
Jack and Ted were anxious to get into their uniforms and were afforded an opportunity very shortly when they were directed aboard the training ship Exeter, where they were to be quartered for a few days until detailed into service on one of the fighting units in the yard.
The first few days aboard the Exeter passed rapidly, the time being so filled with drills that the boys had few idle moments. Their letters home and to their chums at Brighton contained glowing accounts of the new service into which they had entered.
After a week of it they were standing one afternoon on the forecastle of the Exeter watching the coaling of a giant dreadnought from an electric collier when a naval officer, immaculate in white linen and surrounded by his staff, came aboard. After an exchange of salutes between the deck officer of the Exeter and the visiting officer, and a brief chat, the recruits were ordered to fall in. The naval officer in white stepped forward.
"You boys will be distributed at once among the vessels now in the yard to make up the necessary complement of crews. The department is very anxious to put some of you aboard the submarine fleet now fitting out here, and if there are any in the crowd who would prefer service in the submarines to any other service you may state your preference."
Jack and Ted stepped forward immediately. Other boys followed suit. And so it came about that Jack Hammond and Ted Wainwright found themselves detailed to the U.S. submarine Dewey.
A young officer approached and introduced himself. "I am Executive Officer Binns, of the Dewey. If you boys are ready we will go right aboard. We expect to go down the bay on some maneuvers this afternoon and want to get you fellows to your places as quickly as possible."
The whole thing was a surprise to Ted and Jack. They had expected to be kept in the yard a long time, quartered on the training ship. To get into active service so soon was more than they anticipated.
Marched across the navy yard they soon came in sight of the Dewey—-a long cigar-shaped castle of steel, sitting low in the water, riding easy at the end of a tow line near the drydock. Up on the conning tower a member of the crew was making some adjustment to the periscope case, while from astern came the hum of motors and the clatter of machinery that bespoke action within the engine room below.
"Looks like a long narrow turtle with a hump on its back, doesn't it?" whispered Jack as he and Ted came alongside.
They were passed aboard by the sentry and there on the deck welcomed by the officers and members of the Dewey's crew. Turned over to big Bill Witt, one of the crew, they were directed to go below and be assigned to their quarters.
Down through the hatchway clambered Witt, followed close by Ted and Jack, and in another moment they found themselves in the engine room. Electric lights glowed behind wired enclosures. Well aft were the motors and oil engines, around them switchboards and other electrical apparatus—-a maze of intricate machinery that filled all the stern space. The air was hazy and smelled strong of oils and gases. Huge electric fans swept the foul air along the passageway and up through the hatchways, while other fans placed near the ventilators distributed the fresh air as it poured into the vessel, drawn by the suction.
From the engine room the boys walked forward into the control chamber—-the base of the conning tower—-the very heart and brain of the undersea ship. Here were the many levers controlling the ballast tanks, Witt explaining to the boys that the submarine was submerged and raised again by filling the tanks with water and expelling it again to rise by blowing it out with compressed air. Here also was the depth dial and the indicator bands that showed when the ship was going down or ascending again, the figures being marked off in feet on the dial just like a clock. Here also was the gyro-compass by which the ship was steered when submerged; here also the torpedo control by means of which the torpedoes were discharged in firing. And, yes, here was the periscope—-the great eye of the submarine—-a long tube running up through the conning tower twenty feet above the commander's turret of steel.
"Something like the folding telescope we have at home to look at pictures," mumbled Jack aside to Ted.
To the boys' great delight they were allowed to put their eyes to the hood and gaze into the periscope. In turn they "took a peep." What they saw was the forward deck of the Dewey, the guns in position, other vessels moored nearby and the blue expanse of water stretching out into the harbor and on to the open sea. It was rather an exciting moment for the two "landlubbers."
Witt next showed them forward through the officers' quarters and the wireless room into the torpedo compartment. This interested them greatly. On either side of the vessel, chained to the sides of the hull on long runners that led up to the firing tubes, were the massive torpedoes, ready to be pushed forward for insertion in the firing chambers. Chief Gunner Mowrey was working over one of the breech caps and turned to meet the new recruits.
"Glad to meet you, mates," was his hearty salutation.
The boys listened attentively while Mowrey was telling Witt of some great "hits" they had made in practice earlier in the morning. Bill Witt showed the boys in turn the bunks that folded out of the sides of the vessel in which the crew slept, the electric stove for cooking food in the ship's tiny galley, the ballast tanks and the storage batteries running along the keel of the vessel underneath the steel flooring.
Climbing up on deck again through the conning tower, the boys found themselves out on top of the projection in what Witt explained was the deck steering station whence the Dewey was navigated when cruising on the surface. Down on the deck the boys inspected the smart-looking four-inch guns with which they later were to become better acquainted, and the trim little anti-aircraft guns to be used in case of attack by Zeppelins or aeroplanes.
"Keep your eyes and ears wide open all the time; remember what you are told and you'll soon catch on," Witt told them.
Shortly before noon Lieutenant McClure, commander of the Dewey, a youthful-looking chap who, they learned later, had not been long out of Annapolis, came aboard. It was soon evident that there was something doing, for in a few minutes the propeller blades began to churn the water, and the exhaust of the engines fluttered at the port-holes. The tow lines ashore were cast off and then very gracefully and almost noiselessly the Dewey began slipping away from its dock. The head of the vessel swung around and pointed out the harbor.
"We're off, boy!" exclaimed Jack to his chum. They were, indeed. The boys were standing in front of the conning tower and, because it was their first submarine voyage and they had yet to acquire their sea legs, they kept firm hold on the wire railing that ran the length of the deck on either side of the vessel. Commander McClure and Executive Officer Binns were up on the deck steering station behind a sheath of white canvas directing the movement of the ship.
"This is what I call great!" laughed Ted as the Dewey began to gather speed and moved out into the bay.
Looking seaward the boys beheld the prow of the submarine splitting the water clean as a knife, the spray dashing in great white sheets over the anchor chains. From aft came the steady chug-chug of the engines' exhaust, to be drowned out at intervals as the swell of water surged over the port-holes. They seemed to be afloat on a narrow raft propelled swiftly through the water by some strong and unseen power.
"I say, old boy, this beats drilling out on the campus at Brighton with the school battalion, eh? what?" exclaimed Jack.
Ted was doing a clog dance on the deck. "I'm just as happy as I can be," was his gleeful comment.
Very shortly the lighthouse that stood on the cape's end marking the harbor entrance had been passed and the Dewey was out on the open sea. Before the boys stretched water—-endless water as far as the eye carried—-to the far thin line where sky and water met. They were lost in contemplation of the wonderful view. But their reveries were suddenly disturbed by a sharp command from Executive Officer Binns:
"All hands below—-we are going to submerge!"
The Dewey was going to dive!
Ted and Jack hastened to follow their comrades down the hatchway. A sea-gull flapping by squawked shrilly at them as the boys waited their turn at the ladder. Instinctively they took another look around them before dipping into the hold of the Dewey. They realized that here, indeed, was the real thrill of submarining. The cap was lowered at last and secured, and the crew hastened to their posts amid the artificial light and busy hum of the ship's interior.
Now the Brighton boys were to learn how the Dewey was to be submerged! For one thing they noted that the oil engines used for surface cruising were shut off and the locomotion of the vessel switched over to the electric drive of the storage batteries. But their attention was directed chiefly to Navigating Officer Binns, who had taken up his position before a row of levers and water gauges amidships.
