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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Savannah Line ships sunk by German U-boats in both wars
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Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of columns about early shipping in Georgia and Bulloch County.

As World War I in Europe spread, both the City of Birmingham and the City of Chattanooga, the Savannah Line's newest vessels, made sailings with both passengers and cargo, while the City of Atlanta, the City of Montgomery, the City of Saint Luis and the City of Savannah carried only cargo.

When America finally entered the war, German submarines began sinking American ships. The City of Memphis was captured in 1917. The crew and passengers were ordered off, and the ship was sunk by a German submarine off of Fastenet Rock, County Cork, in Ireland.

On May 2, 1918, the French cruiser La Gloire accidentally rammed and sank the City of Athens off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, killing 106 people.

The next city ship lost was the second City of Savannah, sunk by the German submarine U-151 off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey, on June 2, 1918. Thirteen lives were lost.

Once peace returned, the Savannah Line began offering passenger and cargo carriage up and down the Atlantic coastline on the main New York to Savannah run.

Even before America entered World War II, once the United States Maritime Commission chartered the City of Chattanooga to carry American troops to Iceland, all passenger service had been halted on the Savannah Line.

With America at war, German submarines began sinking American vessels in rapid order. The first Savannah Line ship sunk was the City of Atlanta, torpedoed by the U-123 on Jan. 19, 1942.

On June 30, 1942, the second City of Birmingham was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-202 some 250 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, New Jersey, killing nine.

The last of the named "City" liners was the City of Albany, recorded as part of the Savannah Line in 1926. This vessel eventually was sold to the Russian government, which first named it the Sakhalineft and then the Moskalvo.

The post-war Savannah Line fleet included the cargo ships the Cape Nome and the Cape Race. It also had three tugs in service: the William M. Wadley, the General G. M. Sorrell and the Charles H. Markham.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at rwasr1953@gmail.com.

 

 

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