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Captain Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, to Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in European Waters




4 Place d’Iena,

Paris, France.

April 3rd, 1918.

From:     Commander, U.S. Naval Aviation Forces.

To:         Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in France.

Subject:  The operation of U.S.Naval Air Stations in France under French Naval Officers.

     1.  As the time approaches when certain of our Air Stations in France will be in full operation and ready for the operation of seaplanes by U.S.District Commanders, it is felt that the Commander, U.S.Naval Patrol Forces in France should be informed as far as possible of the conditions under which these stations w<e>re placed in operation by French Naval Officers.

     2.  It seems from information that I have gathered in conversation with my predecessor, Lt. Comdr. Kenneth Whiting,1 and with some of the officers who came over at the same time he did, that the original conception of our aviation activities in France was about as follows:

          The French Commission that visited the United States with General Joffre requested of Admiral Benson2 aid in an aviation way, and was informed that while we had unlimited material in the form of untrained personnel, that we had practically no trained aviation people. The French requested that we send over immediately certain untrained men to be trained in their schools, as they claimed they had ample schools for the training of this personnel.

     3.  In line with this Lt. Comdr. Whiting was dispatched early in May, 1917, with orders covering only the general features and a great many verbal instructions, the substance of which was to assist the Allies in every way possible. Upon my relieving Lt. Comdr. Whiting early in October he had established friendly and intimate relations with the French Ministry of Marine and was working in every possible way to assist them, and under direct orders of Admiral de Bon3 and other high officials in the French Ministry of Marine.

     4.  The Force Commander4 informed me that we should co-operate and assist in every way with our stations as soon as they could be commissioned, and directed that they be worked into the French system of Aerial Coastal Patrol. In line with this policy in the past as soon as stations have been completed, orders have been issued to the Commanding Officer to report to the French Commandant de Patrouille in accordance with the wishes of the French Ministry of Marine. It is understood our stations up to date have been operating directly under these French officiers in exactly the same manner as the French stations, as far as the actual operation of the seaplanes is concerned.

     5.  As it is believed to be the intention now to place these stations under the U.S.Naval District Commanders in exactly the same manner that they have been operating under the French officers, and as the whole matter is very involved – not only because of questions of operation, but also of communication and supply – it is recommended that before this action is finally decided it be taken up, discussed and thoroughly understood by and with the French officers concerned; otherwise confusion will result and the Commanding Officers of the stations will be in the embarrassing position of receiving orders from two sources.

     6.  Another very important question to be decided, and which should be given careful consideration at this time, is connected with the above is the extent to which the military control over these stations will extend in operation; especially with reference to supply, internal discipline, upkeep and maintenance of the stations and their equipment. Up to date this has all been under the Aviation Forces, Foreign Service and it is recommended that before decision is made the methods employed by the English and French in the operation of seaplane stations be considered. Copy of the English procedure was forwarded to the Commander of the U.S.Naval Forces in France. The general scheme of control<l>ing these stations by our Allies would seem to be to consider these stations as Navy Yards or Shore Stations and the aircraft as naval vessels, except that in England since April 1st, 1918, the stations and all air personnel are under the Air Ministry and not under the Admiralty, although the naval commanders of the districts have full direction of the military activities of the aircraft in the same manner as naval vessels.

     7.  There is attached hereto copies of all correspondence on this subject,5 which is meagre on account of the fact that practically all the preliminary orders and instructions were issued to Lt. Comdr. Whiting verbally, and as Lt. Comdr. Whiting is now in Washington the preliminary facts as stated above are from my recollection of conversations with him on the subject.

     /s/ H. I. Cone.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. “Comfran’s File No. 668./Ref.No:4799” appears in the upper-left corner. “Commander, U.S.Naval Forces in France. April 3rd, 1918.” appears across the top of the second page.

Footnote 1: The former commander of the First Aeronautic Detachment, Kenneth Whiting was, at this time in Washington, preparing to take command of Naval Air Stations 14 and 15 and Killinghome. After a series of delays, Whiting arrived in England in early June.

Footnote 2: Field Marshal Joseph J. C. Joffre, formerly Commander, Western Front, and Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 3: Adm. Ferdinand Jean Jacques de Bon, Chief of the French Naval Staff.

Footnote 4: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 5: These attachments were not included in this copy.

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