Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Memorandum for Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

January 15, 1918.            

M E M O R A N D U M for

          Chief of Naval Operations.

SUBJECT:  Maintenance of Fleet in condition for War.

     1.   The conditions at the Navy Yards and repair facilities, due to lack of equipment and labor in comparison with work in sight, are such that it has become necessary to outline a policy by which priority of effort may be exerted on those ships soonest needed. Indications are that some ships are not considered to be in condition for distant service, reports having been received to that effect from two ships and requests for repairs indicate that there are others.

     2.   The ships now in service may be divided into classes as follows:-

1. Combatant ships operating entirely in foreign waters.

     (a) Battleships

     (b) Destroyers

     (c) Submarines

     (d) Submarine chasers

(e) Ships of various types used in coast convoy

and patrol.

(f) Tenders to above.

2. Ships engaged in convoy work from this coast.

     (a) Convoying troopships.

     (b) Convoying cargo vessels.

3. Non-combatant ships in trans-ocean service.

     (a) Carrying troops.

     (b) Carrying munitions, stores, etc.

4. Ships in Home waters.

(a) Battleships that may be called on to co-operate with the Grand Fleet. (Dreadnaughts)

(b) Battleships that might be called on for special service abroad. (Pre-dreadnaughts of the OHIO, CONNECTICUT and VIRGINIA classes).

(c) Battleships not suitable for service abroad. (All battleships prior to the OHIO class).

(d) Destroyers on convoy service and with the Fleet.

(e) Fleet train.

(f) District vessels.

     3.   It may be conceded that vessels in Class 1 must receive priority as on them depends the offensive action which renders safe the transport of men and supplies to carry on the war. Class 2 should come next, as on them depends the safety of ships carrying men and supplies when outside the zone controlled by ships of Class 1. Class 3 should be next in order as on them depends the successful supply of the forces abroad.

     4.   Repairs on ships in Class 1 must be taken care of by utilization of such Allied Facilities as are available and by repair ships and tenders. Repairs on Classes 2 and 3 must be made on this side due to lack of facilities abroad, and arrangements must be made so that necessary repairs can be undertaken promptly and ships prepared for next trip. To do this, Material and the Yards concerned should be kept informed of the probable dates of arrival on return voyages and the repairs required as much in advance of arrival as possible.

     5.   The ships in Class 4 are the ones which present difficulties as to the order in which their repairs are taken up. They should be considered as a reserve from which to draw, 1st to keep up the number desired for operation abroad, and 2d, for home coast defense, for convoy duty near our own coast, and for the training of personnel for ships sent on distant service. As it is generally understood that destroyers, submarines, trawlers, tugs and yachts now on this side may be called for distant service, and the ships now abroad and on convoy service are known, action can be taken with knowledge as to whether work can be hastened or delayed. But with other ships of Class 4 there is no such information and their prospective use should be laid down in general terms.

     6.   The Fleet is now composed of the following in order of effectiveness:

1st Division        Unfitted for service abroad. (plus WISCONSIN) Suitable for coast defense, coast patrol and training.

2nd Division        Suitable for special service(less WISCONSIN) abroad, for patrol, coast defense, or short-range convoy.

3d Division         Available for special service abroad,

4th Division        but not suited for first line work

5th Division        with the Grand Fleet.

6th Division        Dreadnaughts from which detachments

8th Division        for service with the Grand Fleet

                    will presumably be draw from time

                    to time as conditions demand.

     7.   The office of Operations is not as well informed as it should be as to the availability of these ships for distant service, and when a vessel is called upon for such service it generally develops that work on her is necessary which delays departure. Examples are the case of the older destroyers and the NEW JERSEY. In order to act intelligently the Material Section should know:

First:    What ships now in Home waters are

          liable to be called upon for distant

          service, and in what order.

Second:   What are the probable duties of all

          ships in Home waters.

Third:    The present material condition and

          availability for distant service of

ships in Home waters.

     8.   With this information a program could be drawn up for the placing of ships in condition in the order in which they will probably called for.

     9.   It is therefore recommended that the following steps be taken:

(a) State the probable duty of ships now in Home waters, and the order of the importance for operation.

(b) By material inspections by the Fleet determine the present material condition of ships; these inspections to be thorough and complete and recommendations to be made by the Fleet as to the minimum repairs and alterations necessary to fit each vessel for the service expected of her.

(c) After above reports have been checked by Department send ships to Yards to do such work only as has been decided upon as necessary. Ships to be sent to Navy Yard after full preparations have been made, material assembled and plans made so time will be reduced to a minimum and no other work will be taken up. Ships to be sent to Yards in succession in order of importance and only one Battleship to be in each yard at one time.

(d) That local facilities outside the Navy Yard and outside of the private yards capable of doing the work on large ships be developed in each district for the care, maintenance and repair of all the small District craft, and that these vessels be not permitted to use either the navy yards or the large private repair yards.

(e) That the navy yard facilities be retained for competent vessels of the Fleet.

(f) That the private shipbuilding yards in each District to [be] utilized to the limit of their capacities for the maintenance of the various classes of transports.

(g) That the facilities of the private yards referred to above be commandeered by the Navy Department to the extent necessary to insure and priority of naval work in these yards and its earliest completion.

(h) That all supplies and stores not intended for navy yard use be kept out of navy yards.

     10.  The necessity of some such action is becoming more and more apparent and while the Fleet is working through her docking schedule the time assigned at Yards is not sufficient to complete some of the major items as is indicated by the reports coming in. A thorough study of the needs of the ships with knowledge of their probable duties will avoid sending a ship like the MISSOURI to the Yard for 30 days in advance of a ship like the MINNESOTA, of greater military value for 10 days as is now contemplated, it appearing that the latter is not ready for distant service.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 49. Identifying marks at the top of the page read, “Mat. T-ML 1/15” and “1/C/J”.