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Commander André M. Proctor to Destroyer Flotillas One and Two




Rosebank, New York, Two p.m.,  19 March 1917

Operation Order

No. 2.








(c) SECOND PATROL FORCE: Lieut. W. H. Lee.







SHUBRICK (When ready)


(d) THIRD PATROL FORCE: Lieut (jg) G. C. Burnes



(e) FOURTH PATROL FORCE: Lieut (jg) G. W. Simpson

     STERRETT (Until relieved by Reid)

     MOHACHAN (Until relieved by WALKE)

(f) DELAWARE RIVER FORCE: Lieut. R. Jacobs.





1. The present international situation has caused some uneasiness along our coast as to possible belligerent submarine operations near our ports and in our coastal waters. Reports of the presence of submarines in the vicinity of our coast have not been confirmed. The Department has requested that the Light-houses and life-saving stations be instructed to keep a good lookout for submarines and to report any sighted.

2. A Patrol Force is organized for the purpose of reconnaissance of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Portland, Me. to Pensacola, Fla. This reconnaissance will consist, in general, of periodic visits of investigation to possible havens of refuge for submarines or submarine bases, and cruising off shore where belligerent submarines might possibly lie or may be reported.

3.   (a) PANTHER The PANTHER will be stationed at the neutrality buoy1 and, until a destroyer is available for that duty, will perform the duty heretofor performed by a destroyer at that place.

     (b) First Patrol Force: This Force will be charged with a reconnaissance of the coast from Eastport, Me. to Nantucket Shoals. One boat of the Force will, at all times, be on duty of reconnaissance and one boat of the Force will be on neutrality duty under the orders of the Commandant of the First Naval District.2 The duty of these boats will be regulated by the Commander of this Force. We will make such disposition as necessary to provide for the duty and allow proper opportunity for upkeep.

     In the district embraced by this force, the character of the coast is such that it might be possible to establish submarine bases in obscure places. It is improbable however, that this could be done without the knowledge of the Coast Guard, Light-house Service or the local inhabitants and the Commander of this force will get in touch with all these agencies in order that rumors may be investigated. The most effective patrol however, will be the patrol established by communicating with the coast steamship lines. It is important that the patrol established must embrace principally offshore work beyond the limits of these steamship lanes and provision made for investigating any reports which may be received.

     (c) SECOND PATROL FORCE: This force will be charged with the duty of reconnaissance from Nantucket Shoals to Cape Hatteras and will provide two boats for the performance of neutrality duty in New York harbor under the orders of the Commandant, Third Naval District.3 The Commander of this Force will make such dispositions as may be necessary in order to provide for boats for carrying out this duty  . . .  

     Due to the configuration of the coast and the fact that the coast is patrolled by the Life-saving Service,4 who have orders to report any suspicious circumstances, it is not probably that any submarine bases could be established within the limits of this Force without being known and in establishing a patrol of this district, the Commander of this Force will consider the necessity of an off-shore patrol, particularly one to the southeastward of New York which area is not traversed by any steamship lanes. The inshore patrol will be most effectively handled by acting upon information received from steamship lines.

     (d) THIRD PATROL FORCE: The Commander of this Force will be responsible for making a reconnaissance between Cape Hatteras and Jupiter Inlet. One of the vessels of this Force will be on this reconnaissance and the other will be at anchor at Charleston, South Carolina.

     The character of the coast in this district is such that it is not probable that a submarine base could be established without knowledge. The Commander of this Force will establish the patrol in such a way as to cover the areas outside of the steamship lanes.

     (e) FOURTH PATROL FORCE: This Force will be charged with the duty of reconnaissance from Jupiter Inlet to Pensacola, Florida. One vessel will be kept, at all times, on this duty and the other vessels will be kept in Key West Harbor.

