Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Captain Robert E. Coontz, Commandant, Thirteenth Naval District
From: Chief of Naval Operations
To: Commandant, 13th Naval Dist.,Puget Sd., (Armed Guards).
SUBJECT: Fitting of Vessels for Armed Guards.
Reference: (a) Comdt’s. #62482-C PGH-B1 July 19, 1918.
(b) Opnav. circ.let. #28754-1-25/26 Dec. 27,1917.
(c) Opnav.circ.let. #28754-1-25/107 Oct. 2, 1917.
Enclosure: (A) Copy of reference (c).
1. Reference (b) gave as specifically as practicable Standard instructions for preparing merchant vessels for Armed Guards.
2. From time to time, the Department has, upon the representation of the Shipping Board, the Emergency Fleet Corporation, or the individual owners, that certain vessels or certain classes of vessels were incapable of being prepared fully in accordance with these instructions, authorized a modification of these requirements.
Such has been the case with the 3500 D.W.T. (i.e., dead weight tons) wooden vessels of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, concerning which it is the Department’s understanding that only 100 of these are to be prepared for Armed Guards, and this only to anticipate possible contingency of their being assigned to War Zone service. The Emergency Fleet Corporation have been advised that it will be satisfactory to prepare an emplacement for but one gun on these vessels, and it is the Department’s understanding that the Emergency Fleet Corporation have issued instructions to their representatives to prepare this emplacement capable of taking a 4-inch 50 calibre gun.
It is not believed that a lesser gun than this will be effective against the present type of enemy’s submarines, and the Department is reluctant to furnish Armed Guards to a vessel that is incapable of carrying a gun that may be considered reasonably effective for the purpose for which it is installed. Under certain special circumstances this has however been, and no doubt will again be, done, especially where it is manifestly impracticable to mount the heavier gun, but in general, in these cases, other means of protection will be resorted to.
3. In this connection attention is invited to ref. (c) which provided for reduced complements on this class of vessel. This provided for “5 men per gun crew” and a total of 16: This was, however, on the assumption that two guns would be installed on each vessel. As this total number is essential for the purpose of lookouts as well as for the manning of the battery the total number should be provided for, whether two guns or but one gun are furnished.
4. In view of the present limited supply of guns for arming merchant vessels, it is doubtful if there will be any guns available for this small class of vessels for many months to come.
W S Benson.