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USS K-4 Crunch

USS K-4 Crunch
USS K-4 Crunch

On August 29,1921 the USS K-4 (SS-35) was on maneuvers in Long Island Sound and was cruising submerged about 11:00 PM when she was rammed by the Canadian schooner Con Rein about 10 miles east of Block Island. The schooner's bow was crushed and it sank soon after. The K-4 surfaced to assess their damage and when it became apparent that the Con Rein was sinking took the Captain and crew of 5 off. The K-4 proceeded to the submarine base at New London, where they were landed on September 1st. From there the crew were transported by rail to Boston where they were then sent on to Yarmouth on the steamer Prince George. The Captain and crew maintained that the submarine was at fault and they were rammed by the K-4.

The schooner Con Rein was 299 tons and was built in 1919 at East LaHave on the LaHave River, Lunenburg, NS, Canada. She was one of 13 schooners launched that year from the East LaHave shipyards. ‎She was also on of eleven schooners lost in the year 1921.

The owners of the vessel and the owners of the cargo began suit against the US Navy for loss of the vessel and cargo. This ended up resulting in legislation in congress that would allow the suits going forth. (See the following)

An Act for the Relief of the East LaHave Transportation Company, Limited, owner, A. Picard and Company, owner of cargo, George H. Corkum, Leopold S. Conrad, Wilson Zinck, Freeman Beck, Sidney Knickle, and Norman Le Gay, crew of the schooner Con Rein, sunk by United States submarine K-4.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled the claim of the East LaHave Transportation Company, Limited, owner of the schooner Con Rein of the port of LaHave, Province of Nova Scotia, Canada; that the claim of A. Picard and Company, the owner and consignee of the cargo aboard the said schooner, and the claims of the several members of the crew of said schooner, named , George Corkum, Leopold S. Conrad, Wilson Zinck, Freeman Beck, Sidney Knickle, and Norman LeGay, against the United States for damages alleged to have been caused by collision between said schooner and the submarine K-4 owned by the Government of the United States and operated by the United States Navy, which occurred near Block Island, Rhode Island, on August 29, 1921, may be sued for by the said claimants in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, sitting as a court of admiralty and acting under the rules governing such court with jurisdiction to hear and determine such suit, and to enter judgments or decrees for the amounts of such damages and costs, if any, as may be found against the United States in favor of the said claimants, or any of them, or against said claimants in favor of the United States, upon the same principles and measures of liability, as in like cases in admiralty between private parties and with the same rights of appeal: Provided, That such notice of the suit shall be given to the Attorney General of the United States as may be provided by order of said court, and it shall be the duty of the Attorney General to cause the United States attorney in such district to appear and defend for the United States: Provided further, That said suit shall be brought and commenced within four months of the date of the passage of this Act. Approved, May 23, 1924.

The legislation then resulted in the following lawsuit to an appeal by the US Government from the first lawsuit where the Government seems to have lost the first case;

Limited, et al., Libelants, Appellees.
Circuit Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
November 23, 1926.
Miles Wambaugh, of Boston, Mass. (Foye M. Murphy and Blodgett, Jones, Burnham & Bingham, all of Boston, Mass., on the brief), for appellees.
Before BINGHAM, JOHNSON, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

In a collision case between the Nova Scotia schooner Con Rein and the United States submarine K-4, in which the accident occurred on the high seas, 10½ miles east of Block Island, at about 11 o'clock in the evening of August 29, 1921, it was found in the District Court that the submarine was at fault for proceeding in a dense fog at an immoderate speed, that the schooner was proceeding at a moderate speed, that the wind was light, and that she was being navigated carefully and cautiously and was free from fault. From a decree awarding the libelants full damages this appeal was taken. It is conceded that the submarine was at fault. The sole contention is that the schooner was likewise at fault - that she also was proceeding at an immoderate speed. After giving due consideration to the extended arguments of counsel and the evidence in the case, we are satisfied that the court below did not err in the particular complained of, and that its decree should be affirmed. The decree of the District Court is affirmed, with costs to the appellees.

So, the outcome of this collision was deemed the fault of the submarine though she was submerged at the time and damages were paid to the owners, the cargo owners, the ship Captain and the crew members.

Original Photo In The Private Collection of Ric Hedman

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