Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE,
UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET,
U.S.S. NEW YORK, Flagship.
15 June 1918.
From: Commander BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.
To : Secretary of the Navy (OPERATIONS)
Via : Force Commander.1
Subject: General Report – week ending 15 June 1918.
1. TRAINING UNDER WAR CONDITIONS IN WAR ZONE.
After six months experience in the War Zone under was conditions the following points present themselves; they are given simply as a matter of information.
Unless vessels can get underway frequently and maneuver, they will soon go stale. The very best school is that of war duty at sea; nothing else compares with it, such as patrol, convoy, and other duty with detached groups, and operations with the full force. On return to port after several days at sea, there is decidedly more “pep” in the drills and the benefits of experience are very noticeable. In port, at the most, we have only one half day per week underway in a restricted area, where maneuvering must be made at slow speed and only modified forms of sub-calibre practice can be held, or short range reduced charge practice with secondary battery. On fully half the days allotted nothing is accomplished on account of weather conditions.
It is impracticalble to simulate actual conditions when there is no roll, only low speeds, practically no maneuvering room, and poor visibility, as we habitually have in our limited protected areas.
The outside areas are infested with submarines and full of mines. The areas traversed by the firing and towing ships are swept for mines immediately before practice; all ships are accompanied by destroyer screens.
No practice approach can be made; on account of the limited clear space and short distance for towing target; bot firing and towing ships must be at designated points at prearranged times and operate to the minute, also there will be insufficient time to fire a gun in the swept area. Schedules are tentative, war and weather conditions necessitate frequent changes.
Demand for all available time, scarcity of destroyers for screens, weather conditions, requirements of vessels for actual service, all tend to uncertainties as to the exact date and time when a ship will fire.
Rehearsals at sea are out of the question; there is neither time, opportunity, nor protected space in which to hold them.
Umpires from other ships are not obtainable; time and space are assigned by divisions. The best that can be done is to assign officers from the main battery to umpire for the secondary and vice versa.
The kind of practice to be held must be determined by the limiting conditions existent; it is out of the question to attempt any that may be experimental; hence only those that s
timulate actual war conditions are planned. As far as possible the spirit and intent of our target practice rules are carried out, and are only modified by the exigencies of the service on which we are employed.
To show the importance and necessity for frequent target practice, the Grand Fleet recently change its base, possibly at the expense of some sacrifice of strategic position, for this purpose alone.
No opportunity is neglected to improve our gunnery; this is carried along with our other work, and show a steady and gratifying improvement.
2. BRITISH AND AMERICAN METHODS.
It is a matter of interest to note the great similarity in the methods of training, target practice, maneuvering, tactics, and policy, employed by the British and ourselves. Fundamentally there is no great difference; our system and methods of preparation for battle efficiency were such that only minor changes were necessary to enable us to conform to the Grand Fleet policy, and there were largely due to experience which had been gained by them during the war.
It is most gratifying to state that if we have profited by learning some things from the British, that they have learned quite as much from us; that our mutual exchange of information has been very beneficial to us both, and that some of our methods and standards have been highly praised and complimented by those of all ranks in the service of the British Navy, and that this division stands very high in their estimation.
When paravanes are first installed they give a great deal of trouble, particularly in getting them in when entering port, which must be done without stopping. In point of fact, there never seems to be any telling when they will perform some new and startling feat. Some vessels succeed in getting them in at twelve knots speed, but most of them slow to ten or a little less. The only way that our individual ships can become a proficient is to experiment along until all eccentricities have been discovered and overcome. There is absolutely no doubt as to their efficiency. Recently a light cruiser on duty preceding a convoy ran into an unknown mine field and cut the moorings of three mines; turned, warned and deflected the convoy from the field, and doubtlessly saved some of the vessel[s] from destruction.
4. COMPARATIVE SIZE OF AMERICAN AND BRITISH OFFICERS AND MEN.
American officers and men, are on the average, very much taller and larger physically, than the British. This point has frequently been noticed and mentioned by visiting British Naval Officers and other officials. Our men also appear to be more robust and better set up than the British.
Recently the Commanding Officer of the NEW YORK caused one hundred recruits to be remeasured after having served six months. They were taken indiscriminated and were not in any sense selected. The average change was as follows:
Increase inheight. . . . . . . . . . 0.4 inch.
