Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Alexander S. Halstead, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt

[Extract]

U. S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS

FORCES IN FRANCE

Aviation Section

BREST, FRANCE

July 25, 1919.

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

To:       The Assistant Secretary of the Navy,

          Navy Department, Washington, D.C.

Subject:  Demobilization Report of Aviation Forces in France, and Revisions in Report of February 5, 1919, Prepared by Aviation Section, U.S.Naval Forces in France, for the Assistant Secretary, Covering Property Obligations, Costs of Stations, Demobilization, etc.1

Enclosures: (a)     221 Sheets. Revisions as of July 20, 1919, in duplicate, to be inserted in report of February 5, 1919, covering the following Aviation Establishments in France.

Treguier

La Trinite

Pauillac

L’Abervach

La Croisic

Moutchic

Brest Headquarters

Paimbouf

Gujan

Brest

Fromentine

La Teste

Guipavas

La Pallice

Arcachon

Ile Tudy

St. Trojan

Northern Bombing Group

     1.   In accordance with the wishes of the Assistant Secretary, a report covering property obligations, costs of stations, demobilization, etc., was submitted on February 5,1919 by the Aviation Section, Forces in France. As, with a few exceptions, all Aviation Forces in France have now been settled, it is deemed advisable to revise the Report of February 5,1919, to date. There are therefore enclosed revised inserts to be placed in the original reports, outlining the status of such station as of July 20, 1919.

     2.   There follows a brief summary of the situation of demobilization at each station. Costs noted do not include charges for enlisted labor or transportation, as such labor is not considered a proper charge against the costs of stations, and as no schedule of transportation charges has yet been determined upon. Value of materials liquidated does not include articles shipped to the United States, or transferred to other Departments of the U.S.Navy. The rate of embargo is taken at 5.45, that rate having been used for the original report.

(a) TREGUIER.

              With the exception of the payment of certain French Government bills for supplies, which have not yet been tendered, all matters have been settled. The station originally belonging to the French Navy, was officially placed out of commission by the U.S.Navy on January 19, 1919, and was formally taken back by the French Navy on March 18, 1919, on which date the small U.S.Navy guard was finally removed. No charge for the use of the station has been made by the French Navy, except for four Bessonneau hangars which were liquidated by the U.S.Navy, and for 1000 francs damages to a motor boat. All claims and indemnities have been assumed by the French Navy. All U.S.Navy buildings, materials, equipment, supplies, etc., were removed and disposed of.

     The improvements and installations of the U.S.Navy have been liquidated at 69 1/2% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $9,251.41 . . .

(b) L’ABERVRACH.

              The station was officially placed out of commission January 23, 1919, and all personnel removed immediately thereafter. The properties requisitioned for the station were derequisitioned by the French Navy on February 4, 1919. The French Navy, after great delays, finally recommended the payment of 26,675.86 francs as total indemnity for rentals and damages. This amount is considered exorbitant, and the matter is now under further investigation by the U.S.Navy and French Navy. It is certain that a considerably reduced sum will be paid. This sum is taken, however, as a maximum indemnity in figuring the cost of the station. All other matters have been settled. All buildings, materials, equipment, supplies, etc., have been removed and disposed of.

     The improvements and installations made by the U.S.Navy have been liquidated at 56 1/3% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $39,907.11 . . .

(c) BREST HEADQUARTERS.

              The building at 13, Rue [?] Brest, used as Naval Aviation Headquarters, was turned over to the U.S.Army on February 1, 1919, who assumed the loss and a share of all indemnities and damages caused by U.S. Navy, based on the relative lengths of occupancy of the Navy and the Army. Total indemnities are estimated at 10,000 francs, Naval occupancy having covered 8 months and Army occupancy established at covering 8 months, the Navy share of indemnities will be 3846 francs. All equipment, improvements, etc., have been sold by the U.S.Navy.

     The improvements have been liquidated at 79% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the establishment is 1,653.65 . . .

(d) BREST.

