Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

[Extract]

14 July 1918.

From:     Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations – week of 6 July to 12 July.

          . . . . Condition of Destroyers: Destroyers, particularly some of those which recently joined from Queenstown, are showing signs of the service which has been required of them. Confidence is no longer felt that when destroyers leave, they will be able to remain at sea until their mission is completed.

     3.   MISCELLANEOUS.

          Information has been received that the French authorities will requisition for our use the four apartments constituting the northern wing of the Credit Lyonnais, in the southern wing of which building is now located the offices of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France. This will greatly relieve the present congestion and will permit proper expansion of the Operations division.

          A fund totalling 18,000 francs has been subscribed by the officers and men of the U.S.Navy in Brest to be donated on July 14th, the French national holiday, to the wounded French soldiers and to the destitute of Brest.

          Force Commander’s dispatch 46881 suggests diverting some of the 3500-ton oil tanks now due to be delivered Lorient, LaPallice and Furt2 with a view to increasing the fuel oil storage of 28,000 tons at Brest and 10,000 tons at each of the other places. The tanks at Brest are now in process of erection and the foundations at the other points have been completed. In the light of our present knowledge as to probable future demands for oil on this coast the present distribution of tanks seems a logical one and at this time to divert any of the tanks would probably delay matters because of the time required to prepare foundations for the additional tanks at Brest. It is believed that should it be found advisable to increase the total storage at Brest additional tanks can be obtained by the time the foundations are prepared.

          The Prefet Maritime at Brest3 has been asked to authorize the construction of additional berths for destroyers in the northwest corner of the Rade Abri. It is proposed to drive clusters of piles close to the breakwater to which destroyers can secure and to instal water and oil piping along the breakwater, with deliveries to these points. Recommendation has also been submitted that the western opening in the Rade Abri be closed by sunken vessels being filled to furnish protection against the south-westerly swells which are to be expected during the storms of winter. The U.S. Army have offered to assist in the completion of both of these projects. . . .

     6.   EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.

9 July – At the request of the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France the Force Commander has authorized the retention of all enlisted men of the U.S.S. COVINGTON, for general service here.

10 July – The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France has addressed the following letter of commendation to the Commanding Officer U.S.S. REID:4

     “The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France commends the U.S.S. REID for her actions on July 2nd, 1918, subsequent to the torpedoing of the U.S.S. COVINGTON. The REID, skilfully handled, joined the COVINGTON at dawn, circled the vessel dropping depth charges at ten minute intervals, and as soon as it was considered safe so to do, sent a working party on board. This working party under the able direction of Ensign John A. Wilson, U.S.N.R.F., remained on board for a period of about ten hours until it was manifest that the vessel was lost, performing their duties in a most seamanlike manner.

     The conduct of this working party, the manner in which they took charge of conditions on board the COVINGTON, and their efforts to further the salvage of the vessel, reflect great credit on the vessel under your command.

     A copy of this letter will be attached to your record, to that of Ensign Wilson, and to the enlistment record of each man of the working party which boarded the COVINGTON.”   

11 July – Official information has been received that during the unloading of the U.S.A.C.T. SANTA CECILIA at St. Nazaire June 24th, to 27th, 1918, a number of sticks of dynamite and some copper wire were found concealed in various parts of the hold; also that a large shipment of matches had been stowed in a broken condition along with some alcohol and other inflammable Red Cross supplies. Fortunately the ship was under strict surveillance at the time; as dynamite had been found aboard her when loading at Baltimore and a warning cabled to France. At Baltimore five Austrian stevedores had been arrested and the entire crew changed. An examination of the crew at St. Nazaire failed to disclose any suspected persons. . . .

H.B.WILSON.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 440. Document reference: “509” and “WB/(O)”.

Footnote 1: This document has not been found.

Footnote 2: Three coastal cities in France.

Footnote 3: VAdm. Frédéric-Paul Moreau, Préfet Maritime, Brest.

Tags