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USS Covington


Hamburg-America Line Ship, Cincinnati built for the Hamburg America Line by Schichau Ship Yards in Danzig, Germany in 1909. She was 603 feet long and 63 feet wide. Cincinnati displaced 16,339 tons and her quadruple expansion steam engines powered twin screws at 15.5 knots. She could carry 2,827 passengers (246 First Class, 332 Second Class, 448 Third Class and 1,801 in Steerage).

In August of 1914 when the hostilities began in Europe the German Liner took refuge in U.S. waters, and was seized at Boston, Massachusetts. Interned in Boston along with the Cincinnati were her fleet mate the Amerika, the North German Lloyd steamers Kronprinzessin Cecile, Koin, Wittekind and Willehad, and the Hansa Line freighter Ockenfels. They all remained at their berths from August 1914 until March of 1916 when all except the Kronprinzessin Cecile and Ockenfels were moved from the waterfront piers to an anchorage across the harbor from the Boston Navy Yard.

Daily "neutrality duty" by United States Coast Guard harbor tug Winnisimmet kept a watchful eye on the ships. Many crew members of the ships eventually went ashore, were processed through immigration, and found employment, while a contingent of musicians from the vessels toured New England, frequently playing at department stores and restaurants, and drawing the ire of the local musicians' union. After the U.S. declared war on Germany, Cincinnati and the other interned ships were seized on 6 April 1917 and handed over to the United States Shipping Board.

Cincinnati was renamed USS Covington and placed in commission into the United States Navy on July 26 of 1917 under the command of Captain R. D. Hasbrouck. The newly named Covington was repaired from the damages caused by her German crew and was transformed into a troopship and began her active war duties in mid-October 1917 when she left port for her first voyage carrying U.S. troops to France. The Covington made 6 trips to France carrying 858 Officers and 20,871 enlisted men to the War in Europe

She sailed from New York for France on her fifth voyage to Europe on 10 May 1918 where she sailed in a 13 ship convoy consisting of the following ships: Antigone, Kursk, Duca d' Aosta, Pastores, Princess Matoika, Caserta, Lenape, Wilhelmina, President Lincoln, Devinsk, Rijndam, and the Dante Alighieri.

On the early evening of July 1, 1918 she was steaming in a U.S. Navy convoy of eight transports, escorted by seven destroyers, and was steaming westbound some 150 miles southwesterly from Brest, France, (47° 24' N., 7° 44' W) bound back to the United States after having delivered more fresh troops for the fighting on the Western Front. The sea was calm with good visibility, and all ships were zigzagging with lookout positions and guns manned as a precaution against the always-present menace of German submarines. The threat made its presence known at 9:12 PM, when a torpedo launched from U-86 detonated against the port side of the Covington steaming second from the left in the convoy's first row of five transports. The explosion, below her forward smokestack, blew open the ship's forward boiler room, and she soon came to a halt as the rest of the convoy split up and continued on.

Of the seven escorting destroyers the USS Little and USS Smith, remained with Covington, which had developed a serious list to port. In the darkness, the Covington's crew took to the lifeboats. Six of the Covington's crew were killed in the torpedoing, but the destroyers, which actively dropped depth charges in an effort to keep the submarine away, picked 770 others up. Covington was still afloat early the following morning, and it appeared that she might be saved. Captain Hasbrouck assembled a small salvage crew of 25 men where they re-boarded the Covington to make preperations for a tow and attempt to make her as sea worthy as they could. On the morning of July 2 the tugs arrived from Brest and took her in tow, but water gradually penetrated her compartments. Her list increased, and the ship sank in mid-afternoon on 2 July 1918.

The Transports in this convoy were Dekalb, Covington, George Washington, Rijndam, Lenape, Dante Aleghieri, Princess Matoika and Wilhelmina. The escorting destroyers were Little, Conner, Cummings, Porter, Jarvis, Smith and Roe.

Below is a copy of an article printed in the Bridgeport Telegram newspaper of the events of the sinking.

Bridgeport Telegram
Bridgeport Connecticut, Saturday Morning, July 6, 1918

U.S. TRANSPORT TORPEDOED WHILE RETURNING - ALL BUT SIX RESCUED

Daniels Announces Sinking of Covington – U-boats projectile strikes steamer forward of engine room bulkhead, making it necessary to abandon her. – Vice Admiral Sims reports attack on Monday night. – Attempt to salvage vessel proves failure.– Missing men all members of crew. – All others accounted for, none seriously injured.

Washington July 5th 1918. - The American army transport USS Covington, homeward bound after landing several thousand soldiers in France, was torpedoed and sunk in the war zone last Monday night. Six members of the crew are missing all the other men, with the ship's officers, have been landed at a French port. No Army personnel or passengers were aboard.

The missing men are: Ernest C. Anderson, firemen, Lynn, Mass. Joseph P. Bowden, seaman, Mountain Lake, New Jersey Ambrose C. Ford, firemen, Somerville, Mass. William Henry Lynch Jr., firemen, Manchester, New Hampshire Albert S. Payne, seaman, West New Brighton, Stanton Island, New York Lloyd H. Silvernail, seaman Bainbridge, New York

The Navy Department's announcement tonight of the torpedoing of the Covington said none of the officers and men landed was "Seriously injured." apparently some of them were hurt, but the number probably was not given in Vice Admiral Sim's dispatch.

Sub Not Seen

The Covington was struck at 9:17 o'clock Monday night while proceeding with a fleet of other transports convoyed by destroyers. The submarine was not sighted. The transport remained afloat until Tuesday when efforts were made by other vessels and two tugs to tow her to port, but she was too badly damaged to keep afloat.

"The torpedo struck forward of the engine room bulkhead," says the Navy Department's report, "and the engine room and the fire room were rapidly flooded. With its motive power gone, the vessel was helpless and, facing the possibility of the torpedoing of another ship in the convoy, the Covington was temporarily abandoned. This was done in excellent order and the officers and the crew were taken on board a destroyer. The submarine was not seen."

Unable To Salvage Ship

"At daybreak the captain, several officers and a number of members of the crew returned to supervise salvaging operations. Another vessel and two tugs took the Covington in tow in the effort to get her to port, but she was too badly damaged to keep afloat and sank. Vessels have been searching for the missing men and the Navy Department awaited the report of the names of those missing which were not received until today, before announcing the sinking of the vessel."

There was no explanation by the Department as to whether the six men were missing after the transfer of the crew from the troopship to the destroyer or after the transport actually went down. It was feared, however, that they either were killed by the force of the explosion or were caught by the inrush of water into the engine and fire rooms.

Former German Liner

The Covington formally was the Hamburg-American liner Cincinnati, which was laid up at Boston and taken over when the United States entered the war. She was 608 ft. long and 16,339 gross tons and had a speed of 15 1/2 knots an hour.

The Covington is the second of the great German liner's seized at the outbreak of the war to be sent down by Germany's sea wolves and is the third American troopship to be destroyed. All were homeward bound. The former Hamburg-American liner President Lincoln was sunk last May 31st and the Antilles formerly a Morgan liner, was sent down last October 17th.

Images of a Troopships Death

A pre-war German Post Card of the S.S. Cincinnati. Later renamed USS Covington when she was taken over by the US Navy for use as a Troop Transport.

Contributed by Russ Davis

Another pre-war German Post Card of the S.S. Cincinnati.

Contributed by Russ Davis

Photo of the USS Covington at anchor after dropping off her last load of troops from the States. This photo was likely taken in the harbor at Brest, France in the last few days of June, 1918. Her life as a Trooper was short at hand as on July 2, 1918 the Sea would claim her for all time. The Covington was commanded by Captain R. D. Hasbrouck.

This photo is of the Covington during her May 10, 1918 voyage. During this voyage she carried the Headquarters Company of the 65th Infantry (33d Division), 129th Infantry (33d Division) less the 3d Battalion and Company H and the entire 58th Artillery, CAC. On the back of this photo was written: "May 17, 1918. Aboard the Covington after target practice. Note the soldiers on deck. About 4500 on board." This is a view of the stern area of the ship. During this voyage this was the area where the men of the 129th Inf. were bunked. The men of the 58th Artillery were bunked in the forecastle of the ship on this voyage. The mast on the right side of the picture is the mast that is the closest to the stern of the ship.

July 2, 1918 after being torpedoed by the German submarine U-86 the night before, the Covington is listing to port with a tow line to the two tugs who were preparing to render assistance. It was a gallant effort but the Covington sank latter in the day with only 6 men killed. Just off the port side of the Covington can be seen a life boat with several men.

ARA Photo Post Card showing the Covington on the morning of 2 July listing heavily to port and down by the stern. All were saved and only 6 men were Killed.

As day breaks on the morning of July 2nd the Covington has been mortally wounded and several ships are assisting her. Here in this view looking down on her once proud bow shows her riding low in the water. The sea is nearly awash on her port side decks as she has only a few hours left. Behind her is a US destroyer standing guard. This may be the USS Shaw as she recieved an SOS from the Covington and rushed to her aid. On arrival the Shaw found that her survivors had been removed to another ship and that she had been taken under tow.

Two ocean going French Tugs were dispatched from Brest, France to help with the rescue and this series of photos were taken from one of the tugs. Again this view is port side bow.

Another view from the rolling deck of the French Tugboat. This may have been early in the morning on July 2nd as she is riding somewhat higher in the water then some of the other photos.

Another view of the Covington's bow. A tow line can be seen with a US warship providing protection in the distant background.

This view is almost straight on with her bow. I believe that the French Tug is getting ready to send a tow line to her. In the left background can be seen two US Destroyers probably the USS Little and USS Smith, protecting the rescue operations.

These two views were taken from one of the ocean going French tugboats. The one on the left shows the Covington's bow. The photo on the right shows the stern of the French tug with the tow rope visible across the top of the deck of the tug. Coils of the tow rope can be seen in the lower right hand side of this photo. Three French crewmen can be seen on the stern of the tugboat.

This is a view of her starboard side. She is still flying the Colors and is not ready for the sea to claim her yet. Farther up her starboard side can be seen the ropes and ladders that were used to lower the lifeboats hanging down her sides.

A close in view of the Covington's Starboard side.

The Covington in her final moments before her death plunge, sinking stern first.

The final view of the Covington from the French Tugboat before the Sea claims the ship for all time.

The final remains of the Covington. The two tugs stand by to collect the wreckage. The tug on the right is the tug where several of the above photos were taken from.