     The Commander of this Patrol Force will include in this duty, the investigation of the Bahamas adjacent to the Florida Straits and the coasts of Cuba if necessary. The character of this coast and the areas adjacent thereto is such that a submarine base might easily be established in an out-lying and unfrequented place and the Commander will get in touch with all agencies from which it is possible that information could be obtained and all reports and rumors will be investigated.

     (f) DELAWARE RIVER FORCE: This Force is assigned to neutrality duty in Delaware Bay under orders of the Commandant, Fourth Naval District.5

     (g) HAMPTON ROADS FORCE: This vessel is assigned to duty in Hampton Roads under the orders of the Commandant, Fifth Naval District. When other vessels are available they will be assigned to this duty.6

4. Orders as to the details of this duty will be iss[u]ed by the Commanders of the Forces as indicated. In general these orders will provide for carrying out instructions as indicated. In general, the investigations ordered are for the purpose of investigating possible submarine bases and making an offshore reconnaissance for the purpose of discovering belligerent submarines. Copies of all orders issued will be submitted to the Commander of Flotillas ONE and TWO, Destroyer Force, and report make weekly showing disposition of destroyers on this duty.

     It is recognized in this connection however, that with the force available, it is impossible to establish a sufficient coastal patrol to be effective in discovering the presence of submarines which might appear off the coast. It is intended that, in each of the patrol districts, a destroyer be available for the purpose of investigating any of the numerous rumors which, from time to time, are sent in and for responding to any call which might be received from coastwise steamers.

     The principle steamship lines doing a coastal business will be communicated with by the Commanders of the Patrol Force and, as soon as orders are issued by the Commander of the SECOND PATROL FORCE, they will be forwarded and will be used as a basis for orders issued in other districts. It is expected that, by co-operating with the coastwise steamship companies, an effective patrol can be maintained, if a destroyer is available for calls in these districts.

     The present situation is delicate but it must be remembered that no orders have been issued by the Navy Department which change the neutral attitude of the United States. In case of attack by a belligerent submarine on a merchant vessel of another belligerent nation, the Commanders of these forces will be governed by the instructions contained in Operations letter Op-17, of November 15, 1916.7 In the event of an attack by a belligerent submarine on a vessel of the United States, the conditions as outlined in this letter are materially changed and such an attack would constitute an act of war.

     The following is quoted from the letter referred to above:-

     “4. The Department directs that all officers shall guard against any act which may directly or indirectly assist or interfere with the lawful operations of belligerent vessels. The field of our naval activities as neutrals is limted to:

     (a) The guarding of our own waters against belligerent acts.

     (b) The maintainance of our rights as neutrals as defined by treaty and by accepted international law.

     (c) Providing for the comfort of passengers and crews of merchant vessels sunk after passengers and crews have been placed in safety by the belligerent vessel.

     (d) Providing for the safety and comfort of passengers and crews of merchant vessels sunk while resisting or while attempting to escape, unless survivors are in custody of the belligerent vessel.

     (e) Providing for the safety and comfort of passengers and crew of merchant vessels placed in jeopardy by illegal belligerent acts.

     (f) The observation of events and reporting upon them.”

5. Commander, Flotillas ONE and TWO, Destroyer Force, Senior Officer Present, Destroyer Force, in PANTHER at Rosebank, N.Y.

H. M. Proctor      

Commander, U. S. Navy.

Commander,Flotillas One and

TWO, Destroyer Force, Atlantic

Fleet, Senior Officer Present

Destroyer Force

Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. Below the typed signature is a list of those to whom copies of this order were sent. At the top of each page but the first is: “Op. Order No. 2, Cont’d.”

Footnote 1: The exact location of the “neutrality buoy” is not known, but it was presumably off New York City.

Footnote 2: Capt. William R. Rush.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Nathaniel R. Usher.

Footnote 4: The Life-Saving Service, which was founded in 1848 to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers, was, in 1915, merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard.

Footnote 5: Capt. Robert L. Russell.

Footnote 6: Capt. Edward E. Hayden.

Footnote 7: The operative parts of that instruction are quoted in the paragraph that follows.

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