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A Brief Summary of the United States Naval Activities in European Waters









Prepared by        

Intelligence Section of

Admiral Sims’ Staff.    

5 August, 1918.

Prepared for Naval Committee of

Congress on tour of inspection



     Since the predominate naval effort in this war is British, due to the size and range of activities of the British Navy, and since the British Navy is controlled from the Admiralty in London, Admiral Sims1 selected London as the location of his headquarters for the purpose of directing the participation of the U.S. Navy in the naval campaign in European Waters.

     Since France is an invaded country, it is but natural that the predominate national interest of France is centered in it’s armies: as a result the French Navy has undoubtedly suffered, and has not been able to expand to any considerable degree during the war.

     The Naval Attaches at Paris and Rome2 are the medium of communication between Admiral Sims and the Ministries of Marine in France and Italy, and they keep him in constant touch with the naval situation in these countries. The Admiral makes frequent trips to Paris and an occasional trip to Rome. Our Naval Attaches in Holland and Scandinavian Countries3 keep Admiral Sims constantly in touch with all the information they obtain.

     There is direct telephonic communication between the British and French Admiralties, and in addition, the French Admiralty keeps an Admiral with a staff on duty in London, who cooperates with our staff.

     The organization of the British Admiralty includes a highly efficient Intelligence Division, through which all important naval information is made available to Admiral Sims at all times.

     It was therefore unnecessary for Admiral Sims’ organization to include a large staff for collecting information; it must and does include a small Intelligence Section for collating, digesting and disseminating information.

     It was at first proposed to establish Admiral Sims’ Headquarters in the British Admiralty, but on account of the congested condition of the Admiralty offices, it was finally decided to establish the U.S. Naval Headquarters near the Embassy.

     Admiral Sims attends the daily conferences of the naval staff at the Admiralty and, in addition, each officer of the Admiral’s staff keeps in close touch with the corresponding division of the Admiralty.

     In order to facilitate communications between the Admiralty and the U.S. Naval Headquarters and to establish a liaison service, a British naval officer assigned to Admiral Sims’ staff4 has an office at the Admiralty and a desk at Admiral Sims’ Headquarters; any division of the Admiralty desiring any information from or consultation with individual members of Admiral Sims’ staff are enabled to do this through this officer. Similarly, officers of Admiral Sims’ staff are enabled to quickly obtain information from the Admiralty.

     Special telephone and telegraph wires have been installed between the Admiralty and the U.S. Naval Headquarters.

     The Allied Naval Council, consisting of the representatives of France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States, meets frequently in London or Paris to discuss important questions concerning the naval campaign and particularly the disposition of forces.

     The natural inclination of a naval service, which is a team by itself, is, of course, to operate together as a team. Admiral Sims believed from the beginning, however, that the only effective way to throw the weight of the U.S. Navy into the war without delay was to use it’s available units to strengthen the weak spots in the other Navies, and thus effect a more vigorous conduct of the war already so thoroughly underway in all areas.

     There would have been much wasted effort and time if any attempt had been made to take over any particular area and operate it entirely with U.S. Naval Forces. Hence, as the various naval forces have been rendered available by the Navy Department, the question of the best location for them has been discussed with the representatives of the other navies and the disposition has been the result of common agreement.

     Admiral Sims’ Headquarters may be considered the advanced headquarters of the Navy Department in the field. The Department deals only with Admiral Sims’ Headquarters, and Admiral Sims in turn directs and coordinates the work of all of the various groups under his general command.

     All groups, wherever located, report regularly to Admiral Sims concerning their activities and operations, their condition as regards material and supplies, their needs, and their plans, together with recommendations or suggestions for changes in plans or policies. Admiral Sims in turn keeps the Department informed by general reports of the activities of all the forces under his command. Daily matters of importance or of current interest are handled by telegraph or cable.



     In order to carry out the organization and meet the demands outlined above, Admiral Sims’ Headquarters is divided into various sections. The following is a list of these sections with very brief outlines of their functions.

     1.   Chief of Staff.

              The Chief of Staff5 handles only important questions concerning plans and policies and the disposition of forces, and renders decisions on questions affecting the various sections of the staff.