" "chest measure . . . . . . 1.5 "
" "weight. . . . . . . . . . 12.5 lbs.
General appearance: robust, healthy, good complexion,
5. HEALTH OF CREWS, FOOD, EXERCISES, ETC.
Aside from several epidemics, such as mumps, measles, influenza, (grippe) etc., the health of the officers and men has been excellent. There has been no scarcity of food, though sometimes there is a good bit of sameness; there has been but little liberty, put plenty of open air work. During the earlier months there was exposure to the cold penetrating weather of this latitude but with an abundance of war clothes and by taken every possible precaution to guard the health of the crew, there were no serious results.
It would be hard to find a healthier or hardier body of men that those constituting this force, and medical officers and other entrusted with these matters deserve due credit for it.
6. VENEREAL DISEASE.
Unfortunately, during the docking period at Newcastle, when the only protracted liberty was given, there was an unusually high percentage of venereal cases, particularly syphilis, in all the ships. It is understood that this disease is very prevalent in sea port towns and our men should be duly warned.
7. SUMMER TERMPERATURE.
The average summer (sic) temperature ofthis base is 55 degree F. Today (15 June) it is 54 degrees in the sun on the bridge. Woolen clothes are very comfortable; blankets are used all summer. Cruising here at this season is very similar to that in Behring Sea, where it is general raw and cold and a fine day is the exception.
8. MOVEMENTS OF VESSELS.
In the forenoon of Sunday, 9 June, the Grand Fleet was put on 2 1/2 hours ‘ notice and in the afternoon put to sea, bound to a northern base for gunnery exercises and target practices. During the passage, advantage was taken of the opportunity to exercise at tactical maneuvers. We arrived Monday, 10 June, in the forenoon, without incident, coaled at once, and started preparation for coming practices.
Wednesday, 12 June, in the afternoon, the WYOMING, FLORIDA, and DELAWARE exercised underway with paravanes; all have had more or less trouble with them.
Friday afternoon, 14 June, the division exercised underway in preparation for coming target practice.
9. INTERECHANGE OF INFORMATION.
Interchange of information between British ships and ourown is all but unrestricted; observing officers from the one visit and go out on practice exercises and target firing runs of the other, and collect and exchange beneficial information; both sides greatly profit by it. Some experimental work is being undertaken by certain ships and divisions, which will be witnessed by our officers, and matters of interest pertaining thereto will be collected and forwarded.
10. STAR SHELLS.
It is again requested that star shells be sent to this division from home. Under existing labor and other conditions in Great Britain, it is not considered advisable nor expedient to attempt to have them made over here.
It is understood that the Bureau of Ordnance is not quite satisfied with its experiments to date, but a star shell even moderately efficient is preferable to none at all. While it is true that at this particular season of the year, when there is so little darkness in this latitude, there is less demand than at any other time, it is nevertheless true, that they will be most useful and acceptable at any time, and are very much needed for use by this force.
1. LONG RANGE TORPEDOES.
It is also most urgently requested that maximum long range torpedoes be shipped as soon as possible. Our assignment in the Grant Fleet as a fast wing bids fair to place us in a most advantageous position for using torpedoes; those on hand are inadequate on account of their limited range. On the arrival of long range ones it is proposed to turn the ones on hand over to the torpedo flotilla. . . .
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 381. A distribution list at end of document reads as follows: “To: OPNAV (2)/Copies to:/Force Comdr./CinC Atl.Fleet [Adm. Henry T. Mayo]./Chief Naval/Intelligence [Capt. Roger T. Welles, Jr.]./Adm. Badger [Adm. Charles J. Badger, President, General Board of the Navy]./File.” A Document identifier appears at top of first page “File 7.”; “1/Sc”, and there is also a running header at the top of pages two and three: “C.B.D. [Commander Battleship Division] 9 file 7 of 15 June 1918.”
Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims.
Footnote 2: Paravanes were a form of towed underwater "glider" used to deflect mines away from ships. They was developed from 1914–16 by Cmdr. Cecil V. Usborne and Lt. Charles D. Burney of the British Navy. “Paravanes,” Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Accessed 22 April 2018, https://archives.imeche.org/archive/institution-history/first-world-war/paravanes?ipage=2.