The American Consul at Rotterdam reports that the American steamship Cushing, Captain Herland, with petroleum from New York to Rotterdam, flying the American flag, was attacked by German aeroplanes near the North Hinder Lightship, afternoon April 29. Three bombs dropped, one struck ship, causing damage, but no life lost.
The report of Captain Lars Larsen Herland, master of the American tank steamer Cushing, made upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Penn., on May 19, 1915, is as follows:
The airmen swept in narrow circles over the tanker, trying to get directly over the funnel, with the idea, apparently, of dropping a bomb into it and wrecking the engine room.
When attacked the Cushing was about twenty-five miles from Antwerp and eight miles from the North Hinder Lightship. It was near 7 o’clock in the evening, but the sun had barely touched the horizon, and there was ample light for the pilot of the biplane to see the words, “Cushing, New York, United States of America,” painted on each side of the vessel in letters eight feet high, and to note the Stars and Stripes at the masthead and the taffrail.
When the airship was first noted it was several thousand feet in the air, but dropped as it approached the ship, and soon was only about 500 feet up. Suddenly it swooped down to about 300 feet above the Cushing. Then there was a tremendous explosion, and a wave flooded the stern deck. A second bomb missed the port quarter by a foot or so, and sent another wave over the lower deck.
The biplane swung up into the wind, hung motionless for a second or so, then came the third bomb, which just grazed the starboard rail and shot into the sea.
The airship hung around for a few minutes, then headed toward the Dutch coast. She was flying a white flag, with a black cross in the centre, the pennant of the German air fleet.
Official confirmation of the attack on May 1, 1915, by a German submarine on the American oil tank steamer Gulflight off the Scilly Islands came to the State Department at Washington on May 3 in dispatches from Joseph G. Stephens, the United States Consul at Plymouth, England. Two members of the crew were drowned, the Captain died of heart failure, and thirty-four members of the crew were saved. Following is the sworn statement of Ralph E. Smith, late chief officer and now master of the Gulflight, received from Ambassador Page and published by the State Department at Washington on May 11:
I am Ralph E. Smith, now master of the steamship Gulflight. At the commencement of the voyage I was chief officer. The ship left port at Port Arthur on the 10th day of April, 1915, about 4 P.M., laden with a tank cargo of gasoline and wooden barrels of lubricating oil. The voyage was uneventful.
When about half way across the Atlantic the wireless operator told me there was a British cruiser in our vicinity and that he had heard messages from this ship the whole time since leaving Port Arthur, but she made no direct communication with or to our ship. From the sound of the wireless messages given out by the British ship, she seemed to maintain the same distance from us until about three days before we reached the mouth of the English Channel.