     2.   Planning Section.

              The Planning Section is composed of three Captains and a Lieut. Colonel of the Marines,6 all of War College training, who have no administrative duties. It is their mission to keep themselves informed of the general situation, to carry on a constant study thereof, and to prepare and submit studied or plans covering proposed future operations or changes in present operations and methods, whenever in their opinion these are advisable.

              Whenever now problems are encountered, the Planning Section is asked to make a comprehensive study of them before decisions are taken.

              The Planning Section works in close cooperation with the corresponding Planning Section of the Operations Division of the British Admiralty.

              In addition to making studies of problems and preparing plans for future operations, the Planning Section also fulfils the function of a critic of the organization and methods in effect in the forces.

     3.   Operations Section.

              The Operations Section handles the convoying of all U.S. Navy and U.S. Army shipping, keeps track of the location of all U.S. Naval and merchant ships and, in close cooperation with the Admiralty, acts upon all cablegrams dealing with the routings of convoys and the assignment of escorts. The Operations Section prepares all orders to forces which effect their employment.

              The Operations Section also has charge of the anti-submarine work and the operations of submarine chasers.

     4.   Material Section.

              The Material Section keeps itself informed of the requirements of all forces as regards supplies of all description, including money, fuel oil, coal, food and clothing, and repair materials.

               It also supervises all financial dealings with foreign governments in connection with expenditures for the Navy. Arrangements have been made with the Allied Governments by which our ships can put in to any of their naval bases and obtain urgent supplies just as if they belonged to the Navy of the country. Commanding officers of such vessels sign the necessary receipts covering the supplies they receive and these finally reach the Admiralty or the Ministry of Marine, as the case may be, and are referred to U.S. Naval Headquarters for auditing and reimbursement.

     5.   Repair Section.

              The Repair Section keeps in touch with the needs of all forces in the matter of overhauling and repair, arranges with the different Allied services for repair and docking facilities and keeps the Department informed in regard to the material which must be provided from the United States.

     6.   Ordnance Section.

          The Ordnance Section keeps in close touch with the requirements of all forces as regards guns, ammunition, depth charges, and ordnance equipment of all kinds. It also follows closely mining operations and cooperates with the Admiralty and with the Mine Force in carrying these out.

     7.   Medical Section.

              The Medical Section has general supervision over all Naval Hospitals, keeps informed of the location of all sick and injured and of their disposition and arranges to have them cared for in Allied Hospitals wherever they cannot be treated in our own Naval Hospitals. There are at present three Naval Hospitals in commission in Europe; one at Strathpeffer, Scotland, one at Queenstown, Ireland, and one at Brest, France. In these, and in certain Red Cross Hospitals devoted entirely to naval use, there are more than three thousand beds.

     8.   Aviation Section.

              Before the Naval Aviation Service could begin operations, it was necessary to establish aviation stations, equip them, provide planes and train the personnel. This work was placed under the direction of Captain [Hutchison] I. Cone. Captain Cone established headquarters at Paris and the Aviation Section of Admiral Sims’ staff has had as it’s chief function the work of assisting Captain Cone in every way possible and particularly by establishing the closest possible cooperation with the British Air Service.

              As fast as the stations that are being built and equipped are ready for operation, they are placed under the commanders in the different areas, who direct their operations just as if they were surface naval craft. There are at present 27 U.S. Naval Air Stations in England, Ireland, France and Italy with a total personnel of 300 pilots, and 11,000 machinists and other assistants.

     9.   Intelligence Section.

              Since the time of all officers of the various sections of the staff is completely taken up by their immediate duties and the current business, it is necessary to have a section for the single purpose of obtaining and furnishing information which may affect the work of the various sections. For example, the Intelligence Section follows the movement of all enemy submarines, studies their method of operation and keeps the Operations Section informed of the latest information available in order that convoys may be safely routed and handled. The different sections of the staff call upon the Intelligence Section to collect and prepare information on a great variety of subjects. Examples of the questions received are as follows:-

     (a) What has been the percentage of sinkings by submarines in the various areas for the past two months?

