According to Karl Baarslag's book "SOS to the Rescue", as of 1935 the number of names engraved on the monument had increased from the original ten to twenty-five.
The World's Advance, July, 1915, pages 130-134:
A Memorial Fountain to Wireless Operators
By J. Andrew White
A MEMORIAL fountain to the wireless operators lost at sea now rears its noble column where the tip end of New York looks out toward the remorseless ocean. Standing at the lower end of Battery Park, in the shadow of the Barge Office walls, against a background of stately poplars, this simple and beautiful testimonial to those who have gone to death in the sanctified cause of manliness and self-sacrifice stirs the imagination of the passer-by as no other memorial of uncompromising granite could. It is an eloquent reminder of a tradition that has grown out of the brand of courage which seeks no precedent, which, founded on the heroic action of a mere boy, has been written in the indelible annals of the men who go down to the sea in ships.
"Most of us are creatures of the land, and the dangers of the sea have in our minds the added terror that attaches to things unknown and mysterious," said Acting Mayor McAneny at the unveiling on May 12th. "So it is that the picture we form of a man on a sinking vessel, sitting calmly at his post and ticking off the calls for help--calls which may or may not be answered--stirs our deepest admiration. Could any sort of courage and sacrifice be more impressive than that of Jack Philips and the coolness with which he stuck to his post on the Titanic on that awful Spring morning in mid-Atlantic, three years ago? It was a story that went around the world, and won the respect and gratitude of millions."
It was remarked that, as in the case of Captains, these young men quit their posts only when their ships have gone down, that they have accepted the tradition of their class or rank. And that is the most beautiful thought of the records of the wireless men. There was no such tradition five years ago, no such unwritten obligation. It remained for a little fellow whose name appears inconspicuously on the shaft, Stephen S. Sczpanck, to blaze the trail which so many have unselfishly followed. Sczpanck was lost on Car Ferry No. 18 on September 9, 1910, on Lake Michigan. A long train filled with passengers was being ferried from Ludington, Mich., to Milwaukee, and two-thirds of the distance of a little over one hundred miles had been covered when the boat received her death blow, filling rapidly and settling in the waters with scarcely a ripple. On order from the captain Sczpanck sent out a call for help while the crew summoned to the deck the passengers, who were still comfortably seated in the railroad coaches. The decks were awash before the human freight had sought the safety of the lifeboats. Great excitement reigned. In the midst of the confusion the cool and collected wireless operator appeared, making his way slowly through the aisles and stopping at each seat to reassure the passengers. Help was coming, his wireless appeal had been answered and a sister ship was speeding to the rescue. When the boats had been lowered away in good order and his assistance was no longer needed on deck, Sczpanck returned to the wireless room. There he remained by his crackling key, directing the speeding rescue ships until the still waters closed relentlessly over the vessel he had served so well.
With this noble example of quiet devotion to duty before him, George Eccles, whose name appears among the nine inscribed on the memorial, stood steadfastly by his wireless instruments while his ship, the Ohio, pounded to pieces on an Alaskan reef on August 26, 1911. In thirty minutes from the time she struck, the great vessel, which had been carrying two hundred passengers, had slipped from the reef and sunk in the hungry maw of the sea. From the first it had been known that the ship was doomed and the crew worked frantically to get the passengers off in the lifeboats. Eccles' wild, despairing calls crashed out again and again over the angry waters. Not a ship answered. Then, far across the great land and water wastes, came the cheery call of an Alaskan station. It had his message but could not send him direct aid; the voice of its powerful spark, however, would be lifted in an added appeal for succor. The minutes passed, the time was growing short. Tense, straining every faculty for a sound in his head telephones, the faithful operator scorned the death that crept toward him in the rising sea. Suddenly the far-away land station called again; it had picked up two vessels near by, the Humboldt and the Rupert City, and they were then headed for the Ohio. Eccles told the captain, and then turned to the task of sending messages to the approaching ships, directing them to his exact position.
