Mark L. Requa, Director of Oil Division, United States Fuel Administration, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
Chronological Copy. File No. <46/4/4>
Cablegram Received February <15, 1918.> 08216
Origin Opnav, Washington (Sec. of Navy)1 Ser. No. 3017
S-1 Feb 16
For Copy to Comdr.
3017. From Requa Oil Division Fuel Administration. Quote. You may be asked by the British Admiralty to make some statements as to necessary building up their reserve stock of fuel oil[.] in order to appreciate situation in United States please consider following facts[:] because of large number of tankers taken by Shipping Board it has necessitated issuing a Presidential proclamation giving following list priorities3:
First. Railroad and bunker fuel.
Second. Export delivery or shipment for U.S. Army or
Third. Export shipment for the Navy and other war purposes of the Allies.
Fourth. Hospitals where oil is now being used as fuel.
Fifth. Public utilities and domestic consumers now using fuel oil including gas oil.
Six. Shipyards engaged in Government work.
Seven. Navy Yards.
Nine. Plants engaged in manufacture production and storage of food products.
Tenth. Army and Navy Cantonments where oil is now being used as fuel.
Eleven. Industrial consumers engaged in the manufacture of munitions and other articles under Government orders.
Twelve. All other classes.
If further American tankers taken Petroleum War Service Committee advise me it may not be possible to keep class five fully supplied. Among plants now very short of oil are the large steel companies and others making equipment and munitions for Army and Navy and Shipping Board.4 Report of Thomas and Foley show stock on hand and afloat including January shipments from here sufficient to last until June if no further shipments are made.5 Opinion is also freely expressed by petroleum companies that re-distribution of tankers now in British trade will obviate not only necessity of utilizing additional American tankers but will release some now in trans-Atlantic service. Reports indicate France is out of stock refined oil and gasoline these should be built up Petroleum War Service believe by diverting to France American tankers now in English service. Petroleum War Service Committee insist England can furnish without serious embarrassment additional tonnage to transport oil from here. Taking American tankers will cause additional serious disruption essential domestic industries which are now suffering from lack of oil. Petroleum War Service Committee beleive [i.e., believe] Shipping Board policy heretofore announced that all tankers should load at nearest source of supplies is only correct solution. Wish you would cable me summary of your views after conferring with Thomas and Foley and keep in mind acute condition in the United States.6 Unquote. 17015.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The date is handwritten at the top of the page and is confirmed by the time stamp immediately before the signature. This message was sent for the Fuel Administration by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and for this reason carries the signature of Adm. William S. Benson, the Chief of Naval Operations.
Footnote 1: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.
Footnote 2: Cmdr. Paul Foley, an aide on Sims’ staff that specialized in matters concerning the transportation of petroleum supplies.
Footnote 3: This proclamation grew out of the creation of the Federal Fuel Administration by the Food and Fuel Control Act, more commonly known as the Lever Act, in August 1917. This rationing was only the first step. A shortage of fuel, particularly coal, caused the head of the Fuel Administration, Harry Garfield, on 17 January to shut down all factories east of the Mississippi River for four days. Kennedy, Over Here: 116, 123-24.
Footnote 4: In his diary entry for 11 February 1918, Josephus Daniels noted that Bethlehem Steel Company had “partly closed for lack of oil.” Daniels and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker had been asked by Harry Garfield to allow special provisions to be made for this firm. Daniels and Baker demurred saying the available supply of oil should be “pro-rated” among all the steel firms even though Bethlehem Steel “was doing most for us.” DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diaries, Roll 1.
Footnote 5: See: Foley and L.I. Thomas to Edward Hurley, 7 January 1918.
Footnote 6: As noted at Ibid., there was a wide-spread suspicion in the United States that Britain was doing less than it could in transporting oil to the war zone.