Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William P. Scott, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and Representative, Ship Protective General Committee, to Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations

March 2, 1918.    

M e m o r a n d u m   f o r

     Captain W. V. Pratt, U. S. N.,

          Assistant for Operations.

SUBJECT: Recent Development of Policy of Furnishing Army Transports with Armed Guards or Naval Personnel.

     1.   Details of method for furnishing Armed Guards to Army Transports were worked out at a conference of representatives of War Department, Navy Department, and Shipping Board as per letter dated November 9th, 1917, from Chief of Embarkation Service to Commanding General, Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, N. J.1

     2.   December 17, 1917, Secretary of War outlined the policy of the War Department re Manning by Navy of all Army Transports.

          Briefly, this policy provided that all Army Troop and Cargo Transports should be furnished Complete Naval personnel.

          See copy of letter dated December 17, 1917, Secretary of War to E. N. Hurley, Chairman, U. S. Shipping Board.2

     3.   February 3, 1918. Embarkation service took first ship on “Temporary time charter basis”, Navy to man at some future date.

          Reason given for this action “in view of the urgency of the present situation ......... War Department ..... will operate on this basis until such time as the Navy Department is in position to man .... without delay”.

          See copy of letter dated February 2, 1918, Director of Embarkation to Commanding General, Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, N. J.3

     4.   From applications for Armed Guards from the owners of several of these vessels it became apparent that in a numberof cases vessels that were to be operated by the Army under a time charter basis and without armament until such time as the Navy was able to man them without delay to the vessel, could be prepared for either Armed Guards or for Naval personnel while the vessel was undergoing repairs or other alterations.

     5.   The War Department was advised of this under date of February 20, 1918, and information was requested as to what action was desired.4

     6.   The reply of the War Department, Embarkation Service, dated February 26, 1918, quoted a letter from the Chairman of the Shipping Control Committee, giving as the opinion of the Committee that “ ..... all steamers operated ... through War Zone should be armed and equipped with an Armed Guard ... without delaying the steamers”.

     7.   In the meanwhile the owners have been furnished plans for preparing their vessels for Armed Guards and in some cases have gone ahead with these preparations. Two vessels, the CLARE and the K. I. LUCKENBACH, have already been furnished with Armed Guards under these conditions, and there are several other vessels which it is understood are preparing for the same.

     8.   If these vessels, while making alterations for Army service, have opportunity to prepare for Armed Guards it is reasonable to assume that they could just as readily have been prepared for a naval personnel; if they are eventually to be turned over to the Navy to man, it certainly is a waste of effort to fit them for Armed Guards for one trip and then prepare them for a complete Naval personnel upon their return from that trip.

     9.   I have been endeavoring to ascertain the cause of the passe. The “CLARE” is a typical case:

          Under date of February 4, 1918, Operations was advised by the War Department that the CLARE would be available for taking over at New York about February 15, 1918, for use of the War Department, but that in view of the urgency she would be taken over on basis of time charter, operated on this basis and despatched without armament until such time as the Navy Department was in position to man her without delay.

          Under date of February 8, Operations (Material) issued orders directing Commandant, 3rd Naval District, to take over vessel on bare ship basis and proceed with manning her with naval personnel upon her next return from France which would be communicated later.

          Under date of February 11, 1918, the Department (Material) advised the owners that the vessel was to be operated by the Navy for the War Department and would therefore not come in the class of ships that are provided with an Armed Guard crew only.

     In the meanwhile however the vessel had been inspected and the owners had been furnished with plans for gun emplacements, etc.

     It appears now that before turning the vessel over to the Army certain changes were decided upon to fit her for Army service, and the vessel was sent to Robbins Dry Dock and Repair Co., Brooklyn. While making these changes the vessel completed preparations for Armed Guards and an Armed Guard is being placed on board.

     When the changes to the CLARE to fit her for Army service were decided upon, had the War Department advised Operations to that effect, and asked if the Navy could then proceed to man her, I believe this could just as readily have been done without delay as to fit her for Armed Guards.

     10.  The MAUI is another case. This vessel has been preparing for Army service at Baltimore for about three weeks. Had the Army desired it, I see no reason why the Navy could not have prepared her and manned her with Navy personnel in that time.

     11.  In each case the Army indicates that they will operate the vessel on a time charter until such time as the Navy Department is in a position to man her without delay. This is putting the onus on the Navy Department which I do not think is just to the Navy to accept, if we are in a position to man these vessels while they are laid up in port.

<W. P. Scott>

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “Op-24-D.”

Footnote 1: See: Josephus Daniels to All Navy Bureaus, 10 November 1917. The Chief of the Embarkation Service was Brig. Gen. Chauncey B. Baker. The Commanding General at the Hoboken port was Maj. Gen. David S. Shanks.

Footnote 2: This letter has not been found.

Footnote 3: This letter has not been found.

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