Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Bureau of Ordnance

 

(COPY)

1st Endorsement

                         Navy Department,

CONFIDENTIAL                                  May 30, 1918.

To: Bureau of Ordnance.

SUBJECT: Armament of vessels – depth charges.

     I. The following policy is approved:-

     (1) Vessels primarily designed for the anti-submarine offensive, such as armed yachts, destroyers and submarine chasers, to be equipped with depth charge projector for firing, and apparatus (local and distant control) for dropping from the stern depth charges Mark II.

     (2) Vessels intended to operate more or less on the defensive against submarines and not actually engaged in the anti-submarine campaign. Depth charges fitted for dropping from the stern by local control only. (It is assumed that on these vessels the depth charges will be a weapon of opportunity, rather than a primary offensive weapon.) Such vessels to include gunboats, cruisers and transports, latter to be furnished not in excess of four charges.

     (3) Small craft incapable of carrying the depth charge projector or withstanding the shock of the explosion of the heavy depth charge, to be fitted with depth charge Mark I. Due to inefficiency of the Mark I charge and the fact that heavier charges are carried abroad <aboard> on small boats, effort should be made to determine the largest charge a boat can carry, with a view to making her as effective as possible.

     2. The development of the howitzer to throw charges to a greater distance than the Y gun should be expedited, as this appears the most effective weapon for ships with poor maneuvering qualities.

W.S. Benson.            

Acting.1     

<June 5, ’18.

     Capt. Taylor2 construed the

above as including N.O.T.S.3 ships

to be armed with depth charges, if

individual conditions are O.K.>

               <[H.F. Jr.?]>

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identifiers “C-21-16/Mat-ML 5/18” appear in the upper-left corner. The handwritten note at the bottom is initialed, but the initials are nearly illegible.

Footnote 1: This letter may have been sent by Assistant Chief of Naval Operations Capt. William V. Pratt, who sometimes served as Acting Chief when Benson was otherwise engaged. Benson never served in any “Acting” capacity.

Footnote 2: David W. Taylor, Chief Constructor of the United States Navy.

Footnote 3: Naval Overseas Transportation Service. For more on arming merchant ships with depth charges, see: Sims to Albert P. Niblack, 31 May 1918.