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World War I began in August 1914. On the same subject : US Energy Information Administration. The United States remained neutral in the war until Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

On May 18, 1917, the US Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which authorized the federal government to temporarily expand the military through conscription (draft). The law finally required all men between the ages of 21 and 45 to register for military service. Under the Selective Service Act, approximately 24 million men registered for the draft. Of the total number of American troops sent to Europe, 2.8 million men were conscripts and two million men volunteered.

To relieve its British and European allies who were already on the battlefield, the United States Navy was tasked with transporting millions of American troops and supplies across the Atlantic Ocean to France.

Immediately after the declaration of war, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ordered the mobilization of the fleet. “The US Navy, however, was not ready for action. Every related function related to naval warfare had to be planned before being executed, such as the planning of overseas bases (construction and accommodation) and the ability to transport troops (employing millions within a few months).” It began to deploy ​​all available ships for convoy duty and to arm the merchant ships with the small naval guns that the guard detachments were armed with.Then began an unsuccessful attempt to build new warships, munitions, airships and other articles of war.

To help meet the new obligations, a number of privately owned yachts and large motorboats were commissioned as naval vessels. The yachts were large enough for transatlantic crossing and duty; motorboats were used in coastal areas of the Atlantic Ocean and ports on the East Coast. Once commissioned, these ships were manned by naval personnel and played a key role in naval operations. Most of the yachts sailed to Europe for servicing; smaller motor boats were used for harbor and coastal patrol and defense.

On April 2, 1917 (prior to the U.S. declaration of war), the Navy Department ordered the appointment of an Appraisal Board under Captain Alexander S. Halstead to appraise and determine the value of civilian vessels which the Department considered acquiring by purchase or charter for military use.

Three days later, on April 5, President Woodrow Wilson issued Executive Order 2584, which established marine defense areas and regulations for selected areas of the US coast.

On April 28, the US Navy purchased the yacht Kanawha II from John Borden and commissioned the ship the same day. Became USS Kanawha (SP-130), commanded by Lt. John Borden. Kanawha was renamed USS Piqua.

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USS Riete

On August 5, 1917, 105 years ago today, and about four months after the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allied Powers, the motorboat named Riette was commissioned into the service of the United States Navy at the New York Navy Yard. See the article : United States climbs to the top after big night Saturday at World Athletics Championships: Medal table. (That shipyard was later called the Brooklyn Navy Yard.)

Riette was built in 1916 by the New York-based Twentieth Century Yacht, Launch and Engine Company. Originally named Amalia III, the ship was renamed Temegan II and then again renamed Riette. The motorboat was owned by Dr. George G. Shelton of Ridgefield, Connecticut. The Navy took over Riette from him on May 19.

After being commissioned into the Navy, Riette became USS Riette (SP-107). Chief Boatswain’s Mate Joseph McCaffrey became boatmaster. During her wartime service as a patrol boat, the USS Riette patrolled near the present-day village of Port Jefferson on the north shore of Long Island; the Black Rock neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Iona Island within a portion of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York. Riette was also stationed at the New York Navy Yard.

Riette continued to serve in the Navy for several months after the war ended. It was written off on August 14, 1919. On October 30 of that year, it was sold to a private person. As confirmed by later yacht registries, Riette remained in service as a civilian motorboat until at least 1958.

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A huge explosion

In a war full of tragedy and human misery, the incident in Halifax, Nova Scotia was among the worst. On the morning of December 6, 1917, a huge explosion reverberated through the city. To see also : MEMORANDUM: Flags at Half Staff in honor of United States Representative Jackie Walorski. The explosion “destroyed 3,000 apartments, killed more than 1,600 people and injured 9,000. Many of the dead were children.”

What was the cause of this deadly disaster? Earlier that morning, the French freighter Mont Blanc, carrying a cargo of 5,000 tons of TNT, collided with the Norwegian steamer Imo in Halifax’s outer harbor.

After the collision, a fire broke out on Mont Blanc. The ship’s crew tried to put out the fire, instead of sinking the ship. However, when the fire reached the TNT, an explosion equal to a small nuclear explosion occurred. “Mont Blanc has practically disappeared and the shockwaves washed Imo ashore.”

The Mont Blanc disaster in Halifax harbor is one of the worst maritime tragedies in history. The ship sailed from New York on its way to Europe, one of hundreds that loaded highly explosive cargo in New York for the war in Europe.

