Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker

DEC 22 1917   

From:  The Secretary of the Navy,

To:    The Secretary of War.

SUBJECT:   Re a general policy in regard to the Arming of

              Transports.

     I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of December 14, transmitting with request for an expression of the views of this Department, papers with endorsement thereon and enclosure thereto, relative to a special board to consider questions arising, and to institute a general policy in regard to the arming of transports.1

     I beg to invite attention to the fact that the papers originating this correspondence are under date of May 29, 1917, and since that date the Navy Department has under taken the furnishing of armament to all transports traversing the War Zone, whether troop, animal, or cargo transports, and by mutual agreement the Navy is now taking over the operation of many of these vessels as Naval Auxiliaries for Army purposes.

     In view of the above it does not appear necessary for a special board to consider these questions, nor to institute a policy in regard to their arming.2

     If these papers refer exclusively to Army Transports not traversing the War Zone, in view of the fact that the Navy’s present limited supply of guns makes it impracticable to furnish guns to vessels not traversing this area, it would appear that the arming of these vessels is a matter of policy entirely within the purview of the War Department.

     Should, however, it be your desire to have the Navy Department represented on a board to consider the Arming of this class of transports,this Department will be pleased to designate an Officer for this purpose.

Josephus Daniels.  

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identification number in the upper left-hand corner: “Op-24-A/8745-209.” The signature is a stamp. Note below signature: “Enclosures returned herewith.”

Footnote 1: As noted in the letter, these enclosures were returned to the War Department and have not been found.

Footnote 2: According to historians, the shipping situation at the end of 1917 was chaotic. Baker was instrumental in the creation of the Shipping Control Committee in early 1918 so what is mentioned here may have been a forerunner to that committee. See, Crowell and Wilson, The Road to France: 374-75; and Hurley, The Bridge to France: 101. For its part, the Navy on 9 January 1918 established the Naval Overseas Transport Service, which also presumably addressed the issues raised by Baker and the Army. Clephane, Naval Overseas Transportation Service: xix.

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