The Six Who Were Killed When The Covington Went Down

I have identified the six who were killed during the sinking of the Covington on 1-2 July 1918. Here is what I know about each.

Fireman Ernest C. Anderson, Lynn, Mass.

Seaman Joseph P. Bowden, Mountain Lake, New Jersey

Fireman Ambrose C. Ford, Somerville, Mass.

Fireman William Henry Lynch Jr., Manchester, New Hampshire

Seaman 2c Alfred S. Payne, USNRF. He was from West New Brighton, New York and his mothers name was Mary Payne.

Seaman 2c Lloyd H. Silvernail, US Navy. He was from Bainbridge, New York and his fathers name was Farion A. Silvermail.


The Rescue

Lifeboats from the Covington being rescued by the USS Little and Smith.

NH001620 Subject: USS Covington (SP1409) Caption: Survivors of USS Covington (SP1409) which was torpedoed without warning on 1 July 1918 by U-86 off Brest, France. It sank 2 July, all but six of her complement of 776 were rescued. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Released.

This photo was identified with the above description but may actiually have been of the 25-man salvage crew asembled to re-board the Covington to rig her for a tow on the morning of 2 July. This is known from the family of Chief John Thomas Cunningham who was part of the Engineer force. Chief Cunningham is identified in the second row of men in the right side of this photo, on the extreme left facing the camera with the watch cap and peacoat.

During the rescue of the Covington there were 5 Navy Cross medals given to men aboard the Covington, USS Smith, and USS Reid. They are:

Bickford, Archie M. , Water Tender, U.S. Navy
U.S.S. Covington
Date Of Action: July 1, 1918
Citation: The Navy Cross is awarded to Water Tender Archie M. Bickford, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving on the U.S.S. Covington on the occasion of the torpedoing of that vessel on July 1, 1918. Though at the time, in water up to his waist, and at the foot of the only escape ladder from the fire room, he attempted to reach the safety valves of his boilers in order to remove the menace of their explosion.

Byrnes, James C., Jr., Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy
Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Smith
Date Of Action: July 1, 1918 & August 15, 1918
Citation: The Navy Cross is awarded to Lieutenant Commander James C. Byrnes, Jr., U.S. Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Smith, operating in the war zone and protecting vitally important convoys of troops and cargo vessels through the area of submarine activity and in rescuing the crews of the torpedoed ships Covington, July 1, 1918 and Westbridge August 15, 1918.

McCabe, George C. , Chief Boatswain's Mate, U.S. Navy
U.S.S. Reid
Date Of Action: July 1, 1918
Citation: The Navy Cross is awarded to Chief Boatswain's Mate George C. McCabe, U.S. Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Reid, and one of the working party sent on board the Covington which had been torpedoed. While assisting in salvage work, Chief Boatswain's Mate McCabe showed great courage and devotion to duty just before she was abandoned and while in a sinking condition with her lower rail awash.

Sanders, David T. , Boatswain's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy
U.S.S. Reid
Date Of Action: July 1, 1918
Citation: The Navy Cross is awarded to Boatswain's Mate First Class David T. Sanders, U.S. Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as member of the crew of the U.S.S. Reid and one of the working party sent on board the Covington which had been torpedoed. While assisting in salvage work, Boatswain's Mate Sanders showed great courage and devotion to duty just before she was abandoned and while in a sinking condition with her lower rail awash.

Udolfsky, David , Gunner's Mate Second Class, U.S. Navy
U.S.S. Reid
Date Of Action: July 1, 1918
Citation: The Navy Cross is awarded to Gunner's Mate Second Class David Udolfsky, U.S. Navy, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as member of the U.S.S. Reid and one of the working party sent on board the Covington, which had been torpedoed. While assisting in salvage work, Gunner's Mate Udolfsky showed great courage and devotion to duty just before she was abandoned and while in a sinking condition with her lower rail awash.


The Covington's Crew Muster

As I find names and information of men who served on the Covington I will list them here in this section. If you have a relative who served on this proud old ship please let me know and I will add their names with the others below.


Seaman 2c Thomas Francis Reilly

Photo provided by John Reilly

Thomas Francis Reilly was born on 30 January of 1897 to Michael and Bridget Reilly in New York, NY. In June of 1900 the Reilly family lived on Goerck Street in the Borough of Manhattan New York. The head of the home was Mary Reilly, the grandmother of Thomas Reilly, who was born is July of 1835 in Ireland. Mary Reilly was widowed and gave birth to 5 children and one of her children was Michael Reilly who lived in the home with his family, which consisted of wife Bridget born in August of 1868 in Ireland; daughter Agnes born in January of 1893 in New York; son Thomas Francis born in January 1896. Michael Reilly was born in June 1871 in New York and was working as a clerk at the time. Also a brother to Michael named Edward Reilly born in June 1864 was living in the home. Edward worked as an Iron Molder.

By 1910 Thomas’s grandmother Mary had passed away. The family now lived on West 54th Street in Manhattan. Bridget had given birth to 3 children, Agnes, Thomas and James who was born in 1901. Bridget worked as a Laundress in an outside laundry service to support the family.

When America went to war with Germany, Thomas on May 14th, 1917, went to the Recruiting Station in New York and enlisted into the U. S. Navy. Thomas F. Reilly entered the Navy as an Apprentice Seaman at the age of 20 years, 3 months, and his home at the time was at 836 Whitlock Ave., in the Bronx.

He was sent to the Naval Training Station Newport News, Rhode Island until 30 June 1917 when he was sent to the Receiving Ship at Boston MA. While on the Receiving Ship he was advanced to Seaman Second Class and then assigned to the USS Covington on 1 August 1917. He served on the Covington until she was sunk and survived the sinking. Officially discharged from the Covington he was sent to Naval Headquarters in Rochefort, France on 14 July 1918 where he served as a Port Security Officer until his death due to complications from Septicemia on 25 September 1918. Seaman 2c Thomas Francis Reilly, service number 177 03 46, was then buried in the St. Mark's Cemetery in Bordeaux, France. In 1920 James the younger brother and his father Michael J. had his body brought back to New York from France, where he was then re-buried in a family plot in the Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.

This is a transcribed copy of a newspaper article that was printed in a New York paper about the death of Seaman Reilly. The article has some inaccuracies which I have noted in the brackets.

Harlem Sailor Dies in France of Hurts in Torpedoed Ship

Word was recently received of the death in Bordeaux, France, of Thomas Francis Reilly, USN, who lived at 229 West 140th Street. The deceased was one of the crew of the transport Covington, which was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine on the night of July 1 as it was returning from a French port.

While in Bordeaux, Reilly was on patrol duty, policing American sailors. He wrote home to his father and sisters that he liked Bordeaux, with its beautiful parks, very much.

Before the Covington was sunk, Reilly made six voyages. He helped take the Rainbow Division [42nd] across. He enlisted in the navy immediately after the declaration of war against Germany.

Michael Reilly, [Michael was his father, James was the brother] a brother of the deceased sailor, is a soldier at Camp Sheridan, Alabama.

This is a card sent home to the Reilly family by the Red Cross. It shows Seaman Thomas F. Reilly's grave marker in Bordeaux, France.


Robert S. Noble, Ships Cook and Survivor

Robert Seth Noble was born on 02 August 1901 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He was the son of Robert E. Noble (born in Nova Scotia, Canada) and his wife, Catherine C. McCarthy (born in England). He attended Tilton School in Haverhill, and Haverhill High School. He left High School in his sophomore year to enlist in the US Navy Reserve Force on July 13, 1917. His Navy records list his date of birth as 02 August 1898, so some fabrication was used. He was placed on active service on 17 July 1917, serving as a ship's cook on the USS Covington. Robert survived the sinking and he two companions were rescued after drifting on a raft for three days. Robert was at Naval Base 20, Rochefort, France until 1 October 1918, when he returned to the United States.

Please visit this web page for more information on Robert S. Noble


Seaman, David McLean Higdon

David McLean Higdon was born on July 4 of 1900 and was the son of William Higdon of Baltimore, Maryland. David Higdon joined the navy on 18 April 1917 as an Apprentice Seaman aboard the Receiving Ship at Norfolk, Virginia. On 29 April 1917 was advanced to Seaman Second Class and Seaman on 18 April 1918. His first ship was the USS Florida and reported for duty on board on 9 June 1917. He was on the Florida until ordered to report to the Receiving ship at Boston, MA on 16 August 1917. The next day on 17 August he reported for duty aboard the USS Covington. He survived the sinking on 1-2 July 1918 and then was ordered to the destroyer USS Stewart on 14 July 1918. He served on the Stewart until Honorably discharged from the navy on 23 January 1919.

Rosemarie Ratas shared with me about Seaman Higdon, who was a relative of hers. She had been researching her family tree and came upon a newspaper clipping, not dated, regarding a letter sent to the father of one of the crewman aboard the ill-fated troopship. His name was David Higdon (he [David Higdon] was the son of Rosemarie Rats's great-grandmothers second husband). The clipping states that the entire crew was safely landed. I believe it was probably printed in the Baltimore Sun Papers or possibly the News American. Rosemarie's grandmother was "famous" for clipping obits and news items and she became gifted with her scrapbook upon her death. Rosemarie states "I am glad to share this treasure with you and you may post it as you wish. Thank you for getting in touch. I feel that 'Dave's' words still ring true today: 'it makes you fight that much harder' and that Americans can fight when terror attempts to take away our freedom. God Bless you and God Bless the USA!" Below is a transcribed copy of the newspaper article;

David Higdon, of the Navy, Has the Right Dope About the Kaiser's New Estimate of the Americans.

David Higdon, the son of William Higdon, 3624 Ash street, who is now serving in European waters, was one of the crew of the ill-fated transport Covington, sunk July last by a German U-boat. The entire crew was safely landed. Young Higdon, who enlisted with Maryland's first 800, writes as follows to his father:

"Dear Father: Your kind and welcome letter received and was more than glad to hear from you. Also glad for the clippings which you sent me and the picture of the President. When a thing like that (the sinking) happens, Dad, it makes you fight that much harder. Although the ship was lost, Uncle Sam will build them faster than the Kaiser will think about sinking them. I guess the Kaiser knows by now that he had been beaten at his own game, and he said the Americans could not fight. Well, I guess he knows now whether they can or not. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same and all the rest at home."

