Town commemorates 100th anniversary of German attack

July 21, 2018
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In this photo provided by the Orleans Historical Society, a crew prepares to receive survivors of a German World War I submarine attack on Orleans, Mass., on July 21, 1918. Orleans was the only town on U.S. soil to receive enemy gunfire during World War I. (Courtesy of Orleans Historical Society via AP)

ORLEANS, Mass. (AP) — A Cape Cod town is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the only enemy attack on American soil during World War I.

A German U-156 submarine shelled a tugboat near Orleans, Massachusetts, on July 21, 1918, the first attack on the U.S. in 100 years.

A commemoration is taking place Saturday evening on Nauset Beach to mark the anniversary.

It remains a mystery why an advanced submarine would attack a target that had no real value. One theory is that the sub had hoped to cut the underwater communications cable that ran from Orleans to France. The U-boat sent hits to the tug boat Perth Amboy and its four barges, and left an hour later.

The submarine attacked other ships near Canada, but disappeared in September 1918.

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