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




Date; July 25, 1918                          <July 26, 1918.>

To: Opnav;               Code; 46 ARD        No. 1765


     Referring to Opnav 64891 in which the Department states; “The Department will agree to furnish the mines necessary for any barrage project in the Mediterranean Sea or Adriatic Sea, and it is willing to furnish whatever fast mine laying ships it can find, etc.”

     At a Committee Meeting of Allied Naval Council in London July twenty-third the subject of Mine Barrages in the Mediterranean was discussed on the basis of the plans suggested in Planning Section Memorandum thirty-seven forwarded to Department July eleventh.2 Committee accepted certain general fundamental principles regarding mine barrages in Mediter ranean suggested by me which are briefly as follows:

     (a) Both ends should rest in territorial waters or be under military control from shore.

     (b) Both ends should be secure against raiding operations.

     (c) They should be as short as possible and should exclude submarines from operating areas.

     (d) No enemy submarines should be able to gain sea except via hazard of Barrage.

     (e) Barrage extending to surface as more effective than patrol

     (f) Deep barrage not effective unless patrolled.

     (g) Surface portion of barrage should be densest.

     (h) Surface barrage should always be superposed upon deep barrage.

     (i) Secure harbor in advance of barrage necessary as base for counter raiding force.

     Foregoing comprises Conclusion Number One of Committee.

     Conclusion Number Two substantially as follows:

     Effective plan of anti-submarine barrages should be developed. When developed, United States together with Allied Countries will endeavor to supply mines and mine layers.

     Conclusion Number Three was that if physical difficulty of mining in very deep water can be surmounted, first efforts in Mediterranean should be to complete Otranto Barrage and establish Aegean ba rrage while studying Cape Bon dask [i.e., dash] Sicily Barrage. If delay would result from experimenting with deep water mines, mines of existing type might be used on Barrages other than those found most important but temporarily impracticable account depth water.

     Conclusion Number Four is textually as follows;

     “The Commission now studying at Malta various matters in connection Mediterranean Mining Operations is therefore requested to examine in detail the various proposals which have been rbight brought before the Council and to recommend where the necessary mine bases could best be established, so that a definite policy can be settled and the necessary preparations immediately put in hand. It may be assumed that ample materials will be available for any schemes which are outlined in Memorandum Number One six eight or for any reasonable alternatives.

     Memorandum Number One six eight was prepared by me and favors following complete barrages:

     First: Otranto to Corfu via Fano Island.

     Second: Euboea to Cape Kanapitza via Andros, Tinos, Mykoni, Nikaria, Furnia and Samos.3

     Third: Sicily to Cape Bon, provided the latter can be made a complete surface anddeep mine field with exception of necessary gate for traffic.

     First Barrage would require nine thousand mines present type and eleven thousand for deep water.

     Second Barrage would require twelve thousand present type and five thousand deep water.

     Requirements of third barrage not estimated, but present type of mines would servie for entire barrage. This barrage although important as stated by Department in cable six four eight nine, does not strike at the root of the difficulty by blocking exits from present submarine bases and is, therefore, not considered as of primary importance.

     Shall send Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss4 to Malta to discuss project with representatives of other Governments now there.

     I propose to hold out for complete and effective barrages against exit of enemy submarines from Adriatic and from Dardanelles with the Cape Bon dash Sicily project5 as secondary, although possibly executed first on account of availability of material.

     I request the Department’s specific approval in order to strengthen my hands in this matter, as I think there may be some disposition to favor the use of our mine layers for other purposes less important strategically. The exact location of barrages must depend somewhat on tactical considerations presented by the Allied Commanders in the Mediterranean. 16126.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The handwritten date is confirmed by the time/date stamp at the end of the cable.

Footnote 1: This cable has not been found.

Footnote 2: See, Memorandum No. 37 “Estimate of General Situation in the Mediterranean,” American Naval Planning Section London (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1923), 245-254.

Footnote 3: Greek islands located in the Aegean Sea.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force.

Footnote 5: Sims hoped for a mine barrage from Cape Bon, Tunisia to Sicily, and he initially received support from the Navy Department for this operation. However, difficulties later forced the U.S. to abandon the idea before work could begin. Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean: 508-520.