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

[Extract]

S O N F I D E N T I A L.                      2 June, 1918.

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

To:  Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations – week of 26 MAY to 1 June, 1918.

Enclosure:  (1).

     1.   (a) Vessels available:

Destroyers –

          NICHOLSON, WADSWORTH, DRAYTON, JARVIS, ROE, PRESTON,

          SMITH, LAMSON, WARRINGTON, FLUSSER.

Sea-going Yachts –

          ROMA, ISABEL, APHRODITE, NOKOMIS, CORSAIR, MAY.

Coastal Convoy Escort –

          WANDERER, SULTANA, EMELINE, TRUXTUN, CORONA, WHIPPLE,

          RAMBLER, HARVARD, STEWART, VEDETTE, UTOWANAH, WORDEN,

          PIQUA, REMLIK

Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) –

          ANDERTON, CAHILL, COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, HINTON, HUBBARD,

          JAMES, LEWES, McNEAL.

Tugs –

          CONCORD, GRICCINTH, GYPSUM QUEEN, MONTAUK, SMEATON,

          BARNEGAT.

Station Ship –

          PROMETHEUS

Repair Ship –

          PANTHER

Floating Barracks –

          CAROLA IV

     (b) Under Repair:

          MONAGHAN, REID, MacDONOUGH, CHRISTABEL.

     The MacDONOUGH will be docked about 10 June, following which she will rejoin her group. The CRISTABEL is undergoing about two weeks’ repairs, her first since arrival on this station. The SULTANA finished repairs on 31 MAY and will rejoin her group on the morning of 2 June. The PIQUA has been assigned to duty with the District Commander Lorient,1 and in addition to duty in the District will be used to pilot troop convoys into St. Nazaire. It is expected that the GYPSUM QUEEN and MONTAUK will sail from Brest for Ponta del Gada, Azores, on 3 June.

     2.  OPERATIONS.

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

          The destroyers which escorted O.R. 352 to westward, intercepted Group 383 and escorted it to Brest.

          The destroyers which escorted O.R. 36 to westward, intercepted H.N. 694 and escorted it to Quiberon, reinforced by two destroyers which piloted the LEVIATHAN and Group 37 to Brest. The French aviso AISNE formed part of the escorts for both O.R. 35 and H.N. 39.

          The WARRINGTON and SMITH, which were part of the escort of H.N. 69, were detained upon receipt of information regarding the torpedoing of the PRESIDENT LINCOLN, and sent to rescue survivors. The JARVIS and DRAYTON were sent from Brest on the afternoon of 31 MAY to reinforce the escort of H.N. 69 and joined before dark the same day. In view of the value of the ships of H.N. 69 bound for ports south of Quiberon, the coastal convoy escort will be reinforced by the ROE.

     3.   MISCELLANEOUS.

          The Commander U. S. Naval Forces in France called on the new Prefe[c]t Maritime at Lorient, Vice Admiral Aubrey,5 on 28 MAY, and returned to Brest on the following day.

          At about 9:30 a.m., 31 MAY, the U.S.S. PRESIDENT LINCOLN was torpedoed and shortly afterwards sank in latitude 47-48 north, longitude 15-31 west, about 430 miles west of Brest.6 She was in westbound convoy with the SUSQUEHANNA, ANTIGONE, and RIJNDAM. The destroyer escort had left the convoy at dark in about longitude 12° 00' west in order to join H.N. 69. The destroyers WARRINGTON and SMITH, who were at this time about 200 miles to eastward of the PRESIDENT LINCOLN, were directed to proceed to her assistance from the escort of H.N. 69. The DRAYTON and JARVIS, which were scheduled to sail as escort for the GREAT NORTHERN and NORTHERN PACIFIC from Brest on the afternoon of 31 MAY, were dispatched to replace the WARRINGTON and SMITH in the H.N. 69 escort. The latter two are due to arrive at Brest at about noon today with the survivors, 52 officers and 638 men. Four officers and 23 men are reported as missing. It is reported that Lieutenant E. V. M. Isaacs, U.S.N., is a prisoner on the German submarine.

          In the seven months that have elapsed since 1 November, 1917, this is the first loss of a westbound vessel, of which 120 troop ships and 190 store ships have been dispatched from the coast of France.

          U.S.S. LEVIATHAN, which arrived on the afternoon of 30 MAY, disembarked 10,000 troops and was given 4256 tons of coal and 1400 tons of water, and sailed on the afternoon of 1 June. On this visit of the LEVIATHAN there was excellent cooperation on the part of the officers and men of the vessel in the effort to turn her around speedily.7

          Word has been received that the forces at Brest are to be increased in the immediate future by from eleven to fourteen destroyers. These destroyers can be accommodated without difficulty. The first of the oil tanks to be constructed at Brest will be completed and ready to receive 7000 tons of oil on 15 June, thus doubling the present capacity of this base. A second tank will be ready about 5 July, and a third about 1 August. A considerable increase in the local fresh water supply, due to the completion of the Penfeld River project by the Army, will be available by 15 June. Thus, in the essentials of fuel and water, there will be adequate provision for the proposed increase in the number of vessels based on Brest.

          In accordance with the Department’s instructions and the Force Commander’s wishes, an investigation has been ordered in the cases of Lieutenant-Commander’s Stevenson and French, who have been engaged in contre-espionage work in the vicinity of Bordeaux. A court of inquiry, composed of Commander Franck T. Evans, U.S.Navy, and a recorder will handle the case.8

          On Memorial Day impressive exercises were held in which the U. S. Navy, U. S. Army, and the French participated. A military field mass was held in the forenoon in the court of the U.S.S. CAROLA Barracks, services were held in the cemetery in the afternoon, and in the evening in the Navy Y.M.C.A. hut.

