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Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs, 1916-1920: Finding Aid

Published in 1994

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 298
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs
  • Dates: 1916-1920
  • Size: 0.1 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 2 volumes
  • Creator: Zerbe, Raymond W., 1894-
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Raymond W. Zerbe was an enlisted radio operator in the United States Navy during World War I. The Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs cover his pre-war duties aboard U.S.S. Pennsylvania and U.S.S. Arkansas; his World War I service aboard U.S.S. Von Steuben; and his post-war service aboard U.S.S. George Washington and U.S.S. Ballard.

Biography of Raymond W. Zerbe

Raymond W. Zerbe of Freeport, Illinois (born June 6, 1894) was an enlisted Radioman in the United States Navy who rose to the permanent rank of Chief Petty Officer. Following his enlistment in the Navy in May 1916 in Wichita, Kansas, Zerbe trained at Great Lakes, Illinois. After training, he served tours aboard U.S.S. Pennsylvania (Battleship : BB-38) and U.S.S. Arkansas (Battleship : BB-33). During World War I, he saw service aboard U.S.S. Von Steuben (Auxiliary cruiser, formerly the German ocean liner S.S. Kronprinz Wilhelm). After the war, Zerbe's radio abilities earned him temporary assignments aboard U.S.S. George Washington (Transport, formerly the German ocean liner S.S. George Washington) and U.S.S. Ballard (Destroyer : DD-267). Raymond Zerbe was discharged from the United States Navy in July 1920.

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Description of Contents

The Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs, comprising 0.1 linear feet of documentation, span from May 25, 1916 to August 4, 1920. Zerbe's logs cover his pre-war duties aboard U.S.S. Pennsylvania and U.S.S. Arkansas; his World War I service aboard U.S.S. Von Steuben; and his post-war service aboard U.S.S. George Washington and U.S.S. Ballard.

Zerbe's logs begin with his enlistment in May 1916 and include entries for his tours of duty aboard U.S.S. Pennsylvania and U.S.S. Arkansas. With America's entrance into World War I, Zerbe's logs turn to his service aboard the auxiliary cruiser U.S.S. Von Steuben, formerly S.S. Kronprinz Wilhelm of the North German Lloyd Line. Serving as a troop ship, the Von Steuben operated in convoys, carrying troops, military equipment, and passengers between the United States and Brest, France. During the voyages, Zerbe notes encounters with enemy submarines, fires, storms, men overboard, a Spanish influenza epidemic, a German spy, and other incidents. Zerbe's service aboard the Von Steuben ended with her decommissioning in October 1919.

In 1918-1919, Zerbe was assigned to temporary duty aboard the transport U.S.S. George Washington, formerly S.S. George Washington of the North German Lloyd Line. Among his entries, Zerbe notes the transporting of notables from the United States to France, including President Woodrow Wilson, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, and King Albert of Belgium.

During 1919-1920, Zerbe was attached to the destroyer U.S.S. Ballard, which assisted the U.S. Army Transport Buford in the deportation of roughly 260 anarchists and Bolsheviks to Russia. Among those deported were Emma Goldman, Victor Bergman, and Alexander Berkman. Following this duty, the logs go on to mention the Ballard's visits to various European and Mediterranean ports before returning to New York.

Several pages following the August 4, 1920 entry of the second log appear to have been removed prior to accessioning.

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The Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs are arranged chronologically.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Raymond Zerbe in January 1984. Accession 84-14.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Logbooks for the ships on which Zerbe served may be available in Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, ca. 1801 - 1940, National Archives and Records Administration.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Raymond W. Zerbe Cruise Logs, MS 298

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1994. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1994 and revised by David D'Onofrio in June 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Arkansas (Battleship : BB-33)
  • Ballard (Destroyer : DD-267)
  • George Washington (Troop ship)
  • Halifax Explosion, Halifax, N.S., 1917
  • Naval convoys
  • Pennsylvania (Battleship : BB-38)
  • United States. Navy -- Radiomen
  • United States. Navy -- Seamen
  • United States. Navy -- Transport service
  • Von Steuben (Troop ship)
  • Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Naval operations, American
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Naval operations -- Submarine
  • Zerbe, Raymond W., 1894-

Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

"Log of my cruise in the U.S. Navy 1916-1920", 1916 May 25-1918 November 21

  • 1916 May 25-November 20: Zerbe takes U.S. Navy exam in Wichita, Kansas, proceeds to Great Lakes, Illinois. Other movements.
  • 1916 November 27-1917 January 31: Aboard U.S.S. Pennsylvania. Fleet maneuvers and war games in Caribbean, visits Haiti and other ports, ends at Cuba. Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Haitian President mentioned as leaving ship.
  • 1917 February 25-July 4: Transfers to U.S.S. Arkansas. To Cuba, Back to U.S. Earns rating, Electrician Radio. War declared.
  • 1917 August 10-25: Entire fleet puts to sea. Off Bermuda, strongly convoyed, sealed orders opened, to Long Island.
  • 1917 August 28-October 23: Transfers to U.S.S. Von Steuben. Von Steuben target practice, coaling, general shakedown and tests. Back to Philadelphia. Loads Marine trucks and stores.
  • 1917 October 24-28: Von Steuben in collision with Japanese ship, Von Steuben runs aground, danger of Von Steuben's depth mines exploding. Embarks 1,100 Marines. Coals at Staten Island.
  • 1917 October 31-November 28: Von Steuben leaves with convoy for France. Fires at possible submarine. Convoy activities. Von Steuben collides with troopship Agamemnon. Worst part of submarine zone. Rendezvous with destroyers and troopship. Torpedo misses Von Steuben. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1917 November 28-30: Sails for sea with destroyer escort, destroyer breakdown. Receives SOS calls. Sailing alone. Hears enemy submarine working wireless nearby.
  • 1917 December 6: At Halifax, Nova Scotia. Explosion in city due to collision of Belgian relief ship and French munition ship. Two square miles of city destroyed, 2,000 dead.
  • 1917 December 9-16: Von Steuben rammed by U.S. lake steamer, no damage. Sails back to Philadelphia in bad weather.
  • 1917 December 20-1918 January 19: Puts to sea with 1,200 Marines aboard. Discharges stores and Marines at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On to Canal Zone. Zerbe signs for rate of Electrician 2nd Radio. Sailors nearly cause riot at City of Panama bullfight. Sailors' lady friends travel aboard Von Steuben through Panama Canal.
  • 1918 January 21-February 7: Von Steuben returns to U.S. From Philadelphia to New York State with 1,200 Marines aboard. Coals.
  • 1918 February 10-28: Von Steuben sails for France in convoy. No Kodaks allowed aboard for duration of war. U.S.S. Pueblo almost hits Von Steuben firing at possible submarine. Receives SOS calls. Minefield area. Convoy sighted by enemy submarine. Escorted by airplanes and French destroyer. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1918 March 1-4: Sails for sea in convoy. U.S.S. Reid goes to rescue submarine-attacked Hiram B. Everett.
  • 1918 March 5-8: Von Steuben shells possible periscope, resulting in shrapnel damage to Von Steuben. Resulting court of inquiry. Testing of shells and munitions.
  • 1918 March 10-23: Receives SOS. Arrives Bermuda. Sub chasers form protective ring around convoy. Departs for U.S. Embarks four companies of soldiers at Philadelphia.
  • 1918 March 28-April 10: Sails for France. Joins other troopships. Crewman dies of pneumonia. African American cook killed in knife fight. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1918 April 12-26: Sails in convoy. Receives SOS calls. Tests searchlights, depth mines, new smoke screen device, and gun. Arrives Hoboken. Embarks, 1,200 troops.
  • 1918 April 27-May 6: Puts to sea. Mine warning. Submarine fires torpedo at Von Steuben. Through minefields and fog bank to Brest, France.
  • 1918 May 7-May 15: Puts to sea in convoy. Receives SOS. Zerbe rated Electrician 1st Radio. Depth charge practice. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1918 May 16-May 26: Zerbe in full charge of radio and radio personnel. Von Steuben's antenna raised. Embarks 2,000 troops and 500 sailors.
  • 1918 May 27-June 10: Underway with convoy. Receives SOS calls. Von Steuben serves as convoy flagship. In convoy with 11 destroyers and 10 transports. Movies filmed of convoy. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1918 June 11-20: Von Steuben sails in convoy. Drops depth charges on possible submarine. 300 French sailors aboard to pilot S.C. boats to France. Fired at possible submarine. Submarine fires at Von Steuben. Attempts to aid sub-threatened S.S. Advance. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1918 June 22-28: Admiral Greaves boards to congratulate crew. Von Steuben may have sunk submarine.
  • 1918 June 30-July 9: Von Steuben sails in convoy. Ships attack possible submarine. Troopship City of Vienna runs aground. Destroyer picks up contact mine. U.S.S. Henderson afire, men transferred to Von Steuben. Depth charging of attacking submarine. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1918 July 10-11: Multilingual German, who was flashing signals to submarines, caught aboard. May have been responsible for sinking of President Lincoln and Covington. Spy taken ashore.
  • 1918 July 12-21: Put to sea in convoy. Partial time bomb found in bunker. Notable passengers. Periscope sighted. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1918 July 23-Agust 17: Installs wireless telephone in radio room. Embarks 3,200 soldiers and Marines for France.
  • 1918 August 18-29: Underway in convoy. Receives SOS. Man overboard from Von Steuben. Arrives Brest, France. Embarks several hundred for U.S. (sick, wounded, politicians, nurses).
  • 1918 August 30-September 7: Sails in convoy. Receives SOS calls. U.S.S. George Washington initially refuses Von Steuben's request to sail alone. F.B. Sayre, President Wilson's son-in-law addresses crew. Von Steuben caught in hurricane, men lost overboard. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1918 September 9-14: Captain Sterling of Von Steuben relieved by Captain Miller. Embarks part of 13th Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps, including Secretary of the Navy Daniels' son.
  • 1918 September 15-30: Starts for sea in convoy. Iceberg sighted. Von Steuben fires on submarine. Severe Spanish influenza epidemic aboard. SOS call from Mina. Arrives Brest, France. More flu deaths. Embarks nurses, generals, St. Louis Quartet for U.S.
  • 1918 October 1-15: Sails for U.S. in convoy. Receives SOS calls. Von Steuben sailing alone. Periscope sighted. Entertainment by the St. Louis Quartet. Von Steuben not allowed to sail through New York sub nets at night. Arrives Hoboken. Embarks 1,500 Marines.
  • 1918 October 15-25: Puts to sea in convoy. Near collision. Receives SOS calls. Von Steuben transmits messages of President Wilson between Nauen, Germany and New Brunswick, New Jersey.
  • 1918 October 26-October 31: Coal shortage due to Welsh coal strike. Embarking wounded and others. News regarding possible armistice.
  • 1918 November 1-8: Puts to sea with destroyer U.S.S. Benham, which turns back due to steering gear problem. Intercepts message from Nauen to New Brunswick, New Jersey regarding U.S. elections. Von Steuben fires upon mine. Possible armistice. Arrives New York Harbor.
  • 1918 November 9-21: November 11 Armistice celebration.
Box 1 Folder 1

