Lieutenant John Thomas Carr, Purple Heart Recipient
In 1918 a US Coast Guard Cutter was torpedoed in the Irish Sea. One of the officers lost was from Jamaica Plain. One hundred years later his next-of-kin is being sought to receive his Purple Heart.
World War I
On May 7, 1915, less than a year after World War I erupted across Europe, a German U-boat torpedoed the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner sailing from New York to Liverpool, England. Tragically, 1198 passengers were killed, including 28 Americans. The ship sank in eighteen minutes, with 761 survivors. After two years of American inaction, the German government announced unrestricted submarine warfare in the Atlantic. This put all American shipping at risk, so the United States Congress finally declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Thousands more sailors and civilians perished as the war went on and German U-boats ranged as far as Chesapeake Bay.
Among the ships mobilized for the war was the United States Coast Guard cutter (USCGC) Tampa, named for its home port in Florida. Tampa had been built in 1912 at Newport News, Virginia, at a cost of $250,000 ($6.5 million in 2019 dollars). Originally a US revenue cutter named Miami when launched on February 10, 1912, it was renamed Tampa on February 1, 1916. At 190 feet in length and 32 feet beam (width), Tampa’s draft (depth below water) was fourteen feet. Its 1300 horsepower steam engine drove the ship to a top speed of 13 knots, or 15 mph
During its first five years of service, before the war, Tampa performed duties typical for cutters. The vessel served several times on the International Ice Patrol, operating out of New York City and Halifax, Nova Scotia, to locate icebergs which might be hazardous to navigation. On other occasions, it operated out of various stations along the eastern seaboard, enforcing navigation and fishing laws.
When the United States declared war on Germany, Tampa and five other Coast Guard cutters were transferred to the Navy and fitted with heavier armament at the Boston Navy Yard. After refitting at Boston, Tampa moved to the New York Navy Yard and reported for duty to the commanding officer, Lt. Frank Fechteler, of the gunboat USS Paducah. Ordered to duty overseas, Tampa departed New York on September 29, 1917, in company with Paducah, and five American-made submarine chasers. After stops at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Ponta Delgada in the Azores, Tampa reached Gibraltar on October 27, 1917. Its mission was to protect allied supply convoys from German submarine attacks. In its year of wartime service, Tampa escorted eighteen convoys, comprising a total of 350 vessels, from Gibraltar to Britain, steaming an average of 3566 miles a month.
Tampa carried the following armament when it was transferred from Coast Guard to US Navy control in 1917:
3 six-pounder rapid-fire guns
2 x 76 mm naval guns
4 x 3.50 cal. guns
2 machine guns
Projected (thrown) & rolled (dropped) depth charges
Fitted with newer guns and a depth-charge thrower, and commanded by Charles Satterlee, age 43, Tampa switched missions from protecting people against icebergs to protecting wartime convoys from submarines. Its crew, however, was mainly composed of U.S. Coast Guardsmen.
On the evening of September 26, 1918, Tampa was sailing as part of a 32-ship convoy, designated HG-107, nine days out of its home port in Gibraltar. Approaching the Irish Sea and England’s Bristol Channel, near Wales, Tampa slipped away from the convoy to refuel and was spotted by the German U-boat, UB-91. Just after 8:15 p.m., a torpedo sent Tampa to the bottom of the sea at about 50°40′N 6°19′W
Tampa’s namesake city claimed 24 of the crew members.
The crew included three sets of brothers. Two of the crew members were just fifteen and sixteen years old. Vincenzo Guerriera of Tampa enlisted at age sixteen under the assumed name Jimmie Ross, just days after war was declared in April 1917. Also lost was the youngest crew member, fifteen-year-old Irving Slicklen of New York City, son of a lawyer. Tall for his age, Slicklen decided to enlist one day after school in March 1918. His grandmother was so appalled she ran to the recruiting office in her bedroom slippers, followed by his father, but they couldn’t get him released. His parents finally gave their reluctant blessing.
Lieutenant John Thomas Carr
Also aboard Tampa was first lieutenant John Thomas Carr, age 40. He was born in Wakefield, Mass., on August 19, 1878, to Thomas Carr and Mary A. Heferon. The Town of Wakefield, however, has no record of his birth, nor any record of his military service. Lt. Carr served on nine ships before his assignment to Tampa on March 19, 1917. He was commissioned a third lieutenant on August 17, 1905; moving up in rank to temporary captain on October 1, 1917.
