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Chapter 34

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The First Yale Unit

by
Ralph D. Paine

printed at
The Riverside Press
Cambridge (Mass.)
1925

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 36

This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

Vol. II
p101
Chapter XXXV

Captain Christiansen's Own Story

At his home in Washington, Mr. Charles L. Sturtevant was vainly endeavoring to obtain information that might disclose to him how his son had met his death. All he actually knew was what Pilot Faux had reported at Felixstowe. When last seen, Albert and Purdy were still flying their machine, engaged in a furious machine‑gun battle with an overwhelming force and steering in a southerly direction toward the hostile Belgian coast. In this manner had they vanished. The hope that they might have been made prisoners was soon extinguished. The German report that they had been shot down was accepted as trustworthy, but the circumstances were obscured. At the request of Mr. Henry P. Davison, the Red Cross headquarters in London made energetic efforts to ascertain the facts but was hampered by the naval policy of secrecy and the rigid restrictions of the censorship as shown in the following exchange of cable messages:

Feb. 18, 1918

Amcross — London

Cable immediately details death of Ensign A. D. Sturtevant, great friend of Davison family. Naval base Felixstowe London. Address care Lt. W. A. Edwards 23 Grosvenor Gardens.

Castle

Feb. 20

Davison — Amcross — Washington

For Castle — Please apply Navy Department which has all available information about A. D. Sturtevant. If we are to furnish cable information in these cases we must have code.

Wells-Endicott

p102 Amcross — London

Navy Department has little information. I had hoped you would make special effort obtain someone facts at least. Do not understand why you need code for such cases. Do not believe code message will be accepted by censor.

Davison

Feb. 25

Davison — Amcross — Washington

Much regret it was impossible to obtain more information. We did make special effort to gather details but please also understand that Army and Navy do not like to have us send information in open messages and we have to be most careful not to cross wires with them in obtaining information. Navy Department courteous as always but strongly advised us against sending searcher to Sturtevant's station as they said nothing more could be obtained and all details then available had been sent to Navy Department, Washington.

Endicott

Feb. 27

Davison — Amcross — Washington

Following from Sims to‑day — 'Would suggest you cable Davison proposing that he inquire from Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, for such particulars loss Ensign Sturtevant as they may be in position to give. I do not consider it advisable to communicate details of loss of this officer in open cable to Davison. Feel confident he will be able to obtain information he seeks by application to Navy Department.'º

Endicott

The dictates of military reticence in such a matter as this were hard for a bereaved father to understand. It made him surmise that something was being withheld from him. There was, of course, nothing to keep silent about at that time except the doubt as to the courageous conduct of Pilot Faux, and this was not made public for reasons already explained. A month after the disaster, all that had been learned was contained in the following letter from Commander E. R. Pollock, dated from the Paris headquarters of the U. S. Naval Aviation Forces on March 14th:

p103 My dear Mr. Sturtevant:

For your information regarding the loss of your son, Ensign A. D. Sturtevant, U. S. N. R. F., the following cablegram from Vice‑Admiral Sims is quoted:

Ensign A. D. Sturtevant missing from Felixstowe. Germans claim to have shot machine in which he was second pilot down in flames. Apparently his machine was attacked by ten enemy planes and destroyed. Further information will be forwarded when received.

Later the following was received in a written report:

Ensign A. D. Sturtevant went out on a patrol as second pilot on the morning of February 15. At noon the machine which accompanied his machine returned, having been chased by enemy aircraft. They reported that, when last seen, the machine in which Ensign Sturtevant was flying was heading south with five enemy scouts flying close on its tail. Apparently every effort has been made here to rescue the machine or to find traces of it, but so far the results have been unsuccessful, and it is feared that Ensign Sturtevant was either killed or possibly taken prisoner.

Enclosed are letters received by the Rear Admiral commanding the Harwich Forces from those who were associated with your son while on his last duty which speak for his splendid character, ability and courage.

All the officers of the U. S. Naval Aviation Forces join me in extending to you their heartfelt sympathy. It is a loss not only to his relatives and friends but to our country. It may be some consolation to you to know that your son died in the line of duty in a fight against a greatly superior force.

