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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations


From: Sims

To:   Opnav,

          5518.British conducting highly successful reconnoissance flights over German coast from which valuable information relative to enemy ships movements ascertained.1 Large American flying boats towed on lighters used for this purpose and with excellent results.2 Inasmuch as British have only three lighters operations are handicapped. Strongly recommend such lighters as have already been constructed be shipped to Killingholme at earliest possible date to augment British operation. Every effort should be made to expedite Whitings arrival with his complete detachment as it is expected our participation in these reconnoissance flights will have highly important results.3 All necessary arrangements for (group missing) of material and personnel at Killingholme have been made.4 01324.


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

Footnote 1: The British had established a base at Killingholme on the east coast of England near the mouth of the Humber River. Killinghome lies almost directly opposite Heligoland Bight, which was the path many German warships, particularly submarines, took to get to sea. Turnbull & Lord, Naval Aviation: 123.

Footnote 2: Developed from “an ingenious design,” these lighters were fifty-eight feet long, could carry up several Curtiss H-12 flying boats, and had an airtight trimming tank in the stern that could be flooded and emptied. By lowering the stern, flying boats could be launched and retrieved, taking off from the water. The shape of the lighter’s hull and a special bridle meant it could be towed through the water at up to 30 knots. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 169.

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Whiting, who in 1917 had been working in Europe to create U.S. naval aviation bases, had returned to the United States and was serving in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations when he was appointed Commander of Naval Air Station 14 and 15 at Killingholme in February 1918. “After numerous delays,” Whiting and a “mountain of equipment” for the stations at Killingholme left the United States, arriving in England on 30 May. Ibid., 173.

Footnote 4: According to historians Turnbull and Lord, this “towed lighter” plan lost favor when some of the lighters were photographed by enemy Zeppelins near Heligoland Bight. Turnbull & Lord, Naval Aviation: 129.

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