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

Ref. No.                NAVY DEPARTMENT

Op. 31 E 11/12             WASHINGTON

<February 1, 1918>

From:     Chief of Naval Operations

To:       Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forcess Forces

          Operating in European Waters

Subject:    North Sea mine barrage preparations.

     1.   In prosecution of the North sea mine barrage project, there is preparing to sail February 1, 1918, a force consisting of the

          SAN FRANCISCO, Flagship, also planter,

          BALTIMORE, mine planter,

Four vessels, USS BUFFALO class, taken over and


Two of the S.S. MASSACHUSETTS class

Two others not yet determined

The fleet tugs, SONOMA, ONTARIO, PATAPSCO, and


and a repair ship, TICONDEROGA (ex-Camilla Bickmers)

Twelve new sea-going tug mine sweepers now under construction are intended to be added, but the first one of these is not expected to be ready until March 1st, if then

     2.   In addition to the force afloat, a depot personnel is being assembled of about 2,000 enlisted men, and for each of two depots a staff of officers consisting of

1 Commander

1 Lieutenant –Commander

4 or 5 Ensigns or junior lieutenants, mechanical

              engineers, U.S.N.R.F.

1 Supply Officer

1 Medical Officer

     3.   To help the equip the depots, it is intended to bring such machinery, industrial railway and other material that will be needed as may not be readily obtainable at the depots selected. Officers for depot work are being sought who have had appropriate experience.

     4.   To obtain details of material and personnel requirements, Commander Murfin and Commander T.L. Johnson are being sent.1 A junior officer accompanies Commander Murfin, Ensign Cunningham, U.S.N.R.F.., for depot duty later.2 Commander Murfin will be in general charge of the depot work. Commander Johnson has been in command of a mine ship and has depot experience. These officers have been in conference with the Commander of the Mine Force3 and the commanding officers of the other mine ships, and are familiar with the preparations going forward here.

     It is desired that Commander Johnson return to Washington as soon as possible practicable with the information desired. A memorandum of data wanted is enclosed.4

     5.   In addition, arrangements are being made to start the depot personnel over in detachments, to obtain experience and assist in preparation of the depots.

     6.   The whole force, including the depots, will be under the Commander Mine Force, who will be under the Commander in Chief U.S. Naval <Forces> Operating in European Waters. The Commander Mine Force will have a staff consisting of

Senior Aid, Captain of the Flagship

An Aid

Flag Secretary

Force Radio Officer

Force Supply Officer

Force Surgeon will be Flagship medical officer

Force Engineer will be Flagship engineer officer.

     7.   There being few fast vessels available similar to OLD COLONY AND MASSACHUSETTS, it has been decided to use larger vessels of 14 to 15 knots, carrying a greater number of mines. These will have a capacity of about 1200 mines, with interior arrangements for getting up the lower deck load in a short time. They will carry comparatively large crews, in the neighborhood of 300 men each. Two such vessels alternating could plant their combined loads in one practically continuous line[.] Together they will have a capacity of about 5000 mines in one round trip[.] The other vessels will carry about 300 mines each, and be able to act supplementary to the larger vessels or in different areas or otherwise as may be decided later. The total planting capacity will be about 6000 mines.

     8.   For the delivery of mines it is being considered to use some twenty-four vessels of not over 250 feet length, average dead weight capacity 3,200 tons, draft loaded, not more than 20 feet, speed 9 knots,w ith naval complement. These vessels or an equal mount of tonnage, will be available and can begin sailing about January 15th,with the first deliveries of <mine> materials, a weekly supply of 5000 to 6000 mines is estimated. This matter of shipping the mines is receiving particular attention but is not yet settled.

(Signed) <W.V.> Pratt.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 2: F. P. Cunningham.

Footnote 3: Cmdr. Reginald R. Belknap.

Footnote 4: The enclosure is no longer with this document.

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