Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Subject Copy. File No. <11-3-2>
Cablegram Sent May 14, 1918
To Opnav Washington Serial No. 7924 LEM
Prep. By 01 SX D.R.
7924. Your 5700. Losses between United States and Gibraltar are not sufficient to warrant establishing additional convoy at present. Losses in past four months of steamers in area between Azores and Gibraltar in routes of traffic from United States are as follows:-
January 1 ship
February 4 ships
May 1 ship up to date.
Starting additional convoy has many disadvantages. It delays and congests shipping and requires ocean escorts as well as danger zone escorts, neither of which are available. There appears no intention on part of enemy to keep submarines regularly in approaches to Gibraltar. Submarines bound from Germany to Austria are usually directed to operate in this area, and then proceed Austria. There is no indication that submarines based on Germany or Austria operate regularly west of Gibraltar. This area has been occasionally occupied by cruiser submarines, but they have kept clear of Straits in fear of our submarines. Under average conditions not more than 6 to 8 vessels could be assembled at Ponta Delgada. At Horta ships cannot proceed inside breakwater and are exposed. Even if Azores had suitable harbors it is doubtful if they should be used as assembly ports for as soon as the enemy discovered that Azores was being used his zone of operations could be profitably extended to converging area west of Azores. It is most desirable to avoid focal areas. If convoys are to be sailed it is desirable to sail them from some convenient port on Atlantic seaboard so that ocean routes can be varied. Under present conditions escorting cruisers could be based Azores if necessary and join convoys at sea. The disadvantage in using Bermuda as assembly port is loss of time [f]or ships proceeding out of St. Lawrence. It Italian authorities prefer there would be no objection to sailing Italian ships in small groups to gain gun protection against cruiser submarines; but these groups would not be escorted. With reference to Italian vessels of 15 knots there is only one vessel now running regularly- the GIUSEPPE VERDI. All things considered, it is believed better to sail all ships independently as at present. 23214 7924
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.