Twenty minutes after the ill-starred vessel struck, the waters flooded the engine room and silenced his instruments. He arose then and stood out on the deck, watching the last of the departing lifeboats. One of the relief vessels hove into view and a great cry of exultation came from the throats of harassed passengers. It seemed certain that all would be saved. Just at that moment a vicious comber swept down on the staggering Ohio, lifted her high off her precarious position and crashed her down on the cruel rocks. In an instant she was gone, and with her the man who had saved her helpless humans in the face of tremendous odds.
Conspicuous on the face of the shaft is the name of Jack Philips, the martyr to duty in the great Titanic disaster of April 15, 1912. His bravery, coolness and skill in time of immortal stress bring uplifting memories to a still shuddering public. To the very magnitude of that great ocean tragedy in which he figured is due the recognition of the wireless operating fraternity for which the monument stands--the one lasting memorial this country has raised to them. It was the shock of horror which then reverberated around the world that awakened a grateful humanity to a sense of obligation and started the flow of contributions which soon afterward assumed proportions sufficient to defray the expense of erecting the memorial. William Lawrence Bottomley, of the firm of Hewitt & Bottomley, architects, voluntarily offered his services and furnished gratuitously the design which was selected after a competition; the Marconi Company contributed five hundred dollars as a nucleus and passengers on coastwise vessels willingly subscribed the balance of the fund in smaller amounts. No intensive solicitation was made, no propaganda prepared to aid the raising of the desired sum; as the principal speaker at the unveiling remarked, it was a direct refutation of the contention that "in the rush of our affairs we are all too prone to forget great deeds."
To the Philips brand of courage, then, must be attributed this monument from the people. A more noble example of the heights young men can rise to in meeting an emergency will never be known. On the night of the disaster he was tired out after a long vigil in the wireless room. He had worked uninterruptedly for seven hours the preceding day, effecting some needed repairs. Under the regular routine he was not due off watch until midnight, but his assistant, Harold Bride, appreciating the strain of the overtime labor, had insisted upon relieving him earlier in the evening. Thus it was that Bride was standing beside when the ship hit the iceberg. Refusing to give up his post, Philips continued at the key from the time the first SOS call was sent until his instruments no longer would work. He had established communication with the Carpathia and other vessels, had given them the ship's position and received assurance of speedy rescue; his captain had told him: "You have done your duty. You are free now; every man for himself in a time like this!" But Philips stayed. Refusing even to stop for an instant to adjust a life preserver, he bent resolutely over the little rubber knob that spelled salvation to the helpless passengers and continued sending out reports that would aid in picking up the laden lifeboats.
Only when the last flickering sputter had come from his key did he give a thought to himself. The lifeboats had long since gone, and, fearless and calm, he stood on deck until the great leviathan took her final plunge into the icy waters.
When dawn arrived, and with it the Carpathia on her mission of rescue, his lifeless body was tenderly lifted from a crowded life raft.
Among the six heroes whose gallant deaths are commemorated as occurring on the Pacific Ocean, the first name is that of Lawrence A. Prudhunt, who perished in the wreck of the Rosecrans on January 7, 1913. Little is known of Prudhunt's faithfulness to trust, for his was not a great passenger ship, laden with important people. Only thirty-six members of the crew were aboard and but three were saved. The vessel struck a rock and sunk soon afterward. He was offered a chance in the boats which the crew were putting over the side, but went instead to the wireless room and continued directing the rescuers until the ship broke up beneath him. When assistance came it was found that he had been pinned under the wreckage and washed overboard when the wireless house was swept into the hungry waves.
In the wireless room also, with all avenues of escape cut off by wreckage, Donald Campbell Perkins perished on August 18, 1913. His ship was the State of California, which sank in Gambier Bay, Alaska, three minutes after she had ripped her bottom off on an uncharted rock. But even in the short time before the mountainous deluge swept through her, Perkins had rushed from his cabin in his pajamas, taken charge of the wireless apparatus, and given his distress call and position to the Alaskan steamship Jefferson. That vessel chanced to be near by and arrived on the scene a few hours later; it was broad daylight and no difficulty was experienced in picking up the many passengers whom the crew had succeeded in placing in the lifeboats. Thirty-one were missing, trapped in their staterooms, and among them was the faithful operator. His assistant was saved, and it was he who told how Perkins had ordered him to go on deck and assist in the launching of the small boats. There was one lifeboat immediately in front of the wireless cabin which they were unable to launch. As the vessel took a sudden list to port this boat broke adrift and jammed fast in the door, making Perkins a prisoner. Realizing fully that every second counted if he was to make his escape, the young man elected to stand by his key and give further directions to the summoned rescue vessel.
