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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


SENT:  July 7, 1917.              TO: Secretary of the Navy.

Via Naval Attache, Washington.

Through:  Admiralty.

     Number eightyfive. Replying Department’s cablegram received July 4 my despatches and letters have covered plans of operation in force or under consideration.1 To date the only assistance which we could effectively offer has been in anti-submarine campaign particularly patrol craft and in connection with convoy system. Have forwarded to-day complete exposition of British Naval policy.2 Determined efforts are being made by Grand Fleet destroyers and submarines to intercept enemy submarines to north of Scotland. Every effort now being concentrated towards insuring success of merchant convoys. I recommend that all coal-burning Dreadnoughts be kept in readiness for distant service in case future developments should render their juncture with Grand Fleet advisable. Shortage of oil and difficulty of protecting lines of communication would prohibit use of oil-burning heavy ships at present. Anti-submarine patrol craft are needed in vicinity Gibraltar in French coastal water, in North Sea and in all areas. They will particularly be necessary as convoy system gradually comes into force. Recommend BIRMINGHAM<,> CHESTER & SALEM join Grand Fleet Light Cruiser Squadron now.3 In consideration of sea-keeping qualities of SACRAMENTO<,> YANKTON<,> MACHIAS<,> CASTINE<,> PADUCAH<,> WHEELING<,> MARIETTA recommend they be based on Gibraltar for assisting in escorting convoys clear of the coast.4 They will also release some British destroyers from that area for convoy duty. In general however I recommend that the majority of our available forces should be concentrated in area of maximum enemy activity that is on approach routes to Channel and Irish Sea. The majority of the shipping essential to Allied success must use these vital approaches and hence the enemy submarine campaign will probably be won or lost in those areas. Effort exerted in those areas is therefore best assistance which can be afforded to all Allies. It is true that there is an urgent need for patrol craft on French coast in Mediterranean and in all areas but the most important routes of supplies to Allied Forces must be selected for maximum protection. Our forces are now well established based at Queenstown with Berehaven as advanced base. This area is closest to our coast and hence easiest reached by our supply ships. Revenue cutters and tugs would be of extreme value on patrol duty in this area and in reinforcing merchant convoy protection.5 They would also be invaluable for salvage work. Next to destroyers consider revenue cutters and tugs most useful anti-submarine craft which could be sent particularly when bad weather and winter comes on. Cannot following destroyers come immediately – WORDEN<,> MCDONOUGH<,> TERRY<,> MCCOLL<,> BALCH<,> DUNCAN<,> ALWYN<,> DOWNES<,> JOUETT<,> BEALE<,> HENLEY<,> MONGGHAN and all west coast destroyers.6 Also all torpedo boats under tow of fleet or other tugs and revenue cutters. If above forces can be sent in time there is every reason to believe that convoy system can be sufficiently extended to defeat submarine campaign. Recommend that coal burning destroyers of PRESTON type join Queenstown forces instead of basing on Azores.7 Coal can be supplied here. As number of coal burning ships increases however would recommend periodical trips by our fleet colliers. Oil is however the critical feature and should be sent in maximum possible quantities. All such forces sent should base on Queenstown with Berehaven as advance base. All ships sent should be equipped with depth charges exactly similar to latest British design and all with life rafts.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: See, Opnav to Sims, 5 July 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 2: This document has not been located.

Footnote 3: None of these Chester-class scout cruisers were assigned to the British Grand Fleet. Birmingham and Chester went to Gibraltar and Salem, after a long refit, became the flagship for a flotilla of submarine chasers based at Key West, FL. DANFS, accessed 7 July 2017.

Footnote 4: As Sims recommended, these gunboats and the converted yacht Yankton were assigned to the base at Gibraltar; most arrived there in August 1917. The exceptions were Wheeling, which was based in the Azores until August 1918 before being sent to Gibraltar, and Marietta, which patrolled American waters for most of the war. Ibid.

Footnote 5: As Sims recommended, the Navy sent four tugs to Queenstown; the Coast Guard Revenue Cutters, however, were stationed at Gibraltar. Office of Naval Intelligence, Information Concerning the U.S. Navy and Other Navies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1919), 25.

Footnote 6: Many of these older torpedo boats and destroyers were dispatched to European waters, but not until late 1917 or early 1918. Some (Balch, Duncanc, and Downes) were assigned there in November, 1917, whereas others (Aylwin, Terry, Beale, and McCall) were assigned to Queenstown in early 1918. Still other vessels (Worden, MacDonough, and Monaghan) were assigned to service on the French coast. Two ships (Jouett and Henley) served in American waters. DANFS, accessed 7 July 2017.

Footnote 7: These older destroyers, which were in the Smith, not Preston, class were assigned, at least temporarily, to the Azores.