What was it like to be in a city located near a submarine manufacturer and naval base on a patriotic holiday just months after the United States declared war? The booklet featured in this week's column gives an idea of that occasion.
The 20-page booklet offered by user tandc1313 gives information and photographs from the Fourth of July parade in New London in 1917, an event that took place about three months after the United States entered World War I on the Allied side. Several of the images relate to the New London Ship & Engine Company, a subsidiary of Electric Boat established incorporated in 1910 to begin developing diesel engines for submarines. Other participants in the parade included numerous fraternal or patriotic organizations, infantry and military personnel, a mounted machine gun and tank, and Mayor Ernest R. Rogers as grand marshal.
New London had already had a fair connection to the "Great War" by this point. The war spurred increased shipbuilding on orders from both the European powers and U.S. government, with Electric Boat building 20 submarines for the British in 1916. By the end of the war, the company would construct 85 submarines for the Navy while "Nelseco" would build 722 submarine chasers; the subsidiary Submarine Boat Co. put together 118 Liberty ships.
One of the warring powers New London was now helping to fight had even sent a ship to visit the city. After a stop in Baltimore, the U-boat Deutschland stopped in New London in November of 1916; sadly, it would accidentally ram a tug on its departure with a loss of five lives on that vessel. The Deutschland's cargo reportedly included $10 million worth of goods, including securities and gems. Rogers had even visited the U-boat as a guest of honor.
The parade crowds were probably willing to forgive him given that the welcoming party included more than a dozen other people, with plenty of other curious New Londoners eager to get a glimpse of the visiting vessel. There was even talk of a "permanent undersea line" between New London and German ports. But with the declaration of war came just six months later came an order to seize all German ships in American ports; one of the almost 100 vessels taken was in New London.
Yet some military planners were less than confident in New London's ability to defend itself. Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War to President Howard Taft and later to Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, wrote an article in Harper's Weekly in December 1914 contemplating an attack on New York City with an opening move of an invasion of New London by an army of 150,000. Lt. Col. W.G. Haan of the War Department board said in January of 1916 that he thought it wouldn't even take that many people. New London could be conquered with a division of 20,000 soldiers, he surmised.
Of course, no such invasion happened. Though there was the curious matter of the Navy discovering a wireless transmitter on a hilltop overlooking Sub Base New London less than a week after this parade.
The booklet measures five inches by seven and a half inches, in very good condition except for some yellowing and staining on the cover. The starting bid is $45, plus $3.95 for shipping and handling. The auction ends at about 5:07 p.m. on Wednesday.