Promptly at the hour set, the UC-97 cast off from alongside and headed down the bay, quickly followed by the UB-148, the UB-88 and the U-117. The U. S. S. Bushnell brought up the rear.
The weather was hazy but not bad enough to make navigation difficult. The dim outline of the low shores could be seen through the misty clouds that hung floating over the surface of the water. As we passed the entrance of the harbor a gentle ground swell raised and lowered the bow of the boat and brought the realization that we were again at sea. A gentle breeze blowing from the south, cleared away the North Sea haze. Each boat swung into formation with the Bushnell as guide. Speed was set by the division commander at eleven knots, later reduced to ten and a half and ten. In a few hours the white chalk cliffs of Dover were on our starboard hand; and later, to port, one could see the distant shores of France while between lay the waters of the North Sea and the Straits of Dover, where only a few months before the UB-88 had cruised under the German Flag. That night the officers and crew slept a sleep of rest and satisfaction, knowing that the hard work of preparation had been rewarded.
In the morning we were out of sight of land and heading to the Southward bound for Ponta Delgada. The weather continued calm until the fourth day out, when a storm blew up from the West. It came on a rising barometer, however, and soon blew itself out. Two boats had engine trouble which delayed our passage. The repairs, which were only minor, were made aboard the boats. The engines of the UB-88 ran perfectly. On the morning of the seventh day out, Serra da Agoa de Poa, on the Island of San Miguel, appeared on the horizon. A signal from the division commander: "Make the best of your way to Ponta Delgada," started a race between the UB-88 and the U-117 in which the UB-88 suffered defeat by the much larger boat. We moored alongside the Bushnell in Ponta Delgada harbor on the afternoon of April 11. Portuguese civil and military officials flocked aboard to see the boats, one of which, a year previous had shelled the city. Bumboats loaded with laces, basket ware, silks and other articles for sale, came alongside, but found few customers. High prices had even found their way to the Azores.
A few repairs were made to the engines, provisions and water were taken on board, and on April 13 we set out across the Atlantic, bound for New York. Again the weather was beautiful. The sea was calm and the air clear. The white, blue and pink painted houses backed against the green of the mountain sides of San Miguel made a picture, never to be forgotten. The island soon disappeared over the horizon, however, and we were on the Atlantic heading to the South of West to reach the thirty fifth parallel. The sea continued calm until the next morning when a wind sprang up from the northwest with the barometer falling slowly. The waves built up with the wind and the seas broke over the starboard bow. Spray came continually over the bridge. All the hatches except the one in the conning tower were battened down. The boat rolled and pitched badly. This made it necessary for those men in the boat (except the ones on watch) to turn in their bunks or else be thrown from one side of the boat to the other with the roll and pitch. The air in the forward living quarters soon became bad. The blowers to those compartments were started but the amount of air delivered was not of sufficient quantity to be of much value. The officers and men suffered as a result. It was a choice of staying below to breathe the foul air or coming up on deck to be drenched by the cold spray. Most of the crew preferred the former or else took turns in sleeping in the after battery compartments where the air was good; this compartment being between the engine room and the conning tower hatch, through which the air was taken for the engines. The forward torpedo room which was especially foul was dubbed the "Blue Room." I doubt if ever a place was more appropriately named. Nothing could be done, however, to alleviate the condition. The officers' quarters were quite as bad as the torpedo compartment, so all hands suffered equally. The seas increased in violence and by the evening of the second day a strong north west gale was blowing. The rolling and pitching of the boat increased. At night it was difficult to maintain any semblance of formation. The lights of the other submarines would disappear behind the waves for minutes at a time. The after range light of the Bushnell was in constant sight but it was possible to take only an occasional look over the top of the bridge on account of spray. The waves breaking on the bow or against the conning tower threw sheets of water high in the air. This was picked up by the howling wind and dashed against the bridge and over it.
The care of the health of the crew became a problem. It was impossible to obtain any exercise. The interior of the boat was damp and cold and the air was foul. By the routine administration of simple remedies, however, the crew kept in fairly good physical condition.
The rough and stormy weather continued. The track chart which was kept pasted in the officers' quarters showed us our daily noon position. The runs from noon to noon showed very little headway against the weather. The days stretched out and it seemed as if the trip would never be over but the spirit of the crew never laxed. Irritability and sullenness, which so often find their way into the personalities of men confined to inactivity and discomfort were in the case of the crew of the UB-88, unknown. The spirit of congeniality between the officers and amongst the members of the crew was remarkable. Hardships and discomforts were met with smiles and conquered with fortitude. On the eighth day out the fresh water was found to be contaminated by fuel oil, which rendered it undrinkable. The distilled water, which was intended to be used for watering the batteries, had to be taken for cooking and drinking. As there were only 150 gallons of distilled water aboard, it had to be rationed out.
