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The first signs of the presence of German submarines appeared in 1915, which intensified fear among Azorean military authorities, although their presence had already been communicated to the Portuguese Ministry of War and the Navy at the beginning of the conflict.14 Defenses on all the islands were weak or nonexistent. On 3 December 1916, the German U-boat SM U-83 (1916) bombed the harbor of Funchal on Madeira, increasing these fears and generating a precipitation of events that climaxed with the bombing of Ponta Delgada by SM U-155 (1916) on 4 July 1917, possibly attempting to destroy a coal depot mainly used by U.S. ships.15
The Orion left Ponta Delgada a little more than one week after the German attack. The American presence was conditioned by Portuguese bureaucracy to access to its own coal deposits and Portuguese law limited the supply to ships that did not carry out of the port, and the delay could have serious consequences for the assembly of the American facilities in Ponta Delgada. During the week of 21 July, eight steam ships were sunk by a U-boat off Santa Maria, some by U-155, causing a new flow of castaways.27 In the following week, the newspaper Açoriano Oriental [End Page 31] announced the arrival of the American destroyers that formed the U.S. Navy's division in the Azores. Its mission was to cover the maritime area of the Azores, preventing enemy access and assuring help to shipwrecked or otherwise distressed vessels. In the same week, some media reported that for the Germans, the islands were important logistically to dominating the North Atlantic.28
From this date on, shipwrecks along the coast, especially of American ships, became common. In early August 1917, the American consul asked the civil governor of Ponta Delgada for a numerical list of the officers and crews landed on Santa Maria to \"be able to appreciate the accounts sent by the administrator of Vila do Porto municipality with the costs of hosting Americans, as well as the duration of stay.\"29 Across the archipelago, the fear of a new attack was permanent, a result of the bombings of Ponta Delgada and Funchal and the growing number of German submarines spotted. On 7 August 1917, the military commander of Horta warned the military commander of the Azores of the presence of U-boats and a probable refueled ship near Fayal and Pico Islands and requested the defense of those two islands and of Flores and Corvo. e four islands' mayors were insistent on behalf of the people. e Portuguese Army and Navy had to reinforce defenses in all the nine islands, but the Portuguese Republic was unable to provide the resources to do it. Despite few means and multiple conflicting demands, the military command of the Azores created detachments in the nine islands, largely symbolic, and the future American sea patrols helped to transmit security to all of the Azorean population.
Rear Admiral Dunn arrived in Ponta Delgada on 9 January 1918 with a force of 150 riflemen, 10 seaplanes, two land cannons to defend the port and the new British wireless telegraph station, a division of submarines, a small number of coastal patrol boats, some logistical ships, one or two naval transports, and one or two destroyers, both on a temporary basis.52 At the core of these diplomatic events, both international and local, the president of the First Portuguese Republic (and war minister), Sidónio Pais, wanted to balance the different foreign influences in Ponta Delgada.53 Though he had accepted the Americans' presence, he did not trust them. Some of these pressures were felt locally, as society was divided among those favoring the Americans, the British, or the Germans. In this volatile context, with a foreign force commanded by an official general within its national territory, the solution implemented was to create a new military position, above the pro-German Portuguese high navy commander, Admiral Augusto E. Neuparth. This new post of high commissioner of the Republic for the Azores centralized all military and civilian functions by someone receptive to the Allies, especially the British. General Simas Machado, the former commander of the 2d Division of the Portuguese Expeditionary Forces in the north of France, was selected.54
Meanwhile, construction continued around the fort, as the ancient boat ramp area of the beach was transformed into a concrete ramp to create facilities to repair the planes and the submarines, as well as lodgings for the submarine garrisons. Initially, there had been some confusion among the local, national, and American authorities due to the use of military areas; but this time, the work was carried out within the framework of mutual understanding between the American and Portuguese commands, while maintaining Portuguese national sovereignty and prudent diplomacy.
Before Dunn agreed to move ahead, he wanted to review the selected locations. The leaders first considered the British telegraph station at the base of the hill of Vigário. The admiral chose a southern position by the sea on a 650-foot-tall cliff, but in a depression. The Portuguese had hoped that this cannon would not only protect the station but also Ponta Delgada and the harbor; however, this was not the admiral's intention.
