General Instructions for United States Navy Destroyer Force Operating in European Waters
May <30>. 1917.1
U.S.NAVAL DESTROYER FORCE
These General Instructions are in no sense to be considered as orders, or to interfere in any way with military orders issued by the British or other allied Commander under whose immediate military control any vessel of this command may be operating.2 They are intended to serve as a means of imparting the Policies of the Force Commander3 to the Forces under his general command.
They will be continued from time to time and should be so filed aboard as to be accessible to all officers.
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GENERAL MISSION: Co-operation and co-ordination with Allied Forces in destruction of enemy forces.
(1) Conservation of Allied Shipping.
(2) Saving of life.
1. Every consideration should be subordinated to efficient coordination and co-operation with Allied Forces.
2. It is the paramount aim of the Force Commander to keep our forces mobile with a view of their being continuously ready to move their base and follow the center of enemy submarine effort.
Hence we must remain independent, to the extreme possible limit, of any shore base or shore facilities.
The Destroyer Force Doctrine must be kept under constant consideration and must be revised as rapidly as experience demands.
It must be a real war doctrine.
All Destroyer Forces must be prepared at all times for the emergency of engagements with enemy ships other than submarines, either individually or in connection with Fleet actions.
This doctrine must cover the basic tactical methods of procedure which will govern all operations and upon which individual initiative may be exercised with safety and with the confidence that it will be mutually understood by all units.
It must be brief and confined to fundamental essentials with a view of co-ordination of effort and maximum avoidance of communication between vessels or groups thereof during operations, concerning intentions, plans, etc.
Whenever an individual officer has any suggestion concerning the Doctrine he should at once record it and make it known to his superiors.
Division Commander should consult as frequently as possible, and report to Force Commander suggested changes in Doctrine.
4. All peace routine, administration and practices must be subordinated to military service.
To avoid irregularity, Division Commander should confer and come to agreement as to suggested changes in established routines or practices or elimination of paper work and returns. The Senior Division Commander should forward to Force Commander for his approval.
5. It is vital both for efficient prosecution of the present war and for future general professional and material improvement of our own service that records and Administrative methods be not too radically reduced.
It is essential that all important experience gained be [i.e., by] individual or groups of vessels be made available for general Service information.
It is therefore directed that all vessels keep current record covering all essential military experience which may be of possible present or future value to other vessels, the Department, or the Service at large. Such records must be made as nearly as possible at the time of occurrence of the experience in question and must not be left to memory or allowed to accumulate.
For convenience in disseminating and considering, they should be in a general way divided under allied subjects, for example:-
“Operations” – which will include all information concerning military operations, strategy, tactics, handling of vessels and allied subjects.
“Navigation” – covering all subjects of personnel, discipline, and including their equipment, etc.
Division Commander should attend to the dissemination of such information to their own forces and in forwarding to Force Commander should indicate what vessels or forces have been informed.
It is not desired to make the above reports a burden. They should be confined to important matters and, in case of necessity, need not follow any usual form.
6. PARENT AND SUPPLY SHIPS.
Parent and Supply Ships should subordinate every consideration to efficient repair and supply of vessels which they are serving, and should simplify their peace methods of administration to this end.
U. S. NAVAL DESTROYER FORCE
May 30, 1917.
7. READINESS FOR DUTY.
Regardless of the time which may be set aside in schedules for rest, boiler cleaning or overhaul, it is important that from the moment of arrival at an anchorage, vessels should undertake immediately all repairs or other work necessary to prepare them again for sea and should prosecute such work without interruption until completion. For example, if five days should be set aside for rest, boiler cleaning or other purposes and the work can be completed in two or three days, it should be so accomplished and the remainder of the time used for rest of the personnel. Such a course is a military necessity in order that the maximum number of vessels will be available at all times to meet any unexpected enemy operations.
8. LEAVE AND LIBERTY.
Until further notice it is desired that leave and liberty should be so regulated that vessels can put to sea, in case of emergency, on a few hours’ notice. It is realized that this policy may work more or less hardship, but the Force Commander is confident that every man of the Force will appreciate the importance of our Forces putting forth every effort in the accomplishment of our general and immediate mission. The far reaching effect not only upon the Allied Cause but also upon the record and distinction of our own Service cannot be foreseen at present. It therefore behooves this force to leave no stone unturned in putting forth every effort within the power of our personnel and material.
Source Note: DT, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. At the end of both the instructions and the addenda to the instructions are handwritten the initials “K.D.,” which was presumably the initials of the unidentified typist.
Footnote 1: The date was handwritten above the line. It corresponds to the date assigned to the addenda attached to these instructions.
Footnote 2: The “British or other Allied Commander” for the American destroyers at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland, was VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Coast of Ireland.
Footnote 3: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Destroyers Operating from British Bases.