Attack on Orleans

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Attack on Orleans
Part of the U-boat Campaign of World War I
Cape Cod Landsat 7.jpg
A view of Cape Cod, the location of Orleans, from space.
Date21 July 1918
Result German victory, raid completed.
 United States  German Empire
Commanders and leaders
unknown German Empire Richard Feldt
1 tugboat
4 barges
9 Curtiss HS seaplanes
1 submarine
Casualties and losses
1 tugboat sunk
4 barges sunk, no human casualties

The Attack on Orleans was a naval and air action during World War I on 21 July 1918 when a German submarine fired on the town of Orleans, Massachusetts on the eastern coast of the Cape Cod peninsula, and on some nearby merchant vessels.


On the morning of July 21, 1918, German submarine U-156 surfaced three miles off Orleans, captained by Richard Feldt, and fired its two deck guns at the town and at the passing tugboat Perth Amboy, which had four barges in tow. Perth Amboy was heavily damaged, and the four barges were sunk.[1] The shells fired at the town landed harmlessly in a marsh and on Nauset Beach, giving the town of Orleans the distinction of being the only spot in the United States that received enemy fire during World War I. There were no fatalities.

Nearby Station No. 40 of the United States Life-Saving Service launched a surfboat under heavy enemy shellfire and rowed out to rescue the 32 sailors trapped aboard the tug and barges. US Navy Curtiss HS flying boats and Curtiss Model R bombers responded from Naval Air Station Chatham, and they bombed U-156.

A sign above the beach commemorates the engagement:

"Three miles offshore, in the direction of the arrow, was the scene of attack of a German submarine on a tug and barges July 21, 1918. Several shells struck the beach. This is the only section of the United States' coast shelled by the enemy during World War I." [2]


U-156 got away and headed north, where it continued to attack other Allied ships. A few shells and craters were found on shore in Orleans and in the nearby marsh. Newspapers dubbed the engagement the "Battle of Orleans" and offered a reward for the discovery of submarine supply bases in the Bay of Fundy. The attack on Orleans was the only Central Powers attack on the contiguous United States during World War I. It was also the first time that the United States was shelled by artillery since the Siege of Fort Texas in 1846.[3]


  1. ^ Neidell, Indy (2018-06-16). The Only German Submarine Attack On US Shore in WW1 I OUT OF THE ETHER (Video). The Great War Channel. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  2. ^ Klim, Jake (2014). Attack on Orleans: The World War I submarine raid on Cape Cod. The History Press. ISBN 9781625850348. OCLC 883673275.
  3. ^ Larzelere, Alex (2003). Coast Guard in World War One. Naval Institute Press, p. 135. ISBN 1-55750-476-8


  • Gibson, R.H.; Maurice Prendergast (2002). The German Submarine War 1914–1918. Periscope Publishing. ISBN 978-1-904381-08-2.
  • Sheard, Bradley (1997). Lost Voyages: Two Centuries of Shipwrecks in the Approaches to New York. Aqua Quest Publications. ISBN 978-1-881652-17-5.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°47′23″N 69°59′25″W / 41.78972°N 69.99028°W / 41.78972; -69.99028