Skip to main content

Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

15 November, 1918.

From:     Chief of Naval Operations.

To  :     Secretary of the Navy.

SUBJECT:  General Character of the Operations of our Naval

            Forces during Present War.

  1. In reply to your verbal request for an outline of the operations engaged in by our Naval forces during the present war, I beg leave to submit the following summary:


  2. The present war has been going on for so long before we entered it, that it was possible for the Department to make a fairly accurate estimate of the exact part we should take in it, were we called upon to enter the conflict. It was therefore realized that the part we were to play differed very materially from the part we would play had we gone into this war sooner, or, had we not been given time to make adequate preparations before being attacked by the enemy. That most essential feature, namely, control of the sea, or at least control of the surface of the sea, upon which Mahan1 lays so much stress, was assured to us. For from the very beginning, the Allied Fleets, due principally to the preponderance of sea power vested in Great Britain, had so assured the security of the sea that we were able to make our preparations with a comparative degree of security. Therefore, that prime essential, security of the sea being assured us, it no longer became part of our province to attempt to further augment that preponderance, but it seems the principal mission to throw the whole of our Naval forces into those operations which would tend to strengthen the points in which the Allies were weakest. In most previous wars, the dual mission of the Navy had been, first, either to force offensive fleet action, or to seek defensive action on the best terms, and to build up reserves during the period while we were combatting for the balance of sea power. Now, however, being relieved from the first phase of sea activities, this war took on for us a special character. The Navy’s problem was principally one of protecting the line of sea communications and of building up its reserves to the maximum required.


  3. Having definitely decided upon the character of the naval war, it became necessary to outline the general policy. Briefly speaking, the Naval mission of the Allies was this,-while maintaining control of the surface of the sea to make every effort to obtain control of the sub-surface of the sea. This mission applied to the fighting forces which we were to send to operate against the enemy. Likewise, the problem of building up the reserve forces, and of expanding the present organization to meet the growth, was a matter which had to be carefully considered. It was then decided that the present Departmental organizations, if expanded in an extensive but progressive manner, would meet all demands made upon them. It was further decided that these units of the Fleet which could not be actively engaged against the enemy, should be used to full capacity to develop the upbuilding of our reserves. In the meantime, while so engaged, they should be placed where they could be moved or used to best advantage for the Allied cause.


  4. Almost the first problem which faced the Navy was to secure, as far as possible, the safety of the merchant fleet engaged in carrying food, munitions and supplies to the military forces at the front. Germany, in attempting her submarine war, in the beginning chose to use her submarines in the way that would net her the best and quickest returns. She, therefore, instead of using torpedoes, attempted to sink by gunfire or by bombs all the merchant ships that fell in the path of her submarines. The Department quickly realized that an answer to this, which would immediately reduce submarine efficiency, and confine its activities to under-water activities, was to arm merchant ships. In so doing, we were forced to make use of the means at hand rather than do what we desired to do, but immediately plans went forward to anticipate Germany’s next move, which afterwards appeared in the form of her cruiser submarines.

     The cruiser submarine was Germany’s counter to the arming of our merchant ships, but by the times those submarines were in operation, the best of our merchant fleet had been armed with a caliber of gun which was able to cope with the heaviest gun of the cruiser submarine. In the first part of this war some of the most interesting encounters were those between our armed merchant ships and single enemy submarines, and there are cases on record where the armed guards have fought until the ship under them went down or they were forced to abandon the ship in flames.


  5. Immediately upon our entrance into the war, there was a demand for us to send destroyers abroad. To some extent the request was sentimental, it being thought necessary that our flag should be seen on the other side, and the destroyers being the ships most readily available for this purpose. Therefore, a division of destroyers was dispatched abroad and proceeded to base at Berehaven, Ireland, where they were soon busily engaged in convoying ships and in anti-submarine operations. However, it was soon discovered that these little hornets of the sea had a very distinct use apart from any sentimental value, and almost immediately we were requested to augment our force of destroyers abroad to the maximum. Admiral Sims,2 in his many reports to the Department, dwelt upon the extreme necessity of sending all anti-submarine craft abroad, and it was then that the Department determined that every craft which was capable of being used in anti-submarine operations, should be dispatched to the other side. This policy has been strictly adhered to throughout the war, despite the efforts of the enemy, who later made every effort to divert us from strict adherence to this rule, by carrying submarine warfare to our shores.


