The Luckenbach’s Armed Guard
CHIEF Master-at-Arms J. B. Trautner, U. S. Navy, stood in a bridge wing of the freighter J. L. Luckenbach, France-bound and in Lat. 48-08 N., Long. 08-31 W. He was ruminating on the troubles besetting the commander of an armed guard in a 10-knot freighter, with only a couple of 3-inch unshielded guns to use against the Kaiser’s submarines, one or more of which might appear at any moment.
The morning—early in an October day of 1917—was clear and the sea calm. The ship was without escort, but expecting to meet destroyers the next morning. Trautner eyed the horizon and suddenly saw a ship. He and the first officer soon agreed that the stranger was acting suspiciously, especially when they saw a sail raised. A moment later they made out an exhaust pluming from the stern, and that told the story. They were about to meet an enemy.