"Pump three hundred pounds into No. 1," was the command given by Binns. One of the levers was thrown over, and immediately could be heard the swirling of water. The boys were unable to grasp the full meaning of what was going on until Bill Witt shuffled up and said: "I'll put you fellows wise to what's going on, if you want me to."
Ted and Jack were glad to know what it was all about and listened attentively to the commands of the navigating officer and the interpretations given by their new-found friend. Bill explained that the process of diving was called "trimming" in submarine cruising, and that the pumping of the water being directed by Binns was done to fill the ballast tanks, thus increasing the displacement of the Dewey and causing it to settle in the water. First one tank was filled, and then another, until the vessel was submerged on an even keel. This was a revelation to the boys, for they had supposed it was only necessary to tilt the ship and dive just like a porpoise.
To their great delight the recruits found that the Dewey, like other submarines built since the beginning of the great world war, was equipped with twin periscopes, and that, furthermore, they would be allowed to watch the submersion of the Dewey through the reserve periscope if they so desired. Would they care to? Well, rather! For the next few minutes they took turn about peering into the mirrors that reflected the whole panorama before their eyes.
Gradually, they could see, the Dewey was settling into the embrace of the sea. Now she was down until the waves rolled completely over the deck and splashed against the conning tower. Down, down they dropped till only the periscope projected above the waves. Before them stretched the wide sweep of water, the ocean rising slowly but surely to overwhelm them. One after another the waves surged by. Now the eye of the periscope was so close to the crest of the water that it was only a matter of another moment until they would be under. Up, up, up came the water to meet them. Ted's heart was in his mouth while he viewed this awesome spectacle. Then he gave way for Jack to take a squint through the tube that carried with it a last look at the world of sunlight they were leaving. And now the eye of the periscope was so near submersion that the swell of the waves swept over it and momentarily blotted out the light. Then the spray dashed madly at the "eye" of the tube—-and they were under!
Down in the depths of the ocean! It was a moment to stir the pulses of the two Brighton recruits. Wide-eyed in wonder, tense with the strain of the experience, they stepped back from the periscope. Through Ted's mind flitted memories of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," and he was suddenly inspired to find out whether it was possible to glimpse any of the wonders depicted by the writer. A peep into the tube showed only a greenish haze as the rays of the sun seemed trying to follow the Dewey into the depths. Against the eye of the periscope streamed a faint flicker of greenish particles in the water that reminded the boy of myriad shooting stars. And then—-nothing but a blur of black!
"What do you know about that?" gasped Ted, turning to his old school pal. The boys were keyed to a high pitch by this time as a result of their first experience in a deep-sea dive. So tense were they with excitement that they marveled at the care-free attitude of the crew. Some of them were humming nonchalantly; others chatting and laughing as though on an excursion on a river steamboat.
"What do you feel like, chum?" began Ted, as the two settled into a conversation over their wonderful exploit.
"Well, I've been up in the tower of the Woolworth Building and down in a coal mine and up in a Ferris wheel and once I had a ride with Uncle Jim in the cab of a locomotive—-but this beats anything I ever had anything to do with!" exclaimed Jack, all in one breath.
Ted was gulping a bit. "I feel as though I had left my heart and stomach up there on top of the ocean," he stammered.
Bill Witt grinned from ear to ear; the remark was reminiscent of other "rookies" and their first experiences at sea.
"You'll probably think you've completely lost some parts of your department of internal affairs before you get rightly acquainted with your new friend Mr. Neptune," offered Bill by way of a gentle reminder.
So far the new members of the Dewey's crew had been unaffected by the terrors of seasickness. Bill's remark drove the import of it home pretty hard. "I hope, if we are going to get it," interjected Ted philosophically, "we get it soon and get over with it."
They had little time to ponder over the possibilities of gastronomic disturbances, for there was much going on that occupied their attention. The Dewey was now running entirely submerged, testing out her electric batteries.
"How do they steer the vessel down here under the sea?" asked Jack.
"By the gyrocompass," answered Bill Witt, pointing to where Executive Officer Binns and Commander McClure stood in the conning tower. "We are running blind down here, except that the skipper knows from his compass which direction we are going, and he has charts that tell him the depth of the sea at this point. They know the longitude and latitude and can easily determine on their maps and charts just where we are."
"How deep down can we go?" inquired Ted.
"Most of the boats have to be tested at a depth of two hundred feet before they are accepted by the government from the builders," replied Bill. "But you can bet your life we don't often go down that far. When we do, the water is oozing through the thin steel hull and dropping in globules from the sides and top of the vessel. From sixty to a hundred feet is our average plunge."
Even at that moment the boys noticed that the Dewey was "sweating" a little bit, the vaulted steel above them, coated with a composition that contained cork, being dotted here and there with drops of water. Jack craned his neck to look at the depth dial and noted the indicator hand was pointing at seventy-two feet.
Mess was served at noon while the Dewey kept on her run. Coffee and biscuits made up the frugal meal this time, the officers and crew being anxious to prove the submersible ready for any emergency call that Uncle Sam might make, and not desiring to spare the men from their posts longer than possible.
All afternoon the Dewey ploughed the waves, sometimes running submerged, other times on the surface. About five o'clock the boys perceived the lighthouse at the bay entrance, and soon they were back in the navy yard. Their letters home that night thrilled with accounts of their first dive under the ocean, and in their dreams the boys were sharing all manner of wonderful exploits against the foe on the boundless sea.
For several weeks the Brighton recruits were kept busily at the business of mastering submarine navigation. In the distribution of the crew throughout the vessel Jack and Ted found themselves assigned under the leadership of Chief Gunner Mowrey. In turn the boys were drilled in the forms for loading and firing torpedoes from the chambers in the bow of the boat, and in manning the four-inch guns above deck, as well as the anti-aircraft guns that poked their noses straight up in the air and sent up shells much after the fashion of Fourth of July skyrockets. The crew had pet names for their guns. The forecastle gun was nicknamed "Roosey" for Colonel Roosevelt, the gun aft was dubbed "Big Bob" in honor of "Fighting Bob" Evans of Spanish-American War fame, while the anti-aircraft guns became "the Twins."
"Hope we get a shot at a zepp some day soon with one of the Twins," sighed Jack one afternoon after the gun crew had finished peppering to pieces a number of kites that had been raised as targets.
"Yes, and I hope we get that shot at the zepp before the zepp gets one at us," replied Ted, as he recalled the stories he had read of the submarines being visible while yet under water to aircraft directly overhead, and thus being a ready target for a sky gunner.
Coming in the next afternoon from a run to shake down the engines, the boys on the Dewey found the navy yard in the vicinity of the submarine fleet moorings in a commotion. Motor trucks were depositing piles of goods near the piers which were being lightered to some units of the submarine fleet in motor launches. Officers were hurrying to and fro between their vessels and the shore and there was a general air of suspense that seemed to indicate early action of some kind.
The Dewey was wigwagged to take up a position near the other undersea craft that were being provisioned and fueled, and very soon supplies were coming aboard.
"Looks like we are going away from here," suggested Ted to his sailor comrade.
"It's a guess I've been making myself," answered Jack.
Their surmises were all too true, for very soon Commander McClure, who had been ashore for some hours now while the businesslike preparations were in progress, came alongside in the launch of the commandant of the yard and called his staff of officers into executive conference down in the officers' quarters. The news spread quickly through the Dewey as though by magic, that the submarine was due to get away during the night under sealed orders. A few minutes later Bill Witt confirmed the news. He was on night watch and had heard it from the officer of the deck.
Under sealed orders! Where and what!
