U S Destroyer _osmond C Ingram_

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

If you were standing on the deck of a patrol boat watching for

submarines and, looking down at the water, suddenly perceived a torpedo

coming directly toward you and knew it would strike the boat beneath

your feet in a few seconds, what would you do?

A bullet or a cannon ball moves so swiftly that it is not seen. If it

is coming straight for you, you only know your danger when it is over

and you lie woun
ed; or your friends know it when it is too late. But

a moving torpedo can be seen, and for some seconds one may stand and

know a terrible explosion and probable death are approaching him.

On October 14, 1917, the United States destroyer Cassin was on duty

looking for German submarines. After many hours scouting, a U-boat was

discovered five or six miles away, and the Cassin made all speed in

its direction; but the U-boat perceived its danger and submerged. The

Cassin cruised around for some time, for the U-boat could not be far

away and might come to the surface at any moment; but no periscope was

to be seen. The patrol boat kept steaming in zigzag lines so that the

U-boat would find it more difficult to strike her with a torpedo.

Before an hour had passed, the commander of the Cassin discovered the

wake of a torpedo, a moving line of white on the surface of the ocean,

and knew that in a few seconds the torpedo would strike his boat

amidships. To avoid this he ordered full steam ahead, hoping perhaps

to avoid being struck at all, and at least not amidships. But he had

not seen the torpedo soon enough and it was quickly apparent that it

would strike the Cassin on the side and near the stern.

Ordinarily this would be less dangerous than if it struck amidships

where it would very likely disable the engines and possibly explode the

boilers, but in the case of the Cassin, avoiding one danger only

brought another and a more serious one, for piled on the deck near the

stern were boxes of high explosives which would be set off by the

striking of the torpedo.

Some of the crew had been watching the approach of the torpedo. Most

of them were forward and would escape the terrible danger at the stern

of the boat.

But Gunner's Mate, O. C. Ingram, did not hurry forward; he rushed aft

and began to throw overboard the boxes of explosives. He did not stop

to see how near the torpedo had come and how much time he had; he

simply set to work to save the boat and her crew. Just as he hurled

the last box from his hand, the torpedo struck the Cassin with a

terrible explosion, throwing Ingram far overboard into the sea.

The torpedo had struck the destroyer near the stern, and blew off about

thirty feet of the boat. It disabled one of the engines, and the

steering gear, but the after bulkhead kept out the water and the

destroyer was later towed to port and repaired.

Had the explosives not been thrown overboard, the Cassin would

doubtless have been sunk and few if any of her crew saved. As it was,

Gunner's Mate Ingram was the only one to lose his life, for he drowned

before help was able to reach him.

The Cassin did not attempt, even after this experience, to get to

safety, but remained watching for the reappearance of the submarine.

When the U-boat finally came to the surface, she was greeted with

several shots from the Cassin and suddenly sank, or submerged. It is

thought she was damaged and possibly destroyed.

The Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, sent the following letter

to the commander, the other officers, and the crew of the Cassin:--

The Department has received the report of the action between the U. S.

S. Cassin and a German submarine on October 15, 1917, and notes with

gratification the highly commendable conduct of yourself, the other

officers, and the crew of the Cassin. The manner in which the

Cassin was kept under way with her steering-gear disabled and

practically at the mercy of the submarine, and opened fire on her when

she appeared, is well worthy of the best traditions of the Navy.

[Illustration: The U. S. Destroyer Fanning with depth bombs stored in

run-ways on the after deck. These may be instantly released and

dropped over the stern. (Refer to page 152.) The high explosives

stored in crates on the after deck of the Cassin were in the same

general location as the above, but not primed for action.]

Sometime later Secretary Daniels told the following story of the naming

of a new and very fast destroyer:--

Awhile ago I was asked to give a name to a new destroyer. I took up

first the names of the great admirals, and then the great captains, and

all the American heroes of the sea, and all were worthy. And then I

thought of Osmond C. Ingram, second-class gunner's mate on the

destroyer Cassin. I thought of the night when he was on watch and

saw a U-boat's torpedo headed for his ship. He was standing near the

place where the high explosives were stored, and the torpedo was headed

for that spot. In a flash he was engaged in hurling overboard those

deadly explosives, which would have destroyed the ship if they remained

on board, and he managed to get rid of enough of them to save the lives

of all the officers and sailors on board, but he lost his own life. So

I named the newest and finest addition to the American navy the Osmond

C. Ingram.