1918 marks the centennial anniversary of the shelling of the Town of Orleans by a German U-boat.  On July 21, 1918, the tiny town of Orleans (pop.1012 at the time) was shelled by a German U-boat making it the only point on U.S. soil  attacked during World War I.    The German submarine, U-156 attacked the tug Perth Amboy, heading south about three miles off Nauset Beach with four barges in tow. Several shells from the U-156 deck gun exploded on shore. The Perth Amboy was heavily damaged; its four barges in tow were sunk.   Like much of the rich history of Orleans, this story is compelling, fascinating, complex, and often surprising.

Click here to read more about the U Boat Attack on Nauset Beach

Click here to see the number and names of ships attacked by U-Boat 156 

Click here to see the number and names of ships attacked by U-Boat 151

Click here to learn more about the role of the French Cable Station in WWI

Click here to watch videos on the use of U Boats in WWI

Click here for printable Commemorative Event Schedule








  • On May 17 at 7:00 PM, A Symposium on the 1918 Attack will be held at Snow Library. Local historians from the Historical Commission, Historical Society, and the French Cable Station will discuss the attack, its context, and its significance. We will also present a view of what Orleans was like in 1918.
  • On July 10 the above Symposium will repeat during a Chowder Supper from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM at the Federated Church.
  • On July 12 at 7:00 PM, the above Symposium will repeat at Snow Library.
  • On July 19 at 7;00 PM, Jake Klim, author of Attack on Orleans (History Press 2014) will speak at the Orleans Historical Society. Klim’s book provides a carefully researched chronical of the attack and the resilience of the Orleans citizens.
  • On July 20 at 7:00 PM, Paul Hodos, author of The Kaiser’s Lost Kreuzer (McFarland and Co. 2018) will speak at the Orleans Historical Society. Hodos’s book is a meticulously researched biography of the U-156 and sheds considerable light on the long standing unanswered questions on what the sub’s intention was on July 21.
  • On July 21 at 5:00 PM, a Centennial Commemoration Ceremony will be held at Nauset Beach. The Nauset Sea Scout Ship 72 will display a Race Point Surfboat with oars on a trailer with scouts in uniforms.
  • On July 22 at 3:00 PM, the Orleans Historical Society will hold an Illustrated talk: “American Popular Music during World War I” – John Graziano, Professor Emeritus of Music, CCNY.

 Note: Bonnie Snow’s Antique House Walks scheduled at 10 AM on 6/8, 7/13, 8/10 & 9/14 and Cemetery Walks scheduled at 10 AM on 6/29, 7/27, 8/31 & 9/28