Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS,

FORCES IN FRANCE,

U.S.S. PROMETHEUS, Flagship.

Brest, France,

23 June, 1918.

C O N D I D E N T I A L.

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

To  :     Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations, week of 16 to 22 June, 1918.

Enclosure: (1).

     1.   (a) Vessels Available:

Destroyers –

LITTLE, CONNER, SIGOURNEY, CUSHING, O’BRIEN, WAINWRIGHT, TUCKER, ISABEL, BENHAM, CUMMINGS, WADSWORTH, PORTER ERICSSON, WARRINGTON, WINSLOW, FANNING, BURROWS, JARVIS, DRAYTON, LAMSON, FLUSSER, PRESTON, ROE, SMITH.

Sea-going Yachts

NOMA, APHRODITE, NOKOMIS, CORSAIR, MAY,

Coastal Convoy Escort-

WANDERER, SULTANAN, EMELINE, TRUXTON, CORONA, WHIPPLE, HARVARD, STEWART, VEDETTE, UTOWANA, WORDEN, REMLIK, MacDONOUGH, CHRISTABEL.

Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) –

McNEAL, ANDERTON, CAHILL, COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, JAMES, LEWES, HUBBARD, HINTON.

Tugs –

CONCORD, CRICCIETH, SMEATON, BARNEGAT, GYPSUM QUEEN.

Station Ship –

PROMETHEUS.

Repair Ship –

PANTHER.

Floating Barracks –

CAROLA IV.

          (b) Under Repair:

MONAGHAN, REID, McDOUGALL, RAMBLER, PIQUA, NICHOLSON.

     Estimated dates of completion of repairs are as follows: REID, 1 July; MONAGHAN, 23 June; McDOUGAL, 24 June; NICHOLSON, 24 June; RAMBLER, 24 June; PIQUA, indefinite.

     The CHRISTABEL completed repairs on 30 June and rejoined her group. The McDONOUGH completed repairs on 19 June and rejoined her group on 22 June. The NICHOLSON, while being handled by tugs, had her propeller bent, and is being docked to have new propeller fitted. The LAMSON had her propellers damaged by tugs, and will probably require docking. The WAINWRIGHT is to sail for Liverpool for overhaul upon the return of the McDOUGAL, and the ROE will sail for Liverpool for overhaul upon the return of the MONAGHAN.

     The GYPSUM QUEEN arrived Brest on 21 June.

     The HANNIBAL, ONTARIA, and 23 chasers, en route for Devonport, arrived Brest on 21 June. A few minor repairs will be required and the group is expected to proceed to Devonport in three or four days.

     The PIQUA cracked a cylinder head and requires repairs, the duration of which cannot be estimated at this time.

     2.   OPERATIONS.

          Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedule with the exceptions noted above. Movements of troop and store ships and of vessels engaged in the Army Coal Trade are as shown in enclosure.1 Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoy.

          The destroyers which escorted O.R. 43 to Westward intercepted the HANNIBAL and her convoy and escorted them to Brest. The destroyers which escorted O.R. 44 to westward intercepted Group 43 and escorted to Brest. The destroyers which escort O.P. 22, O.R.45, O.R.46, and O.R.47 to westward have orders to intercept Group 42 and escort vessels to the French coast.2

     The CZARITIZA and WAR KINSMAN were due to sail from Brest on 23 June with the escort which is to meet Group 44. Due to press of work the CZARITZA COULD NOT BE COALED IN TIME TO SAIL. The WAR KINSMAN, which was to have received sufficient fuel oil to take her to the United States, reported that a valve in the oil line had been broken, resulting in the flooding of her oil tanks, and coal could not be given her in time to sail her on the date stated, nor could she be given oil fuel. It is considered that the Master of the WAR KINSMAN has not made the proper effort to prepare his ship for sea, resulting in material delay. He has been reported to the British Consul3 who, in turn, has reported to the Admiralty. Due to the fact that these two vessels were not ready to sail on the designated date, they will be materially delayed in sailing westward.

