Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

 

NAVY DEPARTMENT

OFFICE OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

WASHINGTON

April 27, 1917.         

MEMORANDUM OF CONFERENCE BETWEEN CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

AND

VICE ADMIRAL CHOCHEPRAT,1 FRENCH NAVY

April 27, 1917.

     Admiral Chocheprat requested, on behalf of the French Government, that the United States furnish them with two divisions of six destroyers each, one to be based on Brest and the other on Bordeaux.

     In addition to the destroyers, 25 small craft to operate from each of the above two bases, enough of these small craft being supplied to insure that 25 of them will always be ready for service.

     Admiral Chocheprat suggested that naval officers be detailed at once to take charge of each of the above-named bases, the number of officers suggested being one of command rank to command the base and at least one paymaster and one officer skilled in steam engineering for each base.

     It was recommended that portable houses be sent over and set up at these bases in which to store the material necessary to keep these vessels operating; also that fuel oil, spare parts and other equipment necessary to keep the boats operating be sent over. They agree to supply the barges or tanks in which to place the oil, and land upon which to set up the portable houses.

     Admiral Chocheprat requested that, if possible, we allot 50 of the 340 110-foot boats for which we have let contracts. The French Government will man, arm and equip these 50 110-foot boats and will attend to the matter of getting crews for them.

     The twenty-five small craft for each base referred to above should be armed,manned and equipped by the United States Government.

     Admiral Chocheprat further requested that when the 1,000 merchant ships are completed a certain number be allotted to the French Government to assist in carrying on their merchant marine during the period of the present war.

     The Admiral suggested that the question be taken up of forming a committee in Washington comprising at least one representative from France, Great Britain, Italy and Russia, to decide questions as to what materials, provisions, etc., will be sent to the various Allies, and in what countries.

     It will be necessary for us to supply torpedoes for our destroyers that are operating in foreign waters.

     Admiral Chocheprat stated that it was quite probable that mines would be planted in our harbors by neutral ships, and that this matter should be brought to the attention of the customs officials in order that most careful search would be made of all vessels coming into and clearing from our ports. Several very disastrous occurrences have taken place due to the planting of mines by vessels flying neutral flags and belonging to neutral countries, the captain apparently having been controlled by heavy bribes. The Admiral, in fact, felt that we have more to fear from this source of danger than we have from German submarines.

     Admiral Chocheprat further requested that, if possible, we supply the French Government with about 100 small guns – three and six-pounders – with the necessary ammunition for arming their fishing fleet, the fishing fleet being very necessary to keep up the food supply of the French people.

     The Admiral requested that we lend them all assistance we possibly can with aircraft, and particularly with air pilots. He was asked whether it would be of any value to them to have a number of young men of the proper physical and other requirements, who would enroll for this service, sent over, and whether they could be trained by the French Aviation Corps. He replied that this would be of the greatest possible assistance to them and recommended that such action be taken. He said they could handle, and would be glad to have, about one hundred.

     Admiral Chocheprat stated that all of the points mentioned above were most urgent, and expressed his opinion that the situation was most critical.2

W S Benson

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Special Correspondence, Roll 42. Document on, “NAVY DEPARTMENT/OFFICE OF NAVAL OPERATIONS/WASHINGTON,” stationary.

Footnote 1: VAdm. Paul Louis Albert Chocheprat of the Supreme Naval Council and Commander of French Forces in the West Indes.

Footnote 2: The United States Navy met most of these requests almost immediately. See: Bernard A. de Blanpré to French General Staff, 6 May 1917. In addition, the United States Navy contemplted the process of establishing and staffing bases in Brest and Bordeaux. Josephus Daniels to Williams S. Sims, 8 May 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 678.