On 31 May 1918, the transport USS President Lincoln was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-90 while steaming from France back to the United States. Twenty-six lives were lost, and one officer was soon taken prisoner by U-90, but nearly 700 safely escaped in life rafts and were rescued. This was the largest US Navy vessel to be lost in World War I. Painting by Fred Dana Marsh, 1920, courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC, image NH 86494-KN.

BOOK REVIEW – Many Were Held by the Sea: The Tragic Sinking of HMS Otranto

By R. Neil Scott, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, MD. (2012.)

Reviewed by Alan M. Anderson

During World War I, over two million American servicemen were successfully transported across the Atlantic Ocean to England and France. Of the many troopships traveling eastward, German U-boats torpedoed three. The only other troopship lost, Otranto, sank on 6 October 1918, after another troopship rammed her during a terrific storm in the channel between Ireland and northern Scotland. Over 350 American soldiers lost their lives in the disaster, more than the number of Americans lost on any one of the troopships that were torpedoed. In total, 470 lives were lost when Otranto went down.

(read the full review here)

On 4 December 1918 President Woodrow Wilson began the voyage to the Paris Peace Conference on board the transport USS George Washington (ID# 3018). The transport was escorted by the battleship USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) and ten destroyers. This image (NHHC photo NH 53707) shows George Washington the following week, the morning of her arrival at Brest, France.

On 12 November 1942 three days of fighting began, in what came to be known as the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The battle began with Japanese air attacks on American ships which had just landed reinforcements, including units from the US Army’s Americal Division (learn more here). Over the course of the next three days, the battle would evolve into a monumental engagement between battleships, cruisers, and destroyers in the narrow confines of Iron Bottom Sound.

In this photo, USS President Jackson (AP 37) maneuvers while under Japanese air attack off Guadalcanal on 12 November. In the center background is smoke from an enemy plane that had just crashed into the after superstructure of USS San Francisco (CA 38), which is steaming away in the right center. National Archives image 80-G-32366.

On 24 January 1942, in the Battle of Makassar Strait, destroyers USS John D. Ford, USS Parrott, USS Pope, and USS Paul Jones attacked an anchored Japanese invasion force in the harbor of Balikpapan, Borneo. The high-speed night attack sank 4 of 12 enemy transports, though the number of transports sunk was reduced by poor U.S. torpedoes. This engagement was the first U.S. naval surface engagement in Asian waters since the Spanish-American War. Shown here is a circa 1920 photograph of USS John D. Ford (DD 228) from NHHC photo NH 53933.