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Local soldiers killed in 1918 attack after the submarine had made it from New Jersey to shores of England

PHOTO COURTESY OF BOWMAN MUSEUM - News article announces the attack that claimed area soldiers.

The United States had entered World War I when war was declared on April 6, 1917.The war had been raging in Europe since 1914. The Germans had a well-developed submarine fleet and raised havoc on Allied shipping. On Jan. 24, 1918, the Tuscania departed Hoboken, New Jersey, with 384 crew members and 2,013 United States Army personnel aboard. On the morning of Feb. 5, 1918, the ship was in the North Channel headed for Liverpool. Early in the evening, a German submarine fired two torpedoes at the ship.

One torpedo made a fatal strike on the Tuscania. Within four hours, the ship had sunk into the waters of the Irish Sea. Approximately 210 of the troops and crew were lost while many others were rescued by two Royal Navy destroyers. Among the troops aboard the Tuscania were seven young men from Central Oregon. Four were from Bend and three from Crook County. Two of the Central Oregon contingent were killed in the sinking. Elmer Alfred Houston, from Held, Oregon, near Brothers, and Percy Stevens, from Bend, were the victims. The others from Central Oregon survived. Stevens was the first fatality from Bend in World War I.

Elmer Houston was the son of Elbert and Cincinnati Houston. He was born in Franklin County, North Carolina, on Nov. 7 1895. The family came to Central Oregon and settled near Bear Creek. Shortly after the United States declared war on Germany, Elmer enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to the 6th Battalion of the 20th Engineers. His unit was on its fired deployment to the war when the transport ship was torpedoed. It is not certain if he was among the first soldiers from Crook County to be killed in the war.

The soldiers killed in the sinking were buried on an isolated patch of ground along the Scottish coast. Elmer's father Elbert later requested a headstone that could be placed in Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville. On the request, he mistakenly stated that Elmer was a victim of the sinking of the Lusitania, which was sunk in 1915.


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