UB-88 Visits Helena

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James Dean

Public Information Officer

Thursday, June 16th 2022
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Arkansas History

       On June 8, 1919, the Daily Arkansas Gazette announced that a captured German submarine would stop at Helena, Arkansas from June 20 to 23. Its mission was to encourage young men from Arkansas to join the U.S. Navy and a recruiting officer was present to lead tours and sign-up volunteers. The vessel was also open to the public and many local officials were on hand to welcome the ship into Helena. The UB-88 was now under the command of Captain J.L. Neilson with a crew of about twenty-seven men.

       The UB-88 was a German Type UB III submarine or U-boat that was completed in December 1917 at Hamburg. While in the German Imperial Navy, this U-boat sank 16 Allied ships during World War I, before surrendering on November 27, 1918. It was a little over 182 feet long with a crew of 3 officers and 31 men. With the war over, the U.S. Navy decided to bring the UB-88 along with other captured vessels to the United States for a fund raising and enlistment tour. The ship first docked at New York and then made it's way to Florida, before heading toward the Mississippi.

       After the submarine's stay at Helena, plans called for it to visit Memphis from June 20 to 26 and eventually stop at St. Louis before heading back down the river. However, the submarine ran aground just south of Memphis, and it was decided to stop the trip there because of low water. The UB-88 was actually anchored near Mud Island and hundreds of visitors came out to see the captured German ship. After a few days, the submarine left Memphis headed south. It would travel through the Panama Canal and up the west coast to Seattle, Washington. With her mission complete, the vessel was stripped of all useful parts and sank on January 3, 1921, near Los Angeles. Since crossing the Atlantic, the UB-88 had traveled 11,600 miles and been seen by thousands of fascinated tourists. The propellers were saved and put on display in the city of San Pedro but were stolen in 1923. They were never recovered, and most people forgot about this German submarine that had been used by the U.S. Navy for publicity after World War I. Even the wreck was lost until 2003, when it was discovered sitting upright south of the entrance to the Port of Los Angeles. Because the ship was given a special commission to the U.S. Navy, it is protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act. #helenahistory #arkansashistory #WorldWarI #UB88 #historywednesday
Daily Arkansas Gazette (Little Rock, Arkansas) 8 June 1919, Sun. Page 21
Pine Bluff Daily Graphic (Pine Bluff, Arkansas) 27 June 1919, Fri. Page 10
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee) 26 June 1919, Thu. Page 1
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee) 25 June 1919, Wed. Page 1
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee) 29 June 1919, Sun. Page 13
The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee) 29 March 1919, Sat. Page 3
The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) 31 Dec. 1920, Fri. Page 13
The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) 4 Jan. 1921, Tue. Page 19
News-Pilot (San Pedro, California) 28 May 1921, Sat. Page 1
Delsescaux, Jeffrey R. (2019) "California's Aquatic Assassin" The Ex-German U-Boat UB-88: An Archaeological Resource for World War I.
Photo is from Memphis 1919.

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