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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, Confidential Memorandum

CONFIDENTIAL                                     28 August 18.

From: Chief of Naval Operations.

SUBJECT: Submarine Policy, - administration and operation of submarines.

Enclosure: (a) Diagram – herewith.1

     1.  The Submarine Policy, given herewith, has been approved by the Department, and is published for your information and guidance:-


1.   The General Mission of the Submarine is to destroy enemy war vessels.

2.   The immediate mission of our submarines is to destroy enemy submarines.

3.   Submarines, on account of their limited mobility and habitability, are dependent, for continued successful operations, on a specially equipped base. Such base may be either fixed or mobile.

4.   Submarines may, in general, be divided into two classes, which are, to some extent, interchangeable for operations:

(a)  COAST SUBMARINES – those of limited speed, radius, and habitability, which are designed to operate independently; and,

(b)  FLEET SUBMARINES – those with greater speed, radius, and habitability, designed to operate with the Battle Fleet. (In event of Fleet Submarines not being available, Divisions of those which are most suitable will be assigned to operate with the Fleet.)

5.   The successful operation of submarines requires a personnel of high technical skill and training. This can best be attained in a submarine school where submarine problems can be subjected to an exhaustive theoretical and practical examination.

6.   So far as practicable all personnel for submarines will be provided by the submarine schools.

7.   So far as practicable all submarines will be exercised in the submarine schools before being sent into service.

8.   There will be in the Office of Naval Operations a Submarine Section in the Planning Division. The head of this Section will be charged with all activities pertaining to submarines. Its mission being to provide the tools for submarine operations, in the form of Flotillas and Divisions fully trained, conditioned, and indoctrinated, it will cor[r]elate all activities performed in the Navy Department to that end. Its duties as regards operations of Submarine Divisions are advisory only; as with other craft, operations of active Submarine Divisions are administrated by C.N.O., thru that branch of his office known as “Naval Operating Forces”, to Commanders of the Forces to which such Divisions are assigned.

9.   The Office of Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet and Supervisor of Submarines is discontinued; part of the activities heretofore assigned will be transferred to the Submarine Section of the Planning Division, Office of Naval Operations, and the remainder merged in the Submarine Bases, Submarine Flotillas and Divisions.

10.  The immediate command afloat of submarines will be that of Commanders of Divisions into which they are organized. When two or more Divisions are assembled, to operate with the Battle Fleet or as task groups, they may be organized into Flotillas or the Senior Division Commander may command.

11.  Submarine Divisions will be assigned to the Battle Fleet, to special task groups and to Naval Districts according to their availability and the necessities of the occasions.

12.  To insure that submarines will operate in accordance with their training, the doctrine and plans for their tactical use will be followed by Officers under whose orders submarines are assigned to operate.2

13.  The enclosure indicates diagrammatically the foregoing organization.

Signed W. S. Benson

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 415. Below Benson’s signature is that of Benson’s assistant, “W. V. Pratt.” Presumably this meant that he received a copy of this memorandum as well.

Footnote 1: The diagram-discussed in point 13-is no longer with the document.

Footnote 2: In a circular letter of 2 January 1919 designed to establish submarine policy for the post-war U.S. Navy, Benson repeated the essence of what is found here. Benson, Circular Letter, 2 January 1919, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 415.

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