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In 1918, a war time fleet of 303 U.S. submarine chasers formed a new offensive against the enemy, armed with depth charges, deck guns and an array of new, top secret submarine detection and pursuit devices.
These miniature wooden war ships, the smallest commissioned vessels in the American navy, were the first major deployment mechanism for early antisubmarine warfare equipment, and were remarkable in their capabilities and service: Chasers crossed the Atlantic Ocean on their own power; performed submarine hunts and attacks from bases in Plymouth, Queenstown (Cobh) and Corfu; assisted with post-war diplomacy along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea; helped facilitate troop evacuation in northern Russia; and participated in the clearing of the North Sea mine barrage.
This is the history of the submarine chasers of the Great War, extensively illustrated with period photographs and diagrams, and rich with personal anecdotes, an up-close account of the early days of ASW based on rare, unpublished documents.
Captain Winn Price, USNR ret.:
Author Todd Woofenden soaks the reader with sea stories and countless photographs of the naval equivalent of the Rough Riders. Ninety years ago a newly minted reserve officer saddled a 110-foot subchaser to round up U-Boats, or “steel sharks,” in the Adriatic. Within 18 months Lt. Dole survives heavy weather off Bermuda, patrols the Kola Peninsula during the Russian Revolution and rides shotgun for minesweepers in the North Sea. The American chasers saw real action during the Great War, while our battlewagons shined bright work in Scapa Flow.
Meticulous research, attention to every interesting detail and a plethora of photographs from the private family collection combine to transport the reader from his armchair to the captain’s chair. After reading and reveling in Todd Woofenden’s book about World War I sub chasers you are nearly qualified to stand watch. You know the ship from keel to masthead lights. You feel the deprivations and exhilarations of crewing the last of the wooden warships. The reader sails from New London to Bermuda to Corfu at the mouth of the Adriatic. After performing duties assigned you deploy to the barren Kola Peninsula before de-mining the North Sea. Grab this book, swing into your rack, and standby for heavy rolls.
Theodore R. Treadwell, ex C.O. of SC 648, and author of
Splinter Fleet – The Wooden Subchasers of World War II:
Woofenden deftly converts his exhaustive research into text and illustrations that vividly tell the story of the doughty little subchasers of World War I. A fascinating read.
Ships Monthly, May 2007:
"... Personal anecdotes, official reports, and well chosen photographs bring the story of these little anti-submarine ships to life. It is a fascinating account of early ASW warfare and is highly recommended."
Book remembers sub searchers of WWI Sunday, February 11, 2007
Imagine dozens of small wooden boats frantically scouring the seas for German U-boats bent on starving England into submission. The U.S. Navy did as it entered World War I, and ordered the construction of what became a fleet of about 300 sub chasers. The 110-foot craft were equipped with depth charges, deck guns and rudimentary underwater listening devices. Their efforts are described in “Hunters of the Steel Sharks,” by Todd Woofenden. In describing the vessels’ design, construction and deployment, the account relies heavily on documents kept by Woofenden’s grand-uncle Lt. George Dole, who commanded one of the scrappy little craft during the war. While larger destroyers escorted freighter convoys between the United States and Europe, the sub chasers waited, watched and listened for their prey in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Adriatic. They also helped with mine-clearing and diplomatic duties, and even participated in the ill-fated Allied intervention in the young Soviet Union in 1919. Woofenden does a good job of weighing sub chasers’ value to the war effort. Some writers have doubted their effectiveness, citing a scarcity of evidence that they sank many U-boats. However, Woofenden points out that they were tools in the much larger effort to combat the German subs, and contributed greatly to the budding field of anti-submarine warfare. --Stripes
Lawrence B. Brennan, Capt. USN:
I just finished devouring your book. It is a great story presented brilliantly. I was sorry to see it come to an end. I now understand your devotion to your great uncle and his important contributions to our nation and Navy. His spirit and intellect are sadly in short supply today when the children of privilege avoid embracing military service. It is an important contribution and your advice to others to preserve, protect and publish their ancestors' stories is sage Congratulations on completing an important and impressive work. Simply stated, well done.
Robert W. Merriam, The New England Museum of Wireless and Steam, Inc.:
It is an impressive book and the writing is of the quality of William Washburn Nutting and Alfred Loomis. It is unusually well documented.