Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Rufus F. Zogbaum, Jr., Commander, U.S.S. STEVENS, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S.S. STEVENS,

27 JUNE 1918.

My dear Admiral,

          Once more I am happy to be under your command, and happier still to bring you news of your family.

          I saw Mrs. Sims in Newport when I went there for my torpedoes, at lunch with the MacFarlands at the Torpedo Station. She was in very good health and spirits and gave good accounts of your children. She intrusted me with a letter and a couple of packages which I am forwarding by this same post and hope they will reach you in as good condition as they were received by me.1

          I didn’t have as long a talk with her as I wished for I was under more or less pressure to get away but gathered that all was well with everyone who belongs to you.

          The STEVENS was turned over to the Government by Fore River at 7:00 p.m. 23 May. I put her in commission the next day and sailed from Boston in the afternoon of 3 June, putting the workmen ashore an hour before I left, and literally having painters leaning over the edge of the dock putting the last brush fulls of paint on the side. I got my torpedoes the next day, 4th, and arrived New York the early morning of the 5th going outside to get a little experience for the engine room force, and in the hopes of seeing the U-151 which was operating off the coast at that time. No luck however.2

          I was under orders to leave New York on the 7th with a convoy and to come across with it, but between the 5th and 7th my orders were changed four times. First I was to go, then not, and finally after I had started was ordered as far as Longitude 55°W and then return. I had two or three bosses, but finally found my way out of the wilderness.

          The excitement had somewhat simmered down when I got back to New York and Operations finally decided to send me with this convoy and here I am.

          The ship stands up pretty well under the conditions but is not as economical a steamer as the Davis was, which was somewhat of a jolt to me, and has made me dig more or less, and dream in gallons of oil and miles to destination.

          We solved the oil problem by taking enough from one of the oil burning transports to see us through.

          We got 200 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose from the North Carolina, that, coupled to the Wilhelmina’s oil hose and load ofer [i.e., over] the stern where we towed with a very short tow line, gave us our opportunity. Otherwise we should have had to go to the Azores. It might be well if all oil burning transports could be fitted to oil destroyers in this way permanently. With so many new boats coming along someone is sure to run shy. The Fairfax which started out with the Newport News contingent had to turn back after three days I think, she having burned so much oil.

          With a few minor mishaps due mostly to very green engine room force we have managed to pull through very well so far and improving every minute. There is one thing that is bound to make it a success and that is the spirit of all hands. They work hard and to more effect every day.

          When I left, the Gregory (Fairfield)3 was in commission and left on her maiden trip with the Leviathan, to escort her clear of the western submarine zone. I presume she (the Gregory) will be along in the course of a week or so.

          The Fore River people are turning out from three to four destroyers a month and now that the first few have gotten away and the engine troubles eliminated, they should come along pretty regularly. They are working the same gangs of workmen from ship to ship. As fast as one ship is completed the gang goes to another and so are becoming more and more familiar with their work and a considerable speed up in consequence. They are gradually finding themselves as is the whole Country.

          Our news from Cramps, Bath, N Y Ship and other yards is meagre but from what I hear this month and July should show signs of completed work.

          I dined with Joe Powell a couple of nights before I left Boston and had a most interesting conversation with him. Of course, as you know he is a most optimistic sort of person, but still his information and estimates should be as nearly correct as anyones. He told me to tell you that the country would produce 3,000,000 tons of steel ships by the end of 1918, and that they, the Bethlehem people, are all with you.

          Of course as you know the Destroyer program calls for I think 138 vessels in 1918. Due to delay and the bitter cold of last winter, I estimate about 90 or 100, but even so, that isn’t so bad.

          The latest rumors are that the original five year program for scouts, battle cruisers, etc., is to be carried out, work starting by the Autumn, and the Bureau of C & R4 are working on plans for destroyer leaders.

          Personnel [i.e., Personally], I don’t know much about, and Washington gossip is very scarce in Boston, probably a good thing for when I went there just after my return in January, I never felt so depressed in my life. A thousand rumors every day. Each worse than the next, and everybody in the Government, except the Navy was catching Hell. Scoundrels and thieves, even traitors were to be met on every corner it seems, and at every social gathering one was taken aside and told what should be done to someone else. Even T.R.5 came and stirred things up, and when I met him at lunch, he said when he saw me, “Ha! I am glad to see someone from a service that is doing its work well.”

