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Commander William R. Sayles, United States Naval Attaché at Paris, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


Cablegram Received: 9th August 1917.

Origin  Sayles, Paris        

VIA: Sigcode                               Date No. 21008

Copies to Pay Inspector Tobey & Lt. Comdr. Babcock1 File No 31/2/1          

Action referred to: Commander Long2

Alusna, London.

     This cable for Admiral Sims reference, S.S. CAMPANIA3 surrendered through lack of ammunition. The Captain of the ship, the Chief Gunner’s Mate Delaney4 and four enlisted men were made prisoners; their names are not yet known. Later on the submarine was attacked by a French patrol ship, but escaped. Recommend immediate increase of ammunition allowances on board merchant vessels also establishment of reserve magazines as soon as possible at Marseilles and Le Havre.5



Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. In the upper left-hand corner is the notation “Subject Copy.”

Footnote 1: Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey, Sims' Chief of Staff, and Cmdr. John V. Babcock, one of Sims' personal aides.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. Byron A. Long, was the head of the Convoys Section of Sims' staff.

Footnote 3: Campania was a tanker owned by Standard Oil captained by Alfred Oliver. It was attacked after it had discharged its cargo of engine oil at La Pallice, France, and while en route to Huelva, Spain; Sims to Opnav, 29 August 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 4: Chief Gunner’s Mate James Delaney commanded the twelve-man Armed Guard detachment on the ship.

Footnote 5: In the report on the action, the ship’s coxswain wrote that the captain ordered the ship to be abandoned while there was still ten rounds (of the thirty rounds carried on the ship) remaining. The reason given for this decision was that the submarine’s guns “clearly outranged” Campania's. A second report by a member of the Armed Guard reports that the Armed Guard expended all its ammunition but adds that the order to evacuate was given when there were five rounds remaining. The crew and Armed Guard were taken prisoner while they were in lifeboats. The German U-boat captain said he had orders to take prisoner “all” American gunners but as “he had insufficient room and supplies” he took only the ship’s captain and five gunners, which he seemingly chose at random because the Americans refused to say who commanded the Armed Guard detachment. The report, prepared by the ship’s coxswain, does not mention a shortage of ammunition as the reason for abandoning the vessel although, as noted above, the report by the Armed Guard gunner does say that the vessel expended its supply of ammunition, though he does not give that as the reason they abandoned ship. Ibid. The solution may have been the “small establishment at Paulliac” that Sims recommended be built at this time. See: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 7 August 1917.

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