With Love, your son,

"DAVE,"


Henry Rakowski, USS Covington Crewmen

Andrew De Cusati shared with me this information and photos of Henry Rakowski that he has in his collection. Andrew had bought a large photo of Henry Rakowski at an antique shop in Meriden, Connecticut where Rakowski was from. The dealer then brought out other items of Rakowski's and Andrew bought them. Andrew contacted Rakowski's son who then sent Andrew a photo of Henry on the deck of the USS Covington. Andrew has Rakowski's uniform and some photos of Racowski who was on the Covington when she sank. He later served on the destroyer USS Ericsson after the Covington was lost.

The photo's below shows Henry Rakowski on the deck of the USS Ericsson. Henry served on the USS Ericsson after the Covington was sunk. The photo below shows the Covington from the stern and it is a postcard photo sent by Henry to his mother in Meriden, Connecticut. The card is postmarked June 7, 1918. All Henry wrote on the back was "Our Ship".

One of the other photo's below must have been taken in Hoboken, New Jersey as from the list of sailings below we know that she sailed again on 15 June 1918 and the date that Henry has written on the back of the photo June 7 1918, would place her there at that time. This would have been one of the last photos of the Covington taken in the United States as on her return trip from France the Atlantic claimed her for all time.

Henry Rakowski had a brother named Stanley who served in the 102nd Infantry and lost both his legs in France. When the war ended Henry wanted to stay in the Navy but his mother asked him to come home which he did. Henry is buried in Meriden, Connecticut. Andrew has a large oval photo of Henry in his uniform with USS Ericsson on the hat. He also has the uniform he is wearing in the photo and a large oval photo of Henry's brother, Stanley in his uniform.

In January of 2014 Philip Rakowski, who is the grandson of Henry Rakowski, contacted me. Philip shared this about his grandfather Henry.

“I served four years in the US Navy following high school as did my father Ed. I was thrilled to find information on my grandfather in your article on the USS Covington. In my grandfathers bed room there was several navel pictures on the wall.  As I grew up and visited my grandfather I would often look at them.  One was the USS Covington listing heavily to the portside.  Another was a group photograph of a destroyer crew posing on the pier along the ships Starboard side. The destroyer’s torpedo tubes can be seen in the photograph. There was a tiny "x' penciled on the photograph to illustrate which sailor was my grandfather.  This photograph was approximately 24 inches wide and 8 inches tall in a maple frame.”

Sadly Philip tells that during the chaos of closing his grandfather’s home, “My dad didn't understand my intention to safe keep Henry's navel photos and I lost track of them. My grandfather had some absolutely great sea stories and one of them was the sinking of the USS Covington. I would enjoy sharing this story with you as best as I can remember it.”

Henry’s great sea story starts with the USS Covington getting hit once by a U-boat torpedo. I recall Henry saying that he and others in the crew tried their best to save the ship. After what I think may have been an entire day, the order was given to abandon the fight to save the ship.

Henry and the men with him unlashed a liferaft from the ship and eased it into the water, which was by now awash of the main deck and directly adjacent to the rafts location on the listing ship. All the guys were actually quite worried that the ship would settle quickly or roll and trap them before they could get clear.  So all the guys piled in quickly, anxious to get going and get clear of the looming sinking Covington.

It was at this time that the men on the raft noticed that they were secured to the ship by a length of substantial rope. Unable to untie the raft from the rope or the rope from the ship, the call went out for a knife to cut the rope. Not one of those men in the raft had one! They sat there for a moment and realized that they would have to go back on board a find a knife or ax or something to cut the rope with. Henry said he and several others went back on board to scrounge up a knife, and that one was found in the now heavily listing galley. The Covington at that time was a dark listing powerless ship ready to slip below the sea at any moment, so that must have been some scavenger hunt! The story continues with the rope getting cut and the raft clear of the ship to the relief of those on the raft. Henry said that they spend the entire evening on the raft lashed to several other rafts and lifeboats.  Apparently when they encountered others they lashed on to each other to stay together.

Once the destroyers USS Smith and USS Little came to help the men in the water there was a decision not to get the men out of the water at night because this would have hazarded the destroyers due to u-boats that were in the area. In fact some of the other seven destroyers who were escorting the convoy in which the Covington was sailing in did drop depth charges on a U-boat in the area. I can recall at this part of the story Henry's displeasure with the command decision not to recover men in the lifeboats at night.  Henry told us that the destroyers shouted down to them that they would be picked up at first light. As you can imagine this made the guys pretty damn mad. The ships kept tabs on survivor’s location and inquired several times if anyone was injured and stayed in sight. The guys shared a fear that the lurking U-boat would surface and murder the lot of them in one way or another.

In the morning the destroyers picked up the men of the Covington. Once on board the crew explained the concern that at night, they would be unable determine if any Germans commando crews were mixed in with them (launched from a submarine in their own raft) and attempting to board the destroyers or plant charges on the hull.

The destroyers brought the guys back to port in Brest, France where Henry left the ship with the clothes on his back and nothing else to his name. Henry and several buddies walked down the pier and saw a Red Cross coffee van with advertised coffee and donuts.  Henry and his buddies approached the van and asked for a donut and a coffee. The girl behind counter said "sure that will be 5-Cents" at which time Henry said "I don't have a nickel, my ship sunk with everything I own on board". I don't know what happened next but Henry was no fan of the Red Cross!

Henry always has two solid pieces of Naval advice for me: "A sailor should always have a knife in his pocket". Lesson: You never known when you will really need to cut a rope! "Always face into the wind when forced to abandon ship" Lesson: Abandon the ship on the windward side so that it won't drift down on you when you are in the water.

Philip related, "I carried a buck knife during my years in the Navy and still carry a pocket a knife today. Fortunately I never had to seek out the windward side of the ship before jumping off! Henry said many times that after that night in the water, every day afterwards felt like a bonus to him."

Henry George Rakowski
Serial Number- 182-59-55
143 Hobart St, Meriden, Conn. 

U.S.N. Recruiting Station, New Haven, CT. Joined the navy on May 7, 1917 Age- 20 years.
Apprentice Seaman, Naval Training Station, Newport, R.I. from May 7, 1917 to July 1, 1917
Receiving Ship, Boston, Mass. July 1, 1917 to September 23, 1917
USS COVINGTON September 23, 1917 to July 1, 1918
USS ERICSSON July 1, 1918 to November 11, 1918
Assigned to duty aboard the USS Swasey
Assigned to duty aboard the USS McDermut
Apprentice Seaman 55 days
Seaman 2nd Class 215 days
Seaman 283 days

Attached to USS COVINGTON when that vessel was torpedoed and sunk July 1, 1918
Discharged August 13, 1920 aboard USS MCDERMUT at San Diego, California. Boatswain Mate 2nd Class

Henry Rakowski on the deck of the USS Ericsson
Undated photo of the Covington

This shot from the bow is in a 5x7 black frame likely taken in the harbor at Brest, France.
On the back is written "1917 USS Covington--July 1918 Torpedoed & Sunk."

Note on Andrew De Cusati He has a website where he has his collection of Connecticut Civil War soldier photos. I have checked them out and it is a very nice collection, well worth the time to surf over and check them out.


Coal Tender Charles W. Rogers

Elaine Rogers Kline shared with me about her father Charles W. Rogers who was a Coal Tender aboard the Covington when she sank. She related this about her father:

"I can remember my father having a stack of pictures of the last gasp of the ship's bow sticking out of the water. I can not remember how long he served on the USS Covington. He was a coal tender. He held up a fellow crew man keeping him above water till rescused. His brother Joseph was in Brest, France when the Covington was sunk. Joseph ran a ferry to the ships."

Elaine stated that she was 17 years old her father, Charles W. Rogers died at the age of 56. Elaine commented "I did not think to ask any questions about his time aboard the Covington. Now I wish that I had ask more questions."


Captain Raymond D. Hasbrouck

As WWI came to America the US Navy had seized the German passenger liner Cincinnati and re-commissioned her under her new name of USS Covington and in late July of 1917 she was under the command of Captain Raymond D. Hasbrouck. Captain Hasbrouck commanded her until her sinking on 2 July 1918. As Captain of the Covington, Hasbrouck made 6 trips across the Atlantic and safely delivered 20,871 men to fight the German Army in the trenches and woods of France.

Raymond DeLancey Hasbrouck was born in Boise City, Ada County in the Idaho Territory on 20 July 1871. His father was Soloman Hasbrouck and according to the 1880 Federal Census, Soloman was 46 years old and was born in New York as was his parents. Soloman's occupation was listed as a merchant. Soloman's wife was named Anna E. and was listed as a 42 years old on the 1880 Federal Census. Raymond was the second oldest of four children, 3 boys and 1 girl. On the 1880 Census Edward was the eldest son at 10 years and Raymond was 9 years old. Next was Elizabeth at 7 years and Van W., was the youngest son at 4 years old. All four children were born in the Idaho Territory.

According to Rebecca J Tsuji, who is a cousin to Raymond Hasbrouck he graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis with the class of 1892 and received his commission as an Ensign and worked his way up through the ranks. Rebecca noted that Hasbrouck was a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, Spanish-American War & WWI. Raymond Hasbrouck married Olive Scott Halladay on 22 January 1902.

Hasbrouck became a Lieutenant on 22 July 1901 as noted from his commissioning document signed by President William McKinley and Secretary of the Navy John D. Long. On 27 March 1905 Lt. Hasbrouck was placed in command of the United States Gunboat USS Arayat, then recently recommissioned in Cavite, Philippines. The Arayat was a Spanish Navy built gunboat that was sunk in the Pasig River, Luzon in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. Arayat was raised in 1899 by the US Navy and placed in commission 10 August 1900. Under command of Lt. hasbrouck, Arayat resumed her previous duties of assisting Army troops conducting patrols and survey work of the Islands until she was decommissioned again on 5 October 1907. According to the 1910 Federal Census Raymond Hasbrouck was 38 years old and listed his home as the Battleship USS Michigan. The Michigan was under the commanded of Captain Nathaniel R. Usher, who previously had command of the USS St. Louis and Hasbrouck is listed as a Lt. Commander, one of 4 on board. It is not clear what his duties were and he may have been the executive officer or one of the Division heads.

After the sinking of the Covington and the loss of his command, Captain Hasbrouck was given command of another ship. He was given command of the Battleship USS Minnesota. This may have been about the time she put back to sea as a unit of the Cruiser and Transport Force, in March of 1919. It is not known how long he was captain of the Minnesota and may have been in command when she was decommissioned 1 December 1921.

