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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels




13th June, 1918.   

From:     Force Commander.

To:       Secretary of the Navy (Operations)

SUBJECT:  General Report.


Week ending 25 May, 1918.

          During the week 19 – 25 May it was estimated that fifteen large enemy submarines were out, two being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type – one homeward bound (at the end of the week probably off Rockall) and the other somewhere off the North American Coast.

          The remaining large boats were chiefly operating in the entrance to the English Channel and southern approaches to the Irish sea.

          Other areas of activity were the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

          Enemy submarines on passage are beginning to take the route north of Muckel Flugga, probably partly on account of the hunting to which those using the Fair Island Channel have been subjected by the northern patrol forces, and partly because they prefer the route to the northward of the Shetlands in summer.

          The following table gives more detailed statistics of the enemy’s activities –


Average No. of <Submarines> in area per day

North Sea, South of 53° 30’


North Sea, North of 53° 30’

4 – 5

S. W. of Ireland

2 – 3

Atlantic, North of Finisterre

1 – 2

Atlantic, South of Finisterre

1 – 2

Atlantic, West of 40° W


N. W. of Ireland and Scotland

2 – 3

Irish Sea, North of 54° N

1 – 2

Irish Sea, South of 54° N

1 – 2

Irish Sea, Bristol Channel

1 – 2

English Channel, approaches

4 – 5

English Channel, west of Lyme Regis

1 – 2

English Channel, east of Lyme Regis

1 – 2

Bay of Biscay




     Reports of thirty-three encounters with enemy submarines were received as follows:

7 by T. B. D’s [torpedo boast destroyers]

1 by Special Service Ship

3 by P. class vessel

2 by submarines

3 by merchant vessels

4 by aircraft

8 by auxiliary patrol

5 by sloops ( and in conjunction with hydrophone trawlers.)

Week ending 1 June, 1918.

          During the week 26 May – 1 June it was estimated that ten to fourteen large enemy submarines were out, two as before of converted “Deutschland” type. One was thought to have arrived home and the other to have attacked an American Sailing Vessel on 2nd June one hundred miles south of New York.

          Of the remainder, one of the large boats which had been operating in the area of the Azores was homeward bound, and another was operating between 10° and 16° West and 47° and 49° North.

          There was a concentration of probably six submarines on the East Coast between the Firth of Forth and the Humber. They were unceasingly harried and had little success.

          The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities –


Average No. of <Submarines> in area per day.

North Sea, South of 53° 30’


North Sea, North of 53° 30’

5 – 6

S. W. of Ireland

1 – 2

Atlantic North of Finisterre

1 – 2

Atlantic, South of Finisterre

1 – 2

Atlantic, West of 40° W


N. W. of Ireland and Scotland

3 – 4

Irish Sea, North of 54° N


Irish Sea, South of 54° N

1 – 2

Irish Sea, Bristol <British> Channel

1 – 2

English Channel, approaches

1 – 2

English Channel, West of Lyme Regis

1 – 2

English Channel, East of Lyme Regis

1 – 2

Bay of Biscay




          Reports of thirty-six <encounters> with enemy submarines were received –

13 by T.B.D’s or T.B.’s

1 by submarines

1 by “P” class vessel

1 by sloop

1 by minesweeper

6 by auxiliary patrol

9 by aircraft

4 by merchant vessels


          On the 23rd May submarine H. 4 torpedoed and sank a submarine of the UB class, 38 miles south of Cattaro.

          On the 24th May UC 56 entered Santander Harbor on account of damage received and was interned. The damage was apparently inflicted by the U. S. S. CHRISTABEL.

          On 25th May at about 10 p.m. 5 1/2 miles N. by W. of Portland Bill the armed yacht LORNA dropped depth charges on and sank a submarine of the UB Class. One survivor was rescued who afterwards succumbed to his injuries.1


Week ending 25 May.

          Activity was experienced off Berwick-on-Tweed, in the approaches to the Humber, and in the Lowestoft and Harwich areas. This was the first time for eighteen months that mines had been laid in the Humber approaches and the operation appears rather in the light of a reply to the British extensive mining of the Heligoland Bight – the Humber being the principal base for minelayers so employed. The number of different localities – all focal points – mined between the Humber and Harwich are also noteworthy.

