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Captain Richard H. Jackson, American Naval Representative to the Ministry of Marine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


Forwarded with our letter No.621

United States Navy Headquarters

Ministry of Marine.


July 31, 1917.

To:  Secretary of Navy (Operations).

     Subject:  AVIATION. Movements of Units in France.

     1.   The most urgent need for American Aviation in France today is the protection of American transports and commerce arriving at the mouth of the Gironde and the Loire.

     2.   PERSONNEL.     To accomplish this object the 100 men sent in May are being trained as rapidly as possible at Toirs and San Rafael.2 All of these men will be qualified as pilots, observers or mechanicians in September.

     To make a working unit for a station a total of approximately 200 men is needed – some specially trained for aviation, others simply skilled artisans in certain rates (see list).3 Without this additional personnel the unit cannot be organized.

     3.   Material. To operate a unit at the mouth of the Loire (for example), quarters, hangars, shops, crane, run-ways, must be established, and motor trucks, cars, and boats – for transportation on land and water – must be provided: also hydroplanes of different types, - scouting, bombing and chasing.

     The French are undertaking the establishment of these stations and will provide quarters, sheds, shops, run-ways and sufficient hydroplanes to commence operations. On account of the great difficulty in procuring certain equipment, they desire our Navy Department to supply motor cars, trucks, and boats, for land and water transportation (see list).4

     4. HYDROPLANES. The French Navy Department has met with great difficulty in obtaining hydroplanes even for its personal use because the entire manufacture and control of the motors is under the Ministry of War and the output is not sufficient for the needs of the Army. In order to realize the benefit of our Aviation Unit, they promised to secure for it a sufficient number to establish our units in September. Arrangements for the further supply will be made as soon as possible.

     They are looking to the United States, not only to furnish the machines needed for such Naval Units as we establish in France, but also to supply the French Navy with machines, - this on account of the great difficulty in getting them from the Ministry of War.

     Besides operations in the vicinity of the Gironde and the Loire very effective work can be done by attacking submarine as they leave their base at Zeebrugge.5 The need for this unit is most evident as several submarines arrive in and depart from that station daily.

     5. SCHOOL. In order to finish off the training of pilots and observers in the latest practice, and finished school is necessary in France. The only schools are now under the Army. The French Navy is establishing a school at Cazau. The Army school is continually crowded and so will be the French Navy school. Accordingly part of the unit now in France is being trained for an American school at La Cazau.

     6. SUMMARY. The above represents the object of the actual preparation now going on for operating at the earliest possible moment against enemy submarines off the Loire, the Gironde and Dunkerque.

     7. In order to realize the above object, it will be necessary for the Department to furnish by September 15 approximately 700 men and officers. The pilots and observers should be able to fly so that they can be sent at once to the finished school at la gazau. A certain experience and remainder drawn from the artificer class in general service.

     If facilitates the establishment of the school at la Casau and of the post at the Gironde, the Loire and Dunkerque, 4 additional officers (W.Spencer, H.T. Bartlett, A.C.Reid, and W.H.Cory)6 are needed as soon as possible.7

R.H. JACKSON.      

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

Footnote 1: This letter has not been located.

Footnote 3: This list is no longer attached to this copy.

Footnote 4: This list is no longer attached to this copy.

Footnote 5: Zeebrugge is a Belgian port city that served as a major submarine base and exit into the North Sea for German U-boats. While a targeted offensive aginast the port in April 1918 ultimately failed, frequent aerial bombing in the later months of the war greatly reduced the number of U-boats operating out of the port. Messimer, Find and Destroy: 170-176.

Footnote 7: While pilots in Europe made tremendous strides in developing technology and tactics during the war, it is unlikely naval aviation significantly altered the duration or the outcome of the war. Nevertheless, acting in conjunction with convoys, naval fliers helped preserve vital troop transports and supplies. Moreover, their efforts “created the vision, hard-knocks experience, founding myths, trained cadre, and high profile that underlay the emergence of modern naval aviation.” Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 4.

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