During December of 1919 Captain Hasbrouck was involved in a dispute between some of the Navy’s Admirals and Secretary of the Navy Daniels. Vice Admiral Hilery P. Jones and Captain Raymond D. Hasbrouck had followed Admiral Sims in refusing to except the medals bestowed on them, disagreeing with the policy determining the officers to be rewarded for services during the war. Admiral Sims felt that the Navy Awards Board was too liberal in its awards. Vice Admiral Jones, who commands the first Division of the Atlantic, has written to Secretary Daniels declining at the award of the Distinguished Service Cross and protesting against certain awards to members of forces under his command during the war. Captain Hasbrouck, now in command of the battleship Minnesota, is understood to have asked Secretary Daniels to remove his name from the list of awards of the Navy Cross. He formerly commanded the USS Covington, a transport which was sunk by a German torpedo.

On December 26, 1919, Secretary Daniels ordered the Navy Department's Board of Awards reconvened Monday, January 5th, 1920 to revise the recent recommendations as to Naval awards which have been the source of a controversy brought to a head by declination of Admiral Sims to except the Distinguished Service Medal.

According to an article in the Trenton Evening Times, Thursday, November 11th, 1920, the matter was concluded in this way. Secretary of the Navy Daniels made the announcement on Armistice Day, the occasion for the belated distribution of the 2,624 Naval decorations to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who served in the World War. The awards were sent to commanding officers of all ships, stations and posts for presentation with simple ceremonies. Daniels announcement of the awards recalled the famous controversy of a year ago between Daniels and Admiral Sims, commander of the American sea forces in Europe during the war. This controversy, started when Sims refused his award and charged that Daniels had showed favoritism in distribution of others, finally led to a congressional investigation of the Navy's conduct of the war. Daniels reconvened the Naval Awards Board to make a new study of Naval honors and the results of the board's second report and the secretary's final actions were made public today.

The announcement shows both the Admiral and the Secretary "sticking to their guns," Daniels stood by his original awards, except in some cases where higher awards were granted, and some new awards also have been granted, including many to enlisted men. No eliminations or reductions in honors were made and Daniels has made sweeping changes in the Awards Boards second report, just as he did in the first.

Admiral Sims was again granted the Distinguished Service Medal, which he formerly refused, but no effort will be made to present it to him. It will be held at the Navy Department for him along with the honors for two other officers who joined Sims in attacking Daniels. These officers are Captain Benton C. Decker, who was Naval attaché at Madrid during the war, and Captain Raymond D. Hasbrouck, who did not agree with Daniels policy in giving awards to officers who lost their ships, which, Hasbrouck himself lost a ship.

Daniels again refused to give the Distinguished Service Medal to Admiral Cary T. Grayson, President Wilson's physician, as recommended by the board. Grayson was given the Navy Cross. The Secretary stuck to his award of Distinguished Service Medal to Lieutenant Commander David Worth Bagley, his brother in law, and to Commander Percy Foote, his personal aide, which both men lost ships during the war. Daniels made a total of 29 changes in the original list of awards. The new Naval awards include three Distinguished Service Medals, 311 Naval Crosses and 98 Commendations. In the Marine Corps there are two new Distinguished Service Medals and sixty-six Navy Crosses.

In preparing for the 150th anniversary of the United States Navy, October 27th, 1925, coincidence with Navy Day and the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, the Navy League announced that a host of speakers throughout the country would inform the public, both in person and by radio. Naval vessels and shore stations will hold open house. Captain Raymond D. Hasbrouck was one of these speakers and gave talks before seven Rotary clubs in Montana on October 20-27, 1925.

Captain Hasbrouck is listed in the Hasbrouck Family Book written by Kenneth E. Hasbrouck. Raymond DeLancey Hasbrouck died 19 March 1926 at the Naval Hospital in San Diego, California and he was buried at sea with full military honors from the battleship U.S.S. California.


Charles W. Motter

Harrolyn Black shared information with me about her great uncle Charles W. Motter.

Harrolyn Black found a picture of the sinking USS Covington in the belongings of her deceased great uncle, Charles W. Motter. She found his date of birth, which was August 28, 1895 and that he may have been from the Towson, Maryland or East Coast area and did serve in the Navy. Among the items found was a medic’s handbook with his name on it. Harrolyn has inherited lots of his books and some of them have newspaper clippings in them. As Harrolyn was talking with other family members they told her that "Uncle Charlie" owned a bank at one time in Fairoaks, California and may have been in the insurance business.

A search of Federal Census records shows the following information. According to the 1930 Federal Census there was a Charles W Matter. Harrolyn Black said that for some reason his name had been spelled with an “a” instead of the normal Motter spelling. Charles W. Matter was living in Raleigh City, North Carolina. They rented their home on 1219 Mordicai Drive. He was 35 in 1930 and it was estimated he was born in 1894 but does not give the day or month. His wife was Minnie H. aged 33 and John H. age 7 and Mary J. age 5 were their children. Minnie was born in Maryland, as were her parents. Both the children were born in Washington, DC. Charles was born in Pennsylvania, as were both his parents. His occupation was National Bank Examiner for the US Treasury and was a Veteran and did serve in the World War.

Addition research from the Social Security Death Index shows this:
Name: Charles Motter
SSN: 216-14-3818
Last Residence: 75417 Bogata, Red River, Texas, United States of America
Born: 25 August 1895
Died: December 1981
State (Year) SSN issued: Maryland (Before 1951)

Harrolyn Black had conversations with her Mother and also her Aunt and they both said that the Charles Motter with the earlier spelling of Matter was correct. They also told her that at one time Charles Motter was an insurance agent for Hartford in Towson, Maryland. Harrolyn confirmed that the Bogata, Texas (last residence listed on the Social Security Death Index) is correct. She question Charles Motter’s second wife and children because Charles married her great-aunt as a second marriage and she was unaware of the first marriage until now. Being that Charles W. Motter was in the Navy and that he had a Navy Medics book with his name on it and that he had a photo of the USS Covington in his possessions it is probable that he was a medic on board the USS Covington. Additional research is ongoing by Harrolyn Black to confirm if he did in fact serve on the USS Covington during WWI.


Porter J. Smith, Navy Corpsman

Porter J. Smith, Jr., the son of navy corpsman Porter J. Smith Sr. contacted me and shared his fathers story of his experience aboard the USS Covington. Porter Jackson Smith, Sr., was born in Alabama in 1885 which would have made him 32 when he went into the Navy. He grew up in a little town north of New Orleans, Picayune, Mississippi and worked on the L&N railroad. His son recalls "I never asked why, at his age, he joined the Navy, and I don't know how long he was on the Covington but I know he was a corpsman or medic. I remember him talking about how cold it was at sea so he must have been on her through the winter of 1917. He never really talked too much about his Navy experience like most old WWI vets. I know he developed pneumonia as a result of the sinking. He was transferred to the Naval Hospital at Algiers, Louisiana which was opened to the civilians in New Orleans during the 1918 flu epidemic. He served as medic there and received a letter of commendation which the family still has."

His son continues, "I know he was back at sea again in the Pacific and was on board ship during the US Expeditionary force that went to Vladavostok, Russia to protect the large supply of war material that the US had sent to help the White Russians. I don't know what ship he was on. He developed TB and was invalided out of the Navy in 1922 and he went to VA TB hospital in Kerrville, Texas. He stayed there until 1926 when he said to hell with it and left uncured. He was sick most of his life and died in 1952 back at the same VA hospital while I was serving in the navy in Korea. I have taken to writing a journal for my grandson so he will know something about his family. It is a shame the older generation just never thought that their history would be of interest to following generations." Porter J. Smith, Jr., followed his fathers tradition and also served in the navy during the 50's in the Korean war. He served on the following ships; USS Iowa, USS Coral Sea (CVB 43), USS Frank Knox (DD 741), USS Roosevelt (CVB 42), USS LSMR 412.


S2c, Horace V. Conway

Horace Vaughn (Jim) Conway was born in Bloomfield, Ohio on February 10, 1897. One year after Congress and President Wilson declared War on Germany Horace entered the Naval Recruiting Station in Columbus, Ohio and enlisted into the Navy Reserve Force on May 7, 1918. Seaman Conway was assigned to the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, and IL from enlistment until June 5, 1918 where he was assigned to the Receiving Ship in New York Harbor. On the 10th of June Seaman Conway was assigned to the USS Covington, which was a seized German Passenger liner, formerly the Cincinnati, now being used by the Navy to transport American troops to the war in Europe.

Seaman Second Class Conway (Service No. 122-42-22) was on board the Covington the day she was torpedoed and sank and on the 14th of July after he was rescued, reported to the District Commander in Rochefort, France. He remained there until August 28, 1918 when he was assigned to the converted Yacht USS Aphrodite and served on her until the end of the war and until he was released from the navy on August 15, 1919 at the Demobilization Station in Pittsburgh, PA.

Seaman Second Class Conway then reverted back to Reserve status and when finally discharged from the Reserve Force on September 30, 1921 was at the present rank of Engineman 2c. At that time his discharge from the Navy was due to the lack of funds from the government.

After his service in the navy Horace Conway began his career working for the railroad in Dennison, Ohio. He and his wife Marie lived in Dennison, Ohio in a rented home at 67, 10th Street with his wife and two sons. The rent was $28 per month and the family enjoyed one of the early radio sets in their home. Marie was born about 1900 in Ohio and Horace and Marie were married in 1921 when he got out of the navy. On April 16, 1930 Horace worked as a Railway Express Manager in Columbus, Ohio. Horace and Marie’s two sons were born in Dennison, Ohio. They were Fred who was born in 1923 and Clair, born in 1925. They later had two daughter’s, born in Columbus, Ohio, Marianne, born in 1931 and Susan born in 1936.

Horace worked for the railroad all his life as his Social Security number was issued through the Railroad Board. Horace lived in Columbus, Ohio when he passed away in March of 1979.

This photo is of the Covington during her May 10, 1918 voyage. During this voyage she carried the Headquarters Company of the 65th Infantry (33d Division), 129th Infantry (33d Division) less the 3d Battalion and Company H and the entire 58th Artillery, CAC. On This photo was one of Seaman Conway's collection and he has written on it " We took these soldiers over. Covington was torpedoed coming back."

Seaman Conway's photos were shared by Shirley Conway-Algie, Granddaughter of Seaman Conway.

Another photo from Seaman Conway. Aft Mast Crows Nest and Lookout. Another photo from Seaman Conway. One of her gun crews in action.

