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Report of Conference Between Vice Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and General John J. Pershing, U.S.A., Commander, American Expeditionary Forces

Conference with General Pershing

<Tuesday 20 Sept.>


10:00 a.m.

     Admiral Mayo and General Pershing held a general discussion with an interchange of ideas, principally in regard to necessity provision in regard to supplying United States troops in France, the question of coal being regarded as very important at present.

     At suggestion of Lord Derby and General Murry,1 General Pershing had already cabled to United States suggesting that he proceed to London for conference with British authorities and Admiral Mayo, to fully consider all the demands which will be made upon shipping in order to supply U.S. Army and the necessities of the allied nations, and that he had received in answer to effect that the President2 did not consider such conference advisable as U.S. Shipping Board was confident that they would be able to supply U.S. Army with U.S. ships only.

     In view of above, after general conversation in regard to great demands that would be made to support the Army and in belief that it is quite possible that the magnitude of these demands now and in the future may not be fully realized at home, it was agreed that both General Pershing and Admiral Mayo would recommend early and serious consideration, and that the question of supplying U.S. collier, either naval or otherwise, for transporting English coal to France for use of the U.S. Army would be taken up at once. The amount of coal required by U.S. Army is estimated at 80,000 tons per month.

     Some remarks were made in regard to feeling prevalent in Army circles of Allies including British Army that British Navy was not doing all that might be done in air offensive way. General Pershing could not suggest himself nor quote others in regard to any idea as to what offensive operations might be undertaken.

     General Pershing remarked that he had had to take a very decided stand concerning suggestion that U.S.Army forces be incorporated as part of both British and French armies.3

     General Pershing regards as of great importance the question of supply of coal and certain raw materials – steel, etc. – to both France and Italy.4 Considers morale of French Army very good at present, although he agreed with statement which had been heard previously from various sources, that but for the entrance of U.S. into the war France probably would have collapsed before this time.

     General Pershing concurred in the idea that before the shipping now under construction in U.S. is ready, the question of manner in which it should be used should be thoroughly investigated and the whole matter discussed between a thoroughly competent shipping man representing U.S.Shipping Board and the British Shipping Commission, and that this should be done as soon as practicable.5

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, Henry T. Mayo Papers, Box 12.

Footnote 1: British Secretary of State for War Edward Stanely, 17th Earl of Derby, and Gen. Archibald Murry, British Army.

Footnote 2: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 3: Pershing strongly opposed efforts to merge American forces into existing European units. Overall, he was successful in maintaining an independent American Expeditionary Force, although some American units did participate in the Battle of the Marne under French command. Strachan, First World War: 310.

Footnote 4: On 26 September, Sims reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations that Britain would release 15,000 tons of coal to Bordeaux, France by mid-October. See: Sims to Opnav, 26 September, 1917.

Footnote 5: It is unclear if this meeting ever took place.