              When demobilization was commenced, the French Navy stated that it desired to purchase the improvements installed by and for the U.S.Navy at the Brest Air Station, as well as the dirigible hangar and hydrogen plant building at Guivapas. On January 9, 1919, a Joint Commission of American and French Naval Officers agreed upon a total sale price for the Brest Air Station of 692,526.00 francs, the French Navy agreeing to assume all the French construction contracts, all claims and all indemnities, and to pay for the installations made by the U.S.Navy approximately 70 to 75% of the sum they would have cost the French Navy had the work been performed at current French market rates. This tentative agreement was forwarded to the Minister of Marine2 for his approval. After a long delay on the part of the Ministry, information was received in the middle of March that the tentative sale price was too high. Unofficial offers were then made by the Ministry, as a result of which the French Navy agreed to purchase the station for the total sum of 604,708.00 francs, this figure being based on a different apportionment of the cost figures, including payment by the U.S.Navy of 25% of the French contracts, and payment by the French Navy of 75% flat of the estimated costs according to French standards, of U.S.Navy improvements. The U.S.Navy accepted this basis for settlement, but further delays by the Ministry ensued, with the result that the Ministry has now decided that this price is also to [i.e., too] high to be included in charges against their current appropriations and that, with present efforts of the French Government to diminish all expenditures specific for appropriation for the purchase of the station could be secured from the Chamber of Deputies. Negotiations have now been practically completed, in accordance with which the French Navy will pay 50% of the total estimated cost of the station (based on French estimates), and will make settlement of the French contracts, deducting from its payment to the U.S.Navy the latter’s one half share of these contracts, estimated at 397,000 francs. The French Navy will therefore pay the U.S.Navy the net sum of 114,450.00 francs, will assume all claims and indemnities, and will release the U.S.Navy from any further obligations in connection with the station. On February 15, 1919, on the urgent request of the Ministry of Marine the station was transferred to the French navy, on the basis of provisional custody, subject to the final settlement of the financial side of the question. All U.S.Navy personnel was immediately thereafter removed. All materials, equipment, and supplies, not directly connected with the installation of the station, were removed and disposed of.

     Considering this last arrangement as final, as it is practically certain that the Ministry will give its approval, it can be stated that the installation has been liquidated at 67% of its original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $94,968.78 . . .  

(e) GUIPAVAS.

              The station was officially placed out of commission on January 13, 1919, and all personnel removed shortly thereafter. With the exception of the American dirigible hangar and hydrogen plant building, which were desired by the French Navy, all buildings, materials, supplies, equipment, etc., were removed and disposed of. The properties requisitioned for the station, excepting those to be retained by the French, were derequisitioned on February 8, 1919.

     Negotiations as to the sale price of the hangar and hydrogen building have been conducted simultaneously with negotiations regarding Brest, outlined above, and the same delays have in consequence been suffered. The French Navy first agreed to pay the sum of 478,650 francs. This sum has now been reduced to 298,080 francs, that amount being the maximum which the French Navy will give. This sum is one half the estimated cost of the construction of a similar hangar at current French market rates. As noted under paragraph (d) above, this amount has not been officially approved by the Ministry of Marine, but there is no reason to anticipate further disagreement. All damages and indemnities will be assumed by the French Navy, as part of the transaction.

     Considering this agreement final, the station installation has been liquidated at 89 1/2% of its original cost to the U.S.Navy. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $14,065.26 . . .

(f) ILE TUDY

              The station was placed out of commission on January 25, 1919. All personnel was withdrawn immediately thereafter. All U.S.Navy buildings, equipment, supplies, materials, etc., were removed and disposed of. There will be no indemnities, as releases were secured from the proprietors of the property and of the Canning Factory, both leased. All matters have been settled except the routine payment of a few remaining construction bills.

     The improvements, installations, etc., made for and by the U.S.Navy, have been liquidated at 43% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $64,940.00 . . .

(g) LA TRINITE

              The station was placed out of commission February 5, 1919, and all personnel was withdrawn shortly thereafter. All leased buildings and leased properties were returned to the owners, releases having been secured or indemnities having been paid. Requisitioned properties were derequisitioned by the French Navy on February 24, 1919. Certain indemnities

for all but two of these properties have already been paid. With the exception of these two small claims, arising from requisitioning, and the routine payment of French Government bills, all matters have been settled. Adjustment of those two claims is now being made.

     The improvements, installations, etc., made for and by the U.S.Navy have been liquidated at 47% of their original cost. This percentage, low in comparison with that of All-USN-Material stations, is accounted for by the high cost of the improvements made by the French Navy, all of a permanent character, and by the impossibility of liquidating them at a high figure. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $41,852.58 . . .