  6. The submarine-chaser, a one hundred and ten foot boat, was created especially for the present war. The first object in building this type was that we should have a craft which might defend our own shores in case other ships, more purely fighting craft, were dispatched to other waters. But it soon became evident that if those little craft could go abroad they should be sent abroad, and the same policy was adopted toward them as had been with the destroyers, namely, all that could possibly be spared should be sent abroad. It was late in the summer of 1917, and in the fall, before our chaser flotillas were constructed, organized and trained sufficiently to be able to undertake the difficult task of getting these small craft across the water during the Winter months. At first, it was believed that they would have to be towed, and this was first attempted, but later they were sent over in flotillas under the protection of heavier escorting ships, and with a mother ship to take care of their material needs. It became a matter of concern to get them across, materially fit and with the personnel in fighting trim, so it was decided to route these ships via the Bermudas and the Azores. Having formulated the general plan of getting the chasers across, it was necessary to secure for them certain base facilities on the way over. To that end, negotiations were entered into with the Portuguese whereby wereceived from them the use of a temporary base at Ponta del Gada in the Azores. This base was built up to such an extent that we were able to care for the needs of the small and other craft that might require the use of a base while passing to and from across the Atlantic.


  7. In order that there might be no question as to the preponderance of sea power in favor of the Allies, it was decided that a division of our dreadnought force should be sent forward abroad to co-operate with the [British] Grand Fleet. This step was taken in the last fall of 1917, and Rear-Admiral Rodman,3 in command of Division Nine of our Fleet, was sent abroad and joined the Naval Forces operating in the North Sea. This Division has been there ever since, has taken part in the various activities of the Grand Fleet, and, as one of the units of it, has stood ready to engage in any major operation in which this North Sea Fleet might be called upon to engage.


  8. One of the problems which we were called upon to undertake was the establishment of various air stations on the coast of France and Ireland, from which, operating with seaplanes, dirigibles and kite balloons, we might operate offensively against the submarine and afford protection to the shipping converging in those waters. Likewise, steps were taken to provide the necessary aircraft to operate from those bases, as well as to provide for the necessary aircraft which would operate from our own shores, in case hostile submarine operations extended to this coast. There were, therefore, established abroad a matter of some twenty-six air stations from which our air forces operated, or were to operate from. Coincident with the establishment of these stations, the building of our aircraft was undertaken and as fast as these craft came along the same policy of sending them abroad as had been adopted with the destroyers was adopted with them.


  9. The principal anti-submarine efforts were at first carried on by surface craft, but it was later realized from the lessons learned by the Allies, that the submarine itself is the enemy of the submarine, especially when enemy submarines are forced to work upon the surface, as they sometimes are. Therefore, it was decided to send certain numbers of our submarines to the Azores, to keep that base clear and also to the coast of Ireland to operate from that general strategic area. In the late fall of 1917, and Winter of 1918, two groups of submarines were dispatched across the water and after a hard Winter passage made their ports and have been operating from these localities ever since. Before our submarines had been dispatched abroad, the process of concentrating the reserves in those craft on our Atlantic coast, there to prepare for future contingencies, had been undertaken.



  10.  Besides the specific types mentioned, there were various other smaller ships which could and were made available at the beginning of the war, such as yachts, coast guard ships, lighthouse craft, tugs and tenders. These were armed and dispatched abroad as fast as they could be made ready for service. At the same time, the general policy went into effect of withdrawing from all parts of the world, all of our fighting ships which could in any way aid in the present war of concentrating them either in European waters, or on the Atlantic Coast. Those dispatched to European waters engaged in anti-submarine operations. Those concentrated on the Atlantic coast stood ready to go abroad, or engaged actively in convoy operations, which forced [i.e., formed] so great a part of the Naval work in this war.



