Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
4 August 1918.
From: Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.
To: Force Commander.
Subject: Report of Operations – Week of 27 July to 2 August, 1918.
1. (a) Vessels available:
LITTLE, CONNER, SIGOURNEY, CUSHING, NICHOLSON, TUCKER, WADSWORTH, PORTER, ERICSSON, WARRINGTON, WINSLOW, FANNING, BURROWS, MONAGHAN, FLUSSER, PRESTON, SMITH, REID, ROE, McDOUGAL, O’BRIEN, DRAYTON.
Sea-going Yachts –
NOMA, APHRODITE, CORSAIR, MAY.
Coastal Convoy Escort –
WANDERER, SULTANA, EMELINE, TRUXTUN, WHIPPLE, HARVARD, VEDETTE, UTOWANA, WORDEN, REMLIK, CHRISTABEL, RAMBLER, STEWART, MACDONOUGH.
Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) –
PIQUA, McNEAL, ANDERTON, CAHILL, COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, JAMES, LEWES, HUBBARD, HINTON.
CONCORD, CRICCIETH, SMEATON, BARNEGAT, GYPSUM QUEEN.
Station Ship –
Repair Ship –
Floating Barracks –
(b) Overhaul: LIVERPOOL -
CUMMINGS, WAINWRIGHT, BENHAM, JARVIS.
(c) Under Repair -
(d) Being equipped with Walzer apparatus1 –
The BENHAM and JARVIS arrived Liverpool 30 July for repairs subsequent to collision, and overhaul.
Repairs to DRAYTON completed 30 July.
Repairs to MACDONOUGH completed 2 August.
The installation of the Walzer apparatus on the ISABEL was begun 2 August. Estimated time required five weeks.
The LAMSON which was due to sail three August developed condenser trouble and was unable to sail. Estimated time required for completion of repairs three days.
The CORONA upon her return to port on 2 August commenced routine boiler overhaul and repairs. Estimated duration of repairing ten days.
2. Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules, with exceptions as noted above. Movements of troop and store ships and of vessels engaged in the Army coal trade, are as shown in enclosure. Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoys.
The destroyers which escorted O.R. 64 had orders to join the BUFFALO2 and convoy coming from the Azores at position “B” morning of 1 August. 31 July information was received that the BUFFALO would be delayed at least forty-eight hours. An effort to recall the escort was unsuccessful and they made contact with the BUFFALO at ten a.m. 2 August, but reported that due to shortage of fuel oil the FANNING would be compelled to leave at noon 3 August, and the PORTER due to salting up would be compelled to leave at the same time; and accordingly the LAMSON and SMITH which were intended to reinforce the escort of O.V. 263 were directed to sail from Brest afternoon of 3 August with orders to join BUFFALO at daylight 4 August. Due to condenser trouble on the LAMSON, the SMITH proceeded on this duty alone. The present intention on the return of the SMITH is to sail her with the LAMSON to reinforce the escort of H.B.74 at the destroyer rendezvous.
The ISABEL which was also intended for this duty was withdrawn in order to install Walzer apparatus. The ERICSSON and TUCKER whose boiler overhaul will be completed four August will form part of the escort of Group Fifty-four.5
The destroyers which escorted O.R. 656 (one of these the CUSHING) with a captive balloon) and the destroyers which escorted O.R. 66 to the westward are to escort Group Fifty-Two to Brest. The destroyers which escorted Groups O.R. 62 and O.R. 63 to the westward intercepted Group Fifty-One and escorted it to France reinforced by five additional destroyers about twenty-eight hours before arrival.
This group was split between Brest and St. Nazaire upon the request of the Army. Recent requests made by the Army to split groups could not be complied with because of the amount of service required by destroyers, but as the forces were available at this time it was done. All the vessels of the group which came to Brest were discharged by the afternoon of August 1st and were sailed westward on August 1st and 2nd. The three troop ships which were taken to St. Nazaire were to have been ready on the afternoon of August 2nd but on account of delay in discharging them they will not be ready until the afternoon of August 3rd when they will be sailed westward from Quiberon. It is believed that if these ships had been brought to Brest they could have been ready probably by August 1st and certainly by August 2nd, gaining from twenty-four to forty-eight hours on the turn-around and saving the service of five destroyers. This has been brought to the attention of the Army. . . .
