Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice 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]

FORCES IN FRANCE

                  U.S.S. PROMETHEUS, Flagship.    Brest, France.

6 October, 1918.

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

To:  Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations – Week 29 September to 5 October. . . .

          SUBMARINE ACTIVITY

          Renewed submarine activity has been in evidence during the past week. At least three submarines have been operating well offshore in the Bay of Biscay, two patrolling the area bounded by parallels 45-30 and 49-00 north and the eleventh to sixteenth meridians, while the other has been cruising one hundred and fifty miles off the entrance to Brest. These submarines have met with considerable success during the week. On the 1st the British vessel BYLAND and the Italian steamer MANIN were sunk at 5:00 p.m. in latitude 45-38 and longitude 10 58 west, while on the 2nd at 4:00 p.m. the same submarine torpedoed an unknown ship and chased the British vessel NIZAN inlatitude 46-22 north and longitude 14-00 west. The other submarine working well off shore attacked a convoy at 7:50 p.m. on the 2nd, latitude 47-26 north and longitude 15-12 west. The submarine cruising further inshore torpedoed the British vessel MONTFORT at 6:00 p.m. on the 1st, latitude 48-07 north and longitude 10-05 west.

          [First of line obscured] a submarine operating during the week inshore, sinking the ketch Maria Theresa at 3:00 p.m. on the 1st, latitude 46-33 north and lon[g]itude 03-32, and at 6:30 p.m. on the same date, fired on the American Dirigible AT-13 in latitude 47-02 north and longitude 02-41 west, while on the 3rd at 1:00 p.m. sank the bark Ave Marie Stella by gun fire in latitude 46-05 north and longitude 02-14 west, while the Spanish vessel MERCEDES was torpedoed and sunk two miles off St. Sebastian on the 4th.

          The U.S.S. KANAWHA reports being missed by a torpedo at 10:45 p.m. on the 2nd. latitude 44-46 north and longitude 12-24 west. This report, however, is considered doubtful. . . .

          MINING ACTIVITY.

          The dangerous areas 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 46-57 N. 02-28 W.

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

Between 45-15 N. and 49-25 N. parallels ships are not to pass eastward of 02-26 West Meridian.

Area bounded by Lat. 47-08 N. and 47-13 N. and Long. 02-40 W. and 02-49 W. is closed to navigation.

          A mine was sunk by gun fire at 7:15 a.m. on the 29th ult., eight miles South 60º West from La Coubre.

          On the 30th ult., a mine was sunk by gun fire six miles South 55º West of Baleines.

          At 7:00 a.m. on the 3rd, two mines were discovered seven miles South 25º West of Chassiron.

          On the 5th a mine was found in latitude 47-16 north and longitude 03-04 west, and as a result, navigation is now prohibited within the areas bounded by latitudes 47º14’ north and 47º-19’ north, and longitudes 03º-00’ west and 03º -10’ west.

M I S C E L L A N E O U S

WESTWARD HO – still in dry dock undergoing repairs due to Being torpedoed. Probable date of completion October 17, 1918. Work is proceeding as rapidly as French facilities and lack of labour permits.

LONG BEACH -    still in dry dock undergoing renewal of bottom and general overhaul. Hull work being performed by the French. Repairs are progressing slowly due to lack of sufficient riveters. Date of completion indefinite, probably not before December 10, 1918.

MOUNT VERNON – in dry dock #9 repairing torpedo damage. Work being performed jointly by repair gang. – Army detachment, ships’ force and French arsenal. Steel work nearly all in place and concrete work just begun. Steam engineering work nearly completed in such shape that ship will only lose the use of one boiler. Date of completion October 16th, probable date of readiness for sea October 20th, 1918.

GREAT NORTHERN – Starboard quarter above waterline damaged by collision with British Steamer 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 the 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 Constructer 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 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 SHIP – One temporary building 80% complete. Main building steel received and 15% of columns erected. Layout completed and foundations all installed. Work delayed slightly by lack of men and excessive grading required by French authorities. About 85% of machine tools received.

September 30th, 1918

          A comparison of the number of U.S. troops landed from trans-atlantic transports in French ports during recent months is as below. Of the figures for September, which are the largest on record, 10,266 landed at S. Nazaire and the remainder, namely 132,987 at Brest. (This latter number is almost identical with the number landed at Brest in July)—

          Troops:

              May       119,000

              June      104,336

              July      133,993

              August    93,376

              September 143,253

              Total     593,958  

          Two hundred fifty nine army patients arrived in Brest, 29 September, 1918, for transfer to the United States. They will be transported via U.S.S. AEOLUS. Twenty specially trained Army guards will accompany the draft on the voyage. The Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France suggests to the Commanding Officer of the AEOLUS1 that this draft be placed in on[e] troop compartment where they can be watched and not be allowed to leace [i.e., leave]. He adds that the Army state that they will accept full responsibility.2

October 1st, 1918.

          A summary of the status of lines of communication between stations on the West coast of France is as follows:-

          A direct telegraph line from the Flag Office, Brest. to the U.S. Naval telegraph office, Nantes, went into commission two weeks ago. This line has the headquarters of the district Commander at Lorient on it as a way station, thus giving direct communication between the Flag Office and the District Commander Lorient.3

          A direct naval line from the Naval Telegraph office at Nantes to the office of the District Commander Rochefort was established several days ago. By connecting this line to the direct line from Brest to Nantes, the Flag Office now has direct communication to the District Commander Rochefort.4

          The U.S. Army now has three telegraph battalions comprising about 600 men, working on the Navy telephone and telegraph lines from the headquarters of the district commanders to the air stations along the coast. The army force is being augmented by men from the various air stations, and in about ten days the total force constructing naval lines will amount to about 1,000 men. The total construction for Navy will be about 1,300 miles of line, and when completed will give a perfect system of communication to the air stations.

          In addition to the lines of the communication to the air stations, the Army is constructing four telephone circuits from Brest to St. Nazaire. One of these circuits will be turned over to the Navy for its use and will have the district headquarters at Lorient bridged on to the circuit. This will give direct communication to Lorient and St. Nazaire by telephone.

          The four conductor cable[s] laid across the mouth of the Gironde River by the Navy to give communication to points south of the Gironde proved to be defective in manufacture. The cable is now in service, it having been found possible to use two conductors. A new cable is now en route to Bordeaux, and as soon as received will be laid, in order to give the desired number of circuits for service south of the Gironde. . . .

          Oct. 3, 1918, at 3:32 a.m. U.S.S. GREAT NORTHERN and the British steamer BRINKBURN came into collision in Lat.45-43 N.Long. 16-12 W. The collision was a severe one, the bow of the BRINKBURN penetrating the starboard quarter of the GREAT NORTHERN and killing 7 of her soldier passengers. About 6 ft. of the stem and bow of the BRINKBURN, including the hawse pipe, anchor and chain, were broken off and left in the hull of the GREAT NORTHERN. The BRINKBURN, when last seen at 5:a.m. had her fore peak flooded but her radio apparatus intact. No radio call for help has, however, been received from her; and her whereabouts and fate remain unknown. The GREAT NORTHERNwill require eight days repair work at Brest to make her seaworthy...

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

Footnote 1: Cmdr. Clarence S Kempff.

Footnote 2: Apparently the men in question had influenza and were under quarantine.

Footnote 3: Capt. Thomas P. Magruder.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Newton A. McCully.