Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Captain Samuel S. Robinson, Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet

 

COPY

NAVY DEPARTMENT.

July 26, 1917

To: Captain Samuel S. Robinson, U.S.N.

     Commander, Submarine Force.

     Atlantic Fleet.

Subject; Senior Member of Board to consider and experiment with

device for detection of submarine.

     1.  You are hereby appointed Senior Member of a Board to convene at such times and places as you may desire, for the purpose of considering the various devices submitted in connection with detection of submarines and for the further purpose of experimenting with such devices as the board may consider of such importance and promise as to warrant the expenditure of time and funds.1

     2. Lieutenant Commander Clyde S. McDowell and Lieutenant Miles A Libbey are the other members of this Board and are hereby directed to report to you for this duty.

     3. The Board is hereby authorized to utilize such vessels of the submarine force as it considers desirable in connection with any experiment undertaken and to make such expenditures of funds as may be necessary for these experiments.

     4. The Board will co-operate actively with the representatives of the General Electric Company, Western Electric Company, and the Submarine Signalling Company, and such other companies as may give promise of offering material and advices of a character which would prove of value to the Board.

     5. You will issue such travel orders to yourself and the members of the Board as may be necessary, forwarding two duplicate copies for the Bureau of Navigation files and the originals for approval by that Bureau.

     6. This is in addition to your present duties.

/s/ Josephus Daniels

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 337. A file number, “D3025”, appears in the upper left-hand corner. Further identification numbers appear below “Copy” – “Plan. File 233/3277-132-N-21/W”. A recipients list at the bottom reads: “Copy to/C-in-C Atlantic Fleet/Chief of Naval Operations.”

Footnote 1: By the time the U.S. entered the war, Britain had already developed a “hydrophone” – a device that measured sounds underwater to detect submarines. British hydrophones had a very limited record of success, as they often confused a host of underwater sounds (including those made by their own ship) for submarines. Even before declaring war, the Navy and the National Academy of Sciences began working together to improve submarine-detection technology, and research continued throughout the spring and summer of 1917. The United States unveiled their improved hydrophones in the fall, but the results were disappointing. While marginally better than their British predecessors, American hydrophones still had a weak record of actually detecting submarines in the war zone, although at least one German commander conceded after the war that the technology “made life difficult” for the U-boats. Still, Crisis at Sea: 327-330.

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