Admiral William
Fleet Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, 1945

The Bull Halsey Connection

Long before young Bill Halsey ever became a Fleet Admiral he was a destroyer man and held the rank of Commander. In October, 1920 he assumed command of USS Wickes DD-75, the flagship of Destroyer Division Ten based out of San Diego, California. Wickes operated off the west coast into 1922, conducting the usual target practices and exercises. One such exercise was the ceremonious sinking of Ex-German Submarine UB 88.

On the morning of January 2, 1921, Wickes stood out of San Diego Harbor en route to San Pedro, Commander Halsey in command. On the following day, Wickes stood out of San Pedro and made preparations for firing on UB 88. After the arrival of observation ship USS New Mexico, Wickes commenced firing on the submarine. Twenty four-inch shells were fired. At 4:16 in the afternoon UB 88 settled by the bow and sank.

Halsey later stated in his memoirs that Wickes was "the best ship I ever commanded; she was also the smartest and the cleanest."

USS Wickes DD-75, circa 1920

USS Wickes DD-75
Deck log - January 3, 1921

At 2:01 sighted POCOMOKE with German Submarine U.B. 88 in tow. At 2:05 started maneuvering at various speeds and courses for position in order to commence firing on U.B. 88. At 3:14 sighted NEW MEXICO 3 points abaft port beam. Maneuvering for position at end of watch.

Steaming as before on various courses at various speeds - Stn'd speed 20 knots. At 4:00 Stn'd speed 15 knots. At 4:08 commenced firing on U.B. 88 with #1, 2, 4 guns. At 4:12 ceased firing and stopped. At 4:16 U.B. 88 sank, bow first. At 4:20 standing in for San Pedro on various courses at various speeds - Captain at the conn - Navigator on bridge.


W.F. Halsey
Commander, U.S.N.

LA Times Headline
LA Times Photo

Photograph taken by George R. Watson, Times staff photographer, from the forward turret of the New Mexico just as the former Hun sea scourge, indicated by arrow, sank by the bow in her last dive. At the extreme right is the destroyer Wickes, which acted as executioner and which had already passed it's target and the New Mexico as the U-boat sank, though it began firing two miles to the left. In the inset are Admiral Rodman and Fred L. Baker.

The Execution on the High Seas Yesterday
of the Unterseeboot 88

Somewhere off San Pedro light at the bottom of the Pacific lie the shattered remains of Unterseeboot 88, German terror of the North Sea and which sank sixteen Allied vessels during the last months of the World War. Stubbornly, silently, the UB 88 nestled on the calm sea six miles out from the Los Angeles Harbor yesterday afternoon until a few of the best placed shots ever fired by American naval gunners ripped it mercilessly from bow to stern, sending it quickly into the depths of the sea and closing the last chapter of one of the most frightful stories of terrorism that ever invaded the worlds history.

The destroyer Wickes was the executioner of the condemned submarine, and it's excellent gunnery was witnessed by Admiral Rodman, his staff and a party of dignitaries aboard the U.S.S. New Mexico, flagship of the Pacific Fleet and observing ship during the sinking ceremonies.

The U-boat 88, towed by the Pocomoke, was sighted late in the afternoon as it slipped through the enveloping fog. Thirty-five hundred yards away, approximately two miles, the Wickes awaited orders to commence firing. Suddenly appeared a flash on the horizon and a four-inch shell splashed a few yards astern of the U-boat 88.

The Wickes was steaming head on toward the U-boat 88 at twenty knots an hour. A second shell came rattling through space. Twelve seconds later a huge cloud of smoke arose from the bow of the submarine. The wickes with it's second shot had torn a gaping hole in the bow of the U-boat 88. Came a tumultuous shout from the observers on the bridge of the New Mexico.

Other shells, splashing on all sides of the submarine, sent huge geysers of water into the air. One shot, with a thunderous roar, crashed into the conning tower and exploded. This shot, Admiral Rodman later stated, was one of the most effective shots he ever witnessed. With the demolition of the conning tower a submarine is rendered completely useless. Shells struck it amidships, on deck and in the stern and yet the stubborn hulk still tossed on the surface of the sea.

