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Captain William V. Pratt, Acting Chief of Naval Operations, to Bureaus of Navigation, Ordinance, Construction & Repair, Steam Engineering, Commandants of Naval Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8, and Clifford Mallory, Director of Operations, U.S. Shipping Board




Office of Naval Operations


July 31, 1918.

From: Chief of Naval Operations

To:  Bureaus of Navigation,


                 Construction & Repair,

                 Steam Engineering

      Commandants, 1st Naval District, Boston, (Armed Guards)

                   3rd              New York,         

                   4th              Philadelphia,“     

                   5th              Norfolk,          

                   6th              Charleston,       

                   8th              New Orleans, “     

      U.S. Shipping Board, Director of Operations,

                       (Attention Mr. Mallory).

SUBJECT:  Armed Guards for Coastwise Vessels,

Enclosure: (A) Copy of Shipping Board’s circular re. above.1

     1.  The Bureaus and Commandants of the Naval Districts (Armed Guards) are informed that the Department has amplified its policy of furnishing Armed Guards to vessels to include all Atlantic Coastwise and Gulf trading vessels that are capable of mounting an adequate battery.

The Shipping Board has sent a circular letter to all owners of Atlantic Coastwise ships suggesting that preparation be made by them to fit their vessels to receive an Armed Guard.

          Applications should be made on form similar to that required for transatlantic vessels, but under heading “Port Where Bound,” indication should be made as to whether the vessel is transatlantic or Coastwise, and if Coastwise, what neutral country or countries, if any, are to be visited. Owners should be informed that preparation of emplacements and necessary structural changes to accommodate an Armed Guard are to be made by them at their own expense under direction of the Commandant and must be satisfactory in design and execution before the guns will be mounted by the Government.2

     2.   The procedure of furnishing Armed Guards to these vessels and their preparation will in general, but with certain below mentioned modifications, be the same as that now required for transatlantic vessels. These modifications are not intended to apply to vessels under construction for the Emergency Fleet Corporation which should continue to prepare for Armed Guards in accordance with Standard Instructions.

     3.   Owing to the limited supply of guns these vessels will for the present be furnished with but one gun to be mounted aft on the center line, and emplacement should be prepared capable of taking at least a 5” 51 calibre gun.

          Under these circumstances no forward gun foundation will be required, but the owners should be informed that later, if the supply of guns warrants, a forward gun may be mounted.

          A shelter for forward lookouts should be provided but where no forward gun platform is installed other arrangement than that required under standard instructions will be satisfactory.

     4.   The complement of Armed Guards prescribed in Opnav. Circular Letter #28754-1:25/86 of December 27, 1917, is considered necessary for transatlantic vessels in order to ensure an efficient and sustained lookout while in the War zone.

          It does not appear, for the present at least, that vessels on the Atlantic Coast, where menaced areas can probably be pretty well pre-determined, will generally find the necessity of sustaining the full complement of lookouts for the same lengthy periods as vessels passing through the War zone.

          Therefore, and in order to inconvenience Merchant shipping as little as possible, it will be satisfactory for the present for those vessels trading exclusively on the Western side of the Atlantic, and which are furnished with but one gun, to prepare for the following reduced complement of Armed Guards:

                    1 Chief Petty Officer

                    2 Petty Officers

                    8 Men – Gun Crew

                    3 Radio Men

          Whenever practicable there should be a least one qualified signalman included in the eight (8) men furnished for the guns crew.

          Where satisfactory provision in accordance with Opanv, Circular Letter, #28754-1:25/86 of December 27, 1917, has already been provided for quartering the radio men, no extra provision for them will be necessary.

     5.   On passenger vessels where staterooms are available and the Company desires to utilize them for Armed Guard quarters, this is acceptable to the Department, provided, of course, that the Armed Guard are quartered in close proximity to each other where they can be reached by a common alarm.

          Similarly if the Company prefers to mess the Armed Guard in the Saloon Mess, rather than to provide separate mess rooms for them, this will be acceptable, but they should be messed together at a separate table.

     6.   In inspecting vessels upon request of the owners, the owners should be advised in each case that the present limited supply of guns available for merchant vessels, is insufficient to permit of the immediate arming of coastwise vessels in any considerable numbers, but the above policy is indicated at this time to enable owners to anticipate the preparation of their vessels with as little interruption to their service as possible, so that when the proper time comes those vessels will be found ready to receive armament with little further preparation.


                              W. V. Pratt,


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June 25, 1918.


Circular 7S, 11-2   To Owners, Managers, Operators and
Inspectors of United States Shipping Board vessels.



     Referring to previous circulars, it has been decided that all American steamers over 1,500 tons gross, except those operating in the Pacific exclusively, should be fitted with gun foundations and gun crew quarters at the first opportunity. Guns, if available, will be furnished by the Navy Department after the preparation of foundations and quarters have been approved by the Commandant.3

     While it is not the present intention to insist upon the immediate arming of other than trans-atlantic steamers, it is desired that steamers in other trades mentioned to be ready to receive guns upon short notice.

     A formal application for Armed Guard, on form similar to that enclosed,4 should be filed with the Navy Department and a copy of this application furnished to the Commandant’s local representative for Armed Guard in order that there may be no delay in inspecting the vessel on arrival. It is understood that the Commandant’s local representative for Armed Guard will furnish sketch plan or such other information, as will assist the owners to properly fit the vessel to meet naval requirements.

     If Armed guard preparations are not completed at the present port, the Commandant’s representative should be advised and plans and data should be left with Master of vessel for attention at next opportunity.

E.F. CARRY,             


Source Note: D, DNA, RG45, Entry 517B. “Op-24-C/C-1:94” appears in the upper-left corner of the first page. Address below close: “Copy to: Captain Taylor/Emergency Fleet Corporation, (Manager Division Steel Ship Construction, (Attention Mr. Cox)/U.S. Shipping Control Committee.”

Footnote 1: Naval Districts and Commandants: First – Boston – RAdm. Spencer D. Wood, Third - New York – RAdm. Nathaniel R. Usher, Fourth – Philadelphia – Capt. George F. Cooper, Fifth – Norfolk – RAdm. Augustus F. Fechteler, Sixth – Charleston – Radm. Frank E. Beatty, Eighth - New Orleans Commo. Valentine S. Nelson.

Footnote 3: That is, Commandants of the Naval Districts.