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Admiral Charles J. Badger, President, General Board of the Navy, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

APR 5 1917    

From:     Senior Member Present;

To  :     Secretary of the Navy.

SUBJECT:  Assistance that United States can give Allies upon declaration of War.

References:    (a) General Board’s letter, G.B.No.425, (Serial No. 666) February 4, 1917 – Steps to be taken to meet a possible condition of war with the Central European Powers;1

(b) General Board’s letter, G.B.No.425-1, (Serial No. 553-b) February 6, 1917 – Black Plan, Tactical Problem I.2

(c) General Board’s letter, G.B.No.425-1, (Serial No. 672) February 17, 1917 – Solution of Problem, Black.3

(d) General Board’s letter, G.B.No.425, (Serial No. 683) March 17, 1917 – Estimate of the situation as to system of patrol and sweeping best adapted for protection of shipping off port of New York.4

(e) General Board’s letter, G.B.No.425, (Serial No. 689) March 20, 1917 – Protection of American Shipping.5

     The General Board believes that the mission of our Navy when war is declared against Germany will best be determined by arrangement with the Allied Powers now engaged in war with that country. We should immediately obtain from the Allied Powers their views as to how we can best be of assistance to them and as far as possible conform our preparations and acts to their present needs, always bearing in mind that should peace be made by the powers now at war we must also be prepared to meet our enemies single handed. We should not depend upon the defensive but prepare for and conduct a vigorous offensive.

2.  This recommendation has already been made by the General Board, references (a) and (e), and is as follows:

“And as the most important, arrange, as soon as possible, plans of cooperation with the naval forces of the allies for the joint protection of trans-Atlantic commerce and for offensive naval operations against the common enemy.”

The General Board wishes to emphasize strongly the necessity of such preliminary arrangement, in order that economy of effort and concentration of purpose may become effective as early as possible.6

3. The General Board suggests that consideration be given to the following measures in anticipation of cooperation with Allies:

  (a) Protect shipping proceeding to and from our ports from submarine or other attack;

  (b) Prevent the use of unfrequented bays or harbors on our own coasts, in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean from use by submarines as bases;

  (c) Take over as far as may be desired and practicable the patrol of trade routes in the western, north and south Atlantic and eastern Pacific, and prevent the exit of enemy merchant ships now finding asylum in the South American ports;

  (d) There is no doubt that, if desired by the Allies, sending immediately a number of destroyers to cooperate with the Allied Powers in the barred zones would greatly add to the moral effect, at home and abroad, of the participation of the United States in the War. The numbers of this type which may eventually be sent abroad will depend upon the development of a German offensive on this side of the Atlantic, our immediate needs, and the increase of this type in our Navy.

  (e)Should United States troops be sent to Europe it will be necessary to escort the transports from shore to shore. At present we are short of transports and convoying vessels, and cooperation in this duty with the Allies would be necessary;

  (f) The transportation of supplies for the Entente Allies is of the first importance. Requisition all enemy merchant ships detained in our ports, and seize enemy converted ships interned, repair them and place them in service as transports or supply ships;

  (g) Mobilize the shipbuilding industries, both commercial and governmental so that the energies of the Nation be extended in the directions needed to provide vessels to combat submarines, to escort merchant shipping, to replace shipping destroyed and for other necessary additions to the fleet;

  (h) Keep constantly in view the possibility of the United States being in the not distant future compelled to conduct a war single handed against some of the present belligerents and steadily increase the strength of the fighting line, large as well as small vessels, - doing this with as little interference with the rapid building of destroyers and other small craft for the Navy and cargo ships for the Merchant Marine as possible;

  (i) Manufacture the number of medium caliber guns which will be needed for merchant shipping and patrol craft.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. Document identification information before opening: “G. B. No. 425./(Serial No. 699)/CONFIDENTIAL.” Immediately below a printed version of this memorandum in Naval Investigation, 1: 1105 is a letter dated 8 June 1917 and signed by “By direction of the Secretary F.H. Schofield” certifying that all the recommendations contained in this document had been “acted upon favorably and measures taken in accordance therewith so far as possible.”

Footnote 2: Referes to the “Plan to Defeat a German Submarine Blockade of the Atlantic Coast of the United States,” DNA, RG 313, Entry 9D.

Footnote 3: See, Badger to Daniels, 17 February 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 678.

Footnote 4: Printed in Naval Investigation: 2898-2904.

Footnote 6: That consultation process began with the dispatch of RAdm. William S. Sims to England and the arrival in the United States on 10 April, of a delegation headed by British Adm. Montague E. Browning and French Adm. Maurice-Ferdinand-Albert Grasset. These officers were sent from their commands in the West Indies to consult with the Americans. See: Browning to Sir William Graham Greene, 13 April 1917.

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