Edwin Forest Gray, USN

Edwin Forest Gray 1899-1954

Bob Gray contacted me about his uncle, Edwin Forest Gray, who was in the US Navy during WWI and was a Hospital Apprentice 1C on the USS Covington when she sank and survived. Edwin died when Bob was only 10-years old and many years have passed since Edwin was alive to tell the stories. But Bob has shared what he can about Edwin and I have added to the story with some additional research to help fill in the blanks some. This is Edwin Forest Gray’s story as Bob heard from older members of the family.

Bob tells us that his uncle Edwin was born and lived all of his life in Portsmouth, Virginia. In fact, Edwin was the son of William Mortimore Gaskins “Speck” Gray and Harriet Ann Francis Bass Gray of Portsmouth, VA. Edwin’s father William was born on October 8, of 1857 or 1858 in St. Bride’s Parish, Virginia and William’s father was named Edwin Joseph Joynes Gray and was born in August of 1815 also in Virginia. William’s mother was named Martha Ann Elizabeth Corbell and she was also born in Virginia in April of 1823. Both sets of parents of Edwin J. J. and Martha Ann were born in Virginia. It is likely that Edwin Forest Gray was named for his grandfather Edwin J. J. Gray.

William Gary married Harriett Ann Francis Bass about 1892. She was born 27 May 1865 (or 23 May 1864) in Deep Creek, Va., and died 24 January 1929 of lobar pneumonia at 734 Naval Place, Portsmouth. Harriett was the daughter of William Bass and Eliza Katon. William Bass was a Nansemond Indian. Harriett Bass Gray was the rock of her family and, by all accounts, a quiet and reserved woman. She had tremendous influence on her children – providing a strength and direction that steered them throughout their lives. Her death came just a month after the tragic loss of her oldest daughter Elsie and entire family in Philadelphia, just before Christmas 1928.  One of her sons always said, “She died of a broken heart.” The pastor of Wright Memorial Methodist Church conducted Harriett’s funeral, and she is also buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Portsmouth, VA.

On June 16, 1900, when young Edwin F. Gray was 10-months old, he lived with his parents and grandparents in the same home located at 827 Griffin Street in Portsmouth. His father William worked as a stonemason to support the family, which consisted of 4 children, 2 grandparents, a niece and her daughter in the home. William and Harriet’s first child, a daughter named Elise Virginia was born on July 14 of 1893. Then a son named Charles Mylo born on January 16, 1895 and another son Robert G. born on June 24 of 1897 and then Edwin F. born on July 20 of 1899. William Gray’s niece Rosa Gray and her daugther Mary also lived with them.

By April of 1910 the Gray family still lived in Portsmouth but not in the same home they lived in 10 years before. They now lived on Cossack Street. William still worked for the Street Department, a job he held for over 49 years. William’s father and mother had passed away by then. Harriet, by 1910, had given birth to 2 more children, a total of 6 of which 5 were living. Annie Olivia Gray was born in late December 1904, and died 8 months later on August 12, 1905 of whooping cough. Her last child, a son named Corbelle Katon Gray (Bob’s father) was born on February 18, 1909, and so there were 5 children, Elise, Charles, Robert, Edwin and Corbelle in the home as of April 1910. Charles who was now 15 worked as a carpenter to help support the family.

As America was preparing to enter the war in Europe in the spring of 1917, Edwin joined the navy on April 23, 1917 in Norfolk, Va. for a 4-year enlistement. The muster rolls of the USS Covington show Edwin Forest Gray as a HA 2C as early as September 30, 1917. He was embarked in her on February 3, 1918, when his older brother, Charles drowned in Virginia and was aboard the day she was sunk. The June 30, 1918, muster roll lists him now as a HA 1C.

Bob recalls that. "...for all of my younger years, the family story was that he [Edwin] was struck by one of the blocks holding the lifeboats and was brought back to the States, not expected to survive. However he did survive and lived almost 40 years after that." Bob also recalls another story about Edwin and goes on to say "...for years another story was told in the family that Edwin gave his lifejacket to a boy from the Dowson family, who was also on the Covington and lived in the 600 block of Naval Place (also called Cossack St. and Gosport Rd) in Portsmouth, down the street from the Gray home at 734. Again all the 'Color' stories were passed down to me by family members who are no longer alive."  In fact, the July 14, 1918, Disposition of the Crew of USS Covington lists both Edwin F. Gray and Ernest G. Dowson (also an HA 1C). This is the same Ernest G. Dowson who can be found in the 1910 through 1930 censuses in the 600 block of the same street that the Grays lived on. So some of the family lore may be true. The Disposition lists indicate that both Ed Gray and Ernest Dowson were transferred to Base Hospital #5 – a unit that resided in Boulogne, France, where it also operated as British General Hospital No. 13.

After the war ended Edwin returned to the family home on Cossack Street in Portsmouth where he lived with his father, mother two brothers, Robert and Corbelle and his sister Elise who was now married to Arthur L. Wadsworth Jr. and their 2-month old son Arthur III. In January of 1920, Edwin’s father William was working as a carpenter and his brother Robert was a Boilermaker at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. At that time, Edwin worked as a plumber in a local shop. Elise’s husband Arthur worked as a clerk at an oil refinery.

By April of 1930, Edwin was still single and living still with his father William, who was now 73-years old and widowed. The family home was now at 734 Gosport Road in Portsmouth and was owned by William and valued at $2,500. William at the age of 73 still worked for the Street Department. Also in the home were William’s 74-year old brother Edwin T. and his 61-year old sister, Alice G. Taylor. Edwin T. worked as a watchman for the railroad. Corbelle, the younger brother to Edwin Forest Gray, also lived in the house, and was by now 21-years old, single and worked at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. Edwin Forest Gray was now 31-years old and single and worked at a local laundry as a delivery driver, and also as a plumber. Later Edwin worked for the U. S. Customs Service, a job he held until he retired. It was said by family members that Edwin was known to be extremely strong and once lifted an automobile off of a man’s foot.

Edwin was married to Mildred “Mickey” A. Roscoe, who was a native of South Carolina. Edwin and Mildred lived at 727 Fifth Street in Portsmouth at the time of Mildred’s death on 28 October 1948. Edwin and Mildred did not have any children. Edwin Forest Gray a survivor of the sinking of the USS Covington, passed away in 1954 from the complications of nephritis. He was a member of the Westhaven Baptist Church at the time of his death, and his funeral was held in the Fourth Street Baptist Church in Portsmouth. He is buried in the Olive Branch Cemetery, City Park, Portsmouth.


Ptr1/c Fred R. Alward, 100-89-97

Fred Alward enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve Force at the age of 21-years, 5 months old. Entering the navy at the Boston Naval Yard of May 29, 1917 he was assigned to the Receiving Ship at Boston on June 30, 1917 and was then assigned to his first ship, the USS Covington on August 31, 1917. He survived the sinking on 1-2 July 1918 and officially released from the Covington on July 14, 1918 was assigned to the USS Agamemnon where he served through November 11, 1918 and was placed on Inactive duty status from the Agamemnon on August 30, 1919. Fred Alward was a native of Bangor, Maine.


Seaman 2c Raymond O. Bryant

Raymond O. Bryant was born in Milford, Massachusetts in 1899. His father’s name was Frederick H. Bryant born in Massachusetts about the year 1859, and his mothers name was Emma Hamilton who was born about 1875 in Ellington, Connecticut. It is also not known when Raymond’s parents were married but they did have two children, Raymond and a younger daughter named Olive M. born about 1904. Emma passed away in 1937 just one day before her husband Frederick passed away.

It was likely that at the age of 17-years and within an few days of America entering the First World War Raymond enlisted into the Navy, as on 25 April 1917. He reported for duty aboard the Receiving Ship at the Boston Navy Yard. At that time Raymond lived at 94 Commonwealth Ave., in Springfield, MA. On 26 April 1917 Apprentice Seaman Bryant was sent to the Naval Training Station, Newport, RI for basic instruction. Upon completion of his training on 1 July 1917 he was sent back to the Receiving Ship at Boston to await additional orders. He was assigned his first ship and on 31 July 1917 Seaman Bryant reported for duty aboard the USS Covington, an ex-German Passenger liner now being used as a troop transport ship.

Seaman 2c Raymond O. Bryant Service number 113-81-97 served on the Covington from 31 July 1917 until a German U-boat sank her on 2 July 1918, and officially transferred from her on 14 July 1918. Raymond while on the Covington, would have sailed on at least 5 round trip convoys to France through the submarine infested waters before she was sunk.

After the sinking of the Covington Seaman Bryant was transferred to the USS Nokomis on the 14th of July 1918. The Nokomis an 872-ton steam yacht built in 1914 by Pusey & Jones of Wilmington, Delaware for Horace E. Dodge of Detroit, Michigan, who was the brother of John Dodge and together they founded the Dodge Brothers Automobile Company. But when America entered the war Horace Dodge sold his yacht to the US Navy for use as a patrol vessel. The Nokomis was then converted for that purpose and at the time Seaman Bryant joined her, she was on station off the Western Coast of France patrolling and performing convoy escort duties. This duty she held for the remainder of the war and Seaman Bryant remained with the Nokomis until she returned to the States in August of 1919.

Seaman Raymond O. Bryant was honorably discharged from the Navy on 10 September 1919. Bryant stayed in the Massachusetts area for the rest of his life. In 1920 after leaving the Navy he lived in the home of his mother and father at No. 16 Bluffton Avenue in Brockton, MA. In the home on Bluffton Ave. lived Raymond, his mother and father and his younger sister Olive. Raymond’s father Frederick worked as a cutter in a local shoe factory as did Olive who worked as a sorted in the same shoe factory. Raymond in January of 1920 worked as a printer in a local print shop.

Sometime between 1920 and 1921 Raymond married a woman named Frances (Ray) Lincoln. She was born about 1890 and passed away in 1974. Together Raymond and Frances had two children. A daughter Eleanor (Bryant) Gormbly born in 1921 who lives in Springfield, MA, and a son Fredrick L. Bryant born in 1923 and passed away in 2001.

During the 30’s Raymond lived in Westfield, MA and again as America was pulled into the Second World War felt the call to serve his Country during time of war. As he did during WWI, Raymond enlisted into the military, although this time into the U. S. Army. On 13 October 1942, Raymond O. Bryant enlisted in the Army at Springfield, MA for “the duration of the war, plus six months, at the discretion of the President.” At the time he entered the Army he for an unknown reason listed himself as single and no dependents.

Raymond O. Bryant, the survivor of the sinking of the Covington and two World Wars would live out the rest of his life in Troy, New York, passing away in 1961. Surviving family members today believe he his buried in a cemetery someplace in Troy, New York.


