Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William V. Pratt, Acting Chief of Naval Operations, to U.S. Railroad Administration

September 4,1918.

CONFIDENTIAL

Gentlemen;               Attention: Mr.F.G.Wright.

          Reference your memo. of August 31, to Capt. Pitt Scott, re armament for vessels engaged in coastal coal trade under your administration,1 your understanding of the situation as therein noted is essentially correct.

          Attention is, however, invited to your understanding that the Armed Guard complement consists of 22 men; this in general is the standard complement, less signalmen, for vessels engaged in transatlantic trade. For the present the Department has under certain circumstances authorized a reduced complement of 14 men (including 3 radio men) for vessel engaged exclusively in coastwise trade, as per circular letter C-1-94, July 31,1918, copy of which is hereby enclosed.2

          The Department appreciates the desirability of arming all coastwise vessels that are capable of mounting an adequate battery, and is now doing so as rapidly as its very limited supply of guns available for this purpose will permit.

          It is the Department’s understanding that the majority of your vessels are approximately but 3500 D.W.T.,3 and as it is the Department’s policy, other things being equal, to furnish armament generally in the order of the vessel’s importance, having reference to size of vessel and nature of cargo, the Department regrets to have to advise you that it will be unable to furnish armament to these smaller vessels in the immediate future.4

Respectfully,

W.V.Pratt.              

Captain, U.S. Navy,          

<Acting> Chief of Naval Operations.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Addressed below close: “U.S. Railroad Administration,/Division of Operations,/Washington, D.C.” Document identifier: “Op-24-C-9/4/C-1-25/392.”

Footnote 1: The memorandum addressed to William Pitt Scott has not been found.

Footnote 3: That is, dead weight tonnage.

Footnote 4: Pratt sent similar letters to other agencies in early September. See, for example: Pratt to J. O. Heyworth, 11 September 1918. In the case of the Railroad Administration there must have been “push-back” because on 9 September Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels wrote the Director General of Railroads informing him that the Navy had found two guns that might be used to arm coal carriers and asked the Administrator to decide which vessels would receive them. Daniels to William G. McAdoo, 9 September 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

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