Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, Commander, Destroyer Force, to Lieutenant Commander Joseph K. Taussig, Commander, Destroyer Division Eight

[Cape Henry, VA,] 23 April 1917.

My dear Taussig

          Upon my return from Washington today, I found your letter of 20 April.1 The reason I radioed you was this:

     Almost as soon as I went into Admiral Benson’s office, he asked why the Special Service Division2 was not ready. I replied that with the exception of docking and a possible increase in your ammunition allowance, you were ready at Hampton Roads, and then asked him to what he referred. His answer was that he had talked with you over the phone from Boston, and that you wanted bins for ammunition on deck, and also tops fitted; that the estimated time was ten days, but you thought it could be done in a week. As I considered these items desirable, but not beyond the capacity of the ship’s force to improvise, I was vexed at the delay and dictated in his presence the radiogram above referred to.3

          Your letter clears up the situation and I am glad to have it. As a matter of fact, I would have recommended to the Commander in Chief4 that the entire Division sail direct from Hampton Roads without going to the navy yard at all but there was a possibility that it might not be wise to do so unless all the vessels were docked. Neither the Commander in Chief nor myself knew of orders or instruction given you direct by the Navy Department, and beyond your letter I do not know what the ultimate definite intention of the Department is, nor does the Commander in Chief. I was only concerned in reporting “Ready” when I was called upon to furnish six destroyers for this service. I understand your point of view, and if you are to be delayed, before sailing it is wise to get everything done that is possible, only I am quite sure Admiral Benson from his conversation with you, understood that you were not ready to sail and would not be for several days in order to do the necessary work.

          Hoping that this explains any doubt that you have in your mind in regard to my radiogram and attitude and again wishing you all manner of success, I am,

Very sincerely yours,   

Albert Gleaves

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Albert Gleaves Papers, Box 8. The signature is a stamp. Addressed below close: “Captain J. K. Taussig, U. S. Navy,/Commanding Division EIGHT, Destroyer Force,/U. S. S. WADSWORTH,/ Navy Yard, Boston, Mass. Gleaves did not give his location, but according to his diary entry for this date, he was at Cape Henry. DLC-MSS, Albert Gleaves Diary, Box 4.

Footnote 1: Taussig’s letter has not been found.

Footnote 2: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief Naval Officer. Taussig’s division of destroyers was assigned for “special service” in confidential orders of 13 April. Diary of Joseph Taussig, 14 April 1917, RNW, Joseph K. Taussig Papers, Mss. Coll. 97, Naval Historical Collection.

Footnote 3: In a diary entry of 20 April, Taussig discussed his conversation with Benson:

Today I talked with Admiral Benson over the long distance telephone. The result of the conversation was very unsatisfactory from my point of view. He could not name a date on which we must be ready, but said we must sail immediately on receipt of orders and that we must be ready for any contingency – In other words get ready, but do not take any time about it. He said that everything we needed would be attended to in Washington, Of course, after 22 years of naval service I know better than that. I told him that the Navy Yard estimated 10 days work but that I would cut it down to 7 days. And that was about all there was to it.

I have been trying to reason out why we were sent to the navy yard if it was not to have work done. Otherwise we could have left direct from the fleet and could now have been half way across the ocean. I think they are pretty much up in the air in Washington.

I informed the Commandant that we would sail on the 25th and he sent that date to Washington. Ibid.

In his entry of 22 April, Taussig again addressed the matter of his orders:

Commander [John W.] Schofield called up from Operations yesterday afternoon when I was not aboard. He talked to [Lt. jg. John H.] Falge and I was glad I was not there as perhaps I would have said things I might be sorry for- However the conversation was unsatisfactory as such conversations usually are, but Commander Schofield said something about “No excuses would be accepted” if we did not sail when orders were received, which implied that the Department considers that we are stalling. I consider the remark nothing else than insulting. Ibid.

On 24 April when he received orders to depart he noted: “It is apparent to me that the Department did not know until yesterday what our destination was to be, and that even if the ships had been ready sooner we would not have sailed until today.” Ibid.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet.

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