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Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels




Base Two,1

9 April 1917.

From: Commander in Chief.

To: Secretary of the Navy (OPERATIONS)2

SUBJECT: Organization of FLEET after mobilization; questions re.

References: (a) Dept’s. Mobilization Plan, 21 March 1917.

            (b) OPNAV dispatch 18006 – April.

     1. Reference (a), especially paragraph two, gives the organization of “the Fleet” for war.

     2. I have interpreted this to mean that upon receipt of reference (b):

          (a) The following force was established under my command:

               UNITED STATES FLEET,

                    BATTLESHIP FORCE

                    SCOUT FORCE

                    CRUISER FORCE

                    PATROL FORCE

                    DESTROYER FORCE

                    SUBMARINE FORCE

                    MINE FORCE


          (b) The following forces were established not under my command:


                    ATLANTIC COAST DIVISION


                    PHILIPPINEs DIVISIONS


     3. Paragraph six of reference (a) stated that the rendezvous for Pacific Coast auxiliaries and Philippine divisions is “as directed by Commander-in-Chief.”

     4. My present orders and my appointment by the President, as Admiral, designate me as Commander-in-Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet.

     5. Decision is requested as to:

       (c) Correctness of paragraph 2 above.3

       (d) The Commander of the SCOUT FORCE.

       (e) Present status of Admiral Caperton and Admiral Knight.|4|

       (f) Officer referred to in paragraph 3 above.

       (g) Status of Coast Divisions.

       (h) Status of Mexican Patrol.

       (i) Whether “UNITED STATES FLEET” is the proper designation for the force listed in 2(a), and if so, whether any further authority than the order to mobilize is necessary for me to assume the title “Commander-in-Chief, UNITED STATES FLEET,” or if my present orders and appointment from the President are sufficient authority.

/s/ H. T. MAYO.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. Below the heading are the identification numbers “File 1445” and “1/A (4-15).” Mayo’s status and the extent of his command would be an ongoing issue, especially after Rear Adm. William S. Sims was named commander of American naval forces in European Waters in July 1917. See also: Benson to Sims, 13 June 1917. Sims stressed in post-war congressional hearings that his force was “on paper at least” part of Mayo’s command, but he never received any orders from Mayo and all his instructions came from the Navy Department. Naval Investigation, 1: 15. WWII Fleet Admiral Ernest King, then an aide to Mayo, placed blame for the confusing command structure on what he called “Daniels-Benson logic.” According to King, Mayo should have been the conduit through which orders were sent to Sims. “With [this] . . . breech of military principles Admiral Mayo found it desirable from May 1917 onward to have some members of his staff in Washington [to] get firsthand information.” Fleet Admiral King: 114-15.

Footnote 1: “Base Two” was Hampton Roads, VA.

Footnote 2: This designation meant that this memo was sent to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as well as the Secretary of the Navy.

Footnote 3: For the answer to this and Mayo’s other queries, see: Daniels to Mayo, 14 April 1917.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Austin M. Knight; RAdm. William B. Caperton. Knight was president of the Naval War College until 16 February 1917; on 22 May 1917 he was named commander of the U.S. Asiatic fleet. Caperton was Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet. After the United States entered the war, Caperton made a cruise along the east coast of South America to look for German raiders and to promote goodwill between the United States and its South American allies.

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