Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
From: Commander, U.S. Naval Forces operating in European Waters.
To: Secretary of the Navy (Operations).
Subject: Use of Large Ships as Troop Transports.
1. I have just had a conference with the Admiralty and the Ministry of Shipping regarding the use of the LEVIATHAN, OLYMPIC, AQUITANIA and MAURETANIA1 as troop transports. The following points were discussed:-
Use of large Ships.
There was complete accord in the opinion that the use of these ships for carrying troops introduces a considerable element of danger, owing to the large targets that these vessels make. I pointed out, however, that this added danger would have to be accepted in order to carry out the programme of troop transport. The Admiralty officials wished to have it recorded that they considered the increase in danger of using these large vessels was marked, and that we might expect to lose one of these vessels at any time. All agreed, however, that the shipping situation demanded that these vessels be used for troop transports, assuming the necessity for early transfer of a large number of troops from America. Every effort will be made to give these vessels adequate protection.
Suitable Ports for Large Vessels.
A representative of the Ministry of Shipping desired that all of these vessels should use Brest, but it was pointed out that Brest has no facilities for handling these ships, and cannot provide the necessary coal. The Admiralty officials were opposed to the use of Southhampton on account of the added danger of submarines. In this I agree under present conditions. There remain only the ports of Liverpool and Glasgow. Of these Glasgow cannot provide docks, and there is difficulty in providing water and coal. Liverpool is the only port that can be satisfactorily used, and even this port has many limitations. Already it is congested. During the past few weeks a greater number of submarines than usual have passed northabout instead of through Dover Straits, and have entered the English Channel via the Irish Sea. This has greatly added to the dangers of the use of Liverpool; but at the same time the port is safer than that of Southhampton under present condition, and is the only port that can be used for these large vessels. In an emergency these vessels can be anchored in the Clyde below Glasgow; but troops would have to be transferred by tugs, and tugs would also have to remain in attendance in the event of the vessels dragging.
Rapidity of Trips.
Liverpool under present conditions can handle only two of the large ships at a time. It was decided to adopt a programme whereby two vessels would leave Liverpool, and two arrive each month,
and two arrive each month. This would mean that it would require 8 weeks for a round trip of each of the large ships. Full advantage can be taken of the dark of the moon for all crossings, and it is hoped to arrange the sailings so that the destroyer escort for the vessels leaving Liverpool can be utilised to pick up the inbound vessels for Liverpool.
Order of Sailing.
It has not been definitely decided how the vessels will be paired in the sailings. It would be desirable to pair the LEVIATHAN and MAURENTANIA if this does not slow up the programme. Otherwise another group will have to be made. A definite programme of sailings will be made out as soon as the MAURETANIA and AQUITANIA have been prepared for service. The MAURETANIA is practically ready now, and the AQUITANIA should be ready before the end of the month.
I think it is XXXXXX clear to the Department that there is some added risk in using these large vessels, and that there are many limitations to the employment of these vessels. We are restricted to use of British harbours, owing to the lack of suitable harbors in France and lack of coal in France. With the submarine situation as it is at present and as it has been for some time, we are practically restricted to the use of Liverpool, and the congestion and lack of facilities in this port for large vessels restricts us to having not more than two of these large vessels in port at the same time. Liverpool has but two berths that can accommodate these large ships under all conditions.
It will be necessary to arrange westward sailings in advance of the arrival of eastbound transp orts.
Captain, U.S. Navy,
Chief of Staff.
Signed for Vice-Admiral Sims
in his absence.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: LEVIATHAN, formerly the S.S. Vaterland, was a German passenger ship. Early in the war it was interned at Hoboken, New Jersey, and the U.S. seized the ship immediately upon declaring war. OLYMPIC was a large American yacht acquired by the Navy shortly after the U.S. entered the war. The identity of the other two ships is unknown. See: Sims to Wilson, 8 February 1918.