Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations to Various Officers in United States Waters

SECRET

                         NAVY DEPARTMENT

                    OFFICE OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

                            Washington                    16 August 1918                                                             16 August 1918.

To:  Commandants 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Naval Districts.

     Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet,

     Commander Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet,

     Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet,

     Commander Special Anti-Submarine Force, (U.S.S. Jouett)

           "     "      "     "        "   , (U.S.S. Salem)1

SUBJECT:  Plan for Anti-Submarine Patrol by U. S. Submarine Atlantic Coast – General instructions pertaining thereto; correlating activities of special hunting groups.

     1.   Indications are that enemy submarine activities along Atlantic Coast will continue at least until beginning of winter and in addition to gun and torpedo attack on shipping, will include mining and cable cutting.

          In common with our other defences against this form of attack, our Submarine Forces are very scant for the work in hand. It is no longer practicable to allocate our Submarines to all Districts and they are being assembled into the regular Divisional units in order that the improved basing thus afforded may increase the amount of off-shore work that may be expected of the submarines and that they may be brought under the immediate command of the available officers who are best qualified to train them and direct the details of their operations and tactics.

     2.   The Naval Districts concerned and the available Submarine Divisions are being supplied with definitions of certain submarine patrol areas, chosen as not well or not easily covered by air-craft or District surface craft and as localities in which our submarines may most likely defend against enemy submarine operations by acting offensively against them. The Department being best in touch with all information concerning enemy movements will for the present designate the areas to be occupied by available submarines.

     3.   There will be certain special submarine patrols which will be directly administered from the Office of Naval Operations – Naval Districts concerned will be given all information concerning them which is needed in their own operations. Operation orders for ordinary submarine patrols will as heretofore be issued by the Naval Districts in which the Submarines are based. Since all Districts whose off-shore waters may need submarine patrols are not manned by Submarine Divisions, and because advantageous patrol areas sometimes lap into two Districts, it is essential that neighboring Districts be informed of a prospective patrol in order that it may issue instructions to prevent danger to our submarines and joint interference between their operations and those of the District surface and aircraft.

          Aircraft, surface hunting units and other surface patrol or scouting craft must not be sent on anti-submarine missions into areas known to be occupied by our own submarines; to do so would unnecessarily endanger our own submarines and the efforts of the air and surface craft might be nullified in hunting them. The Naval District which issues the operating order to a submarine going on patrol will inform the Commander-in-Chief and Commander Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet, the Naval Districts which include the area, and also the Districts next them, of the movement, including its duration; this information should be sent out as early as possible. These instructions are not to be understood as interfering with dispositions for rescue or escorting by air or surface craft – but the craft concerned in such a movement should be informed if our submarines are in the areas likely to be traversed. Hunting units are to be instructed to assume submarine patrol areas occupied unless informed to the contrary.

     4.   Ordinary submarine patrols will normally be one week, beginning and ending on Saturday. On Wednesday of each week, Naval Districts in which submarines are based will inform Office of Operations – or may direct the submarine organization of the District to do so – of the submarines which on the following Saturday will be available for patrol. If there is no reason for maintaining a patrol at the particular time, none will be directed and the available boats will exercise but remain ready for patrol. Otherwise, directions will be given to occupy certain areas. It then devolves upon the Districts concerned to prepare operation orders, arrange convoy in and out and inform other districts.

PATROL OPERATION ORDERS

     5.   Under ordinary circumstances, submarines will not need to be convoyed during darkness and convoy effort may be saved by having them leave for patrol in the afternoon and return early in the morning; this shortens the run of the convoying vessel and reduces the danger of our submarines encountering each other. These advantages offset anything that is gained by having them actually relieve on station. Since, however, late arrivals may happen, it is advisable to lay down outbound and inbound submarine routes for the different ports in which submarines are based, and direct which routes to follow.

          Patrol operating orders are to include information concerning the convoy and westbound routes that pass over the patrol area that will be in effect for the period of the patrol; this is in order that they may protect those routes in good weather and avoid them by night and in thick weather. When known, the probable sailing dates of convoys that concern them will also be given submarines going on patrol.

          A submarine is not to enter any submarine area other than those to which it is assigned to patrol, unless said submarine knows such area to be unoccupied by submarines or hunting units. Such information as is necessary for this safeguard is to be supplied in patrol operation orders.

          Patrol operation orders should give schedules and wave lengths upon which information is likely to be broadcasted. When these important operations are not thereby nullified, they should listen on such schedules; since they cannot always get a message, those containing important information or directions should be repeated on one or more subsequent schedules.

SURFACE HUNTING GROUPS.

     6.   The Commandants of Naval Districts will formulate plans for using their submarine chaser hunting groups and air forces to protect areas near the coast not occupied by submarine patrols.

          In working out the details of these plans, it is advisable that submarine chaser hunting groups be based as near as practicable to the areas in which they are expected to operate.

          In view of the lack of special equipment and special training of some submarine chasers assigned to Naval Districts, and the necessity of using these vessels at certain places for escort work, etc., it is not considered practicable, at present, forthe Naval Districts to efficiently patrol all those areas adjacent to the coast, with the submarine chasers available for that purpose.

          The Department has therefore organized three special hunting squadrons of submarine chasers. Each squadron is composed of a certain number of submarine chaser hunting groups and a vessel of the cruiser or destroyer type, with sufficient gunpower to back up the operations of the submarine chasers and maintain the control of the surface.

          The operations of these special hunting squadrons will be under the control of the Department, and they will be sent to infested areas to co-operate with the work of the district craft. The operations of these squadrons will be restricted to areas not occupied by submarine patrols, as follows:-

          The first squadron to operate on the Atlantic Coast to the northward of latitude 40° north; the second squadron to operate on the Atlantic Coast between the latitudes 30° north and 40° north; the third squadron to operate in waters to the southward of latitude 30° north.

W. S. Benson       

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identifiers “Op 51-B.” and “S-18-1358/2.” appear on the left side of the first page. Addressed below close: “Copy to Comdr. [Guy E. Davis, Commander,] Submarine Division Eight,/Secret File Room,/Captain [John C.] Tompkins, U.S.N.,/Captain [Thomas C.] Hart, U.S.N.,/Comdr. [Walter B.] Woodson, U.S.N.”

Footnote 1: Commandants: RAdm. Spencer D. Wood, 1st; Commo. James P. Parker, 2nd; RAdm. Nathaniel R. Usher, 3rd; Capt. George F. Cooper, 4th; RAdm. Augustus F. Fechteler, 5th; RAdm. Frank E. Beatty, 6th; and RAdm. William B. Fletcher, 7th Naval Districts. Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet; RAdm. Albert T. Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser Force; Capt. Samuel Robison, Commander, Submarine Force; Lt. Cmdr. John K. Richards Jr., Commander, U.S. Destroyer Jouett; Cmdr. Stephen V. Graham, Commander, U.S. Scout Cruiser Salem.