Lt. Carr married a Jamaica Plain woman named Margaret Moy. Margaret was born on November 2, 1878 to Michael Moy and Mary (Houston) Moy. The Moys lived at 85 Green Street, Jamaica Plain. Margaret died on September 10, 1972, age 94, at her home on 3 Maple Place, Jamaica Plain, where she had lived since 1921. Her siblings were Rose Clara, Harry Sherwood, Georgiana, and Gertrude Moy. John Carr and Margaret were married on June 25, 1902, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Jamaica Plain, Father John A. Sheridan, presiding. Margaret lived with her family at 85 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, when she married John. He lived next door at 83 Green Street. When he enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1905, John’s home address was 39 Ballard Street, Jamaica Plain. In 1908 his address is given as 28 St. John Street, Jamaica Plain. In 1918 the Carrs' address was 821 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
After her husband’s death, Margaret Carr married William J. Edwards. She never had children with either husband. William Edwards was a veteran and an accountant. He lived at 17 Aldworth Street, Jamaica Plain. Margaret is shown with William Edwards in this passport photo dated July, 1934.
Lt. Carr is memorialized in England at the Brookwood American Military Cemetery in Surrey, England, and at the Coast Guard Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. In Jamaica Plain he is honored at Lt. John Thomas Carr Square at the intersection of Prince, Centre and Arborway streets, near the large rotary and just a tenth of a mile from his former 821 Centre Street address.
Along with Lt. Carr, Tampa’s victims included 24 men from Tampa and seaman Francis Leroy Wilkes, a 21-year-old African American from Nantucket, Mass. He was newly married and a descendant of the first enslaved family in Nantucket to gain its freedom. His brother, Roger, was also in the Coast Guard.
One of Germany’s most effective weapons in World War I was its fleet of 340 "U-boots." “U-boot,” in German, is a shortening of "unterseeboot" (under-sea boat). Their primary targets were merchant convoys bringing supplies to the United Kingdom. UB-91 was built by AG Vulcan of Hamburg, Germany, and launched at Hamburg on March 6, 1918. Like all type UB-III submarines, UB-91 carried ten torpedoes and was armed with a four-inch deck gun. UB-91 would carry a crew of up to three officers and 31 men. It had a cruising range of 7120 nautical miles (8200 land miles). The engines gave it 13 knots (15 mph) when surfaced and 7.4 knots (8.5 mph) when submerged. UB-91 was placed under the command of Wolf Hans Hertwig. Under his command the submarine completed two patrols, sinking five ships.
Wolf Hans Hertwig
Captain Hertwig was born October 1, 1885. In 1904 Wolf Hans Hertwig entered the Imperial German Navy as a midshipman. On October 17, 1915, he was commissioned captain. In 1916 he was selected for submarine school and on April 11, 1918, Captain Hertwig was the commander of UB-91, a type III, class UB, submarine. World War I ended with Germany’s defeat in 1918. According to the terms of the Armistice, Captain Hertwig and a small crew surrendered UB-91 to the British Royal Navy at Harwich, England, on Thursday, November 21, 1918. After surrendering, UB-91 was used, with a British crew, for goodwill visits around England. The visits helped to raise money for local mariners' charities. When the submarine was finally broken up at Briton Ferry, Neath Port Talbot, Wales, in 1921, the deck gun was taken to Chepstow, Wales, and now forms part of that town's war memorial.
Hertwig’s crew (along with other U-boat crews) was returned to Germany on January 29, 1920, and Captain Hertwig resigned from the German Imperial Navy. After the war, Wolf Hans Hertwig did not prosper, so he decided to join the Deutsche Kriegsmarine (German War Navy) in August 1937. At age 52 he was too old for U-boat service, so he was reactivated as a Navy lieutenant commander specializing in naval armor and weapons. He was transferred to occupied Denmark as naval department manager. German forces in Denmark withdrew following their surrender to the Allies on May 5, 1945. Captain Hertwig was taken prisoner by British forces and sent to POW camps in Germany and Belgium. He was released from captivity at the end of 1946. Wolf Hans Hertwig died on December 9, 1958 at Heiningen, East Germany.
World War I German Torpedoes
The standard explosive charge was 60% TNT and 40% of another explosive chemical. This had first been developed by the Germans in 1907. This explosive mix was about 7% more powerful than 100% TNT. Most German torpedoes designed before 1906 used three-cylinder radial engines with compressed air as a power source. After 1906, Germany significantly increased the range of their torpedoes by design changes to the motors.