SOMEWHERE IN THE NORTH SEA
The Dewey was off! Shortly after midnight the little craft got under way, with her nose pointed out of the harbor.
"I guess it's 'so long U.S.A.' this time," confided Jack to his chum, as they stood together, aft the conning tower.
"Gee, I'm glad we're off!" answered Ted. "I only hope we are going over there with the rest of the boys."
Although they had yet to learn officially their destination, the Brighton boys, together with other members of the crew of the Dewey, took it for granted they now were on their way to Europe to join the great American fleet and battle with the Imperial German Navy for the mastery of the sea. It had been noised about ever since their enlistment that Uncle Sam's submarine fleet was soon to be sent abroad.
"Going to fight the U-boat snakes with made-in-America snakes!" was the way Bill Witt had sized up, the situation one evening when he and the Brighton recruits had been discussing the likelihood of their getting out on the firing line at an early date.
Jovial Bill Witt had proved such a capital good fellow that Jack and Ted had taken a great liking to him. The three boys were great pals by this time and were always together in their leisure moments. Temperamental Jean Cartier, the smiling little Frenchman who had shipped aboard the Dewey as chief commissary steward, very often joined their circle and spun the boys stories of that dear France and his home near Marseilles.
To-night it was different. There was no levity. Every man seemed to sense the situation and stood to his post of duty grimly conscious of the serious business upon which he had embarked. Through the minds of the lads flitted visions of home and campus.
Jack, dreaming of good old Brighton, was stirred out of his reverie by his chum.
"Do you suppose we will go all the way over under our own power, or will we be towed?" Ted was asking.
"Haven't the least doubt but that we'll stand on our own sea legs," replied Jack. "Don't you remember how we read in the papers early in the war of a bunch of submarines put together in the St. Lawrence River going all the way across to Gibraltar and thence through the Mediterranean to the Dardanelles under their own power?"
Ted did remember, now that it had been called to his mind. It had gripped their imagination at the time; it seemed such a wonderful thing, the fact that submarines small enough to be carried on the decks of huge liners had been able to cross the Atlantic alone and unaided. They had been still further amazed by the feats of the German undersea cargo carrier Deutschland that had made the trip to America and back, and the U-53 that suddenly popped into Newport one summer afternoon.
The night dragged along. Now that they were fairly off, Jack and Ted preferred not to sleep, but rather to keep tabs on the maneuvers of the American fleet. The sea was calm and the Dewey cruised on the surface, with her hatches open. The boys were able to stretch themselves in a promenade on the aft deck and found the night air invigorating as they speculated together on their mission.
They had soon to find out something of the number and character of warships in the fleet of which the Dewey was a unit. As daybreak came stealing up over the horizon they looked about them to discern many other warships all about them. Far to port, strung out in single file about a half mile apart, were three huge liners that they took to be troopships. Deployed around them were destroyers—-four of them—-riding like a protecting body guard. Bobbing about at intervals in the maritime procession were other submarines, their conning towers silhouetted against the dim skyline.
Relieved of duty, Jack and Ted went below and turned in for a two-hour sleep. When they climbed up through the forward hatch again after breakfast it was to find the sun shining bright and the fleet moving majestically eastward.
Chief Gunner's Mate Mike Mowrey confided to them that the Dewey was, indeed, bound for European waters. Lieutenant McClure had opened his sealed orders and learned that he was to report to the Vice-Admiral in the North Sea. Word had been passed around to the ship's officers and they in turn were "tipping off" their men. The Dewey was stripped for action and was to assist the destroyers in defense of the transports in the event of an attack.
The first day out was spent in drills and target practice. Late in the afternoon a huge warship was sighted dead ahead and for a time there was a bit of anxious waiting aboard the Dewey. While it was generally known that the German high seas fleet was bottled up in the Kiel Canal, there was always a chance of running into a stray raider. But very shortly the oncoming vessel broke out a flutter of flags, indicating that she was a French cruiser, and exchanged salutations with the commander of the American fleet.
The men of the Dewey soon learned that the troopships which they were escorting carried a number of regiments of marines and several detachments of U.S. Regulars bound for France. Because the submarines were slower than either the transports or the destroyers, the fleet made slow progress.
They had been at sea over a week and were entering the war zone when, late one afternoon, there came a sharp cry from the lookout in the Dewey's deck steering station.
"Periscope two points off the starboard!"
Instantly an alarm to general quarters was sounded. Jack and Ted, detailed in the same gun crew, had just come on duty at the forward gun. The Dewey's wireless was flashing the news to the rest of the fleet.
The destroyers drew in closer to the troopships and began immediately belching forth dense black clouds of smoke under forced draft that the boys divined instantly as the smoke screens used so effectively as a curtain to blind the eyes of the U-boats.
Turning her nose outward from the hidden transports the Dewey drew away in a wide sweeping circle to starboard.
"All hands below!" came the order. Immediately the deck guns were made fast and the crew scrambled down through the hatches. In a few minutes, driving ahead at full speed, the Dewey was submerged until only her periscopes showed.
All at once the crew heard a shout from the conning tower.
"There she is!" yelled Lieutenant McClure, as he stood with his eyes glued to the periscope glass.
"U-boat driving straight ahead at the smoke curtain. Port the helm!" he commanded.
The Dewey came around sharp and, in response to the guidance of her commander, began to ascend.
Having executed a flank movement, the Dewey now was endeavoring to engineer a surprise attack on the German submarine from the rear. To all intents, the German commander had not yet noted the approaching American submersible. He was going after the transports full tilt, hoping to bore through the destroyers' smoke curtain and torpedo one of the Yankee fleet.
Quickly the Dewey dived up out of the water, the hatches were thrown open and the gun crews swarmed on deck, carrying shells for their guns. Jack and Ted followed Mike Mowrey on deck and dropped into position behind "Roosey." Gazing ahead they could make out the German periscope and its foamy trail.
"Fire on that periscope," ordered Lieutenant McClure.
The U-boat was not more than nine hundred yards away, according to the Dewey's range-finder, and apparently yet unconscious of the proximity of the American submarine. In a moment the gun was loaded and ready for firing.
"Bang!" she spoke, and then every eye followed the shot. Commander McClure had jumped up on the conning tower and was hugging the periscope pole. There was a moment's silence before he spoke.
"A little short, boys," he called. "Elevate just a little more—-you've nearly got the range."
Again the gun crew leaped into action.
"Hurry, boys! he sees us now and is beginning to submerge!" yelled the young lieutenant as he followed the U-boat through his glasses.
Again "Roosey" spoke, and this time with an emphatic "crack" that boded ill for any luckless human who might get within the line of its screaming shell fire.
"O-o-o-oh, great!" cried Lieutenant McClure an instant later as he peered more intently through his glasses.
Of a sudden the periscope disappeared from the crest of the sea as though wiped out completely by the explosion of the Dewey's shell.
"No doubt of it, boys; you ripped off that periscope," announced McClure, with an air of finality.
At their commander's words the gun crew burst into cheers. The submersible's wireless was singing out a message of good cheer to the American fleet. It was only too evident that the enemy U-boat had been crippled and put completely to rout by the daring maneuvers and deadly gunfire of the Dewey.
"Who said the Yanks couldn't stop their pesky undersea wasps?" chattered Bill Witt joyously. "If they just let us loose long enough we'll show 'em how to kill poison with poison."
Mike Mowrey was in great glee.
"Just like a grasshopper begging for mercy on a bass hook," he said jauntily, imitating with a crook of his finger the disappearing periscope.