          Thirty-three mines were destroyed.

Week ending 1 June. 1918.

          A quiet week. Activity was experienced off the Farce Islands and in the Harwich area only. Seventy-eight mines were swept up from the field laid to the seaward of Montrose, but there are probably about thirty more to be accounted for here.

          Thirty-four mines were destroyed. . . .



          The BESOEKI arrived on 21 May and the CULGOA on 24 May. The discharge of these ships was proceeded with as rapidly as possible and the CULGOA was under orders to proceed at 4 p. m. on 31 May. In raising steam, however, she burst her main steam pipe and was consequently obliged to await repairs. The escort arranged for that day had to be diverted for other work. The CULGOA sailed for the United States on 4 June.

          The BESOEKI was discharged with the exception of the steel plates for the British Government and all stores for the Sixth Battle Squadron which will be discharged when she reaches the Clyde.


          The CONYNGHAM was docked at Rushbrocke for the repairs necessary to her bow. These repairs are estimated to require about two weeks. The tank for the K tube will be installed during this docking period. A board of investigation has been held.

          The TERRY was docked on 25 May at Haulbowline to clean her bottom. She has been out of dock since last October and her Commanding Officer2 reported that the oil consumption was excessive due to the condition of the bottom. Since her return, the Commanding Officer reports a much more economical fuel consumption.


          ROWAN, JENKINS and WAINWRIGHT are the three next ships to refit, and their date of refit will depend upon the return to the base of the BALCH, DOWNES and STOCKTON, all of which were originally expected to arrive during the first week of June. Owing to a strike at the shipyard, the return of these ships is likely to be delayed. The DOWNES, in any case, will be considerably delayed over her turbine troubles and cannot be expected to return to her base before the first of July. Ships will be sent to refit as others return to the Base.


          The number of ships laid up for repairs at present is proving a source of some embarrassment on account of the increased frequency with which troop transports are arriving. All necessary escorts can be arranged, but it will mean extra work for the ships that are in running order until the ships under repair return to their base.


          Major Gibbon attached to the Chief Censor’s office, Admiralty was sent to Queenstown to write up the cooperation between the British and American Navy. Every facility was granted to assist him in his work. He made a trip on board the O’BRIEN (senior ship of the LEVIATHAN escort) and upon his return, expressed himself as highly pleased with his experience. He is now at Berehaven where he will look over the submarines. . .


     Reports of operations of Commander, Naval Forces in France for weeks ending 25 May and 1 June, 1918 are attached to this report.3

     It is to be noted that since 1 November, 1917 (seven months) 120 troop ships and 190 store ships have been dispatched from the French Coast, making a total 310 ships escorted (in and out) through the zone. Although the loss of the PRESIDENT LINCOLN is greatly to be regretted, nevertheless, taking into consideration the inherent risks (regardless of strength of escort) the percentage of loss sustained must be considered very satisfactory.

     Attention is invited to the report of the loss of the U. S. S. WAKIVA. . . .4


          Various reports of operations by the Submarine Chaser Hunting Unit are forwarded herewith.5

          From experience so far gained it is found that some doubt exists as to the value of a supporting destroyer with each unit. It would seem that a destroyer should always be within supporting distance and call of each unit. This will particularly apply if the hunting units attempt to operate at a considerable distance at sea or from base. There is no question but that a regular officer of experience with each unit would greatly increase their efficiency. . . .


          The desirability has been frequently suggested to the Force Commander, particularly by officers of the American Merchant Marine, of establishing a separate naval reserve force in the Merchant Marine, to be permanent after the war. With the growing size of the American Merchant Marine it seems very important to take any steps which will cement relations between the Merchant Marine and the Navy.