  11.  In the summer of 1917, the submarine problem, having become acute, and the losses to merchant ships great, it became necessary to definitely revise the methods of handling merchant shipping, in order that a greater degree of safety should be afforded. The solution of adopting the convoy of ships was first broached by the Admiralty. The problem to us was a new one, but they had had the experience of nearly four years ahead of them and finally decided that the method of convoys was the only solution to the problem. At the very beginning, the Department was not inclined to look with favor upon this solution. It slowed up shipping fully twenty per cent. and the dangers of collision and the difficulties attendant upon carrying through this scheme successfully were very great. But in view of their greater experience, the Department yielded to the wishes of the Admiralty, and the convoy system of protection against the submarine was adopted. This system was applied to both cargo and troop ships and its success was almost immediately apparent. It consisted in gathering together certain numbers of vessels, sailing at regular intervals along established lanes, under the guard of heavier ships to protect against raiders, and of smaller destroyers to protect against submarines. This system went into effect with the first of our troop convoys which crossed in June, 1917, and has continued ever since to the day the Armistice was signed. It is probably one of the operations which succeeded in breaking the back of the submarine for it deprived the submarine of the benefit he derived from attacking individual, unprotected ships and forced him to devote his efforts, for the most part, to ships which were protected by destroyers. To engage with a convoy, the submarine was forced to enter the danger zone and frequently, it was he and not our ships which became the victim. In these convoy efforts, all of our destroyers, our armed cruisers, our smaller cruisers, and later the old battleships of the Fleet have been engaged, and this work has been conducted Winter and Summer from June, 1917, until November 1918. It has been a hard, grinding work, but that it was well done is attested to by the fact that some two million troops have been sent abroad, with not the loss of a single ship carrying troops under the protection of our forces on her east-bound voyage due to the action of an enemy submarine. The history of the convoy operations in which our naval forces have taken part, due to which we have been able to so successfully transport such a large number of our military forces abroad, and so many supplies for the Army, is a chapter in itself. Suffice to say, it is probably our major operation in this war and will, in the future, stand as a monument to both the Army and the Navy, in what is probably the greatest troop transporting effort which has ever been conducted across seas. The work is not finished. The problem of bringing our forces back is still a naval problem and it will be undertaken with the same spirit which characterized the convoy of our troops to Europe.


  12.  This is indeed a chapter in itself and when, at a later period, it is possible to make a history out of numerous reports which have been submitted by the Naval officers in charge of our various forces abroad, it will make a very interesting addition to the history of the United States Navy. Without, at this stage, attempting to go too much into detail, it is sufficient to say that our Naval forces have operated in European waters from the Mediterranean to the White Sea. At Corfu, Gibraltar, along the French Bay of Biscay ports, at the English Channel ports, on the Irish coast, in the North sea, at Mourmansk and Archangel, our Naval forces have been stationed and have done creditable work. Their work will probably form the most interesting and exciting portion of the Naval history of this war, and it is the work which has been most eagerly sought by all of the personnel, but owing to the character of the operations which our Navy has been called upon to take part in, it has not been possible for all of our Naval forces, much as they desired it, to engage in operationsat the front, and a large part of the work has been carried on quietly at the rear. This work, while not so brilliant, has still been necessary, and without it the forces at the front could not have carried on the successful campaign that they did.


  13.  Generally speaking, the work of the Naval forces in reserve, that is, the ships afloat, is divided into several classes. The mission of the battleship fleet became two-fold. The dreadnoughts were drilled and trained to the minute, holding themselves as a reserve force, ready to be thrown into any strategic area where their presence might be needed, to reinforce any fighting force at the front, and to guard the lines of communications in the rear. This force was held strictly in readiness for battle. The mission of the older battleships became primarily one of training. Due to the enormous expansion in Naval personnel, and the fact that our country had long since ceased to produce sea-faring men in great numbers, it became immediately necessary for the Navy to provide for the trained personnel to man, not only its Naval ships, but the auxiliaries and merchant ships, which it was later called upon to man. Our old battleship force, held in reserve for this purpose and operating from a centrally located base on the Atlantic coast,4 served as the nucleus for this training effort. It was a dull, grinding work, with none of the brilliancy attending the operations at the front; it was a work which required the utmost determination on the part of the Naval personnel engaged in it, but it was one of the essential war works. And the men and officers engaged in this work are entitled to the same consideration as are their more fortunate brothers who took a more brilliant part. The cruiser force, while to an extent engaged in training, led a more active life, in that they were the first ships to undertake the work of convoy, for in so far as the services of heavier ships were not absolutely needed in convoy work, it was unwise to put them in to an extent which would interfere with the training of personnel. It, at all times, was a balance between what had to be done and the policies the Department desired carried out. In this work of convoy, there were engaged, not only the armored and heavier cruisers, but cruisers of all classes down to the very smallest.


