News from 1919: White Star Liner Olympic Faced U-Boat Attacks

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
New York Tribune, 5 January 1919
Original article digitized by the Library of Congress
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

White Star Liner Olympic Faced U-Boat Attacks
Captain and Crew Dodged Submarines, Tried to Save Warships and Transported
300,000 Persons in War

LONDON, Dec. 5---(Correspondence of The Associated Press). Dodging German
submarines in the Mediterranean, trying to save sinking warships in the
North Atlantic, and fighting off vicious U -boat attacks while carrying
American troops are some of the achievements credited to the White Star
Liner Olympic during her adventurous career of the wartime. These were only
incidents of her experience, because on account of her great passenger
capacity, she was steadily and faithfully keeping to the task of
transporting men and material for the armies in Europe. First it was Chinese
coolies for road building, then farmer boys from Canada to replace the
losses of Vimy Ridge, and finally many thousands of Americans to face the
German on the Western battlefront.

Her Gallant Record

"Her work during the Gallipoli campaign," writes a member of the crew to
"The Daily News," "when she carried about 8,000 troops---at that time the
greatest number ever carried by any ship---following upon her gallant
attempt off the north of Ireland to tow the water-logged dreadnought
Audacious, was sufficient to put her in the first rank of transports, but
her subsequent work in bringing Canadian troops and Chinese labor
battalions, and then her wonderful career since Christmas, 1917, when she
arrived in New York for her first load of American troops, must put her in a
class by herself as a 'trooper.'

"She has carried well over 300,000 persons while on war service.

"It would not be correct to say that Captain Hayes has brought her through
without a scratch, but her scars are marks of honor. She bent and fractured
some of her plates when, in the darkness early one morning she 'strafed' one
of Germany's finest U-boats.

Met Seven Submarine Attacks

"The Olympic had most of her adventures while she was carrying American
troops. During March, April and May, 1918, the German submarine made at
least seven attacks on her. Not once did the enemy have time to launch a
torpedo, for in every case he was greeted by a six-inch shell or one of the
destroyers was on his track with her depth charges. Perhaps some of Germany’s
missing submarines are now lying below the track of the Olympic.

“The most thrilling experience which the Olympic had took place in the
darkness of early morning of May, 1918, near the entrance to the English
Channel. It was just about 4 o'clock when the lookout man picked out of the
almost total darkness the outline of a lurking marine which was lying on the
surface. Immediately after his warning shout one of our forward gun blazed
out, and the ship, with her helm hard over, spun around like a great racing
yacht and crashed into the enemy.

Blow Struck Submarine

"The blow was, of course, not a clean one, or there would have been few
survivors from the submarine. Judging from the damage on the bows of the
ship when drydocked a few days later, the blow cut off one end of the
submarine. The rest drifted past the stern of the Olympic, and one of the
gun crews on the poop planted a six-inch shell squarely into it. One of the
destroyers in the escort dropped behind, and by the light of star shells,
picked up thirty-one survivors, three of whom died on the way to port. The
total crew of the submarine was over sixty."

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