Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

[Extract]

BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE

UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET,

U.S.S. NEW YORK, Flagship.

                    [Rosyth, Scotland] 6 July 1918.

From:  Commander BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.

To  :  Secretary of the Navy (OPERATIONS)

Via :  Force Commander.

Subject:  General Report – week ending 6 July 1918.

Enclosure:  (2)

     1.   MOVEMENTS OF VESSELS.

          This division, with destroyer screen, and a light cruiser division, sailed at 8:00 a.m., Sunday, June 30, 1918, to support the U.S. Mining Force from BASE EIGHTEEN,1 engaged in laying the mine barrage across the NORTH SEA.

          We made contact, as prearranged, in the early forenoon and after clearing the swept channel took station about 20 miles to the Southward and Eastward and zigzagged at 17 knots to keep position with theadvance of the Mining force at 13 knots. The Light Cruiser Division deployed to the Southward and Eastward of us, keeping distance on us and each other, dependant upon range of visibility.

          This general disposition was maintained during passage to the NORWEGIAN coast, and until after the mines had been laid, when we left the Mining Force and later, on the afternoon of July 1st, as also prearranged, made contact with a returning convoy from the NORWEGIAN coast, and supported it until 10:00 p.m., same date, when we started for the base, arriving at 3:00 a.m., Tuesday, July 2nd.

          The Light Cruiser Division did not have a destroyer screen; the policy of assigning a screen to them has been abandoned owing to the scarcity of destroyers and the speed and quick maneuvering quality of the light cruisers.

          Items of interest connected with the operation are set forth in the appended copies of my report to the COMMANDER in CHIEF and letter to the Commander of the Mine Force.2

          On arrival, all ships recoaled, and on Wednesday, July 3rd, the division shifted berth to the NORTH SHORE.

     2. MAGNITUDE OF GRAND FLEET.

          In passing gates and obstructions, and conforming to the channel on entering and leaving port, it is necessary to operate each division of all types at exactly specified times to avoid confusion and congestion. Recently, on returning to base, the full length of the line was 76 miles, of capital ships, cruisers, and a few special types, exclusive of destroyers, which remained as a screen until the obstructions and gates had been reached.

     3.   LOSS OF KITE BALLOONS.

          During a recent heavy gale, the NEW YORK and TEXAS each lost a Kite Balloon. According to the British Meteorological Observer on shore, the force of wind was from 64 to 75 miles per hour, with heavy squalls and gusts from 80 to 90 miles. In each case the mooring line held but the bal[l]oon itself carried away along the seams to which the briddles are made fast. One of the British Battleships at sea, during the blow, experienced the greatest difficulty in getting the observer out of the balloon in the heights of the gale, and came within an ace of losing both bal[l]oon and observer several times.

          The practice usually followed is to get the observer on board ship before the wind increases too much in force, and veer the balloon cable to at least 2000 feet.

     4.   RECENT SPECIAL FIRING EXERCISE.

          A Battle Squadron of the GRAND FLEET recently carried out a special firing exercise which, as nearly as possible approached battle conditions.

          The enemy was represented by a battleship as head of column and a destroyer stationed three miles astern as rear of column. With the enemy were three divisions of destroyers, completely concealed behind an artificial fog laid by smoke hoses and stationed to make an attack on the firing squadron.

          The firing squadron, screened by destroyers and with a light cruiser five miles ahead, proceeded to sea in cruising formation, at full speed.

          The enemy was sighted and reported by the light cruiser. The firing squadron deployed and when enemy was sighted by the battleships, fire was opened, immediately at 22,000 yards.

          The fire was by pair concentration from two ships in the second sub-division with sights offset to pitch shell well astern of target ship. Being so far off in deflection required a signal of “Short”, “over” or “Straddle” from the target ship after each salvo. . . .

     6.   EXCHANGE OF GREETINGS [on July 4].

          The following cordial messages were exchanged: . . .

          In addition, messages were received from other Squadron Commanders, and a representative body of Flag Officers, including the Chief of Staff,3 paid an official visit to this flagship, and extended the felicitation of the Grand Fleet.

          It is gratifying to state that no more cordial relations could exist than those which obtain between the American and British division of this Force.

     7.   DIVISION SELF SUSTAINING.

          In general this division is self sustaining, and but few demands are made upon the British authorities for articles of any kind. Provisions are arriving satisfactorily by mine carriers, and it is hoped that stores may be sent the same way.

          Every effort is made to keep the ships in a highest state of readiness and efficiency, and there is every reason to believe that the officers and men not only take a deep pride in this work, but feel a satisfaction in what they have accomplished.

     8.   CONCENTRATION IN FIRING.

          As a matter of interest, in our recent main battery practice, at about 17,000 yards, the NEW YORK and WYOMING combining following the policy laid down of rapid fire when straddles are made, fired simultaneous salvos of ten and twelve guns respectively, a hit on an enemy’s hip would prove most destructive and demoralizing.

          Incidentally, the Commanding Officer of the towing ship which tows for all outside practices, stated that he had never witnesses better firing than that done by this division. This is not only gratifying but shows that our methods of training, our installations, and fire control and personnel, are at least equal if not superior to the British, more particularly so when the difficulties under which we have been working are taken into consideration4. . . .

(s) Hugh Rodman.

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 381. Distribution list at end of document: “To: OPNAV (2)/Copies: CinC. Atl.Fleet [Adm. Henry T. Mayo],/D.Comdr. [VAdm. William S. Sims?]/Chief Naval/Intelligence [Capt. Roger Welles, Jr.]/Adm. Badger. [Adm. Charles J. Badger, President, General Board of the Navy]/File.” Document identifier at top of first page: “File 7”; “1/Sc.” There is also a running head at the top of each pagethe second page: “C.B.D.9 [Commander Battleship Division 9] file 7 of 6 July. Subject: General Report.”

Footnote 1: “BASE EIGHTEEN” was at Inverness, Scotland.

Footnote 2: The letter to the commander of the mine force, RAdm. Joseph Strauss, has not been found. The letter to the commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet Adm. Sir David R. Beatty, dated 2 July, is with this general report. In it Rodman details the mines sighted and their locations and the reported sightings of submarines, though in the case of the latter Rodman questions whether it was a submarine or a “disturbance in the water [that] was caused by the wake” of a ship. He later, however, decided that a submarine had been present. See: Rodman to Daniels, 13 July 1918. The four American mine-layers that the battleships were escorting laid 2,200 mines in some 2 1/2 hours. Jones, “U.S. Battleship Operations,” 121.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Osmond de Beauvoir Brock, R.N.

Footnote 4: When the American battleships first joined the British Grand Fleet their poor gunnery was repeatedly noted by the British therefore it is no wonder that Rodman took such pride in their improvement. Ibid., 112-13.

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