  14.  At the very outset, it became apparent that should our purely Naval forces be dispatched abroad, it would be necessary to organize along the lines which would give us an amount of Naval protection for our own coast adequate to meet the forces likely to be sent against us. The chances of any raid on this coast by heavy surface craft could be discounted. It would not have been good policy for the German to have so scattered his efforts, and the amount of military good accomplished by the enemy in such an effort would have been nil. Such an attempt on the part of Germany was therefore discounted, and moreover, we held a mobile force in reserve to that purpose quite sufficient to cope with any such effort. There was, however, the likelihood of the Central Powers attempting submarine efforts against us largely directed against the convoys, and possibly against our own coast. In order to afford adequate coastal protection, to develop an organization fitted to undertake the handling of the mining, sweeping, anti-submarine operations, the routing of merchant ships, and the convoy work, it was necessary to organize what were called Naval Districts. These Districts extended the entire stretch of the coast, both on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and the Great Lakes. The various military activities were centered in the Commandant of the District, who had at his disposal the various Naval forces attached to that district. Associated with the more purely military operations were those which pertained to the repair, supply and handling of the merchant ships which were either directly taken over in the Navy or were operated by the Navy for the Army. These activities also came under the Commandant of the Naval Districts. Within each District, but set apart for more purely Naval work, were the Navy yards. These yards were under the general supervision of the Commandant of the District yet had a mission of their own which was entirely apart from any purely military operations. The enormous expansion of the repair facilities and the increasing demand made upon these yards rendered it necessary that these organizations should be disturbed as little as possible from continuing the very necessary industrial activities without which our Navy would not receive its proper share of material nourishment. Therefore, a clear line of demarkation was drawn between the purely industrial activities centering in the Navy Yards, and the Military activities centered under the Commandant. There was, however, one section of the coast, or waters adjacent thereto, which had to be treated in a somewhat different manner. The problem of the Gulf and the Carribean did not lend itself to the same manner of treatment as did out [i.e., our] coast from Cape Cod to Key West. To forestall enemy submarine operations in the Gulf and the Carribean, a force was established called the American Patrol Force, and its headquarters was in the vicinity of Key West. While the coastwise shipping could be adequately protected by routing close along the coast, the problem became a different one the instant it entered the Gulf and Carribean areas, and it was this problem and the problem of anti-submarine operations which the American Patrol Detachment had to undertake. As was foreseen, the protection of the oil supplies from the Gulf to our own coast and then abroad were quite vital to the success of the general campaign, and these supplies the patrol detachment were prepared to safeguard by adopting at once the convoy system the instant they were threatened.


  15.  The wisdom of making a clean-cut line of demarkation between the military and industrial activities and of foreseeing the character of hostile operations against which we should make preparation, was clearly shown when the enemy first directed his operations against our coast. About the middle of May, 1918, the enemy evidently decided that he must make an effort to stop us from sending more military forces abroad, if possible to do so, or at least to so direct our efforts that we should be more concerned with protecting our own coast than we were in sending these forces abroad. About the second of June, evidences of the operations of enemy submarines began to appear. It had been determined before by the Department that the logical military objective would be the troop and cargo convoys, but these were so well guarded that the submarine evidently preferred not to engage with them, but devoted his efforts against coastwise trade, and principally against unarmed sailing vessels. Along with this campaign of destruction, which had no military value whatsoever, the enemy adopted the practice of strewing the coast with mines. This feature of his campaign had been anticipated and our sweepers had been actively engaged in clearing the channels through which the convoys regularly sail. It was natural, however, with the long expanse of sea coast which we had to protect that the enemy should succeed in laying detached mine field which were more than once proved destructive to coastwise shipping. Up to the time that an enemy submarine appeared off the coast, it had been the practice to allow coastwise ships to sail direct, and as far as was practicable lights were burned and the ordinary aids of navigation were kept going. Immediately upon the arrival of submarines on our coast, without in the slightest degree allowing their efforts to diminish the rate of flow of troops and supplies abroad, all coastwise shipping was hauled in under the protection of our District Forces and a series of routings, escort and air patrols were started which rendered reasonably secure the vessels that piled [i.e., plied] up and down the coast. In order to further render our shores secure, and to force the submarine to operate further afield, there were immediately sent out against him our own submarines. Hunting groups of destroyers and chasers, which had been formed and were in readiness, were sent out against him. The net result was that very soon, from a military point of view, the hostile submarine’s efforts became practically nil and he was forced to operate further afield, that is, well out into the Atlantic, where his principal prey the single unarmed ships returning home on their west-bound voyages. This move on the part of the German submarine had been anticipated and for the greater part west-bound ships rarely returned home singly, but usually in company with another craft which carried a gun sufficiently large to cope with that of the submarine. On the whole, the operations of the enemy submarine against this coast can be spoken of as merely one of the minor incidents of the war, and had he chosen to carry his operations into the Gulf, or even to the coast of Brazil, he would have found that preparations had been made to anticipate them.


