A Tale of Two Grandfathers and Wartime Security in WW I
The Sporks had a bunch of grandfathers and this is a story about two of them: Spork Major’s grandfather and Spork Minor’s Grandfather. Not surprisingly, since the Sporks are related, the two grandfathers were as well — Father and Son.
William J Deed, Jr. was the father of Robert F Deed. WJD was a naval architect, so when WW I came along, he built sub chasers at a boatyard in Clayton, NY. Robert F Deed was 4 years old at the time.
The boatyard was off limits to the public, guarded by armed men at night, and most of the construction took place in a huge shed built close to the water.
When a reporter from The Watertown Daily Times came calling, there was not much that the Navy guy (WJD) could say:
[T]he United States is engaged in a real war and we must realize that in order to win we must fight it out in the best way possible; and one important thing to do is to keep the enemy as ignorant as possible regarding our implements of warfare. They may get the information through their spy system, but we shall have the satisfaction of knowing we did not hand it out to them.—Watertown Daily Times, Wednesday Afternoon, July 18, 1917
CLAYTON BUILDS U-BOAT CHASERS
Good Progress Made on Four Boats
Naval Officer’s Story
What a surprise, then, to come upon a drawing, nearly 100 years later of a boat by “Robert, Nov 7” with “17” written above the month and day. These notations are in adult hand.
This would make the artist 4 1/2 years old and might serve to explain the difficulty of deciphering his handwriting, which reads “Subchaser 337.”
The artist was a future journalist, and so apparently cutting his teeth early on the need for precision, included a label for his subject, which was built in that shed, off limits to the public, but not, apparently, off limits to little boys.
Sub chaser 337 appears on an index of boats built for the Navy in WW I.
The boat’s wartime service and a photo of the boat, mostly obscured by a boat next to it, appears in the public archives. The official photo provides considerably less detail than Robert’s drawing, it should be noted.
Sub chaser 337 was launched a month after Robert made his drawing. We don’t know what use it might have been to the enemy if the enemy had thought to search a little boy’s room.