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Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


October 20, 1917



OPNAV 772(BOX) In this cable the Department outlines replies to

the specific requests made by Great Britain in a memorandum handed to Admiral Mayo by the First Sea Lord and dated 22 September.2 First, the sending of a division of four United States coal-burning dreadnaughts to replace dreadnaughts to be withdrawn from the Grand Fleet is under serious consideration. Second, increase of destroyers abroad not practicable at present but number abroad will be increased as rapidly as practicable when new destroyers become available. Third, rearrangement of cruiser squadrons will provide four additional cruisers for merchant convoy service. Further efforts will be made to provide additional vessels. Fourth, arrangement to commandeer additional yachts and tugs made, fit them out and send them abroad as rapidly as possible. Fifty submarine chasers have already been assigned to France of which eleven have been delivered or are enroute. Four squadrons of submarine chasers of eighteen boats each will be available in the near future for service in foreign waters should they be found useful for such duty. Fifth, the construction of merchant ships is proceeding as fast as conditions permit. Sixth, contract has been let for one hundred thousand mines of American type. The United States has offered to commandeer for the British Admiralty three vessels suitable for mine-laying to be manned by the United States for employment in co-operation With British mine-laying forces in any joint plan which may finally be agreed upon. Seventh, the question of the proposed mine barrage from Scotland to Norway as presented to the Navy Department is not definitely concurred in but careful consideration is being given to this particular subject with a view to arriving at definite conclusions in regards to the employment of mine barrage which measure is considered in principle to promise good results. The following matters were not included in the memorandum referred to but were specifically mentioned in connection therewith. Eighth, it is considered that the American type mine is perfectly safe and inoperative upon breaking away from its moorings. Ninth, the Standard British Admiralty type of sinker can be used with the American type mine.3 Tenth, referring to the preceding cable regarding the fuel oil situation4 the Navy Department repeats that 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 its own efforts are concerned it will take every measure it can to assist in safeguarding the military needs of the British Fleet as regards the oil situation and it will requisition in addition to the six already taken over as much tanker tonnage as may be necessary to accomplish this purpose provided thereby so doing the oil situation for the British Fleet will be improved and safeguarded.     16020


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “OL-772.”

Footnote 1: “TRANSLATION” means the message was sent in code and this is the decoded version.

Footnote 2: The First Sea Lord was Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe. For the memorandum, see: British Admiralty Memorandum, 27 September 1917.

Footnote 3: Jellicoe had specifically asked about sinkers for the mine in a cable of 17 October. See: Jellicoe to William S. Benson, 17 October 1917.

Footnote 4: On the British and fuel oil, see: Benson to William S. Sims, 3 October 1917.