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Rear Admiral William L. Rodgers, Commander, Base Defense Force, to Base Guard Force


[17 May 1917]1

     1.   At any base the defense will, as a rule, consist of nets guarding the fleet and a Base Guard Force.

     2.   The nets will be laid in order to protect the Fleet from submarine attacks, floating mines, and to form an obstruction in order that the Fleet may be secure at night.

     3.   The Base Guard Force will consist of part or all of the following units: A Base Guard Ship, one or more guard ships, patrol boats, mine sweepers or trawlers, and picket boats.

     4.   The Base Guard Ship will be a vessel of the Train which is to be at the base permanently. She will have a central anchorage and will be the emanating point of all orders, instructions, etc. The Base Guard Ship will also deliver orders to patrol boats which are on duty.

     5.   The guard ship or ships will superintend laying the net, will anchor in the neighborhood of the net, and will be in direct charge of all boats in that vicinity. It will issue special instructions to picket boats and will station them in order that the base may receive best protection with the force available. It will be in general charge of target practice of picket boats which will be held frequently. It will make boarding visits to all merchant vessels and will grant them permission to proceed if they pass a satisfactory inspection. If not, the merchantmen will anchor and a minute inspection and search will be made.

     6.   Patrol boats will patrol outside of the net and may, if they see fit, stop and search any steamer. The area which they cover will depend entirely upon the number available. In general, each patrol boat will cover a certain specified area.

     7.   Mine sweepers will usually be part of the organization of Naval Districts. Mine sweepers will consist of fishing boats, small power boats, tugs and yachts. Such as may be assigned to Commander Base Defense Force will be divided into three groups: (a) on duty, (b) in reserve, (c) fitting out. Those on duty will sweep and drag for mines and will keep channels clear. Those in reserve will anchor near the base ship and will be in readiness to proceed to any spot to sweep for mines and clear the channel. Those fitting out will be fueling, provisioning and resting.

     8.   Picket boats will patrol in the neighborhood of the nets, between the nets and the Fleet, and in the neighborhood of the Fleet. They will stop any merchant ship that passes to see if she has a pass and if she has none will accompany her to the Base Guard Ship, or to the guard ships. Where picket boats are operating in isolated neighborhoods they will issue the pass themselves. Picket boats on duty at nets will carry colors and fly a jack at the bow. Before and after relieving each picket boat will report to the Commander Base Defense Force for instructions and to make report. The entire force will, at all times, be alert. They will investigate all suspicious floating objects and if necessary will haul them to shallow water for examination. They will open fire immediately upon sighting submarines and will ram. Due notice of the arrival of United States submarines will be given.

     9.   The force must be self-sustaining within its capacity including such additional fuel, water and provisions as it can carry. Boats must steam at the most economical speed at which they can cover the “beats” assigned them. The Base Force Commander will issue orders defining the limits of each station or “beat”, time of relief, period of duty, etc. Ships supplying picket boats are responsible for maintaining their quota of boats on station.

     10.  No boat will leave her station without being relieved except in the performance of her duty. She will report leaving station and will also report her return.

     11.  When boarding merchant vessels, the boarding officer must be courteous and must take pains to avoid unnecessary delay or annoyance. He will transact his business and leave promptly.

     12.  Target practice will be held on frequent intervals.

     13.  All boats must keep their guns ready for instant service. Gun covers may be on but they must never be lashed. At least one member of the crew must be familiar with the manipulation of the armament. If picket boats are to remain on duty for a longer period than four hours reliefs must be provided for all members of the crew except the officer.

     14.  The Commander Battleship Force2 has approved the parts of these instructions which come under his administration.

W. L. Rodgers

                    REAR ADMIRAL, U. S. N.

Commander, Base Defense Force, Base Two


Commander-in-Chief (3)3

         Battleship Force (300)

    Destroyer Force (15)4

    Patrol Force (200)5

    Mine Force (50)6

C.O. Pennsylvania (7)7

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

Footnote 1: This document was included as an enclosure to Henry B. Wilson’s “Instructions for Vessels of the Patrol Force” dated 17 May 1917. As such, the date of this document is drawn from those instructions. See: Wilson to Patrol Force, 17 May 1917.

Footnote 2: VAdm. DeWitt Coffman.

Footnote 3: VAdm. Henry T. Mayo.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Albert R. Gleaves.

Footnote 5: Capt. Henry B. Wilson.

Footnote 6: Cmdr. Reginald R. Belknap.

Footnote 7: Pennsylvania was the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet, under the command of Capt. Henry B. Wilson.

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