Three heavily laden cargo carriers, slogging along abreast and escorted by four slim, gray steam yachts, groped through a misty night north of Belle lie, bound for Brest. Ahead, the U.S.S. Aphrodite plunged, with squalls intermittently blotting her from the sight of the ships behind. Off to starboard was the U.S.S. Alcedo; to port, the U.S.S. Kanawha; while the U.S.S. Noma kept guard astern.
It was November 4, 1917, and on board the Alcedo her captain, Lieutenant Commander W. T. Conn, Jr., U.S. Navy, kept the bridge with the officer of the deck, Lieutenant (j.g.) John T. Melvin, U.S. Naval Reserve. Darkness and mist clouds made the convoy invisible at times as the yacht zigzagged on her station about 1,200 yards from the nearest ship, the Florence Luckenbach. Shortly before midnight the weather cleared and the Luckenbach became distinct on the port bow. The Alcedo’s captain then wrote his night orders and went to bed in the emergency cabin.