Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

 

[Extract]

8th December 1917.

FROM:     Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral Sims, U.SN.1

TO:       Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

SUBJECT:  General Report.

          Vice Admiral Sims has not yet returned from Paris and consequently this report is confined to routine matters and statements of fac t without expressions of opinion or recommendations.

1.  ENEMY OPERATIONS.

The “Weekly Appreciation” of the British Admiralty for the week ending 1st December has just been received and a copy is forwarded.2 It is requested that this document be guarded with great care as it is regarded by the Admiralty as being very secret. As this paper has just been received, there has not been time to examine it with care or to make such comment as might be suggested on such examination.

During the week 25th November to 1st December, ten to eleven large enemy submarines were out, their activity being mainly confined to the English Channel, the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay.

Great activity was experienced off Start Point and the Lizard in which area [two words crossed out] several casualties occurred.3

In the Irish Sea two boats were working with success and towards the end of the week one was active among the small craft off the northern Cornish Coast.

The area between Spurn Head and the Tees4 was markedly quiet in contrast to previous weeks.

It would appear that at least two or three submarines were operating in the Bay of Biscay during this week but their efforts did not meet with much success.

The cruiser submarine was last heard of on 26 November in the vicinity of the Azores. The British Admiralty expresses the opinion that this boat is another of the converted Deutschland type, and not a large submarine built originally for military purposes. This opinion is bases<d> on reports as to the appearance of the vessel and it is probably correct.

     Another large boat, possible<y> of the same type, is working her way slowly outward apparently bound for the same region. This is probably the submarine reported by the s.s. CITY OF WILMINGTON on November 29 in latitude 41.15 N longitude 33.25 W.

     An important feature in the submarine campaign during the last few days is the adoption of the English Channel route by practically all outward bound U boats. The British Admiralty state that, until recently, it was the exception for vessels to take this route but that it is now the rule. The advnatages <advantages> of this policy from the enemy point of view are so obvious that he may be expected to continue it somlong [i.e. so long] as he finds it practicable to pass his submarines through the Straits of Dover, with a high percentage of security. I have not been informed as yet of any measures taken by the Admiralty to meet this enemy move. . . .

     2.  MINE LAYING BY SUBMARINES.

     The situation for the week ending December 1st was about the same as the previous week. Activity so far as t<h>e British Isles was concerned being confined to the S.E. coast of England where thirty-eight mines were destroyed.

     From French sources it is reported that twenty-one mines were seen but not destroyed and twenty-five were destroyed. Seven ships were sunk or injured by mines during the week ending Sunday November 22.

     An interestin<g> compilations of the results of torpedo and mine warfare has been made in the staff office in Paris and copies of the tables and draughts are forwarded herewith showing the results of attacks by torpedo, gun and mine together with the tonnage sunk or damaged from the 1st January 191<7> through the month of November. . . .

U.S.S WAINWRIGHT.

     As previously reported the WAINWRIGHT collided with a steamer called the CHICAGO CITY. The collission occurred at sea at about 3:10 <a.m.> 24 November. A Board of Investigation was ordered on 29 November and the report has been forwarded to the Department. The WAINWRIGHT will be repaired at the Bushbrook Docks, Queenstown, the estkmated <estimated> time required being three weeks.

U.S.S. CUMMINGS.

     This ship bent two of her propeller blades by striking a buoy off Rosselare. She was decked and a spare propeller put on.

U.S.S MELVILLE.

     This vessel was decked November 20th and undecked November 23rd. No repairs were found necessary beyond the ordinary cleaning, painting and overhauling of valves. The paint generally was found in excellent condition.

U. S. S. CASSIN.

     On 26th November the medical officers pronounced this ship free from all infection and she has since gone to Newport Wales, towed and escorted by H.M.S. SNOWDROP and ZINNIA. As a result of the medical examiner<t>ion of the crew, four men were quarantined at the Royal Naval Hospital at Haulbowline as meningococcus carriers.

U. S. S. Jacob Jones.

     This vessel was torpedoed about 4:20 p.m. December 6th, in latatude 49.20 N. longitude 6.22 W. All of the facts regarding the incident so far as known at present have been communicated to the Department by cable and when all circumstances are known, a special report will be made. At present it is positively known that two officers namely, Ensign S. F. Kalk and Temporary Gunner H. R. Hood were lost.5 There are 44 known survivors including five officers and thirty-nine enlisted men, one of the latter (name unknown) having been taken prisoner by the submarine.

TRAINING BARRACKS.

