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Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels



Battleship Division Nine

U. S. S. NEW YORK, Flagship.

9 January 1918

From:     Commander Battleship Division Nine.

To  :     Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

Via :     Force Commander.1

Subject:   U.S. DESTROYERS: assignment of to operate with BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.2

1.   It is recommended that a force of six U.S. destroyers be detailed to operate with this division for the purpose of screening, protecting etc., as is customary under like conditions in the Grand Fleet.

2.   The Grand Fleet is short of destroyers, and requires all that it now has, and could utilize a great many more to advantage if they were available.

3.   It is understood that the enemy has about double the number of destroyers with its High Sea Fleet, that are now attached to the Grand Fleet. I gather from the Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet,3 that the matter is now under discussion or consideration of having practically all of the destroyers now engaged in patrol and other work away from the fleet, made available for a grand fleet action, the idea being that when such an action is eminent, as many destroyers as possible will be utilized.

4.   I would suggest that six destroyers be detailed to co-operate with this division for a period of about six weeks at a time, and then be replaced by another unit. This would give all of our destroyers an opportunity of operating with the Grand Fleet, of familiarizing themselves with its communication, visual signals, radio, codes, tactics, manoeuvres and policy, and be of inestimable value to them from every standpoint. I am aware that it would cause inconvenience in laying out the patrolling and anti-submarine plans, yet, nevertheless, make the above recommendation, believing that in the end, should their services be suddenly required with the Grand Fleet, as the Commander-in-Chief anticipates, that they would be far more proficient and useful from having had previous experience. Also, a change in work, would no doubt be relished and be beneficial.



C.B.D. 9 file 77 of 1/9/18 Subject: U.S. Destroyers; assignment of to operate with BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.

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     3. If this be approved, would further recommend that as new destroyers arrive from the States, that they be assigned first to this work.

Copies to:

  Force Comdr.

  CinC Atl. Fleet.4

  File.                               Hugh Rodman.

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File 77.               1st endorsement.                    1/S


11 January, 1918.

From: Commander Battleship Division Nine.

To:  Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

Via: Force Commander.

     1.  Before forwarding this letter a copy was submitted to the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, for his action and information to which he replied in a personal note as follows:-

“Grand Fleet,                    

H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, Flagship,

January 11, 1918.                

My dear Admiral,

     I entirely concur with your letter and hope it will have the desired result.

     No doubt Admiral Sims will say that he is hard put to it and cannot afford to let them go yet. But when the new ones come along he might be able to meet this demand, and I am sure he approves of their gaining experience with the Grand Fleet”.

Yours sincerely,

(sgd) David Beatty.

Copies to:

  Force Comdr.

  CinC Atl. Fleet.




     CS5              2nd Indorsement.      January 15, 1918.

FROM: Force Commander.

TO  : Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

SUBJECT: Commander, Battleship Division Nine requests assignment of six United States destroyers to cooperate with that Division.

1.  In view of the fact that the number of United States and British destroyers is not sufficient to meet all of the needs of the war situation, it is necessary when considering the within request to arrive at a <decision> as to the particular fields in which the available destroyers can best be employed to further the accomplishment of our Mission.

2.  The situation presented has by my direction, been studied by the Planning Section of my Staff, which has submitted an Estimate and Decision which meets with my approval. A complete copy of this Estimate will be forwarded to the Department with other correspondence. Briefly, it is as follows:-

The basic Naval Mission of the United States and Great Britain is to further a victorious decision on land. Their general Naval Mission is to obtain command of the sea, while the Special and Immediate Mission is to obtain the sub-surface command of the sea while still retaining the surface command. The latter may still be more concretely expressed as follows:-

To defeat the enemy’s submarine campaign while still retaining command of the surface of the sea.

     3.  Will the proposed assignment of six destroyers to Battleship Division Nine be more effective in defeating the enemy’s submarine campaign than the present assignment of the available destroyers? The answer to this question is obviously no. Our destroyers are now actively engaged in protecting the Allied lines of communication and in anti-submarine warfare. Any that might be detailed to serve with the Grand Fleet would not be so occupied.

     4.  Is the proposed assignment of destroyers necessary to retain command of the surface of the sea? The answer to this question is almost as obviously no as is the answer to the first. It is nearly two years since the enemy has made any bid for the command of the surface of the sea. His present strategic position and condition would not require of him that he bring his High Seas Fleet into action. He is accomplishing his ends by attacking our communication with results which are certainly good and are apparently satisfactory to the enemy. Should he risk his High Seas Fleet and suffer defeat, the efficiency of his attack on our communications would be greatly lessened. The fact that his Fleet has not risked an engagement for nearly two years is ample justification for assuming that our control of the surface of the sea is not in jeopardy.

     5.  Furthermore, we know that we now have a sufficient superiority in numbers, and have the necessary skill, to defeat the High Seas Fleet should it seek battle. Knowing this, and knowing further, that we are as yet far from successful in our anti-submarine effort, we must conclude:

That no destroyers can be diverted from their present occupation of guarding merchant tonnage, and anti-submarine efforts, for the purpose of acting as screening vessels for the capital ships of the Grand Fleet.

/s/ WM. S. SIMS.            

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identifiers “File 77” and “1/SC.” appear at the top of the document. Sims’ endorsement is two pages long, with the heading “CS/2nd Indorsement – 2. SUBJECT: Commander Battleship Division Nine requests assignment of six United States destroyers to cooperate with that Division.” appearing at the top of the second page.

Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 2: Battleship Division Nine had recently been ordered to operate with the British Grand Fleet. See: Sims to Benson, 20 December 1917; Sims to Rodman, 20 December 1917; and Diary of Josephus Daniels, 31 December 1917.

Footnote 3: Adm. Sir David Beatty, R.N.

Footnote 4: Adm. Henry T. Mayo.

Footnote 5: Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ Chief of Staff.

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