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Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


28 July 1918.

From:     Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations – week of 20 July to 26 July.

     1. (a)Vessels Available:

Destroyers –


Sea-going Yachts –


Coastal Convoy Escort –


Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) –


Tugs –


Station Ship –


Repair Ship –


Floating Barracks –


     (b)  Overhaul: LIVERPOOL.


     (c) To proceed LIVERPOOL for repairs and overhaul:

          BENHAM, JARVIS.

     (d) Under repair:


     The BENHAM and JARVIS will sail for Liverpool for repairs subsequent to collision, and overhaul, the morning of 29 July.1

     Repairs to DRAYTON expected to be completed 30 July.

     Repairs to MACDONOUGH expected to be completed 2 August.

     CUSHING was docked during the week and had propellers shifted.

     The PRESTON, whose side was damaged due to drifting on to a steamer in the harbor, was repaired alongside the PROMETHEUS during the week, and is again available for service.

     The McDOUGAL and ROE completed overhaul and returned to Brest 24 July.

     2.   Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules, with exceptions as noted above. Movements of troop and store ships and of vessels engaged in the Army coal trade, are as shown in enclosure.2 Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoys.

          The O.V. 253 convoy was reinforced by three destroyers the morning of 25 July and this escort made contact with H.B. 64 evening of 26 July and are now escorting it to coast of France. The FANNING and REID which escorted O.R. 605 to Westward were directed to join H.B. 6 morning of 26 July which is twenty-four hours prior to arrival at destroyer rendezvous. Due to the torpedoing of the TIPPECANOE the afternoon of 25 July, the REID was diverted to her assistance and the PORTER which had sailed westward with O.R. 61 joined H.B. 6 morning of 26 July. Thus two destroyers reinforced the escort until a.m. 27 July.

          The escort which took O.R. 62 and O.R. 63 to the westward had orders to join Group Fifty-One. This escort will be reinforced by five destroyers during daylight twenty-nine July. The group is to be split between Brest and St. Nazaire.

          There are at the present time five destroyers unavailable for duty, three as a result of accident. Fortunately, there is for the time being, a temporary lull in the arrival of convoys, without which the loss of these additional destroyers would be much more severely felt.

          Due to the change in schedule of H.B. convoys, the interval between O.V. 25 and O.V. 26 will be ten days. O.V. 26 will be escorted to about longitude sixteen degrees west where it will [be] turned over to the ocean escort of H.B. 7. The present intention is to reinforce the escorts of O.V: 26 and H.B. 7 with destroyers.


          The U.S.A.C.T.TIPPECANOE, E.P. Bartlett, Master, loaded with a general cargo of Army supplies, in H.B. 6 convoy, was torpedoed at 7.35 p.m. July 25th in latitude 47-01 N., longitude 15-43 W., and sank in twenty-five minutes. The submarine was not seen but the wake of the torpedo was sighted forty yards from the ship. The convoy at the time was in an eight column formation, zigzagging. The TIPPECANOE was leading ship of the sixth column and was struck on her port quarter. William R. Ditterer, an oiler of the merchant crew, was killed by the explosion of the torpedo; all of the other persons abandoned ship in seven boats and were rescued by the U.S.S. CONNER the following afternoon. They were brought to Brest and are all in good condition. The conduct and ability of the Master of this vessel are commented upon favorably, and the Armed Guard behaved well, the after gun was dismounted by the explosion of the torpedo, but the Commander of the Armed Guard and the forward gun crew remained at their station until everybody else had abandoned ship.

          The British vessel GLENTURRET went aground July 26th in the Loire fourteen miles below Nantes and subsequently broke in two. The channel to Nantes is now blocked for vessels of over fourteen feet draft.


          There seem to have been at least five submarines operating between latitude 50-00 N. and the north coast of Spain off the Atlantic coast of France. A submarine which has been operating for some time off the Azores and at 5 a.m. on the 16th reported at latitude 40-00 N., longitude 17-30 W. as having sunk a Newfoundland sailing vessel by gunfire, was steering north, evidently homebound, and is probably the one which torpedoed the TIPPECANOE at 7.35 p.m. on the 25th in latitude 47-01 N. and longitude 15-43 W., and on the 26th at six p.m. chased the ZAMORA in latitude 47-20 N., longitude 13-12 W. There is evidence that another submersible cruiser is making the transatlantic trip westward as evidenced by the following positions:

              16 July 10 am  Lat.56-00 Long. 11-40

              21       2 pm      47-38 N.    21-48 W.

