Page 3745

3745 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

rifles. This weapon had been adopted

in 1903, but the cartridge used in it had

been somewhat improved in 1906. By

many experts it was considered the best

military rifle in use in the world. It was

not, however, an American invention,

being an improved Mauser, and the

United States was under obligation to

pay the German inventor a certain sum

for every weapon used. In addition,

the United States had several hundred

thousand Krag-Jorgensens of the sort

used in the Spanish-American War. This

weapon was a reasonably good rifle,

being better, in fact, than some in use

by the European powers.

The need for rifles with which to arm

the expanding army was very great, and,

unfortunately, the United States arsenals

had a productive capacity of only about

700 a day. Had the War Department

begun, in time, the making of additional

machinery with which to build, rifles

would have been comparatively inexpensive, but in this, as in many other

matters, the War Department had displayed lamentable lack of foresight. The

making of the necessary machinery for

rifle production is a long process. To

have waited for new machinery with

which to construct the New Springfield

rifle would have meant many months of

lost time.

However, there were certain great

American arms companies which had

been engaged in the construction of the

British Enfield rifle on a very large scale.

It was ultimately decided by the War

Department to make use of this machinery

and construct great numbers of Enfield

rifles modified to fire the Springfield

cartridge. Two thousand of these weapons

were produced in August, 1917, 12,000 in

September, 62,000 in October, and production reached over 200,000 a month

late in the following summer. A large

part of our army was armed with this rifle.

For bayonet use it was excellent, but,

after all, it was an improvised affair.

It lacked the accuracy of the New Springfield and in other respects it proved somewhat unsatisfactory.

The Germans confidently boasted that

their U-boats would make the transportation of American troops to France

virtually impossible, and much uneasiness

existed in the United States lest the boast

might be made good. Every effort was

made to protect the troop ships on the

way over. They were convoyed all the

way by warships, and as they drew near

European shores, where the danger was

greatest, they were surrounded by destroyers and other craft on the alert for

submarines, while hydroplanes and balloons

kept a careful watch from aloft.

Convoys were repeatedly attacked, but

months passed before a single loaded

troop ship was sunk. On the homeward

voyages, however, the transports were

not so fortunate. In part this was due

to the fact that less care was taken to

safeguard empty ships, the main effort

being directed to protecting ships loaded

with troops. The transport Antilles was

sunk, on October 17, 1917, while on the

way back from France, and seventy

persons were lost.

Three other transports, the Tuscania,

President Lincoln, and the Covington, were

subsequently sunk, and two others, the

Finland and Mount Vernon, were torpedoed

but were able to make port. By far the

most serious loss of life on a transport

occurred in the sinking of the Tuscania on

February 5, 1918. The vessel was under

charter to the Cunard line and was carrying

National Guard troops, mostly from Michigan and Wisconsin, in all 2,179 soldiers.

She was torpedoed off the north coast

of Ireland while under British convoy.

British destroyers and trawlers displayed

great skill in taking off the troops, and most

of the casualties were caused by the

capsizing of life boats in attempting to

lower them. Many of the men perished

from exposure even after they had been

taken aboard rafts or other boats. The

survivors were hospitably cared for in

Ireland and elsewhere. The total loss of

life amounted to over 200. Most of the

bodies were washed ashore on the west

coast of Scotland and were buried there

with appropriate services. The disaster