     (b) What is the proportion of shipping passing into the English Channel to that passing into Gibraltar?

     (c) What information is there available as to engagements of 13, Naval vessels with enemy submarines and the results of these actions?

              The Intelligence Section is constantly engaged in making summaries of information and compiling statistical and other data in convenient form for the information of the other actions of the staff.

               The Intelligence Section also transmits all important information received and the results of it’s own investigations to the Department, to Army Headquarters, and to the operating forces. It works in close cooperation with the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty, and one officer, who is especially detailed, spends a great part of his time in the Admiralty Intelligence Division. In this way it is possible to retain for the Department all information available concerning enemy submarines and the submarine campaign, methods of attack and operations of the enemy, and information as to their future plans, which is obtained by the Admiralty from prisoners or through their own intelligence service.

     10.  Disbursing Section.

              The Disbursing Section has general supervision over all financial disbursements for personnel and those required for the administration of the U.S. Naval Headquarters.

     11.  Communication Section.

              The Communication Section arranges all lines of radio, cable, and telegraph communication between the forces operating under Admiral Sims and with the Navy Department. The cable and telegraph office established at Admiral Sims’ Headquarters is operated by U.S. Naval personnel. There are direct wires to the cable and telegraph lines of communication throughout Europe. All dispatches to and from the Navy Department and the forces in European Waters pass through this office. During the month of June the average traffic in received and sent messages was 13,000 five letter code groups each twenty-four hours.

              Practically all naval dispatches are handled in navy codes and ciphers.

              The Communications Section also works in close cooperation with the Signal Division of the Admiralty, supervises the use of codes, ciphers and radio communications of the forces under Admiral Sims and looks after the distribution of codes and ciphers to those forces. Trans-atlantic radio stations in France and the United States are being used for certain classes of dispatches and a system is being perfected for the use of trans-atlantic radio in case of the breakdown or cutting of the trans-atlantic cables. A trans-atlantic radio receiving station is installed at Headquarters, which receives messages from the United States, France, Germany and Italy.

              The head of this section is a member of the Inter-Allied Signal Conference and of the Inter-Allied Radio Commission, which meet quarterly for the purpose of administering the communications of all the Allied forces.

     The Communication Section is also in close touch with the Admiralty and Royal Air Force Radio Material Divisions and supervises all radio material for naval vessels and shore stations under Admiral Sims. Radio telephones and radio direction finders are being installed in U.S. Naval vessels and U.S. Naval Aircraft. Radio repair bases are being established at convenient shipping points throughout Europe.

     12.  Personnel and Secretarial Section.

              The Personnel Section, under the direction of the Flag Secretary, keeps a record of the location of all officers and men in Europe, issues all necessary orders and provides transportation for all officers and men.

              There are at present 47,000 enlisted men and 3,542 officers of the Navy serving in European Waters (including naval aviation personnel). There are now over 250 vessels, including 77 submarine chasers, under Admiral Sims’ command. Twenty-five other chasers and numerous other vessels are designated or enroute.

              This section also administers the handling of all correspondence and supervises the mail service for the forces in European Waters. A complete card index of all men serving in European Waters is maintained and many thousands of personal letters are forwarded each week to the proper addresses. This section also provides and supervises the clerical staff at Headquarters, and administers the Headquarters buildings. . .

              United States Naval Forces operating in European Waters may be briefly grouped as follows:-

     (a). The Force based on Queenstown handles certain merchant convoys coming to France and to the United Kingdom and also fast British liners carrying U.S. troops. This force is composed of twenty-four destroyers, two tenders and three tugs. Two additional destroyers of this force are temporarily assigned to duty at Plymouth with the submarine chasers, and one is in the United States for the renewal of her boilers.

     (b). The Force based on the French Coast escorts troop ships into the French ports and out to sea, assists the French in escorting Coastal Convoys up and down the French Coast and across the Channel to England and aids the French in keeping the Channels clear of mines. This force consists of thirty-three destroyers, sixteen yachts, nine mine sweepers, five tugs, four repair ships, one barrack ship, two barges, and one tug which is temporarily assigned to duty in the Azores.

