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Captain Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, United States Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


1742                U.S.Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.

          4 Place d’Iena,

        Paris, France.

January 21st, 1918.

From: Commander, U.S.Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.

To  :  Force Commander.

Subject:  Estimate of the locations of U.S.Naval Aircraft

Stations in Europe, their missions of operation, the

probable extent to which they will be capable of carrying out these missions, and the dates at which effective operations may be expected.

1.             For the information of the Force Commander and of the Planning Section of the United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, I have to submit herewith a statement of the locations of the United States Naval Aircraft Stations in Europe, their missions of operation as I understand it, the probable extent to which they will be capable of carrying out these missions and the dates on which these stations may be expected to operate effectively to a limited and to a full extent.

2.             The aircraft stations may be divided into three subdivisions in accordance with their missions of operation.

     (a)       SPECIAL STATIONS. Under this heading will be classed the station at Dunkerque and stations No.14 and No.15 in England.1 The station at Dunkerque is more of an offensive, as it was established with the idea of reinforcing the stations established there by the French and English. The mission of this station is to offensively attack submarines while cruising in the shallow waters off the coast of Belgium, operating from the German submarine bases, and also to operate offensively against the German seaplanes operating from the coast of Belgium. The extent to which this station may be capable of carrying out this mission depends on the relative strength of the combined Allied aircraft equipment in comparison with that maintained by the enemy on this coast. The American equipment maintained at this station will at the beginning consist of 16 bombing seaplanes and 16 combat machines. The French are now operating at this station, but the British have recently abandoned their seaplane station at this point and probably attempt to carry out the same mission from some other station. The American station will be operating to about one half of its capacity about February fifteenth and to its full capacity about March first. Special Stations No. 14 and No. 15. These stations were organized for the offensive operation in conjunction with the British from some seaplane station to be erected in England. As the equipment and personnel for these stations are to be organized in America especially for the stations, no date can be given as to the probable time of beginning operations. The status of continuing these stations will depend on the success of their first operations.

     (b) IRISH STATIONS. The stations are being built at Bantry Bay,2 Queenstown, Wexford, and Lough Foyle. These stations were decided upon and the locations selected, with the object of protecting the shipping approaching and leaving the Irish Sea ports; Bantry Bay, Queenstown and Wexford covering the approaches from the southwest and Lough Foyle covering the approaches from the northwest. These stations will be equipped as follows:

               Bantry Bay,   24 Large Americas.3

               Queenstown,   24 Large Americas.

               Wexford       18 Large Americas.

               Lough Foyle   18 Large Americas.

Basing on what we already know of the capabilities of seaplanes of this type, we can assume that one half of the complement of seaplanes will be in operation at all times except in extreme weather conditions and that these seaplanes can scout over areas at least fifty miles to sea from their base. If circles of fifty miles’ radius are drawn from these seaplane bases, it will be seen that the circles of operations of the three stations on the south coast will overlap and cover the area including the islands and bay from the southwest coast of Ireland, well up into the Irish Sea, covering the whole of the straits between Cape St. David and Point Carnsore.4 So a ship, coming from the southwest and making a landfall on Cape Clear, keeping within twenty miles of the coast, would be under the protection of the seaplanes until they have passed well up into the Irish Sea. The station at Lough Foyle covers and area of operation from the Island of Aran to the Island of Islay. Should it develop that these seaplanes are capable of operating 100 miles from their base, it is seen that a much larger field of operation would be covered; but the for the present I believe that a 50 mile radius of patrol is as much as can be expected with the number of seaplanes available at the different stations, though a convoy for 100 miles at sea may be depended upon. The delivery of equipment for these stations from America is rather uncertain and influenced by the urgency of the stations No.14 and No.15. It is expected, however, that by May 15th, these stations will be operating to one half capacity and by July 1st to full capacity.

