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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

Action Copy.

Cablegram Received    Oct. 3, 1917

To     Opnav   Washington.              Serial No. 570

Via     N C B A 15                      Date No. 18001

Copies to C. of S., J.V.B.,E.1            File No.

Action Referred to.

Action taken.



Ref. No.





570. Conflicting interests referred to your cable 689 of ________ extreme caution in lending your support to details of pooling or requisitioning proposal of any character.2 Peri[o]d On August 20th Sir Frederick Black personally informed Chief of Naval Operations that safety of fleet was no longer threatened by shortage of fuel oil3 Period Statement presented by Sir Frederick on August 20th in support of conclusions expressed above containing a fuel oil forecast for each calendar month from July 30th, 1917 to December 30th 1918.

     This forecast is tabulated under the following headings Quote total stock on hand comma estimated total expenditure comma and estimated total receipts Unquote Period The total entered under each column in the order quoted above are for July 30th 1917. Quote 585000 comma 301000 comma 285000 Period For August 30th 606000 comma 305000 comma 325000 period For September 30th 657000 comma 310000 comma 361000 period For October 30th 658000 comma 314000 comma 315 thousand Period This deduction fully shared by Sir Frederick and all British representatives present at conference August 20th. If figures furnished you differ from those in the Black memorandum advise department in detail Paragraph

     According to advices received in this office copies of which will be furnished you by mail comma the requisitioning of American owned tankers under British flag for naval purposes has in the past worked detrimentally and in a discriminating manner to American oil interest attempting to establish themselves in foreign fields. Were our tankers to be entirely used now for military purposes leaving foreign fields completely to British controlled tonnage situation would be created which would be entirely incongenial? uncontrolled?4 To us and ______ appear to be just Paragraph

     However in so far as it has jurisdiction it is the department’s policy to place the military necessities of the situation first and to settle the commercial complications later. To this end the navy department will guarantee that in so far as it’s own efforts are concerned it will take every measure it guarded. It is the policy of this department to unreservedly throw all it’s efforts into scales to win the war for the allies and in so doing it is within it’s jurisdiction <(to)> make no special reservation for American shipping or other commercial interests over those of the allies. It in return expects from all the allies the same wholehearted and unreserved cooperation.5 18001

Admiral Benson          

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Someone crossed through the original date and substituted “October 1.” Since no reason was given for this change, the editors have reverted to the original dating. The initial “E.C.T.” in the table are handwritten.

Footnote 1: Sims' Chief of Staff Capt. Nathan C. Twining; Sims’ aide, Cmdr. John V. Babcock; and another member of Sims’ staff, Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey, whose full initials appear in the “Action Referred to” column in the table below.

Footnote 2: This cable from Sims has not been found but on British requests concerning oil, see: Requests Made by Great Britain at Naval Conference with Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, 4-5 September 1917.

Footnote 3: For more on Black’s presentation, see: Paul J. Foley to Benson, 20 August 1917.

Footnote 4: The word “incongenial?” is typed on the line; the word “uncontrolled?” is typed above it as an interlineation.

Footnote 5: Because of such accusations the Inter-Allied Petroleum Council was organized in November 1917 to establish a pool of both British and American oil tankers and coordinate transportation of oil abroad. For the remainder of the war, according to British Admiralty figures, the United States provided over eighty percent of Allied petroleum requirements. Glenn A. Stackhouse, “The Anglo-American Atlantic convoy system in World War I, 1917-18,” Ph.D. diss, University of South Carolina, 1993, 252.

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