After a short time, the Marines noted that the Azores were not often harassed by U-boats, so it seemed unnecessary to keep such a large military presence there. In July 1918, 1st Marine Aeronautic Company was reduced to 6 officers and 75 sergeants and enlisted, almost half of the original personnel. Captain Brewster commanded the company from 21 July.
On 2 September, three new Curtiss HS-2L flying boat patrol planes arrived to replace the dated R-6s and N-9s. The new aircraft had much more potential and durability for operations in Azorian waters.69 Unfortunately, engines were not loaded on the ship, a situation resolved later. Although the daily reports are not clear, it seems that the flying boats only started to operate at the beginning of October, but there is no doubt that the old R-6s operated until the end, as there are many records of aerial and maintenance activity of these planes. During the 1918 influenza pandemic, 1st Marine Aeronautic Company lost four pilots, so October represents a drastic drop in patrols as a result of the lack of both personnel and good weather. On 1 November, there were only nine pilots in the hospital and the company attempted a return to normal activity.70
Despite the quality of Glenn Curtiss's engines and seaplanes, like any other air unit, 1st Marine Aeronautic Company had accidents. The seaplanes eventually became too fragile to operate under the sea conditions around Ponta Delgada; waves were a constant in the artificial port, battering the seaplanes. In addition, the port was constantly crowded with ships, boats, and buoys, obstacles that sometimes became visible to pilots too late to avoid. The first accident occurred as early as 15 March, when Second Lieutenant Mims's plane (A-208, a Curtiss N-9) ran out of fuel just outside the harbor. Although it was towed, the cable gave way and the aircraft drifted until it was destroyed against the rocks on the coast.71
Poague and Ziegler's 5 November flight was the company's last patrol attempt. As of 11 November, a large part of the company's activity was limited to packing its materiel. Interestingly, the only air activity after Poague's accident was the assembly of and three test flights on the Curtiss HS-2L (belonging to the Portuguese) with plane A-1362, which according to Major Brewster's reports was assembled on 7 November. It is important to clarify that this Portuguese HS-2L did not belong to 1st Marine Aeronautic Company. Portuguese Navy archive documents confirm the purchase of four American seaplanes to equip the Horta Maritime Aviation Center in June 1918.75 However, after the Armistice, the Americans proposed that the Azorean authorities buy three or four seaplanes, a motorboat, and various machinery from 1st Marine Aeronautic Company for approximately 48,000 escudos ($525US 2021). First Lieutenant Adolfo Trindade, responsible for the Horta Portuguese Navy
With the war over and new technology in place, the first transatlantic aviation crossing was successfully completed. On 19 May 1919, Navy lieutenant commander Albert C. Read and his crew arrived in the Azores in their Curtiss NC-4 flying boat from Newfoundland, Canada. Three planes attempted the crossing, but only one was successful. With the help of the Ponta Delgada naval base for refueling, the plane reached Lisbon in 27 hours.85
The rapid demobilization of American forces was a reflection of how the United States always viewed the Azores Detachment of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Ponta Delgada: temporary. Its existence represented security to the population of São Miguel and generated confidence in the rest of the archipelago, especially in the nearest islands, and also for isolated ships crossing the sea between Bermuda and Gibraltar.87 The details of the base's operability are not well known, however it was not very intense. Naval Base 13 was involved in regular exercises and sea and air patrols in the area between the Azorean sea (almost to the Bermuda Sea), Madeira, Lisbon, Gibraltar, and nearly to the Canarias sea, and that the most dangerous moment could have been contact with a possible U-boat that submerged, wreaking confusion among the Marine aviators on 11 September 1918.88 But the mission was, in part, accomplished: access to the Azores was denied to the enemy and the Azorean sea was secure. The main route between the United States and southern Europe, passing by Bermuda and the Azores, especially for nonconvoy ships, was more secure, and ships could be sure of secured harbors for refueling and repairs. With the support of the U.S. radio facilities in Ponta Delgada, Dunn could prepare their passage, escorting them if necessary.89
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