          In the early part of the war a lack of cooperation between the Navy and Merchant Marine was very apparent and was no doubt the cause of the loss of many ships. There seemed to have been a hostile feeling prevalent in the Merchant Marine towards the Navy which was the growth of many years. Instructions issued by the Admiralty to merchant masters concerning methods of handling their ships, and concerning the internal organization of ships to ensure better safety from submarines, were frequently ignored, apparently owing to the above mentioned spirit of hostility. It is reported that it was common in the Merchant Marine in the early part of the war to hear remarks to the effect that Naval Officers, owing to lack of experience afloat, were not competent to advise mariners as to methods to be pursued at sea. Repeated cases are on record in which merchant captains disregarded their instructions and spoke of naval officers in a very derogatory manner.

          On the contrary it is reported that officers of the Merchant Marine who were members of the R. N. R.6 were apparently very proud of their position and their uniforms, and the fact of their belonging to the Naval Reserve actually caused them to introduce man-of-war methods aboard their ships which in many instances undoubtedly resulted in improved efficiency and smartness.

          This question is a very complicated one but is believed to be worthy of serious consideration. If such a reserve is created, which will be permanent after the war, post-war conditions should be carefully considered. If a reasonably high standard of efficiency is set as a qualification for membership in such a reserve force, it would seem that it would be to the best interests of the Merchant Marine itself. For example, the regulations if carefully drawn up would promptly established a line of demarcation in the personnel of the merchant marine and set standards for all of the personnel to strive to attain.

          It has also been suggested that this general question might be extended even to the organization of ships and their equipment, establishing standards which would gradually become known to the public, and affect the patronage of such ships or lines. For example, a ship to belong to the Naval Reserve Force would have to have at least a certain percentage of her officers qualify as members of the Reserve Force, and once being accepted by the Navy the ship would be allowed to fly a certain pennant or other designating mark and be listed in shipping records as a NavalReserve ship. Such ships might be subject to periodic inspections by the Navy, the latter maintaining a force of inspectors who would spend their time at sea inspecting those ships under actual conditions. . . .

          Such a system if properly constituted would afford an opportunity to the Navy in a new field of activity, which would constitute a real national service in peace as well as in war.

          Captain Cone7 recently Marine Superintendent of the Panama Canal reports that from his observations of the Merchant Marine passing through the Panama Canal, those ships which more nearly approached the standards of smartness of a man-o’-war were, in his opinion, more useful and successful as commercial vessels. He states that a Hawaiian Line was particularly noteworthy from a standpoint of cleanliness and smartness, and that this spirit resulted in all round increased efficiency as regards upkeep, expedition of sea voyages and particularly expedition of repairs, and handling of general port duties which are necessary on all merchant ships.

          It would seem from experience in the early part of the war that the British merchant Naval Reserve system did not satisfactorily accomplish the mission of cementing relations between the Merchant Marine and the Navy. It did undoubtedly furnish many excellent officers and men to the Navy, but this would not seem to be the primary mission of a merchant marine naval reserve system.


          Evidence indicates that from 30 to 50% of expiration of enlistments in destroyers and small craft in the war zone fail to re-enlist on board and insist on transportation to their homes. It is understood that the percentage in the battleships is even higher. This takes out of the ships many trained and skilled men whose services should not be released in time of war. Such investigation as has been made indicates that in the majority of cases failure to re-enlist on board is not due to conditions on board but merely the natural desire to take advantage of a trip home with all expenses paid and a period of leave without loss of pay before re-enlistment.

          In days of national conscription such a condition is manifestly not to the interests of the Government.


          It is the general practice of the Admiralty to withhold announcements of the loss of naval ships until casualty reports have been received and the next of kin or relatives have been notified. This practice is based upon experience and is intended to avoid the flood of inquiries which always are forthcoming when the loss of a ship is announced before the relatives have been informed.


          The following is an extract from a report of a Military Attache dated 5 May, 1918, which has come to notice –

     “High official at Ministry of War who has just returned from Verdun sector stated to me that in passing a regiment of U. S. Marine Corps on road he found them in his opinion the finest body of fighting men he had yet seen in the war”.


          The Force Commander after learning of the exploit of Lieut. Commander Pellergrino of the Italian Navy of the supposed torpedoing of an Austrian Dreadnought, cabled his congratulations to the Ministry of Marine, Rome,8 through the American Naval Attache, and is in receipt of a letter expressing the appreciation of the entire Italian Navy for his message.

