Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, May 20, 2022

The USS Ticonderoga Went Down Fighting

USS Ticonderoga

The USS Ticonderoga (previously S.S. Kamilla Rickmers) was a steamship in the United States Navy which served as a cargo ship. She was originally built as a German steamer in 1914. She was seized by United States Customs officials in 1917, then turned over to the Navy and fitted out as an animal transport and renamed Ticonderoga. The ship was armed with two 6-inch deck guns fore and aft.  Her captain was Lt. Commander James J. Madison, USNRF. Under Madison’s command, Ticonderoga carried cargoes to France three times through the summer of 1918. After loading at Norfolk from 5–19 September 1918, for what would be her fourth voyage, Ticonderoga steamed to New York where she joined a convoy bound for Europe.

On September 22, 1918, Ticonderoga cleared New York for the last time.  During the night of 29–30 September, the ship developed engine trouble and dropped behind the convoy. On the morning of 30 September 1918, the ship was attacked by the German submarine U-152. As the ship's gun crews prepared for action, her commanding officer tried to ram the enemy, but narrowly missed.  The U-boat's gunners opened fire at a range of 500 yards, targeting Ticonderoga’s bridge and forecastle, quickly putting the cargo vessel’s forward gun out of action. The ship’s 6-inch gun aft continued the battle.  The Ticonderoga fought on, but a torpedo hit and the loss of her second deck gun eventually doomed the ship.

During the two-hour engagement, of the 237 sailors and soldiers onboard, only 24 survived.  Many, including the commanding officer, suffered wounds. Commander Madison, in spite of severe wounds, continued to direct and maneuver the ship until forced to order her abandoned. After the order was finally given to abandon the sinking ship, Madison, who had lapsed into unconsciousness from loss of blood, was lowered into a lifeboat.  On the morning of 30 September 1918, Ticonderoga slipped beneath the sea.  The British steamer Moorish Prince found his life boat,  saving him and 21 of his surviving crew, on 4 October 1918. Two of the survivors were taken prisoner by U-152.

Two Officers from Ticonderoga, Prisoners on U-152

Commander Madison would receive the Medal of Honor for his leadership during the battle.  Unfortunately, he would eventually die from his wounds in 1922.  His citation reads:

For exceptionally heroic service in a position of great responsibility as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, when, on 4 October 1918, that vessel was attacked by an enemy submarine and was sunk after a prolonged and gallant resistance. The submarine opened fire at a range of 500 yards, the first shots taking effect on the bridge and forecastle, 1 of the 2 forward guns of the Ticonderoga being disabled by the second shot. The fire was returned and the fight continued for nearly 2 hours. Lt. Comdr. Madison was severely wounded early in the fight, but caused himself to be placed in a chair on the bridge and continued to direct the fire and to maneuver the ship. When the order was finally given to abandon the sinking ship, he became unconscious from loss of blood, but was lowered into a lifeboat and was saved. . .


Commander Madison with Medal of Honor

1 comment:

  1. An action reminiscent of that of HMS Rawalpindi in the next war