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Introduction
Shipbuilding on the Chesapeake
Curtiss Flying School
Eugene Ely
Langley Field
German Ships in Hampton Roads
Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation
Fort Monroe and Coastal Defense
Fort McHenry
Camp Eustis
Naval Operating Base, Hampton Roads
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German Ships in Hampton Roads

Soon after war broke out in Europe, two ships of the Central Powers sought safety from British Naval patrols off the Virginia Coast in Hampton Roads. The Budapest, an Austro-Hungarian steamship and the German Arcadia both remained in Hampton Roads until they were seized by the United States government when America entered the war in 1917.

On March 10, 1915, the German commerce raider Prinz Eitel Friedrich entered the Chesapeake Bay, heading to Newport News for coal, food, water, and repairs. The raider had attacked and taken eleven prizes on its voyage from China to the Atlantic, including sinking the American bark William P. Frye on January 27, 1915. With British warships off the Virginia Capes, the ship remained in Hampton Roads following the completion of repair in Newport News. Soon after, a second commerce raider, Kronprinz Wilhelm, arrived in Hampton Roads, experiencing the same fate. Interred by the United States government, both ships became instant attractions for residents of the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Eventually both ships and crews were moved to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth. The German sailors were given a great amount of freedom to explore the region, and the officers were even invited to numerous social events. To avoid boredom, the crews joined forces to create a miniature German village. Combining part of the names from the two ships, Eitel Wilhelm was soon built at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Each day, more than a thousand locals visited the village, which was complete with houses, a church, courthouse, firehouse, gardens, and a miniature farm. Admission was ten cents per person. Visitors could even purchase souvenir newspapers and toys made by the German sailors, and were entertained with ballads and other entertainments. The majority of the proceeds were donated to the German Red Cross.

By mid-1916, the United States began gearing up for involvement in the war overseas. With orders for more warships, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard was enlarged, and the village was torn down. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, the crew was sent to Georgia as prisoners of war, and the two raiders were sent to Philadelphia for conversion to troop carriers.

German Village, Eitel Wilhelm   German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. The village even had a windmill.   German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. Notice the cranes of the Norfolk Shipbuilding in the background.
German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. The village even had a windmill. German Village, Eitel Wilhelm.
 
German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. Village with Prinz Eitel Friedrich and Kronprinz Wilhelm in background.   German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. Bird's eye view of the entire village.   U.S. Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia
German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. German Village, Eitel Wilhelm. U.S. Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia


 

 

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