Soon the fleet was off Cape Clear on the southernmost point of the Irish coast and very shortly headed well into the English Channel. Now every few hours the American warships were speaking one or other of the English and French patrol ships. Great was the joy of the boys aboard the Dewey when first they beheld an American destroyer out on the firing line.
"Union Jack and French tricolor look pretty good; but none of them makes a fellow's blood tingle like the Stars and Stripes; eh, chum?" queried Jack, as he surveyed an American destroyer dashing along in fine fettle. And Ted heartily agreed.
Off Falmouth, the transports, accompanied by three of the American destroyers and two English "limeys "—-as the British destroyers are known in the slang of the sea—-slipped off silently into the twilight. The American infantry and marines were to be landed "somewhere in France." Jack and Ted viewed the departure with mingled pride and regret.
"Reckon they will be in the trenches before long," ventured Ted.
"Frisking bean balls at the Fritzes," snapped Bill Witt with a chuckle as he joined his mates.
And now the submarine fleet continued on its way into the North Sea. An American destroyer, two English "limeys" and a French vessel of the same type were to escort the Yankee subs the rest of the way. By morning the Dewey had slipped through the Strait of Dover and emerged at last into the North Sea—-the field of her future activities!
There, in due time, the subs reported to the American admiral. Without any delay they were detailed for duty in the vast arena stretching down the Strait of Dover northward to the Norwegian coast—-from Wilhelmshaven to the east coast of England and Scotland.
Provisioned and refueled after an inspection and test of her engines, the Dewey lost no time in getting out on the firing line. London papers, brought on board while the Yankee submersible rested in the English naval station at Chatham, told of a daring raid by German light cruisers on the east coast of England only the night before. Eluding the allied patrol ships, the raiders had slipped through the entente lines and bombarded a number of coast towns, escaping finally in a running fight with English cruisers.
"That was before we got over here," said Bill Witt with a show of irony as he read the meager dispatch in the London Times. "Wait till we Yanks meet up with the Huns!"
An opportunity came shortly. One night, little more than a week after the Dewey had put out into the North Sea, she ran plumb into a huge warship. The little submarine had taken a position about twenty miles directly west of the great German stronghold at Heligoland in a lane likely to be traveled by any outcoming warships.
Executive Officer Cleary, alone in the conning tower, had suddenly been apprised of the approach of the vessel by a message from the wireless room. The Dewey was floating in twenty feet of water with only her periscopes, protruding above the surface. Hardly had he gazed into the glass before he made out dimly the outlines of the approaching vessel.
At once the crew was sounded to quarters.
"German raider!" the muffled cry ran through the ship.
THE GERMAN RAIDERS
As the Dewey settled into the water. Lieutenant McClure and his executive officer peered intently though the periscopes, hoping to catch sight of the unknown craft and speculating on her nationality. The sky was flecked with clouds and there was no convenient moon to aid the submarine sentinel—-an ideal night for a raid! "Little Mack," as the crew had affectionately named their commander, was in a quandary as to whether the approaching vessel was friend or foe.
"We'll lie right here and watch him awhile," he told his executive officer. "Pretty soon he'll be close enough for us to get a line on his silhouette."
It had been an interesting revelation to the Brighton boys soon after their entry into the navy to learn that each ship was equipped with a silhouette book. By means of this it was possible to tell the vessels of one nation from another by the size and formation of their hulls, their smokestacks and general outline. Each officer had to be thoroughly well informed on the contents of the book.
Quietly, stealthily the hidden submarine awaited the approach of her adversary, for it seemed only too certain that the ship that had suddenly come dashing up out of the east was out of Cuxhaven or Wilhelmshaven, and had but a short time before passed under the mighty German guns on Heligoland.
Chief Gunner Mowrey and his crew in the torpedo chamber forward were signaled to "stand by the guns ready for action," which meant in this case the huge firing tubes and the Whitehead torpedoes. Jack and Ted fell into their places, stripped to the waist, and making sure that the reserve torpedoes were ready for any emergency.
By adjusting the headpiece of the ship's microphone to his ears Chief Electrician Sammy Smith kept close tabs on the approaching vessel with the underwater telephone. With the receivers to his hears he could hear plainly the swish of the vessel's propeller blades as she bore down upon the floating submarine. With his reports as a basis for their deductions, the Dewey's officers were able to figure out the position of the mystery ship and to tell accurately the distance between the two vessels.
"Reckon he'll be dead off our bow in a minute or so," observed Cleary as he completed another observation based on Smith's latest report.
McClure sprang again to the periscope.
"Yes, we ought to get a line on him soon enough now," was his rejoinder.
For a moment the two officers studied the haze of the night sea around them, unable yet to discern the form of the approaching vessel. And then came a huge specter, looming up directly off the starboard quarter of the Dewey in the proportions of a massive warship.
"Looks like a German cruiser," said the American lieutenant as he gripped the brass wheel of the periscope and gave himself intently to the task of divining the identity of the unknown ship.
Cleary was making observations at the reserve periscope, the two officers having plunged the conning tower of the Dewey in utter darkness that they might better observe the shadowy hulk bearing down upon them.
"It is a German cruiser—-Plauen class—-and coming up in a hurry at better than twenty knots," exclaimed McClure, as the outline of the ship was implanted clean-cut against the horizon dead ahead of the Dewey.
His hand on the firing valve, the submarine commander waited only until the bow of the German warship showed on the range glass of the periscope, and then released a torpedo.
Instantly a great volume of compressed air swirled into the upper port chamber; the bowcap was opened and the missile sped on its way.
"Gee, I hope that 'moldy' lands her!" shouted Jack at the sound of the discharged torpedo.
Although but a short time in the North Sea and just getting well acquainted with their English cousins, the American lads were fast learning the lingo of the deep. To every man aboard the Dewey a torpedo was a "moldy," so named by the English seamen.
As the torpedo crew sprang to reload the emptied chamber the Dewey's diving rudders were turned, ballast was shipped and she started to dive. The plunge came none too soon. A lookout on the German cruiser, eagle-eyed about his daring venture, had noted the approaching torpedo and sounded an alarm. At the same moment the ship's rudder was thrown over and she swung to starboard, paralleling the position of the Dewey. And just as she came around one of her big searchlights aft flashed into life and shot its bright rays over the water. For a moment or two a finger of ghostly white shifted aimlessly to and fro over the surf ace of the sea and then centered full upon the disappearing periscope of the Dewey! Instantly came the boom of the ship's guns as they belched a salvo at the tormenting submarine.
"Missed him by inches," growled McClure after waiting long enough to be convinced that the torpedo had sped wide of the mark.
"And he is firing with all his aft guns," added Cleary as he observed further the flashes of fire from the turrets of the German cruiser.
McClure signaled for the Dewey to be submerged with all speed.
"He'll never get us," he announced a few seconds later as the submarine dived down out of sight.
Jack and Ted, with the rest of their crew, had by this time shunted another Whitehead into position, adjusted the mechanism and were standing by awaiting developments.
"Just our luck to slip a moldy to the blooming Boche and draw a blank," grumbled Mike Mowrey, who was mad as a hornet over the "miss."
Ted was inclined to be a bit pessimistic, too; but Jack was sure the Dewey would make good on her next try. Bill Witt started to sing: "We'll hang Kaiser Bill to a sour apple tree," but got little response. The torpedo crew were glum over their failure to bag the German raiding cruiser and in no mood for singing.
"Cheer up, boys; better luck next time," called out Navigating Officer Binns as he peered into the torpedo compartment.
