Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

MERCANTILE CONVOY

CABLEGRAM RECEIVED <August 20, 1918.> DOR

Origin Opnav Washington.                    Ser. No. 125.

Ref’d to      Date

O-1       Aug 21.

48 ARD                            S E C R E T

Simsadus.

125. Your 2581 and Admiralty paper of July 8 on extension of North Atlantic convoy system.2 In general the Department is in accord but beli<e>ves that the aim should be first the efficiency of the eastbound convoy. In principle it is opposed to the westbound convoy as materially slowing up shipping and only approve of it for slow and inadequately armed ships, preferring to see fast adequately armed merchantmen sail alone or in pairs. It believes that the eastbound convoy should not be delayed in order to provide escort for westbound shipping. To use our cruisers in convoys both ways will materially increase the number of cruisers necessary for the work where cruisers are difficult to obtain. The Department realizes that this step is necessary in the case of inadequately armed ships but is itself taking steps to meet the situation by arming all its merchant vessels with at least one five-inch .51 and is further fitting out several merchant vessels to act as armed escort. A list will be furnished when completed.

          As regards the number of convoys the United States should handle and the method of handling, the Department is of the following opinion, United States should in principle control the routing of those ships which carry our troops and will now take complete charge of all United States troop convoys and of the HB to the Bay of Biscay ports sailing, the latter on an eight day schedule but later working up to a more intensive schedule as the number of our troops in France increases. In the matter of routing the Department prefers to handle the HB itself later, and suggests for your consideration a method somewhat similar to that in use with our troop convoys. After the above needs are met, the Department is willing to undertake the Halifax Nova Scotia to Gibraltar convoys and to attempt to furnish some armed cruisers to the HX convoys. The Department also wishes now to declare the following principles which it believes will in the long run tend to a better understanding and unity of interest. It believes routing office should not be separate but should constitute one allied office. It further believes the local handling of each convoy both in this country and elsewhere should be done by the representatives of the government which has the paramount interest in that particular convoy that any escort ship loaned by one government to the other should pass temporarily so far as convoy procedure is concerned under the control of the particular representative handling that convoy. It further believes the general rule for all convoys and all routings should be matter for joint agreements through it agrees that matters relating to ships entering and leaving European ports are primarily matters to be settled by the proper authorities in European waters in the same manner that the procedures of ships entering and leaving our ports should primarily be settled by us. In the matter of handling ships out of <neutral> ports the Department is of the opinion that allied officers should be satisfied where necessary. In the matter of handling and routing the representative of government having paramount interest in that particular convoy should in general direct operations of that convoy. The Department is of the opinion that a frank and fair statement of our view will lead to satisfactory adjustment and to complete understanding. Take this matter up with Admiralty. 23020. 125.

          Benson

10:49 a.m., August 21, 1918.

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

Footnote 1: See: Sims to Benson, 28 June 1918.

Footnote 2: This document has not been located.

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