Admiral Sims wrote from London on May 14th:

My dear Mr. Sturtevant:

In reply to your letter of April 15, 1918 addressed to Captain Twining, my Chief of Staff, I would say that all the personal effects of your son have been forwarded to you in Washington.

Although I have sent you several letters received from the British authorities expressing their sympathy at the loss of your son, I cannot close without renewed expression of my feeling in the death of this gallant young officer. His loss was a real blow to the Naval Service, but the manner in which he met his end p104will remain an inspiration to all of us and is of material assistance in pointing the way to achieve ultimate victory.

There was, indeed, consolation and pride commingled with sorrow in the manifold tributes of admiration and affection received by the father of Albert Sturtevant. One of them came from the White House.

4 March, 1918

My dear Mr. Sturtevant:

May I not extend to you an expression of my heartfelt sympathy in the death of your son? It was a death in the field of honor assuredly and there must be great pride in your heart that that should be the case, but that does not alter the fact that you have lost a beloved son and my heart goes out to you in genuine sympathy.

Cordially and sincerely yours

Woodrow Wilson

The Secretary of the Navy hastened to express his sympathy, and his pride withal, in these words:

27 February

My dear Mr. Sturtevant:

I was very deeply distressed to learn of the death of your son, Ensign A. D. Sturtevant, and am writing to express to you my deep sympathy. I do not know that there is anything I can say which will make your loss easier to bear, but it must be a source of comfort to you to feel that your son has shown that fine spirit of devotion to duty which disregards all thought of personal danger, and that he was ready to sacrifice his splendid young life in the great cause in which we are all enlisted. Such a spirit is the pride of the Nation, and your son has set an example which will inspire all of our young aviators to fight to the end and to sacrifice everything to bring about a lasting peace. The Navy is proud to have had your son in its service and to count him among its heroes.

With real sympathy, I am

Sincerely yours,

Josephus Daniels

Many other letters were, of course, received in praise and honor of Albert Sturtevant. Two of these are sufficient p105to illumine his career at school and college where, after all, the tests are thorough and the scrutiny severe. Alfred E. Stearns, Principal of Phillips Andover Academy, found it in his heart to say:

My dear Mr. Sturtevant:

We are receiving daily reminders of what this great conflict in behalf of human rights must cost us. Eleven names already make up the Phillips Academy honor list of old Andover boys who have given their lives for their country and the great cause; and our pride in them cannot be expressed adequately in words.

My sympathy goes out to you in fullest measure in your great bereavement. And yet I know that your sorrow will be tempered and your burden lightened by the knowledge that Albert died as you would have had him, gloriously and worthy of his best traditions and of your highest hopes. I could ask no greater privilege for my own boy than to die like that. And if age did not debar me I could ask for myself nothing better. May the thought of confidence well justified, and the memory of a life nobly lived and death courageously faced and through worthy sacrifice triumphantly overcome, prove a source of unending comfort and inspiration to you in these cloudy days. Lives such as Albert's cannot have been lived in vain.

President Arthur T. Hadley of Yale University wrote:

My dear Mr. Sturtevant:

Your letter comes just as I was starting to write you and touches me more than I can possibly tell. I admired him greatly when he was here and did so splendidly on the crew. Morris saw much of him then, and I am glad to know that he was able to be of any service to him in the Harvard Law School. I feel sure that whatever things he may have done were magnified in your son's friendly eyes; but whatever they were I am glad that he did them.

At Yale Alumni Day your son's heroism was made the theme of more than one speech, and you may be sure that many a Yale boy is being inspired by the example of Al Sturtevant to do his best for his country and give if needs be the 'last full measure of devotion.'

I only wish I could say half of what I feel. If the time comes p106when I can do anything for you, however slight, please let me know.

Mr. Sturtevant was a brave and patriotic father who bore unflinchingly the cruel destiny of war, but he could not feel reconciled until he knew how Albert had met his death and what had befallen him in his last shrouded moments. The Navy Department could give him nothing more than the meagre facts already stated. He therefore addressed himself to the British Admiralty, through the London office of Admiral Sims, and received a letter from Lieutenant Commander Ramsey, U. S. N., dated April 29th, 1919.