     4.   SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES.

          The week has been marked by the active operation of at least one enemy submarine in the Bay of Biscay west of the tenth meridian.

     An ALLO9 was received at 4:00 p.m., 26 MAY, from latitude 48-24 north, longitude 9-38 west.

     Hydroplanes dropped two bombs on a suspicious wake at 3:00 p.m., 26 MAY, in latitude 47-52 north, longitude 4-40 west. The presence of a submarine in this vicinity is not confirmed.

     A submarine was gunned by the French gunboat AUBAN at 9:30 p.m., 28 MAY, in latitude 48-52 north, longitude 3-22 west.

     The English steamer WAR ANGLER was attacked at 11:00 p.m., 28 MAY, in latitude 49-47 north, longitude 13-59 west.

     The English steamer WEST CARLTON was torpedoed and sunk at 4:00 p.m., 29 MAY, in latitude 47-00 north, longitude 11-20 west.

     A sailing vessel was gunned by a submarine, which was later attacked by avions,10 at 7:00 a.m., 31 MAY, in latitude 49-76 north, longitude 3-27 west.

     A submarine was reported off St. Jean de Luz at 6:00 a.m., 31 MAY, in latitude 43-37 north, longitude 2:07 west.

     The U.S.S. PRESIDENT LINCOLN was torpedoed and sunk on the morning of 31 MAY, in latitude 47-57 north, longitude 15-31 west. Report of this sinking is covered in another paragraph.

     While returning from rescuing survivors of the PRESIDENT LINCOLN, the SMITH dropped depth charges on a submarine in latitude 47-55 north, longitude 12-15 west, at noon, 1 June, 1918. Details of this attack have not yet been received.

     While entering Brest at 3:00 p.m., on 30 MAY, the LEVIATHAN opened fire on what was supposed to be a submarine. The LEVIATHAN was under escort of destroyers at the time, who did not see the submarine, but report that they believe the LEVIATHAN fired at a tide rip.

     While leaving Brest on 1 June, the LEVIATHAN opened fire and escorting destroyers dropped depth charges on the periscope of a submarine in latitude 48-08 north, longitude 5-17 west, at 7:20 p.m. As a French submarine was operating in this vicinity, it is believed that the periscope sighted was on this submarine. The submarine was apparently undamaged.

     An ALLO was received from the French gunboat ENGAGEANTE in latitude 47-10 north, longitude 2-50 west, at 8:00 a.m., 1 June. Details are still lacking. The ENGAGEANTE was escorting a coastal convoy at the time.

     5.   MINING ACTIVITIES.

          On 29 MAY the zone dangerous on account of mines around latitude 48-47 north, longitude 4-13 west, was opened to navigation.

     6.   EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.

28 MAY –--The Commandant Superieur11 has commended Lieutenant-Commander H.J. Abbett,12 commanding the WHIPPLE, Senior Officer of escort and other American vessels composing the escort which recently brought a coastal convoy into port safely in a thick fog.

     Rear Admiral Wilson has commended the Commanding Officer of the ISABEL for the able manner in which his ship was handled at the time of the colli sion of the WAKIVA and WABASH.13

     Ensign F. N. Cole, U.S.N.R.F.,14 not having given satisfaction as Commanding Officer of the GYPSUM QUEEN, was relieved and ordered to duty in the Trawler Squadron at Lorient. Lieutenant (j.g.) G. T. Stephenson was detached from the SMEATON and ordered to command the GYPSUM QUEEN.15 Ensign A. Compton has been ordered to command the SMEATON.16

31 MAY – A draft of 571 men for the Aviation Station at Pauillac left today in charge of an Aviation Officer. The CAROLA Band preceded them to the station, and the draft made a very good appearance passing through the streets. Arrangements were in charge of Lieutenant Pennington, commanding the Barracks at Base Seven.17

     Von W. Carson, seaman, N.N.V., and Lieutenant Anders Hansen, U.S.N.R.F., were killed in an automobile accident in the Rochefort District about midnight 31 MAY. Further particulars have not yet been received.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. Attached to this report are lists of troop and store ships that arrived in and/or departed from French ports from 25 MAY to 31 MAY 1918. This list includes the port that they arrived at or departed from and the port that they sailed to as well as the type of escort. There is a similar list for ships in the U. S. Army’s “COAL TRADE.”

Footnote 1: Capt. Henry H. Hough.

Footnote 2: O.R. convoys originated in Brest. Wilson, American Navy in France: 47.

Footnote 3: Group convoys were troopship convoys from the United States for the coast of France.

Footnote 4: H.N. were convoys from New York to France. Ibid.

Footnote 5: VAdm. Etienne Aubry.

Footnote 6: For more on the sinking of the troopship President Lincoln see: Pringle to Sims, 2 June 1918; and Sims to Pringle, 4 June 1918.

Footnote 7: There were issues about Leviathan’s turn-around time. See: Sims to Benson, 17 May 1918.

Footnote 8: The information on the resolution of the case involving Lt. Edward J. French and Lt. Cmdr. William L. Stevenson has not been found.

Footnote 9: An “ALLO” was a radio message intended for everyone within receiving range.

Footnote 10: That is, airplanes. Wilson used the French term.

Footnote 11: The identity of the commander of this convoy is not known.

Footnote 12: Lt. Cmdr. Harry J. Abbett.

Footnote 13: The commander of the destroyer ISABEL was Lt. Lewis W. Comstock.

Footnote 14: Ens. Frederick M. Cole. As seen earlier in this report, the Gypsum Queen had been ordered to the Azores.

Footnote 15: George E.T. Stevenson.

Footnote 16: Ens. Arthur Compton.

Footnote 17: Presumably, Lt. Frank H. Pennington; “Base Seven” was in Brest, France.

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