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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

Action Copy

Cablegram Received 07501 [1 February 1918]  EWC Jan.

Origin Opnav Washington                    Ser. No. 2628

Ref’d to







          27 ADR


2628. Your 3451.2 Status of plans is as follows: it was referred to War Department which on January 24th sent following cable to General Pershing.3 Quote. The Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, have prepared plans for 3 railroad mountings for 14-inch 50 caliber guns and 5 for 7-inch guns. 14-inch guns can be ready for shipment about June 1st and the seven inch about September 1st. 10 14-inch guns and 20 7-inch are now available for railroad mounts. Proportion of 4 guns to 1 mount is about same as that used by British. Admiral Sims recommends that United States furnish all necessary personnel including mechanics, engineers, gun crews and all personnel required to erect, operate and transport batteries. British War Office is desirous to secure these guns. It is desired that careful consideration be given to this matter and recommendations submitted in regard thereto at your earliest convenience, both as to desirability of using these guns and the front where they are to be used. Navy guns differ from Army on length fire control (Signed) Biddle, Acting Chief of Staff Unquote4 Navy Department waiting reply to that cable. Would it expedite matter for you to communicate this information to War Office and suggest they also get in touch with General Pershing. Navy willing to cooperate every way but anxious place guns where they will do most good at earliest moment. 22131.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identifying marks appear at the top of the page: “OP-23-H” and “OE-1447”. The brainchild of RAdm. Ralph Earle, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, the railroad guns were perhaps one of the most unique contributions that the Navy made to the overall war effort. The Baldwin Locomotive Works produced the guns, locomotives, and special railway cars for the mountings, completing them by May 1918, when everything was then shipped to St. Nazaire. The following July, the first of the five batteries was ready for use, whereupon RAdm. Charles P. Plunkett assumed command of them; Still, Crisis at Sea, 82-84.

Footnote 1: Sims’ Chief of Staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining.

Footnote 2: This document has not been located.

Footnote 3: Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 4: Gen. John Biddle. Biddle served as the Acting Chief of Staff, United States Army while Gen. Tasker H. Bliss, Chief of Staff, United States Army, was in Europe first during his time as a member of the House Commission and then while Bliss discharged his duties as the American Permanent Military Representative, Supreme War Council.

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