All at once the boys were startled by a cry from Sammy Smith, who had suddenly leaped to his feet and stood swaying in the wireless room with both microphone receivers tightly pressed to his ears. Above the clatter of the Dewey's engines the gunners forward could hear the electrician talking excitedly to Lieutenant McClure.
"Listen, listen, other ships are coming up," Smith was shouting. "I can hear their propellers. That's the fellow we missed moving off there on our port quarter. You can hear at least two more here in the starboard microphone. We seem to have landed plumb in the nest of a German raiding party," rattled off the electrician glibly as he passed the receivers to his commander for a verification of his report.
McClure snatched the apparatus and clamped it to his ears. For a moment he listened to the mechanical whirr of churning propellers, borne into his senses through the submarine telephone.
"Great!" he exclaimed. "Some more of the Kaiser's vaunted navy trying to sneak away from their home base for a bit of trickery."
As he rang the engine room to shut off power, the American commander added, with flashing eyes:
"If we don't bring down one of these prowlers before this night is over I'll go back home and ship as deckhand on a Jersey City ferry-boat."
Suspended fifty feet below the surface of the sea, the Dewey floated like a cork in a huge basin while her officers took further observations on the movements of the German warships above them. Now that their presence was known the American officers realized they would be accorded a stiff reception when they next went "up top.".
"I'm going to try it," announced McClure shortly. "We'll take a chance and pay our respects to one of their tubs."
The Dewey forthwith began to rise. At the direction of the navigating officer two hundred pounds of ballast were expelled. Tilting fore and aft like a rocking horse, the submersible responded gradually to the lightening process until at last the depth dial showed only a margin of several feet needed to lift the eyes of the periscopes above the waves. The little steel-encased clock in the conning tower showed ten minutes past one—-just about the right time for a night raiding party to be getting under way.
"Guess we'll lie here and wait for them to come along," whispered McClure to Cleary as the periscopes popped up out of the depths into the night gloom.
"We seem to be right in their path and may be able to get one of them as he shoots across our bow," added Cleary as he took another telephone report from the wireless room.
According to Sammy Smith's observations there were two vessels coming up to starboard, while the third, the one the Dewey had missed, was dim in the port microphone and almost out of range. Engines shut off, the submarine lay entirely concealed, awaiting the coming of her prey. It was McClure's idea to lie perfectly still in the water until one of the enemy warships swung right into the range glass of the Dewey and then give it a stab of steel—-a sting in the dark from a hidden serpent!
The waiting moments seemed like hours. Gradually, however, the leader of the silent ships drew nearer. There was no mistaking the telltale reports in the wireless room. Basing his calculations on the chief electrician's reports, McClure figured the leader of the oncoming squadron to be now not more than half a mile away and moving steadily forward toward the desired range—-a dead line on the bow of the Dewey.
Executive Officer Cleary at the reserve periscope was first to detect the mass of steel looming up out of the darkness. Lieutenant McClure swung his periscope several degrees to starboard and drew a bead on the German warship an instant later.
"We'll drop this chap just as he shoots across our bow," declared the Dewey's commander.
Five hundred yards away came the speeding warship. It was close enough now for the American officers to make out her outlines in detail and to satisfy themselves that this was another member of the raiding party out of the great German naval base in back of Heligoland.
"All right, here goes," shouted the doughty Yankee skipper a moment later as the German cruiser drew up until her bow edged into the circle that McClure had marked off on the periscope as the exact spot on which to aim his fire.
Swish! went the torpedo as it shot from the bow of the Dewey and straightened out in the water on its foamy trail, cutting through the sea like a huge swordfish.
It took only a moment—-an interval of time during which the torpedo from the American submarine and the German cruiser seemed irresistibly drawn toward each other. And then came the crash—-the impact of the torpedo's war-nose against the steel side of the cruiser, the detonation of the powerful explosive, the rending of the German hull.
And then, loud enough for his crew forward to hear his words, McClure called out:
"A perfect hit, boys; torpedo landed plumb in the engine room of a big German cruiser."
A great cheer resounded through the hull of the American undersea craft as the good news was borne to the torpedo crew forward and to the engine room aft.
Keeping his eyes to the periscope, McClure beheld the most spectacular picture that had yet been glimpsed through the eye of the American submarine. The torpedo had struck squarely abaft the ship's magazine and wrecked her completely. The night was painted a lurid glow as a titanic explosion shook the sea and a mass of yellow flame completely enveloped the doomed warship from stem to stern.
"Look, she is going down by the stern," called out Officer Cleary as he took one last squint at the Dewey's quarry just before the stricken warship slipped away into the depths.
The jubilation of the crew knew no bounds. The men were wild with joy over their success. Jack and Chief Gunner Mowrey were "mitting" each other like a prize fighter and his manager after a big fight, while Ted and Bill Witt were clawing each other like a pair of wild men.
Through the main periscope Commander McClure was noting the death struggle of the German cruiser, when Executive Officer Cleary, swinging the reserve periscope around to scan the horizon aft the Dewey, suddenly called out sharply:
"Submerge, quick! Right here abaft our conning tower to starboard comes a destroyer. She is aimed directly at us and almost on top of us. Hurry, or we are going to be run down!"
RAMMED BY A DESTROYER
It was a critical moment aboard the American submarine. Out of the darkness the destroyer—-speed king of the modern navies—-had emerged just at the moment the Dewey was sending home the shot that laid low the German cruiser.
Dashing along at a speed better than thirty knots an hour, the greyhound of the Teutonic fleet was bearing down hard upon the Yankee. Evidently the lookout on the destroyer had marked the path of the Dewey's torpedo in the dim gray of the night sea, and with his skipper had sent his craft charging full tilt at the American "wasp."
"If they get to us before we submerge we are done for," gasped Lieutenant McClure, as he bellowed orders to Navigating Officer Binns to lower away as fast as the submerging apparatus would permit. Then the quick-witted commander rang the engine room full speed ahead at the same time he threw the helm hard to port in an effort to bring his craft around parallel with the charging destroyer and thus make a smaller target.
Down, down, down sank the Dewey as her valves were opened and the sea surged into the ballast tanks. The periscopes had been well out of water when the destroyer had first been sighted. It was now a race between two cool and cunning naval officers—-the German to hurl his vessel full upon the American submarine and deal it a death blow; the American skipper to outwit and outmaneuver his antagonist by putting the Dewey down where she would be safe from the steel nose of the destroyer.
Although no word was spoken to the crew, they could sense the situation by the sharp commands emanating from the conning tower and the celerity with which the navigating officer and his assistant were working the ballast pumps.
Great beads of perspiration stood out on the forehead of Officer Binns as he stood over the array of levers and gave directions, first to ship ballast in one tank, and then in another, shifting the added weight evenly so as not to disturb the equilibrium of the Dewey and cause her to go hurtling to the bottom, top heavy in either bow or stern.
Nearly two minutes were necessary to get the little undersea craft down far enough to evade the prow of the oncoming destroyer, and even then the conning tower furnished a target that might be crushed by the nose of the enemy ship and precipitate an avalanche of water into the hold—-with disaster for the men assembled at their posts of duty.
"They are right on top of us now," screamed Sammy Smith as he hugged the microphone receivers to his ears.
If the destroyer was going to get the submarine, now was the fatal moment!