Just twenty years old was Ferdinand J. Kuehn when he gave up his life for another, when, on January 30, 1914, the Monroe sank off the Virginia coast. This heavily laden passenger vessel met in collision with a freighter as she was feeling her way through a dense fog. It was known instantly that the vessel had received her death blow and Kuehn's assistant brought a life preserver to the wireless room, adjusting it as the wireless instruments again and again crashed forth the SOS. Only twelve minutes elapsed between the time the vessel was struck and when she sank. The crew had succeeded in getting three boats away when the wireless operator appeared on deck, his work done. Just then one of the women passengers passed; she had no life preserver. Kuehn insisted that she take his. He adjusted it for her and helped her into a lifeboat. This boat was among the last ones to get away, and a few minutes later the survivors it carried saw the young operator slip on the tilted deck and fall into the water. With the life preserver to keep him afloat he would have been saved. Willingly, he had sacrificed his life that another might live.
Kuehn was a popular boy in New York and a graduate of the Bronx High School. Many of his former companions looked on as the sailors blew "taps" over the shaft which bears his name. In the silent crowd, too, were a number of his later friends of the sea; for in deference to the occasion the Marconi offices closed at noon, enabling all Kuehn's fellow workers to be present at the unveiling.
Chiseled on the shaft of honor close beside this record of a brief career is the name of Walter E. Reker, another twenty-year-old boy, lost in the wreck of the Admiral Sampson off Seattle, Wash., on April 25, 1914. These two disasters, occurring less than three months apart, had several similar features. The Sampson received her death blow in a collision and sank in fog-bound waters soon after. An added horror in this case was brought on by the cargo of oil igniting and enveloping the ship in a sheet of flame. Reker sent out his appeal for aid and stood by his post of duty until the vessel which had dealt the fatal blow advised him by wireless that she was sending for assistance and there was no need for him to operate his instruments any longer. The time was growing short, but the wireless operator refused to abandon the ship, taking his place instead beside the crew and assisting the passengers into the boats. Ignoring repeated appeals to save himself, he waited until the last boat had left and all but two of the fifty-four passengers had gone to safety. Then he reported to the bridge and sank with the ship to his death, standing beside his captain.
Two names complete the record on the fountain shaft. Side by side in life, Clifton J. Fleming and Harry F. Otto are immortally paired in the inscription which relates their heroism when the steam schooner Francis H. Leggett filled and sank in the Pacific, sixty miles south of the mouth of the Columbia River. This was on September 19, 1914. For two days she had been pounded unmercifully by the heavy seas and finally a particularly vicious wave tore loose a hatch and a torrent of water poured into the hold. Fleming sent out the distress call as the vessel began to list and two steamships started to the rescue. Efforts to launch the lifeboats proved futile; as soon as they struck the water they capsized. Suddenly the vessel lurched as her lumber cargo shifted, and she disappeared beneath the waves. Otto, the junior operator, was carried down by the suction. Fleming clung to a piece of wreckage and gave aid to those struggling in the water about him. One of the survivors later told how this seventeen-year-old boy pulled him to safety and then grasped a floating railroad tie for his own preservation. Just then a woman lost hold of the wreckage which was keeping her afloat and was washed against Fleming. He reached out for her and helped her to the tie which he was gripping, and then, realizing that it would not support the weight of both, let go and sank.
Simple and supreme courage in time of peril, faithful devotion to duty in the face of tremendous odds and a brave unselfishness that causes all men to experience a thrill of pride and an elevation of spirit, is the story the nine inscriptions on this newest monument tell to humanity. New York and the country at large will specially reverence this beautiful memorial, erected at a time of strife and combat so at variance with the spirit of its conception. For it typifies those qualities so essential to the world in the great period of reconstruction which is to follow the dawn of peace, the qualities which, by the strange coincidence of words, make possible--shall we say it?--THE WORLD'S ADVANCE