  16.  At the outstart, it was necessary to take stock of the existing organizations to see whether they would best function along their present lines, or whether it would be necessary to radically reorganize for war. It was found that the Bureau organizations were capable of expansion within themselves and all that was needed to make an efficient war machine was the closest cooperation between the various Bureaus and of the various Bureaus with the Office of Operations. A closeknit organization of this sort having the power of decision in its own hands acting upon established policies, and in touch with the active operations of the various Naval forces appeared to be the most efficient. The weak point in such a link must necessarily be the cooperation between the various departments and that, the Office of Operations set itself out to remedy. There was consequently first of all established an efficient information and communication service, for it was realized that without those two prime essentials, all of the various Bureaus and Operations itself would be groping in the dark. To that end, the Office of Naval Intelligence was enlarged and expanded until it reached a point of efficiency. Important work was handled immediately by the cable and radio. There was established within the Office of Operations itself a central organization wherein was gathered all information known as operating information, so that it could be immediately accessible, not only to the Office of Operations, but to all Bureaus, to the Fleet and to all other Naval forces. However, efficiency would not have been realized had not Admiral Sims, commanding our European Forces, fully realized the immense importance and the power that full information gave, for he established a similar system in London which was in complete touch with all information on the other side and which he immediately routed to our central office. It thus became possible through the centralization of information and by means of the channels of communication which have been highly developed to largely discentralize in the matter of detailed instructions to our forces, and thus to confer the initiative to a large extent upon those leaders who were handling independent operations. It was thus possible to convey ideas and to give general instructions which would be thoroughly understood with a minimum of confusion. The result is shown in the fact that during the entire course of the war there has been remarkably little confusion and very few changes from established plans. In addition to the service of information and communication, it was necessary to establish an efficient inspection service of all sorts, praticularly [i.e., particularly] in relation to merchant shipping. This was efficiently handled under the direction of the Office of Naval Intelligence. It was also necessary to establish strict censorship over the cables and radio and this was most efficiently handled by the Office of Naval Communications. It was likewise necessary that the public be properly informed as to the aims, motives and operations of our Navy, and this was most efficiently done through the Committee on Publicity, who acted in the closest cooperation with the Office of Naval Operations.


  17.  Not only was it necessary to secure the closest cooperation without our own Department, but it was also most important that the closest harmony and accord should exist between the Navy Department and the various other Departments of the Government, particularly with the State and War Departments. There were, consequently, detailed for this work special officers whose duties were to cooperate our activities with those of the various war organizations which had sprung into being. During the entire course of this war, there has been the closest accord between the Office of Naval Operations and the State Department, War Department, Treasury Department, Department of Justict [i.e., Justice], Post Office Department, War Industries Board, War Trades Board, the Shipping Board, and the Alien Enemy Custodian. Even such organizations as the Fuel Administration, Food Administration, and the Red Cross came constantly in touch with the Navy Department. It was also necessary that the closest cooperation should be maintained between the various Naval representatives of the different Nations with whom we were united in fighting the war. During the entire course of the war there has been the closest harmony and cooperation between all of the various allied nations and ourselves. We have been furnished with all information that they themselves possess and we in turn furnished them with all the information we had. At the suggestion of the Navy Department, The British Commander-in-Chief5 moved his headquarters to Washington where he was in constant touch with the Office of Operations. Had not this close liaison been established, it would have been exceedingly difficult to have coordinated the various naval movements which had to be carried out jointly, and which covered a great many fields of activity.


