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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, Force Instructions No. 2




September 22, 1917.


SUBJECT: General Instructions.

GENERAL MISSION: Co-operation with Allied Forces in destruction of enemy forces.

IMMEDIATE MISSION.  (1) Conservation of Allied and Neutral Shipping.

                    (2) Saving of life.

Fleet and Navy Regulations.

     The forces in European Waters, being integral parts of the United States Navy and of the Atlantic Fleet, shall be governed by Navy and Fleet Regulations and Instructions in so far as these may apply to the conditions under which the forces are operating.

     The employment of the forces of this command shall be governed by Such Campaign Orders and Force Instructions as may be issued from time to time.

Force Instructions.

     Force Instructions are not to be considered as military orders, nor are they to interfere in any way with the demands of situations which may not have been contemplated, nor with such military orders as may be issued by Allied Commanders under whose immediate control any vessels of the command may be operating.

     The Force Instructions are designed to serve the following ends:—

(1) To impart the policies of the Force Commander to the forces under his command.

(2) To facilitate administration in accordance with the  actual war conditions under which the forces are operating; these conditions will, in many cases, necessitate departures from the methods of administration established for peace conditions.

(3) To disseminate information regarding practices shown by experience to be successful.


     The following general policies of the Force Commander are announced and they will be extended from time to time as necessity arises:--

(1) All other considerations should be subordinated to the one of most efficiently cooperating with the Allied Forces. Operations should be carried out in accordance with the general plans of the Senior Allied Commanders in the several areas in which the forces are operating.

(2) The mobility of U. S. Forces should be such that they may be continuously ready to change their areas of operations as may be made necessary by the operations of the enemy or by orders of the Navy Department. To this end the must remain, to the extreme practicable degree, independent of shore bases and facilities.

(3) The maximum degree of individual initiative should be encouraged. All forces, or divisions or units thereof, should be governed primarily at all times by the requirements of the particular situation confronting them. Commanders should act in accordance with their best judgment under such general policies of their seniors as have been previously made known to them. In making decisions the policies and wishes of the superiors upon whom responsibility will ultimately rest must be duly considered.

(4) The Force Commander and Subordinate Commanders should be kept fully informed at all times of any facts known to any member of the forces which might affect the decisions and plans of such Commanders.

(5) Every officer and man should be encouraged to realize his personal share of responsibility in accomplishing the mission of the forces.

(6) All subordinate Commanders, Commanding Officers, other officers, and men, should avoid falling into a way of thinking that duty is satisfactorily performed by merely accomplishing the specific task assigned; they must always bear in mind the General and Immediate Missions of the Force.

(7) The necessity for keeping the Navy Department informed of all matters which may in any way affect its responsibilities as regards these forces, and the Service as a whole, must be constantly borne in mind by all.


     It is paramount importance that each group of forces develop a Doctrine covering basic tactical methods of procedure suitable for such group. Such a doctrine once developed and revised from time to time should govern all operations of the group, be thoroughly understood by all units, and provide a field within which individual initiative may be exercised with safety and with full confidence of mutual comprehension and cooperation. A doctrine to be of the maximum value must:

          (a) Be brief.

(b) Be continued to fundamental essentials, having in view coordination of effort with minimum communication.

(c) Contemplate actual war conditions.

(d) Allow for the circumstance of sea, wind, weather and navigation as practically encountered.

     A doctrine must not be allowed to evolve into a mass of details which manifestly cannot be standard or applicable to all situations that may arise.

     Not only should all forces be prepared at all times for engagement with enemy submarines but they should be prepared for the emergency of engagement with enemy ships of other types, either individually or in connection with fleet actions. It is essential therefore that such emergency be constantly borne in mind, and that every preparation possible be made, based upon such information as is available or can be conjectured.

