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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.  June 7th. 1917.  TO:  Secretary of Navy (Operations)

7.   Total loses ending week June third, 122,628 (one hundred and twenty-two thousand six hundred and twenty-eight) tons. General activity about same as last week except to north and north west Scotland and Ireland where it was more intense. Evidence indicates fourteen large boats out ten in area to west of five degrees longitude.1 Of these six concentrated in northern exit route from Irish Sea and by so doing held up all traffic on that route. The above fourteen includes only those submarines on station and not those on way back, and out and those bound to Mediterranean. Mining submarines apparently concentrating on east coast [of Ireland] during week. New type mine now discovered in Firth of Forth now under investigation. One report of smoke emitting submarine as if steam propelled.2 First ocean convoy from Hampton Roads now in danger zone.3 Another left Hampton Roads under escort Carnarvon fourth June. Twenty one encounters with submarines during week three by destroyers one American two special service ships4 two cruisers eight auxiliary patrol one submarine three seaplanes two merchant ships. Request information of any further additions to our forces here or in France and prospective dates sailing.5 The great necessity [is] in numbers of anti-submarine craft[;] the greater the number the more effective the offensive campaign. Also request g<e>neral information as to Departments’ policy concerning Fleet and other service vessels. Nothing now under consideration as regards their possible use this side, but would like to be generally informed in case future developments or emergencies should bring the question up.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45,Entry 517B. At the top-right of the page is the following identifier, “25-9-2”.

Footnote 1: This refers to the areas of the Irish and Celtic Seas bordering the west coast of the island of Britain and the East Coast of Ireland. Most likely the ships were patrolling the North Channel and St. George’s Channel, the northern and southern waterways into and out of the Irish Sea.

Footnote 2: It is not known if the German Navy ever utilized steam-powered submarines. These vessels, however, were first designed by the Royal Navy in 1913. Known as K-class submarines, they were intended as large, fast vessels with the endurance and speed to operate with a battle fleet, sweeping ahead of it in a fleet action. Due to the superior size and power of the British Grand Fleet over the German High Seas Fleet it was intended that the submarines would get around the back of the enemy fleet and ambush it as it retreated. Most likely the information reported by Sims here was a false report as no sighting of such a submarine was ever confirmed. Everitt, Don. K Boats: Steam-Powered Submarines in World War I (London: Airlife Publishing, 1997).

Footnote 3: The first transatlantic convoy departed Hampton Roads on 24 May, escorted by the British armored cruiser Roxburgh. Upon entering the danger zone on 6 June, the convoy was met by eight destroyers from Devonport and, by 10 June, all ships in the convoy except one straggler that had been torpedoed en route safely arrived at their respective destinations. Due to the success of this initial convoy, regularly scheduled convoys left Hampton Roads beginning on 15 June, and were soon followed by regular convoys from other locations (Sydney/Halifax, Nova Scotia, New York, Gibraltar, and Sierra Leone/Dakar). Halpern, A Naval History of World War I, 312-314.

Footnote 4: The British Special Service vessels, or Q boats, were decoys They appeared as merchant vessels but were heavily armed and manned by a Royal Navy crew and intended to destroy U-boats should a German submarine be lured into attacking them.

Footnote 5: Daniels agreed to Sims’ request writing to him on 20 June, “You will be furnished fully with information as to sailing of ships as far as possible in advance and the actual sailing intended route and probable dates of arrival will be reported.” See, Daniels to Sims, 20 June 1917, DNA, RG 45 Entry 517B.