Daily Event for June 7, 2014

Thirty miles off Chicago, Illinois a German U-boat lay on the surface of Lake Michigan. Nearby a U.S. Navy gunboat stood off and took aim at the U-boat. A salvo of 13 rounds were let go at the boat. Several 4" shells hit the boat and she sank quickly, so quick in fact that the gunboat did not have enough time to come around for a shot at her other side. The enemy boat was easy prey as she was just a target.

The boat, ex-SMS UC-97 was one of six German submarines assigned to the U.S. after the Great War. The boats were taken around to various ports and put on display. They ended up at several naval bases around the country. UC-97 was assigned to Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago.

All of the boats were used by the navy to boost rerouting and for selling bonds and thousands of people came to see the scourge of the seas. What had been described to the public as the most terrible weapon of the war must not have been quite so impressive in person. UC-97 was a small coastal minelayer and was never used on the high seas so the little submarine may not have left the impression that it should have.

However in Jan. of 1919 the little boat made a big impression on one man who came to see her. He was a Mr. John Rasmussen, a navy veteran who had fought in a previous war. Not the Spanish-American War of 1898, but the War Between the States (Civil War) of 1861-64. He had served in monitors and fought at Ft. Sumter and other battles. The boat was moored at Municipal Pier in Chicago when he went to see her. Upon his arrival he was greeted by the commanding officer, Lt. Commander Charles A. Lockwood, Jr. (later Vice Admiral and Commander Submarine Force Pacific Fleet) and given a personal tour. He remarked at how much different the submarine was compared to the primitive ships he had served in. From all accounts he was quite impressed.

But the day finally came when the German submarines were no longer of use. That day for UC-97 was June 7, 1921. As stated above her end came fast and she was left at the bottom of Lake Michigan and she remains there to this day. The gunboat that sank her was USS Wilmette, the ex- passenger ship Eastland. She had been purchased by the navy after she had keeled over in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915 killing 844 people who were on their way to Michigan City, Indiana for a company outing. It was the second worst maritime disaster in U.S. history. She was converted into a gunboat in 1917 and remained in service until 1945.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Ex- SMS UC-97 seen in American hands.

2006 Daily Event
2008 Daily Event
2009 Daily Event
2010 Daily Event
2013 Daily Event