The Dewey suddenly lunged like a great tiger leaping from the limb of a tree upon its prey. Responding to a signal from his commander, Chief Engineer Blaine had suddenly shot into the submarine's engines the full power of the electric storage batteries and hurled the Dewey forward with a great burst of speed. There was a slim chance that the swift-moving German warship might be sidestepped by a quick maneuver, and the crafty McClure was leaving no deep-sea trick unturned.
"Nice place for the Fritzes to swing overboard one of those infernal depth bombs," muttered Bill Witt.
A depth bomb! Jack and Ted knew all about the latest device being employed by the warring nations in their campaigns against submarines. Gigantic grenades, they were, carrying deadly and powerful explosives timed to go off at any desired depth. One of them dropped from the deck of the destroyer as it passed over the spot where the Dewey had submerged might blow the diminutive ship to atoms.
With reckless abandon big bluff Bill Witt began to sing:
"It's a long way to Tipperary, It's a long way to go. It's a long way—-"
The song was interrupted by a harsh grating sound—-the crashing of steel against steel—-and then the Dewey shuddered from stem to stern as though it had run suddenly against a stone wall.
Hurled from his feet by the fearful impact Jack sprawled on the steel floor of the torpedo room. Ted, standing close by his chum, clutched at one of the reserve torpedoes hanging in the rack in time to prevent himself falling.
For a moment the Dewey appeared to be going down by the stern, with her bow inclined upward at an angle of forty-five degrees. Above all the din and confusion could be heard the roar of a terrific explosion outside. The little submersible was caught in the convulsion of the sea until it seemed her seams would be rent and her crew engulfed.
From the engine room Chief Engineer Blaine and his men retreated amidships declaring that the submarine had been dealt a powerful blow directly aft the conning tower on her starboard beam.
"Any plates leaking?" asked Lieutenant McClure quietly.
"Not that we can notice, sir," replied Blame. "It appears as though the nose of that Prussian scraped along our deck line abaft the conning tower."
At any moment the steel plates were likely to cave in under the strain and the submarine be inundated.
"Stand by ready for the emergency valve!" shouted Lieutenant McClure.
This was the ship's safety contrivance. The Brighton boys had been wonderfully impressed with it shortly after their first introduction to the "innards" of a submarine.
The safety valve could be set for any desired depth; when the vessel dropped to that depth the ballast tanks were automatically opened and every ounce of water expelled. As a result the submarine would shoot to the surface. The older "submarine salts" called the safety the "tripper."
"If they've punctured us we might as well cut loose and take our chances on the surface," declared Lieutenant McClure to the little group of officers standing with him amidships in the control chamber.
Not a man dissented. They were content to abide by the word of their chieftain. It was some relief to know that the nose of the destroyer had not crashed through the skin of the submarine; but, from the concussion astern and Chief Engineer Blaine's report, it was very evident that the Dewey had been struck a glancing blow. Deep-sea pressure against a weakened plate could have but one inevitable sequel—-the rending of the ship's hull.
"They have gone completely over us," came the announcement from the wireless room.
Hardly had the electrician concluded the report before the Dewey was rocked by another submarine detonation—-the explosion of a second depth bomb. This time it was farther from the hiding vessel; however, the ship was shaken until every electric light blinked in its socket.
"I hope they soon get done with their Fourth of July celebration," remarked Bill Witt by way of a bit of subsea repartee.
"That's the way they blow holes in their schweitzer cheese," ventured Mike Mowrey with a chuckle.
It was decided to submerge a little deeper and then leisurely inspect the interior hull aft. An observation with the microphones disclosed the fact that the destroyer was moving out into the North Sea.
"Guess they think they got us that time," suggested Lieutenant McClure to his executive officer.
"Was rather a close call, come to think of it," smiled Cleary.
The latter went aft with Chief Engineer Blaine for the hull inspection and returned in a few moments to say that, so far as could be observed from the interior, she had not been dealt a severe blow. The executive officer ventured the opinion that the keel of the destroyer had brushed along the aft deck, thus accounting for the fact that the submarine had suddenly been tilted downward at the stern.
"We'll not dare submerge too deep," said Lieutenant McClure. "Pressure against our hull increases, you know, at the rate of four and a quarter pounds to the square inch for every ten feet we submerge. It may be our plates were weakened by that collision. We'll go down to one hundred feet and lie there until these ships get out of the way."
The depth dial showed eighty feet. More water, accordingly, was shipped and the Dewey slipped away to the desired depth, when the intake of ballast ceased and the tiny vessel floated alone in the sea. Determined to take no more chances with the Kaiser's navy until he had ascertained the true condition of his own vessel, Lieutenant McClure decided to lie-to here in safety.
When the raiders had departed he would ascend and make a more detailed external inspection of the hull.
It was half-past two. Jean Cartier superintended the distribution of hot coffee and light "chow" and the crew made themselves comfortable in their submarine home.
Half an hour later, when it had been determined by the telephones that the German ships had moved on westward, the Dewey began again to ascend the depths.
Early dawn was streaking the sky with tints of orange gray when at last the submarine poked its periscopes above the waves. Not a ship was in sight; there was not a trace of the battle cruiser that the Dewey had sent to her doom during the earlier hours of the night.
"Didn't have a chance, did they?" Ted said to his churn in contemplation of the fate of the German warship.
Jack felt different about it.
"Sure they had a chance," he answered.
"They would have gotten us if we hadn't landed them first."
"Do the other fellow as you know he would do you," Jack philosophized.
As the Dewey emerged again on the surface with her deck and super-structure exposed, the ship's wireless aerials were run up and she prepared to get in touch with the United States fleet. Jack crept into the wireless room that he might better understand what was going on. Lately he had been learning the wireless code and familiarizing himself with the operation of the radio under the kindly instruction of Sammy Smith.
"You never know when knowledge of these things is going to stand you in good stead," remarked Jack when he had applied to Sammy for "a bit in electricity."
Once more the hatches were opened and the crew swarmed out to stretch their limbs and get a breath of fresh air again. Lieutenant McClure hastened to examine the deck of the Dewey to ascertain whether any damage had been done in the collision with the destroyer.
Yes, there was a slight dent—-a broad scar—-running obliquely across the deck plates just aft the conning tower within a few inches of the engine room hatch. The damage, however, appeared to be slight.
"Narrow escape," the lieutenant pondered.
"Zip! zip!" the wireless was sputtering as Sammy Smith flung a code message into space in quest of other members of the allied navies. Several times he shot out the call and then closed his key to await a reply.
Finally it came—-a radio from an American warship far out of sight over the horizon.
"Take this radio to Lieutenant McClure," said Sammy, as he typed it with the wireless receiver still to his ears, and wheeled to hand it to Jack. The latter took the flimsy sheet and bounded up the aft hatch to where his commander stood examining the hull.
"American and English cruisers and destroyers in running fight with German raiding squadron. Give us your position. U.S.S. Salem," the message ran.
At once the Dewey's latitude and longitude were rattled off to the Salem. In reply came another radio from the scout cruiser, giving the position of the raiding fleet and the pursuers, with this direction:
"Close in from your position. German fleet in full retreat headed E.N.E. across North Sea. You may be able to intercept them!"
IN A MINE FIELD
Without any further ado the Dewey got under way. While the inspection of the hull had been going on the submarine's batteries had been recharged and she was ready again for further diving upon a moment's notice. Lieutenant McClure climbed into the deck steering station—-the bridge of a submarine—-and assumed charge of the electric rudder control, the wheel of a submersible.
Jack and Ted were ordered onto the bridge with their commander and instructed to keep a sharp lookout on the horizon with powerful glasses. The wireless was snapping away exchanging messages with the allied fleet and getting a line on the pursued raiders. The cool fresh air felt invigorating after the night's cramped vigil in the fetid air of the submarine.
