Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Rear Admiral Walter McLean, Commandant, Fifth Naval District

COPY OF TELEGRAM

Washington, D.C. April 15th, 1917

Commandant, Fifth Naval District,

                    Norfolk, Va.1

Beginning April 16th, and until traffic lanes are swept of all sea going traffic must leave port just at dark. Also advise all sea going traffic to steer zigzag course until well clear of the coast. Also advise sea going traffic to approach all ports so as to get inside of the harbor patrol vessels during darkness. Advise seagoing traffic to run with no lights showing.2 Acknowledge Commandant, First to Eighth Naval Districts inclusive. 23015

Secnav.  

3 A.M.

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

Footnote 1: The Fifth Naval District went from southern Maryland to northern North Carolina. Its headquarters was at Norfolk Navy Yard.On 14 April, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order extending the “defensive sea area” to include the area off the York River in Virginia, which was where the U.S. Atlantic fleet was anchored. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 2: In a diary entry of 15 April, Daniels wrote: “[Chief of Naval Operations William S.] Benson learned that German sub-marines were on our coast & we wired all ships secretly to be on their guard, & directed that no merchant ship leave any port until after dark and sail without any lights - His information convinces him of danger -” DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1. The report, which came from London and concerned German submarines operating off the American coast, was false. For the report, see: MacDougall to Naval Intelligence, 13 April 1917, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1437; and British Admiralty to Guy R. Gaunt, 13 April 1917, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1437.

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