Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Conclusions of a Conference between Representatives from the Staff of Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, and Representatives from the British Admiralty Concerning Joint Naval Air Efforts of the United States and Great Britain during 1919

                       <September 17, 1918>

MEMORANDUM.

     On September 17, 1918, a conference was held between Representatives of the Force Commander and the Representatives of the British Admiralty concerning the joint naval Air effort of Great Britain and the United States during the coming year.1

     The following are the conclusions of the Conference arranged in the form of specific replies to the questions of the Agenda.

1. A.  Basic Principles to govern Naval Air Operations”.

     It was agreed by the Conference that the following principles should govern British and American Naval Air Effort during the coming year.

1.   That Seaplane operations from stations already built or authorized should continue, the character of the operations to be adjusted to operating conditions.

2.   That development in sea-plane operations so far as American effort is concerned should be directed toward increasing the effectiveness of material and the efficiency of personnel, rather than towards the taking over or construction of additional stations in the United Kingdom.

2.   That the additional dirigible stations were to be taken over by the U.S. Navy.

4.   That Kite Balloon stations serving British vessels would be operated by British personnel; and that Kite Balloon stations serving American vessels would be operated by American personnel.

5.   That the principal augmentation of air effort should be in bombing squadrons, the mission of which shall be the destruction of enemy naval bases, especially enemy submarine bases.

6.   That naval bombing squadrons shall be composed of land machines augmented as necessary by protecting squadrons of fighters.

7.   That, since continuous bombing is extremely desirable in order, to produce the maximum effect, both day and night bombing squadrons shall be directed against the same objective when practicable.

8.   That, owing to the difficulties incident to operating bombing squadrons from mother ships or from lighters, the aim shall be to design and build bombing squadrons for the attack of distant objectives capable of flying from their base to their objective and return – fighting their way as may be necessary.

9.   That notwithstanding the difficulties of operating from lighter – efforts shall be made to develop this means of increasing the effective range of bombing squadrons.

10.  That in aircraft for fleet use each navy would proceed as it seemed most desirable.

11.  That it did not appear profitable to build or equip aircraft mother ships for bombing purposes.

12.  That wherever British and American forces are co-operating, the increase in strength of either force shall not result in a corresponding decrease in the other force without mutual consent.

13.  That the general aim shall be towards nationally homogenous forces under their own command.

14.  American Air Forces not be involved in any West coast of Ireland operations.

 B.  “What Areas will be most profitable for those operations

       (Those outlined in “A” above).

     1.   The most profitable area for seaplane operations is on coasts where submarines are most apt to operate near the land; and where traffic routes run parallel to and near to the land. These areas are

               (1) North Channel.

               (2) St. George’s Channel.

               (3) English Channel.

               (4) East coast of England.

               (5) West coast of England.

               (6) Mediterranean Convoy Routes.

In these areas seaplanes when in the air will render the maximum service if they remain in the near vicinity of shipping. It is desirable to have an observation patrol of such mine barrages as are within the safe radius of air operations.

     2.   In bombing-objectives the most important areas are –

               (1) The Naval Bases in and near the Bight.

               (2) The Adriatic Bases.

               (3) The Belgian bases.

Present conditions limit operations to “(2)” and “(3)” but every effort should be made to operate in great strength against “(1)”

     3.   That conference with the Italian Authorities shall determine American and British effort in Italy, but that it is desirable that British bombing effort in the Adriatic be taken over and augmented by the U.S. Navy in co-operation with the Italians. The British air forces thus released to augment forces in the Aegean.

II.

     “What forces are required to carry above policies into            effect?”.

               (a) Number of Machines required?

               (b) Types required?

               (c) Number and location of bases required?

     No specific decisions were arrived at under this heading, but it was pointed out to be extremely desirable to increase the American Bombing Squadrons in the Dunkirk Area to six day and six night squadrons as soon as possible, and that it might be necessary to augment these squadrons by fighters, should the demands for fighting planes elsewhere cause the diversion of air forces now operating in that area. It was further agreed in principle that when, either temporarily or permanently, the specific missions of naval bombing squadrons had been accomplished that they should be employed elsewhere – on naval objectives if practicable – or on any objective suitable to the furtherance of the aids <aims> of military forces.

III.

     No comment.

IV.

“How should the requirements referred to in item 2-B be allocated amongst combined British and American Naval forces, and generally among French and Italian Forces?”

     See I-B-3.

V.

     No Comment.

VI.

“What modifications, if any, of the present Allied general naval air policies of 1918 should be made?”

(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6) should be omitted. See I.1

Source Note: D, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document identifier: “1/2/3” and beside it “G/J.”

Footnote 1: There are printed minutes of the conference at DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

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