UB-91 War Patrols
UB 91's first war patrol from July 20 to August 15, 1918, did not result in any sinkings. However, its war log lists a surface gun duel with the armed British trawler, Lacerta, on Wednesday, August 17, 1918. UB-91 fired the first shots damaging the Lacerta which disengaged from the action at 7 a.m. and returned to port for repairs. Her second, and final, war patrol from September 14 to October 15, 1918, resulted in the sinking of four vessels: the British SS Hebburn, the British convoy escort, SS Baldersby, the Japanese ship Hirano Maru and the US Coast Guard cutter Tampa.
Tampa is torpedoed
At noon on September 26, 1918, Tampa’s captain, Charles Satterlee, 43, a distinguished-looking member of an old Connecticut family, asked permission to leave convoy HG-107, which he was escorting from Gibraltar to Milford Haven, Wales. He was running low on coal. But, because of the danger of steaming alone in broad daylight, he was denied, according to Coast Guard researchers. Four hours later, Satterlee was desperate and made the request again. This time it was granted. The ship was last seen on the horizon heading for Milford Haven.
Meantime, at dusk, UB-91 was sailing on the surface about 50 miles off the coast of Wales. Earlier, Captain Hertwig had submerged to repair a leaking pipe. At about 7:30 p.m., and back again on the surface, Captain Hertwig sighted a single small steamer. He dived and the steamer made small course adjustments aligning itself exactly with UB-91’s stern torpedo tubes, negating any need to adjust UB-91’s course for aiming purposes. Around 8:15 p.m., at a range of 550 meters, Hertwig gave the order to fire one torpedo. The nineteen-foot torpedo with a 350-pound warhead hit Tampa amidships on the port (left) side
Hertwig’s log reports: “Two minutes after the detonation, a black smoke cloud appeared. A second detonation, perhaps depth charges in the sinking vessel, threw up a high, luminous, water column. Then nothing more was to be seen.” UB-91 surfaced to the place of sinking in order to search for wreckage and survivors. “Nothing was found. The vessel was apparently a large patrol craft of about 800 tons, with one stack and two very high masts, and on each side, a life boat swung out. Position of sinking 50°40′ N 6°19′ W.”
Tampa sank so quickly that none of the 130 people aboard had time to signal for help. When ships and a plane went to search for it, there were few signs the ship had ever existed — only a field of debris spread across eight square miles. Later, a boat nameplate was seen. Alerted by the convoy flagship, whose radio operator reported having felt the shock of an underwater explosion, search-and-rescue efforts over the succeeding three days turned up only some wreckage, clearly identified as coming from Tampa, and a single unidentified body. Three bodies were later recovered: two from a beach near Lamphey, Wales, and the other at sea by a British patrol boat. Tampa was struck from the Navy list as of the date of her sinking.
The cutter sank with all hands: 111 Coast Guardsmen, four U.S. Navy personnel, and fifteen British sailors and dock workers. On Veterans' Day, November 11, 1999, the officers and crew of Tampa were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart by Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater in ceremonies held at Arlington National Cemetery Tampa had been on Atlantic convoy duty since October 1917, guarding allied cargo ships against attack from German subs and making eighteen trips between Gibraltar and Britain. Her sinking represented the largest loss of life by United States naval forces in action during the four years and four months of World War I.
The ship’s loss was front-page news from Washington to Honolulu, and especially in Tampa, Florida, the ship’s namesake and hometown of many crew members. The loss of Tampa is commemorated by the United States Coast Guard Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and in the chapel at the Brookwood American Cemetery and Memorial in Surrey, England. References to the ship are interwoven into Coast Guard life today — in Semper Paratus, the service’s anthem (see bottom of this article), in the name of an active-duty cutter, and on a building named for the Tampa’s captain at the Coast Guard Academy.
Efforts are still underway to locate the Tampa wreckage and to find Lt. John Thomas Carr’s next-of-kin to receive his Purple Heart. Please contact Nora Chidlow at the address given below with any relevant information.
Written By Peter O’Brien, spring 2019
Nora Chidlow, Archivist, US Coast Guard Historian’s Office, 2703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. S.E., Stop 7031,Washington, DC, 20593.
Robert Burgess, Editor, Wakefield Daily Item, Wakefield, Mass.
Jeff Klapes, Head of Reference Services, Beebe Library, Wakefield, Mass.
Rosemary Morgan, Office Administrator, Town of Wakefield, Mass.
Tom Buckley, Jamaica Plain resident and first cousin, twice removed, of Lt. Carr’s wife, Margaret Moy
Kathy Griffin, for editing services