              25       3 pm      47-29 N.    36-20 W.

which would give her an average cruising speed of about six knots. A submarine continues to operate along the French coast and was sighted twice on the 24th off the Gironde. This submarine takes periodical trips up the coast as far as the Gironde River.

          The following positions represent the most probable successive movements of each submarine:

     No. 1.    19 July  0020  49-54  10-21

              20   "   1320  49-40   9-44

              22   "   1600  49-18   8-46

              23   "   1300  47-08  11-07

              25   "   1400  45-25   9-45

      No. 2.   18   "   0800  49-46  05-25

              21   "   1615  48-55  05-07  Arvoo sunk

              25   "   1000  49-53  04-46  Steering east

              26   "   0900  49-50  05-00

      No. 3.   19 July  1500  43-26  05-04

              23   "   1300  43-25  04-45

      No. 4.  24   "   1400  45-42  01-20

              24   "   1500  45-39  01-23


The dangerous areas in effect on the 24th were:

Radius seven miles around Triagoz and Sept Iles. Radius three and a half miles around 46-57 N. and 02-26 W.

Radius three miles around 45-36 N. and 01-32 W. Radius six miles around 45-51 N. and 04-00 W. Radius five miles around 45-55 N. and 01-31 W. Radius five miles around 45-21 N. and 01-20 W. Quadrilateral between parallel Four meridian 2-40 W., parallel Banche and line Banche – Four. . . .

          The following extract from the report of operations by the sweepers based on Lorient, week ending 20 July, gives the work done on the field west of Le Four Light. On 17 July the JAMES cut and sank four mines six miles S.39 W. true from Le Four. These were old mines covered with barnacles. This makes six mines cut in this area, two last week by the French and four by the JAMES. Sweeping is being continued in this area but has been interrupted by rough weather.


20 July – The fund for the wounded and needy of Brest and vicinity contributed by ships and stations of the U.S.Naval Forces in France, and transports in the harbor here, on the occasion of the French National Holiday, 14 July 1918, amounted to 17,152.15 francs, divided as follows:

     Hopsitals­_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _     300.95 francs.

     Shore Offices _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _    852.50   "

     Aviation stations_ _ _ _ _ _ _     986.10   "

     Transports_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _      1361.20   "

     Ships based on Brest_ _ _ _ _      7151.40   "

     Three anonymous contributions_ _  ­_6500.00   "___

                 TOTAL      17152.15 francs.

21 July – Recent tests of Kapok Life Garments by thirty vessels on this Base have resulted somewhat unsatisfactorily. Of 339 garments tested 104, or about 31% only, satisfied the terms of the experiment. It is fair to say, however, that (a flotation of twelve hours in fresh water carrying seventeen pounds deadweight being required) most of these garments classed as failing actually floated for periods varying from a few minutes up to ten hours. And fifteen which sank were afterwards dried out in a hot-air blast and then successfully passed the test. It seems, as a fair deduction from these tests, that the Kapok Garment when new and dry has the buoyancy required, but that when carried on ship board for many months under the ordinary conditions of the war zone they absorb moisture imperceptibly and cease to have much power of floatation.

          In a letter addressed to the various contributors to the fund for wounded and needy the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France expresses his appreciation of their generosity, and announces the distribution of the fund as follows:

     Wounded in Hospitals, Brest and Vicinity  - - 4152.15

     Needy families, fishermen of Finistere - - -  3000.00

     Bureau of Charities, Brest - - - - - - - - -  3000.00

     Civil Hospital, Brest - - - - - - - - - - -   3000.00

     Aid for rents of needy, Brest - - - - - - -   2000.00

     Aid for refugees, Finistere - - - - - - - - __2000.00

TOTAL          17152.15 francs

          In transmitting the record of the Court Of Inquiry concerning the collision of U.S.S. AMERICA with S.S. INSTRUCTOR to the British Consul,6 the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France first expresses his regret at the occurrence of the accident and thereupon summarizes the facts established by the Court. In substance these are as follows: The vessels approached on parallel courses and would probably have passed clear. When close aboard, the INSTRUCTOR changed her course athwart the course of the AMERICA. The AMERICA made every effort to avoid a collision, changing both course and speed, blowing signals and showing lights. He cannot on any supposition perceive that the INSTRUCTOR was justified under the International Rules in altering her course as proven.

