Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, Patrol Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

SECRET.

U.S. NAVAL FORCES BASED ON FRENCH COAST,

U.S.S. PANTHER, Flagship.

13 November, 1917. 

From:     Commander PATROL FORCE.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Employment of naval vessels on this coast.

Reference (a) Force Commander’s dispatch 216 to AMPAT, Brest.1

Enclosures: (1).

     1.   Table “A” lists the U.S. Naval vessels in French waters. In addition to the vessels shown on this sheet, ten yachts are enroute from the United States, and it is understood that five others will sail by 3 January.

          Table “B” shows the recent and prospective employment of the U.S. Naval vessels from 1 November.2

          2.   There is attached a statement from Admiral Schwerer Commandant Superieur des Patrouilles de l’Ocean et de la Manche Centrale,3 showing the composition and distribution of the French vessels on this station, together with his views as to what forces are necessary.

          3.   Referring to his summary contained on the last page of his statement, in which he states that the necessary increase in the available forces on 1 January, 1918,4 will be –

10 trawlers

6 mine sweepers.

20 fast. well armed ships

5 sloops, gunboats, or torpedo boats –

the deficiency in trawlers will be filled by the yachts of Squadron Five, due to arrive within the next few months. The American trawlers now being fitted for mine sweeping will meet his demand for vessels of this type. The requirements of five sloops or gunboats can well be met by the assignment of Coast Guard cutters, provided it is found practicable to transfer vessels of this type from Gibraltar in exchange for small yachts.

          There will remain, then, a deficiency, according to Admiral Schwerer’s estimate, of 20 fast, well armed ships, which can best be filled by destroyers.

     4.   Disregarding the French Admiral’s viewpoint, and considering only the necessities of the case imposed upon us by the execution of our mission, the problem is somewhat simpler. Our primary mission is to safeguard the transit of American troop and store ships in French waters, which includes –

(a)  Escorting westbound vessels from St. Nazaire;

(b)  Meeting eastbound convoys of troop and store ships at entrance to French ports for purpose of piloting.

(c)  Intercepting New York convoys in the British Channel or off shore, and providing escort for American storeships to French ports.

     5.   For the execution of this primary mission there are available the five coal burning destroyers and the sea-going yachts CORSAIR, WAKIVA, APHRODITE and NOMA and, occasionally (in good weather) the KANAWHA. The latter vessel, however, is not sufficiently staunch to perform this duty during the winter.

     6.   Many of the westbound ships for which escort must be provided are capable of speeds greater than 14 knots. For these vessels the CORSAIR and the destroyers alone are capable of providing escorts equal in speed of that of the convoy. This duty requires absence from the base of five days, after which two days are required to refuel the destroyers, and they must be given an additional two days for refit. Thus, with our present ships we can handle westbound ships of 14 knots or better, only at the rate of four ships every nine days. It is apparent that, at the present rate of at least, this rate is not sufficient, and it is probable that in the future these vessels will arrive in large numbers. There is now a group of important vessels which will be delayed four days in sailing, due to lack of escort.

     7.   Thus the important deficiency in our forces as at present disclosed can be met for the present, by the assignment of an additional division of destroyers.

     8.   Our secondary mission is to co-operate with the French and in the execution of this mission we are, with smaller yachts providing escort for the coastal convoys, and as soon as the trawlers are fitted for mine sweeping, they will be made available, although their work will lie principally in the channels to be used by American ships. The performance of our vessels assigned to coastal convoy escort is unsatisfactory, due to the fact that many of the yachts are unable to meet the severe weather conditions and rough seas which are now beginning to be experienced on this coast. This condition can best be corrected in the manner already suggested, by assigning these smaller yachts to duty in the vicinity of Gibraltar where better weather conditions may be expected, in exchange for Coast Guard cutters.

     9.   Thus, to meet the immediate situation, I urge –

(a)  That division of destroyers of the largest and most seaworthy type be at once assigned to my force:

(b)  That the yachts SULTANA, EMELINE, CHRISTABEL, CORONA, VEDETTE and REMLIK be exchanged for the Coast Guard cutters now based at Gibraltar.

H. B. Wilson.           

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

[Enclosure]

LIST OF U.S. NAVAL VESSELS IN FRENCH WATERS.

NAME

TYPE.

DISPL.

SPEED.

ARMAMENT.

STEAMING RADIUS.

 

NOMA

Yacht

1200

15.0

4-3”;2-1 pd

2760

 

CHRISTABEL

400

9.0

2-3”

2450

 

Harvard

1250

11.0

4-3”;4-1 pd.

3500

 

Kanawha II

750

18.0

4-3”

1800

 

SULTANA

650

10.0

4-3”

1728

 

VEDETTE

700

11.0

3-3”

2000

 

CORSAIR

1800

14.0

4-3”

3444

 

APHRODITE

1800

14.0

4-3”

5800

 

REMLIK

650

8.0

2-3”

3072

 

Wanderer

600

11.5

2-3”

2400

 

CORONA

500

8.3

2-3”

2600

 

Carola IV

400

7.5

2-3”

1296

-Being surveyed as un-seaworthy.

Guinevere

800

10.5

4-3”

 

 

Emiline

650

9.0

2-3”

 

 

WAKIVA

1350

12.0

4-3

3600

 

Anderton

Trawler

550

10.0

2-3”

2500

 

Lewes

500

10.0

2-3”

2500

 

Courtney

500

14.0

2-3”

2300

 

Cahill

550

9.0

2-3”

2200

 

James

550

9.0

2-3”

2500

 

Douglas

550

10.0

2-3”

2500

 

Hinton

600

9.0

2-3”

2500

 

Bauman

600

10.0

2-3”

2500

 

McNeal

500

9.0

2-3”

2200

 

PANTHER

Tender

3380

13.5

4-3”

Speed estimated

Reid

Destr.

700

25.0

5-3”; twin torp.tubes.

2500

 

Flusser

700

25.0

  

2500

 

Smith

700

25.0

  

2500

 

Preston

700

25.0

  

2500

 

Lamson

700

25.0

  

2500

 

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “File 609. . . . 01/0.”

Footnote 1: Document has not been found.

Footnote 2: Document was not attached.

Footnote 3: Admiral Antoine Schwerer Commandant Superieur des Patrouilles de l’Ocean et de la Manche Centrale.

Footnote 4: Document has not been found.

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