Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Rear Admiral Albert T. Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force, United States Atlantic Fleet

CONFIDENTIAL.                                  April 13, 1918.

From:     Chief of Naval Operations.

To:       Commander Cruiser Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Subject:    Zigzagging at night.

Reference:   (a) Letter of Escort Commander, Troop Convoy No.21.1

     1.   The following is quoted from reference (a) :

     “Convoy zigzagged during dark. I considered zigzagging during the dark hours, not only unnecessary but dangerous to both vessels of convoy and escort. It was so dark at times that the Officer of the Deck of the WILKES, when not over 1000 yards ahead o fthe largest vessels, could hardly make out their dim outlines. It was noted that, after convoy separated, the Convoy for Brest continued zigzagging all night, while the convoy for St. Nazaire ceased zigzagging at 8 p.m.”

     2.   The Chief of Naval Operations has, on several occasions been informed that certain officer<s> have directed zigzagging at night of convoys of large vessels, but was under the impression that order had been issued to disctontinue [i.e., discontinue] this practice. There may be certain unusual conditions when the moon is very bright and weather conditions excellent that would warrant zigzagging at night. Under the conditions, however, indicated in the above quotation there seems to be no excuse whatever for a decision on the part of convoy commanders to zigzag at night.

     3.   In my opinion there is more danger to the vessels of the convoy from collision under these circumstances than there is from a successful submarine attack.

     4.   Issue instructions accordingly.

                        (Sgd) W.S. Benson.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identification number “3-49-143.” appears under the word “CONFIDENTIAL.”

Footnote 1: This letter has not been found. The identity of the escort commander is likewise unknown.

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