     About six hundred and thirty-five men are now quartered in these barracks but no more can be quartered there until the work of preparing the barracks for their accommodation has been completed. The completion of this work awaits the arrival of material ordered from the United States.

U.S.S. ROE AND MONAGHAN.

     In connection with the extracts from War Diaries appended hereto,6 it will be noted that on the 3rd page mention is made of the fact that the U.S..S. MONAGHAN was towed by the SAN DIEGO during the operation of the trip across the Atlantic. This vessel and the ROE arrived at Brest with the SAN DIEGO and the Force Commander supposed they had sailed with the U.S.S. MOUNT VERNON and so reported. It was learned later, however, that they had sailed merely as escort and had returned at <to> Brest.

     As the Ocean Tanker has been removed and there is no oil at the Azores, it is not at present apparent how the ROE and MONAGHAN can be sent home unless they are towed by some other vessel part of the way. A report from Rear Admiral Wilson on this subject is being awaited.7

     . . . . With respect to the relations between American and British bluejackets referred to in two of these reports, the Force Commande<r> has been informed that some friction has arisen at Gibraltar owing to our men having made remarks about the United States having come into the war to help England and British sailors having remarked on the United States having come in for a joy-ride after the war had been won by Great Britain. There seems to be a radical difference in the point of view which cannot be reconciled but instructions have been issued to all of the American forces to refrain so far as possible from making remarks as those above mentioned and to bear constantly in mind that whatever the conditions may have been in the past, the fact now is that we are all working for a common end and that there is no question of assistance from one party to another.

. . . . A copy of a report from the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. CHRISTABEL8 is forwarded herewith which contains information concerning the sinking of British steamer JUTLAND which was sunk in convoy on November 19. There were thirty-seven ships in this convoy and the JUTLAND was the next to the last ship in the port column. At the time she was torpedoed she was not 500 yards out of position.

. . . . In accordance with the Department’s orders, Lieut. Commander E. O. Coffee, Reserve Force, was detached from the command of the BATH and sent home by the U.S.S. AGAMEMNON. He was relieved in command by Lieutenant A. D. Walters, Reserve Force, of the U.S.S. NERO.9

A separate report has been made regarding Lieut. Commander Coffee who seems to be an officer of good intentions and of sufficient ability as a seaman to justify his being placed in command of an auxiliary vessel but not capable of exercising command in a tac<t>ful and successful manner with respect to his personnel. He had worked himself up into a highly nervous condition so that it would have been necessary to relieve him of his command even if the Department had not so ordered. It is thought that after a short period of rest at home he will be able to resume duty but it is not recommended that he be again sent to the front. . . .

10.  THE NORTH SEA MINING PROJECT.

The second consignment of personnel arrived a few <d>ays ago and the Petty Officers andrated men have been sent to Devonport Dockyard for instruction in mine assembly. The Seamen 2nd class, have been sent to the MELVILLE and are quartered in the barracks on shore. A cable has already been sent to the Bureau of Naviagation requesting thatno further men for this project be sent until notice has been given that they can be received and taken care of. The barracks and vessels at Queenstown are already crowded to their capacity and there will be no possibility of taking additional men until the barracks are completed as stated in a previous portion of this report.

<N.C.Twining.>

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identifying marker “C.S.” appears in the upper-left corner. A list of enclosures is provided below the signature, but these were not included with this copy of the document.

Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 2: This document has not been found.

Footnote 3: Two peninsulas in southern England. Start Point is located in Devon and The Lizard in Cornwall.

Footnote 4: Spurn is a small tidal island in the North Sea off the coast of Yorkshire, England. The River Tees flows through Yorkshire into the North Sea.

Footnote 5: Lt. Stanton F. Kalk, who was officer-of-the-deck at the time of the torpedoing, initially survived the sinking and was afloat among the survivors in the frigid waters of the North Sea. He heroically “swam from one raft to another in the icy sea to equalize the weight on the rafts and help fellow sailors until he succumbed to exposure during the night.” For his heroism, he was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Cross and had two destroyers named after him. Out of 110 men aboard Jacob Jones at the time of her sinking, 62 perished. DANFS.

Footnote 6: This enclosure was not included in this copy of the report.

Footnote 7: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, Patrol Squadrons Based on the French Coast. Wilson’s report has not been located.

Footnote 8: Lt. Herbert B. Riebe. Riebe’s report has not been located.

Footnote 9: Lt. Cmdr. Earl O. Coffey, Naval Auxiliary Reserve; possibly Lt. Albert B. Walters, Naval Auxiliary Reserve.

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