     (c) FRENCH PATROL STATIONS. The French Patrol Stations have been located at Treguier, L’Aber-Vrach, Brest, Ile Tudy, LeCroisic, Fromentine, Saint Trojan and Arcachon.5 These stations were located with the idea of protecting the ports at which American transports may be expected to land, that is, at the three ports, Brest, St. Nazaire, and Bordeaux. The mission of these stations is more of a defensive mission, that is, to deny to the enemy the area within a certain distance of the port, thereby denying him the advantage of lying close into the port of making his attack in restricted area. It will be seen that a number of stations have been established in the Province of Finistere, around Brest, as it is believed this will be a useful field of operation as submarines must pass around this point before entering the Bay of Biscay. By drawing 50 mile radius circles from these stations it is seen that the circles will overlap in each case and cover the complete French coast from the Island of Jersey to fifty miles below Arcachon, taking in all the islands and shoal water where the enemy’s submarines may possibly operate. By drawing circles of 100 mile radii around these stations, it is seen that the field of operations is greatly enlarged, taking in the whole western end of the British Channel. The stations at Brest, Fromentine and Arcachon will be equipped with the large America type of seaplanes and are so situated as to offer convoying seaplanes for the three ports, Brest, Saint Nazaire and Bordeaux. The station at Arcachon, having an area of operation of only fifty miles, does not quite reach the entrance of the mouth of the Gironde, but is situated so as to protect the flank from the south.

          The other stations will be equipped with the smaller size seaplanes and their mission will be more of local patrol duty. When all these stations are in full operation, basing on the assumption that at least one half of the seaplanes will be ready for service at all times, it is believed that the west coast of France can be successfully patrolled and denied to the enemy submarines during daylight for a distance of fifty miles out. We now have one station at Le Croisic, operating on one fourth complement. It is believed that with the estimated delivery of material, the stations having smaller type of seaplanes will be operating one half complement by May 1st, and full complement by June 1st, and that the stations having large America seaplanes will be operating at one half complement by June first and full complement by July first.

     (d) In addition to the seaplane stations on the west coast of France, there will be DIRIGIBLE STATIONS erected at Brest, Paimboeuf, Rochefort and Arcachon. From data collected on the operations of dirigible stations in Europe it has been decided that the missions of dirigible stations will be for convoy duty only, and possibly for the searching of mine fields. Their offensive operation against submarines is doubtful and due to their lack of speed and to weather conditions, the number of days on which they can be operated is very much below that of a seaplane. Under favorable weather conditions, however, the dirigible can successfully operate in convoy duty for 100 miles at sea. By drawing circles of 100 miles radius, it is seen that these stations are so situated that their circle of operations will overlap and thoroughly cover the approaches of the three landing ports, Brest, Saint Nazaire and Bordeaux. We now have one Dirigible station at Paimboeuf, operating one half capacity. It is believed that by July first all stations will be operating to one half capacity and by September first to full capacity. The equipment of these stations will be four dirigibles each.

          In addition to the seaplane and dirigible stations enumerated above, KITE BALLOON STATIONS will be established at Lough Swilly, Berehaven, Brest, La Trinte,6 and probably at Rochefort. The missions of the kite balloon is to act as look-out and increase the field of vision of convoy ships or trawlers. It can be used in practically any state of weather. It will be used by the trawlers to facilitate their work in finding and sweeping mine fields, and by convoying ships to increase their field of vision while on convoy duty. It is believed that eventually at least two ships in a convoy should be equipped with kite balloons, which they will carry with them to and from America. The Station at Berehaven will probably be operating by March first. Buildings have not been started at other stations, but as it does not take very long to provide the necessary equipment, these stations could be ready for operation by July 1st.

3.        The personnel required to man all the stations enumerated above is as follows:

                    25 Commanding Officers

                   155 Doctors, Paymasters, Intelligence and

                              other officers.

                   648 Pilots

                   152 Observers

                  9200 Enlisted Men.

Provisions have been made to provide this personnel.

s/d  H. I. CONE    

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The first two lines are a running head at the top of each page with “1742” being expanded to denote each additional page, i.e., “1742-2,” 1742-3,” etc., up to “1742-5.” Also along the top of each page is the identifying number in columnar fashion: “1/2/3/G.”

Footnote 1: The Americans established two naval air stations in England at Killingholme and Eastleigh. It is not known which of these stations was 14 and which was 15.

Footnote 2: Whiddy Island was the base on Bantry Bay.

Footnote 3: Presumably, Curtiss H-12 flying boats.

Footnote 4: That is, St. George’s Channel.

Footnote 5: That is Tréguier, L’Aber Vrac’h, Brest, Île-Tudy, Le Croisic, Fromentine, Saint-Trojan-les-Bains, and Arcachon. For more on all the stations mentioned in this report, see, Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: passim.

Footnote 6: That is, La Trinité-sur-Mer.

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