 Joseph Edward Roche, Fireman 2nd Class, USN

This is the story of former resident of Lee, Massachusetts, Joseph Edward Roche who was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on January 27, 1899. He was the son of James Roche and Margaret Navin. Joseph E. Roche would live the rest of his in the state of Massachusetts and would passaway on March 10, 1976 in Arlington, Massachusetts. This story was written by Mr. Roche in a diary that he kept during his time in the Navy and was not brought to light until after his death. This is the story of her last trip as written by Fireman 2nd Class Joseph Edward Roche, United States Navy in his diary.

Notes & Memos from the Diary

September 29, 1917: Enlisted in the U. S. Navy at Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston. Sent to Commonwealth Pier for Training.

October 6, 1917: Transferred from Commonwealth Pier to U.S.S. Covington at the Charleston Navy Yard.

October 7, 1917: Steamed out of Navy Yard on trial trip. Cruised around Provincetown for forty eight hours on a trial run.  Everything was OK.

October 9, 1917: We anchored off Ninth Street on the North River in New York City and went ashore on a Liberty Party. I got steamed up and on my return to the ship, I fell overboard. Out of my foolishness, I got a bad cold.

October 15, 1917: The troops started to board the Covington at 9:00 p.m. and the Headquarters Troops of the 42nd Division got acquainted with a number of the boys from the Louisiana Calvary. One, Adrean Burrows had a good supply of liquor. We had quite a party that night!

October 18, 1917: Steamed out of Hoboken, N. J. at 11 p.m. on our first trip to France. (Covington sailed in convoy with the transports USS Henry R. Mallory, Tenadoes, Pastores, President Lincolin and the President Grant. The convoy was escorted by one Cruiser and several Destroyers) Had a very pleasant voyage of 14-days. Not much excitement but interesting for our first sea voyage. Landed in St. Nazaire, France at the beginning of November.  At the Main Street pier, one could shake hands with the Frenchmen through a porthole. One of the soldiers got caught passing a letter to a man who later proved to be a German spy. We never found out what happened to them, but we could guess easy enough.

November 2, 1917: I was on the sick list with a bad case of Bronchitis and was told that I couldn’t go ashore. After being at sea for weeks, I made up my mind that I was going regardless of of the doctor’s orders. I managed to get my pass with the help of my friends, Al “Mutt” Jennings and Ray Patteri.  I got pass the O. D. and was ashore and enjoying myself in due time. We saw some very interesting sights on our first visit on French soil. The one that struck us funny was seeing a Ford car. After looking over the town, we decided to have a few drinks. We did, and got in a jam with the Marines and were escorted back to ship. I, rather sore and with a cut lip. The outcome was the brig for “Mutt” and back to the sick bay for me.

No date given: On the return trip to the States we were attacked by a submarine the first night out or rather at 3:00 a.m. we were awakened by a blowing and shrieking sound. I jumped out of my hammock and landed in a couple feet of water. The scuffer, or drain being blocked up, the water lodged there. My first impression was that we got hit and were sinking. Believe me, it didn’t take me long to get up on deck, buckle on my life preserver on and then stand-by awaiting to hear the crash and then overboard! The sub fired three torpedoes, Thank God!, they all missed. We couldn’t fire our own guns for fear of hitting one of our own ships in the convoy. After a half hour that seemed like years, everything quieted down and we were on our way. For the first time we realized what war really was and found out why one could turn gray overnight. We did not have any more excitement the rest of the way back. We arrived at Hoboken, New Jersey the day before Thanksgiving and sure had a lot to be thankful for as we put our feet on land in the good old U.S.A. I had forty-eight hours leave and spent Thanksgiving with my buddies.

The next four trips over and back were uneventful. We ran into a few severe storms and several encounters with subs, but there were no causalities on those nights.

In June 1918 we left Hoboken, New Jersey under cover of darkness, the same as usual, sneaking out like rats. The trip over was uneventful and we arrived at Brest, France in due time. We unloaded our cargo of freight and also had a human cargo of 5200 soldiers. We had a few hours of liberty and enjoyed ourselves and thought up plenty of stories for the folks back home.

We steamed out of Brest, France at 9:15 a.m. on July 1, 1918. Most of us “for some strange reason” with a feeling that we were never going to reach the good old U.S.A. as the submarine traffic was reported to be extremely high. Every topic of the day was subs. At the last point of land a French fishing vessel signaled us that a German sub was waiting for the good old Covington.

At 6:00 p.m. we heard a wireless warning to change our course, which we did. I had the 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. watch. I went on and when I came off at 8:00 p.m. I turned in to my hammock to sleep as I was all in. After lying down for a few minutes I got up, took my life belt or vest and went down to the troops mess hall where there was a movie show in progress. I just got seated when there was a merciful explosion and crash so terrible that it cannot be put into writing. That was about twenty minutes after nine. It seemed as if the ship rose out of the water and then laid on its side. We could hear the rush of water below deck but couldn’t see our hand in front of us. Complete darkness, cursing and praying. The events following couldn’t be explained. It was a good hour before I managed to get on deck, cut and bleeding, nothing serious but enough to make it miserable.

I don’t believe my buddy Paine ever saw the top side after the crash, at least no one saw him. We got away from the ship on a longboat raft and floated around until 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. when the destroyer USS Smith picked us up. Believe me, it felt good to have our feet on board a sea going ship headed for the nearest port, Brest. We arrived back there about noon the following day. I was taken to [unreadable], where a good feed, cigarettes, and drinks awaited us. I was then put in sick bay and remained there for the next three weeks, restless, sick and sore. We figured on being sent back to the United States but one of the crew came and told us that Captain Hasbrouck had tears in his eyes when he notified the crew that we were to stay in France. They needed all the trained men they could get, so they picked on us. That night, the brigs were full of men from the Covington, the bad news was the last straw. They broke loose and raised Hell!

Not just a ship but something to the crew that was almost human, a home, a pal that weathered the toughest storms of the Atlantic. When I look back on those events, it was not the USS Covington, but an old pal like Ambrose Ford and Paine, two buddies that went down with her. Ford was from Sommerville, Massachusetts and Paine was from Staten Island, New York.

I left the sick in the later part of July and was transferred to the Typaux River [sp], a tug at Rochefort, France, Naval Base 20. I got as far as headquarters and was put in sick bay there. I stayed in sick bay for another week and then was made an orderly and stayed there until September 3.  I was then transferred to the Naval Post Office at Royan, France. We called that the Vincent Astos Post Office. He was the Post Officer and had a crew of eleven. Royan is a summer resort on the Gironde estuary. The Post Office was located on Boulevard Botten [sp] and two minutes walk from the beach. We were living in high society and sure enjoying every outing with the French people and getting a $2.00 a day substance. I was beginning to think that being a shipwrecked sailor wasn’t so bad after all. I surely enjoyed this life until three weeks after the Armistice and then I was shipped back to headquarters at Naval Base 20, in Rochefort. I stayed around there until April 1919 and then was shipped on to Naval Base 14 in Bordeaux.


Chief Engineer John Thomas Cunningham

John Thomas Cunningham was a chief petty officer in the engineer force on the USS Covington. Chief Cunningham was part of the 25-man salvage detail Captain Hasbrouck sent back to secure the ship for towing.

The grandson of Chief Cunningham, Paul A. Cunningham has little information on his Grandfather, but he does know that he was born in Newfoundland, Canada (more precisely, in La Petite Placentia, aka Argentia) about 1870-73. Family “legend” has him coming to the States after the older brother of John Thomas Cunningham died in a logging accident. With the death of his brother and the death of his parents who also died in an accident several years earlier, John Thomas Cunningham had nothing left in Canada. Being only 16-years old he left Canada for a new life in the United States. Looking for a way to make a new life Cunningham saw the Navy as a way to get a new life so he lied about his age to join the Navy in 1889. He served in the navy throughout the Spanish American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the First World War.

Before the First World War Cunningham was stationed at the Boston Navy Yard. While stationed there he fell in love with and married Mary Feeley (b.1894 d. 1979). John and Mary started their family in Dorchester, MA where together they had eight children, all six of his sons serving in the Second World War and one in Korea. After WWI, Cunningham stayed in the naval reserves for a while and worked for the Boston school department maintaining the high pressure steam systems. John Thomas Cunningham died in March of 1945. Interestingly, no date of birth is recorded on his headstone.


Frederick Carl Burckel, USN, Covington Survivor

Mary and Frederick Carl Burckel 1937

Walt Feifer who is a relative to Frederick C. Burckel wrote the following about him. This is the story of one navy man told by another navy man.

I served in the US Navy from 1968 - 1971 and I really enjoyed listening to some tall tales from an old salt, my wife's great Uncle Freddie, who lived with them until he passed away. He was a typical "Navy man" with many tattoos. I heard stories about his ship being torpedoed during the World War I and how he floated in the Atlantic Ocean until he was rescued. I heard about China and the love of his life, Mary. These were just a few of the many tales I heard from him. When I recently received his Navy service papers, I started to do a little research on him. This is when I found out that he served on the USS Covington.

Frederick Carl Burckel was born on February 15, 1897 in Lawrence, Mass. He served in the US Navy from May 7, 1917 to December 30, 1937 when he retired with 20 years in the Navy. He re-enlisted in 1940 and served until May 9, 1945. During his career he served in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. On May 7, 1917, Frederick went to the Recruiting Station in Boston and enlisted into the U. S. Navy. He was sent to the Naval Training Station Newport News, Rhode Island until June 30, 1917 when he was sent to the Receiving Ship at Boston, MA. He was then assigned to the USS Covington on September 30, 1917. He served on the Covington until she sank on July 1, 1918. He was discharged from the Covington on July 14, 1918. He served on many ships during his navy career.

He served on the following stations & ships: USS Covington Troopship (Sept. 1917 - July 1918), USS Long Beach AK-9 (Sept. 1918 - Jan. 1919), USS Lake Ypsilanti American Freighter #4114 (March 1919 - July 1919), USS Luce (Dec. 1919), USS Breck (Dec. 1919 - March 1921), USS James K. Spaulding (March 1921 - Oct. 1921), USS Tacoma CL-20 (Oct. 1921 - Oct. 1923), USS Breck DD-283 (Feb. 1924 - Aug. 1925), USS Montcalm AT-39 (Dec. 1925 - Jan. 1926), USS Antares AG-10 (Jan. 1926 - Aug. 1926), Naval Torpedo Station, Newport News (Sept. 1926 - Oct.1928), USS Hopkins DD-249 (Dec. 1928 - Aug. 1929), USS Pennsylvania BB-38 (Oct. 1929 - Aug. 1930), USS Dobbin AD-3 (AUG. 1930 - March 1933), USS Brazos AO-4 (June1933 - March 1934), USS Minneapolis CA-36 (June 1934 - March 1936), USS Paul Jones DD-230 (June 1936 - Oct 1937), USS Texas BB-35 (Dec. 1940 - March 1941), USS Barnett APA-5 (March 1941 - Feb. 1943), several bases in the US until he retired on May 9, 1945.