          This letter also states that – “All attempts to verify the actual sinking of the dreadnought, have failed, as aircraft have been continuously shot down, but the signal which was decided upon by Lieut. Pellegrino if he accomplished his mission, having been fired, the Italian Navy believes that his mission was accomplished”.


          British Secretary of State has addressed a letter of the American Ambassador9 informing him that the Army Council have acquired grave spaces in cemeteries in the London district and in the vicinity of Winchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, for the burial of American soldiers and sailors who may die in this country.

          The Army Council state that they trust that they may have the privilege of undertaking all the expenses of the purchase and maintenance of the graves, as a small mark of their appreciation of the services of the United States to the cause of the Allies.

     16.  GENERAL

          A south-bound convoy (British-east coast England) recently had two unsuccessful attacks made on it by submarines. One of the attacks was of a rather remarkable character. The submarine came to the surface in the middle of the convoy. It is assumed that her listening devices were not operating. She was rammed by one of the vessels of the convoy and apparently could not dive afterwards. The submarine rammed another vessel of the convoy and was then rammed three time by the FAIRY which latter was so damaged that she sank.

          Off this coast there were two other attacks on submarines by trawlers and two by aeroplanes.

          Investigations are now going on to try and determine why hunting operations with the fish hydrophone cannot be brought to a successful conclusion. There have been reported eighteen cases of submarines that have been heard. From Admiralty experience about 45% of such reports were not submarines. There have been a number of well defined cases, however, where a submarine has been heard and followed for some hours and finally depth charged, and after the dropping of the depth charge nothing else has been heard. From this the assumption is usually made that the submarine must have been sunk or severely damaged. It now develops that the fish hydrophone is of such construction that it almost always becomes inoperative after a depth charge is exploded in its neighborhood. The Commander-in-Chief has asked the Admiralty experts on the subject be sent to investigate on the spot.

          If the fish hydrophone cannot be modified to stand the shock of depth charges it is a question of supply extra instruments, that can be put over after depth charges are dropped. Recent photographs of Zeebrugge show that the destroyer reported sometime ago as sunk by bombs is in the position first reported. So far as is known the Channel into the canal of Zeebrugge is still blocked.10 Submarines cannot pass from Bruges to Ostend as there is not water enough in the canal though they can still use the basin at Ostend.

          An unusually good photograph of the Zeebrugge Mole, which incidentally, is about 8000 ft. long, shows a number of torpedo boats and destroyers moored inside. It also shows the wreck of a destroyer that was bombed some time ago, and the hull of another vessel partly submerged. The latter looks like a submarine, but is not sufficiently clear to be sure of it.

          Very good reports have been received as to the effect of the recent bombing on Bruges. One bombing operation was followed by some very violent explosions on shore.

          A recommendation has been received from Admiral Tupper commanding Fair Island passage patrol and approved by the Commander in Chief,11 that the Fair Island Patrol be extended in a northwesterly direction from the Orkneys. The Admiralty concurs.

          There are less submarines operating now than there have been for a long time. There were ten submarines surely destroyed during the month of May and probably fourteen.12

          The designating number of submarines that have been sunk are never given to new boats.

          Two heavy air raids were made on Dunkirk on 5th June by the Germans in one of which 200 bombs were dropped in the town and harbor and in the second 16 bombs were dropped in the Hadley-Page Aerodrome. A British vessel, the ANNANDALE, was sunk in the harbor. It appears that twenty-five enemy planes took part in the operation. A large number of British planes were damaged and a few, probably four or five were damaged beyond repair. One officer was killed and four or five enlisted men were injured.

          A large AMERICA seaplane while conducting a reconnaissance from the east coast was attacked by five German planes. The AMERICA was brought down, but for some unknown reason the Germans did not follow their usual practice of continuing the attack after the plane was brought down. The crew was rescued, but the plane was a total loss.

          Five British seaplanes recently went to Bight for a reconnaissance against enemy seaplanes of which five were encountered and it is reported that two of them were brought down. Of the British planes three have returned, but the pilot of one of them was killed. The crews of the other two seaplanes have been safely landed in Holland. The pilot of one of the machines was an American Naval Aviator.


