Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations
Cablegram Sent. May 23 , 1918. TOR
To. Opnav Washington NCT
8289. Army authorities hope to handle tonnage program for 1918 in French Atlantic Ports, assisted by French Channel Ports. Any embarrassment in military situation however may require greater coal shipments from England and larger use of French Atlantic Ports. At any time availability of freight cars may seriously delay ships. Only alternative seems to be use of Marseilles and other French Mediterranean ports.
I have pointed out to Army authorities the disadvantages of using Mediterranean Ports. The route will be 1400 miles longer all in submarine Waters. Furthermore, the Convoy between Gibraltar and Marseilles are not strongly escorted. I have impressed on Army Authorities the desirability of using to the maximum first French Atlantic Ports, Second French Channel Ports, and at last resort French Mediterranean Ports. I am assured Mediterranean ports will be used only if other Ports become badly congested.
At present and for some months past, the submarine west-of-situation west of Gibraltar is not such as to warrant establishing a convoy between United States and Gibraltar. Small submarines en route to Mediterranean generally stop in area west of Gibraltar to expand torpedoes, and some losses are to be expected there. From Gibraltar to Marseilles and return ships will be in Convoy. The losses in this convoy average 1.5 per cent.-that is 8 ships sunk out of every 500 ships convoyed. The percentage is somewhat greater than losses in convoys to French Atlantic Coasts.
If it becomes necessary to use French Mediterranean Ports vessels should be routed independently to Gibraltar to join Convoys to Marseilles. Present practice is to sail vessels independently in Mediterranean if over 13 knots speed, as they are considered safer than in slow convoys.
Vessels destined for Mediterranean should be of the smaller type, not exceeding about 7500 tons dead weight, and should be well armed to guard against attack.by cruiser submarines. Vessels should be of good speed so as to further increase their safety. 8289. 02223.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference:11-14-2/1/3/5/6/J. Copies addressed: “OP-19; OP-23; OP-28; OP-36; OP-20-4Para. 6am 5-23-18 he.”