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Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Whiting to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

From:     Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Whiting, U.S.N.,

To  :     Secretary of the Navy (Operations) Washington D.C.

Via :     Commander, Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.

SUBJECT:  Offensive Submarine work by ships.


(a) Fleet seaplanes (method of determining suitable type) 4th endorsement Mat.5-LL 1018-17 of 11th April 1917.1

(b) Attached.

     1.   Until the present day offensive work against submarines has met with a very small amount of success, considering the time, money, material and men that have been employed in this work. Attempts have been made by ships to put down the submarine menace, with the following success:

     (a) Small submarine patrol boats. (SC) These have been unsuccessful on account of their small size, inability to keep the sea, lack of speed, inability to carry guns of large caliber (4” to 6’) and their small range of vision

     (b) Trawlers. These have also may with a lack of success when the number employed is considered and for very much the same reasons. i.e. lack of speed and gun carrying capabilities, and small range of vision.

     (c) Sloops. Ships somewhat similar to the Galveston class with good sea going qualities and fairly well armed, built with a reinforced bow to be used in ramming submarines. This types also lack speed and range of vision. Though built at considerable cost and requiring a complement of 100 men or more, they have met with but little success.

     (d) Diminutive very high speed motor boats (C.M.B.) These have not yet been built in large numbers, but are limited in radius of action and gun carrying capabilities, and very much limited in range of vision.

     In addition to the above handicaps, they vibrate and pound so much that only men with abnormally strong stomachs can stand the work, and then only for short periods of time:- from three to four hours.

     (e) Converted Yachts. These have all the disadvantages of the above boats and are as a rule sea-going ships.

     (f) Destroyers and Torpedo boats. This class of vessels has speed, gun carrying capabilities, but lacks length of vision. Its success has been almost entirely due two factors:-

     1st: its speed, which has permitted it to catch the submarine unawares.

     2nd: its depth bombs which have proved effective against submarines submerged to considerable depths. Its guns have but seldom been of use.

     (g) “Q” Boats. These have neither speed nor ranges of vision but designed merely to decoy and surprise submarines. This type has met with the greatest success when the number employed are concerned in relation to the number of submarines that have been sunk by them. This success was at first due to the fact that the submarines mistook them for merchant vessels and it continued until one submarine that was attacked by a “Q” boat escaped and warned the others. Though submarines are still being sunk by this type of vessel, this is chiefly due to the tactics adopted, which vary according to the circumstances. these vessels are not however an offensive weapon against submarines and with the advent of the submarines with 6” guns (vessels of this type are already operating in the Atlantic) they will become less and less effective and finally be discarded.

     (h) Ships of other types, such as battle-ships armored cruisers, cruisers and gun-boats, are practically unless as offensive weapons against submarines.

     2. The summarize and analyse the most successful types, we arrive at three factors that so far, have caused success:-

1. Surprise.

2. Speed, which permits of delivering an immediate attack before the submarine can seek security be descending to a safe depth and move a safe distance away.

3. Strength of attack- that is, heavy depth charge (200 pounds or more). This latter depends however upon factors (1) and (2).

4. The fourth and most desirable quality is range of vision. This has not been attained to any extent by any of the above seven different types of vessels. It is however probably the most important of all for at present the submarine – except in a very few cases in which it is surprised – sees the enemy vessel first (there is amply testimony on this subject from our yachts at Brest and Destroyers at Queenstown – from British SS’s, or from any naval officer who has hunted submarines) and is able to prepare to attack or to disappear, as it seems fit.

3. So far, therefore, the work against the submarines has been really defensive for it takes all the time of these seven different types of vessels to keep the submarine under within a very limited distance of the shore (200 miles). The use of these seven types, while taking a large number of men, a vast amount of equipment, and a great expenditure of money, has, so far, only hindered the submarine in its work. To combat the submarine with success after they reach the high seas, it is necessary:-

(a) to see the submarine before she sees you;

(b) to deliver an attack before the submarine can reach a safe depth and distance:

(c) to attack with sufficient force to cause immediate and serious damage to the submarine, so that at least it can no longer remain submerged.

     I feel quite sure that this can be done by the combined use of a ship and seaplane. reference (A) describes such a ship, that is immediately available. The seaplane provides first – the means of seeing the submarine before being seen, and second – the speed for delivering the quickest form of attack, as well as being able to drop depth charges which will be effective (two char[g]es of 200 pounds each). The means of putting at least two of these vessels in commission within four months is described in Reference (B) attached.2

/s/  K.Whiting.

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 341.

Footnote 1: Document referred to has not be found.

Footnote 2: Reference B was not attached and has not been found.