Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE    

UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET

U.S.S. NEW YORK, Flagship.

13 April, 1918.

From:     Commander, BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.

To  :     Secretary of the Navy (OPERATIONS).

Subject:      Advanced Base Characteristics.

     1.  SCAPA FLOW BASE.

(a) Ample anchorage room for all vessels – fighting ships, auxiliaries, supply, fuel, hospital, repair ships, etc.

(b) Ample maneuvering room for divisional tactical exercises (low speed) short range battle practice, torpedo range, special exercises, night target firing.

(c) Safe and well protected anchorage, landlocked, good holding ground, but little tidal current, except in entrances, easily fortified; entrances presenting no great difficulties for installation and maintenance of defensive obstructions and mines, separately and collectively.

(d) Approaches from seaward easy or difficult, dependent upon tides, weather and visibility; can be made easy for friendly ships, difficult for others.

(e) Outer shores of surrounding islands steep-to, rugged, in general protective owing to danger and difficulty to enemy’s landing.

(f) Surrounding country bare of trees or shrubbery, rolling, hilly, cultivated, or covered with heather; view unobstructed, prohibitive of enemy’s raiding or other movements without detection even if landing were effected, which is not likely.

(g) Ample and efficient communication; Government controlled (Navy), direct to London and elsewhere, by radio, telegraph and telephone (cable and landwire). Mail daily; Government ferry connected with railroad on mainland.

(h) Supplies and fuel as required, by steamers from various ports and bases.

(i) Isolated, espionage very difficult, hazardous for spies to attempt to operate.

(j) All entrances are obstructed by nets and mines; these are protected by batteries (small calibre) on shore in immediate vicinity; no large calibre guns for offensive against capital ships.

(k) Signal station commanding all entrances and approaches for challenge, communications, and reports.

(l) Auds [i.e., aids] to navigation, like all other utilities of every description under the Commander-in-Chief.1 Lights grouped by themselves and in combination with gates through obstructions so that particular groups may be requested by radiom [i.e., radio], signal, or otherwise, at stated times for entering or leaving the port.

(m) General approaches, (lanes or defined channels) from seaward, and others leading up to gates, are in general swept daily for mines, and in particular immediately preceding the time when vessels may use them.

(n) Outside surrounding waters and channels patrolled day and night by light cruisers, destroyers, sweepers, aircraft and submarines (on special occasions); also lookouts and patrols on shore covering adjacent waters.

(o) An outside area is kept swept in the same way for vessels engaged in heavy calibre target practice.

(p) The base, fortifications, mines, repairs, communications, etc., are all under the Commander-in-Chief, but sub-divided under subordinate heads.

(q) No dry dock or facilities for major repairs, these must be undertaken elsewhere; there are facilities for docking small vessels (destroyers) and minor repairs. Major dry dock facilities would be a very great advantage.

(r) On shore there are paravane, kite balloon, and aviation stations, in addition to others mentioned (signal, etc.) and a limited number of stores.

(s) Recreation fields, golf, tennis, football, baseball, etc., are maintained close to the man-of-war anchorage.

(t) All movements of the fleet, squadrons, divisions, groups, or individual ships, entering or leaving the base, are made on pre-arranged schedule time, through Commander-in-Chief.

     2.  ROSYTH BASE.

          Is similar in many respects to SCAPA, but differs principally in being a fully equipped station for docking and repairing, and is in the midst of civilization; has a constricted anchorage are[a], and different geological formation and contour of surrounding country.

     3.  CONTRASTING SCAPA FLOW WITH ROSYTH.2

          The former may be considered a rendezvous or advanced base, though not directly towards the enemy; the latter a docking, repair, and overhaul base.

     4.  COMPARING THESE WITH GUANTANAMO, CULEBRA, and SAMANA BAY.3

          Most of the points for or against these are apparent without discussion, but:-

GUANTANAMO

(a) Has far too little anchorage room.

(b) But is well protected.

(c) Has excellent communications.

(d) Easily defended (nets, mines, batteries).

(e) Easy access.

(f) Practically impossible for enemy to mine on account deep water.

(g) Deep water close aboard for maneuvering, but maneuvering area not protected.

CULEBRA.

(a) Very little and insufficient anchorage room (that outside of the harbor proper would be extremely difficult to protect.)

(b) But that inside could be made all but perfectly secure and thoroughly protected.

(c) No communications like at Guantanamo.

(d) Lends itself almost perfectly for defense (the island and inner harbor.)

(e) Access could be made easy by very little dredging.

(f) Approaches can be mined (assuming enemy’s mine layers can cross ocean in sufficient numbers or operate from a base in West Indies).

(g) Navigation is a little more hazardous in vicinity, but deep water not far distant for maneuvering, though unprotected.

SAMANA BAY

(a) Ample anchorage and maneuvering room, in a secure landlocked basin, tidal effects negligible.

(b) Could be easily protected to insure security, (obstructions, nets, mines, batteries.)

(c) Poor communication.

(d) Fairly easy access.

(e) Mining by enemy, the same as at Culebra: probably difficult with proper patrol.

(f) No dredging required, but additional aids to navigation would be needed.

     5.  SUMMARY

          Samana seems to be the only one of the three that has ample naturally protected anchorage and maneuvering room like Scapa. (Rosyth has the same, though less extensive, behind extensive artificial barriers (nets, mines, etc.).

          In my opinion no fleet can lay at anchor, inactive, with out maneuvers or target practice, and remain efficient. A naturally protected landlocked area for these purposes, such as at Scapa or Samana is one of the most important and essential requisites.

          All fighting ships here are constantly on the move, for exercise, patrol, convoy or active duty; there is a constant demand for every bit of the available maneuvering space every day in the week, and not enough to satisfy the demand. It is surprising what an immense area is necessary for anchoring all of the vessels, and how little remains for maneuvering.

     6.  CONCLUSION.

     Hence it seems to be that Samana Bay is the only one of the three that has the necessary space, no matter how desirable the others may be, even though they both possess some advantages over it, and that with docking and repair facilities it would be the best place available. I am assuming that strategically, Samana is at least as desirable as either of the other two, and that we can get a concession there.4

     This point is presented for consideration in connection with the many others which arise in deciding the location of the West Indies advanced base, as I am under the impression that it has not heretofore been given sufficient consideration.

Hugh Rodman.           

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 382. Identifiers at the top of the page: “File 237.” in upper-left corner and “1/L” in upper-right. Addressed below close: “To: SECNAV.(OP) (2)/Copies: Force cmdr. [VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters]/Naval/Intelligence/Adm. [Charles J.] Badger [Senior Member, General Board of the United States Navy]/File”.

Footnote 1: Adm. Sir David Beatty, Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet.

Footnote 2: Scapa Flow, located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, was the main anchorage for the British Grand Fleet. Rosyth, also in Scotland, was a secondary base.

Footnote 3: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Culebra, Puerto Rico; and Samana Bay, Dominican Republic.

Footnote 4: The United States ultimately did not build a naval base at Samana Bay.

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