When mess call sounded, Jack and Ted, relieved from duty, went below to get some "chow" and snatch an hour or two of rest.
A radiogram was handed Lieutenant McClure while at breakfast giving the position of the U.S.S. Chicago. A little later H.M.S. Congo, a "limey," was spoken. Soon the sub was hearing the chatter of half a dozen American and English warships.
Hastening back to the conning tower, Lieutenant McClure conferred for a few moments with his executive officer and as a result of their calculations the course of the Dewey was altered. Headed due north, it was the aim of the submarine officers to intercept the retreating column of German raiders whom they knew now to be in full retreat, hotly pursued by the allied squadron.
Not half an hour had elapsed when the lookout reported a blur on the horizon that, despite the mist of early morning, was easily discernible as the smoke of several vessels under forced draft. Very soon the head of the column loomed over the horizon—-a German cruiser in the lead—-followed closely by a destroyer that was belching forth dense black smoke from its funnels.
"They are making for home under a smoke screen from their destroyers, and I'll bet some of our ships are not very far away either," was Lieutenant McClure's observation as he stood surveying the field of action through his glass.
"Yes, and that destroyer there is probably the chap who nearly ran us down last night," added Executive Officer Cleary.
Lieutenant McClure nodded assent and then turned toward Jack, who had been watching the approaching Germans from a position on deck just aft the conning tower.
The Dewey's commander motioned the young seaman to climb into the steering station.
"I want you to stand right by and act as my aide," said McClure. "That goes, not only now, but until further orders. You and Mr. Wainwright will relieve each other as my aides. Go below and tell Chief Engineer Blaine we are about to close in on the Huns and want all the speed possible during the next hour or so."
Jack saluted and lowered away into the conning tower hatch. As he climbed down into the hull he heard the sound of heavy cannonading across the water. It was certain now that a running fight was in progress and that behind the veil of the black German destroyer smoke were allied warships.
The retreating column was well off the port bow and racing eastward toward the shelter of the big guns at Heligoland. Coming up out of the south the American submarine had run at right angles into the line of the Hun retreat. The Dewey held a strategic position. She viewed the approaching squadron as though looking down the hypotenuse of the angle. The Germans were speeding along the base. The Dewey had but to slip down the perpendicular to intercept the panicky Prussians.
And that was just what Lieutenant McClure proposed doing. All hands were ordered below and the hatches sealed. Running on the surface, the oil engines were put to their best endeavor and the Dewey cleft the whitecaps at her best speed.
"Go forward, Mr. Hammond, and inquire of Chief Gunner Mowrey how many torpedoes we have aboard," ordered Lieutenant McClure.
Jack hurried away and returned in a few minutes to report that all four tubes were loaded and two auxiliary Whiteheads in the racks. The Dewey's torpedo range was two miles, but her commander preferred to be within less than six hundred yards for a sure shot.
McClure could now see the leader of the German squadron—-a powerful battle cruiser—-crowding on all speed. His guns astern, powerful fourteen-inch pieces in twin turrets, were in action, firing huge salvos at his pursuers. The destroyer rode far to starboard of the cruiser, emitting a steady stream of smoke designed to blind the eyes of the pursuers.
Jockeying into position after another twenty minutes' run, the Dewey's commander decided to let loose with a torpedo. The cruiser had pulled up now until it was nearly dead ahead of the American submersible. The destroyer was dancing along several hundreds yards in the rear of the cruiser.
So intent were the Germans on keeping away from the pursuing warships that they had not noticed the sly little submarine that had slipped up out of the south!
Jack had now an opportunity to witness the actual firing of a torpedo at an enemy vessel at close range. Directly in front of the Dewey's commander, just above the electric rudder button, glowed four little light bulbs in bright red—-one for each of the torpedo tubes in the bow bulkhead. When they were lighted thus it indicated that every chamber was loaded. As soon as a torpedo was discharged the bulb corresponding with the empty tube faded out. Lieutenant McClure had but to touch the electric contact under each bulb to send one of the death-dealing torpedoes on its way. This Jack was to see in a moment.
Crouching with his eyes to the periscope until the racing German cruiser drew up to the desired fret on the measured glass McClure clutched the lower port toggle and released a torpedo. Again the jarring motion that indicated the discharge of the missile and the swirl of the compressed air forward. Through the eye of the forward periscope the commander of the Dewey followed the course of the torpedo as it skimmed away from his bow.
"There she goes!" exclaimed Executive Officer Cleary as the mirror reflected the frothing wake of the giant Whitehead.
For a moment or so there was a breathless silence in the conning tower of the Yankee sub as the two officers followed their shot. Only for a moment however, for Commander McClure, knowing full well the German destroyer would sight the speeding torpedo and immediately turn its fire on the Yankee's periscopes, gave orders to submerge. But as the Dewey lowered away he gazed ahead once more. The spectacle that greeted him made the blood leap fast in his veins.
"It's a hit!" he yelled in sheer delight.
So it proved. Officer Cleary, still straining at the reserve periscope, beheld the same picture. The torpedo had shot across the bow of the destroyer and leaped forward to finally bury its steel nose in the great gray side of the cruiser.
"Almost directly amidships," called out "Little Mack."
And then, as the Dewey plunged beneath the waves, Lieutenant McClure explained eagerly how he had beheld the explosion of the torpedo just aft the main forward battery turret directly on the line of the forward smoke funnel.
"Giving them a dose of their own medicine," ejaculated Cleary as his commander turned laughingly from the periscope.
"This will settle a few scores for the Lusitania, to say nothing of the many more ships with defenseless men and women that have been sunk since the beginning of the war," added McClure seriously. Then turning to Jack Hammond he added: "I guess you are the good-luck chap. We got both those Boche boats since I called you into the turret as my aide. Don't forget, you are to stay right here permanently."
Jack saluted mechanically, but his heart beat high and he could scarce repress an exclamation of delight.
At a depth of sixty feet the Dewey's engines were slowed down and she floated gracefully out of range of the German destroyer. After traveling ahead for half a mile the submersible was stopped again and began slowly to ascend.
As the eye of the periscope projected again out of the sea Lieutenant McClure hastened to get a glimpse of his surroundings.
There, off the port bow, lay the crippled German cruiser—-the same vessel that had been hit by the Dewey's torpedo. She was listing badly from the effect of the American submarine's unexpected sting and had turned far over on her side. A British destroyer was standing by rescuing members of the Teuton crew as they flung themselves into the water from their overturning craft.
Far off the Dewey's starboard bow could be seen a moving column of warships—-the remnants of the German raiding fleet in the van, followed by the English and American patrol vessels.
"Useless for us to follow them," declared McClure, as he took in the situation. "Might as well stand by this stricken Hun cruiser and pick up some of her floating crew."
"There's a lot of them in the water," said Cleary, as he swung the other periscope to scan the open sea well to the sinking cruiser's stern.
In a few minutes the Dewey ascended and made herself known to the British "limey." Over the decks of the latter clambered several score German seamen who had been fished from a watery grave.
A stiff wind had come up out of the southeast and was kicking the sea into rollers with whitecaps. However, the men of the Dewey, armed with life preservers, steadied themselves on the turtle-back deck of their craft, and started the hunt for swimming Germans.
Ted had joined Jack forward, carrying a coil of rope, and they were scanning the sea, when their attention was diverted by the gesticulations of Bill Witt standing well forward. He was pointing off to port.
