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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


July 1 1917

Vice Admiral Sims

     One of the most important future cross water operations in which our Naval Forces will be involved <concerns> the safe transportation of American troops to French soil. Every guarantee has been given the War Department that the Navy Department would do its utmost to safeguard the lives of the troops in transit. Fourteen of the best largest finest interned German ships under complete Naval control will be commissioned in the Navy and used to transport troops.1 It is imperative that these ships should receive the utmost Destroyer protection possible on the passage in and it is desirable on account of the valuable character of the ships and the difficulty of adequately replacing them if lost to guard them on the passage out. After consultation with the various authorities especially the French submit an outline in what in your opinion is the best method of conducting such operation. Each ship will hold over 4,000 troops. Should such ships sail singly or in company? How much protection could they expect from our destroyers and how much from the French on the voyage out or do you contemplate giving that protection with our own forces? Should we in addition to giving you all the advance information possible ask of you a rendezvous for each ship or group sailing and a course in from their [i.e., there] or will you appoint in advance a rendezvous in course which rendezvous and course will hold good until changed by you. Regarding supply ships of the Army which there will be many of moderate speeds should it be the policy for them to sail singly <or> together in groups in order that they may receive the greatest protection during that portion of the journey where it is most needed. These are point which even if before discussed by you we desire to have clearly indicated in order that the greatest cooperation and efficiency may result from our combined efforts.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG45, Entry 517B. Someone later wrote, by hand, “Cablegram.” at the top of the page and “(thru Admiralty.)” after Sims’ name. A typewritten note at the bottom reads: “Sent to ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] to send through British Admiralty.”

Footnote 1: For more on the debate regarding the best method to safely transport troops across the Atlantic, see: Charles J. Badger to Josephus Daniels, 5 April 1917; Diary of Josephus Daniels, 13 April 1917, and Benson to Daniels, 2 June 1917.

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