Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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WWI

Plan for Protecting Against Raiders

[Before 30 July 1918]1

                        SECRET.

NAVY DEPARTMENT’S PLAN FOR PROTECTING CONVOYS AGAINST RAIDER’S ESCAPE FROM NORTH SEA OR MEDITERRANEAN.

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EMPLOYMENT OF FORCES.

Battleship Division 6.

UTAH    ) To be based at Brest

NEVADA  ( or vicinity of Queenstown,

OKLAHOMA) preferably the latter                 (Berehaven)

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Battleship Division 8.

ARIZONA

MISSISSIPPI

NEW MEXICO

PENNSYLVANIA

       also

A division of

4 Japanese battle-cruisers.

These to be based apparently on Hampton Roads or some port on our Atlantic coast.

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     Battleship Divisions 2, 3, 4 and 5 plus DELAWARE and NORTH DAKOTA to escort troop convoys. This makes a force of 18 battleships, and together with the two Divisions above mentioned includes all battleships except the KENTUCKY and ILLINOIS classes. The use of the Japanese battle-cruisers depends upon getting Japan to send them to our Atlantic coast and assuring her consent to using them as proposed.

     Cruiser Force to be used to escort cargo convoys.

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G E N E R A L  P L A N.

Atlantic Ocean divided into three sections, viz:

Western Atlantic: From U. S. coast to Longitude 45

Middle Atlantic: From Longitude 45º to Longitude 20

Eastern Atlantic: From Longitude 20º to destination.

PLAN FOR EAST BOUND CONVOYS.

FIRST:

       All convoys between United States coast and Longitude 45<º> return to nearest port to await escorts. Furnish two old battleships as escorts for each convoy carrying troops. Give same escort to cargo convoys if practicable, otherwise give two armored cruisers.

SECOND:

       Convoys between Longitude 45 and Longitude 30 to be diverted immediately to the Azores.

THIRD:

       Convoys between Longitude 30 and 20 proceed to Azores or to destination, or to nearest port, according to circumstances

FOURTH:

       Convoys east of Longitude 20 proceed to destination at top speed.

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WEST BOUND SHIPPING.

FIRST:

       Ships between European ports and Longitude 15 return to port for escort, or proceed to Azores, depending upon submarine situation.

SECOND:

       Ships between Longitude 15 and Longitude 45 proceed to Azores or to nearest United States or Canadian port, depending upon their proximity to those points.

THIRD:

       Ships west of Longitude 45 proceed to destination or nearest port.

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PLANS FOR PROTECTION.

FIRST:

       Battleship Division 6, accompanied by two divisions of destroyers of the European Forces proceed at top speed to San Miguel, Azores, presumably to furnish escort to the convoys and other shipping assembled there.

SECOND:

       Battleship Division 8 with one destroyer division to be held “INSTANTLY READY TO PROCEED”. Purpose not definitely stated in Department’s dispatch but probably to furnish escort to convoys returning to United States or Canadian ports in the Western Atlantic zone.

THIRD:

       Japanese battle-cruisers to be used for direct pursuit of enemy raider.

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MISCELLANEOUS.

FIRST:

       Plan to be applicable to United States troop convoys, cargo convoys to French Bay ports, and other convoys carrying United States troops. Other convoys to utilize the plan if considered advisable by Admiralty.

SECOND:

       It is assumed that definite information of the escape of enemy will be given to all forces before enemy has crossed the line Scotland-Iceland.

THIRD:

       Plan to become effective immediately upon agreement and to be put into operation upon receipt of broadcast radio and cable regarding enemy’s escape from North Sea.

FOURTH:

       Department to maintain fuel supply in European Waters and Azores for Battleship Division 6.

FIFTH:

       It is contemplated that in case it should appear desirable this plan may be combined with a plan of evasion by warnings either before or after the premeditative plan is operative and as a final resort to leave it to the discretion of the Escort Commander to scatter his convoy.

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MEDITERRANEAN.

     In case of a battle-cruiser coming out of the Adriatic or Dardarnelles, the Department assumes that the Forces will be notified before the vessel has gotten clear of the Aegean Sea.

     Same plan is to be followed, except that ships east or west bound between Longitude 20 and Longitude 45 and North of Longitude 45 will proceed to destination or the nearest port at top speed.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. This plan originally appeared as an attachment to: Sims to Murray, 8 August 1918.

Footnote 1: This is the earliest reference to the Navy Department’s plans for defending against a German battle-cruiser, should one escape from the British blockade (detailed in this document). The Navy Department crafted its plan in response to Memorandum No. 26 of the Planning Section on the staff of VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters (American Naval Planning Section London, 213-23), which is dated 17 May 1918. This document therefore dates from sometime between 17 May and 30 July, although it seems probable that it was completed much closer to the latter date since the Department needed time to review the Planning Section’s memorandum, and is unlikely to have waited long to provide Sims with its plans. See: Benson to Sims, 30 July 1918. This document was not the final word on the subject. There was considerable back-and-forth between the U.S. Navy and the Admiralty in the following months over the best plan to defend against a battle-cruiser. In October, British and American representatives met in Washington D.C. to hash out their differences. A final plan was not approved until 4 November, a week before the Armistice. No German battle-cruiser ever escaped the blockade, and thus no version of either nation’s defensive schemes was ever put to the test.

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