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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


CABLEGRAM RECEIVED: July <30> 22030 1918.

Origin: Opnav Washington.                    Ser.No. Simben 8

     Ref’d to       Date

       CS           July 31

46 ARD                    HIGHLY SECRET.


Simben 8. Reference planning section memorandum 26 battle cruiser raids.1 The department is of opinion that raid by a battle cruiser against the supply lines to European ports particularly against troop convoys is a possibility and that even if the chance be remote it should be guarded against. The department further notes that the decision arrived at as modified by the action actually contemplated by the Admiralty,while safeguarding ships leaving port after notice of escape of an enemy battle cruiser has been promulgated,is in the nature of a negative decision and affords only partial relief to ships then in transit between United States and European Ports. The Department further proposes the following definite plan for consideration and action. General plan to be applicable to U.S. troop convoys,cargo convoys to French Bay ports and convoys carrying U.S. troops,other convoys to utilize plan if considered advisable by Admiralty. Plan drawn on line of battle cruiser escaping by way of North Sea around north and Scotland though with slight modification it is applicable also to enemy battle cruiser escaping from Black Sea. Definite information of escape of enemy should be given to all forces before enemy has crossed Scotland to Iceland or has gotten clear of Aegean Sea. Plan applicable to both eastbound and westbound ships. Specific details the Navy Department has asked the State department to request of Japan that she detail 4 battle cruisers to ------ with the Atlantic Fleet at Hampton Roads. The North Atlantic to be divided into 3 areas,1st West Atlantic Longitude 45ºWest to U.S. coast; Mid-Atlantic Longitude 20ºWest to Longitude 45ºWest; East Atlantic Longitude 20ºWest to East Atlantic destination. The U.S. to station Division 6 consisting of U.S.S. Utah,U.S.S. Nevada,U.S.S. Oklahoma at Queenstown or Brest preferably the former port or vicinity,to act as raider guard against battle cruisers in the Mid-Atlantic and east section. To hold the 8th Division consisting of U.S.S. Arizona,U.S.S. Mississippi,U.S.S. New Mexico, U.S.S. Pennsylvania to cover the West Atlantic section or to proceed where necessary. To use the Japanese battle cruisers if they are detailed [to] work with our forces for the purposes of direct pursuit. Eastbound convoys,all convoys between Longitude 45º and U.S. return to nearest U.S. or Canadian port there to await adequate escort. Furnish two old battleships as escorts for each convoy carrying troops. If practicable extend the same escort to cargo convoys and where this is not practicable use two armored cruisers for escort to cargo convoys,all convoys east of meridian Longitude 20º proceed to destination at top speed,convoys between Longitude 45ºWest and Longitude 30ºWest diverting immediately to Azores Islands and make for an anchorage or lee under Island San Miguel,convoys between Longitude 30º and Longitude 20º diverting to San Miguel or proceed to destination or nearest port as circumstances demand depending upon estimated position of enemy cruisers relative to position and speed of convoys. Westbound shipping. Ships between Longitude 15ºWest and European ports return to port to await adequate escort or divert to San Miguel Azores Islands depending upon submarine situation ships between Longitude 15ºWest and Longitude 45ºWest divert to Azores Islands or to nearest U.S. or Canadian port depending upon their proximity to those points. Ships westerly of Longitude 45ºWest route to destination or to nearest port. Utilize U.S.S. Delaware and U.S.S. North Dakota with Division 2, Division 3,Division 4,Division 5 Battleship Force to escort troop convoys,utilize Cruiser Force to escort cargo convoys,hold Battleship Division 8 with one Destroyer Division instantly ready to proceed,despatch Division 6 with 2 Destroyer Divisions in European Waters to proceed at top speed to Azores Islands San Miguel. Use Japanese battle cruisers as pursuit division if they are detailed to cooperate with U.S. forces and if such plan is agreeable to them. Above plan to become effective immediately upon agreement and to be put into operation upon receipt of broadcast radio and cable stating that enemy battle cruiser had escaped from North Sea. The Department to maintain adequate supply of coal and oil in European Waters and Azores Islands to meet the logistic needs of Battleship Division 6. This above plan is suggested as a possible counter to any enemy battle cruiser or small force of enemy ships escaping from North Sea and attempting to raid our lanes of communication before internment in some neutral port or escape to other seas.

          Modification suggested for raiding force escaping from Adriatic Sea or Dardarnelles,ships east or west bound between meridian Longitude 20º and Longitude 45º and north of Latitude 45º proceed to destination or the nearest port at top speed. 10030.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identification number “3/H/C/4/0/J” appears in the upper-right corner in columnar fashion. The hand-written date is confirmed by the time/date stamp at the end of the cable.

Footnote 1: Sims’ Planning Section was dissatisfied with British plans for countering a raid by a German battle cruiser, and prepared a memorandum of their own ideas. The primary difference between American and British plans was, according to this memo, a British “aversion to scouting for the battle cruiser” and a British focus on only attacking the battle cruiser “during her exit to or return from the open Atlantic.” The American Naval Planning Section in London (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1923): 213-223.

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