Frederick Burckel retired as a MM1st Class. He served during World War I & World War II. He survived the sinking of the USS Covington, served on Destroyers, Heavy Cruisers, Battleships, Oilers, and repair ships. In 1936, while assigned to the USS Paul Jones which was stationed in Chefoo, China, they were there to protect American interest in the troubled Far East. The USS Paul Jones participated in the Yangtze River Patrol and was assigned other patrol duties along the China coast, while making occasional voyages to and from Manila. This is where he met Mary. Freddie was in love with her and when he left, he bought Mary her freedom.

During World War II, the USS Barnett, an attack transport ship, sailed to San Francisco to embark men of the 1st Marines for transport to the South Pacific. She sailed from San Francisco with convoy PW 2095 on 23 June 1942. Assignment of the 1st Marines to the Guadalcanal landing occurred after Barnett had been commercially loaded to cram the most material into available cargo holds. Barnett was assigned to Transport Division B for the Guadalcanal landing carrying the Headquarters, 1st Marines and 1st Battalion. Barnett arrived in Wellington, New Zealand in early July to reshuffle cargo into combat loading so less important items were under material necessary during the early stages of amphibious assault. Barnett sailed from New Zealand on 22 July for a landing rehearsal on 26 July at Koro Island in Fiji. The landing force then sailed from Koro on 31 July and commenced the Guadalcanal landing on 7 August. Barnett was damaged by a crashing Mitsubishi G4M bomber during an air raid on 8 August. Barnett sailed for Nouméa on 9 August carrying survivors of ships sunk at the Battle of Savo Island. Barnett spent the month of November 1942 shuttling troops and supplies between Tulagi and Guadalcanal. Barnett was anchored off Lunga Point offloading when accompanying USS Alchiba (AKA-6) was torpedoed by midget submarine Ha-10 on 28 November 1942. She was also in the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. The USS Barnett transported survivors from USS Lexington CV-2 from Noumea to San Diego.

My mother-in-law was Freddie's favorite niece and when he came home on leave he would always bring her something. In those early days, he was paid in cash and on one of his leaves, he gave my mother-in-law a $5.00 gold piece. She deeply cherished it and would never spent it. When my mother-in-law passed away, she willed the gold piece to me. Now after researching his Navy career, I think more highly of him every time I look at it.

Sincerely,
Walt Feifer


Watertender Archie M. Bickford

Archie Bickford was a Watertender in the United States Navy during WWI and survived the sinking of the troopship USS Covington on July 1-2, 1918.

Watertender Bickford distinguished himself that day in July 1918 when the Covington was torpedoed. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in the boiler room deep within the mortally wounded ship. His citation from the Navy Department reads as follows:

Bickford, Archie M.
Watertender, U.S. Navy
U.S.S. Covington
Date Of Action: July 1, 1918

Citation: The Navy Cross is awarded to Watertender Archie M. Bickford, U.S. Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving on the U.S.S. Covington on the occasion of the torpedoing of that vessel on July 1, 1918. Though at the time, in water up to his waist, and at the foot of the only escape ladder from the fire room, he attempted to reach the safety valves of his boilers in order to remove the menace of their explosion.

After the sinking of the Covington on July 2, 1918 the crew was transported to Rochefort, France. On July 14 they were under command of the District Commander and were assigned other duties. It is not known for sure what Watertender Bickford’s exact duty was after he was released from Rochefort, France but he was still in the navy in 1920 serving aboard the USS Robinson, which was a Wickes-Class destroyer. At the time the Robinson was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Archie Bickford still held the rating of Watertender. He was 39-years old and single, his home of record was Ashland, New Hampshire.

Archie M. Bickford was the eldest son of Horace and Rosa Bickford. The Bickford’s were a New Hampshire family, Horace having been born in March of 1852 and Rosa was born in May of 1885. About 1878 Horace and Rosa married and in March of 1880 their first child was born, Archie M. Bickford. A second son, Elwin S. born in January of 1883 and lastly a son named Earl M. born in December 1885 followed this. At the turn of the century the Horace Bickford family was living on a farm near Ashland, New Hampshire where Archie and Elwin helped their father on the farm, Earl still being in school at the time.

About 1906 Archie had moved away from the farm in Ashland to live in the city of Manchester working as a motorman for the city street railway system. He had also married and by 1910 Archie and His wife Louise were in their fourth year of marriage. Louise was French-Canadian and had immigrated to the States in 1885. This marriage was destined to fail and they were divorced but the date is not known. It must have happened previous to Archie entering the United States Navy during WWI and in fact he may have already been in the navy before the war.

After the war sometime after 1920 Archie was discharged from the navy and was living back in Ashland, New Hampshire. In 1930 Archie Bickford was now a 50-year old divorced man working on a farm. According to his family Archie lived the rest of his life in Ashland and kept to himself living alone, until just like the ship he escaped from on the Atlantic in 1918 he slipped away from history passing away on November 9, 1951. He was buried in the Ashland Cemetery, Ashland, New Hampshire.

Archie Bickford’s grave marker photographed by his great-great-nephew Andy Bickford. Archie live the remaining years of his life much as a hermit and kept to himself, until fading away into history. In much the same way this photo of his grave marker shows that the grass has almost covered his stone again making his story fade away. But when the grass was pulled back the story of Archie Bickford, the man who was awarded the Navy Cross for Extraordinary Heroism, can once again be known.

On the right is a bronze marker in the Ashland Cemetery with the names of the Ashland WWI Veterans. On this bronze marker are two Bickford men, Archie and his brother Earl Bickford. Earl Bickford served in both WWI and WWII.


Fireman Clyde Harold Lamb

Clyde Harold Lamb survived the sinking of the USS Covington on July 1-2, 1918. Lamb was a Fireman and his job would have been down in the fire-rooms of the ship making sure the fires in the boilers were lit and tended to. According to the family the story of how Clyde survived the sinking goes like this. When the torpedo hit the Covington Fireman Lamb was not on duty but was taking a shower at the time. In the ensuing scramble to get up on deck, Lamb left the shower with not a stitch on and headed for safety. Away from the ship and safe in a lifeboat the rush of the moments before calmed down and Lamb realized he was setting a lifeboat with barely any clothes on, but very happy to be alive.

The survivors of the Covington were all taken to Rochefort, France and then new duties were assigned to each man. It is not known where Lamb was assigned but it is fact that he was still in the navy in January of 1920. Fireman Clyde Lamb was then serving at the U.S. Naval Station, Norfolk, VA assigned to the Tug and Yard Craft office.

Clyde Harold Lamb was the son of George (b. Sept. 1870, Michigan) and Ella (b. March 1871, Michigan) Lamb. George and Ella were married sometime about 1892 and Ella had given birth to 5 children, 4 of which were still living as of June of 1900. The eldest son was Fred (b. Jan. 1873), Clyde Harold born on January 9, 1894, Ralph (b. Jan. 1895), and Sydney (b. Jan. 1899). The George Lamb family lived at that time on a farm that George farmed in Matterson Township in Branch County, Michigan.

After Clyde Lamb was discharged from the navy, which was likely during 1920, he married. His bride Minnie was 19-years old and from North Carolina. Clyde and Minnie made their home in Pasquotank, County, North Carolina and would live in that general area the rest of their lives. In April of 1930 Clyde and Minnie were living in Providence Township of Pasquotank, County where Clyde was farming. By then Clyde and Minnie had 4 children, Vera, James, Calvin and Hilda. Their family eventually grew to include 7 total children.

Later in life Clyde and Minnie lived in Elizabeth City, North Carolina where near the end of Clyde’s life he was living in a nursing home. On April 29, 1988 Clyde Harold Lamb passed away. Today he lies buried in the West lawn Cemetery in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.


Thomas Ernest Holloway

Becky Carr the daughter of Thomas Ernest Holloway wrote the following information about her father who was aboard the Covington when she sank during WWI.

“It's wonderful to find so much great information on the USS Covington and the men who were on it. Perhaps I can add to the history a little.

My father (who died at age 91) was a proud US Navy Veteran of World War I and served on the USS Covington when it was torpedoed and sunk. We have a few pictures of him in uniform, but I don't know his rank. He worked on boilers in the boiler room and continued this work after the war. He said he was a steam and electrical engineer back then. We have some large pictures of the ship that match one posted online and that match an original newspaper clipping we also have.

His name was Thomas Ernest Holloway and he probably went by "Tommy" at the time. He was born December 17, 1895 in Winder, Georgia (I think) and married my Mother, Emma Harris Houston in 1925 when she was just 15 years old. He was 20 years older than my Mother and had already been in WWI by then. He passed away at age 91 after a long illness, diagnosed at ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Thomas Ernest Holloway (Sr) had 2 children with my Mother, Thomas Ernest Holloway Jr and Anita Harris Holloway, born in 1927 and 1929 respectively. I (Rebecca (Becky) Lee Holloway) came along very late in my Mother's life on September 18, 1947 and am not entirely sure that Thomas Ernest Holloway Sr is my birth father, but I have known him as my only FATHER having loved and raised me ever since I remember. There have always appeared to be some family secrets surrounding my birth situation, with many hints and clues through the years but with no family members willing to divulge the true story.

My sister Anita never married and my brother had 3 sons (my nephews), Thomas Ernest Holloway III, Dallas Scott Holloway, and Russell Holloway. Thomas III is deceased, but Dallas Scott is a medical scientist who lives in Pennsylvania I think and Russell lives in Dallas. Both have families.

My Daddy (as I called him) always had exciting tales to tell me as I grew up, but by far the most exciting story that he told with pride was his experience on the USS Covington that was torpedoed and sunk. We had pictures of the ship and he was always a very proud Navy Veteran, very patriotic and proud of his service. Daddy was a staunch Democrat and a Union Man. He was a plumber/steamfitter/pipefitter and belonged to the Local Union 101 all of my life that I can remember and I am 63 years old now! The family attended the Union Picnic every year here in Dallas, TX. Daddy often worked in other parts of Texas at power plants in Amarillo, Pampa, Borger, Texas City, and as well as a job in Georgia when I was very small. I used to see him off at the train station every time he left.

