Lieutenant Commander Joseph F. Daniels, Liaison to the American Destroyer Force, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
Base six [Queenstown, Ireland]
26 September 1917.
From: Lieutenant Commander J. F. Daniels, U.S. Navy.
To: Commander U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.
Subject: Report of visit on Liaison Duty in France.
1. Left London, England, on the morning of September 12, arriving in Paris on the afternoon of the same date. Reported to Captain R. H. Jackson, U. S. Navy, your representative at the French Ministry of Marine.
(JACKSON). General talk with Captain Jackson. –- Found him fully informed as to general situation. He has some difficulty at times in connection with communications sent to Rear Admiral Fletcher1 at Brest. Example: Telegrams are sent from London to Paris, thence to Brest. Answers go direct from Brest to London, by passing Paris. After a day or two, Paris telegraphs to Brest, asking for answer to telegram in question, and is informed that answer was sent direct to London. Result—general growl from all hands.
(WHITING).2 Saw Lieutenant K. Whiting, aeronautical duty, France—I think that he is a hard-working and valuable officer. He has gathered a great deal of valuable information, much of which has been forwarded direct, by Jackson, to Washington. Whiting gave me the impression that his style is being cramped by Jackson. He says, “He won’t sent in any recommendations for the officers I ask for. He wants me to sit in a two-by-four room at the Ministry of Marine and decode messages,etc.,etc.,” Jackson writes long personal letters to Admiral Benson.3 Whiting will be happy when Captain Cone comes.4
(CONGER).5 Pay Officer in Paris. He works hard, and is a good man. He wants to cut adrift from general supply and pay work of all kinds, except that connected with aeronautics. He says that Jackson wants him to do communication work.
2. Left Paris in the afternoon, September 13, arriving at Brest September 14. Visited Rear Admiral Fletcher. The Admiral looks tired but seems to be in good health.
3. Had a general talk. I told the Admiral that –
(a) A general doctrine for escorting vessels should be developed on the following lines:
2 escorts for a single ship.
3 escorts for 2 ships.
4 escorts for three ships.
For more than 4 ships,an escort for each, except that the larger the convoy, fewer escorts could be used; and that for a convoy of 20 ships an escort of 9 vessels was considered satisfactory.
(b) Patrol was a dead issue. Instead of sending out patrol vessels, all shipping must be put into convoys, and patrol vessels must now be used for escorting purposes.
(c) Vessels departing from French ports must be assembled into convoys, and escorted clear. In this connection, the vessels departing from France could take advantage of co[a]stal convoy and join mercantile convoys going out of Plymouth.
(d) Do not send ships due west. Rather, adopt a general southwesterly course for point – Lat. and – Long. Escort to this point and disperse at dark. Convoy to sail at dark from French coast to get through dangerous area. This gets vessels through zone in the shortest time.
(e) Ships should not be permitted to sail without authorization. Regulate sailings. To hold a vessel in port to complete a convoy was better than saving a few hours, or days, and losing the ship. Safety first. And the convoy system is the last word in safety regulations.
(f) All patrol vessels should be available for escort duty. To this the Admiral replied: “I have turned 12 of the yachts over to the French, and have only 3 for escort duty”. I told him that the coal-burning destroyers soon to arrive would help matters considerably.
(g) The bigger the convoy the more safe for the ships. Always put the best and more important vessels in the middle of the outfit. Do this whenever possible.
(h) I told the Admiral that he should have an officer at St. Nazaire and suggested Commanders Freeman or Baldwin.6 The Admiral said he “could not spare anyone, but if anyone must go I prefer Admiral Sims to make the decision.”
(i) Informed the Admiral that the British practice relative to convoys was to group them as follows:
200 to 240 miles per day: Speed of vessels –
240 to 300 miles per day: Speed of convoy.
More than 300 miles per day.
(j) The key work [i.e., word] used for approach to French coast, “Onion”,”Thirst”, etc. should be changed every two months or so, allowing three weeks before the new code word goes into effect.
(k) Asked the Admiral about his staff, and he showed me the arrangement. In this connection, I believe that the admiral would do better if he insisted upon his Staff’s preparing completed papers-- that is, have the staff work to capacity-- and lighten his own labors. He does too much himself; prepares all telegrams; is tied down to his office. The Admiral said he, “had no time to visit the other ports in the zone of his activities.”
(l) About communications. Information received concerning troop ships goes to communication office and to French C. D. P. B.7 The Admiral said that the French take charge and issue orders, except those issued to our patrol vessels sent out to escort vessels in. I told him that I did not believe it sufficient to see that the French had information; it would be necessary to see that everything was being done to prepare the way; that if we lost a ship there would be the devil to pay. The Admiral said, “You have changed your philosophy since your last visit, for I remember your saying that we must expect to lose one sometime.” I explained that I had not changed my views, but was simply making it clear that everything possible for intelligent men to do must be done to get the ships in. The Admiral explained then that some little time back he had received directions from the London office to the effect that our vessels must be considered in the light of French ships. The Ministry of Marine also received some such communication, and had sent instructions to the C. D. P. B. at Brest to this effect. The C. D. P. B. told Admiral Fletcher that he hesitated to show him these instructions as he felt that it was not quite fair that he (Admiral Fletcher) was being practically by-passed in the matter. I assured the Admiral that the intention was not to by-pass him, but that the whole scheme of things was to assure the French of our hearty cooperation; that cooperation was impossible if the French hesitated to include our vessels in the general plan; and that the plan certainly intended daily conference with the French Commander, and mutual agreement on all questions. –- The Admiral complained at Jackson’s activity in connection with communications sent through from the London office. From 2 to 4 hours were lost in decoding and sending forward, and frequently these messages could be of no value to Jackson’s office anyway. Also, a communication had come through from a Naval Reserve Paymaster, and signed by him under “by direction”, which authority was an assumption, and not arranged by regulations or by the customs of the service. The admiral was apparently annoyed and ruffled by this affair.