The ninth day began with a red sky in the east and a slowly falling barometer and by noon we were driving into the Teeth of a heavy gale. Snow started to fall which warmed the air a little, but this was soon followed by hail, and then rain, and the continuance of the howling wind accompanied by the rocking and pitching of the boat.
One of the other submarines had been having trouble with her engines, which had delayed the division considerably. The U-117 asked and received permission to proceed to New York, and shortly afterward we saw her lights disappear through a rain squall ahead of us. We kept on with the Bushnell and the other two boats until the next morning when the problem of water began to look serious. Permission was asked to proceed to New York alone. This was granted and as the dag hoist was hauled down word was passed to the engine room to make four hundred turns (speed for twelve knots) on both engines. Two destroyers which had come out from New York to meet us appeared on the horizon and were soon alongside. Moving picture machines were turned on us. The officers and crews lined the decks to take a look at the German submarines. They stayed with us for about an hour then they hauled ahead and slowly disappeared, headed for New York. At our increased speed we soon left the rest of the division behind and as the dusk set in we found ourselves alone. Next morning the wind had abated considerably and the weather was warmer. We had entered the Gulf Stream. It was pleasant to hear the low purr of the exhaust, instead of the intermittent roar caused by the stern being frequently submerged by the seas.
Our water supply from the distilled tanks was exhausted one day out from New York and back we had to go to the fuel oil. In order to keep the crew from drinking the oily water, black coffee was always ready to be served. This did very well but did not quench the thirst as much as was sometimes desired. It was better, however, than the discomforts of the nausea caused by oily water.
The time now passed quickly. As the sea was not as rough as previously, we opened the torpedo hatch for a short time to allow the foul air to escape. The crew came out on deck and stood in the lee of the conning tower or walked back and forth holding to the life lines. Everyone took a new lease on life, smiles shone on faces where before there had been looks of anxious waiting. Razors appeared and did their much needed duty.
About two thirty on the afternoon of April 25, the heights at Navesink were sighted on the port bow and course was set for Sandy Hook, where we arrived at four thirty. The boat was moored alongside the Army wharf. The officers and enlisted men came down from the fort to greet us, and to care for our wants. The men were taken to the barracks where they were given the use of the shower baths, moving picture show and best of all, dry bunks to sleep in.
After the men had all been cared for, the officers were taken to the officers' quarters at the fort. The luxuries we enjoyed; shower baths, shaves, change of clothes, a wonderful dinner, and then real beds to sleep in. About six thirty P.M. the UB-148 was reported from the watch tower on the end of the Hook. Soon after she was moored alongside the UB-88. She having heard our request to the division commander, to proceed to New York, made a like request and had left the UC-97 and the Bushnell about two hours after we had departed.
Next morning at five thirty the Bushnell and the UC-97 passed Sandy Hook. About nine o'clock we received orders to proceed to Tompkinsville to await instructions there. We were then ordered to the Navy Yard, where we arrived about three o'clock.
The Bushnell, which had been in the North River, arrived soon after. Upon our arrival at the Navy Yard we were met by Captain T. C. Hart, U. S. N. The plans for the future use of the boats were given to us. The UC-97 was to make the trip to Chicago via the St. Lawrence River, exhibiting the boat at all ports; the U-111 was detailed to the New England coast; the UB-148 received the coast cities around New York; the U-117 was ordered to Washington, and the UB-88 was given the Atlantic coast south of Savannah, the Gulf coast, the Mississippi River to St. Louis, the cities on the Texan coast, then to the West coast of the United States, via the Panama Canal, as far north as Seattle, Wash. All cities were to be visited and after the completion of the cruise the boat was to be returned to the Submarine Base at San Pedro, Cal. Preparations for the cruise were to start immediately. The U. S. C. G. Tuscarora was detailed as a tender for the UB-88. All personal effects and the few stores we had were transferred from the Bushnell to that vessel.
During most of the stay in New York, the boat was on exhibition and working in the interests of the Liberty Loan. It was also here that two very able officers, who had done so much to make the cruise across the Atlantic a success were detached. Their loss was sorely felt. The commanding officer was ordered to Washington to confer with the Chief of Naval Operations relative to the intended cruise, and while there made out an itinerary as far as New Orleans, La.