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


Date:  August 3, 1918.

To  :  Opnav.

Prep. by: CS.       Approved NCT.  Code 45 ADR    No. S.B.21


     URGENT. Simben 21. Your Simben 8.1 I believe it extremely dangerous to base a plan on assumption that information of enemy’s escape will be obtained otherwise than through news of an attack. There is certainly a small chance that this information will be available and in long nights of winter chances will be very much against this early information. I believe safety requires plan should be based on assumption that one or more battle-cruisers will be at large in Atlantic with ample fuel supply and in a position to attack convoys before we have any knowledge of their exit from home ports. Only possible protection against this danger is battleship escort of convoys inaugurated before the danger arises. This would subject the battleships to a relatively small risk of being torpedoed as compared with the great risk of one or more convoys of many thousand troops being destroyed before <measures> could be taken to protect them. I have consistently advocated this plan and am convinced that no other can offer the same certainty of protection to troop and other convoys. The following comments are submitted on Department’s plan as set forth in its cablegram:

     Assembly of large number of merchant ships at Azores dangerous because of possible submarine attack and extraordinary marine risks due to assembly so many vessels. Think general principle of action should be to keep all convoys moving towards destination. To turn back shipping or to deflect it towards other than terminal ports would make anti-submarine escort impossible in many cases and would introduce refueling difficulties xxx that would tie up many vessels until fuel could be sent to them.

     Battleships based on Irish port as proposed would be available to escort to safe positions such troop convoys as might be in danger area when alarm was given and this is deemed a safer plan than to have such convoys proceed to destination unescorted or to have them proceed to Azores. If Department should decide to adhere to its plan of having battleships go to the Azores to furnish escort to shipping assembled there, it is suggested that the Tagus River would be a better base than an Irish port, being three hundred miles nearer the Azores.

     When Department has decided on general principle of plan I will take up whole question with British Admiralty. Final plan must be a joint plan taking cognizance of all Allied shipping. 22003.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identification number “3/C/H/0/4” appears in the upper-right corner in columnar fashion.

Footnote 1: See: Benson to Sims, 30 July 1918.

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