World War I -- Life Histories/Section 001/William Victor Tomb
Welcome to the learning project on North Carolina during World War I!
William Victor Tomb Brief Biography
W.V. Tomb was a white American male born in Missouri in 1877; he was about 40 when he became a commanding naval officer. His records include a war diary while he was on convoy duty in the Atlantic during World War I. Although the war diary records did not provide much insight into William Victor Tomb’s personal perspective on the war, it provided a primary source to portray the more impersonal and objective aspects of war duty. He died in Los Angeles, CA in 1941.
James Hamilton Tomb, William’s father, was the chief engineer of the Confederate and Brazilian navies as well as an officer of the Western and Norfolk Railroad (“Profile Detail”). His father’s history of being a well-establish and international naval commander during the Civil Was as well as in Brazil (“Profile Detail”), is most likely what lead William Victor Tomb and his brother to becoming a naval commander as well.
Military Service in WWI
William Victor Tomb was assigned to the Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet to serve as commander for the USS Maumee (AO2), one of the six destroyers in the first American destroyer detachment to arrive at Queenstown Ireland. He also received the Navy Cross honor from the president for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. DAMS during World War I. Tomb’s war diary provides accounts that describe big losses for the Germans, like the sinking of a U-Boat, while he was on convoy duty in the Atlantic during World War I. Although the war diary records did not provide much insight into William Victor Tomb’s personal perspective on the war, it provided a primary source to portray the more impersonal and objective aspects of war duty.
Other ships that were mentioned frequently in Tomb’s War Diary were the courageous acts of the USS Davis and the USS Fanning, these ships along with the USS Maumee made history in the ending of World War I.
Destroyer Fleets mentioned in Tomb’s War Diary
The Fanning was also impressive, as mentioned in Tomb’s War Diary on October 1917, “a German submarine was spotted and if it were not for the quick attack by the Fanning, it would have undoubtedly attempted to torpedo the Maumee”. According to Herman Whitake, a shipmate who wrote his account of the naval war during World War I, “[The periscope] was raised in that instant scarcely a foot above the water, but it was picked up by the sharp young eyes of the lookout on the Fanning. The submarine had submerged at once; but, rushing along its wake, the Fanning dropped a depth-mine that wrecked the motors, damaged the oil leads, blew off the rudder, tipped the stern up, and sent the ‘sub’ down on a headlong dive of fully two hundred feet” (pg 22). This action taken by the Fanning was a notable moment in Tomb’s War Diary.
Maumee Tomb’s ship, the Maumee itself humbly made history when it became the first ship to refuel another ship at sea. Without this event, the six U.S. Navy destroyers would not have been able to sail all the way to the U.K. without the need to stop at a port. At-sea refueling kept the Navy a force to be reckoned with during World War I, this meant that Navy warfighters in the 100 years since could receive food, mail, and other replenishments as well as continue to carry out other missions rather than pulling into a port. According to Jim George, a Combat Logistics Force Program Manager for the U.S. Navy, the Maumee changed the efficiency of the U.S. Navy for the better. Artifacts cited consisted of a song dedicated to the Maumee navy ship valorizing its history as an “old faithful” of sorts and a war journal that took place between the times of July 1917-August 1918. The song represented the patriotism and pride in American tradition and militia, continuing the American cultural tradition of wartime pride. The Maumee song was about how this old faithful of a ship was going to take down the Hun.
According to the records of the Office of Chief of Naval Operations, the USS Davis originally served as a patrol and escort duty but began to become a force of rescue for survivors of torpedoed vessels. Most notably, in May of 1918 she rescued 35 members of the German submarine U-108 after it collided with the British ship Olympic. This not only rescued the prisoners that the Germans were holding, but also took the Germans as prisoners and turned them over to the British military authorities at Milford Haven.
Readings and other resources
Each individual page may link to other North Carolinians involved in the war, or a suggested reading selection. For example:
- The Documenting the American South project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill