ORLEANS – On July 21, 1918, the German submarine U-156 surfaced about three miles off Nauset Beach and shelled the tugboat Perth Amboy and the four barges it had in tow. The barges were sunk, the tug was badly damaged, and two people were injured. Several shots fired from the U-boat’s 5.9-inch deck guns hit the Orleans shore, making the town the only place on U.S. soil to receive enemy gunfire during World War I. The Coast Guard, the Navy, the French Cable Station, the militia, the press, and the citizens of Orleans are all play major parts in the drama that developed on that day 100 years ago.
To commemorate the attack and to honor the town's heritage, the Orleans 1918 Commemoration Committee has scheduled a series of events.
On May 17 at 7 p.m., a symposium on the 1918 attack will be held at Snow Library. Local historians from the Orleans Historical Commission, Historical Society, and the French Cable Museum will discuss the attack, its context, and its significance. The event will also present a view of what Orleans was like in 1918.
On July 12 at 7 p.m., the above symposium will repeat at Snow Library.
On July 19 at 7 p.m., Jake Klim, author of “Attack on Orleans” (History Press 2014), will speak at the Orleans Historical Society. Klim’s book provides a carefully researched chronicle of the attack and the resilience of the Orleans citizens.
On July 20 at 7 p.m, Paul Hodos, author of “The Kaiser’s Lost Kreuzer” (McFarland and Co. 2018), will speak at the Orleans Historical Society. Hodos’ book is a meticulously researched biography of the U-156 and sheds light on the long standing unanswered questions on what the sub’s intention was on July 21.
On July 21 at 5 p.m., a centennial commemoration ceremony will be held at Nauset Beach. The Nauset Sea Scout Ship 72 will display a Race Point Surfboat with oars on a trailer with scouts in uniforms.
On July 22 at 3 p.m., the Orleans Historical Society will hold an illustrated talk, “American Popular Music during World War I,” by John Graziano, professor emeritus of music, CCNY.
The committee is still planning for the commemoration, and additional events will be added as they are confirmed. All residents and visitors are invited to join in honoring this important part of Orleans' heritage. For more information visit historicorleans.org/1918-wwi-u-boat-attack-on-orleans/, or if you would like to get involved email firstname.lastname@example.org.