Sea History 098 - Autumn 2001

Page 35

Were U-boar com manders acrually confused? T he fare of one ship suggesrs rhey were nor. Statendam had been assigned to rrooping duries wirh Whire Srar and renamed justicia. She was dazzle painted in black, blue and lighr graywirh a prominent U-shaped swoop along the hull benearh funnels one and rwo. But in the last summer of the war, she fell victim to several Uboats. On 17 Jul y 1918, bound in convoy for New York,]usticia was struck by several rorpedoes. Still afloar, she was taken in row, but the following day, she was attacked by another U-boat and sent ro the bottom. Patenrly, her dazzle painting had not confused three separate enemy commanders. Admittedly, one caprain was othe1w ise con fuse d: Following three-sracker j usticia' s demise, exhilarated German naval authorities crowed that they had sunk Vaterland, the ship rhen sailing as Leviathan. T he second and ultimarely mosr efficacious remedy against U-boats was the establishment of rransArlantic convoys. The firsr sailed from H am pron Roads in May 19 17, a month after America had declared war. Regardless of the difficulties, sratistics were enco uraging: Of205 vessels in 12 convoys, all but rwo arrived safel y in England.

World War II Drab Wo rld War II starred wirh a bang: rhe ab rupt, cataclysmic explosion of a torpedo fired by U-Boar 30 under the command of Fritz Lemp west of the Hebrides. His target was Donaldson Line's 13,000-ronAthenia. The date is significant: Sunday, 3 September 1939, the day war was declared. One hundred and rwelve lives were losr. Exactly as had occurred rhat summer of 1914, No rth Atlantic liners scuttled for cover or remained in port. Increasing technological sophistication obviated the need for Wo rld War I's dazzle paint. T he scheme was adjudged time-consuming and expensive; moreover, no one was convinced it worked. It was cheaper and fas rer ro paint vessels gray instead . In fact, liners at war had been rendered increasingly vulnerable ro enemy perception in a new dimension. The employment of long-ra nge aircraft and blimps nullified the advantages of a sysrem devised ro confuse SEA HISTORY 98 , AUTUMN 2001

The Cunard Line 's M auretania brought troops home in 1918 still wearing her wartime "checkerboard" dazzle paint scheme. To insure that such ocean liners were not recognized by German submarine crews, the dazzle paint was changed several times. (Collection ofjohn Maxtone-Graham) (Headline art designed by Wayne Mazzotta, Guest Curator ofthe exhibit) masters peering through periscopes at sea level. And finally, the invention of radar meant that a ship's electronic profile might be equally damaging. Twenty years on, from one world war ro another, defensive paint jobs had changed from dazzle to drab. T he practice of mobilizing ocean liners as raiders or merchant cruisers was curtailed although P & 0 armed a dozen of her fleer with ludicrously outdated 6-inch weapons from the 1800s. In addition, antiaircraft batteries were installed on liners' decks. Queen Elizabeth 2, for example, was armed with a rocket gun (it lofted a tangle of wires towards enemy propellers), one 6inch gun , six 4.7" anti-aircraft guns, ten Vickers machine guns, eight Oerlikens, four Bofors and an arsenal of depth charges. A defensive necessity adorned ocean liners' fl anks, a British invention ro co unteract Germany's magnetic mine, which rested on the sea borrom, ro be deron ated by the field force of a large hull pass ing above ir. British scientists countered the threat by encircling ships' hulls wirh broad, copper degaussing cables . Below-deck generators kept a constant current flowin g within rhem, effectively neutralizing the vessels' magnetic presence. Added to every British port's shore establishment were degaussing officers, their mission to ensure that incoming m erchantmen 's generators and cables were in sound wo rking order.

The Colors of Peace Nieuw Amsterdam, her funnels repainted in Holland-Am erica's green-white-green but with hull still grimy gray, steamed into Rotterdam, a tonic harbinger of peace for the war-ravaged port. Ile de France we nt back to Sr-Nazaire; she wo uld re-enter French Line service with two rather than

three funnels. Gray West Point return ed to Newport News, Virginia, to re-emerge in red-white-and-blue livery as America. Both Queens were relinquished by the Minisrry of War Transport for restoration to rhe two-ship service for which they had been conceived in 1929. Each vessel had steamed half a million wartime miles. T he "Lizzie, " having co mpleted her last trooping voyage at Halifax, sailed into Southampton for the first tim e on 20 Augusr 1945, just after VJDay. Her war service ended officially in February 1946. She immediarely underwentadramaticconversion in borh Glasgow and Southampton. T hen, resplendent in peacerime livery for the firsr rime, she sailed on her proper maiden voyage to New York in October 1946. -i Renowned ocean liner historian Jo hn Maxtone-Graham is president of The Ocean Liner Museum. This article is taken from the catalogue for the exhibit "Dazzle and Drab: Ocean Liners at War, " which can be purchased from The Ocean Liner Museum, PO Box 1479, New York NY 1002 1; 212 7176251 . "D azzle & Drab: Ocean Liners ar W ar" is on exhibit at rhe Seamen's Church Insritute in New York C ity, fearuring ship models, paintings, photographs, posters, videos and artifacts that illustrate rhe dramaric and indispensable role passenger liners played in warrime in rhe 20th century. A joint presentarion of SCI and The Ocean Liner Museum, iris open 11 November 2001-18 Janua1y 2002, Monday -F riday, 8:30am-4:30pm. Call rhe museum office ar 2 12 7 17-625 1 for special Saturdayviewings. (SCI, 24 1 Water Streer, New York NY 10038; 2 12 349-9090)


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