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Circular of Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

     C O P I E S   T O :-

          Commandants, All U.S. Navy Yards,

          All Owners of Ships having Armed Guards,

          All Superintending Constructors, U.S.N.,

          Ship Yards Completing Requisitioned Ships.

     N A V Y        D E P A R T M E N T.



    Op-24-D                                     Washington, D.C., September 24, 1917



          The receipt is acknowledged of your letter of September 14th, (copy herewith),1 requesting that in preparing certain of your vessels for Armored Guards you be not required to provide for extra lookouts, third wireless operator, together with the crows nest, communication system and other features in connection with provision for these lookouts.

          The Navy Department’s policy is that, while it can not at present dictate that any vessel must carry an Armed Guard, when such Armed Guards are furnished at the request of the owners they must be efficient.

          The Department, after very careful consideration of the probable embarrassment to ship owners by reason of increase of complement and consequent provision for quarters, has prescribed certain standard requirements in fitting out these vessels to receive Armed Guards, and has prescribed the number of men which it believes to be the minimum necessary for the efficient protection of the vessel.

          The Department’s letter of September 18th,2 which you will have received since the date of your letter (September 14th), stated that gun crews would be furnished vessels in units of eight (8) men per gun crew. This is to provide additional men for lookout duty and takes the place of the six lookouts referred to in previous correspondence. Quarters should therefore be provided for the following:-

              1    Chief Petty Officer.

              2    Petty Officers.

              8    Men per Gun Crew.

              3    Radio Men.

              2    Signalmen.

          A total of 24 men.

     Where a vessel carries four boats, two of which can accommodate the entire crew, it does not appear impracticable to assign a separate boat for the use of the Armed Guard. In the event of the possible, or even probable contingency arising by which but half or less of the boats were effective for launching, it would of course not be expected that the Armed Guard should retain one of these to the exclusion of a certain number of the ship’s company, nor vice versa, would it be expected that the Armed Guard, should they be prepared to leave the ship at the time the ship was otherwise abandoned, should be excluded from some other boat than their own if their own boat has not available room and room was available in the other boats.

     Such contingencies have been anticipated by the provision for a life raft, in addition to the life boats, for the use of the Guard. At such times the mutual understanding between the Master of the vessel and Commander of the Armed Guard should be sufficient for them to carry out the spirit of the Department’s intention.

     The provision which you have made for life boat accommodation as stated in your letter is, therefore, satisfactory as far as the Navy Department is concerned.

     You state that you have been obliged to enlarge the radio rooms to meet naval requirements. Should this be interpreted to indicate that you anticipate providing quarters (bunks, etc.) in the radio room to accommodate the radio operators, I beg to advise you that this does not meet with the approval of the Department. Quarters for the radio men and for the signalmen should be provided along with the other members of the Armed Guard.

     The Department is reluctant to omit any measures which it considers necessary for the proper protection of the vessel and therefore is unwilling to reduce the complements of Armed Guards below the above specified minimum.

              Sincerely Yours,

                             W. S. Benson,

                                  Admiral, U.S. Navy,

                             Chief of Naval Operations.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Below Benson’s signature is typewritten, “U. S. Shipping Board,/Emergency Fleet Corporation,/1319 “F” Street., N.W., Washington, D.C.”

Footnote 1: This enclosure is no longer with the original document.

Footnote 2: This document has not been located.

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