(m) Letters come from Jackson’s office with the printed heading “Headquarters of United States Navy Department in France.” Every one seems to think that Captain Jackson’s office should not be so styled; that is, he is your representative, or he is not. If he is, then his office stationery should read, “Paris Office, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.” If he is not, then his present stationery is correct. (These are little things, but I am trying to put down the little items that seem to upset harmony.)8
(n) Admiral Fletcher wishes to have communications, especially those regarding ship movements, and those that can in no way affect Jackson, come to him direct.
(o) I do not believe that there is any cordiality of feeling or spirit of harmony existing between Admiral Fletcher and Captain Jackson. In this I may be wrong, but it is the impression I could not help but carry away with me.
(FREEMAN). Wants to do something. Would like to be afloat – even in command of a destroyer. Would like to help the Admiral more if he could find a way of doing it. His duties are not clearly defined. Wants to organize patrol divisions of vessels for administrative purposes, so that courts martial, etc., will be handled by division commander, and thus relieve the Admiral from so much work. Will build up a good useful sphere if permitted.
(DINGER).9 Has plenty of engineering talent, but does not stick to it. Is interested in extending repair facilities, getting 100 men to man a section of French shops, etc., etc. I believe he could take a leaf out of Lt-Commander Church’s10 note book and find much of value. Outline of what Church does will be sent to Admiral Fletcher from the Melville. No system of refits, overhauls, boiler-cleanings, etc., has been worked up for the yachts. This should be Dinger’s job. He says that he has nothing to do.
(BALDWIN). Was sent by Department as Commander of Base at Brest. This was a mistake, as all officers should report to a common superior. He is friendly with the French, speaks the language, and gets on with them very well. By Fletcher’s order, Baldwin is now on the staff. With Dinger doing repair duty, and the Pay Officer doing supply and equipment, Baldwin does not have to work very hard. He is not satisfied with his job, and would go anywhere or do anythingto get away. He says that he is not permitted to do anything, and runs counter to the Admiral’s general scheme of things at every other turn. He could be spared for duty at St. Nazaire, and would be a big help there, because of his ability to get on with the French. He likes Jackson, and thinks he is O.K.
(GUDGER).11 A good Paymaster.The line missed a good man when he elected to go into the Pay Corps. He runs his job in fine shape, and is a tower of strength. His store-rooms, got from the French with the aid of Baldwin, are worth while.
CHORUS12 Tell Admiral Sims – “For the Lord’s sake, please be sure to get us transferred to a destroyer whenever there is one available. This patrol business is all right, but we are learning the submarine game, and would like to feel that we are not forgotten if there is an opportunity to get a destroyer later on.” (The above from the captains of the several yachts.)
4. Left Brest for St. Nazaire, arriving 18 September. The impressions received lead me to believe that it would be the best possible plan toget a line Captain (active list) located at St. Nazaire as soon as possible. This would offset any desire on the part of the Bureau (Department) to send a Read [i.e., Rear] Admiral There.13
Recently a cable message was received in London relative to the return voyage of a troop transport from France, wherein it was stated that the escorting armed yachts abandoned the convoy after about 12 hours. I learn that, in addition to this cable passage, the Department called in the French Naval Attache in Washington,14 and stated that Admiral Benson desired that outward bound ships be escorted 600 miles to sea. The French Ministry of Marine have issued orders to the C. D. P. B., and to the French Admiral in charge of the French coast, to have this done.
5. Bordeaux is not important as yet, and I do not see how it is going to be from a naval viewpoint for some time.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246.
Footnote 1: RAdm. William B. Fletcher, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in European Waters.
Footnote 2: Lt. Kenneth Whiting was commander of the first United States Aeronautic Detachment in France.
Footnote 3: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.
Footnote 4: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone was en route to take command of the United States naval aviation forces in France.
Footnote 5: Paymaster Omar Conger.
Footnote 6: Cmdr. Frank P. Baldwin and Cmdr. Frederic N. Freeman.
Footnote 7: Chief of the Division of Patrol of Bretagne Contré-amiral Zépherin Alexander Antoine Schwerer.
Footnote 8: On 28 September 1917, Sims’ chief of staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining, sent Jackson a letter informing him that nothing in his orders gave Jackson “the command of any of our forces in France, and it was, and is, the Admiral’s distinct intention that you shall not exercise command over any of our forces, your position being exclusively that of a Staff Officer representing the Admiral in Paris.” Ibid.
Footnote 9: Lt. Cmdr. Henry C. Dinger.
Footnote 10: Albert T. Church served as an engineer and repair officer at Queenstown.
Footnote 11: Paymaster Emmett C. Gudger.
Footnote 12: As seen later in this paragraph, these were officers commanding armed yachts operating out of Brest.
Footnote 13: A short time later, Baldwin was detached to become Port Officer at Brest; see: Fletcher to Baldwin, 2 October 1917.
Footnote 14: Cmdr. Bernard A. de Blanpré.