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