My dear Sir:

Your letter of February 28, 1919, addressed to Admiral Sims has been turned over to me for action. I sincerely regret that so much time has elapsed since its receipt before sending you a reply. This has been occasioned by the great difficulties experienced in getting details from the British with whom your son was operating when the machine in which he was flying was shot down in the North Sea.

I have to‑day been the recipient of a letter from Colonel Porte of the Royal Air Force, enclosing a document signed by a Captain Bailey which I trust will give you the details which you desire.

I have taken a real personal interest in getting this information because I knew your son and admired him intensely and was terribly shocked to hear of his death. All the officers both of our own Naval Aviation Service and the British Air Service, with whom he was associated, have never failed to speak of him in the highest terms, and I assure you, Sir, that his loss has been deeply felt by Naval Aviation.

The closure referred to in the foregoing letter was this:

R. A. F. Station, Felixstowe

28 April, 1919

To Colonel Porte,
Headquarters, Experimental Station, Felixstowe.

With reference to the entry on Ensign Sturtevant, U. S. N. A. S., attached to R. N. A. S.

p107 Ensign Sturtevant was 2nd pilot to Flt. Lt. Purdy on machine No. 4338 which left Felixstowe Air Station at 8:25 A.M. on Feb. 15, 1918, to escort the Dutch traffic to Holland.

On sighting Dutch traffic at 9:55 A.M. 55 miles E. by S. of Felixstowe, machine 4338 and the accompanying machine 4339 were attacked by a formation of nine hostile German seaplanes. Four hostile machines were seen to attack and surround Ensign Sturtevant's machine, which had changed her course on sighting the enemy and was steering a south-westerly course. The other machine was at the same time attacked by the five other hostile machines which he was able to keep at bay. The last seen of Ensign Sturtevant's machine was 1½ miles to the S. W. of the accompanying machine steering west about five minutes after the commencement of the action, and she disappeared into the mist. From a German report several days later this machine was brought down in flames in the South Downs.

C. W. Bailey, Captain

This was so unsatisfactory, so wholly barren of results, that Mr. Sturtevant made one more attempt to enlist the aid of the Bureau of Navigation. To the request Rear Admiral Thomas Washington, Chief of the Bureau, replied on May 21st, 1920:

Subject: Sturtevant, Albert D., Ensign (deceased), U. S. N. R. F.

Sir:

In reply to your communication of May 4, 1920, you are advised that a careful search of the files of the Department shows no report from the British or German Admiralty such as you suggest. It is thought possible, however, that the files of the Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters may contain a more complete report of the death of your son and your communication has, therefore, been referred to that office and upon receipt of reply you will be further informed.

In reply to your fourth paragraph, the Bureau would be pleased to receive a copy of such data as may have been collected by you for, as stated, it will undoubtedly be of historical value in the future.

Mr. Sturtevant was reluctant to abandon the quest, although there seemed to be no more clews to follow. He p108had felt confident that the German official records might enlighten him, but these had been inaccessible during the war. And even after the Armistice it seemed unlikely that any response could be obtained in the disorganized condition of the governmental bureaus at Berlin and the sullen attitude of defeat. In fact, Admiral Sims regarded the idea as futile and so expressed himself.

Mr. Sturtevant, however, combined unflagging persistence with valuable personal connections in Germany. As a patent attorney of prominence, with many correspondents abroad, he had been in touch with certain German manufacturing firms before the war and, after the Armistice, he was able to enlist the interest and sympathy of a certain Herr Direktor Fr. Wever of the Union Spezial-Maschinenfabrik of Stuttgart. It was known that the German planes engaged had been led by Captain Christiansen who was in command of the naval air forces at Zeebrugge.

It was Mr. Sturtevant's difficult task, therefore, to get into communication with Captain Christiansen himself and persuade him to make the statement desired. This was accomplished through the agency of Mr. Fritz Wever of Stuttgart, who addressed a letter of inquiry to the German Admiralty and was a man of sufficient influence to evoke the following reply:

The Chief of the Admiralty

Berlin, Nov. 15, 1919

In response to your letter of November 6, 1919, to the German Naval Board, you are advised that, in accordance with your wishes, inquiry has been made regarding the death of the American aviator Albert Sturtevant, as well as the address of Lieutenant Christiansen.