          The country as a whole is splendid. The people have put their hearts into this war as I never expected to see them do. On all hands one see the effect of effort, sometimes not as united xxxxxxxxxxx as it might be, but still strenuous effort in the right direction and becoming more united and co-operative every day. Really wonderful things are being done in production of material and the problem is being handled on a magnificent scale, to hell with expense, results count, and money being spent like water.

          The country is satisfied and supports all this. The Liberty Loan campaign was one of the most ably organized drives that has ever been seen, and country wide. Right on top of the Loan comes a Red Cross drive that is over-subscribed in a week. You can’t ask for better spirit than that.

          The greatest piece of Legislation our Congress has ever passed was the Draft Law.6 It has hit all parts of the Country and, has shown favor to none. It has instilled the spirit of sacrifice into the people, and the importance of which cannot be discounted. Everyone is proud to be represented in one way or another, and in almost every house, either business or private one sees a flag with from one to many stars in it. We are a boastful people generally but I think this time we shall make good.

          Please forgive this tirade.

          To get down to business again.

          This ship is fitted with the M V listening device,7 and I believe all future destroyers are to be fitted with the same. You no doubt have the description of it, but if you haven’t the inventor, Professor Mason, is with me on board taking passage, and will probably see you as soon as you get this, giving you a better idea of what the capabilities of the device are than I can.

          I have been talking over with him the tactical limits, and am sending you a few ideas that have occurred to me in its use in hunting the enemy.8

          I have modeled the search and attack on our old doctrine in search and attack by Destroyers on battleships and believe that after problems have been worked out that the searchings should show some results. I should like to try at any rate if it meets with your approval or under any conditions you may suggest.

          As more Destroyers become available I suggest some might be spared for hunting.

          I think the tactics should be as simple as possible to avoid any confusion and to insure that one vessel will not interfere with the listening of the others. I believe that in a very short while satisfactory results may be obtained if the devices prove anything like as successful as their inventors claim them to be.

          I think I have now said enough, really I’m rather appalled by the length of this and hope I have not bored you.

          My best regards to all of your staff and hoping to have the pleasure of seeing you soon, I am sir,

Very sincerely          

R.F. Zogbaum, Jr.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Document is from: “ADMIRAL SIMS’ PERSONAL FILE.”

Footnote 1: Sims’ wife, Anne Hitchcock Sims, and the Lt. Cmdr. Horace P. MacFarland (Ret.) and his wife. The referred to letter has not been found.

Footnote 2: For more on Zogbaum assuming command of the STEVENS, see, Rufus F. Zogbaum, From Sail to Saratoga: A Naval Autobiography (Roma: Italo-Orientale, 1961), 271-273.

Footnote 3: Cmdr. Arthur P. Fairfield, Commander, U.S.S. Gregory.

Footnote 4: Bureau of Construction and Repair. The “original five year program” refers to the 1916 Navy Bill, which included appropriations for naval construction. With the onset of the war, and the need for anti-submarine craft, construction priorities shifted dramatically. The Navy did begin construction on the 1916 bill’s allotted fleet of scout cruisers. Begun in late 1819, ten of these were completed and eventually saw service in World War II. Battle cruisers proved more controversial. Construction began on these, but was cancelled before any significant progress could be made. Two, the Lexington and Saratoga, were in the early stages of construction at the time of cancellation, and were completed as aircraft carriers instead. Norman Friedman, U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1984).

Footnote 5: Former President Theodore Roosevelt.

Footnote 6: The Selective Service Law of 18 May 1917, required all men between the ages of 18 and 30 to register for conscription with local draft boards. By July of 1917, some 10 million men registered for selective service with local civilian draft boards. Voluntary registration for the Selective Service continued throughout the war. Kennedy, Over Here: 149, 154.

Footnote 7: For more on Professor Max Mason’s Listening Device, see: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations to Sims, 20 November 1918.

Footnote 8: This document has not been found.

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