          The U.S.S. CALIFORNIAN, which formed part of H.B. 4,4 struck a mine on the morning of 22 June, in latitude 46-20 north, longitude 2-06 west. Tugs were immediately sent to her assistance, but she sank before making port. No lives were lost.

     Attention is invited to the fact that, with the work just completed and in sight, five groups of troop transports, totaling 26 ships, including the U.S.S. LEVIATHAN and three other of the largest transports engaged in service, will have been met by this force within nine days. In order to obviate reducing the speed of transports sailing westward as far as possible, there will be sailed on the same day westward from France, four groups of transports, the escorts of which will join and bring in Group Forty-Two: another group of destroyers to bring in a transport group sailed without convoy only because of the fact that the merchant ships which they were to take out were not ready; and another group of destroyers which is to bring in a New York convoy sailed without a westbound convoy because no vessels were ready to sail. In addition to the above, this force will have met one H.B. convoy, two New York convoys and the U.S.S. HANNIBAL and her group, and escorted them all to France.

     3.   MISCELLANEOUS.

          Lieutenant-Commander Daniel Bacon, U.S.N.R.F.,5 has been assigned duty on the staff of Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France with instructions to organize a shipping office. Mr. Bacon is a man of extensive experience and influence in the American shipping world and it is believed that through him, a control of American shipping in France can be acquired.

          In accordance with the Force Commander’s instructions, a U.S. Naval Port Officer will be established at Marseilles, and Commander F.P. Baldwin,6 U.S.Navy (Retired) has been ordered there from St. Nazaire. A Paymaster, a Doctor, two coding officers, and the necessary enlisted personnel, will be assigned to his office. Commander Baldwin will arrive at Marseilles on 30 June.

          Shipping conditions in the Gironde which have been very unsatisfactory, particularly at Pauillac, are in process of improvement. Commander R.P. Craft,7 U.S.Navy, has been assigned to Bordeaux as Naval Port Officer, with instructions to acquire, to as large an extent as is practicable, control of shipping in the river through co-operation with the French and U.S.Army authorities, Lieutenant H.R.A. Borchardt8 U.S.Navy, at Pauillac, who does not seem well fitted for this work, has been detached and will be relieved by Lieutenant G.F. Keene, U.S.N.R.F.9 This officer has instructions to report to Commander Craft for duty as his assistant, with additional duty as Naval Port Officer at Pauillac. Lieutenant A.K. Schanze,10 U.S.N.R.F., has been stationed on board the MARTHE SELANGE at Verdon.

          A flat barge has been acquired from the Army for coaling escort vessels, and it is proposed to send the tug GYPSUM QUEEN into the Gironde. This will permit coaling the escort vessels at Verdon or Royan and will relieve some of the congestion at Pauillac. Arrangements have been made with the French to eliminate certain delays which have hitherto been experienced in routing ships from Verdon to Bordeaux. It has been the practice to exchange pilots at Pauillac and to delay vessels for sanitary inspection at that point. The French have now agreed to permit a pilot to take a vessel through from Verdon, and to omit the sanitary inspection at Pauillac. Telephonic communication has been established from the MARTHE SELANGE at Verdon through Pauillac to the Naval Port office at Bordeaux, and it is hoped that Commander Craft will thus be able to control the movements of vessels between Verdon and Bordeaux.

          The steamer ILE D’OUESSANT, which was built a year ago for the purpose of carrying mail between Le Conquet, Finisterre, and Ile D’Ouessant is about to be withdrawn from that service because of the difficulty of obtaining coal. She is a vessel about 90 feet long, 16 feet beam, 10 feet draft, 300 I.H.P., speed 11, and a wooden hull. In her forward hold she can carry about 40 tons of cargo, and is fitted with a winch and boom capable of hoisting one ton. Investigation is being made as to the practicability of chartering her for use as station ship at Quiberon for a U.S.Naval Port Officer whom it is desired to locate at that place to handle American shipping. At Quiberon coastal convoys are formed and considerable difficulty is now experienced in the case of American ships, due to their inability to understand or their disinclination to obey instructions received from the French convoy officer.

