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Rear Admiral Ralph Earle, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, to Admiral William Benson, Chief of Naval Operations


November 12, 1917.

From: Chief of Bureau of Ordnance.
To: Chief of Naval Operations.
Subject: Long-range bombardments.

1. From reports of activities, dated September 29, 1917, along the Flemish dunes, the bureau notes: "On the Dune sector the British naval guns were unfortunately considerably outranged by the German guns. There are no British guns larger than 12-inch mounted on shore here. The big German gun which fires into Dunkirk is generally referred to as a 17-inch. * * * Its range has been measured as 50,300 yards."

2. The above suggests the possibility of our mounting several naval 14-inch guns along the coast, fitted with high angles of fire, and with specially formed shell, fitted with delayed action fuses, in order to outrange these German guns. Manned by our seamen, a battery of four of these guns might not be a bad answer to the long-range German bombardment of Dunkirk. Of course, in order to develop this range the bureau must have its auxiliary proving ground granted and operating.

3. Even were the guns mounted on vessels off the Belgian coast and there given a range of over 30,000 yards, considerable damage may be done to German positions. Such a vessel fitted, as it would be, with our new smoke-producing apparatus, might materially assist Admiral Bacon’s monitors in their operations.1

Ralph Earle.

Source Note: Department of the Navy, The United States Naval Railway Batteries in France (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1922), 2-3.

Footnote 1: VAdm. Sir Reginald Bacon, R.N., who commanded the Dover Patrol. What Earle is here proposing evolved into the United States Naval Railway Batteries.