Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral Charles J. Badger, President, General Board of the Navy, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


7th endorsement. GENERAL BOARD G.B. No. 625-5 (serial No. 803)

Jan. 5, 1918.      

From: Senior Member Present.

To  : Secretary of the Navy.

SUBJECT: Plan for blockading enemy coast by submarines. Captain J.K. Robison, U.S. Navy.1

Reference (a) G.B.No. 420-15, (Serial No.774) October 12, 1917. subject: Submarines in active offensive against submarines.

          (b) G.B. No.425-5 (Serial No.778), CONFIDENTIAL, of October 24, 1917. Subject. proposed measures to prevent German submarines from operating against allied commerce in the Atlantic.

          (c) G.B. No. 420-14, December 1, 1917. Subject: Vessels for offensive use against submarines.2


2.   The General Board is in accord with the following suggestions of Captain Robison.

     (a) That the use of submarines to detect and destroy hostile submarines can be greatly extended.

     (b) That where it is practicable to lay a mine barrier against German surface vessels and submarines, as in the projected North Sea barrier, submarines can play an important part in the maintenance and protection of the barrier, and in the detection and possible destruction of submarines endeavoring to pass it, or when compelled to come to the surface upon approaching or after leaving the barrier.

3.   The actual employment of submarines must be left to the officers in command in the area of operations. The tactics employed will be governed by the number and character of the submarines available; and whether they are at anchor, as suggested, or are to operate under way, will depend upon the depth of water, the weather, the prevailing winds and character of the sea; and also upon the comparative efficiency of listening devices, when employed under way and at anchor.

4.   As to 2-(a). The General Board in its hearing has been impressed with the importance that the submarine as a destroyer of submarines may achieve in the future, judging by the reports of the recent success of the British Navy and the fair prospect held out of the effective working of improved listening devices. Naval Constructor S.V. Goodall, R.N.,3 stated in his hearing of December 21, 1917. before the General Board, that Great Britain was alreadymbuilding at Vickers and Cammell-Laird Works, for this special purpose, boats of the following general characteristics: Length, 161 feet 6 inches; beam, 15 feet; displacement about 480 tons submerged; 400 tons on the surface; submerged speed 15 knots for one hour; 9 knots surface speed; one engine, single screw; machinery for submerged running to consist of two motors each of 600 brake horsepower, surface radius about 1,000 miles; about 200 miles submerged; armament six 18-inch bow torpedo tubes and two 4-inch guns. He further stated “These boats have already been commenced, and I understood when I left England that their construction was to receive precedence over that of existing boats now in hand on account of the great importance of the service upon which they are to be employed”.

5.   The General Board in reference (a) has already recommended to the Department that careful consideration be given to a type of submarine best suited to attack enemy submarines and has submitted a tentative characteristics of such a submarine, together with a memorandum, enclosure (a), upon this subject by Lieutenant Varley, R.N.,4 emboyding [i.e., embodying] the qualities which were to be incorporated in the new British submarines designed for the purpose of fighting German submarines. This memorandum of Lieutenant Varley, in fact, anticipated the statement of Naval Constructor Goodall, above quoted.

6.   Further the General Board has been so strongly impressed with the value of this type to recommend in reference (c) as follows:

     “The special type of offensive submarine should be developed in this country. In its relative importance, it would call for the employment of the first release of material and labor from existing shipbuilding projects.”

7.   As to 2-(b). The General Board in Reference (b), after an exhaustive investigation of measures to prevent German submarines from operating against allied commerce in the Atlantic stated its opinion, which coincides with that of the Force Commander in the third endorsement herewith,5 that no plan of blockade can be considered to promise success which requires the maintenance of a mine barrier in close proximity to a strong enemy base, where the covering force of patrol vessels and submarines would be at a great distance from their own bases, under fire of shore batteries when operating in shore, and subject at all times to a concentrated attack on any point at their supporting line by heavy enemy ships, light craft and submarines.

8.   As stated in the second endorsement,6 submarines may be more advantageously employed to operate in distinctly enemy waters and closer to an enemy base than is possible to surface craft; to lie in wait there for enemy vessels bound in an out; and to re-enforce and assist in the protection of a mine barrier when it is practicable to lay and maintain one.

9.   Captain Robison’s paper is a valuable contribution to the subject of submarine employment, and his suggestions deserve the careful consideration of those who are charged with the conduct of operations in any area against enemy submarines.

/s/ Chas. J. Badger.

Source Note: TL, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520.

Footnote 1: Cmdr. John K. Robison, commander of armored cruiser Huntington.

Footnote 2: These documents have not been found.

Footnote 3: Full name and station unknown.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cromwell H. Varley.

Footnote 5: This endorsement was not printed with this copy.

Footnote 6: This endorsement was not printed with this copy.