Destroyer Escort joining troop convoys – Due to the increase of submarine activity in the Bay of Biscay, and the greater distances at which submarines are operating from the coast, troop ships have been almost without exception escorted forty-eight hours to the westward or to longitude seventeen degrees west, and contact has been made with eastbound convoys as far west as nineteen degrees. This has naturally increased the time at sea of destroyers.
Consideration is being given to the transfer of the base for the ten yachts and five 450-ton destroyers engaged in coastal convoy escort from Brest to Lorient. If this is found to be practicable, it will relieve the port facilities of Brest and will provide accommodation at Brest for additional destroyers.
As a further means of providing additional destroyer berths there will commence this week the driving of piles in the northwestern end of the Rade Abri in the shelter of the western breakwater.
Clusters of piles are to be driven at intervals alongside of which destroyers can be berthed. There is at present a twelve inch water main along the western breakwater from which connections will be made to the destroyer berths.
It is planned to increase the berthing facilities of the port to such extent as MAY be required by driving piles in sheltered portions of the harbor.
4. SUBMARINE ACTIVITY.
There has been a considerable increase in submarine activity the past week. At least four submarines are at large off the French coast. The submarine that has been for the past few weeks off the entrance to Bilbao, has again appeared further up the coast. On the 28th and 29th north of the Gironde River, while on the 2nd of August he made an unsuccessful attempt to torpedo H.M.S. BLUEBELL off the Chaussee de Sein. Another submarine operating further off the coast was gunned for half an hour by the French trawler SINGE at three p.m. on the 2nd of August in latitude 46-31 N. and 11-56 W. . . .
5. MINING ACTIVITIES.
The dangerous areas in effect on 2 August were:
Radius 7 miles around Triagoz and Sept Iles.
Radius 6 miles around 48-51 N. and 04-00 W.
Radius 3-1/2 miles around 46-55 N. and 02-33 W.
Radius 5 miles around 45-55 N. and 01-31 W.
On July 29th the quadrilateral between parallel Four, Meridian 02-40 W.; parallel Banche and line Banche-Four was declared safe while on the 31st Le Four Channel was again opened having been closed since the evening of July 27th when the English trawler AMROTH CASTLE entering that channel sighted a mine below the surface. . . .
6. EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.
29 July – In a radiogram from U.S.S. LITTLE at sea 10.30 a.m. G.M.T. 27 July 1918, the U.S.A.C.T.7 GEORGE G. HENRY was reported on fire in latitude 47-44 North, Longitude 17-18 West, and needing assistance. U.S.S. WADSWORTH was at once ordered to join her from a position 200 miles distant, and on 29 July 1918, 9.00 p.m., G.M.T., reported that the HENRY had been taken in tow by a ship of a westbound convoy from Devonport for the United States; and that she herself had been recalled. The GEORGE G. HENRY was en route in convoy via Devonport from Havre.
30 July – A Staff Memorandum summarizes the current organization and work of the Base Patrol Force, Brest. The Force consists of a Patrol Officer, two Assistant Patrol Officers, four Chief Petty Officers, and one hundred twenty men. The Force maintains strict military routine with frequent drills, and posts patrols throughout the busier parts of the City. The task of preserving order among the liberty men on shore is a considerable one; the number of liberty men per day varying between a minimum of 500 and a maximum of 5,000 or 6,000 when large convoys are in the harbor. Arrests vary from one or two per day, up to twenty-five or thirty on Sundays and holidays. It is stated that the conduct of transport personnel ashore from any given ship improves with successive visits – crews used to frequenting Brest giving practically no trouble at all.
The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France cables the Force Commander that water supply at Bordeaux, Rochefort, La Pallice, La Rochelle and St. Nazaire is limited during the summer; and that vessels for these ports should continue to carry water for the round trip. The water supply at Lorient and Brest is adequate, but water barge facilities are limited.
31 July – U.S. Senator Wm. H. Thompson, of Kansas, arrived on the U.S.S. GEORGE WASHINGTON. He is understood to be interested in Aviation developments in France.