  18.  As soon as we entered the war it became evident that unless we radically changed the Naval building program, then in process, it would be impossible to wage the most efficient war against the hostile submarine. Having determined that the war against the submarine, the service of supply, and the guarding of the lines of communications were our principal missions, it was immediately apparent that a switch in the naval program was needed. Therefore, the Department almost immediately decided that construction on our battleships, battle cruisers and scouts, except in cases of ships nearly completed, should practically cease, and every effort was devoted to the construction of destroyers, chasers and later of Eagle boats. In addition to the number of destroyers laid down, a new plan was prepared for additional destroyers, which was approved, and the work of construction continued until late in the summer of 1918, when, it becoming apparent that the hostile submarine was being controlled, it became evident that plans should be laid looking to a resumption of our former building program, in order that we might regain the ground lost in the previous year and a half.


  19.  The Navy has always had very much at heart, the upbuilding of a merchant marine, for from this source it must largely draw its supply of sea-faring men, needed to man our Naval craft. Therefore, it very early became a matter of extreme importance to the Navy as to the best way in which this large merchant fleet which was being built by the Emergency Fleet Corporation, and which had been requisitioned by the Shipping Board, could be put to efficient war work. Plans were worked out in cooperation with the Shipping Board and with the Army whereby all of the ships turned over for Navy purposes, the cargo ships turned over to the War Department for supplying their Army abroad, and vessels of a certain size running through the war zone, should be manned by Naval crews. Had the war been of a different character, it is possible that merchant shipping might not have been dislocated to the extent that it was, but that character of the war was such that practically every commercial interest disappeared and all interests became military in their character. The needs of the Army alone, both in troops and supplies, were so great as to practically demand the turning over to their use, not only all of our own available tonnage, but such allied tonnage as could be chartered. It, therefore, appeared quite necessary that this tonnage operating for a military purpose should be under strict military control, which in so far as transporting across sea was concerned was a naval matter. Above all, the character of the warfare waged by enemy submarines was such that at no time could the seas be called free and there was the constant menace to crew and cargo which required the highest technical skill to combat. For these reasons it became necessary to man those vessels that crossed the war zone with Naval crews and in this matter the Shipping Board and War Department heartily concurred. The troop transports were, from the very beginning, manned with Naval crews, as it was recognized that the lives of our soldiers could only, on the cease [i.e., seas], be entrusted to those whose experience fitted them to give the maximum amount of safety. The wisdom of this policy is shown by the results, in the number of troops and cargo safely transported across the Atlantic. With the end of this war, another problem will face the Navy. If it is considered to be the policy that that the feeding of the Central Powers and Russia still remain a Government problem to be administered by us as a Nation, rather than as a commercial enterprize, then it seems probable that the feeding of these starving millions may have to be handled by the various Government organizations best fitted now to cope with the problem. If this be the case, the military problems of the past year and a half merely merge themselves into economic problems similar to those which we as a Nation have just successfully coped with. Then it may be that the Army organizations which have so successfully administ[er]ed to our forces in France will be called upon to supply food for the starving millions. If that be so, then it seems likely that out [i.e., our] Navy will be called upon to man the ships used by the Army for this purpose and while the process of demobilizations will go on, in so far as our lesser purely military units are concerned, it may be necessary for a number of years to come for the Navy to take a very active part in the administration of our merchant marine.


  20.  It was early realized that no Naval operations or successful campaign against the enemy could be inaugurated and systematically carried out without the aid of officers especially trained to do the planning. Apart from the major plans of campaign, which it has been the province of the General Board to formulate, there are constantly occurring opportunities for local, operations, and even for operations of a major character which it is very necessary that officers who are not engrossed with administrative details should give their attention to. At first, the Department was swamped with a mass of administrative detail. This was quite natural and was inevitably due to the sudden transition from a peace to a war footing. But eventually, it became possible to pick out and assign certain officers specially qualified, whose mission it was to devote themselves to the work of planning. In the late fall of 1917, it became possible to xxxxxxx augment Admiral Sims’ staffwith officers who had no other duties except to work upon various plans. A similar planning section was also formed in the Office of Naval Operations. Both of these planning sections were in the closest touch with the Admiralty Planning Section, and jointly, considered the various subjects which arose in the course of the War. In cooperation with the General Board and with the various Bureaus, such plans as the Northern Barrage plan, the Adriatic mine barrage, the Aegean mine barrage, the plan for operating our great guns in Europe, the Northern Bombing project, the general policy of our aviation efforts, the systematic hunting of submarines and numerous other plans were worked out.6 The Department had, at all times, a good working knowledge of the best thing to do in the emergencies, and in addition, it was also able to some extent forecast the trend of enemy operations, and to a degree to plan a counter. Without such organizations, it is very doubtful if a clean-cut, well-thought-out plan of campaign can be conducted, and the value of these planning sections has shown itself many times over. Had the war continued longer their value would have been doubly increased. The existence of these two organizations working in close harmony with each other, one across the water and one here, is making far simpler the process of a systematic demobilization.


