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Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt Circular



December 29, 1917


To:  All Bureaus and Offices,

     Commandants, all Navy Yards.

     Commandants, all Naval Districts,

     Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet,

     Commander, Train, Atlantic Fleet.1

SUBJECT:  War Department ships manned by Navy Department.

     1.   Arrangements have been effected whereby those ships which have been turned over by the Shipping Board to the War Department on a bare ship basis,2 and for which the Navy Department has supplied the entire personnel, will be handled from now on by the Navy Department in matters of upkeep and operations in accordance with the joint regulations. In addition to the ships already manned by the Navy it will be necessary to man additional ships to the number of fifty or more. The Army will pay for the operation of such vessels and for the subsistence of officers and troops transported thereon, adjustment to be made by transfer of funds through treasury settlement.

     2.   When the Navy Department receives information that a ship is to be turned over to the War Department account under the above circumstances, a telegram will be sent to the Commandant of the District concerned giving the name of the ship, intended use, date of transfer, present location or time of arrival of the ship in the District, and authorizing the Commandant to accept the ship from the representative of the Shipping Board and to proceed with the work of fitting out this vessel in accordance with instructions given below. The Commandant will cause the usual inventories required by the bare ship form of charter to be made and a complete inventory of all consumable stores on board will be made by a Committee consisting of a representative of the Navy, of the Army, of the Shipping Board, or owners, and such supplies will be receipted for by the representative of the Navy and the inventory countersigned by the representative of the Army. In the report of taking over of the vessel the hour and date of taking over will be included.

     3.   In the first fitting out of such vessels the Commandant should bear in mind the absolute necessity for expedition in placing the vessel into service and immediate steps should be taken to prepare the vessel to receive the Navy crew with the utmost dispatch. Only such repairs and alterations as are considered absolutely necessary should be undertaken. The Commandant should consult with the War Department representative for advice as to the special features to be incorporated in the ship under question. After the first fitting out requests for repairs and alterations should be made as required by the Navy Regulations and in the same manner as for ships in the regular Navy. The same information that is forwarded to the Commandant will be supplied to all Bureaus concerned. The Bureaus are authorized to supply the necessary equipment for properly fitting out the ship for immediate trans-Atlantic service.

     4.   The instructions which have been issued for armament, fire control, interior communication, signals, radio, etc., for armed guard ships will be followed as far as practicable for these ships.

     5.   In some cases it will be found that work of this kind has already been undertaken during the construction of the vessel or while subject to the regulations of the Shipping Board. Such preparations should not be changed by the Commandant unless necessary.

     6.   To these vessels will be attached an officer of the Quartermaster Corps of the Army, who will act for the Army in all matters pertaining to the handling of the cargo and papers relating thereto, and he will be responsible for the rapidity of loading and discharge. Movement orders for these vessels will be issued by the Navy Department as desired by the War Department.

     7.   This change in plans will result in a large addition to the tonnage of the Navy. The importance of keeping this tonnage in such condition that it may be utilized to its maximum efficiency must always be borne in mind. It will require, therefore, that all concerned be prepared for the efficient handling of the operations and upkeep of this additional tonnage in a smoothly working manner. It means absolute singleness of purpose and cooperation on the part of all concerned. If new methods are found necessary which cannot be carried out under the present authority allowed to those concerned, immediate recommendations for changes should be made.3

Franklin D. Roosevelt,  

Acting Secretary.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: 28694-188/Op-23-ML.”

Footnote 1: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, and Capt. William L. Rodgers, Commander, Train, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 2: A bare ship charter (sometimes called a charter by demise or demise charter) is a contract to hire a vessel for an agreed period during which the charterers acquire most of the rights of the owners. In essence the vessel owners put the vessel (without any crew) at the complete disposal of the charterers and pay the capital costs, but usually no other costs. The charterers have commercial and technical responsibility for the vessel, and pay all costs except capital costs.

Footnote 3: These orders anticipated the creation of the Naval Overseas Transportation Service on 9 January 1917. See: William S. Benson orders to various officers, 9 January 1918.

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