Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
October 8, 1917.
From: Force Commander.
To : Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
Subject: Routing of U.S.Tankers to European Waters.
Reference (a) Opnav cable 5971
Reference (b) My cable <#814> of Oct. 8, 1917.2
1. Just prior to the receipt of reference (a) the subject was taken up as to the best destination to assign our tankers. Most of our tankers have been routed to Queenstown, but it is only on rare occasions that any of them have been permitted to go to Queenstown on account of the small storage capacity of that station. When we have a tanker en route it has been customary to inquire if she can be accommodated at Queenstown, and if so to send her to that station. Otherwise she must be diverted to Devonport, Portsmouth, Sheerness3 or some other station requiring oil. In the case of the TOPILA, destined to Queenstown, it was intended to divert her to Devonport; but the TOPILA dropped out of the convoy on the way across and consequently missed the orders taken out by the destroyer escorts. As a consequence, the TOPILA subsequently arrived in Queenstown, where she would have had to wait two weeks to discharge. I directed her to be escorted to Devonport, where she is now unloading. Devonport is an excellent port of discharge for our vessels, for it is the port from which convoys for America sail every 4 days, and the most rapid return of our vessels is insured.
2. It is hoped that the plan to route our tankers to Kirkwall4 in west coast convoys will result in fewer delays in United States ports. Our tankers bound to Kirkwall will be under escort all the way to destination and will be escorted to the westward out of dangerous waters. If it were certain that a vessel was to go to Queenstown, she could be routed in a west coast convoy, which would carry her to the northern end of the Irish Sea. She would then have to proceed alone down the Irish Sea to Queenstown, though most vessels leaving the Irish Sea for Queenstown make this run by night without escort. The Irish Sea, however, is frequently mined, although submarine attacks there are very rare. On the whole it is considered safer and better to route all vessels bound for Queenstown or the Channel in east coast convoys. I request to be informed if the procedure mentioned in request (b) is not satisfactory.
Advantage can be taken of the convoys from Hampton Roads, New York, Halifax or Sydney5 according to the speed of the vessel. It should be noted that the Halifax convoys are for the west coast only. So far as concerns safety in the submarine zone it is desirable to place vessels in the fastest convoys that they can accompany. The MAUMEE, CUYAMA and KANAWHA6 could easily cross in the Halifax convoy, provided they are destined for Kirkwall and do not carry stores. If they have stores for our forces as well as oil it would be desirable to place them in the fastest east coast convoy available.
Wm S Sims.
Source Note: CyS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. There is a handwritten identification in the top left-hand corner “C 1270.” The number of Sims’ cable of 8 October mentioned in reference B is also handwritten.
Footnote 1: See: Benson to Sims, 5 October 1917.
Footnote 2: Sims’ cable “#814” has not been found.
Footnote 3: All these ports are on the southern or southeastern coast of England except Queenstown (modern-day Cobh), which is on the southern coast of Ireland.
Footnote 4: Kirkwall is in the Orkney Islands, Scotland.
Footnote 5: Halifax and Sydney are port cities in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Footnote 6: These three vessels were U.S. Navy fuel ships.