You may occasionally read that not a single member of the two-million-man AEF was lost in transit to Europe. Alas, although the record of the convoying system was excellent, it was not quite perfect. Here are some details.
|Temporary cemetery in Islay, Scotland, with the interments of those who died |
in the sinking of the SS Tuscania. (National Archives)
On 5 February 1918 the troopship SS Tuscania was close to the end of her two-week voyage from Hoboken, NJ, when disaster struck off the coast of Scotland. Near the island of Islay, the ship — with more than 2,000 on board — was torpedoed by a U-boat and sank in less than four hours. While most of the passengers were saved, over 200 American soldiers lost their lives.
On 29 May 1918, USS President Lincoln left Brest, France, bound for the United States along with three other troopships. Two days later she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-90. The President Lincoln sank soon afterward. Most of the passengers and crew were saved, but 26 went down with the ship.
|Survivors of USS President Lincoln in lifeboats off the coast of Brest, France, 1918. (National Archives)|
Troopships also faced dangers from accidents. On 6 October 1918, while leading a convoy, HMS Otranto — a Royal Navy vessel serving as a troopship for American soldiers — was accidentally rammed by another vessel in rough seas near Islay. Severely damaged, the Otranto drifted for a short time before it smashed into the rocky coastline and sank. Many of those on board were saved, but over 460 perished in the disaster, including more than 350 Americans.
Source: American Battle Monuments Commission