Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain Thomas P. Magruder, Commander (pro tempore), Patrol Squadrons, French Waters
Cablegram Sent 23 October 1917.
To Ampat, Brest1 Serial No. 111
Via N C B A 19 A D R Prep by Appvd. by
111. For Magruder. I wish to emphasize instructions already issued to Commander Patrol Squadrons on French Coast that paramount duty is to safeguard U.S. troop transports and supply ships on their arrival at and departure from French ports. All incoming troop transports are escorted to destination by Queenstown destroyers. All supply convoys from Hampton Roads and Sydney are carried to Brest by Queenstown destroyers. Your primary duty with respect to vessels so escorted is to have them met off entrance channels by your own or French vessels for purpose of pilotage, avoidance of mine fields, and augmentation of escort to destination. Supply convoys from New York will have to be met by your vessels in near vicinity of Brest and escorted to destination direct or via Brest at your discretion. For departing vessels the best possible escort must always be provided and vessels must not be permitted to sail singly or in small groups with insufficient escort even though detention of vessels is necessary in order to form one group with adequate number of escorting vessels. Read carefully Force Commander’s letter B nine six seven of September twenty seventh subject Duties of U.S. Naval Port Officers.2 Forward immediately by mail copy of any orders based on that letter issued to Naval Port Officer St. Nazaire by Rear Admiral Fletcher and any additional orders you may have issued in same connection. A report now in my possession indicates that possibly Commander Freeman3 has been improperly instructed as to his duties and responsibilities in connection with the outward escort of vessels. I wish to make it clear that the responsibilities for providing adequate escort and for seeing that vessels do not depart except under such escort rests with Senior U.S. Officer in Command on French Coast who has full authority to regulate all sailings and to proceed St. Nazaire or elsewhere at his discretion in case he thinks necessary. When U.S. forces available are insufficient, assistance of French may and should be requested.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: This was the cable address for the Commander of the United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in French Waters. At the time of this cable, Fletcher had just been removed from this post and was replaced by RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, who would officially take command on 1 November. Following Fletcher’s removal, Magrauder took over Fletcher’s duties until Wilson’s arrival, whereupon he was appointed Commander, Minesweeper Squadron, French Waters.
Footnote 2: See: Sims to Fletcher, 28 September 1917.
Footnote 3: Frederic N. Freeman. According to his later testimony, the appointment of Freeman to sea duty was at Magruder’s urging, as he argued that there needed to be “a commander afloat, to inspect the ships, to operate a division of the larger ships, if necessary, and in fact to perform the duties of a commander afloat. Admiral Fletcher finally accepted that recommendation, and Commander Freeman was put in command of a division.” RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246. Freeman was given command of this division on 17 October 1917; see: Sims to Opnav, 17 October 1917.