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Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations


U.S.S. Huntington, Flagship.


29 December,1917.       

From:     Commander Cruiser Force.

To:       Chief of Naval Operations.

SUBJECT:  Analysis of Transport Delays – Abroad and at home.

ENCLOSURE:     (1)  Table1

     1.   The enclosed table is submitted for the information of the Department. The table shows:-

(a)  Number of days away from the United States

(b)  Number of days in port abroad.

(c)  Number of days in the United States.

(d)  Number of days from leaving New York to leaving New York again (i.e. one complete cycle).

     2.   Attention is invited to the first two columns. For the first four months of transport service the average number of days away from the United States for each transport (column one) was thirty one (31) and the average number of days in port abroad (column two) was seven and seven tenths(7.7). For the past three months the average number of days away from the United States has increase from thirty one(31) to forty three (43) and the average number of days in port abroad has increased from seven and seven tenths (7.7) to twenty and seven tenths (20.7) Recent experience does not indicate that conditions abroad are <im>proving.

     3.   It will be noted that the increasing delay abroad has not come about gradually, but begins sharply with the use of the ex-German vessels as the major part of the convoys, commencing with group #9.

     4.   The causes of these delays abroad can be shown in detail as follows:

     (a) PRESIDENT LINCOLN. Eighteen (18) days in France. Discharging cargo not commenced until after three (3) days after arrival and completed nine (9) days after arrival. Slowness cause by inexperienced stevedores and lack of dock facilities.

     Waited nine (9) days for escort after discharging.

     (b)  COVINGTON. Eighteen (18) days in France. Debarkation of troops not completed until eight (8) days after arrival on account of inadequate transportation to remove them and insufficient camp facilities to encamp them. Discharge of cargo not completed until thirteen (13) days after arrival due to lack of labor and unloading facilities. Waited five (5) days for escort after discharging.

     (c)  AMERICA.  Seventeen days (17) days in France. Troops remained on board eight days (8) due to lack of preparation to care for them on shore. Discharging of cargo not completed until seventeen (17) days after arrival due to necessity for discharging into lighters, to insufficient lighters, tugs, etc., and to inexperienced stevedores.

     (d)  AGEMEMNON. Twenty-five (25) days in France and England. Fully discharged seven (7) days after arrival at Brest. Commanding Officer states that total time should not exceed three (3) days but lack of facilities to care for troops ashore and insufficient lighters for handling cargo caused four (4) days delay. Waited ten (10) days at Brest after discharging for destroyer escort to take vessel to Southampton for coal. Three (3) days at Southampton before commencing coaling, waiting for Mount Vernon to coal. Facilities at Southampton for coaling only one vessel at a time.

     (e)  MOUNT VERNON. Twenty five (25) days in French and English ports. Troops not finally debarked until seven (7) days after arrival; cargo discharged eight (8) days after arrival. Delay caused by lack of preparation and inadequate facilities for receiving troops and unloading cargo. After discharging waited eight (8) days at Brest for escort to take vessel to Southampton for coal.

     (f)  MADAWASKA.     Nineteen (19) days in France. Eight (8) days required for discharging. Delay due to difficulty of unloading steel billets. After discharging cargo two (2) days lost waiting for sand ballast which had been ordered upon the day of arrival. Two (2) days required for loading sand ballast. After ballast was loaded and vessel ready to sail she was held up seven (7) days waiting for the convoy to be made up.

     (g)  POWHATAN. The Powhatan’s experience was similar to that of the MADAWASKA, until after going to sea, when she was forced to put back with disabled steering gear.

     5.   The above data may be condensed in more graphic form as follows:-


Lying at anchor - - - - - - - -    3 days

Discharging - - - - - - - - - -    6 days

Awaiting escort - - - - - - -   - - 9 days

                      Total        18 days


Lying at anchor - - - - - - - -    4 days

Discharging - - - - - - - - - -    9 days

Awaiting escort - - - - - - - -    5 days

                    Total         18 days


Lying at anchor - - - - - - - - -   days

Discharging - - - - - - - - -    17 days

                    Total       17 days



Discharging - - - - - - - - -      7 days

Awaiting escort for Southampton - 10 days

Enroute to Southampton - - - - -   1 day

At anchor Southampton - - - - -    3 days

Coaling Southampton - - - - - -    4 days

                    Total     25 days.

          MOUNT VERNON

Discharging - - - - -- - - -  8 days

Awaiting escort for Southampton -8 days

Enroute Southampton - - - - - 1 day

Coaling Southampton - - - -   4 days

Enroute Brest - - - - - -     1 days

Waiting at Brest - - - - -    3 days

                    Total     25 days


Discharging - - - - - - -     8 days

Lying at anchor - - - - -     2 days

Ballasting - - - - - - - -    2 days

Awaiting escort - - - - -     7 days

                    Total     19 days

     6.   From the above it will be noted that, at present, the most serious causes of delay abroad are:-

(a)  Insufficient destroyers for escort duty.

