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. 62308.
Origin: OPNAV WASHINGTON. Ser. No. Simben 11
Ref’d to Date
98 7 Aug:
Simben 11. Your 21. Our 8.1 The details of the plan drawn by the Department were laid down to accord in general with the decision of your planning section as revised by the Admiralty planning department. As to your first point, viz., that safety requires plan should be based on assumption that one or more battle cruisers will be at large in Atlantic with ample fuel supply and in position to attack convoy before we have any knowledge of their exit from home port, this statement seems to be in contradiction to statement in P D O 80 paragraph 5,and opposed to the actual information which you have from time to time furnished us.It is however so important a point that a direct statement should be had from (?) the Admiralty as to their ability to provide the necessary information. You will notice in our plan that it is Department’s intention to furnish old battleship escort to number of two for each important convoy when necessity arises, but there have been many reasons why we did not wish to do this in advance of the necessity, one being that we did not desire to give advanced information to the enemy as to one of the most important elements in the plan and thus give him the opportunity to plan an answer. In this matter also you should get a direct statement from the Admiralty as to the advisability of our using our pre-dreadnaughts for escort and when the operation in their opinion should go into effect. With regard to the rest of our plan and your comment on same. Even when battleship escort is provided this in itself on account of its fixed character is still only a partial answer and can be countered by the enemy by an increase in power of his raiding force. It therefore becomes necessary to provide for further contingencies and this the plan submitted the missing section in introducing the scheme of premeditated divsersion. In general on account of the few dreadnaughts available, their slower speed than that of battle cruisers, the number of convoys to be protected, and the great area over which (?) these convoys operated, it seemed first necessary to divert according to a plan which might at same time get our dreadnaughts in touch with battle cruisers and afford greatest protection with minimum number of convoy ships. Second nothing in the above prevents Department from immediately proceeding on the plan of evasion by warnings either before or after the premeditated plan is operative and lastly as a final resort it is always in the province of the escort commander to scatter his convoy. Therefore the Department still adheres to its pre-determined plan, introducing the element of evasion by warnings, and lastly proposes that the movement to scatter be left in escort commander’s hands as last resort. The Department prefers to base Division 6 at Berehaven and does not consider the Tagus2 a good position from many points of view. U.S.S. Oklahoma and U.S.S. Nevada will sail in a few days. The plan above outlined will apply to our troop convoys to France and to the direct cargo convoys to French bay ports. It is desired that this plan be taken up immediately with Admiralty to get their concurrence as to HX and HC convoys carrying our troops, or for such modification of the plan as they suggest. 18006.
N.B. Two words evidently omitted in coding, as blank spaces indicate.
Source Note: CCy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document labeled: “ACTION COPY.”
Footnote 1: See: Sims to Benson, 3 August 1917.
Footnote 2: The Tagus River empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the Port of Lisbon, Portugal.