World War I Comes To LBI

Dated: 07/21/2016

Views: 2033

I’ve walked the beaches of my island home all my life and often wondered the origin of an errant block of coal, the occasional piece of weathered wood rounded by the waves, and the fragments of glass and china that have become so collectible in recent years. Often I’ve picked up these souvenirs hoping they could somehow tell their story of how they washed up on my beach.

The United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917 and joined Britain, France, and Russia to help defeat Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and aspects of the Ottoman Empire. Under the command of Major General, John “Black Jack” Pershing, more than two million men from the United States fought in France. Many Americans were opposed to entrance into a “European” war and preferred for our country to remain neutral – yet the war that spawned such songs as “Over There” actually had elements that took place, not only over here, but just off the shores of Long Beach Island.

On June 2, 1918, the four masted schooner, Jacob Haskell, built by Cobb, Butler, and Co, was en route from Boston to Norfolk with an unknown cargo when she was fired upon by the deck gun from German U-151. The Haskell’s Captain lowered his sails, and the Germans boarded his ship. After a short inspection, the Haskell’s crew was ordered to abandon ship and left to fend for themselves. The German U-boat crew placed charges on the Jacob Haskell and sank her. The vessel sits in 210 feet water off Barnegat Light.

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                                                                                                     Edward Cole, sister ship of the Jacob Haskell

A little over four months later, the freighter San Saba, en route from New York to Tampa with a general cargo when she hit a mine laid by the submarine German U-117. Built in 1879 for the Mallory Line by J. Roach & Son in Chester, PA she had a crew of thirty. She sunk within five minutes taking all hands with her and sits in eighty feet of water off Harvey Cedars.

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                                                                                                                                     San Saba

On October 27, 1918, the Cuban steamer, Chaparra, carrying a load of sugar from Havana to New York struck a mine also laid by German submarine U-117. She sank almost immediately off Harvey Cedars and lies just east of the San Saba. Two weeks later, the First World War, the War to end all wars would be over.

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So the next time you stroll the beach and come across a piece of coal, or rusted metal, or oxidized brass, give thought to its origin and how it made its way from the ocean to the sands of LBI.

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