Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain William B. Fletcher, Force Commander, United States Patrol Squadron

EMBASSY OF THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

       Office Vice-Admiral, Commanding

    U. S. Destroyer Forces,

   European Waters.

LONDON, July 18th, 1917.

My dear Captain Fletcher.

     Your first report of operations together with operation order and instructions have been received, and copies for the Department have been forwarded with endorsements approving all of your recommendations.1

     I wish to congratulate you and to express my appreciation of the rapidity with which you have gotten your force into active work, and the very satisfactory manner in which your reports have been forwarded to me. As you can perhaps imagine, we are overburdened with work here in the London office, and it is refreshing to receive reports such as yours which are in all respects finished papers and need no action other than forwarding.

     With regard to a repair ship, I have strongly approved your recommendations in an endorsement forwarding your report, and have in addition sent a cable and sent through a special report of my own.

     By all means take the steam launch or anything else on the CELTIC which will facilitate your work in any way.2 You have my full authority, and may so inform the Commanding Officer of the “CELTIC”.3 If you want any specific authority in writing, go ahead and take what action you consider necessary first, and then prepare and forward to me such authority as you need for my signature.

     I will be in Paris on the 25th for about 4 – 5 days. If you have the opportunity I hope you will come up and see me.4 I fully realise the necessity for destroyers there with you, and will send you some just as soon as they are available.5 I am inclined to agree with your suggesting that coal-burning destroyers be based with your force.

     Please forward me a report at the earliest possible moment covering the following:-

     1.   Draft displacement and cruising radius of each vessel of your force. Also maximum cruising speed.

     2.   Approximate amount of coal which will be required, together with any other information concerning the coal situation, also bunker capacity.

     3.   The armament of your ships, stating exactly what depth charges you now have.

     4.   Your specific requirements as regards larger depth charges.6 Daniels7 has probably explained to you what the depth charges are like, and the fact that the larger ones cannot be used by slow ships. In fact, I understand that a 300 lb. charge cannot be dropped at speeds less than 12 knots with safety to the dropping vessel.

     As perhaps you know, the British are manufacturing Howitzers for throwing depth charges which they intend to mount on all auxiliary patrol craft. I sent the drawings of those Howitzers to the United States some time ago, and asked them to start manufacturing there, and will take steps to get some of these for your ships also.

     As to the number of ships which are expected to join you, here is all the information which I have: -

     1.   Ten yachts to sail on July 15th to join your force.

     2.   Twelve trawlers and one yacht under Captain McGruder <Magruder>8 to sail on August 10th.

     3.   A dispatch on July 12 stating that 20 more yachts have been taken over and will be prepared for distant service.

     4.   A dispatch of July 5th that six coal burning destroyers would sail shortly to base temporarily on Azores.

     5.   That 5 destroyers would sail from China on Aug. 1.

     I have urgently recommended that these destroyers be not based on the Azores, but come north, where we could use them for patrol and convoy work.9

Wm S. Sims.                 

P. S.  Please send me a list of all your officers together with the names of the yachts.10

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246. Addressed below close: “Captain Fletcher, U. S. N.,/c/o Naval Attache,/American Embassy,/PARIS.” There is a notation at top of this copy: “EXHIBIT “U”” because these instructions were introduced as an exhibit in the Court of Inquiry for Adm. William B. Fletcher held in March and April 1920. Below the signature is a certification by the Capt. Kenneth M Bennett, Judge Advocate of those proceedings, that this is “A true copy/KMBennett.” Bennett also corrected spelling in several places throughout the report. These corrections are noted in the transcription and in the notes by angle brackets.

Footnote 1: Fletcher’s first operations report, dated 13 July 1917, can be found in DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. For Fletcher’s patrol instructions, see: Fletcher, Patrol Instructions, 12 July 1917.

Footnote 2: In the margin, Sims added: “You must of course be sure to leave her boats enough for her crew in case she should be torpedoed. I assur<m>e that as a supply ship she has plenty.”

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Wilbert Smith.

Footnote 4: In his testimony before the Court of Inquiry, Fletcher said he did go to Paris, arriving on the morning of 25 July and met with Sims and Lt. Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ aide, for about three hours. He recalled they discussed “base matters.” RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246, pp. 97-98.

Footnote 5: No destroyers were sent to Fletcher before he was relieved of his command in France at the end of October 1917. Ibid., 240.

Footnote 6: In his testimony at his court of inquiry Fletcher said that his command had “made very complete data, going over all the characteristics of the ships and their coal expenditures, endurances, etc. and they were sent very soon after we arrived, and [when he met with Sims on 25 July] I said, ‘Those have been sent and you should have received them long before this.’ I found that Captain [Richard H.] Jackson still had them in Paris. I think he was having copies made, or something like that. He wrote for the same data, coal consumption, etc., and I gave him a rather concise letter about the middle of July about the matter and told him that as soon as I could get around to it --,we had only two yeomen in the office – that I would have this other data prepared and sent to him for his information – the same data that had already gone through.” Ibid., 259.

Footnote 7: Cmdr.Joseph F. Daniels.

Footnote 8: Capt. Thomas P. Magruder.

Footnote 9: These destroyers were actually sent from the Philippines and were based at Gibraltar. See, Albert P. Niblack to Sims, 30 July 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. According to Fletcher, he received seven additional armed yachts on 30 August and on 18 September another yacht and ten fishing trawlers. RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246, p. 14.

Footnote 10: In his testimony, Fletcher asserted that this list, too, had been sent to Sims earlier but was still in Paris with Jackson. RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246, p. 260.

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