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Captain William V. Pratt, Acting Chief of Naval Operations, to Rear Admiral Albert T. Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force

Op-46                        SECRET

2 August 1918

From:     The Chief of Naval Operations.

To:       Commander Cruiser Force.

SUBJECT:  Grouping and sailing of troop convoys.

Reference: (a) Commander Cruiser Force’s tentative schedule

                  of convoys August 3rd to September 4th.1

     1.   The Department has recently exchanged with Vice-Admiral Sims2 by dispatch, <re>spective views in regard to the grouping and sailing of troop convoys. Out of these dispatches has grown a clearer understanding of the viewpoint of the European Forces in regard to convoy sailings in relation to destroyer escorts. The following are quotations from dispatches of Vice-Admiral Sims

          (a) ---------- In order to avoid delay and congestion in French ports, it is desirable that troop convoys be sailed so as to arrive on the French Coast every 7 or 8 days. In some instances intervals of 10 or 11 days occurs between convoys. It is realized that a delay of a few days in U.S. may increase the size of a convoy but this increased convoy congests French ports and delays the return of some vessels in convoy. Time saved in U.S. is lost on French coast and economical use is not made of destroyers. Experience in handling convoys indicates that a maximum efficiency can be obtained by adhering to an established schedule. An 8-day schedule would permit about 4 days for discharge in French ports and escort sailing westward to meet next convoy should, under normal conditions, take west all of preceding convoy. In addition to regular convoys, fast convoys not exceeding three ships, may be sailed irregularly at intervals of 6 days.3

          NOTE:- In regard to the above the Department informed Vice-Admiral Sims that convoys were not held up in the UNITED STATES for the sake of increasing the number of ships in convoy. He was also informed that regular schedules were adhered to as far as practicable.

     (b) “--------- It is of the utmost importance in economizing destroyers, that programs of sailing be arranged so as to keep destroyers as much as possible uniformly employed throughout the month. x x x x x x x I have previously pointed out the desirability of sailing large convoys at regular intervals and arranging sailings of small fast groups so that one set of escorts can be used for all fast groups. I recommend that fast groups be sailed at 5 or 6 days interval. By this means adequate escort will be available for all transports, furthermore congestion in French ports will be minimized, there will be less delay in escorting ships to westerly, and more destroyers will be available to meet storeships in HN convoys.------------4

          2.  The Department interprets the above to mean that Vice-Admiral Sims desires the so-called regular convoys, that is large convoys of from 12 to 13 knots speed, should arrive on French coast 8 days apart. In view of the fact that the speed of these groups is approximately always the same, this automatically happens when the groups are sailed from this side 8 days apart. The Department further understands that the fast groups of not more than three vessels sail on dates irrespective of the dates of the large groups sailings so that they may also arrive on the French Coast 5 or 6 days apart from each other but without reference to the time of arrival of the large slow groups. The Department concurs in the above plan and desires to follow it insofar as may be practicable. Departure from this plan will be made only for extraordinary reasons, such as for instance, urgent requirements of the Army. In regard to the schedules, reference (a) considered in the light of the above, the following is noted:

              (1) The sailings of the slow groups are set at August 6th, 12th, 20th and 31st. In one case a 6-day interval and at another an 11-day interval. Preferably these dates should be set August 6th, 14th, 22nd, and 30th.

               (2) The fast group on August 25th is only two days in advance of the fast group on August 27th and when the speeds of these groups are taken into consideration it will be seen that they arrive on the same date. When the destroyer escort to meet these groups is considered, it must be remembered that groups are met at varying distances from the French coast but in general about Long. 17 and this is the point to be considered when the interval of 5 or 6 days is arranged for.

              3. In regard to the cases in question, if the “VON STEUBEN” can be ready on 13 August, that vessel and the “AMERICA” can be placed in a fast group to sail on that date. The next fast group should be, if possible, the “AGAMEMNON” and ‘MOUNT VERNON” if the date is advanced 2 or 3 days from that at present assigned. The next group will be the “LEVIATHAN”, “GREAT NORTHERN” and “NORTHERN PACIFIC” postponed for a sufficient length of time to permit them to be 5 or 6 days after the preceding group. It is realized that this arrangement leaves out the “ORIZABA” and “SIBONEY”, “two sisters, which are also fast and should be placed in a fast group. It seems desirable under the circumstances to hold over the “ORIZABA” and “SIBONEY” sufficient length of time to let them arrive 5 or 6 days after the “LEVIATHAN” group. The above is merely one solution and is a very tentative schedule in view of the uncertainty of the dates of the “AGAMEMNMON” and “MOUNT VERNON” and also the dates of return of the “SIBONEY” and “ORIZABA”.

W. V. Pratt        


Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The signature is a stamp. There is a running head at the top of each page that reads: “Op-46/To: Commander Cruiser Force 2 August 1918.”

Footnote 1: The schedule has not been found.

Footnote 2: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 4: See: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 24 July 1918. “HN” convoys were those originating in New York and sailing for French ports.

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