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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


U.S.Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

U.S.S.MELVILLE, Flagship.

13th August, 1917.

FROM:- Force Commander.

TO:-   Secretary of the Navy.

       SUBJECT:- General Report period 31 July to,8 August 1917.

1.   Operations of various forces continue as previously reported.

2.   There is attached a collection of extracts taken from the war diaries of the destroyers which may prove of particular interest to the Department. All copies of various reports and operation orders received from the patrol squadrons based on Brest.1

3.   Between 15 and 17 large enemy submarines have been operating in the Atlantic during the week of which 7 to 11 were appearently operating to the westward of the British Isles. The area of greatest activity for these larger submarines has been to the North-West of Ireland, although in the latter part of the week considerable activity developed on the East Coast of England, directed primarily against trade from East Coast ports.

4.   A number of small submarines have been operating in the Westernportion of the Channel off Yorkshire Coast and the Bay of Biscay. At least four of these were operating in the Bay of Biscay principally against the French coal and other coastal shipping.

5.   Evidence indicates that the submarine of the Deutsheland [i.e., Deutschland] type2 which has been operating for some time in the general vicinity of the Azores is now on her way home.

6.   Mining activity was experienced off the East coast of Scotland, between Peterhead and Aberdeen, in the Channel between Whitby and Flamborough Head, in the Harwich area, on the south coast of Ireland and also off the west coast of Scotland. Mining on the West coast of Scotland occurs periodically.

7.   Only 60 mines were located and destroyed during the week

8.   The following statistics concerning convoys are of interest:-


Dates from and to

Number of ships convoyed

This Prev Total

week figs


Losses in convoy

This Prev Total

week figs




North  Atlantic

24 May 4 Aug.


59 151 210

Nil Nil Nil

12 convoys arrived. Exclusive of one ship which left convoy during a fog and proceeded ahead independently. She was sunk and her crew were picked up by convoy destroyer escort.


10 May   "

Nil 16 16

Nil Nil Nil

Three enroute. One convoy arrived.


22 Apl   "

210 2575 2505

3 27 30

French Coal Trade

Mch      "

406 7270 7676

Nil 12 12


675 9812 10487

3 39 42



9.   Reports of seventeen engagements in British waters have been received as follows:-  

7 by Destroyers (3 USA)

5 by Auxillary Patrol (1French)

2 by Special Service Ships.

3 by Merchant Vessels (1 French)


10.  It is considered very important that closer co-operation should be established between the Bureau of Ordinance and the Admiralty concerning the general subject of mines and depth charges, their design, manufacture and supply.

11.  It is apparent that considerable confusion has occurred to date on this subject owing to the various means of communication which have been used and primarily with the difficulty of ensuring clear understanding with long distance communications by letter and cable. For example:- it is found that communications have been exchanged via this office, via the Naval attache’s office, London, and office of Naval Intelligence, and also by direct cablegrams between the Admiralty and their naval attache in Washington. Owing to the stress of duties in all the above offices, considerable misunderstanding has evidently developed.

12.  The Admiralty are very appreciative of the efforts being put forward by our Bureau of Ordinance in connection with mines and depth charges and fully realize the great assistance which the Navy Department is ina position to render to the common cause in this direction. They have at no time wished to convey the idea that they were reluctant to accept assistance or that they were not perfectly willing to accept new designs developed in the Bureau of Ordinance. Their experience in developing new designs and arranging and conducting manufacture rapidly under pressure of actual war conditions has been very disheartening, and they are therefore considerably concerned over the prospects of our introducing new designs with which the personnel here will not be wholly familiar. So many d esigns have been developed during the war which appeared entirely satisfactory in the drafting room, and even after service test, but which developed serious troubles and difficulties when the finished weapon was used afloat, that it is natural that every effort should be put forward now to adhere to any design which has proven itself satisfactory afloat in order that manufacturing can be facilitated, the maximum efficiency of the personnel afloat obtained and the success of future operations thereby better assured.

13.  Some of the various considerations which complicate the general mining problem are facilities of depots, provision and supply of spare parts, facilities and fittings of mine layers and mine transports, allocating the various types, keeping track of their issue and consumption, training of personnel and many other questions.

14.  The Admiralty state that Commander Mock3 should in no case be considered as a representative of the mining department of the Admiralty, his experience has been primarily connected with the Vickers Elia4 type of mine which is now definitely abandoned. The Admiralty state that there is at present no one in the United States sufficiently familiar with British designs and British experience to be in a position to properly represent the Admiralty.  

15.  The assistance of the Navy Department in this field is of such importance and the subject is so complicated that I strongly advise sending a thoroughly competent representative of the Bureau of Ordinance to London at the earliest possible moment for temporary duty with the sole object of consulting with the Admiralty mine officials, obtaining general information of the miningsituation and then returning immediately to the Bureau. Such a representative should bring with him all drawings and specifications and if possible mechanisms and, in case of new developments, such sketches or other information as is available.

16.  It is urgently requested that all information, including drawings or even sketches, of Bureau designs be forwarded as fast as they are developed in order that the war experience of the Admiralty may be placed at the [word scribbled out] disposal before manufacture is undertaken to any considerable extent.


          1. Proceedings 7 H M & U S Ships 21 July 1917

2. Summary 7 Military Information contained in War Diary

3. Reports of destroyer sighting submarines.

4. Weekly report Destroyer operations.5


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG45, Entry 517B. Identification numbers in the upper-left: “75-13/DB/JVB”.

Footnote 1: None of these attachments have been found.

Footnote 2: The Deutschland, or U-151, class of submarines were significantly larger than earlier models, displacing 1,500 tons and measuring over 200 feet long. Originally used for cargo transport, they could cross the Atlantic without refueling, and thus posed a real threat to the United States. Germany only sent out seven of them during the war, two to the American coast. Although generally successful, they never came close to tilting the balance of the war. Sondhaus, The Great War at Sea: 242, 272.

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Herbert O. Mock, Assistant to Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes.

Footnote 4: Invented by Giovanni Elia, these mines were attaching by a cable to a lever on the bottom of the sea, which would be triggered if something bumped the mine.

Footnote 5: These attachments have not been found.