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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

     Cablegram Received  Oct. 21, 1917

Origin Opnav   Washington (Secnav)1              Serial No. 775

Via  N C B I9                                     Date No. 19020

Copies to C. of S., J.V.B.2                 File No. <55-3-1>


Action Referred to.

Action taken.



Ref. No.

C. of S.

<See letter to

Secretary of Admiralty dated


Oct. 23>3




775. Department in this cable outlines its reply to several points brought up for consideration during international naval conference held in London, England, September 5th.4 Additional specific request of Great Britain, France, Italy, will be treated in separate cable.5 First, Department considers close offensive involving sinking of older battleships and cruisers to block German channel, impracticable. Second, Department will endeavor to fill any shortage in British skilled personnel for assembling mines as soon as our personnel can be collected here and arrangements made for quartering them in England. Third, that every endeavor will be made to provide additional escorting vessels for convoy service. Rearrangement of cruiser squadron will provide four extra cruisers for merchant convoy. Four measures are being taken to gain intelligence of and prevent establishment of enemy submarine bases. It is agreed that steps be taken to insure adequate action to prevent submarines or suspicious vessels being succored or allowed to make use of neutral territory waters. Measures are being taken whereby wireless service in merchant vessels is being improved, investigation of practicability of fitting certain ships in convoy with power radio with which escort vessels are fitted should suffice. Fifth, United States Naval Force will be based in Azores Islands, this force will consist of division of submarines and a monitor and possibly additional ships later. United States concurs in establishment of intelligence center, directional and long distance wireless station in Azores Islands and wishes to cooperate in these matters to fullest possible extent.6 Pursuant to Admiralty suggestion an American naval officer of suitable rank and attainment will be assigned as base commander in Azores Islands.7 Question of Commandeering ships building in United States for Great Britain will be referred to for consideration to shipping board which has jurisdiction. 19020

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document is an: “Action Copy.” The portions in angle brackets are, presumably, handwritten additions.

Footnote 1: “Opnav” is Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; “SecNav” is Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

Footnote 2: “C. of S.” was Sims’ chief of staff Capt. Nathan C. Twining; “J.V.B.” was Sims’ personal aide, Cmdr. John V. Babcock.

Footnote 3: The letter has not been found.

Footnote 4: For more on the Naval Conference, see: Mayo to Josephus Daniels, 17 September 1917.

Footnote 6: For a discussion of the United States Navy and the Azores, see: Sims to Daniels, 9 October 1917.

Footnote 7: The senior naval officer present for the United States Navy at the time of this cable was Cmdr. Hugo Osterhaus, Jr.; in November, at Sims’ insistence, he was replaced by a flag officer, RAdm. Herbert O. Dunn. Still, Crisis at Sea, 137.