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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  Sept 6, 1917

Origin Washington, D. C.                  Serial No. Opnav 347

Via  NCBD                                    Date No. 16006

Copies to: C. of S.; J.V.B.; E.C.T.1       File No.

  Action Referred to.

  Action taken.



Ref. No.


Director of Air Service informed

11 Sept.




From Chief Naval Operations

To  Commander Naval Forces European Waters

Opnav 347. 18628 Pensacola Fla. station has had experience in taking derigibles out and housing them in floating sheds on five occasions, two of which were when shedswas moored to dock and when handled was very unsatisfactory[.]2 necessary use of boat<s> which are subject to drift by tide and wind and liable to foul propeller at critical time period. On three occasions shed was moored to buoy by head period. Usually the shed swings near head to wind interval under certain combinations of wind and tide the yawing was marked when handled dirigible in and out would probably have been adrift stop. Yawing could be overcome by line run to anchored buoy on suitable bearing period. With yawing of about thirty degrees and wind about sixteen miles per hour dirigible could be taken out and housed in shed with very little trouble only about twenty men being required for this operation comma, no trouble being experienced with it striking or bending on side of shed interval seemed (?) always to point parallel with fore and aft line break necessary to use boat however stop Method of procesdure has been to balance balloon in shed and haul it out directly through the rear comma, having boat take bow line and tow dirigible clear of shed comma, Re-balance balloon after getting it out of shed as sun rays effect balance break when landing dirigible comes down to altitude of about 100 feet letting go drag ropes dragging it over boats. The boats tow ballon to rear end of balloon shed and transfers tow line to man in shed. A second boat gets hold of rear line of balloon when tow line is taken by man in shed and keeping balloon away from [it] until it is ready to be housed break There is quite a back draft in rear of shed and a tendency for balloon to be sucked into shed and has to be held away until everything is ready for housing. Same happens in taking balloon out of shed, there is always a tendency for balloon to come back due to back draft. The balloon can be housed and taken out of floating shed when moored so it heads to windward with fewer men and greater safety than under any other conditions. There is however the necessity of being handled by small boats and also great disadvantages of getting hydrogen and other necessary supplies to sheds. In view of these disadvantages station preferring shed on land although it has had no experience with them interval ___ Shed headed to wind and secured against yawing balloon could probably be taken in and in strongest wind considered safe for it to fly in. Balloon head (?) was about one hundred and fifty (?) (five?) cubic feet. 16006


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: Sims' Chief of Staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining; Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ aide and de facto Intelligence Officer; and Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey.

Footnote 2: According to author Geoffrey Rossano, “When the United States entered World War I the Navy had barely taken its first steps in the realm of lighter-than-air aviation” so the experience recounted here was limited. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 261. It was not until November 1917 that the first detachment of American lighter-than-air specialists arrived in Europe. Ibid., 263.

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