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

Chronological Copy.                        File No.

Cablegram Sent March 28, 1918.     SFM1

To   Opnav Washington                      Serial No. 5697

Prep. by CS    NCT2     D.R.



5697. Your 4159.3 Ihave never had complete information as to agreements reached by Admiral Mayo and by the Chief of Naval Operations in consultation with British Admiralty officials.4 Under the authority granted me by Department’s cable five seven one5 I have allocated forces assigned to my command to areas in which their services appeared to be most urgently needed at the time the vessels became available except in such cases as were made the subject of specific orders by the Department. No such orders have been received regarding the submarine chasers. Department’s cable seven seven two of October twenty first nineteen seventeen6 stated that seventy two chaserswould be available in the near future for service in foreign<n> waters should they be found useful for such duty but did not state where they were to be employed.

     Submarine activities in the Mediterranean and the relative lack of vessels in that region for either defensive or offensive action have led me to believe that a portion of our force of chasers should be employed there and when the project of the intensified Otranto barrage was adopted dash see Allied Naval Council papers forwarded with my letter eleven six one seven of March nineteenth7 dash it became evident that the United States would have to supply some vessels for the project. It seems most desirable that our contribution should consist of hunting groups consisting of destroyers and chasers fitted with listening devices. My cable two seven nine four8 urged the early dispatch of all of the one hundred ten footers to this side without stating definitely where they were to be used as it was not possible at that time to make a positive statement.

     In order that the Department might be saved the embarrassment of requests from diplomatic officials and Naval Attaches such as those indicated in its cable one two two eight of November twentieth9 and in accordance with its policy as stated in cable eleven naught naught nine July nineteen seventeen and cable five seven one of October first nineteen seventeen10 I deemed it extremely desirable that the proposal to assign some of our chasers to the Mediterranean be laid before the Allied Naval Council. Accordingly the matter was thoroughly discussed by that body which reached the unanimous conclusion that in view of the present political and submarine situation, about thirty of the chasers should be used in connection with the Otranto barrage and that there was greater immediate need for them there than in British waters. The probable early assignment of some of these vessels to the Mediterranean was clearly forecast in my four eight six eight11 but at that time it had not been decided that the first vessels to arrive should be so assigned.

     Replying specifically to queries in Department’s cable:

     First:    Details of general scheme are, so far as now determined, about thirty chasers with one tender to be assigned to the southern portion of the Otranto barrage to be employed in their legitimate work of pursuing submarines by means of sound detection devices each hunting group to be accompanied by one destroyer. Until American destroyers are available, French or British destroyers or sloops will be used.

     Second: Protection and support of our chasers will be afforded by the same vessels that support and protect other units of the barrage.

     Third: It is the intention to base them on Taranto, Italy, or Corfu. Captain Richard H. Leigh leaving London twenty-eighth instant for Brindisi, Italy to confer with British Senior Officer there and if necessary, to proceed to Malta to confer with British Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean,12 to discuss details concerning tactics to be employed and best base for chasers.

     Fourth: French chasers are operating in the English Channel and on Biscay coast of France.

     Fifth: It is not contemplated to remove from the North Sea or Channel any vessels now operating there, nor to withhold any vessels that it was planned to send there but merely to defer sending our chasers there in view of greater necessity in Mediterranean. In this connection see Opnav cable seven seven two, paragraph five,13 which indicated only seventy-two chasers as probably to be assigned to European Waters.

     Sixth: Our craft are to be used purely for offensive operations, as above stated.  <13028.> 5697.


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

Footnote 1: Initials of the transcriber.

Footnote 2: Sims’ Chief of Staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining.

Footnote 4: Adm. Henry T. Mayo visited England in September and October 1917 when he met with Admiralty officials; Benson came to England as part of the House delegation in November 1917.

Footnote 7: The referred to document has not been found, but for more, See: Newton M. McCully to Henry B. Wilson, 19 March 1918.

Footnote 9: See, Benson to Sayles, 20 November 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 11: The document referred to has not been found.

Footnote 12: Capt. Richard H. Leigh commanded the submarine chasers stationed in European Waters;  Adm. Sir Somerset A. Gough-Calthorpe, was the commander of the British naval forces in the Mediterranean.