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Olympic Goes to War

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Olympic also had the ability to function, if required, as a formidable offensive force. She eventually proved this fact by becoming the only merchant vessel to sink an enemy warship during World War I. On 12 May 1918, while bound for France with US troops, Olympic encountered a surfaced U-boat. The troopship’s gunners opened fire. Although the submarine attempted to dive, Olympic struck the vessel just aft of her conning tower. Olympic’s massive port propeller easily sliced through the U-boat’s pressure hull. The German crew then scuttled and abandoned the submarine. Olympic suffered only slight damage: a few dented hull plates and a somewhat twisted bow (the same bow that in 1934 would run into and sink the Nantucket Lightship).

The US troops on board were so impressed by Olympic’s actions that they paid for a plaque to be placed in one of ship’s lounges to commemorate the event, it read:

“This tablet presented by the 59th Regiment United States Infantry commemorates the sinking of the German submarine U103 by the Olympic on May 12th 1918 in latitude 49 degrees 16 minutes north longitude 4 degrees 51 minutes west on the voyage from New York to Southampton with American troops.”

In August 1919 Olympic returned to Belfast for restoration to civilian service. She continued in transatlantic and cruise service until April 1935.

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