"Look—-a floating mine!" he shouted. Almost at the same moment Jack spied another mine closer up off the starboard quarter.
In a mine field! The retreating German warships had strewn the sea with the deadly implements of naval warfare, and the Dewey had come up almost on top of a number of the unanchored explosives!
"If one of them pill boxes bumps us on the water line it's all day with your Uncle Sam's U-boat Dewey," vouchsafed Bill Witt as he stood surveying the mine field into which they had stumbled.
In response to the warning from the lookout forward, Lieutenant McClure had stopped the submarine and was taking account of the dangers that beset his ship. The sea was running high and it was hard to discern the mines except when they were carried up on the swell of the waves.
Swept along thus with the rise and fall of water, one of the floating missiles seemed now bearing down upon the Dewey's port bow. Lieutenant McClure saw it just as a huge wave picked up the whirling bomb and carried it closer up toward the submarine.
"All hands below; ready to submerge!" he called out sharply, at the same time directing Executive Officer Cleary to get the Dewey under way.
"Stay here with me a moment," continued McClure, addressing Jack. They were standing alone on the forward deck.
Another wave brought the mine dangerously close.
"You armed?" called out Lieutenant McClure.
"Yes, sir," replied Jack, as he drew his heavy navy automatic.
"Shoot at that mine, boy," commanded the officer. At the same time the young lieutenant drew his own weapon and began blazing away. He hoped thus to explode the deadly thing before it was hurled against the Dewey.
Jack followed suit. The target, however, was so buffeted about by the waves that it was next to impossible to sight on it. The only thing to do was to fire at random, hoping against hope that a lucky shot would result in the detonation of the mine.
"It's no use," shouted McClure above the crack of the firearms and the roar of the sea.
Their shots were rattling harmlessly off the metallic sides of the mine.
By now Cleary had swung the Dewey around until she was pointed almost directly at the nearest mine, it being slightly off the port quarter. The engines had been reversed and started, and the submarine was drawing away.
"We ought to clear this one and then be able to dive and get out of here," said McClure.
But as he spoke a huge wave lifted the mine again and flung it full in the path of the submarine. As though drawn by some mysterious magnet the floating explosive seemed following the Dewey at every turn—-an unrelenting nemesis bent on the destruction of the American vessel.
"Quick, Jack; grab that wireless upright forward!" commanded the young lieutenant.
With alacrity Jack flung himself upon the steel aerial and wrenched it loose. It was a long tubing very much like an ordinary length of gas pipe set up usually forward as one of the wireless supports, and folding down into the deck plates when the Dewey was stripped for undersea navigation.
"I am going to take a chance on exploding that one mine that seems to be our hoodoo," shouted Lieutenant McClure.
Jack waited anxiously to see just what his lieutenant was doing. Taking the wireless upright in hand after the manner of a track athlete throwing the javelin, the young commander drew it well back and then launched it full upon the mine floating not more than fifteen or twenty feet from the Dewey.
"Hit it!" exclaimed McClure as the improvised battering ram left his strong right arm.
It did, and with the desired result. The impact of the long steel tubing directly upon the shell of the mine was sufficient to explode the deadly thing. A terrific detonation rent the air and immediately a column of water was hurled high, towering over the Dewey like a geyser, and then engulfing the little submarine. Jack and his commander were swept off their feet in the deluge. As though some unseen hand had suddenly clutched them with a grip of steel the pair were flung from the deck of their craft into the seething foam.
It seemed an endless eternity to Jack as he was carried down into the depths. The roar of a million cataracts throbbed in his brain and before his mind flashed the panorama of his life. Home—-Winchester—-Brighton—-all the old chums and the "profs!"
Death seemed so near to the youth as ho felt his strength giving way. His senses reeled. In his ears pealed the medley of a thousand bells. In this horrible abyss he knew he could not long survive.
Then, just when it seemed life was gone, his head shot up out of the water and he found himself swimming free and breathing normally again. Above, the same old blue sky. Turning over on his back and paddling thus until he floated, the boy remembered gain the submersible and the fearful mine explosion that had cast him into the sea.
He looked for the Dewey and in a moment beheld it still riding the waves. Yes, the old sub had survived the mine explosion, or at least, was still afloat, if damaged.
But what about Lieutenant McClure? Now Jack recalled his gallant commander and how he, too, had been cast from the deck in the deluge. Was "Little Mack" still alive?
The Dewey was slowly picking her way among the other mines. Jack shouted to her, but getting no response he started to swim with vigorous strokes. He had gone but a few yards when an object appeared on the crest of the water directly in front of him. It took only a glance to convince him that it was the form of Lieutenant McClure. With a supreme effort Jack drove himself forward with mighty strokes toward the inert form of his commander.
Glancing up for a moment, what was the delight of the youth battling with death to see the Dewey bearing down upon him!
Some one had seen him and they were coming to his rescue.
The sight renewed his strength. After what seemed a long while Jack was able to clutch the collar of his chief officer. "Little Mack" was unconscious.
By degrees Jack succeeded in turning over the limp form until it floated face upward. Locking his left arm securely around the neck of the apparently lifeless officer so that the face was held above the surface of the water, and using his strong right arm and legs, Jack began swimming as best he could in the general direction of the submarine that he knew to be not far away.
The weight of the lieutenant's body dragged heavily upon his left arm. His strength was ebbing away fast. His arm became numb and his senses chaotic.
Instinctively the lad closed his eyes. It seemed he must let loose the burden tugging in his arms and himself slip away into the depths and into that long sweet sleep that seemed just now so alluring, so compelling.
"Catch the rope when I fling it"—-the words were borne into his stifled senses. It sounded like the voice of his good chum.
Was it Ted? Again came the call, seemingly closer at hand. It was Ted, now faintly, now more clearly. The sound of that voice galvanized the youth in the water.
Jack flung out his free limbs in a frenzy of muscular energy. Something loomed up in the blue of the sky near him and he beheld for one instant the periscopes of the Dewey.
She was drawing closer to the pair in the water!
On the deck stood a number of the crew disregarding the floating mines that had been engaging their attention. Someone was whirling a rope, aiming to throw it to the pair in the water. Every one seemed to be yelling at the same time.
"Hold on—-we are coming—-don't let go—-catch the rope!" Jack heard the calls from his shipmates.
Out over the water spun a coil of rope—-only to fall short of the desired mark and trail off into the sea many yards from the floating pair. Yes, it was Ted, winding frantically again, and yelling encouragement to his chum.
"Hold 'em!" Ted shouted over and over again, just as the Brighton lads had been wont to yell in unison at their football games when the opposing eleven was smashing its way toward Brighton's goal. Once again the coil was ready; once again it was flung outward from the deck of the Dewey. This time it fairly lashed Jack's face. The sting of the hemp seethed to whip new courage into him. Making one last frantic effort he clutched and held the precious rope, just as Ted sprang from the submarine and dived to the rescue.
Jack remembered no more. When he came to he was stretched in his bunk in the hold of the Dewey. Ted was bending over him.
"Thank God you are alive, Jack, old chum!" Ted was murmuring, with glad tears brimming from his eyes.
Jack strove to raise himself on one elbow but fell back limply, weak from the terrible struggle through which he had passed.
"How about 'Little Mack'?" he managed finally to ask faintly.
"Alive but yet unconscious," replied Ted, "They have gotten most of the water out of his lungs and are using the pulmotor."
Jack closed his eyes again and murmured a prayer of thanks for his safe deliverance and for the life of his lieutenant.