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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France

February 1, 1918

From      Force Commander.

To        Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, France.

Subject:      Use of unarmed ships by Navy Department

          1. The following cablegrams are quoted for your information:

Cablegram received: January 03228 [28 January 1918].

Origin: Opnav, Washington.


2490. Urgency of dispatching abroad large amount needed supplies for Army is such as to justify operation of cargo vessels in convoys without armament until armament can be supplied. Also where Navy crews not immediately available vessels will operate with present crews with such changes as necessary. Reasonable proportion of convoys should be always armed. Keep foregoing in view of in assigning escort for home voyage. 04027. Benson.1

Cablegram sent: January 28, 1918

To:  Opnav, Washington

3371. Your 2490. Meaning of last sentence not clear. Information requested. 20428. Sims.

Cablegram received January 03231 [31 January 1918].

Origin: Opnav, Washington.


2598. Your 3371. Last sentence intended as reminder that certain cargo vessels being unarmed might need special escort protection in your waters, not needed by armed vessels. 19030.


          2. It is evident from the foregoing cablegrams that the Department had in view only, the protection of unarmed ships while in the submarine zone. So long as the vessels are under escort it is of minor importance whether the vessels are armed or not; but the point arises as to their protection after they have been dispersed from the convoys when proceeding to the westward. This point is of particular importance in view of the fact that convoys may be dispersed within the present limits of submarine operations. It is requested that the protection of these unarmed vessels be considered, and that mercantile vessels of similar speed be assigned to act as consorts for these unarmed vessels until beyond the area of operations of large submarines.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The following identification marks appear at the top of the page: “11-11-14” and “01 7873”.

Footnote 1: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

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