Book 2: Continuation of "Log of my cruise in the U.S. Navy, 1916-1920", 1918 November 30-1920 August 4

  • 1918 November 30-December 4: Zerbe to temporary duty aboard George Washington, which was transporting President Wilson to Europe. Zerbe and three others selected to operate the President's radio.
  • 1918 December 5-December 13: President Wilson aboard. George Washington departs for Europe. President sends death sentence commutation. President visits radio room. Zerbe requests decreased use of wireless telephone. President "very cheery." Films recorded aboard ship. Ceremonies at Azores. Arrives Brest, France. Met by Clemenceau and General Pershing. President departs.
  • 1918 December 14-23: George Washington embarks 4,000 troops. Sails for U.S. Arrives Hoboken to crowds awaiting returning troops.
  • 1918 December 25-31: In U.S.
  • 1919 January 1-10: Assistant SecNav Roosevelt, Charles M. Schwab and other dignitaries embark from France. Roosevelt inspects ship and crew. $2 million aboard. Schwab and Roosevelt address crew. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1919 January 11-21: Embarks 3,000 troops, 1,000 wounded. Puts to sea, arrives Hoboken.
  • 1919 January 27-March 13: Zerbe returns to Von Steuben. Installs arc net. Sails with $8 million and mail. Arrives Brest, France. Zerbe works with wireless telephone.
  • 1919 March 14-23: Embarks 3,000 troops. Receives SOS calls. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1919 March 30-April 7: Sails with $5 million in gold and mail. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1919 April 8-10: Zerbe views war damage in France.
  • 1919 April 11-19: Von Steuben sails, carrying General Pershing and part of 35th Division. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1919 April 24-May 2: Sails with $5 million and passengers. Icebergs sighted. Arrives Brest, France.
  • 1919 May 4-13: At Brest. U.S. Navy takes command of German ship S.S. Imperator. Von Steuben embarks 600 casualties of 32nd Division. Zerbe now Chief Electrician Radio. Arrives U.S.
  • 1919 May 17-May 28: Captain Miller relieved by Commander Horn. Von Steuben sails for, arrives Brest, France. Parade of American soldiers in Brest.
  • 1919 May 29-June 6: Puts to sea with wounded and troops. Von Steuben's Decoration Day ceremony. Anecdote of seasick "negro soldier." Arrives, New York.
  • 1919 June 10-21: Embarks 1,000 soldiers for occupation duty. Zerbe in full charge of ship radio. Arrives Brest, France. French sailors on strike for better pay. Guard in front of National Bank.
  • 1919 June 22-30: Sails with 2,900 troops. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1919 July 8: President Wilson returns from Europe aboard U.S.S. George Washington. Von Steuben crew ashore for parade led by President Wilson.
  • 1919 July 11-19: Von Steuben sails with French sailors. Arrives Brest. Near collision with collier.
  • 1919 July 21-29: Departs Brest with 3,000 troops and Admiral Wiley. Meets destroyer U.S.S. Wilkes and conducts sea plane test. Arrives Hoboken.
  • 1919 August 4-16: New antenna completed. Sails for, arrives Brest, France.
  • 1919 August 24-September 1: Embarks 2,200 troops and officers. Arrives New York.
  • 1919 September 10-18: Puts to sea. Receives SOS calls. Arrives Brest France. German prisoners coal ship.
  • 1919 September 21-October 10: Puts to sea with 2,700 troops. Arrives Hoboken. Von Steuben decommissioned.
  • 1919 October 10-November 12: Zerbe transferred to U.S.S. George Washington, which is transporting King Albert, the Queen, and Crown Prince of Belgium. King and party board at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. Transport King Albert to Azores incognito. Ponta del Gado natives disrespectful of Americans. Arrives Brest, France. King departs.
  • 1919 November 14-1920 January 3: Zerbe transferred to U.S.S. Ballard. Ballard sails from Brest to England. Collides with sailing ship at Harwich. Failed rescue attempt of mine-struck S.S. Liberty off German coast. Half of Ballard's bridge swept away by wave. Almost strikes mine. Returns to England.
  • 1920 January 5-February 2: Meets Army Transport Buford, which is transporting 2670 anarchists and Bolsheviks to Russia. Zerbe repairs antenna in rough weather. Anarchists caught signalling from ship, plan breakout. Emma Goldman declares deportation "futile." Deportees turned over to Finnish White Guard for trip to Petrograd.
  • 1920 February 8-March 14: Ballard stops at English ports. Leaves Harwich, England. Arrives Brest, France. Attempt to save drowning French sailor.
  • 1920 March 15-April 2: Departs Brest. Arrives Scotland. Visits German destroyer S-132. To England. Destroys floating mine.
  • 1920 April 6-22: Ballard sails for Venice, Italy. Through Adriatic minefield. Arrives Venice. Sails to Istanbul.
  • 1920 April 30-May 6: Ballard and U.S.S. Pittsburgh underway for Sevastopol. Arrives Sevastopol. Every man ashore in uniform bears arms in fear of Bolsheviks. To Yalta, then to Batoum, Russia.
  • 1920 May 7-31: Sails under sealed orders to Rizeh, Turkey. Ordered to assist Americans on French steamer Suriah. Proceeds to Trebizonal, Turkey; Istanbul; Spalato, Dalmatia; Brindisi, Italy; Jaffa, Palestine; Alexandria, Egypt. Returns to Venice. Zerbe rated permanent Chief Petty Officer.
  • 1920 June 2-25: Sails for Valleta, Malta. Zerbe almost washed overboard. To Villefranche, France. Ship mascots. To Barcelona, then Gibraltar, Lisbon, and England.
  • 1920 June 26-July 9: To Brest, France, then New York City. Iceberg encounters. Zerbe completes 40th Atlantic crossing.
  • 1920 July 10-August 4: Zerbe discharged from U.S. Navy. Makes personal trip to Kansas.
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