Although my Dad was born in Georgia, his roots were in Oklahoma, with most relatives in Norman and Ponca City, OK. He was one of 13 siblings. I think that most have passed away at this point in time, but I am not sure of this. There are probably extended relatives of ours there that we do not know.

I remember my Dad as a strong, loving, caring father who did whatever it took to support his family and give them everything they needed for a decent life. Even though we were fairly poor by most standards, I felt very loved by him and my Mother most of the time. We all dressed up and went to church every Sunday. I was always "the boss" when I was little and he took me everywhere with him and announced this to everyone we encountered. He instilled in me the value of "honesty" probably more than any other and his reminding me to "be tough" in difficult situations will be with me always. He didn't smoke or drink that I was aware of, but he liked an occasional El Producto or Roi Tan cigar and he liked horse racing.”

Becky Carr


GRIFFER ALLEN SLAGLE

World War I – Seaman 1st Class, sinking of the USS Covington survivor
World War II – Gunners Mate 3rd Class & Gunners Mate 2nd Class

Griffer “Griff” Allen SLAGLE was born Saturday, 8 January 1898, in Murray, Cass Co., Nebraska to Allen Walter SLAGLE and Emma PARK.  He was about 1 year old when the family moved to Moxee, Yakima Co., Washington.  In early 1902, the family moved to a 40-acre farm on Ashue Road near the town of Wapato in Yakima County.  Griff enlisted in the Navy during World War I and saw service on the troop ship USS Covington carrying soldiers to Europe.  His ship was torpedoed on 1 July 1918 and sank in the Atlantic the next day with six men killed.  Griff was then ordered to the USS Lamson, a destroyer.  On one weekend pass, he visited his mother's sister, Sarah PARK ALDRED, in New Jersey. 

After coming home from the Navy, Griff helped out on the home farm.  Later he and brother Walt went to California and worked as extras in western movies.  They came back to the Yakima Valley when their father died on 13 March 1926 of pneumonia.  Griff and his brother Walt farmed the home place together until the father's mortgage and loan was paid off.  Their mother died of tuberculosis on 5 June 1931. 

Hearing his country's call to duty, Griff again enlisted in the Navy on 29 December 1941 in Seattle at the same rating (Seaman 1st Class) he had when discharged in World War I.  He served three years, mainly in the North Pacific - Alaskan waters.  He was stationed on the USS Buckeye (AN-13/YN-8), an Aloe-class net laying ship that was assigned to serve the U.S. Navy during World War II with her protective anti-submarine nets.  Griff was a Gunners Mate 3rd Class and Gunners Mate 2nd Class.  His exact date of discharge is unknown.

Griff was 73 years old when he married for the first time to a childhood sweetheart, the widow Charlotte WYRICK SCHELL, on 26 May 1971 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  Griffer Allen SLAGLE survivor of the sinking of the USS Covington and two World Wars died on 19 December 1984 in Ritzville, Adams Co., Washington.  He was cremated and his remains were given to his nephew Clifford Wayne SLAGLE.   Griff's ashes were scattered in the Yakima Valley where he grew up.

The below newspaper articles are from the Wapato Independent, Wapato, Washington, exact date unknown, but after 2 August 1918. Griff’s brother Thurston, who was then serving in the army during WWI, wrote the first letter dated from July 1918. Griff wrote the second letter in August after the sinking of the Covington.

July 1918
Mrs. A. W. Slagle,
Wapato, Washington

Dear mother and all: Will drop you a few lines to let you know I am still alive and in the best of health. No doubt you will be surprised in the difference between this letter and my others. I am now somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean. Would like awfully well to tell you where I am but I can't I would also like to write and tell you all about my trip across the ocean but will have to wait 'till we get old Kaiser Bill. I suppose you have heard about the USS Covington sinking, the transport that Griffer was on. I would probably have seen him in New York and maybe on my trip if that hadn't happened. All the sailors I have talked with said the crew was all at some foreign port or maybe back to the States again by now. They say he will get a thirty-day furlough when he does get back, so maybe he will be home.

Well, mother, as I can't think of anything to write, only what I'm not supposed to say I will close for this time, hoping to hear from you all soon. As ever,

Your loving son, Thurston H. Slagle
Baking Co. 344, 91st Division
American E. F.

August 2, 1918
Mrs. A. W. Slagle,
Wapato, Washington

Dear Mother: I suppose that you have heard or read in the papers by this time of the sinking of the Covington on which I was stationed and have about worried yourself to death on account of not hearing from me, but I am still all right. Never felt better in my life, only I worry about what you might think has happened to me. We had an exciting time while it lasted but it was not long. I got sick while in the lifeboat but that was only for a short time.

It will be quite a while before you receive a letter I suppose and I won't be able to write very often. But I will try to write whenever the opportunity allows me to do so. I hope this letter finds you and all of the rest getting alone fine. Tell everybody hello for me, but don't worry mother, for I could not be any better off than I am now.

They seem to be such a nice bunch of fellows on this ship I am on now. I think I will like it fine after I get settled for a while and get used to the ways especially. I always wanted to be on something other than a transport and have got it at last. Will close for this time. I remain, Your Loving son,

Griffer A. Slagle
USS Lamson (DD-18)
Cr. P. M.  New York, New York

Diane Slagle Sheridan, the Great-niece of Griffer Allen Slagle, wrote the above article. She is also the Granddaughter of Thurston H. Slagle, and Daughter of Clifford Wayne Slagle.


Lt. Walter Johnson Pennell, MD, Medical Corps, USNRF

On April 16, 1917 Walter Johnson Pennell MD was appointed a Lt. Junior Grade in the Medical Corps of the United States Naval Reserve Force. He was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, MA. On August 1, 1917 Lt. (jg) Pennell was assigned to duty aboard the USS Covington in the Medical Department aboard the ship. He was promoted to Lieutenant on February 1, 1918, and he served aboard until she was torpedoed and sunk on July 1, 1918.

After the rescue of the crew Lt. Pennell was then transfered to duty with the United States Marine Corps stationed in Haiti. He served in Haiti until he was sent to the Sick Quarters in Quantico, VA on August 2, 1920. Once released from the hospital he remained in the navy past 1920.


William Stoehr Caldwell, USN

Chip Walsh, who is the grandson of William S. Caldwell, related how one day while cleaning out old "junk" from his basement he found an old clock and other items belonging to his grandfather. Chip stated, "His War Service Certificate did not list his rank or position, but I believe he was an enlisted man. The document does include the Covington among the ships on which he served."

It was not known if Caldwell was aboard the Covington when she was sunk but it is assumed so. Among the items Chip came across was the clock shown below with the partially visable world painted in red across the clock face, "COVINGTON"

It is not known if this was a clock that was aboard the ship or if it was a clock that was in one of the lifeboats, but it is fair to say that Caldwell took it with him when he was rescued or when he left the ship. Chip describes the clock, "It is a Seth Thomas clock and sadly the clock itself was gutted by my father. He replaced the movements with a battery-operated electric movement. Sad, from a collector's viewpoint, but dad was all about practical."


Raymond Gregg, USN

Dorothy Callan the granddaughter of Raymond Gregg says that she has a war certificate stating that Raymond Gregg served in the US Navy aboard the Covington during the First World War.


Boatswain's Mate 2c, Rolla W. Hill, USN

Rod Hill related the following about his grandfather, "I have been researching my Grandfather Rolla W. Hill. According to Navy records he was assigned to the Covington from Sept 24, 1917 until July 14, 1918. He was then re-assigned to the USS Remlik after the sinking. His grade would have been Coxswain while aboard the Covington, but after the sinking he was promoted to 2/c Boatswain's Mate. He left the Navy on July 20, 1920. He maintained the Lighthouses on the Burlington Vermont breakwater and on Lake Champlain, and later was a commander with US Coast Guard at Burlington. He passed away in 1963. I Wish that I would have asked him more about his time on the Covington. My father (his son) never mentioned the sinking. From what I know of Rolla, he would have spent the time remembering who was lost rather than the story of his survival."


The List of Troop Crossing Made by The Covington

The Covington made 6 round trips and carried 858 Officers and 20,871 enlisted men to Europe until she was sunk on 2 July, 1918. Her first reported trip carrying troops was on 18 October, 1917. Below are the dates of sailing and the units that she carried.

Sailing Date
Time
Unit
Officers
Enlisted men
18 October, 1917 6:15 PM HQ 42d Division
31
4
HQ Troop 42d Div
3
137
117th Train HQ & MP's
9
265
HQ Field Hospital 117th San Tn
5
11
Field Hospital #165
7
83
Field Hospital #167
6
82
Field Hospital #168
6
74
Aviation Cadets
1
77
151st Field Artillery Band
35
11th Tel. BN
10
214
Ordnance Field Depot #1
88
150th Machinegun BN
25
537
117th Engineer Train
50
1567
Engineer Field Clerks
25
Casuals
1
17
13 December, 1917 Bakery Co. 324 (41st Div)
3
98
HQ 81st Brigade (41st Div)
5
14
HQ Troop 2d Division
2
93
Sanitary Train 41st Division
19
302
Train HQ & MP's 41st Division
19
266
145th MG BN 41st Division
21
504
116th Supply TN, 41st Division
12
497
17th Field Artillery, 2d Division
68
1508
18 February, 1918 Casuals
18
203
121st MG BN, 32d Division
19
372
128th Infantry, 32d Division
77
2554
411th R. R. Telegraph BN
18
164
9 April, 1918 Evacuation Hospital No. 6 (2d phase)
18
170
HQ & 2d & 3d BNS., 6th Infantry
85
2402
Replacements
863
Casuals
30
32
10 May, 1918 HQ 65th Inf. Brigade, 33rd Div. (3d phase)
9
21
129th Inf., 33d Div. (3d phase), less 3d BN & Co. H
66
2293
58th Artillery CAC
57
1324
15 June, 1918 Casuals, Chaplains
10
Casuals, Cavalry
1
Casuals
1
Bakery Co. 322, 33d Div., 3d phase
2
100
Meteorological Section
1
54
Photographic Section
36
Mobile Vet. Sec. 3d Division, 3d phase
1
20
HQ & 1st BN, 115th Inf, 29th Division
62
1539
HQ & 1st BN, 366th Inf., 92d Division
54
1604
317th Ammunition TN, 92d Division
26
622
Totals
858
20,871

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