It was the Halifax disaster that prompted American leaders to authorize the Coast Guard to ensure that a similar incident never occurred in the United States.

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The U.S. Coast Guard

After the US declared war, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) became part of the Department of the Navy. A coded message was sent from Washington to every Coast Guard ship and shore station. Officers and soldiers, ships and units were transferred under the operational control of the Navy. Therefore, the Navy was reinforced by 223 officers, approximately 4,500 enlisted men, 47 vessels of all types, and 279 stations scattered along the entire US coast. Many USCG men and vessels were eventually transferred to Europe or the Caribbean.

During World War I, the Coast Guard continued to enforce various rules and regulations governing the anchoring and movement of vessels in American ports and territorial waters. The Espionage Act, passed in June 1917, gave the Coast Guard additional powers to protect merchant shipping from sabotage. That act included “the custody of property on shore, the supervision of the movement of vessels, the establishment of anchorages and restricted areas, and the right to control and remove men from ships.”

Soldiers, ammunition, vehicles, supplies and other war material sailed mainly from national ports on the east coast. Most of the nation’s ammunition shipments left the port of New York. Over the course of a year and a half, more than 1,600 ships carrying more than 345 million tons of explosives left New York Harbor.

In 1918, the USCG division in charge of New York Harbor was the largest single command in the Coast Guard. It consisted of more than 1,400 officers and men, four US Army Corps of Engineers tugboats and five harbor scooters.

Action along the Eastern Seaboard

While attacks by German raiders and U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico were much more intense during World War II, there were isolated incidents that occurred off the East Coast of the United States. They served as deadly reminders of why the patrols were necessary.

On the morning of July 21, 1918, the German submarine U-156 was attempting to cut the transatlantic communication cable from Orleans to Brest, France. The submarine crew spotted the tug Perth Amboy towing three barges and the three-masted schooner Lansford.

U-156 surfaced about three miles from Orleans and fired her two deck guns at the tug and the tugs and ship in tow. The Perth Amboy was badly damaged, while the schooner and barges were sunk.

Alerted by the gunfire, two Curtiss HS-2L flying boats from the recently completed Naval Air Station Chatham dropped bombs on U-156; however, the bombs did not explode – either because of technical problems or because the airmen were inexperienced with bomb weapons. In retaliation, U-156 raised her guns to fire on the aircraft. Those shells missed, but some landed in the abandoned marsh and on Nauset Beach. This action gave the city of Orleans the distinction of being the only place in the United States to be exposed to enemy fire during World War I.

Station no. 40 United States Coast Guard launched a surf boat under enemy shell fire; the crew rowed out to rescue 32 sailors trapped on the tug and barges. After firing 147 shells in an hour-long engagement, U-156 sank, headed north and then attacked other Allied ships.

Newspapers dubbed the engagement the “Battle of Orleans” and offered a reward for the discovery of German U-boat supply bases in the Bay of Fundy. The “Attack” on Orleans was the only attack by the Central Powers on the neighboring United States during World War I. It was also the first time that the United States had been shelled by artillery from a foreign power since the siege of Fort Texas in 1846.

On July 22, 1918 – the day after the “Battle of Orleans” – the armored cruiser USS San Diego suffered an explosion while en route from the Portsmouth Naval Yard to New York. The ship was northeast of Fire Island when the explosion occurred on her port side below the waterline in the engine room. The explosion prevented the watertight hatch from closing, causing the engine room and fire area to flood within minutes.

The captain of the ship San Diego ordered his men into battle positions, and the ship began firing, but had no real target(s). The ship continued to take on water; It soon became clear that the ship was going to sink, and the order to abandon ship was issued. Just 28 minutes after the explosion, the San Diego sank, taking six of its crew with it. No other sources have reported a submarine in the area. In the end, a sea mine, possibly laid by U-156, was blamed for the sinking. The USS San Diego was the only US Navy capital ship lost during World War I.

The only lighthouse lost in combat during World War I was Diamond Shoal Lightship no. 71. On August 6, 1918, the ship was on patrol off Diamond Shoals, North Carolina. The lighthouse encountered the SS Merak, a cargo ship that was sinking due to U-140. The survivors were saved; LV-71 sent a warning to friendly ships that the submarine was in the area. The submarine heard the message and returned. Upon arrival, she surfaced and the submarine’s crew demanded that the Americans abandon the lightship. Since the ship was not armed, its crew had no choice but to row ashore. U-140 destroyed the ship with her deck gun.

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