Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
CABLEGRAM RECEIVED 10th August, 1917
Origin Admiral Benson Serial No. Opnav 116
Via Q.21 Date No. 19008
Copies to Lt. Commander Babcock File No.
Action referred to:
Vice Admiral Sims, London.
Opnav one hundred and sixteen. Your one hundred and ninety-seven. The following is the situation in regard to American Shipping. A few vessels route in the established convoys. More sail direct. Most ships confer with British shipping offices to get the latest information and routes. An effort is being made to induce American ships to take advantage of the protection offered by convoy. It is not possible to compel this except in Government owned or chartered vessels until the Government takes over the control of all shipping. After studying your numerous cables on the subject, this office is of the opinion that what you want now is for it to furnish after departure direct with names, dates of sailing, etc. of the following class of American ships only: those American cargo ships sailing direct and not taking advantage of convoy. In the case of all ships carrying troops and all Army and Navy cargo supply ships you wish the information forwarded you.
Will act along these lines unless you instruct otherwise. All other reports of sailings except war department reports through you will cease.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Benson’s agreement to the suggestions made by Sims regarding convoys represented a major step forward in advancing the convoy system (something that both Benson and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels were initially wary of) as a key component of American naval strategy in combating the U-boat menace. For further information on the system’s evolution, see, Still, Crisis at Sea: 344-348.