     Pending the development of a doctrine for yachts and other types, the Destroyer Force Doctrine will be issued as a general guide.1

     Whenever any officer has any suggestions to make concerning the doctrine of the force to which he is attached, he should at once record it and make it known to his superiors. Group and Division Commanders should consult as frequently as possible for the purpose of making such revisions of the doctrine as may be suggested by experience.

Routines. Routine Reports.

     All peace routine administration and practices should be subordinated to the requirements of war service as they develop.

     It is manifestly important, both for efficient prosecution of the present war and for future professional and material improvement, that records, reports and administrative practices be not too radically reduced. It is also important that as far as possible, reports and records kept should be uniform for all vessels of a type. It is therefore desired that Divisional and Group Commanders confer from time to time and come to an agreement as to suggested changes in established routines or practices, or elimination of paper work and returns.

     The Senior Commander of any unit, or in any area, should forward such recommendations to the Force Commander for his approval.

Group Commander’s Reports.

     Group Commanders should periodically (weekly when practicable) submit to the Force Commander general reports covering military operations performed by the forces under their command. Such reports should be general in nature and as far as possible should give summaries and regulations of important duty designed primarily to assist the Force Commander in maintaining a general survey of operations performed without the necessity of going through War Diaries and other correspondence in detail. They should also serve as a guide for the formulation of plans for the future.

War Diaries.

     War Diaries should be kept by all Commanding Officers and Group Commanders in accordance with Atlantic Fleet Order No. 18.2

     A careful reading of this Order shows that the War Diary is not intended to be a copy of the ship’s log. An inspection of some of the War Diaries submitted shows that there has been some misunderstanding on this point, as many of them contain matter which is of no importance in such a Diary. In the preparation of War Diaries care must be exercised to exclude non-essential items, such as concern the weather, exact time of getting underway and anchoring, movements of other vessels, etc., unless these have an important bearing upon the military operations in hand and are of importance as a matter of record in connection therewith.

     Entries are frequently made in War Diaries early knowledge of which by other units of the Force would be advantageous. When an entry is made which is thought to be in this category the officer preparing the Diary should by any convenient means, bring the fact to the attention of the superior to whom the Diary is forwarded; such superior should take immediate steps to disseminate the information if, in his judgment, such action is advisable or should take such steps as may be necessary to bring the matter to the attention of the Force Commander.

     The information contained in War Diaries should so far as practicable be so grouped under headings that their use by the Force Commander and the Department may be facilitated. Such headings should be descriptive of the information they cover.

Parent and Supply Ships.

     Parent and supply ships should subordinate all other considerations to the one of efficient repair and supply of the vessels they may be serving and should simplify their methods of administration to this end.

Readiness for Duty.

     Regardless of the time that may be set aside in schedules for rest, boiler cleaning, or overhaul, it is important that from the moment of arrival at an anchorage, vessels undertake immediately all repairs or other work necessary to prepare them again for sea and prosecute such work without interruption until completion. For example, if five days should be set aside for rest, boiler cleaning or other purposes, and the work can be completed in two or three days, it should be so accomplished, and the remainder of the time used for rest of the personnel. Such a course is a military necessity in order that the maximum number of vessels may be available at all times to meet any unexpected enemy operations.

Leave and Liberty.

     Until further notice it is desired that leave and liberty be so regulated that vessels can put to sea, in case of emergency, on a few hours’ notice. It is realized that this policy may work some hardship, but the Force Commander is confident that every man of the Force will appreciate the importance of our Forces putting forth every effort in the accomplishment of our general and immediate mission. The far reaching effect not only upon the Allied Cause but also upon the record and distinction of our own service cannot be forseen at present. It therefore behooved this Force to leave no stone unturned in putting forth every effort within the power of its personnel and material.

(Signed) WM. S. SIMS.        

Vice-Admiral, Commanding.    

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The first four lines of the force instructions appear at the top of each page.

Footnote 2: That order has not been found. For an example of a war diary entry, see: War Diary, Rowan, 19 August 1917.