Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

S E C R E T

10 August 1918

From:     Commander in Chief.

To:       Secretary of the Navy (Operations)

SUBJECT:  Estimate of the Situation and Recommendation for the

          Employment of the Atlantic Fleet.1

References: (a) C-in-C Secret file 211, 2 February, 1918,

SUBJECT- Estimate of the Situation with regard to the efficient development of the operations of the ATLANTIC FLEET.

            (b) C-in-C Secret file 12 April 1918, subject –

“Development and Operations of Battleship Forces of the Atlantic Fleet.”2

     1.  Since submitting the above reference the military and naval operations that have taken place seem to demonstrate that the General Situation is now as follows:-

MILITARY SITUATION

     (a)  The successful operations of the allied armies between SOISSONS and RHEIMS have definitely checked any offensive by the German armies in this vicinity for the remainder of the year.

     (b)  The withdrawal of German forces from the salient between HANGARD and MORISEL, and between CANTIGNY and Assainvillers, indicates that no offensive against AMIENS is anticipated. This withdrawal was made voluntarily and these salient would not have been abandoned of <if> offensive operations in this vicinity were contemplated. The reason for these withdrawals appears to be to strengthen their defensive positions.

     (c)  If any further offensive operations by the German armies on the west front are contemplated this year, the indications point strongly to that point of the line to the northward of ALBERT.

     (d)  The morale of the Teutonic armies and peoples has been greatly depressed on account of the defeat of the AUSTRIAN offensive against Italy, and the German offensive in the vicinity of MARNE.

     (e)  Any further offensive operations undertaken by the German armies this year will have for their immediate object, the restoration of the Teutonic morale. A successful operation against British and American forces will do the most to raise this morale and consequently the greatest danger, from a military point of view, is to be anticipated by an offensive against the northern part of the western front and by increased activity against transports carrying United States troops.

     2.   NAVAL SITUATION

          In reference (b) the possibility of the German HIGH SEA Fleet attempting a major action with the British GRAND FLEET, was discussed at some length, and the decision was reached that there was a possibility of such an operation. It was considered that such an operation would be conducted in conjunction with a military offensive against the northern part of the western front, and that in such an engagement the German Fleet would undoubtedly use poison gas and the torpedo planes. The probable place for such an engagement would be the eastern end of the English Channel, in the vicinity of the German bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend, from which bases the German torpedo planes would operate.

     3.   In view of the possibility of such an engagement the Commander-in-Chief recommended that all United States superdreadnaughts be based in European Waters to support the British GRAND FLEET.

     4.   That such a campaign has not yet taken place indicates that the previous decision was wrong; or, that such operation has been delayed pending the resumption of a military offensive against the northern part of the western front; or, that the enemy is not yet prepared from such an attack; or, that some more promising plan (from this point of view) is being developed:

     5.   The enemy submarine campaign is decreasing in efficiency, and in view of the progress in ship building there is little probability that the submarine menace will every again approach the position of a dominating factor in the result of the war.

     6.   The development of the cruiser type of submarine has permitted an extension of the zone of operations, but the operations so far conducted by this type have not been sufficiently serious to warrant the belief that the development of this type will add greatly to the losses by submarine.

     7.   The season of the year favorable to raiding operations is now approaching, and due to the prominence lately given to the ability of the American troops as fighters and t6o the statements of the number of troops transported and the insignificant losses so far met in these operations, it is quite possible that a determined campaign against our transports is being planned.

     8.   Assuming that the enemy’s probable intentions are to conduct the type of naval operations which will be most serious to the Allies, we must consider one of the following types of campaigns as being the most probable.

     (a). Engage in extensive raiding operations during the fall and winter months, using submarines and all types of fast surface vessels, including major ships. This campaign directed primarily at our transports.

     (b)  Seek engagement with the British GRAND FLEET in the vicinity of the German bases at ZEEBRUGGE and OSTEND, in which case poison gas and torpedo planes will play an important part in the engagement.

     9.   In view of the above the Commander-in-Chief believes that the following should be adopted as the mission of the ATLANTIC FLEET:

     (1) To guard all troop and mercantile trans-Atlantic convoys against German or Austrian raiders of any type (including submarines) or strength.

     (2)  To support the British Grand Fleet against any attempt of the German High SEA FLEET to gain temporary control of the British Channel.

     10.  An estimate of the situation has been prepared with the above as a mission. A copy of the estimate is enclosed.

     11.  As a result of this estimate of the situation the following decisions were arrived at:-

(1)    To assign to the Commander in Chief ATLANTIC FLEET the mission of guarding all trans-Atlantic convoys against raiders.

(2)    To base the Super-dreadnaughts PENNSYLVANIA, ARIZONA, UTAH, OKLAHOMA, NEVADA, (MISSISSIPPI, NEW MEXICO and IDAHO when ready) at Brest.

(3)    To base the seven armored cruisers at Berehaven as scouts and eastern ocean escorts.

(4)    To base NORTH DAKOTA and DELAWARE on home coast, Halifax or Guantanamo, as detail plans may indicate best.

(5)    To use SOUTH CAROLINA, MICHIGAN AND 6 MINNESOTA type3 as ocean escorts for troop convoys.

(6)    To base five GEORGIA type on home coast.4

(7)    The Commander-in-Chief to assume direct control over any offensive operations.

(8)    To base SQUADRON ONE and DIVISION “A” on home coast and operate them as training units.5

             /s/ H.T. MAYO.

 

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: See also: Mayo to Daniels, 10 August 1918.

Footnote 2: Neither of these documents has been found.

Footnote 3. Also known as Connecticut class, these were six pre-dreadnought type battleships built between 1903 and 1908 and included: Connecticut, Louisiana, Vermont, Kansas, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

Footnote 4: Also known as Virginia class, these were five pre-dreadnaughts built in the early 1900’s, and included: Virginia, Nebraska, Georgia, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Footnote 5: These ships comprised the Reserve Force of the Atlantic Fleet.

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