Since investigation is rendered difficult by reason of the demobilization of the Flying corps, we will ask that you be patient for a time.

p109 On conclusion of our inquiry you will be notified thereof at once.

(Signed) Faber

To Mr. Fr. Wever, Director
Union Spezial-Maschinen-
fabrik, Stuttgart.

A few days later the following information was courteously forwarded to Mr. Wever from the office of the Chief of the German Admiralty:

Berlin, Nov. 23, 1919

Supplementary to the Admiralty letter No. Lu I 10038, November 15, 1919, the following information, taken from the official records, is sent you:

At 10:45, at Nord Hinder, a convoy consisting of 11 steam merchantmen and several torpedo boats was sighted on the ESE course. The convoy was protected by two Curtiss boats which, on sighting our aerial fleet, immediately turned off on the NW course. The southerly flying boat was engaged about 11 o'clock at 200 meters, and after brief resistance fell in flames. Hereupon the chief of the aerial fleet alone followed the second flying boat, the remainder of the aerial fellow not being able to accompany and being compelled to turn back by reason of lack of benzine. This Curtiss boat was fired on only at long range. The chase was abandoned in front of Lowestoft. At about 5 o'clock, at Nord Hinder, the wreckage of the Curtiss boat which was shot down, with 3 survivors, was found. On account of the heavy sea, however, our aerial fleet could not land.

(signed) Christiansen

The home address of Kapitanleutnant F. R. Christiansen is: Junien, Holstein.

(Signed) Faber

Captain Christiansen was also punctiliously obliging in furnishing the information desired. On December 26, 1919, he wrote from the town of Junien, Holstein:

Director, Fr. Wever, Stuttgart,

After my return from abroad I received your lines of December 8th.

The report signed by me and sent to the Admiralty agrees with my war diary. It relates to an engagement with two double-motored Curtiss boats with English insignia, so‑called U‑boat chasers. My squadron consisted of three ordinary sea planes, and the attack took place about 75 kilometers from the Belgian p110coast, near a lightship, Nord Hinder. During the course of the engagement one of the boats was quickly shot down in flames, while the other tried to escape by flight. The latter was pursued by me close to the English coast and fired at, definite result thereof not being learned.

After further reconnoitering in the afternoon of the same day the wreckage of the boat which had been shot down was sighted. Three men stood on this wreckage. As the sea was running high it was impossible to rescue them, as our own machines would have been damaged. Moreover, three English destroyers were not far distant, so that I took it for granted that they would take their comrades with them. Any other time we have always attempted to take fallen enemies prisoners, although with our small machines this was dangerous work. In that manner I myself have saved thirteen men, although our own aviators have been shot and killed when lying on the water without consideration. In the present case bad weather prevented our rescue work.

Yours

Capt. Fr. Christiansen

Explicit as was this letter, it conveyed to Mr. Sturtevant a harrowing uncertainty, a poignant picture that haunted him. Three men had been seen alive. They were standing on the wreckage of the British flying-boat which was sighted after 'further reconnoitering' in the afternoon of that same day. This meant that they survived for several hours, at least. And how much longer nobody knows. We have Captain Christiansen's word for it that 'as the sea was running high it was impossible to rescue them, as our own machines would have been damaged. Moreover, three English destroyers were not far distant, so that I took it for granted that they would take their comrades with them.'

You can believe as much of this as you like. The German flight commander was a man of excellent reputation for courage and sportsmanship. He shows the racial bias and his hatred for England when he goes on to say that he had saved thirteen fallen foemen, 'although our own aviators p111have been shot and killed while lying on the water, without consideration.' Over against his professed chivalry must be placed the murder of many merchant seamen in open boats by order of the officers of German submarines. It is not easy to arrive at a conclusive verdict in this instance of the wrecked machine from Felixstowe. In Captain Christiansen's favor is the attitude of mutual respect that existed between the flying corps of the German and the Allied services as exemplified in the honors accorded aviators brought down in combat.

It was inevitable that Mr. Sturtevant should write to ask of Captain Christiansen whether it had been possible to recall any personal description of the three men clinging to the wrecked flying-boat. These and other questions were forwarded in a letter of February 14, 1920.

My dear Mr. Wever:

I want to thank you for all the trouble you have been to in connection with the matter, and in view of our long friendship, I am taking advantage of it to ask you to communicate with Captain Christiansen again and try and get some additional information.

Captain Christiansen says in his letter that the report signed by him and sent to the Admiralty agrees with his war diary, but there are some points which I would like to have cleared up, and I am taking the liberty of asking you to communicate with him again and am putting some questions in my letter which I would like to have answered by Captain Christiansen if he feels that he can do so. I am sorry to put you to so much trouble in the way of translating into German all of this English, but I don't know any one here who could do the translating as well, to whom I wish to confide the matter and whom I know would be apt to understand as well as you exactly what I desire.

If you think it advisable, I authorize you to employ some competent person to go to Junien and interview Captain Christiansen so as to get the full data desired by me. I imagine this could be done at an expense of a couple thousand marks or so, and I would be glad to incur that if you think best results could be obtained thereby.

p112 In the first place, I want to preface my request for information from Captain Christiansen by stating that I do not expect him to answer any questions which he feels he ought not to on account of his duties as an officer, and I do not want him to consider any of my questions as impertinent. I am only trying to get from him such information as I think his father would have liked to get from my son if the conditions had been reversed. Furthermore, all the British and American officers in the Flying Corps with whom I have talked have spoken of Captain Christiansen as being a fair and square officer although an enemy.

The report of the British Admiralty, of which I have a copy, after stating the facts that two flying boats, 4338 and 4339, left Felixstowe at 8:45 on the morning of February 15, 1918, to convoy a fleet of merchantmen and torpedo boats to Holland, and while hovering around waiting for the convoy, were about 10 o'clock attacked by a squadron of German seaplanes, some eight or nine in number, and that the two British boats separated. One succeeded in beating off that portion of the German squadron which had attacked it, while the other was pursued by the other boats of the German squadron. The English officer who returned on the escaping boat reported that when his companion boat was last seen it was being pursued by all of the German squadron and disappeared in the mist.

A later personal report, given me a British officer who visited this country, stated that he had heard from a German prisoner that the flying boat of which my son was pilot was not brought down by the German machines which had originally attacked it, but by lighter, faster machines under the command of Captain Christiansen.

I would like very much to have Captain Christiansen's statement as to the above reports and would like to have him answer also the following questions:

1. Was he, Captain Christiansen, in command of the German squadron of planes which originally sighted and attacked the two British boats;

2. If not, did he with his squadron of three planes, lighter, faster machines, join in the contest later and bring down the British boat;

3. Was he, Captain Christiansen, the chief of the Aerial Fleet (Führerflugzeug), which, as stated in the Admiralty report alone, followed the second flying boat?

p113 You will understand that I am endeavoring to get at the facts of the matter with the idea only of satisfying myself and my family as to just what happened. You will see that in a way the statements contained in the letter of Captain Christiansen and in the Admiralty report are not exactly in accord. The German Admiralty report speaks of an 'aerial fleet,' and that the Chief of the aerial fleet alone followed the second flying boat, while the others were not able to accompany but turned back by reason of the lack of benzine. Captain Christiansen speaks of his squadron as being composed of three ordinary seaplanes, which I should think would hardly be a fleet in the ordinary acceptation of the term. Furthermore, the British report as set forth on the authority of the commander of the British boat which escaped and on the authority of officers of the convoy, and according to the statement made to me by the British officer above referred to, seemed to establish the fact that there really were some nine or ten German seaplanes waiting out in the mists for these two boats, and that when these two boats separated, the German fleet divided, attacking the two, one section following the escaping British boat some distance, and then returning and joining in the fight on the other boat. The report of the German Admiralty would seem to indicate that the boat which was brought down was first engaged, and that then the commander of the enemy fleet turned to pursue the other boat. This also does not seem to bear out the statements made by the officers with whom I talked and the British Admiralty report that the actual machines which brought down the boat of which my son was pilot were not present at the beginning of the battle which ensued but came in later and destroyed that boat.

If Captain Christiansen can clear up this matter by a full account from his diary and from his recollection, I would appreciate it very much if you would have him do so. Furthermore, I understand that the German magazine 'Motor' published some two or three months thereafter contained a picture of the machine which was destroyed, taken from one of the attacking boats. I would like very much to be informed just what is the correct story of this matter so that I may file the information away with my papers to be handed down to my youngest boy, now eleven years old.

