Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

[Extract]

     M-4  <52880>                      9 December, 1918.

From:   Force Commander

To:     Admiral Benson, Paris.

SUBJECT:    Mine Sweeping of Northern Barrage.

     1.   The Allied Naval Council has approved the recommendations of the Allied Conference on Clearing the Seas of Mines after the War, and these conclusions were approved in your cablegram No. 2061 of 26th November, on behalf of the United States.

     2.   The recommendations of the Conference require that the United States shall sweep all mines laid in the Northern Barrage by the United States, which is a total approximately of 57,000 mines.

     3.   A report of a special Board convened by the Commander Mine Force2 to consider the problem of clearing that part of the Northern Barrage laid by the United States was forwarded you on 3<rd> December, which called for a total of approximately 90 vessels for minesweeping.3 Since that report was forwarded, the Commander Mine Force has been in London and reported that considerable progress had been made by experimentation in efforts to develop a successful method of sweeping the Mark VI mines and it now appears that the use of an electric sweep may prove the best solution.

     4.   Assuming this method will prove successful, a total of 12 Mine-sweepers of the LAPWING class will be required in addition to the PATUXENT and the PATAPSCO. A much greater number of these vessels could be advantageously employed, but it is considered that 14 is the minimum required. A cablegram was, therefore, sent the Department on 6 December, stating that preliminary sweeping indicated the possibility of 12 vessels of the LAPWING class being required for sweeping the Northern Barrage, and enquiring how many vessels of this type the Department could furnish for this purpose if called upon in the near future.4 A cablegram was received from the Department, yesterday (December 8th),5 stating that 11 vessels of this type have already been commissioned and can be sent abroad for the service mentioned but, further states, however, that these vessels are engaged in very important sweeping...

     6. During the War, Great Britain has laid approximately 120,000 mines, and the United States has laid approximately 57,000 mines, all in European Waters. According to the most reliable sources of information, Germany is believed to have laid a total of not more than 18,000 mines, most of which were laid in European Waters. From the best information at hand to date, it is estimated that Germany has laid, off the Coast of the United States and Canada, a total of not to exceed 135 mines, and it is considered probable that not more than 100 have been laid; of this number it has been reported that 80 have been swept up.

     7. Although there are many mine sweeping vessels in the United Kingdom, it would be extremely difficult to charter suitable vessels for the mine sweeping contemplated by the United States. Many of the British vessels are unsuitable and others are in need of urgent repair or practically worn out from long continuous service. The Ministry of Reconstruction is brining great pressure to bear on the Admiralty to release large numbers of the vessels that have been engaged in mine sweeping for the purpose of pursuing their normal occupation, such as fishing, etc. and it is with great difficulty, therefore, that the Admiralty is able to retain sufficient suitable mine sweeping vessels for its own requirements, which are, of course, very great.

     8. In view of the foregoing and the comparatively negligible number of mines to be swept up off the Coast of the United States, as compared to the magnitude of our problem in European Waters, it is urgently recommended that 12 vessels of the LAPWING class be dispatched to European Waters for the mine sweeping contemplated, provided definite recommendation is submitted to that effect by the Force Commander after further experimental mine sweeping indicates it to be advisable.

WM. S. SIMS            

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Joseph Strauss.

Footnote 3: This document has not been located.

Footnote 4: See: Sims to Opnav, 6 December 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.