Skip to main content

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France


24th August, 1918.

From:     Force Commander.

To:       Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France, Brest.

Subject: Walzer Device installed on U.S.S. ISABEL.1

     1.   It is requested that you notify this office by cable in sufficient time before completion of the work on the ISABEL, so that representatives from the Anti-Submarine Section may arrive in Brest to hold tests before the vessel takes up her regular duties.

     2.   Owing to the shortage of personnel trained in the design, installation and upkeep of detection devices, at present there is no one available who can be sent to Brest for permanent work of that nature.

     3.   It therefore will be necessary for you to designate some officer of sufficient technical and practical ability to take charge of this work. He should be instructed to inform himself as much as possible upon all matters pertaining to detection devices. The following devices are now available at Brest for his inspection and study:- K-tube, C-tube, Trailing wire, Walzer and 4-3.2 The new destroyers being put in service are being fitted with MV devices3 and oscillator of an advanced type, and some of these will also be available for his [s]tudy in a short time. Twenty OS-tubes (towing K-tubes) have been ordered for Brest. Pamphlets on the.K-tube, tank type and boom type, and pamphlets on the OS tube have been sent to Brest, and these should be thoroughly studied by the above mentioned officer.

     4.   The K-tubes now on hand at Brest are the drifting type desigdfor [i.e., designed for] use on chasers. The British are using these in exectly the same manner as the chasers do, on their trawlers and drifters; and it is thought that perhaps you can make use of some of these on trawlers and smaller yachts under your command. With slight modification by ship’s force with the aid of the repair ship, these drifting K-tubes can be adapted for overboard use from booms as has been done by many of the Queenstown destroyers.

     5.   The records of this office show that there are now 62 complete sets of K-tubes at Brest, and 13 complete sets of K-tubes at Pauillac. Of the former, 27 will soon be turned over to the British forces, leaving you 35 complete sets. The 13 sets at Pauillac were sent for use on U.S. airships (dirigibles) but it is considered doubtful whether they will all be needed for some time, and if necessary some of these could be used for surface vessels.

     6.   It is suggested that you bring to the attention of all officers, the importance of making the most of detection devices. It is realized that none of the devices are perfect, and that many times they appear to be absolutely useless, but even a poor device is better than none. The successful use of a device when circumstances are favourable will result in the saving of many times its value in ships, cargoes, and lives, and therefore the constant watch for such an opportunity should never be neglected.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 339.

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). See also: Wilson to Sims, 4 August 1918.

Footnote 2: These were listening devices designed to detect submarines while they were submerged. For descriptions, see Norman Friedman, Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics and Technology, 290-300.

Footnote 3: The MV Device (Multiple Unit Variable Compensated Acoustic Tubes) was an advanced variation of the K-Tube listening device developed by Charles Max Mason. Ibid., 296-97.

Related Content