     4.   SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES.

          No enemy submarine activity during the week on coast of France.

          At 00:00 g.m.t., 21 June, two British steamers outward bound from Devonport were torpedoed and sunk by a submarine in latitude 47-19 north, longitude 12-58 west.11

     5.   MINING ACTIVITIES.

          As stated in paragraph 2, the U.S.S. CALIFORNIAN was sunk by a mine in latitude 46-20 north, longitude 2-06 west, on the morning of 22 June. Information is not yet at hand as to whether this was a mine from an old field, or one recently laid.

          An area of five miles around latitude 46-19 north, longitude 2-12 west, was closed to navigation on 22 June on account of mines.

          A zone between Finisterre Cape and Cape Torinana, on the coast of Spain, was declared dangerous to navigation on 21 June.

          A floating mine was seen near Santander, Spain, in latitude 43-31 north, longitude 3-40 west, at 3:00 p.m., 22 June.

          A mine was sunk 6 miles south of 81° west of Cape Ferrat Light on the west coast of France, on 21 June.

          The following dangerous zones are in existence on 22 June:

7 miles around Triagoz and Sept Iles;

Between Le Four and La Banche Lights;

3 miles around latitude 46-57 north, longitude 2-28 west;

5 miles around latitude 45-55 north, longitude 3-11 west;

3 miles around latitude 45-36 north, longitude 1-32 west;

5 miles around latitude 46-19 north, longitude 2-12 west;

     6.   EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.

22 June – Up to the present time so many officers, new temporary Ensigns and others, have arrived from the United States withorders solely for duty on destroyers, that it has been extremely difficult to find a chance to recognize merit and efficiency among the Reserve Officers on the yachts by their transfer to the more interesting and important work of the destroyer force. A scheme has been evolved, through the examination and appointment of new Reserve Officers from the enlisted personnel of the Forces in France, whereby these new appointees MAY fill in on the yachts while yachts officers of the longest experience shall be transferred to the destroyers as opportunity arises. If the additional reserve officers arriving from time to time from the United States can be sent under orders fro[m] general duty rather than for destroyer duty only, it might be possible at once to keep the destroyers filled for training and to exercise a discretionary power based on an exact knowledge of the capabilities of the reserve officers already serving on ships on the French Coast.

/s/ WILSON.        

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 440. Document reference: “509 . . .25-13-5.”

Footnote 1: Document referred to has not been found.

Footnote 2: O.R. 43, 18 June 1918, convoy from Brest to the United States and South America; O.R. 44, 19 June 1918, convoy from was Brest to the United States and South America; O.P. 22, 22 June 1918, convoy from Quiberon bay (St. Nazaire) to the United States and South America; O.R.45, 18 June 1918, convoy from Brest to the United States and South America; O.R.46, 23 June 1918, convoy from Brest to the United States and South America; and O.R. 47, 23 June 1918, convoy from Brest to the United States and South America. Wilson, American Navy in France: 51.

Footnote 3: British Consul at Brest S.B. Forbes.

Footnote 4: HB 4, Convoy arrived from New York for the Bay of Biscay, France, on 22 June 1918. Wilson, American Navy in France: 51.

Footnote 5: United States Naval Reserve Force.

Footnote 6: Cmdr. Frank P. Baldwin.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Ralph P. Craft.

Footnote 8: Lt. Herbert R.A. Borchardt.

Footnote 9: Lt. George F. Keene, U.S.N.R.F.

Footnote 10: Lt. Alfred K. Schanze U.S.N.R.F.

Footnote 11: The steamers Homer City and Montebello were torpedoed by U-100 on 21 June 1918. “Freiherr Degenhart von Loë,” U-Boats.net, https://uboat.net/wwi/men/commanders/181.html.

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