21 July, 2011

July 21, 1918

The only attack on the American mainland during World War I occurs: the Attack on Orleans. The German U-boat U-156 opens fire on the town of Orleans, MA and merchant vessels. Several boats are sunk, but there are no fatalities.

Under Richard Feldt, on the morning on July 21, 1918, SM U-156 was positioned off of Nauset Beach, located in Orleans, Massachusetts. She was armed with two torpedo tubes and 18 torpedoes as well as two 105 millimeter deck guns, with 1672 shells. U-156 then surfaced and opened fire on the town with her deck guns, then with both torpedoes and her deck guns, the 140 foot tugboat, Perth Amboy, surrounded by four wooden barges.

Men from the nearby Coast Guard station rushed up to their looking tower to see what all the commotion was about. One of them called Chatham Naval Air Station to inform them of the ongoing U-boat attack. Reuben Hopkins, a Coast Guard veteran of the engagement, reached the tower rail in time to see an enemy shell explode over the tugboat. The tug was quickly sunk and U-156 then started firing upon the barges. Escaping from the now burning Perth Amboy and barges were 32 merchant sailors and civilians, including the captain's wife and children.

Reuben Hopkins remained behind as other men went to rescue the tugboat survivors who were coming ashore in lifeboats. Soon, Curtiss HS-2L and R-9 seaplanes arrived to bomb the U-Boat but the ordnance dropped either were duds or failed to hit the target and the warplanes had to fly back to Chatham, Massachusetts to reload. That ended the engagement.

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