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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

September 13, 1917.

From :    Force Commander.

To   :    Secretary of the Navy (Operations)

Subject:  Operations of Forces based on French Coast.

Reference: (a) Opnav Cable 391 of September 12, 1917.

     1.   BASE.

          There are now in France 15 yachts all of which are based on Brest. Brest is in the center of submarine activity, and is the point farthest to the westward, making it an ideal strategic location for offensive operations. Brest is the finest harbor in France. It is but a short distance to the coal supply in England, and it has the advantage of a double harbor and a double exit. It is desirable from every point of view to keep our forces concentrated as much as possible in order to simplify operations, administration and supply. It is likely, however, that some of the mine sweepers now en route will have to be sent to St Nazaire or the approaches in the vicinity of Belle Isle. This matter will be arranged agreeably to the French authorities after these vessels arrive.


          The normal duty of our forces is a combination of escort duty, primarily of convoys, and of offensive operations off the coast. The yachts Corsair, Aphrodite and Alcedo are used mostly for the off-shore work, and the other yachts on account of their slow speed and smaller size are used in escorting mercantile convoys to and from England, and as far down as Quiberon.

          In addition to the foregoing duty, our Forces based on France are responsible for the escort in to French ports of our storeships. These storeships are brought over in the regular established mercantile convoys, and our storeships are detached in the vicinity of Brest and escorted to their destination by our forces based on France, sometimes with the assistance of French forces.

          The escort in of our troops is done by the Queenstown destroyers, but the escort out of all empty transports and supply ships is handled by our forces based on France. An effort is being made to establish regular outbound-convoys from the French Coast, and if this can be accomplished our empty transports and supply vessels will be placed in those convoys. In any case, convoys of our empty ships will be arranged and escorted out of dangerous water.

          We have greatly assisted the French in escorting convoys which were formerly handled by French trawlers alone. A considerable number of trawlers have been released for mine sweeping duty.

          In addition to the foregoing duties, our forces answer distress calls and provide escort to as many vessels as practicable that are entering French waters singly from the westward with valuable cargoes.


          I shall order all new forces joining to Brest to become familiar with the methods in use, and to have the depth charges provided. The subsequent distribution of these forces will be decided after conference with the French authorities. In general, I shall try to keep our forces as concentrated as possible, but a disposition agreeable to the French authorities will be made. A special effort will be made to keep free of mines the channels leading to the ports of entrance for American troopships and supply ships. It is unfortunate that the French have an extremely limited number of mine sweepers or vessels capable of being converted into mine sweepers.


          A weekly report of the operations of the forces based on the French coast is submitted, and will be transmitted to the Department. Owing to the delays in mail service, these reports do not arrive regularly.

W. S. Sims.  

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document is marked with the identification number, “624-42-8-2”.

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