          From the beginning of operations in Europe it was realized that Brest was the best strategical position from which to operate destroyers handling vessels bound to or from French Atlantic ports. Brest had the disadvantages, however, of totally inadequate repair facilities and lack of oiling facilities. Six destroyers sent from Queenstown required 48 hours to oil. The loss of time, when a number of destroyers were considered, was very great, but even more serious than the loss of time due to oiling was the inability to repair vessels on the French Coast. A complete survey has been made of all French navy yards, and considerable experience has been had with the best of these yards. This experience indicates that a very great loss of time was to be expected if repairs or alterations were to be carried on in French yards. The development now in hand on the French coast for increasing repair facilities for our vessels is expected to handle only minor repairs. Vessels damaged to any considerable extent and repaired in France would be out of commission for a long time.

          On the other hand the repairs to our destroyers in British yards barring some delays due to labor troubles have been most satisfactory. Complete overhauls have been given our destroyers in eleven days at Birkenhead, and a large amount of work done, including the installation of K-tube tanks and depth charge racks, alteration of bridges and so forth, all within the eleven day period which has been utilized as a period of leave for officers and crew, Recently an agreement has been reached with the Admiralty; #13 whereby the destroyers operating on the French Coast will be overhauled in the same manner as the Queenstown destroyers at Birkenhead except that the overhaul will occur once in six months instead of once in four as in the past and not over 150 men are to be employed on each destroyer. This agreement has made it desirable to transfer to Brest a member of destroyers and to assign to Brest the duty of meeting troop convoys. There are now at Brest a total of 33 destroyers and at Queenstown 24 destroyers. Brest will have the following duties:

(a) Meeting troop convoys and escorting empty transports to westward.

(b) Meeting storeship convoys from New York to Bay of Biscay every sixteen days.

(c) Meeting New York convoy every eight days.

(d) Escorting to the westward empty storeships.

QUEENSTOWN will have the following duties –

(a) Escort of large troop transports – LEVIATHAN OLYMPIA, AQUITANIA, and MAURETANIA.

(b) Escort of 11 1/2 knot troop convoy for east coast every sixteen days.

(c) Escort of mercantile convoy from Egypt every sixteen days.

(d) Escort of mercantile convoy every eight days from Hampton Roads or Sydney [Nova Scotia].

(e) Escort to westward convoys of fast ships from Liverpool.

          Basing destroyers detailed for troop convoys on Brest will permit escorts proceeding to the westward to meet troop convoys, to take out empty transports. This will assure the empty transports strong escort for a long distance to the westward. This was the main reason for transferring destroyers from Queenstown to Brest.


          The U. S. submarines based on Berehaven have performed very satisfactory duty. A number of them have been in contact with the enemy, and in a few instances torpedoes have been fired but thus far no results have been attained. It appears that the United States listening devices are perhaps more effective than the German devices. These listening devices aid materially in enabling our submarines to find enemy submarines. The one serious defect from which our boats suffer is lack of sufficient periscopes, but this is being overcome by the installation of British periscopes. Altogether our submarines have done remarkably well in adapting themselves to new conditions quickly, and have performed hazardous duty satisfactorily.


          The Department is probably aware that our Assistant Naval Attache at Stockholm – Mr. Robinette14 – a former prominent Philadelphia business man, was interested prior to his enrollment in March 1918, and in connection with his other duties, with press propaganda work in Scandinavian countries particularly in Sweden. There seems little doubt xxxxxxx that the Swedish press in the past has been of a pro-German tendency. At least, the only official News Bureau in Sweden is well understood to have been distinctly pro-German and it is with this News Bureau that American press representatives have had to deal.

          Mr. Robinette was instrumental or at least assisted in originating a new News Bureau in Sweden which it is understood was to be operated by prominent Swedish authorities. The primary mission of this new Bureau was to ensure an accurate portrayal of the world news as collected by the Entent news agencies – (Reuters Havas and the Associated Press) as about seventy per cent of their dispatches were disregarded by the pro-German Swedish Bureau.

