Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
C o p y: <September 20, 1917>
From: OPNAV Received: 21 Sept., 1917
Serial No. OPNAV 475
To : Simsadus Date No. 16020
OPNAV 475. Following taken from cable from General Pershing1 to War Department for your information and Action. Reference Pershing’s 167.2 QUOTE The coal situation for our army is serious; we are borrowing coal for current needs. The British have declined to lend us fifteen thousand tons because of their own necessity. French Government fears the gravest consequence if the fuel situation is not cared for this winter. UNQUOTE. AGAIN QUOTE. At a conference between Lieut. Colonel Dawes,3 General Purchasing Agent, and Admiral Sims as suggested by you regarding Naval assistance in furnishing coal, Sims stated that it was impossible for him to give us any ships. UNQUOTE. The Army needs must be met. When the question of supplying the Army with coal was raised a few weeks ago this office suggested to the War Department that it take up the matter with you to see if supply of soft coal to our land forces in France could not be arranged for in same manner and on same terms as supply of coal to our naval forces. Apparently satisfactory arrangements have not been arrived at. Though it seems a waste of ships for use to undertake supplying coal across the Atlantic to our army in France when it might perhaps be done from England, something of the sort will have to be done unless situation is met.
Naval Collier BATH is now at Brest, France, with Captain Magruder’s force.4 Put her into coal carrying service for army between England and France to supply their present needs. U.S.S. NERO will shortly arrive at Azores where she will discharge small cargo of coal. If necessary she can be directed to proceed to England to be put in same service as BATH. Inform us if it will be necessary to use both ships for this service. Later army hopes to have some of Great Lakes ships brought to Atlantic and made available for same service if situation cannot be met by ships now engaged in trade.5 16020.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.
Footnote 2: Pershing’s message to the War Department has not been found.
Footnote 3: Lt. Col. Charles G. Dawes, Purchasing Agent for the A. E. F.
Footnote 4: Capt. Thomas P. Magruder.
Footnote 5: See: Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 26 September 1917.