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Commander Joseph K. Taussig, Commander, Destroyer Division Eight, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


20 June 1917

Memorandum for Vice Admiral.

     1. Escorting.

           (a)  I understand that some destroyers when escorting do not continually zig-zag across the bows of the convoy, but remain on what is generally termed the “exposed bow”. They continue on a steady course until the convoy, in zig-zagging, crosses the escort’s stern, when the destroyer changes to a course parallel to that of the convoy. In this procedure the speed of the destroyer is the same as that of the convoy.

           (b)  I understand that some destroyers consider that so long as the escort is zig-zagging it is not necessary for the convoy to zig-zag.

           (c)  Some destroyers escort at too great a distance from convoy.

           (d)  I believe that both (a) and (b) are not the best method of escorting, and that the convoy is not so well protected as if the following method is used:

The convoy always zig-zag.

                                            The escort steam at a speed at least four knots greater than that of the convoy and ( no matter how often the convoy changes course) continually zig-zag across the bows at a distance from 1000 to 1200 yards. At first it will be difficult to keep position but by noting the various courses and times of changing of courses by the convoy, the difficulty of keeping position diminishes.1

                                            When it is very dark or foggy the escort should follow astern of the convoy.

     2. Escort Reliefs.

            (a)  Many commanding officers are uncertain as to how far from their patrol station they should proceed with a convoy in case where a relief fails to appear. There are several conditions which should govern his actions. These are:

            (1) Value of convoy.

            (2) Probable presence of submarine in own patrol area,

          or in area through which passing.

(3) Other vessels which may be expected to be following and which require escort.

(4) Proximity of night.

(5) Weather conditions.

(b)  I believe that escort should never leave convoy without relief if for any reason there is a suspicion that submarine is operating in vicinity of area passing through.

     I think an escort should be justified in leaving convoy without relief under following conditions:

    (1) If a more valuable ship requiring escort is following.

    (2) If when fifty miles from patrol station, darkness comes on and there is good prospect of convoy being picked up by escort at daybreak.

    (3) If when beyond patrol station weather becomes such that submarine operations are impracticable.

    In all such cases, Vice Admiral and senior ship on next patrol station should be informed.

           (c)  It would be of service if we knew the relative values of various cargoes, so where there is leeway for discretion as to which vessel to convoy, the more valuable could be picked up. Cargoes are now designated:

              Specially valuable cargoes

              Valuable government cargoes








                   but we do not know their <order> of value.

     3.  Wireless communication.

          (a) Destroyers when escorting use the wireless a great <deal> more than is necessary. Some vessels on falling in with a convoy inform the Flag of name of ship, position, course and speed. It seems to me that the simple message “Escorting Bato<w>n” should be sufficient. In a desire to be relieved of duty by a vessel on next patrol station, there is much sending of positions, courses, and speeds. These fill the air, and may inpart [i.e., impart] information to enemy submarines. These messages could be much simplified if there were a number ofof sub-rendezvous between patrol stations, called rendezvous A,B, etc. A vessel then wanting a relief would send the message to vessel ahead:

          (a) Rendezvous B 0400 Sk<e>llig 10


          (b) 5 miles south rendezvous C 1530 Bull  122

     In these messages (a) would mean: Arrive with convoy at rendezvous B at 4 a.m. heading for Skellig speed 10 knots, request relief.  (b) would mean: Arrive 5 miles south of rendezvous C at 3:30 p.m., heading for Bull speed 12 knots, request relief.

     Not many sub- rendezvous would be required, and they sho should be so located where under normal conditions relieving should take place.3


Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. The signature is a stamp. Someone went through the memo and added in pencil corrections and additions. These have been indicated by angle brackets.

Footnote 1: On 25 June 1917, a lieutenant serving on WADSWORTH, Hugh B. Robinson, submitted a new method for zigzagging that allowed escorts to keep “track of ship’s position in connection with zig-zagging” that obviated the problem Taussig discusses here. The British Admiralty found it of such “great practical use in small fast craft” that on 25 September 1917 it “promulgated” the method to the British fleet in a general order. See, Robinson, “Method of zig zagging,” 25 June 1917; Sims to John R. Jellicoe, 31 July 1917; Alexander L. Duff to Sims, 16 August 1917; Confidential Admiralty Orders, 25 September 1917, Uk-KeNA, Ad. 137/1437.

Footnote 2: On the location of the Skellig Islands and Bull Rock, see: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 10 June 1917.

Footnote 3: Sims’ response to these recommendations has not been found, however, in a diary entry of 27 June, Taussig noted that the destroyers escorting a convoy of troopships took a position ahead of the convoy, steamed at a rate faster than the escorted vessels, and zig-zagged continuously, all of which Taussig suggested be done in this memorandum. See, Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 27 June 1917, RNW, Joseph K. Taussig Papers, MSS. Coll. 97.