Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

[Extract]

13 October 1918.

From:     Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations – Week 6 October to 12 October.

     1.    (a) Vessels available:

Destroyers –  CONNER, SIGOURNEY, NICHOLSON, CUSHING, ERICSSON,                WARRINGTON, WINSLOW, MONAGHAN, FLUSSER, REID,                ROE, McDOUGAL, DRAYTON, LAMSON, BENHAM, LITTLE,                   TUCKER, JARVIS, PORTER, BURROWS, O’BRIEN,                     STRINGHAM.

Seagoing Yachts – APHRODITE, NOMA, MAY, NOKOMIS.

Coastal Convoy Escort – WANDERER, TRUXTUN, WHIPPLE, HARVARD,                REMLIK, CHRISTABEL, RAMBLER, STEWART, CORONA,                  SULTANA, EMELINE, VIDETTE, WORDEN.

Tugs –        

              CONCORD, CRICCIETH, GYPSUM QUEEN, ILE D’OUESSANT.

Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) – PIQUA, McNEAL, ANDERTON, CAHILL,             COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, JAMES, LEWES, HUBBARD, HINTON.

Wrecking Vessel – FAVORITE.

Station Ships – PROMETHEUS, BRIDGEPORT, MARIETTA, PANTHER.

Floating Barracks – CAROLA IV.

          (b)  Overhaul- LIVERPOOL:

     PRESTON, SMITH, TAYLOR.

          (c) Repairing Brest:

              FANNING, BARNEGAT, WADSWORTH, WAINWRIGHT,                        UTOWANA.

          (d) Overhaul Brest:

              MACDONOUGH.

          (e)  Repairing Rochefort District.

              CORSAIR.

          (f)  Being equipped with Walzer apparatus.

              ISABEL.

          The WADSWORTH had a hole punched in her at the water-line while at anchor at Brest. Will be ready for service about 14 October. The WAINWRIGHT returned from escort duty salted. Will be ready for duty in about three days. The UTOWANA returned from escort duty with lost propeller blade which will require docking and replacing and will probably be ready in about ten days. The MACDONOUGH is undergoing routine overhaul and will be ready for duty in about three weeks. The MACDONOUGH is in the poorest condition of any of the coastal escort destroyers and requires considerable overhaul to keep running at all. At the present time she carries enough coal and water for the round trip to La Pallice, but at times must stop at Lorient in order to get coal and water. It is estimated completion of the destroyers overhauling at Liverpool is: PRESTON, 16 October; SMITH, 16 October; TAYLOR 25 October. The deck of the ROE, over the forward oil tanks, is badly gone. Information was received from the Force Commander that it is impracticable to affect repairs on her in England at the present time due to the shortage of riveters, so the present intention is to send her to the United States for repair as her present condition is such that it would be dangerous to keep her in service. As previously stated the WADSWORTH and ERICSSON will be sent to Liverpool for overhaul upon the completion of the SMITH and PRESTON. The MAY returned from Plymouth after taking Admiral McCully1 there,on 10 October and sailed for Pauillac 12 October escorting LAKE LARGO with coal, a sudden shortage having been discovered there.

     2.   Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules with exceptions as noted above. Movements of troop and store ships and of vessels engaged in the Army coal trade, are as shown in enclosure.2 Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoys.

          The destroyers which escorted O.R.95 to the westward intercepted Group 69 and escorted it to Brest.3 The destroyers which escorted O.R. 96 to the westward intercepted H.N.85 and escorted it to Brest. It is believed that this convoy was about five hours ahead of time but on the contrary it was behind time, which, combined with heavy weather, resulted in escort not joining until just before dark on 6 October. The destroyers which escorted O.R.97 and O.R.98 to the westward intercepted Group 70 and are escorting it to Brest, where it is expected to arrive early morning of 13 October. The LAMSON and REID joined O.V.34 on morning of 10 October and re-inforced escort.4 This escort, re-inforced the FLUSSER, intercepted H.B.15,5 11 October and are escorting it to La Pallice. The destroyers which escorted O.P.276 to westward had orders to intercept Group 71 and escort it to Brest. The CUMMINGS, with this escort, in excess of number required has been directed upon completion of duty with O.P. 27, to patrol in the Bay of Biscay and join H.N.86 at destroyer rendezvous on morning of 14 October. The CUSHING sailed from Brest on the afternoon of 11 October to re-inforce French escort for French cruiser GUIDON. Upon completion of this duty the CUSHING had orders to patrol in the Bay of Biscay and join H.N.86 at destroyer rendezvous on morning of 14 October. The SIGOURNEY and STRINGHAM sailed with O.R.99, the STANDARD ARROW, on afternoon of 12 October with orders to intercept H.N.867 at destroyer rendezvous, however, late in the evening of 12 October information was received that the STANDARD ARROW was being escorted back to Brest on account of influenza on board. The U.S.S. BUEKELSDIJK, which missed O.V.34 due to epidemic of influenza on board, is still suffering from the epidemic, a large number of the crew having been taken off, and as a result this ship will probably miss the next Verdon convoy.

