Skip to main content

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

Subject Copy.                          File No. <4-6-5>

CABLEGRAM SENT      August 25, 1918 JCM

To  Opnav. Washington                   Serial No. 3545 A-1                 SX   D.R.

                                   45 ARD


3545 Operations covering period of four mo<n>ths have demonstrated absolute unsuitability of Dunkirk as seaplane base. Manipulation of seaplanes in the small and congested harbor extremely hazardous and inventory of our casualties condemns Dunkirk from this point of view. Both British and French have experienced same trouble on larger scale.1

     Strongly recommend that for this station there be substituted DH-4s2 in addition to those now allocated to Northern Bombing Group as they become available for this purpose to be operated from the Northern Bombing Group Flying Fields. These aeroplanes to have same mission as seaplanes in patrolling off Belgian Coast and in Dover Straits.

     If Liberty Fighter H. <A>.3 materializes it might be used to good advantage from Killingholme or similar station possessing better harbor facilities   111025 3545


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Note handwritten between end of text and signature: “Ref: Cable sent out Sept.10. asking reply to this.”

Footnote 1: On the origin of this recommendation to abandon Dunkirk as a seaplane base, see Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat, 74-76. As seen there, the Navy Department authorized that the base be abandoned on 12 September.

Footnote 2: The DH-4 was a British two-seat biplane. It was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland (hence "DH") and was the first British two-seat light day-bomber to have effective defensive armament.

Footnote 3: The Curtiss HA (sometimes called the “Dunkirk Fighter”) was a two-seat biplane with a central float and balancing floats on the wingtips and powered by a Liberty 12 engine. At the time of this letter work was being done on prototypes of this plane but because of the end of the war, it was never put into production. Enzo Angelucci, The American Fighter (New York: Orion, 1987), 116-17. It was intended to respond to seaplanes that the Germans were reportedly developing that could land on the water and wait, thus conserving fuel. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat, 75.

Related Content