u-Boats in RI

Carl Greene, Contributor

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October of 1916 a German U boat or submarine was spotted in the Newport Harbor. Germany, the head of the Central Powers during this time was well ahead of the allies in sea warfare technology during this time. A German U-Boat literally means under sea boat in English. During this time Newport Rhode Island was a huge shipping port and so was Nantucket in Massachusetts and had a huge naval presence there. With the United States helping the allies with supplies and weapons Germany had constant spies on the East coast. The United States joined the war in 1917. However, Rhode Islanders and America as a nation was ready for the war and had a parade in Providence celebrating the military and the United States preparing to go to war. Militarism was huge during this time. Militarism is the building up of the armed forces of a country preparing for war. The small state of Rhode Island had a huge contribution to the war as well it had registered 53,634 men. The state also had about 13,000 men working for Brown and Sharpe, a tool making company was a huge contributor to the service, not only with tools but with men as well. Twelve percent of people enlisted in the service from Rhode Isoans worked for Brown and Sharpe. The United States also had the selective service act which allowed for the draft to happen. In 1917 the United States had 4.8 million men eligible for the draft and nearly 2.8 million were drafted. However the small state of Rhode Island was ready for war, having food donations and having pantries on the pleasant parkway in providence starting food drives for the war so they could supply the troops with food. With the huge military presence in New England Germany kept a close eye. The seas around Rhode Island and the East coast had around 53 German subs spying on the United States military operations. Not only because of our local ports but because of the U.S navy presence in Massachusetts as well.

There were many reasons Germany wanted a military presence and surveillance in United States waters. First they had an easily accessible coastline about five thousand miles away. Second, they could spy easily. The German U boat also known as the Deutchland. The German Kaiser did not want to directly start a conflict with the United States, however he wanted to be cautious and spy just in case. He knew that it was a matter of time before the United States got involved. One reason they got involved was because of the sinking of the Lusatania where Americans were killed and the ship was transporting weapons along with the Zimmerman note where Germany sent a message to Mexico asking them to attack the U.S on its southern border in exchange for land. Germany kept provoking the United States which led to conflict.


            This U German U boat a model A U-53 was the same one that sank 6 intelligence vessels off the Nantucket Coast. This furthered tensions between the United States, the Allies and Germany. Further propelling the U.S to join the fight in 1917. Rhode Island had a rich history in its involvement in World War One.