The Wickes, steaming two-thirds speed ahead, began firing broadsides at a range of one thousand yards and the UB 88 was engulfed in great clouds of smoke. Flames seen through the shell holes told that it was afire inside, and yet it refused to sink. Stored in one of the chambers were twenty-five pounds of T.N.T., a powerful explosive which was to be used to destroy the submarine if the shell fire proved ineffective. But the cable that linked the submarine with the Pocomoke had been severed by a shell and the explosive could not be ignited.

Suddenly the UB 88 began to list. It tossed madly on the water and began to settle by the bow. The stern heaved high in the air and then, with the vessel two-thirds out of the water, pointed straight to the skies, the diver paused for a moment, then sank quickly. The second shot fired by the Wickes had sunk the UB 88. The other hits had only speeded up its last and fatal plunge.

Twenty four-inch shells were fired by the Wickes, and when they had ceased firing Admiral Rodman ran up the signal, "Well done." Aboard the New Mexico, as the UB 88 disappeared, Mayor Snyder, Harry Haldeman, Fred L. Baker, Maynard McFie and a score of other prominent citizens, guests of Admiral Rodman, threw their hats in the air and mingled their cheers with the cheers of the crew.

"I'm glad that German thing is done for," said the Mayor.

The sinking of the UB 88 was less expensive than the scrapping of it by the government would have been, according to Admiral Rodman.

"Besides," he added, "It is a great moral lesson to those who think they can terrorize the world with frightful slaughter. The UB 88 received the same death penalty that it had so ruthlessly passed upon many Allied vessels. Yet the death of the UB 88 was more human. There was nobody aboard it, while sinking of the sixteen Allied vessels by the submarine caused the deaths of many innocent ones."

The UB 88 was one of five German submarines surrendered to the United States by Germany after the armistice all of which are destined to be sunk by American gunners. She was one of the most modern submarines ever constructed, being 185 feet long, with a twenty-two foot beam, weighing 800 tons and equiped with powerful Diesel engines.

Young Cmdr William Halsey
Cmdr. William F. Halsey aboard USS Shaw, August, 1918. Photo by Lt. F.E. Sellman.

Snapshot of Admiral Halsey By Fellow Officer Sellman
The Scarsdale Enquirer - 1943

"The best officer I ever knew," wrote F.E. Sellman, of Ferncliff Road, twenty-five years ago, under a picture he had snapped of his immedite superior, Commander (now Admiral) William F. Halsey, as they were going into Heligoland Bight at the end of World War I, on the destroyer, USS Shaw.

"After the passing of a quarter of a century, I still think the same," said Mr. Sellman at his home this week.

The Shaw was the first American warship into Germany after the Armistice and carried members of an inter-allied commission to inspect German seaplanes and Zeppelins. Mr. Sellman, then a Lieutenant in the Navy, served as Engineering Officer with Commander Halsey, and sums him up as being strict, fair and popular, a combination that explains the absence of any qualifications in the line written under the camera snap.

The picture shown above is another camera snap of the distinguished Admiral of the Pacific when he was commanding officer of the Shaw in the first World War. It was taken as Commander Halsey was preparing to ascend the bridge at Queenstown, Ireland, in August, 1918, preparing to get underway. The sweater, buttoned askew, was a relic of the Commander's football days at Annapolis. It was familiar garment to the Shaw officers, who sometimes commented that it was on its "last legs," but it was still treasured.

"If you take a look at Captain Halsey's chin of that day," said Mr. Sellman, "you'll notice it is exactly the same chin you'll see in pictures of him today."

Mr. Sellman served with the Admiral on the USS Yarnell, as well as the Shaw, and cruised with him from Danzig to the coast of Mexico. Eating with him in the ward room for about twelve months, he had a chance to get a good idea of the Admiral's character leadership, and what has happened in the Pacific hasn't surprised him any.

"He used to say that an officer was not a good destroyer man until he had the most minute control of his ship. When the destroyers moved in column he used to insist on running close enough to the next ship to spit on the deck, and he would really send a man to the fo'castle witha potato to throw on the deck of the next ship. He was a good disciplinarian, and in every respect a great officer."