Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff for Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotilla

--: C O P Y :--



No.   AC 22281.     U. S. S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.

30, Grosvenor Gardens,


22 June, 1918.

From:     Force Commander.

To:       Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas.

SUBJECT:  Action of STERETT with enemy submarine 31 May – 1 June, 1918.

     1.   A letter of commendation had been addressed to the Commanding Officer, U. S. S. STERETT in accordance with your recommendation.1

     2.   In connection with this action a number of points are raised which seem worthy of consideration. They are not presented in a critical sense.2

     (a) It is not understood why the CUSHING and FANNING parted company from the STERETT as soon as they did, particularly when such an excellent opportunity existed for actually destroying a submarine. In case the CUSHING and FANNING were under orders for urgent duty, it is not understood why one of them should not have relieved the STERETT, particularly as the latter’s depth charges were nearly exhausted.

     (b)  There have now been either three or four instances in the past nine months in which the actual hull of a submarine has been observed close aboard from the bridge of a destroyer. With such exceptional chances of damaging the submarine, would it not be justified to drop a number of depth charges simultaneously?

     (c) The Force Commander recommended some time ago to the Department the development of 600 lb. charges with the idea that all the destroyers should carry some of these heavy charges for such emergencies.3 In the absence of such heavy charges it would seem that a number of charges of the present size could be used for the same end.

     (d) When the outline of a submarine can be seen from the deck should not a very shallow deep setting be used, providing time permits making the setting?

          Please discuss with Commanding Officer of experience this question of whether a few depth charges cannot be carried in a position permitting of their simultaneous use in such emergencies. Would it not be justifiable to drop four, or even six, depth charges at once.

     (e) It is noted that in the morning when the submarine was close alongside the ship, the only two depth charges remaining were on deck. In view of the large turning circle of our destroyers, would it not be desirable to always retain the last reserve of depth charges for the depth charge throwers?

     (f) With reference to the failure of the radio set of the STERETT apparently due to concussion from depth charges, is it not true that all destroyers have auxiliary sets independent of the main set ready for use in such emergencies?

     (g) It is not exactly understood from the STERETT’S report as to why she was enabled to follow this submarine so successfully for such a long period in both daylight and darkness. Was it because the submarine was leaking oil all of the time? It is not clearly understood why destroyers have not heretofore been able to follow up on attack as persistently and as well as in the case of the STERETT.4

     3.   The Force Commander has recommended that all future depth charges be fitted with settings up to 300 feet. It is seriously doubted however, whether submarines make a practice of proceeding at such depths. It seems certainly questionable whether a submarine already damaged would risk such depths.

     4.  Admiralty evidence indicates that this submarine made at least one more attack after the action, on a sailing ship to the westward of Ireland, and apparently thereafter returned to her base.

     5.   It is hoped that the idea will not become prevalent on the destroyers that persistent and heavy depth chargeattacks are not justifiable. It is well known that a depth charge must explode within about 70. ft. of a submarine to actually put it out of commission.

     6.   The depth charge policy now being pursued by our destroyers is fully justified on two principal scores –

     (1) That the larger the number of depth charges laid in the vicinity of the submarine, the greater the chance of a vital hit.

     (2) That effect on enemy morale. There certainly can be no question but that heavy and persistent bombardments of depth charges on the slightest evidence of a submarine, will soon commence to tell on the nerves of the submarine personnel and will have a serious effect upon their tactics and their efficiency.

     7.   It is understood in this office that copies of all reports of attacks are sent to other bases, that is, to Brest, Gibraltar and Azores.

/s/ N. C. TWINING,           

Captain, U.S.Navy,      

   Chief of Staff,      

Signed for Vice Admiral Sims

in his absence.         

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520 Box 414. The “C O P Y” at the top of the document is repeated at the top of the other two pages. Document identifier in top right-hand corner of first page in columnar fashion” “1/3/H/J.”

Footnote 2: For a detailed account of the action, see: Farquhar to Sims, 5 June 1918.

Footnote 4: Pringle’s reply has not been found.