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Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force, Atlantic Fleet, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S.Naval Forces Operation In European Waters


File No. 18-S.              Base Eighteen, [Inverness, Scotland]

                    SECRET                        22 June 1918.

From:     Commander Mine Force.

To  :     Force Commander.

Subject:  Mining Operations ---Policy of.

          1. The following is an extract from Operation Order “M 1”, dated 5 June 1918, from the QUEEN ELIZABETH, signed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet.1

  “In the event of weather preventing minelaying, forces are

if practicable, to wait until a period of twenty-four hours has elapsed in case the weather should improve later and render minelaying possible. x x x x x

The decision as to postponement rests with the Rear Admiral (M),2 who in such an event is to make a cypher signal to Forces ‘B’ and ‘C’ --- ‘OPERATION POSTPONED 24 HOURS’. The operation is then, weather permitting, to be carried out exactly 24 hours later, the movements and time table laid down in paragraph 5 being adhered to.

“A decision whether or not the operation is to be attempted on the following day is to be made by the Rear Admiral (M), x x x x x. If necessary to postpone definitely the operation until a future occasion, the Rear Admiral (M) is to make a cypher signal---‘OPERATION CANCELLED, RETURN TO BASES’”.

       2. The operation of laying mines in the North Sea, as designed, may separate the British and United States minelaying forces by as much as 150 miles and, as a matter of fact, during the operation for which this order was issued, they were separated before completing the work approximately 100 miles. The conditions of the North Sea are such as to make totally different weather conditions at a lesser distance. In fog especially is this true everywhere. I desire to invite attention to the fact that, should such an order be carried out, it might result in the failure of an operation where the work might well be proceeded with by one of the other of the mine forces.3

J. Strauss 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document identifiers at top of page “19957” and in columnar fashion: “File No 1/2/A/J.” There is also what appears to be the initials of the transcriber/decoder “JS/Fah.”

Footnote 1: Adm. Sir David R. Beatty, R.N.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Lewis Clinton-Baker, R.N.

Footnote 3: According to historian William Still:

Strauss encountered difficulties with British naval officers, especially Beatty and Admiralty officials. Strauss later wrote, “The magnitude of the task assigned to the Mine Force was not my greatest concern; it was outweighed by the hidden determination on the part of our British allies not to permit its accomplishment, and at least to make it abortive by withdrawing from their share of the work which would have left a gap in the fence eastward from the Orkneys.” . . . Although Sims informed the American Mine Force commander that Beatty had overall responsibility for the mine barrage, on a number of occasions Strauss appealed directly to Sims over Beatty’s head. Twice the force commander sharply reminded Strauss that he was under Beatty’s command. Still. Crisis at Sea: 439-40.