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Captain Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, United States Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations


Cablegram Received        18403 June <3, 1918,> EWC

Origin Amnavpar,1 Paris.                        2085

A-1 June 4

29 ADR



2085. Your 2416.2 Plans have not been formed nor in any manner considered for more extensive use of day and night bombers than for sole purpose of bombing enemy Naval activities.3 Entire project being developed U.S.Army and Allied authorities cooperating. To continue successful concentrate attack on submarine base Zeebruge Ostend Bruge[s] harbor and canal4 and Ghent we have recommended in our 1600 establishment 6 day bombing squadrons and 6 night squadrons 1 supply and repair base to be established behind these. Has not been intention augment these squadrons or of extending beyond activity above. Have contracted in Italy for 6 replacements for 6 night squadrons until after night bomber can be furnished from United States.5 Army agrees entirely and now conducts our business in Italy. Always been understood that Italian night bomber were available for Army or Navy, depending upon urgency andreadiness for use them.6 Any of these can be taken over by Marine or Army as soon as ready if so desired. Have now under training 30 pilots and 18 observers for 1 day squadron and 10 pilots for 1 night squadron. Beginning June 10th will have another night squadron training and about July 1st and August 20th will have trained one more day squadron. No reduction in training program should be made as all available Naval Flying Corps personnel can be used by the Allies advantageously. Taking over and preparing field sufficient for 6 day and 6 night squadrons in accordance with Department directions. Entire project should be under the Admiral at Dover, England7 to have best results co-operate with Navy will be required. 17003. 2085.



     2416 is a R/T [i.e., retransmission] of 6682 from Opnav. Service asked on missing groups see 2447 to Amnavpar. Word after “results” garbled.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. This message was sent from Cone to Sims’ headquarters and then forwarded to Benson and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. “EWC” was the person on Sims’ staff who presumably decoded and re-transcribed the message.

Footnote 1: The cable address of American naval headquarters, Paris.

Footnote 2: This cable has not been found. However, it was a re-transmission of cable #6682. For cable #6682, see: Benson to Sims, 30 May 1918. See also: Benson to Sims, 6 June 1918.

Footnote 3: One study on the Northern Bombing Group calls this controversy over the size and mission of the project the “Great Debate.” Rossano and Wildenberg, Striking the Hornets’ Nest: Chapter 8.

Footnote 4: For more on the effort to block access to the German naval bases at Zeebrugge and Ostend, see: Sims to Benson, 4 June 1918.

Footnote 5: The Americans were looking to the Italian-built Caproni bombers because “technical problems and contractual difficulties had delayed production of bombers in the United States. Ibid., 100.

Footnote 6: Cone overstated the coordination and cooperation between the Army and Navy. Actually, there was a fierce competition between the two services for Italian planes. Ibid., 134-35.

Footnote 7: VAdm. Roger Keyes. There is no evidence that Keyes took an active role in the bombing program.