Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
DEPARTMENT CABLES #3615.
<March 7, 1918.>
U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.
U.S.S. MELVILLE, Flagship.
Telephone, Victoria 9110 30, Grosvenor Gardens.
Cable Address, “SIMSADUS” London, S.W.1
Reference No. . . . . . Cablegram Received: 03008 March 1918.
(STAMPED) HIGHLY SECRET
Origin: Opnav, Washington Ser.NO/ 3615.
3615. Following extract of cables to and from General Bliss,1 Pershing2 and War Department are quoted for your information and guidance in dealing with such portion of subject as comes within scope of Naval cooperation:-
BLISS TO WAR DEPARTMENT MARCH 6th, 1918.
“Joint Note Number 12 which was approved by Supreme War Council February 1st, carried in it the declaration that safety of Franco-British Front could be guaranteed only on condition that from date American combatant divisions should arrive in France at rate of not less than two divisions per month. I cannot convey too strongly the seriousness of the situation from the point of view of our Allies.”
FROM SECRETARY OF WAR TO GENERAL BLISS MARCH 6th, 1918.
“ Two divisions per month will be dispatched commencing April 1st. Dispatching of two divisions per month is dependent upon full utilization of all commercial space used heretofore also upon use of AQUITANIA, MAURETANIA commencing early in April. All American cargo-tonnage will have to be withdrawn for use in maintaining this increased force. It is important that English and French understand that for America to furnish two combatant divisions per month will require an increased number of troops to be dispatched through England, also the handling of troops and convoys promptly in ports of disembarkation”.
FROM WAR DEPARTMENT TO GENERAL PERSHING MARCH 6th, 1918.
“ United States is committed to increase the man-power above indicated. Landing of troops at Liverpool andSouthampton materially shortens turn around and the more extensive use of these ports offers quickest means of increasing flow of troops. With the cooperation of Admiral Sims,British and French authorities can you arrange to materially increase flow of troops through England and the transfer of troops across the channel to some French Channel Port?”
The above outlines situation. At joint conference March 7th, following conclusions were reached as to first steps to be taken to expedite flow of troops:-
First: Arrange for schedule of regular direct sailing U.S.S. LEVIATHAN M<A>URETANIA, AQUITANIA,and OLYMPIC. These ships to run on four-week complete turn-around carrying each minimun of 5,000 troops and sailing on schedule similar to that of American Liners, destination Southampton, to be furnished destroyer escort, running regardless of the moon in order to keep schedule, routed and running like U.S.S. LEVIATHAN. Owing to extreme urgency getting troops to Front, War Department, while expecting every protection it is reasonably possibly to give the matter (of) escorts, it is willing (to) assume every increased risk to personnel resulting from running and routing these ships on schedule to destination Southampton.
SECOND: Running the four American Liners on direct sailing schedule to Liverpool as at present, maximum number of troops carried 1,000 each ship per voyage. Routed as at present and to receive destroyer escort as at present if practicable. In this case(as above) War Department, owing to situation and speed of ships willing (to) assume any incre[a]sed risk that may be incurred due to embarking troops on these ships routed in the manner indicated.
THIRD: To embark troops on four French Liners sailing direct(to) Bordeaux, number not to exceed 500, escort in submarine zone to be furnished by the French if practicable. In this case War Department assumes risk (of) so dispatching troops out of convoy due to extreme exigency situation.
FOURTH: It was decided to ask Admiralty whether any British Merchant passenger steamers now employed as auxiliary cruisers, particularly those employed on South Atlantic and South Pacific Patrol such as HMS. AVOCA, HMS. ARBITA, HMS OTRANTO, HMS EDINBURGH CASTLE, and HMS MACEDONIA, or any others could not be spared for the service (of) transporting our troops.
Early answer requested on above points.3 Inform Bliss and Pershing contents this cable and furnish them copies your reply. Acknowledge 24007
Copy HIGHLY SECRET
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The date has been hand-written at the top of the document and is confirmed by the time/date stamp just before the signature. Document identifier in top right-hand corner in columnar fashion: “1/5/C/J.”
Footnote 1: Maj. Gen. Tasker H. Bliss, The United States’ permanent military representative on the Supreme War Council.
Footnote 2: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.
Footnote 3: See: Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 10 March 1918.