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Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Rear Admiral Albert T. Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force

24th December 1917.     

From:     Commander, U.S.Naval Forces operating in European Waters.1

To:       Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force.

Subject:  Confidential Orders for ships in Convoy.

Reference:(a) Cruiser Force and Transport Force Pamphlet of 10 October 1917 re Orders for Ships in Convoy.2

(b) My letter of 19 November, 1917.-37/2/13

          The following additional suggestions are offered for consideration in connection with reference (a).


          There is no objection to the use of low power radio in the zone. While the use of radio should be minimized its use at night is preferable to that of flash lights, as most of our convoys have efficient radio operators. Changes of course, formation, and so forth at night can be better signaled by radio than by visual signals.


          It is suggested that Zigzags plan 2 and 3 be printed on a separate page with a note that these zigzags are not suitable for use of the convoy, but may be used by a single vessel if not under escort. A single vessel under escort will obtain more efficient protection from the escort if plans similar to 1, 4 and 5 are followed. In connection with paragraph 70 it is suggested that when the convoy commander wishes to stop zigzagging in fog or at night a low power radio signal be sent.

Whistle Signal.

          Paragraph 83.  During the Court of Inquiry following the torpedoing of the U.S.S.FINLAND, it was brought out that whistle signals were used both for “Submarine Sighted” and “Abandon Ship”. The senior naval officer on board testified that he gave the whistle signal “Submarine Sighted”, whereas a number of witnesses testified they thought the signal had been given “Abandon Ship”.


          Paragraph 58.  It is considered that this evolution is a dangerous one if performed without signal when the ships are in line formation. It is suggested that low power radio be used.

Night Attack.

          Paragraph 77.  It is considered that this evolution is very likely to result in collisions. It is suggested the convoy proceed at full speed, and that the ship in danger operate against the submarine and look out for herself as regards collision. The gunfire in the direction of the submarine would probably not prove an effective signal, especially for a fair sized convoy. In submarine waters the convoy will normally be in line abreast formation, both day and night, and any sudden changes of course without signal are likely to result in confusion and perhaps collision.

Navigation Lights.

          Paragraph 45.  It is suggested that the main streaming light be not shown.

Gun Crews.

     Paragraph 29.  While in submarine waters, it is suggested that one gun forward and one gun aft be kept loaded and manned night and day if the complement of the vessels will permit.

Crew on Deck.

          Paragraph 60.  While in submarine waters it is suggested that all troops be called one hour before daybreak.

(Sgd.) N. C. TWINING    

Captain, U.S.Navy. 

Chief of Staff.    

Signed for Vice-Admiral Sims

in his absence.    

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Addressed below close: “Copy to Operations.” Document reference: “01. 4006 37/2/1.”

Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims.

Footnote 3: For more information, see: Sims to Josephus Daniels, 20 November 1917.

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