(h) LE CROISIC

              The station was placed out of commission on January 26, 1919, and all personnel was removed shortly thereafter. All U.S.Navy buildings, materials, supplies, and equipment, and the French Bessenonneau hangars, were removed and disposed of. All leased buildings were returned to their proprietors prior to that date. The permanent buildings on the islands, constructed for the U.S. Navy by the French Navy, were demolished, the Municipality of Le Croisic having insisted on the restoration of the islands to their original condition. The work of demolition was performed by a French contractor to whom the buildings were sold for a salvage value of 30,000 francs. The islands were returned, on June 24, 1919, to the Municipality, to whom an indemnity of 5,000 francs has been paid. All matters have been settled, with the exception of the routine payment of certain French Government bills.

     The improvements, installations, etc., made for and by the U.S.Navy have been liquidated at 20% of their original cost. This low percentage is accounted for by the fact that the costly permanent improvements, installed by the French Navy for the U.S. Navy, could only be sold for salvage, and as such had practically no value. The estimated net cost to the U.S.Navy is $102,753.03 . . .

(i) PAIMBOUF.

              The station was placed out of commission and returned to the French Navy on January 26, 1919, and all personnel has been removed. All U.S.Navy buildings, supplies, equipment, etc., have been disposed of. The French Navy took back the station without charge to the U.S.Navy for its use of the French buildings, but a half share of the rental of properties will be paid by the U.S.Navy. Certain properties additional to those on which the French station is located were requisitioned for the U.S.Navy. These properties have all been derequisitioned, as of April 8, 1919, with the exception of a few plots on which the American dirigible hangar is located. These properties will be returned to the owners on October 1, 1919, on which date the French contractor, to whom the hangar was sold for salvage, will have removed all construction and will have restored the property to its original condition. Indemnities arising from delay in execution of this work will be assumed by the contractor. The French Navy has as yet reached no final agreement with the proprietors of the requisitioned properties with regard to the amount of indemnities. Preliminary proposals of the French Navy have been disapproved by the U.S.Navy as exorbitant. Investigation is now continuing, and decision should be reached shortly.

     The improvements and installations of the station (other than those constructed by the French Navy) have been liquidated at 52 1/3% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $91,632.00 . . .

(j) FROMENTINE.

              The station was placed out of commission on January 28, 1919, and all materials, buildings, supplies, equipment, etc., were removed and disposed of. All personnel has been removed. All leases have terminated. The property of the station was returned to the owner on March 1, 1919, release from all indemnities having been obtained. All matters, except the routine payment of certain French Government bills, have been settled.

     The improvements and installations have been liquidated at 52 3/4% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $54,160.79 . . .

(k) LA PALLICE.

              The station was placed out of commission and turned over to the U.S.Army on January 8, 1919, all personnel having been removed shortly thereafter. All fixed improvements, supplies, etc., were transferred to the U.S.Army, excepting special equipment, returned to the United States. Although arrangements were made with the U.S.Army similar to those covering the transfer of the Pauillac station, by which the Army will make settlement of the requisitions (no settlement having been affected at the moment of transfer), charging the Navy the rental rate, as determined, for the period of Naval occupancy, and dividing with the Navy all indemnities of every nature, in proportion to the respective lengths of occupancy of the two services, there will in all probability be no indemnities for the navy to pay, as the Army is selling the station to the French Government, and the total indemnities will be absorbed in the sale price. As these indemnities are estimated at a total of 15,000 francs, the Navy share would be 8,078 francs. All other matters have been settled.

     The improvements and installations have been liquidated at 95 1/2 % of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $4,805.08 . . .

(l) ST. TROJAN

              The station was placed out of commission on January 19, and all personnel, except a small guard, was removed. All improvements were left on the station, only special equipment, supplies, etc., having been removed. Negotiations for the disposal of the station have finally culminated in its sale to the Department de la Seine (the State in which is situated the city of Paris), who have assumed all indemnities arising from Naval occupancy of the station property. The station was provisionally transferred to the Department de la Seine on May 12, 1919, on which date the Navy guard was removed. All matters have been settled, except the receipt of funds from the Department de la Seine, and the final agreement on the total French contract prices.

     The station has been liquidated at 37% of its original cost. Though this percentage is low, it is accounted for by the very costly and permanent character of the buildings, constructed under French contract through the French Navy, and by the fact that no better price could be secured, no other parties or Governmental Services being interested in acquiring the station. The estimated net cost of the station is $190,080.48 . . .