The Commander U.S.Naval forces in France has forwarded to Commanding Officer U.S.S. LITTLE the following favorable comment from the Commanding Officer U.S.S. GEORGE WASHINGTON reporting as Convoy Commodore;8 and has expressed his pleasure in so doing:
“ I desire to bring to your notice officially the fact that when the Eastern escort under Commander J.K. Taussig, U.S.N., made contact with this group, shortly after daylight on the date set, the weather during the night had been thick and foggy, and it was still thick, visibility being about two miles.
The excellent manner in which they made contact under such conditions has been considered almost uncanny by the General Commanding Army Forces as well as by the United States Senator on board. It was certainly very well done....”
1 August – From this date a change in the organization of the shore establishment in Brest becomes effective, the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. CAROLA IV Barracks9 reporting directly to the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France and operating directly under his command.
Major Alfred A. Cunningham, U.S.M.C., Commanding 1st Marine Aviation Force, arrived on U.S.S. DE KALB, 30 July 1918, with his squadrons and wing headquarters completely organized, except yhat certain of his officers, squadron commanders, and staff, are already temporarily attached to Aviation, Paris. His command have their own tents with them. One Officer and forth mechanics have gone to Pauillac to get together the flying apparatus and ship it North. The remainder of the Force is proceeding to Calais to prepare the field assigned to this organization in the Northern Bombing Project. Major Cunningham has himself gone to Paris to report to the commander Naval Aviation, Foreign Service,10 and will there be joined by the Officers mentioned as having preceded him.11
The sailing of the British S.S. CZARITZA, scheduled for today, had to be postponed because a dozen of her crew failed to report from shore leave. The British Consul was notified and rounded up most of the men, but not in time for her departure.
2 August – General Pershing,12 in Command of the American Expeditionary Forces, arrived in Brest this morning for an inspection of the Army Base and of the facilities and methods here employed in the handling of Army cargoes, in the disembarkation, quartering and entraining of American troops arriving from the United States, as well as in the embarkation of the sick and wounded homeward bound. After visits and consultations between himself and the Brigadier General commanding the Base in Brest,13 the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France, the Prefet Maritime14 and other local officials, the General departed late in the evening. The General expressed himself as thoroughly pleased with conditions in the Base and Port of Brest.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, box 440. Attached to the report is a list of ships that arrived and departed from ports in France for each day covered by the report. Each day’s list is done on a separate sheet. Document identifier at top of first page: “509” and “WB/(0).”
Footnote 1: The Walzer apparatus was “essentially a nautical version of the physician’s stethoscope: a diaphragm covers and air-filled chamber that is connected to the ears by rubber tubing, no microphone needed.” William van der Kloot, Great Scientists Wage the Great War (Fonthill Media, 2014).
Footnote 2: U.S. Auxiliary Cruiser BUFFALO had been converted in June 1918 into a tender for destroyers and submarine chasers. Its ultimate destination was Gibraltar.
Footnote 3: O. V. convoys sailed from Verdon on the Gironde River and were bound for the United States and/or South America. Wilson, American Navy in France, 47.
Footnote 4: H.B. convoys were store ship convoys rom New York to the French Bay of Biscay ports. Ibid.
Footnote 5: Convoys designated by “Group” were troopship convoys from the United States bound for France.
Footnote 6: O. R. convoys sailed from Brest and were bound for the United States and/or South America. Ibid.
Footnote 7: That is, United States Army Cargo Transport.
Footnote 8: Capt. Joseph K. Taussig commanded LITTLE; Capt. Edwin T. Pollock commanded the troop transport GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Footnote 9: Lt. John D. Pennington.
Footnote 10: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone.
Footnote 11: On 6 August Sims forwarded a cable from Wilson complaining that Wilson’s command had “no knowledge” of the “prospective arrival” of Cunningham’s command causing “considerable embarrassment due to difficulty securing accommodations while awaiting transportation.” Sims to Bureau of Navigation, 6 August 1918, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 12: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing.
Footnote 13: Maj. Gen. Charles G. Helmick.
Footnote 14: VAdm. Frédéric-Paul Moreau.