In transporting troops the government works on a wide margin of safety. Measures of precaution are heaped upon one another. During the last war four or five of the larger troopships would be escorted by six or eight destroyers, equal to three times as much protection per ship as was given mercantile convoys.
More than 2,000,000 American soldiers were transported to France without as casualty on the eastbound trip. By June and July of 1918 about 300,000 U.S. troops a month were crossing the Atlantic.
This success was due in part to the fact that the Germans were concentrating on merchant shipping and homebound empties, and made only a few feeble attempts against our troopships. They did sink the U.S. transport President Lincoln, but she was a westbound empty, and only 26 persons were lost.
Despite all the measures of safety, U.S. troops were killed on transports. The British Tuscania was torpedoed in February 1918, and 213 American soldiers died. The Otranto was sunk
by collision, and 431 U.S. troops were killed.
The point to remember is that when transports are hit, the loss of life is terrific: Arcadian, 279; Aragon, 610; Louvain, 224; Santa Anna, 638; Leasowe Castle, 101; Galway Castle, 189. These figures should induce a soldier at sea to be at all times vigilant and alert.
He should acquaint himself with every rule and regulation regarding his own safety. He must realize that the restrictions in area and other regulations, absolutely unavoidable in handling the mass, become an added hazard to the individual's safety. He must understand that in abandoning ship his superior officers are governed by orders and regulations, and are not fortified by experience. When a torpedo hits, the government's wide margin for mass protection becomes a narrow margin for individual error.
APPROXIMATE POSITION. -- You are to be given the approximate position of the transport at the time of abandoning ship. Without this approximate position you will not be able to set a course for the nearest point of land.
A transport's abandon-ship facilities are based on the probability that the survivors will be picked up within a short while. Since weather or other conditions may prevent your immediate rescue, you should make individual preparations for your safety. Among these individual
precautionary measures should be the purchase at any nautical store of six 10¢ Pilot Charts, covering the entire world.
SILENCE. -- After the order is given to abandon ship, keep quiet. No one is to talk except those who are giving the orders or supervising the execution of them.
OFFICERS. -- Non-commissioned officers are not to leave the transport until all their men have left. Commissioned officers must be the last to leave the ship.
ORDERS. -- Do not obey any orders except those given by the officers. Follow these orders out as you were instructed during the drills. Be sure that you do not misinterpret an order. Do not forget that you alone -- by not knowing what to do -- may be the cause of a panic.
QUARTERS. -- Since you will be assigned to a certain section of the ship for the duration of the trip, you must acquaint yourself with the alleyways, companionways, and other means of escape in your area. Be sure you know your alternative if any of these exits are cut off. Use only the alleyways and exits assigned to your unit.
During your recreation period study the details of the ship's construction. Find the places which will afford protection during shellfire or bombing. Be sure you know the most direct route to your raft or boat station.
UNDERCLOTHING. -- Said John J. Smith, pumpman from a torpedoed tanker: "From now on, winter or summer, the tropics or the arctic, I'm wearing heavy woolen underwear."
Despite the discomfort, wear heavy underclothing the entire voyage.
RATIONS. -- Though your boat or raft will be supplied with rations, it is advisable to take along extra rations. Concentrated food can be carried in a large-sized money belt.
LIFE PRESERVERS. -- If your preserve is a cork jacket, obtain a piece of nine thread or stout cord to tie around it. This will keep the preserver snug and low. It will lessen your difficulty in going down a lifeline, and your head will not be forced under water, which is one of the tricks of these treacherous, high-riding jackets.
LIFEBOATS. -- Every other boat should be lowered on each side, to reduce the possibility of one boat being dropped on another.
LIFERAFTS. -- The rafts should be released one after the other on both sides, beginning from the after end of the ship. This will prevent the rafts bunching up and will allow the men more freedom of movement over a larger area.
LIFELINES. -- Do not jump overboard. Your cork jacket will knock you out and cripple you. It may cost your life. Use a line, net, or ladder.
LIST. -- The torpedoed transport Transylvania
was sunk in May 1917, with a loss of 269. A slight list was corrected by massing the troops on the high side, an example of the practical use of moveable weight. Had the men gone over the low side, greater losses would have been incurred.
SHELLFIRE. -- Should the enemy, by shellfire or bombs, destroy the boat or raft to which you have been assigned, do not attempt to crowd into another boat or raft. Depend on your lifebelt for the time being.
EXHAUSTION. -- Cold and exposure will hasten exhaustion. An exhausted man should be transferred to a lifeboat.
SHOCK. -- Have an understanding with the men in your unit to watch one another for signs of shock, which often works by delayed action. Many men have perished in the water who could have been saved with a little assistance during a seizure or relapse. (Also see page 94.)
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