Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Secretary of State Robert Lansing

 

NAVY DEPARTMENT

WASHINGTON

CONFIDENTIAL                      JUL 3  1917

Sir:-

Referring to the cablegram from Ambassador Page in London, dated June 23, 1917 (copy attached).1 After careful consideration of the present naval situation taken in connection with possible future situations which might arise, the Navy Department is prepared to announce as its policy insofar as it relates to the Allies -

(1) The heartiest cooperation with the Allies to meet the present submarine situation, in European or other waters, compatible with an adequate defense of our own home waters.

(2) The heartiest cooperation with the Allies to meet any future situation arising during the present war.

(3) A realization that while a successful termination of the present war must always be the first Allied aim and will probably result in diminished tension throughout the world, the future position of the United States must in no way be jeopardized by any disintegration of our main fighting fleets.

(4) The conception that the present main military role of the United States Naval forces lies in its safeguarding the lines of communication of the Allies. In pursuing this aim there will, generally speaking, be two classes of vessels engaged – minor craft and major craft – and two roles of action; first offensive, the second defensive.

(5) In pursuing the role set forth in paragraph (4), the Navy Department cannot too strongly insist that in its opinion, the offensive must always be the dominant note in any general plans of strategy prepared. But, as the primary role in all offensive operations must perforce belong to Allied powers, the Navy Department announces as its policy that, in general, it is willing to accept any joint plan of action of the allies, deemed necessary to meet immediate needs.

(6) Pursuant to the above general policy, the Navy Department announces as its general plan of action the following:

(a) Its willingness to send its minor fighting forces, comprised of destroyers, cruisers, submarine chasers, auxiliaries, in any numbers not incompatible with home needs, into any field of action deemed expedient by the joint Allied Admiralty's, which would not involve a violation of their present state policy.

(b) Its unwillingness, as a matter of policy, to separate any division from the main fleet for service abroad, although it is willing to send the entire battleship fleet abroad to act as a united but cooperating unit when, after joint consultations of all Admiralties concerned, the emergency is deemed to warrant it, and the entire tension imposed upon the line of communications due to the increase in the number of fighting ships in European waters will stand the strain imposed upon it.

(c) Its willingness to discuss more fully plans for joint operations.

Sincerely yours,

Josephus Daniels

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 59, Entry M367. In upper right corner: “IN REPLY ADDRESS/THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY/AND REFER TO NO./28754-3;/Op-28.” The first page contains handwritten notations in the right column and four State Department stamps. Address below close: “The Honorable/The Secretary of State.”

Footnote 1: The letter from Ambassador Walter Hines Page is no longer attached, however, there is a letter from Page to Lansing of 23 June printed in Foreign Relations of the United States in which Page informed Lansing that Germany was subjecting Norway to “humiliating treatment” and although Britain was counselling Norway not to enter the war, there could well be an “early outbreak of hostilities.” If Norway did declare war, the United States would be asked to “send several large men-of-war to guard certain parts of Norway’s southern coast” and the British government wishes to know if “such naval help could be expected.” FRUS, 1917, Supplement 2: 108-9.

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