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Captain William D. MacDougall, United States Naval Attaché in London, to Office of Naval Intelligence


CABLEGRAM SENT: 23 April, 1917     TO: Navintel   No. 18023.

     It is desired to establish compulsory towing through the danger area for all Allies’ sailing vessels.1 Ocean-going tugs are needed for towing sailing vessels and for bringing in steamers that have been torpedoed and often float some hours.

     It is understood that the United States refuses to allow the sale of tugs. The tug COLUMBIA owned by Dunbar and Sullivan of Detroit2 for which they ask the excessive price of S300,000 through brokers Ernest Wilford of London, is an example.

     A good tug has the following dimensions – 700 tons gross tonnage carrying about 350 tons coal, and with a length of 170 feet, beam 32 feet, draft 16 feet. Large tugs now doing harbor work can be released if small tugs are sent. Tugs should have portable salvage pumps and be fitted with radio and hydrophone. The tugs will be built of either wood or steel. The tugs may be built either wood or steel.

     The question is asked as to the advisability of trawlers of wood and steel for the British in the United States. About 40 trawlers are now being built in Canada. The dimensions of a good trawler are about as follows. Displacement 580 tons with 170 tons of coal on board, the gross tonnage being about 330 tons, the sea speed of between 10-12 knots with 600 horsepower. These trawlers are 13’ long and 20 feet beam drawing 14 1/2 feet. The usual cost complete is about S70,000. They are wanted for patrol and hydrophone work probably to the number of about 500 and it is requested that data be cabled as to the possibility of building them. The number that can be built and length of time required to begin and complete delivery of trawlers.3 The salving of even two or three ships would have invaluable results. Therefore, cable also what can be done in regard to the supply of tugs.4


ikc:Naval Tugs|

Source Note: C, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 1: Capt. Roger Welles, Director of the Office of Naval Intelligence, cabled MacDougall on 22 May, that the United States was prepared to co-operate with the new policy and that American sailing vessels would be “advised to accept a tow when offered.” DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. On 27 April, MacDougall received a letter from the British Admiralty laying out the compulsory towing program and asking if they could “rely on” the cooperation of the U.S. Navy “in giving the necessary orders to all American sailing ships, in conformity with the scheme” as well as facilitate the purchase of tugs in America by the Admiralty.” MacDougall to Josephus Daniels, 27 April 1917, Ibid.

Footnote 2: Nothing was said about building trawlers but on 10 May, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ordered the commandants of two Naval Districts to immediately purchase “all fishing vessels” found “able to cross the Atlantic.” Ibid.

Footnote 3: Dunbar & Sullivan was a dredging company then based in Detroit.

Footnote 4: On 27 April, MacDougall sent the same request to Daniels. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. On 29 April, MacDougall forwarded a second request on behalf of RAdm. William S. Sims specifying that “four big Navy tugs” be sent immediately “followed by all available” because of their importance in saving torpedoed vessels. Ibid. In his cable of 22 May, Welles informed MacDougall that the Navy was having “great difficulty in securing tugs and is undertaking the building of ocean-going tugs.” Ibid.