Cadet Cruise #3
25 October 1908
To: Commandant Gaston Dulet, École d’Aérien
From: Capitaine Jean DeGual, Officer Commanding, Cruiser Olympus
Subject: Cadet Citations for Actions on and after 10 September 1908
My dear old friend,
I extend to you my heartfelt greetings and salutations. This letter is to apprise you of the performance of three of your cadets during their fall cadet cruise aboard my vessel. I believe you will find that these young men behaved in a manner that reflects only the best of the École d’Eérien and our branch of the service.
On 10 September we were moving parallel with a hurricane storm front from the south to north Atlantic. This hurricane was of moderate strength with winds of 175 kph. Under the best of circumstances, navigation and control of the ship was difficult in such a storm.
My duty-helmsman was on duty and I would have preferred his skilled hand at the wheel, but unfortunately it was not to be. The battering we took had incapacitated him at his post with violent airsickness. I had summoned an experienced officer, but in the meantime I turned to Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien Justin Vernin, who was already on the bridge as an auxiliary. It was a constant struggle to maintain course and to tack the erratic wind currents. The Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien performed admirably.
At 1055 hours we received a distress signal via wireless from the American ship USS Richmond. She was only a few minutes from our position. We had been tracking her progress in the storm for some time and were maintaining a discreet distance. Sky Captain Hart contacted us and informed us that a leak in his electroid tanks had flooded his boiler rooms and forced the shutdown and evacuation of these engineering compartments. The subsequent loss of power meant that his ship was losing altitude and would be lost to the storm. In keeping with the finest traditions of our service, I offered immediate assistance.
Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien Justin Vernin performed the maneuver to lay us alongside of the American ship. Even in calm conditions, as you know, this maneuver is difficult. Our replacement helmsman relief arrived on the bridge and assisted the Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien in making the last segment of the maneuver. The crosswinds we were experiencing made it dangerous to all parties involved. I informed him of how to approach the maneuver and he performed it flawlessly; perhaps better than the experienced officer he had relieved.
Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien Paul Patel was placed in charge of lashing the ships together. He commanded the firing of the steam grapples, and it took several attempts to get our lines across. In the process, the two ships collided and Patel was tossed overboard. He was injured in the fall but was recovered by his crew. He is in my sickbay at this time with a separated shoulder. While he expects a full recovery, such a fall in a hurricane is not something to be taken lightly.
We sent a boarding party aboard the Richmond. In that party was Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien Alexander Ducrocq. He was instrumental in leading a team that assisted with restoring power to the damaged American vessel: our French ingenuity combined with American improvisation in welding together a solution. During that time, the ship continued its descent and Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien Vernin, along with our replacement helmsman, managed to keep us close enough so that if the Richmond had to evacuate her crew, we could do so. The Mount Olympus was battered from the constant bumping of the American ship, but that is to be expected in such a risky maneuver.
Not only did Cadet Sous-Lieutenant aérien Ducrocq help restore power to the American vessel, but on suggestion of his superior officer, he prepared a detailed report on her engineering capabilities. This team’s findings, confirmed by my own chief engineer, indicate that the Americans may have some unknown capabilities aboard their vessels. It is rare that we get hands-on experience in foreign engine rooms, which adds greatly to our understanding of our allies and enemies alike. This report has been forwarded to the highest levels of our intelligence services for their review and immediate reaction.
This rescue of the American vessel has proven a political boon for us. The American and French newspapers have reported it extensively and we have received letters of thanks from the Americans. This is due, in no small part, to the actions of the cadets aboard the Mount Olympus during this cadet cruise. I am hereby officially noting them in this citation and ask that copies be provided for their personnel files. Should these brave young men find themselves in need of a posting after their graduation, I want them to know that I would look forward to having them back under my command on the Mount Olympus.
Their contribution, my old friend, is no doubt due to the level of training you and your instructors are providing them. Please keep up the sterling work you are performing in the name of the Republic.
Submitted for Record,
Capitaine Jean DeGual, Officer Commanding, Cruiser Olympus