U.S. DESTROYER FIRED ON BY GERMAN SUB 75 YEARS AGO
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Seventy-five years ago today, September 4, 1940, an American destroyer, the U.S.S. Greer, was fired upon by a German submarine in the North Atlantic.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt discussed the incident in a radio address a week later, on September 11, 1940. FDR said that the U.S.S. Greer "was carrying American mail to Iceland...flying the American flag" when she was attacked.
"This was piracy-legally and morally. It is now clear that Hitler has begun his campaign to control the seas by ruthless force..."
President Roosevelt added...
"Let this warning be clear...if German or Italian vessels of war enters the waters, the protection of which is necessary for American defense, they do so at their own risk."
The attack on the American destroyer gave FDR the ammunition to justify a "shoot on sight" policy in the North Atlantic, but the President did not tell the whole story.
The Greer had been in contact with a British bomber 1 hour and 40 minutes before 4 depth charges were dropped in the vicinity of the German submarine. Also, the Greer dropped 10 depth charges about 2 hours later.
The Destroyer History Foundation describes these latter depth charges as "the first American shots of World War II."
"U.S.S. Greer, Destroyer #145, DD 145," Destroyer History Foundation, www.destroyerhistory.org/