Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, second cable of this date
TROOPS IN MERCANTILE CONVOYS FROM HALIFAX
CABLEGRAM SENT Sept. 11, 1917.
To Opnav, Washington. Serial No. 521
Prep. by B.A.L.Appvd. by N.C.T.1
Copies to: C. of S.; J.V.B.; B.A.L.; C-in C.2
From: Commander Naval Forces European Waters.
To: Chief Naval Operations.
521. Reference your 364.3 The primary purpose of placing MANCHURIA and MONGOLIA in convoy was to safeguard American troops not only in zone but while crossing Atlantic.4 These troops are bound to London subjecting them to approxi[m]ately twice the danger of mines and torpedoes as troops bou<n>d to Liverpool. It was proposed to divert these vessels in any case and finally decided as greatest measure of safety to put them in Halifax convoy. I cannot too strongly advise against sending troops in single vessels. the practice is dangerous and entails unnecessary risk. Paragraph.
It was further decided necessary to place these ships in convoy ofr <for> their own protection as they were very valuable ships and have valuable cargoes. Their pre
c<v>ious record of immunity should have no wsight [i.e., weight]. a sister ship not in convoy was sunk September 7 in fourminutes period5 MONGOLIA can readily join convoy at sea if instructions are sent via Halifax. Paragraph.
The records show that the submarine lossed [i.e., losses] outside of convoy are 20 times as great as those in convoy. It is for this reason that I urge the Department solely with a view of economizing shipping to take such steps as are necessarys to place every United States merchant vessel whether carrying cargo or passengers in the regular established convoys period. The delay of convoys is neg[l]igible in comparison with increased measure of safety. Vessels too slow to keep up with convoy should not be permitted to trade in <z>one. Full statement of convoys contained in my 520.6
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. There is a notation in the upper right-hand corner: “6 copies” and two identifying numbers, one in column fashion: “3/G.” and another below and to the left of that column: “S 719.”
Footnote 1: Cmdr. Byron A. Long, the head of the Convoys Section on Sims' staff, and Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims' Chief of Staff.
Footnote 2: Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ aide, and Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.
Footnote 3: This cable has not been found.
Footnote 4: For more on Manchuria and Mongolia see: Sims to Benson, 10 September 1917.
Footnote 5: Probably, Minnehaha, which had been torpedoed without warning and sank off the Fastnet with forty-three casualties. “British Merchant Ships Lost to Enemy Action, Part 3 of 3,” WWI at Sea, accessed 29 August 1917, http://www.naval-history.net/WW1LossesBrMS1918.htm. Also see, Sims to Josephus Daniels, 24 September 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 6: See: Sims to Benson, 11 September 1917.