(b)  Inadequate port facilities, such as cargo lighters, tugs, hoisting apparatus, rolling stock on the docks, for removing cargo, water barges, coal lighters, etc.

(c)  Inadequate facilities for receiving ship troops.

     7.   With the exception of the HURON and POCAHONTAS the number of days in port in the United States has not been increasing. The above named vessels returned from their first voyage in a very bad state of repair. Due to labor troubles, apparently inefficient organization of private shipyards and inefficient workmen the time of making repairs has undoubtedly been much longer than would have been required by a Navy Yard. In the case of every vessel requiring repairs every effort is made to obtain as many men as possible, to provide for shifts and to lend all assistance possible by the ship’s force.

     8.   The length of the stay in New York will be gradually reduced each transport after it has made one voyage and corrected the defects uncovered by the voyage.

     9.   In this connection attention is invited to previous recommendations by the Force Commander for additional machine tool equipment for transports and for ship repair facilities at the docks. These recommendations have not been favorably acted upon the Force Commander understands that it is due to the difficulty of obtaining equipment desired. The need, however, still exists.

     10.  The Force Commander expects to reduce the average days in New York to ten (10) within the near future. It is believed that about ten L10) days will be necessary for proper upkeep.

     11.  in connection with the subject of delays in the Port of Embarkation the Force Commander desires to invite the earnest consideration of the Department to the following phase of the matter. At the present the considerations which determine the composition and dispatching of a convoy are: (a) grouping according to speed, (b) an interval of eight (8) days between sailings. In order to comply with both requirements it is sometimes necessary to accept a delay, or if the delay is not accepted, it is sometimes necessary to violate one of the requirements. The present situation is a good example of the difficulties encountered by the Force Commander in forming and dispatching convoys. The AMERICA, 17-1/2 knots, was ready to sail on December 28. She is too fast to have been included in the 12 knot convoy sailing December 26 or that convoy would have been delayed two days to include her. It was therefore necessary to hold her for the convoy of January 4th, a delay of a week. The MADAWASKA has arrived requiring fumigation of the ship and elimination of meningitis carriers. She will be made ready for the convoy of January 4th in so far as her material condition is concerned, but the work of taking throat cultures will probably not be completed. The succeeding convoy leaves on the 12th but is composed of vessels too fast to be slowed down by including the MADAWASKA. A delay of some fifteen days beyond her date of readiness is therefore a probability for the MADAWASKA. The AGAMEMNON and MOUNT VERNON could be made ready to sail January 7th but, on account of the convoy leaving the 4th, it is necessary to hold them up for the required eight day interval and to schedule them for January 12th, a delay of five days. Incidentally it is not time altogether wasted in this particular case as important alterations are in progress, but the fact remains that they could sail five days earlier except for the eight day requirement-

     12.  The lack of sufficient destroyers for escort is now a great source of delay, if not the greatest. It causes delay in two ways:- Waiting for escort in French ports and holding up sailings from home ports in order that the eight day interval may be preserved. This eight day interval between sailings, forced by the shortage of destroyers, makes the present system too rigid to be economical. To maintain an interval between sailings of not less than eight days means the acceptance of frequent delays in dispatching transports in order that the best use may be made of the division of destroyers abroad assigned to troop escort duty. The necessity for this procedure is a matter of policy of which only the Department can judge but the Force Commander deems it incumbent upon him to bring to the attention of the Department the fact it requires an uneconomical method of dispatching transports and involves frequent delays which, in their aggregate for a year, may mean a loss in carrying capacity of many thousand troops.

     13.  There are a number of variants in the time element that make it impracticable and inefficient to attempt to keep the composition of a given group constant or to maintain a given interval between groups. The variants are:-

(a)  The time thee ships is held in port abroad.

(b)  The time required for the return passage.

(c)  The speeds of different groups.

(d)  The time required for repairs upon return.

     14.  Due to these variants,the formation of each group becomes a matter of separate consideration. Repairs,speeds,draft expected return of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx other transports,the question of delaying a group for several days in order to include one more vessel etc.;all these require that the formation and dispatching of each gruopbe made a matter of separate study and worked out to the best advantage in each case.This is the way in which the management of the transports is working out practically,although a tentative schedule is kept made out as a guide. It would save a total of a great many transports days per year if transports could be despatched just as soon as any two (properly grouped for speed) are ready. Two groups sailing only a day or two apart,or even in the same day,should be routed to different ports. This method requires more destroyers and until they are available,the full carrying capacity of the transport force cannot be realized.

(signed) Albert Gleaves.     

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “11-1-15/1/2/C/J.”

Footnote 1: The table is not with the document but its conclusions are summarized in the text.

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