Report of Conference Between Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and Vice Admiral Ferdinand Jean-Jacques de Bon, Chief of Staff, French Navy
17 September 1917.
Conference held at Hotel De Crillon at the request of Vice Admiral DeBon, 10:30 – 11:15 a.m.
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Present – Vice Admiral DeBon
Vice Admiral Sims
1. Vice Admiral DeBon suggested that Admiral Mayo see General Pershing2 and arrive at some definite conclusion of the ports to be used in connection with the transportation of troops and the proportion of troops to be sent to each port; he explained the necessity for such an arrangement, which is apparent, and that Admiral Mayo should take back the general scheme to the United States.
2. He further recommended that as the larger ships cannot go to French ports for landing troops without great difficulty, that the utilization of Liverpool and Southampton be considered and further that the troops be transported from the above places to Cherbourg so as not in any way to interfere with the British cross-channel transportation which requires 30 to 45 ships per day.
3. He produced a memorandum on transportation based on the experience of the French in sending troops to Salonika – appendix “A.”3
4. Admiral DeBon submitted the following point for consideration by the United States – that ships that are being constructed for the French and have been commandeered by the United States be released for use by the French Government for military purposes.
5. The question of transportation of coal from England for the French Fleet at Corfu is most important, as the general shortage of coal is most marked. – see appendix “B.”4
6. The next point taken up by Admiral DeBon was the lack of personnel in the French Naval service, particularly the most urgent need of seamen, - that the United States, it is hoped, can help France in some way to meet this want.
7. That France has some cruisers laid up in ordinary for want of men and that the French Government is willing to turn these cruisers over to the Allies for whatever purpose desired, if men can be provided to man them.
8. The question of replacing French battleships in the Mediterranean by American pre-dreadnoughts was suggested as a solution for the cruisers.
9. The particular point that Admiral DeBon made was – “I have made known my wants and hope that you will do what you can to meet them.”
10. Admiral DeBon then discussed the question of motor boats and the possibility of the building of destroyers for French Navy in place of motor boats.
11. There was a general discussion of the destroyer building program of the United States, the use of sea planes in connection with anti-submarine defense.
12. Admiral Mayo represented to Admiral DeBon his willingness to take up the points in question relative to transportation of troops with General Pershing and the results of their conclusion with the American Government; also to take up all the points enumerated on his arrival in the United States. He also wished to emphasize the fact that the United States is taking the war very seriously and that he could assure him that the American Government would do everything possible to assist the Allies; that in the event of certain requirements not being forthcoming as soon as expected that the French Government should not attribute it to any lack of interest or determination but that the delays if any would be due to unforeseen difficulties which the Government is and will endeavor to overcome.
13. Admiral DeBon expressed a desire to see Admiral Mayo on his return from the front and the Conference closed.5
Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, Henry Mayo Papers, Box 12.
Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operting in European Waters, Sims’ Chief of Staff Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Capt. Richard H. Jackson, American Naval Representative to the Ministry of Marine, and Capt. Orton P. Jackson, Chief of Staff, Atlantic Fleet.
Footnote 2: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces. For notes from their meeting, see: Report on Conference Between Mayo and Pershing, 20 September 1917. However, the question of which ports should be used was not addressed at this meeting.
Footnote 3: The referenced memorandum is no longer attached.
Footnote 4: The referred to memorandum is no longer attached. The French sent the 156th Division, or 2nd Division of the Salonika Expeditionary Force, to Salonika in an effort to support Serbian forces under attack from Austro-Hungarian, German, and Bulgarian forces. A subsequent stalemate opened the Salonika front in the mountains of northern Greece. By September 1917, the French were forced to transport 9 French divisions and a number of other Allied divisions to the Greek port along with transporting the remains of the Serbian Army to Corfu and bringing them back to Greece. Hart, The Great War: 187-190.
Footnote 5: This meeting likely never took place, as Mayo traveled to Britain immediately after his visit to the front.