22 July – Commanding Officer U.S.S. AEOLUS arriving in Brest reports over 600 cases of cramps and diarrhea during the trip, and requests that 700 tons of fresh drinking water be supplied. He has been directed to obtain the water at the dock, Port du Commerce, and to make every effort to be ready for sea promptly.

          At 9:00 a.m. today in Latitude 48-14 North, Longitude 8-15 West, U.S.S. BENHAM and U.S.S. JARVIS came into collision;. . .

25 July – The Court of Inquiry into the loss of the U.S.S. WESTOVER7 has completed its labors and come to a decision after sessions lasting seven days, 17 July – 23 July 1918. . . .

The decision, which is a lengthy one, contains in summarized form the following items of special interest:

     That the WESTOVER was sunk by the explosion of two torpedoes fired by an enemy submarine; that the eleven officers and men who died as the result of the accident lost their lives while in line of their duty and not as a result of their own misconduct; that Lieutenant Commander A. F. Ogilvie, U.S.N.R.F., Commanding the WESTOVER, failed to carry out his instructions to zigzag in clear weather, failed to keep the radio operators informed of the ship’s position at stated periods, as laid down in his instructions; that from the radio operator being in ignorance of the ship’s correct position effective rescue was prevented, resulting in the surviving members of the crew suffering injuries incident to five days exposure in open boats; that no officer or man is responsible for the loss of the ship nor for the consequent loss of life, etc., except the injuries incident to exposure in open boats, for which Lieutenant Commander Ogilvie is indirectly responsible in that he failed to keep the ship’s position posted in the radio room, resulting in an incorrect position being broadcasted and effective rescue prevented.

     The court is of the opinion that Lieutenant Commander Ogilvie, U.S.N.R.F., committed a serious error in judgment in not zigzagging on the day that the WESTOVER was torpedoed, and in failing to keep the radio operators informed of the ship’s position, for which the court recommends that he be reprimanded.

     The general court martial appointed to try Lieutenant Commander Alexander F. Ogilvie, U.S.N.R.F. for “Drunkenness” has finished its sessions 25 July 1918; and has sentenced him on his plea of “guilty” to be dismissed from the United States Naval Reserve Force. The court recommended clemency, but the convening authority approves the sentence.

26 July – The examinations held at Brest, (one of them at Rochefort), on 15 July 1918, have resulted in summary as follows:


For Ensign (T) USN., Engineering –Passed 4; failed 1;   5

For Ensign (T) USN. Deck duties  -Passed 4; failed 5;   9

For Ensign, USNRF., Deck duties  -Passed 4; failed 1;   5

For Boatswain, USNRF - - - - -    Passed 1; failed 1;   2

For Gunner (T) USN. - - - - -     Passed 8; failed 1;   9

For Machinist (T) USN. - - -      Passed 5; failed 2;   7______

                   TOTAL     PASSED 28; FAILED 11; EXAMINED 39.

Source Note: D, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, box 440. Attached to the report is a list of ships that arrived and departed from ports in France for each day covered by the report. The list for each day is done on a separate sheet.

Footnote 1: For more on the collision of these two U.S. destroyers, see: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 23 July 1918.

Footnote 2: The enclosure is with the document but has not been printed.

Footnote 3: O. V. convoys were those sailing from Verdon (Gironde River) either store or troop ship convoys returning to the United States and South America.

Footnote 4: H. B. convoys were loaded store ship convoys from New York for the Bay of Biscay ports of France.

Footnote 5: O. R. convoys were those sailing from Brest either store or troop ship convoys returning to the United States and South America.

Footnote 6: The transport Instructor was a British cargo ship. For this reason, the findings of the court were turned over to the British consul.

Footnote 7: The Naval Overseas Transportation Service freighter WESTOVER was torpedoed by U-92 on 11 July.

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