     (c)  The Force based on Gibraltar works with the British in escorting Allied trade in and out of the Mediterranean. This force consists of two scout cruisers, five destroyers, six coast guard cutters, five gunboats and ten yachts. In addition, one destroyer and one gunboat of this force are now in the United States for a general overhaul.

     (d)  At Plymouth, England, there are 41 submarine chasers with two destroyers and one tender. These are engaged in hunting submarines in the entrance to the English Channel. There is also one submarine from Berehaven at Plymouth on temporary duty.

     (e)  At Berehaven are six submarines with a submarine tender engaged in hunting enemy submarines off the entrance to the Irish Sea and the English Channel.

     (f)  At Corfu are 36 submarine chasers with a tender, which are engaged in hunting submarines in the Adriatic Sea.

     (g)  With the Grand Fleet are five battleships operating as a battle squadron of the fleet.

     (h)  The Mine Force, based on Inverness and Invorgordon, is working with the British in the laying of mines in the North Sea. This Force is composed of ten mine planters, one repair ship and two tugs.

     (i)  The Force based on the Azores is engaged in patrolling in the vicinity of the Azores to keep the route clear in order that our submarine chasers and other craft can safely use the port for coaling and obtaining supplies while enroute to Europe. This force is composed of four submarines, one gunboat, one monitor, two yachts and a marine detachment on shore. There is also one tug from the Brest Force on temporary duty at the Azores.

     (j)  There is a fleet of merchant ships engaged in carrying coal for the U.S. Army from England to France, which are under Admiral Sims’ general control. Seventy-three such ships have been commissioned or orders have been given for their commissioning.

     (k)  There are at Southhampton four cross-channel transports engaged in carrying troops across the Channel. These are commissioned ships under Admiral Sims’ command.

     (l)  At Murmansk, Russia, there is one cruiser cooperating with the Allied forces in Russia.

     (m)  At Genoa there are two tugs, which have been placed at the disposition of the Italian Government.

     (n)  At Liverpool there are two tankers.

              While the United States Navy is doing it’s bit and doing it well, a sense of proportion must not be lost. Our effort is small compared with that of our Allies.

              In this connection the following approximate percentages are of interest as giving a comparison between the naval effort of the Allied Powers. The percentage of the various types of vessels engaged in the anti-submarine campaign in British Waters and Eastern Atlantic is about as follows:-


Great Britain


United States









Miscellaneous Patrol Craft





     The following percentages give a similar comparison of the naval situation in the Mediterranean:-


Great Britain




United States













Miscellaneous Patrol Craft







              In the Grand Fleet, Great Britain has about 91% of the major fighting forces and the United States 9%.

              Of the total number of all patrol craft operating against enemy submarines in British and Eastern Atlantic Waters the American patrol forces constitute less than 5% of the total number. In the Mediterranean the United States supplies 6% of the patrol forces.

              As a comparison between the naval aviation effort of Great Britain and the United States, the following data is of interest:-

              Great Britain has about 4-1/2 times as large a naval aviation personnel as the United States, and about three times as many naval aviation stations. Great Britain has approximately 14 times as many seaplanes as the United States, and these British machines patrol eight times as many miles during the week as the American machines.

              On August 1st, 1918, it has been estimated that the British Navy has an active service in European Waters approximately over three times as many officers and over four times the enlisted personnel of the American forces operating in European Waters. This estimate must be assumed as low because it does not include the hundreds of officers and thousands of men the British have in their so-called auxiliary patrol service.

|rep:UK-KeNA, British National Archives, Kew

Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/665.

Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 2: Capt. Richard H. Jackson and Lt. Cmdr. Charles R. Train.

Footnote 3: Lt. LyndeD. McCormick was the Naval Attaché at The Hague. Col. Arthur T. Marix was the Naval Attaché at Christiania.

Footnote 4: Lt. H. A. Winslow, R. N. R. V.

Footnote 5: Capt. Nathan C. Twining.

Footnote 6: Capt. Frank H. Schofield, Capt. Dudley W. Knox, Capt. Luke McNamee, and Col. Robert H. Dunlap, USMC.

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