Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander-in-Chief, Southern Ireland

August 24.1918

My dear Admiral,

          Now that we have finally gotten some of the submarine chasers sent to Queenstown, I want to tell you of the attitude of our Navy Department towards these boats. Nobody pretends now that they are a good type of boat for submarine chasing but we hope that we can get some valuable service out of them as submarine hunters.

          Having these boats, the Navy Department went with considerable enthusiasm into the question of developing their use in connection with listening devices of various types. They established a very considerable experiment station at New London, Connecticut, and connected it closely with the Naval Advisory Committee of thirty scientists and established a laboratory for the use of the latter.

          From this aggregation of talent was developed various listening devices. One of our best officers1 was placed in charge of the experimental work with these devices, in connection with both destroyers and submarine chasers. They also did a certain amount of work during this experimentation in developing the proper tactics to use in hunting submarines with these boats. Unfortunately, they did not get very far with this tactical work, but it is now proceeding with the thirtysix destroyers2 at Corfu and with the thirtysix at Plymouth. This work is, of course, still in the experimental stage, but we hope that the actual operations being carried out at Plymouth and Corfu, as well as the training and experiments carried out against allied submarines at these bases will soon supply us with a pretty clear idea as to what the tactics of these boats should be.

          The Navy Department’s attitude towards these chasers is, that being unsuitable for escort work, they should be used offensively. They are very desirous to see them succeed in tracking down submarines. It is therefore their wish they be used exclusively for hunting. This is also the opinion of the Allied Naval Council, which discussed the operations of these boats more or less extensively.

          There has, of course, been very considerable pressure brought to bear to have these vessels assigned to duties other than hunting. The French were quite insistent that a number of them should be assigned to patrol and convoy work along the Algerian coast. The Italians were equally insistent that they should have some of them for the western coast of Italy. Our own air people have been keen to get a lot of them to work with the coastal air stations. This did not of course meet with the approval of our Navy Department, who wish these vessels used only for hunting, except, of course, in case of emergency.

          In order to show the attitude that has been taken in respect of them, I enclose herewith a memorandum giving certain quotations from papers and discussions before the Allied Naval Council, and certain instructions that have been issued to the commanders of the bases from which these boats are now operating.3

          In so far as the instructions are concerned, they embody the experience we have had to date. A much more complete paper on this subject is now being mimeographed and copies will be sent out at once.

          The chasers now operating at Corfu and at Plymouth are really in competition with each other, as to which can first develop a system of tactics that will prove successful. Up to the present time, as you doubtless know, the listening devices have proved to be reasonably successful in tracking a submarine, but, generally speaking, they have failed in the very essential requirement of being able to “kill” the submarine.

          In examining a number of the reports of these chasers, it has been apparent that the failure to “kill” the submarine was due sometimes to faults in the tactics, and sometimes to lack of experience on the part of the personnel. I am in great hopes that before very long some one of the commanders of the bases from which these boats are operating will succeed in developing the tactics that will make these boats and their devices highly successful.

Very sincerely yours,        

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 47. Addressed below close: “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N.,/Admiralty House./Queenstown.”

Footnote 1: This is likely Capt. Richard H. Leigh.

Footnote 2: This is a mistake, Sims meant submarine chasers.

Footnote 3: This attachment is no longer with the letter and has not been found.

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