Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Commander William R. Sayles, United States Naval Attaché at Paris
Copy of Telegram American Embassy
May 21st, 1917.
In connection with wishes of the French commission,1 the Department will send ten or more yachts for service against submarines off the coast of France.2 Leave here about June first. Request definite information in regard to supplying with coal and stores when based on the French Atlantic or Channel ports.3 1420
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. There is a note in the top left-hand corner of the document that reads: “COPY FOR THE/ INFORMATION OF/ VICE ADMIRAL SIMS.”
Footnote 1: A French delegation headed by Field Marshal Joseph J. C. Joffre and former Vice-Premier René Viviani and including VAdm. Paul Louis Albert Chocheprat as naval advisor arrived in Washington on 25 April to consult with American political and military leaders. According to an entry Daniels made in his diary on 26 April, the French naval needs, according to Chocheprat and his staff, were “Ships and ships and then more ships.” DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1.
Footnote 2: Almost as soon as the war began, the Navy, aware that it lacked vessels capable of conducting anti-submarine warfare operations, sent agents to search for and purchase suitable craft, including oceangoing yachts. These yachts proved less than ideal as warships. Daniels wrote later: “[T]he truth is that I never signed a requisition for the purchase of any of these vessels except under protest because I knew they had not been constructed for the purpose for which we needed them but I appointed a board composed of three of the ablest civilians in the New York Yacht club and three of our ablest officers to inspect them and buy those that were best. It was a case of either buying them or having no ships of that character to help us until our destroyer program could enable us to send much larger [ships].” Twenty-six large yachts were brought into the service. They were intended to patrol the U.S. Atlantic coast but an acute need for them in the war zone led to them being sent abroad. Most of them were deployed in French waters. Still, Crisis at Sea: 311. Although Daniels said there would be “ten or more yachts,” six yachts left New York Navy Yard on 9 June, and steamed to Brest, France, where they arrived on 4 July, and joined two larger converted yachts that had preceded them. They began operations on 14 July. On 29 and 30 August, they were joined by a second squadron of seven converted yachts. Joseph Husband, On the Coast of France: The Story of the United States Naval Forces in French Waters (Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1919), 8-9.
Footnote 3: See, Sayles to Daniels, 1 June 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.