          Upon the recommendation of the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France, H.B. convoys will hereafter be taken to La Pallice, part of the escort continuing to the Gironde with vessels for ports in that river. Vessels for points north of La Pallice will be placed in coastal convoy at La Pallice, thus saving considerable time in arrival of ships at their destinations.

     3.   SUBMARINE ACTIVITY.

          There has been but LITTLE activity off-shore in the Bay of Biscay; the scarcity of reports making it difficult to confine any one unit to any one sector or to establish definitely how many submarines are working. It is believed, however, only one is operating off the coast in the vicinity of Latitude forty-eight degrees north. The only attack was made at 1:00 p.m. on the 10th on the French fishing sloop Andie which was sunk by gunfire in latitude 48-25 N., longitude 11-40 W. In-shore, however, two submarines have been working – one off Penmarch, and the other further down the coast. The latter has been sighted frequently and has met with considerable success. The Portuguese steamer CAZENCO was torpedoed at 7:00 p.m. on the 8th and was beached to prevent her sinking, while on the following afternoon at 6:00 p.m. the French sailing vessel PIERRE was burned and on the 11th the steamer LUKSEFJELL was sunk by torpedo in latitude 43-41 N., longitude 01-36 W. . . .

            4.   MINE ACTIVITY.

          The dangerous areas which have been in effect during the past week are as follows:

          Radius 7 miles around Triagoz and Sept Ile.

          Radius 6 miles around 48-51 N. 04-00 W.

          Radius 3-1/2 miles around 46-55 N. 02-28 W.

          Radius 5 miles around 45-55 N. 01-31 W.

          Area bounded by Lat. 47-08 N. and 47-13 N. and

              Long. 02-40 W. and 03-10 W. is closed to                        navigation.

          Area bounded by lat. 47-14 N. and 47-19 N. and long.                  03-00 W. and 03-10 W. is closed to navigation.

          On the 9th a dangerous areas was said to exist on account of mines for five miles around Lat. 44-16 N. and Long. 01-24 W.

MISCELLANEOUS

WESTWARD HO:   Still in dry dock #3, undergoing repairs due to                  being torpedoed. Probable date undocking October                 17th, readiness for sea October 22nd, 1918.

LONG BEACH: Still in dry dock at Port du Commerce undergoing                 general overhaul and repairs to bottom. Work on                  hull progressing very slowly due to lack of                     personnel by French. Date of completion                         indefinite; probably not before December 10th,                   1918.

MOUNT VERNON:  Still in dry dock #8. Expect to undock October                   17th, 1918. Readiness for sea October 20th, 1918.

GREAT NORTHERN: Starboard quarter above waterline damaged by                collision with British steam BRINKBURN. About                   twenty-five feet of side plating torn off and                   being renewed by wood and concrete bulkhead. Hole               in side under counter having steel patch                      installed. Damaged gun foundation cannot be                      repaired here. Estimated date of completion                     October 15th, 1918.

WEST BRIDGE:    Still beached off Port du Commerce. Removal of                   sacked flour proceeding slowly. Work on wood                    coffer dam over torpedo damage proceeding                       satisfactorily. Expect to have cofferdam in place               and start pumping in three weeks. Preliminary                  design work being undertaken by Naval Constructor             looking towards her use as barrack ship for                         PROMETHEUS and BRIDGEPORT.

COALING GEAR:  Tentative layout of installation of two De Mayo                  coaling chutes on self-propelled barge #13 or #14                has been made and scheme found to be feasible.                   Details now being worked up and installation can                be started as soon as material is assembled and                    men are available, probably in two weeks. Results              will be barge carrying 900 tons of coal with two                    automatic coaling devices capable of discharging                   at rate of about 75 tons per hour or more, and                  can be used for LEVIATHAN or any other ship with                    side coaling ports.