While I suppose it will be impossible for Captain Christiansen to be able in any way to identify any of the three survivors p114standing on the wreckage to which he refers in his letter of December 26th, perhaps he would be able to say whether in his opinion one of them was an American and not a British officer. Furthermore, my son was of very powerful athletic mould, standing six feet, two inches in his stocking feet, and weighing about one hundred and seventy-five pounds. He may or may not have been one of the three survivors on the wreckage, because there were four men who formed the crew of the boat; my son, who was one pilot, an Englishman, who was the other pilot, and two other men, so apparently when Captain Christiansen saw the wreckage with the three survivors, one of them was already gone.

From Captain Christiansen's familiarity with the Belgian coast and the waters near the same, I would like to know if he can inform me just about how far from the Belgian coast this wreckage lay and about opposite what point, for it may possibly be that my son's body was washed ashore, and I may be able by inquiry among the villagers along the Belgian coast to ascertain whether a body bearing his identification disc was washed ashore and buried at some point.

If you can transmit this letter with translation to Captain Christiansen, I would much appreciate it, if you will do so, or if it is easier get the substance of it and restate it to him so that he can, if he is willing, fill out a little more in detail the information furnished on the points which I desire.

This letter, when translated and sent to Captain Christiansen, was answered by him without much delay. He added little to the information previously obtained from him, but was at pains to refer to Mr. Sturtevant's queries in detail. He wrote, on April 2d:

Mr. Fritz Wever, Stuttgart:

Your esteemed letter of March 10th, with enclosure, reached me a few days ago, after my return from a short trip abroad.

After consulting my records I can add nothing further to the statement I have already made with respect to the combat of Feb. 15, 1918.

I am not astonished at the reportº of the British Admiralty, which wereº always colored according to circumstances. A prior report gave the information that a British squadron had destroyed p115all the planes of my squadron except one, which was damaged; as a matter of fact I never lost one through British planes. The statement that there were eight or nine German planes in the engagement mentioned is not correct. Our forces consisted of my scouting squadron, as stated in the reports of our Admiralty.

We started at 10 A.M. from Zeebrugge, the engagement having taken place at about 10.50 A.M. in the neighborhood of Nord Hinder lightship, its war position being about forty English nautical miles halfway northward of Zeebrugge. The two hydroplanes, flying close together, were attacked simultaneously; one, however, appeared to be rather faster than the other. The encounter with one of the boats lasted about five minutes, until its destruction. I followed the second for about twenty minutes at a distance of about 1000 meters, when my companions were compelled to abandon the chase on account of shortage of gasoline. My plane, however, was not speedy enough to force a decisive engagement before the boat reached the English coast.

The photograph in the journal Motor, published September-October 1918, was taken in another encounter, July 21, 1918, near Lowestoft, England. No exposures (pictures) were made on Feb. 15, 1918.

It is impossible for me to give details of the condition of the personnel of the fallen hydroplane.

Comparatively few bodies were washed up on the Belgian coast during the war. Some of my comrades of the air, U‑boat, and torpedo service were washed up on the Holland shore between Helder and Emuidena and lie buried in a small cemetery on the dunes, the name of which I do not recollect.

It will give me pleasure if this information will be of service to you.

Very truly yours

Kapt. Fr. Christiansen

It will be noted that the German flight commander's version fails to tally, in important respects, with the reports of the U. S. Navy Department and the British Admiralty. This, perhaps, was to be expected. And yet the contradictions are startling. The information transmitted from Felixstowe of necessity consisted of what the two p116escaping pilots, Faux and Bailey, brought in. These and their two enlisted men were the British witnesses concerned in the fight. They were in positive agreement that the attack had been launched by nine or ten planes. Captain Christiansen is just as positive in asserting that his force numbered no more than 'three ordinary seaplanes.' What is more, he says that he alone pursued Faux's fugitive machine for twenty minutes toward the English coast when his companions were compelled to curtail their flight on account of shortage of gasoline. This was after Sturtevant and Purdy had been shot down, or so the statement would lead one to infer.

