A Story of My Father  (see commendation to the left)


My father, George H Martin, was born in Russia in 1899 and came here when he was 8 or 9 years old. The family lived in Omaha; his mother died shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, he could not get along with his father and when he was 17 or 18 years old he left his house and enlisted in the United States Navy. He was assigned as a member of a Navy gun crew on a merchant ship. At that time, as a result of German unrestricted submarine warfare, President Woodrow Wilson decided to put US sailors on merchant ships to protect them from German submarines. He called them “Armed Guards.” In 1917 or 1918 my father's ship was part of a convoy from the US to England. The ship could only manage 5 knots and was abandoned by the convoy because of the danger of German U-boots. One afternoon, after my father's guard duty, he heard a loud explosion and felt the boat tilting to the side. They had been hit by a torpedo. The military personnel had to act quickly. They threw all the codes and gun breeches into the sea. Also, they destroyed all their identifications. Then all personnel went into lifeboats and the ship went down. Soon the U-Boat surfaced. Everyone was frightened because they had heard stories of the Germans tying prisoners to the deck and then submerging. The captain of the U-boot shouted "Where are the captain and the Navy gun crew?" Their answer was: "The captain and the gun crew went down with the ship, we are all merchant seamen." Then they looked up and asked the German captain: "What direction is land?" He pointed. Then they asked for a tow. The captain asked them if they would give him a tow if he were down there. The submarine submerged and was gone. The lifeboats were adrift and the men began to row towards land. After 18 hours they spotted a French destroyer. The destroyer circled the boats for 18 more hours, thinking it was a trap. Finally they recognized that the sailors were exhausted, rescued them and transported them to safety in England

Later, toward the end of the war, my father was assigned to another ship bound for Vladivostok. The mission was to prevent seizure by the “Reds” (or the Japanese) of stored allied munitions.

Reflection submitted by Fred Martin of Lexington MA. His father served in the US Navy in  WW1. I am submitting the attachments as a remembrance.