  21.  The process of reduction of forces on our stations, except the North Atlantic and in the War zone, went into effect immediately at the beginning of the war. There were, however, reasons apart from military reasons, where it was not desirable to strip the Asiatic, South Atlantic and other stations of all the vessels that were there. On the Pacific coast, there were left a bare minimum of ships to attend to purely local needs. In South America, under Admiral Caperton,7 there were at least four armored cruisers stationed there at the time when a few hostile raiders were at large. But the danger from raiders having passed, the convoy needs growing greater, the Admiral on this station was left with only sufficient force to enable him to successfully carry out his mission, which was largely one of cooperation with the Brazilians. This he most successfully did. At the Brazilian war college today, there are representative United States Naval Officers, who are closely in touch with the activities of this college, and there are other officers who are working in harmony with the Brazilians and establishing friendly relations between their Navy and ours. The cruises of our ships in the South Atlantic took them as far afield as Valparaiso on the west coast and to Liberia on the coast of Africa. In Asiatic waters, the center of effort naturally was around the Siberian ports. Admiral Knight, on the BROOKLYN,8 has been a student of the situation there and had kept the Department constantly informed of the varying changes in the Siberian situation. At Mourmansk in Russia, one of our ships was dispatched to act in cooperation with the Allies,9 and was instructed to particularly carry out the policies of the State Department. Since the Armistice has been signed, the SCORPION, which was interned at Constantinople, has been recommissioned and is now showing our Flag in the Dardenelles and Black Sea. In the Adriatic, one of our cruizers, with several destroyers, has been recently dispatched, in order that our forces may be represented in the activities taking place within that area. In Canada, we were requested to establish seaplane stations to aid in hunting the submarine and this was done.



  22.  It was realized that one of the reasons for causing this war to drag along as it did for a number of years was the lack of close cooperation between the Allies engaged in fighting against the United Central Powers. Therefore, our position being a particularly unique one, and it being evident to all concerned that the United States could have no ulterior motives, it was fitting that the policy of the Navy Department toward those with whom it was associated should be one of the utmost frankness and straight dealing. We never expected to receive anything but the most open and fair treatment and in return we gave the same. It is a pleasure to state that so thoroughly have the Allies responded to our attitude, or even anticipated it, that there has never arisen an occasion where we felt that there existed the slightest ulterior motive. This Office has received, at all times, fully and freely, all information, no matter how secret its character, which has aided us in our planning and in our operations particularly. We are especially indebted to the free access which we have had to the information obtained by the British Admiralty Intelligence Service.


  23.  Since it is the province of the Office of Operations in outlining any campaign of war, not only to take cognizance of immediate operations, but to determine upon the policies to be carried out and to initiate plans and campaigns, it was of importance that the character of warfare which we waged should at the end of the war be open to inspection. For that reason, in every operation that was planned, the tenets of International Law were strictly regarded and the motto was adopted which was scrupulously adhered to, not “that the end justified the means”, but that “the end must be justified by the means.”

  24.  The Office of Operations takes pleasure in expressing its deep appreciation to all the various branches of the Government, of the Naval shore establishment, and of the Naval forces afloat, without whose close cooperation and assistance it could in no wise have accomplished any of the problems with which it was confronted.

W. PRATT      

Source Note: DTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79.

Footnote 1: American naval theorist Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Footnote 2: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine.

Footnote 4: Newport News, VA.

Footnote 5: Adm. Sir William Lowther Grant.

Footnote 6: For copies of these plans, see American Naval Planning Section London.

Footnote 7: Adm. William B. Caperton.

Footnote 8: Adm. Austin M. Knight.

Footnote 9: Olympia.

Related Content