(m) PAUILLAC

              The station was placed out of commission and transferred to the U.S.Army on January 14, 1919. Personnel of nucleus crew detachments was retained at Pauillac a considerable period thereafter, through the courtesy of the Army. All fixed improvements, installations, supplies, etc., were transferred to the Army except special equipment which was returned to the United States. Although arrangements were made with the U.S.Army, similar to those covering the transfer of the La Pallice station, by which the Army will make settlement of the requisitions (no settlement havingbeen affected at the moment of transfer), charging the Navy the rental rate, as determined, for the period of Naval occupancy, and dividing with the Navy all indemnities of every nature, in proportion to the respective lengths of occupancy of the two services, there will in all probability be no indemnities for the Navy to pay, as the Army is selling the station to the French Government, and the total indemnities will be absorbed om the sale price. All other matters have been settled.

     The improvements and installations have been liquidated at 95% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $154,994.21 . . .

(n) MOUTCHIC

              The station was placed out of commission on December 31, 1918. All personnel was removed immediately thereafter, except a guard of seven men who will remain until the disposal of the station is settled. All U.S.Navy buildings, supplies, materials, etc., and French Bessonneau hangars have been removed and disposed of, there remaining only the permanent French and U.S.Navy improvements. Continuous efforts have been made to sell the station. When the Ministries of Marine and of the Interior declined to purchase the station, arrangement was made with the Ministry of War, who agreed to take the establishment for the Service de Sante. Three months later, when all preliminary negotiations had been completed, the Ministry of War changed its decision and refused the station. Negotiations with the city of Paris are now proceeding, and there is every indication that they will be successful. The City of Paris desires the station, along with that of Arcachon for the promotion of child welfare work. If sale is made, the City of Paris will assume all indemnities. Should these negotiations fail, it will probably be advisable to expropriate the property, and make purchase through the Minister of Marine, who, acting as trustee for the U.S.Navy, will hold the establishment until satisfactory sale can be made.

     The station will probably be sold to the City of Paris for approximately 275,000 francs, and the assumption by the purchaser of all indemnities related to the station site. The liquidation of the station will then have been 41 1/3%of its original cost. This low percentage is accounted for in the costly permanent improvements installed by the French, which cannot be sold at a higher price. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy will be $141,716.00 . . .

(o) GUJAN

              The station was placed out of commission on January 15, 1919, and all personnel was removed shortly thereafter. All U.S.Navy buildings, equipment, supplies, etc., were removed and disposed of. The requisitioned properties were derequisitioned February 26, 1919, and all indemnities have been paid. All matters have been settled.

     The improvements and installations have been liquidated at 38% of their original cost. This low figure is accounted for by the destruction by a cyclone of the dirigible hangar, shortly before demobilization. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $73,109.00 . . .  

(p) LA TESTE.

              No personnel was ever attached to the station, as the installation for the supply depot was never completed. The materials on the station were removed about December 12, 1918. The property, having been requisitioned for the U.S.Navy, was derequisitioned on March 6, 1919, and certain indemnities were paid. All matters have been settled.

     The improvements and installations were liquidated at 65 1/3% of their original cost. The estimated net cost of the station to the U.S.Navy is $3,776.53 . . .

(q) ARCACHON.

              The station was placed out of commission on January 7, 1919, and all personnel has been removed, excepting a guard of seven men, which cannot be withdrawn until the ultimate disposition of the station is determined. The permanent buildings and facilities have been left on this station, all other U.S.Navy property having been removed. Negotiations for the sale of Arcachon have covered a long period. No service of the French National Government desires the station. Through the Ministry of the Interior, negotiations with the Anti-Tuberculosis Society of Bordeaux were commenced, and an offer of 300,000 francs for the establishment was received. This offer was also withdrawn because of the impossibility of reaching an agreement with the proprietors of the requisitioned property on a fair sale price of the land, the proprietors demanding 700,000 francs for property worth approximately 60,000 francs. Similarly the City of Bordeaux, though willing to purchase the establishment at 300,000 francs, had not sufficient funds available to purchase the land should the expropriation value of the land exceed 60,000 francs. The establishment at Arcachon, being of such a permanent and institutional character, is of no interest to private capital. Negotiations which promise to be satisfactory are now proceeding with the City of Paris, who is also interested in acquiring Moutchic. There is every indication that sale will be effected. The purchaser will assume all the land indemnities. Should these negotiations fail, it will probably be advisable to expropriate the property, make purchase through the Ministry of Marine, who will act as the trustee of the U.S.Navy, and affect a satisfactory sale at somewhat later period.

