Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations
CABLEGRAM SENT August 7, 1917.
To Opnav, Washington Serial No. 208
Number two hundred and eight. Arsenal Brest now overtaxed and unable to meet U.S. requirements for repairs to patrol vessels based there (stop) Will make recommendations concerning this port later (stop) No facilities whatever at Bordeaux and no labour available consequently I propose to undertake to provide small establishment at Pauillac on site selected by French Admiralty adjacent to coal handling plant of ample capacity all needs (stop) To consist sufficient storage for clothing provisions fresh meats general supplies for six months or more maximum fifteen hundred men twenty-four vessels as measure safety against possible serious interruption ocean traffic (stop) This will involve building small power house, small shops light repairs only small storehouses portable far as practicable (stop) A repair vessel would meet needs admirably but am reluctant to ask for one for Bordeaux at this time when tonnage situation critical and other requirements pressing (stop) All materials for buildings obtainable England as well as labour to erect (stop) French cannot supply either (stop) Tools and stores must come United States will be ordered later when decision reached (stop) Will Department authorize expenditure for this purpose to extent of about one hundred thousand dollars (stop) Imperative prompt advice this point be given.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Although the Navy dragged its feet in supporting Sims’ suggestion, it did ultimately commit to the construction of a small naval base at Pauillac to support patrol and escort vessels; see: Benson to Sims, 10 August 1917. By November 1917, the base was fully operational, serving as a key fueling and supply facility for U.S. escort vessels until the end of the war. Additionally, this base came to be the largest U.S. naval air station in France, where personnel would off-load aircraft components from cargo ships and assemble airplanes; Still, Crisis at Sea: 114-115.