If this is true, the lost flying-boat had a fair chance to win out until the rapid retreat of Faux left it to withstand the concentrated attack of two or possibly three of the German planes. It is entirely a question of credibility, nor can it be satisfactorily solved. It may have seemed to you, as it did to me, that to accuse Faux of cowardice and thus unofficially to disgrace him, was harder punishment than he deserved if he actually found himself in a mêlée with as many as ten enemy seaplanes. He could not help his comrades in the other machine, for, according to his story, five of the hostile force were driving it toward the Belgian coast and five others were attacking him. Sturtevant and Purdy were hopelessly cut off and involved. For Faux to fight his own battle and save the lives of his crew and a valuable machine was a course not altogether liable to military censure.

This inconsistency becomes less apparent if one is willing to admit that Captain Christiansen is not an unmitigated liar. For the sake of argument, let us give him the benefit of the doubt. The war is over. We know that not every German was a scoundrel, a ravisher, and a murderer. If Captain Christiansen took only three planes out for that p117North Sea scouting trip, then possibly the British Admiralty found some reason to suspect that Faux's story was exaggerated, that he had seen more planes than there really were. In that event, it would be easier to understand why he was saved from formal punishment by questions of expediency and why so little information could be obtained by the United States Navy Department and by Mr. Sturtevant.

There is no blur or tarnish on the bright name and memory of Ensign Albert Dillon Sturtevant, first to die of the First Yale Unit. He was not one to write long letters nor did he have much to say in them about his work. The concluding sentences of one of his letters home contains the essence of his intense loyalty to the cause for which he gave his life. It is the epitaph of a young warrior:

If I ever get so I am not able to fly any more, I certainly am going to join the infantry. I'd be almost ashamed to go back home and have to say that I had never served in the trenches.

On November 11, 1920, Mr. Sturtevant accepted the following award of honor in behalf of the son who had 'gone west.'

Sir:

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting to you the Navy Cross awarded posthumously to your son, the late

Ensign Albert D. Sturtevant, U. S. N. R. F.

for services during the World War as set forth in the following:

Citation

For distinguished and heroic service as an aviator attached to the Royal Air Force Station at Felixstowe, England, making a great many offensive patrol flights over the North Sea and was shot down when engaged gallantly in combat with a number of enemy planes.

For the President,

Josephus Daniels
Secretary of the Navy

p118 The Philadelphia Record of July 30, 1920, contained the following account of a ceremony which added a new and dauntless vessel to the naval forces of the United States:

The United States torpedo boat destroyer Sturtevant, named for the late Ensign Albert D. Sturtevant, the first American naval aviator to be killed during the world war, was launched 99⅘ per cent completed yesterday afternoon at the New York shipyard, Camden. The launching was attended by the father and several relatives of the late ensign.

The father is Charles I. Sturtevant, a Washington lawyer, and he was accompanied by his daughter, Mrs. Curtis Ripley Smith, of St. Albans, Vt., who christened the destroyer with champagne. Others in the party were Mr. Smith, William N. Sturtevant, a Yale student, who was an army aviator during the war; Charles I. Sturtevant, Jr., a brother of the dead ensign; Miss Anita Henry, of Washington; Miss S. E. Thompson, of Paris, and F. G. Lawrence, who was with the Yale Unit in the aviation service.

The ensign whom the destroyer was named after went to France with the Yale unit of 28 men.

Rear Admiral R. F. Hall and Mrs. Reynold T. Hall, president of the Society of Sponsors of the United States Navy; Lieutenant Commanders Bruce and Bastidio and their wives and other naval attachés were present and greeted the relatives along with Senior Vice President H. A. Magoun, Junior Vice President William G. Grossbeck and other shipyard officials.

The destroyer when it entered the water was equipped with all of its machinery, four smokestacks and wireless apparatus, and will be ready for its trial trip in a few days. It is the first destroyer to be launched on the Delaware River so nearly completed. It is 314 feet 4 inches in length and has a beam of 30 feet 11 inches and depth of 9 feet 4 inches and will make 35 knots per hourº and burn oil for fuel.


Thayer's Note:

a Properly, Den Helder and Ijmuiden.

Page updated: 11 Sep 13