(r) NORTHERN BOMBING GROUP

              All material was removed and disposed of, and all personnel evacuated by February 5, 1919. Buildings, hangars, motor transportation, equipment, supplies, etc., were sold to the Commission for the Relief of Belgium and Northern France. Certain special equipment was returned to the United States. Properties for the seaplane station at Dunkerque, and for the aerodromes at Oye and Sangatte, were requisitioned by the French Navy. These requisitions have all been settled, with the exception of two small buildings at Dunkerque, concerning which the French Navy has not yet made its final recommendation as to indemnities. All other properties, at Alembon, Autingues, Bois-en-Ardres, Compagnie, Le Freze, and St. Inglevert, were secured on the basis of leases through the British Hirings and Requisitions Commission. Complete settlement for these properties has been made, and releases secured. All matters of the Northern Bombing Group have been settled, with the exception of the settlement of two requisitions at Dunkerque, and the routine adjustment of certain bills.

     No accurate figures can be quoted to show the estimated net costs of the stations of the Northern Bombing Group, owing to the incompleteness of original records. The Report submitted to the Assistant Secretary on February 5, 1919, gave the following figures:

Total estimated cost all installations

at all stations - - - - - - - - - - - - - $141,418.00

Total rentals and indemnities - - - - - - $ 18,214.00

                   Total  - - - - - - -  $159,632.00

Total amount received from installations

liquidated - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  $ 76,693.00

ESTIMATED NET COST - - - - - - - - - - -  $ 82,959.00

     From these figures it would appear that the improvements and installations had been liquidated at 54% of their original cost. Though exact amounts cannot be given, it is known that these figures are too low, and should not be considered as final.

          3.   From the figures in the foregoing paragraphs, (the Northern Bombing Group not included), the following may be accurately summarized:

(a)  The installations of the seventeen aviation establishments of the French Unit cost a total of $2,942,452.04.

(b)  These establishments have been liquidated for the total sum of $1,861,622.37.

(c)  These establishments have therefore been sold at 61% of their original cost. This percentage would have been considerably higher were it not for the high cost of the improvements installed by the French Navy for the U.S.Navy at Brest, Ile Tudy, La Trinite, Le Croisic, St. Trojan, Moutchic, and Arcachon.  As these improvements were all of a permanent and elaborate character, it has been impossible to liquidate them at prices satisfactory with relations to original investment.

(d)  All establishments of the French Unit, which were constructed by the U.S.Navy of materials and equipment secured by the U.S.Navy, cost a total of $2,014,980.65 and were liquidated for $1,550,660.29, or at 77% of their original cost.

(e)  Those portions of the seven establishments of the French Unit which were partially constructed by the French Ministry of Marine, of French materials, cost a total of $231,192.28, or at 25% of their original cost.

(f)  Assuming the Northern Bombing Group records given above to be sufficiently accurate for this summary, it will be noted that all Aviation installations and establishments in France, constructed directly by the U.S.Navy, cost a total of $2,136,407.65, and were liquidated for $1,627,333.29, or at 75 1/2% of their original cost to the U.S.Navy.

(g)  All Aviation establishments in France, both those constructed by the U.S.Navy and by the French Navy cost a total of $3,085,870.04, and were liquidated for $1,858,345.37, or at 60 1/3% of their original cost to the U.S.Navy.

          4.   It is now possible to give accurately the amounts received for property of all natures liquidated by the Aviation Section, Forces in France. These amounts comprise the liquidation of the French Unit and the Northern Bombing Group. The total amount to be received for all property liquidated is $8,001,150.46 . . .

     7.   Costs of transportation in France.

The Chief Quartermaster, American Expeditionary Forces,3 has requested that the U.S. Navy should not endeavor to reach an independent settlement with the French railroads, regarding Navy transportation of men, materials and supplies, owing to the great expense and difficulty involved in separating the charges against the U.S. Government, as between the Army and Navy accounts. The Controle Commune, which represents the seven large railroads of France, will not undertake to separate Navy from Army charges. In view of these facts, it is proposed that the entire matter of ascertaining the Navy’s transportation costs be placed in the hands of the U.S. Army. The chief difficulty in separating the charges against the two services is the fact that only one type of Ordre de Transport was issued by the French Government, for all American forces. The proportionate costs will be determined in Washington, between the Navy Department and the War Department, according to an arbitrary percentage, to be determined.

     8.   Approximately 10,000 tons of freight, including all materials except dirigibles, were shipped to the United States by the Aviation Section.

A. S. HALSTEAD.           

Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 286.

Footnote 1: This report has not been found.

Footnote 2: Georges Leygues.

Footnote 3: Col. John T. Kinght.

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