          It seems that the representative of the American Associated press in Sweden ( a Mr. Bouton)15 has taken a decided stand against the new News Bureau and further there seems to be considerable evidence that Mr. Bouton, if he is not actually pro-German, at least has been responsible for sending out many messages to our own press which were not of a desirable nature.

          Our Naval Attache in Norway and Sweden16 in his efforts to support the New News Bureau, recently requested that intercepted copies of Mr. Bouton’s messages to the U. S. press be forwarded to him, the Naval Attache, for his information.

          The Force Commander has stated it to be his policy to assist all legitimate propaganda work in every way possible and consistent with naval policy. At the same time he feels, however, that our naval mission being paramount, no U. S. naval representative should risk becoming involved in any press controversies or in fact in any propaganda of any nature which could possibly embarrass the position of our naval representatives and thereby interfere with the accomplishment of their strictly naval mission. He has therefore disapproved having anything to do with intercepted press messages except where they may bear on naval subjects. The Naval Attache Christiana has been notified to the above effect.

(Signed) Sims.     

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: Lorna successfully sank UB-74 on 26 May 1918. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 50.

Footnote 2: CONYNGHAM was damaged in a grounding incident on 21 May 1918, at Seven Heads on the South Coast of Ireland when the ship was traveling through a thick fog. Both the commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Herbert H. Michaels, and executive officer, Lt. Lee P. Johnson were issued letter of formal censure for endangering the ship. Charles A. Dunn to Pringle, 6 June 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Destroyer Files: U.S.S. Conygham; and Joel R. Poinsett Pringles Report of the Finding of the Board of Inquiry, Ibid. Lt. Cmdr. John F. Shafroth Jr. was commander of the destroyer TERRY.

Footnote 4: For more on the attack on WAKIVA, see: Henry B. Wilson to Sims, 2 June 1918.

Footnote 5: Reports referred to were not attached.

Footnote 6: Royal Navy Reserve.

Footnote 7: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone.

Footnote 8: Sims seems to have confused Cmdr. Mario Pellegrini - who was captured severing mine barriers at Otranto on 14 March 1918 - with Capt. Luigi Rizzo, who lead a torpedo boat attack on the Austrian dreadnoughts Szent István and Tegethoff. During the attack his force of two torpedo boats successfully torpedoed and sank the Szent István. Minister of the Marine V.Adm. Alberto de Bono. Kevin Desmond, Electric Boats and Ships: A History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017), 71; and Maurizio Brescia, Mussolini’s Navy: A Reference Guide to the Regia Marine 1930-1945 (S. Yorkshire: Seaforth Publishing, 2012), 18.

Footnote 9: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Arthur Balfour and United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Walter Hines Page.

Footnote 10: On 23 April 1918, the Royal Navy launched the Zeebrugge Raid in an attempt to block the Belgian port of Bruges-Zeebrugge. The British intended to sink obsolete ships in the canal entrance in order to prevent German U-boats and light shipping based there from leaving the port. Led by Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, Commander, Dover Patrol, the Royal Navy initially tried to launch the raid on 2 April 1918, but it was cancelled at the last moment, after the wind direction changed and made it impossible to lay a smokescreen to cover the ships. On the following attempt on 23 April, the Royal Navy also initiated a concurrent attack on Ostend. Two of three blockships were scuttled in the narrowest part of the Bruges Canal and one of two submarines rammed the viaduct linking the shore and the mole in order to trap the German garrison. The blockships were sunk in the wrong place and after a few days the Germans had opened the canal to submarines at high tide. Peter Kendall, The Zeebrugge Raid 1918: The Finest Feat of Arms (Brimscombe Port: Spellmount, 2009).

Footnote 11: Adm. Sir Reginald Godfrey Otway Tupper, R.N., and approved by the Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander-in-Chief, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 12: There are less submarines operating now than there have been for a long time. There were ten submarines surely destroyed during the month of May and probably fourteen.

Footnote 13: # See Force Commander’s letter of June 6 “Destroyers – Docking and Refit Arrangements”. R - 2 – 20008 – 40 – 3/2a. Document referred to has not been found.

Footnote 14: Assistant Naval Attaché at Stockholm Lt. Edward Robinette.

Footnote 15: Associated Press reporter S.M. Bouton.