REPAIR SHOP:   One temporary building 85% complete. All columns                and part of roof trusses of main building                       erected. Grading and foundations for office                     nearly complete. Work delayed by lack of                        personnel and land transportation. About 85% of                  equipment received.

DRY DOCK:      Work on dry dock #9 at Laninon progressing                       favorably. Large gate valves lowered into place,                 and dock MAY be ready by December 15th, 1918.

UTOWANA:      Will undock from dry dock #2 on October 14, 1918.                Her damaged propeller will be used as a pattern                  for casting a new one. Work being performed by                   French. Probable date of completion November 8,                  1918.

ISABEL:         Awaiting completion miscellaneous repairs and                    listening device. French date completion October                 19th, 1918...

                   The epidemic of influenza on incoming troop transports continues to be a matter of grave concern. Group 67, which arrived at St. Nazaire on October 6th, had over two thousand hospital cases among twenty-five thousand troops. Group 70, due to arrive Brest October 13th, has eight hundred and seventeen hospital cases and there have been one hundred and fifty-nine deaths out of a total of eighteen thousand troops.

8 October 1918 –

              The coal report Oct. 1, 1918, gives the following      statistics:

       Coal on hand at Brest – deficit . . . . . . 12,800 tons.

             "      Pauillac . . . . . . . . . . .  1,900  "

             "      St.Nazaire . . . . . . . . . .  5,400  "

       Estimated Issue for Oct.-Brest. . . . . . . 24,000  "

             "            "   Pauillac . . . . . .  4,000  "

             "            "   St.Nazaire . . . . .  - - - - -

       Required for delivery in Oct.- Brest. . . . 40,000  "

             "         "           Pauillac .  . .  4,000  "

             "         "           St.Nazaire . .   4,000  "

10 October 1918 –

              The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France has written a letter of commendation to Lt.Comdr. W.B.PORTER, USNRF8 Commanding Officer U.S.S.CORSAIR for the excellent seamanship and judgment displayed by him in the salvage of the Norwegian S.S.DAGFIN...

              The 1500-ton oil barge in the Gironde, now manned           by the Army, will be manned and operated by the Navy             as soon as the Army is ready to turn her over...

12 October 1918 –

              ...Lt. W.C.Bartlett, U.S.N.R.F.,9 Naval Port Officer Port Haliguen, has been convicted by general court martial at Lorient, the accused pleading guilty to the charge of drunkenness, and has been sentenced to dismissal from the service. The sentence has been approved by the Convening Authority. The District Commander Lorient requests the immediate detachment of Lt.Bartlett from his duties as Naval Port Officer Port Haliguen, and that he be ordered to Brest for return to the United States.

              With reference to the subject covered by the telegram of Oct. 10th, to the Commanding Officer Pauillac,10 and referring also to the letter of the Director General Transportation Tours, dated 27 September 1918, addressed to Capt. H.I.Cone U.S.N., the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France addressed to the Director General Transportation11 an inquiry as to the progress of the matter of the Army’s taking over the docks at Pauillac from the French. “From the view point of the Navy”, he says:-

“The operating conditions at Pauillac are far from satisfactory under French control and it is our belief that if you are successful in getting formal consent of the French authorities to your taking over the dock facilities, it will be a long step in the direction of an improvement. It is almost needless to say that in this undertaking, you will have the hearty support and cooperation of all of our forces.

The situation is so serious that I would urge the matter to be pushed with all possible vigor.”...

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 440.

Footnote 1: RAdm. Newton A. McCully, Commander, United States Forces in Russia.

Footnote 2: The enclosure has not been printed.

Footnote 3: “O.R.” were convoys sailing from Brest for the United States or South America; “Group” were troopship convoys to the coast of France. Wilson, The American Navy in France, 47.

Footnote 4: “O.V.” were convoys sailing from the Gironde River to the United States or South America. Ibid.

Footnote 5: “H.B.” were store ship convoys from New York destined to ports in the Bay of Biscay. Ibid.

Footnote 6: “O.P.” were convoys sailing from Quiberon Bay (St. Nazaire) to the United States or South America. Ibid.

Footnote 7: “H.N.” were store ship convoys from New York destined for ports in France. Ibid.

Footnote 8: Lt. Cmdr. William B. PORTER.

Footnote 9: Lt. William C. Bartlett.

Footnote 10: Lt. George F. Keene.

Footnote 11: Capt. Hutchinson I Cone, Aide-de-Camp for Aviation, Staff of Vice Admiral William S. Sims; Brig. Gen. William W. Atterbury, Director-General of Transportation.