Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
22 September 1918.
From: Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.
To: Force Commander.
Subject: Report of Operations – Week 15 September to 21 September, 1918.
1. (a) Vessels available:
Destroyers – CONNER, SIGOURNEY, CUSHING, NICHOLSON, WADSWORTH,
ERICSSON, WARRINGTON, WINSLOW, FANNING, MONAGHAN, FLUSSER, REID, ROE, McDOUGAL, DRAYTON, LAMSON, BENHAM, LITTLE, TUCKER, JARVIS, PORTER, WAINWRIGHT, BURROWS.
Seagoing Yachts – APHRODITE, CORSAIR, MAY, NOKOMIS.
Coastal Convoy Escort – WANDERER, TRUXTON, WHIPPLE,
HARVARD, UTOWANA, WORDEN, REMLIK, CHRISTABEL, RAMBLER, STEWART, CORONA, MACDONOUGH, SULTANA, EMELINE.
Tugs – CONCORD, CRICCIETH, BARNEGAT, GYPSUM QUEEN, ILS
Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) – PIQUA, McNEAL, ANDERTON, CAHILL, COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, JAMES, LEWES, HUBBARD, HINTON.
Wrecking Vessel – FAVORITE.
Station Ships – PROMETHEUS, BRIDGEPORT, MARIETTA, PANTHER.
Floating Barracks – CAROLA IV.
(b) Overhaul- LIVERPOOL.
(c) To sail for Liverpool 23 September.
(d) Repairing at Brest.
(e) Repairing Bayonne.
(f) Being equipped with Walzer apparatus.
The TAYLOR arrived Brest 20 September and requires structural repairs due to damage received while oiling at sea from the U.S.S. MALLORY, and will sail for Liverpool 23 September. PORTER completed overhaul and returned to Brest 17 September. JARVIS upon completion of overhaul returned to Brest 21 September. SMITH sailed for Liverpool for fifteen days overhaul 15 September. The O’BRIEN was forced to leave escort of Group 63 and returned to Brest night of 20 September badly salted and with cracked evaporator heads. The VEDETTE is being given routine overhaul in Brest and will be docked at Lorient 26 September.
2. Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedule with exceptions as noted above. Movements of troop and store ships and of vessels engaged in the Army coal trade, are as shown in enclosure. Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoys.
Information having been received that Group 63 was thirty hours late and making 10.2 knots speed it was assumed that one vessels was delaying the group. Accordingly the WADSWORTH was diverted from H.B.12 and was directed to join Group 63. Orders given to the escort commander were to leave three destroyers with the slow ship and proceed with the remainder of the Group at the normal speed. This was done but it was then found that the DESNA could make the required speed and the convoy came in intact, arriving the forenoon of 21 September. Destroyers which escorted O.R.67 westward met H.N.83 about twelve hours west of the destroyer rendezvous, the convoy being about ten hours late, and escorted it to Brest. This escort was later joined by the French gunboat ENGAGEANTE. The destroyers which escorted O.P.26 westward have orders to escort Group 64 to France. The delay in the arrival of Group 63 shortened the time available for the turn-around and while every effort is being made to get these vessels out, some of them will be unable to make it.
Work continues to progress on the MOUNT VERNON repairs and it is believed that she will not [be] delayed beyond the time originally estimated.
The epidemic of streptococcic influenza is decreasing in severity and it is believed will soon be at an end.
Torpedoing of the steamship WELLINGTON:
The WELLINGTON sailed from Milford Haven for Gibraltar in convoy, ocean escort U.S.S. SENECA, At 11.00 a.m. 16 September a submarine was sighted by them on her starboard bow. Immediately afterward a torpedo struck in the fore hold carrying away the collision bulkhead. The position at the time of the torpedoing was Lat. 45-48 N., Long. 10-58 W. The merchant crew immediately abandoned ship and were taken on board the SENECA. 1st Lt. Fletcher W. Brown, USCG and 18 men from the SENECA volunteered to make an effort to save her and were joined by the master of the WELLINGTON, three other officers and 8 men from the merchant crew. The U.S.S. WARRINGTON was detached from the escort of O.V.31 and joined at three a.m. 17 September. The delay in joining was, in addition to the distance to be covered, due to incorrect position reported by the WELLINGTON. At 4.30 a.m. the WELLINGTON sank. The salvage party attempted to abandon in the only boat remaining. Nine succeeded in getting into the boat before it had to be cast off on account of the heavy weather. The WARRINGTON was unable to lower a boat but four life rafts and several buoys were put over. The search for survivors was continued until 10.30 a.m. when the WARRINGTON returned to Brest.
The U.S.S.BUENAVENTURA which sailed in the Verdon convoy on 14 September was struck by two torpedoes in latitude 44-26 N., Longitude 12-45 W. about three hours after the convoy had been dispersed. The ship sank immediately. A motor sailer and one other boat succeeded in getting away and on the afternoon of the 18th of September forty-five men were picked up by the French destroyer TEMERAIRE and brought to Brest. The officers and crew of the TEMERAIRE did everything in their power to assist the survivors. All reports indicate that the behavior of the officers and crew of the BUENVENTURA was excellent. The Captain devoted all his attention to save his crew and the last seen of him was while he was engaged in this work. He evidently made no effort to save himself until he was satisfied with the safety of his crew.
4. SUBMARINE ACTIVITY.
Renewed submarine activity has continued during the past week in the Bay of Biscay marked by frequent attacks due no doubt in part to the moderation of the weather and moonlight nights. At least three submarines have been operating well off-shore between the 6th and 13th meridians. Two of these submarines have been operating in well defined areas while the third, of the new mine laying type which on the preceding week was laying mines near the coast, has been cruising at large in the convoy routes, while in-shore another submarines has been operating, which sank at 5.00 p.m. on the 16th the PHILOMEL in Lat. 47-43 N., Long. 03-41 W., and on the 19th at 7.00a.m. torpedoed the FANNY in Lat. 48-09 N., Long. 4-47 W. There is a possibility that the PHILOMEL struck a mine as no submarine was seen. The chief of escort of the FANNY believed that she was also sunk by mine but the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. WORDEN| which was in company states that two wakes of torpedoed were seen and also a periscope. Off-shore the BUENAVENTURA was torpedoed at 9.00 p.m. on the 16th in Lat. 44-26 N., Long. 12-45 W. On the same date the WELLINGTON was torpedoes at 11.00 a.m. in Lat. 45-48 N., Long. 10-58 W., and the TASMAN at 4.00 p.m. that afternoon in Lat. 46-18 N., Long. 12-00 W.
The following positions are based on the assumption that each represents the successive movements of the same submarine:
[U-boat date time Lat. Long.]
No. 1. 16 Sept. 2100 44-26 12-45 BUENAVENTURA torpedoed.
17 Sept. 2050 46-00 09-20 Direction finder
18 Sept. 0435 47-10 11-00
19 Sept. 1830 46-12 10-52
19 Sept. 2100 46-10 11-00
20 Sept. 0930 47-22 10-35
21 Sept. 0350 46-30 11-00 Minia missed by torpedo
No. 2. 14 Sept. 0100 45-13 08-41
15 Sept. 1400 45-46 09-57 Allo
15 Sept. 2230 45-50 12-10
16 Sept. 1100 45-48 10-58 WELLINGTON torpedoed
16 Sept. 1600 46-18 12-00 TASMAN torpedoed
17 Sept. 2300 47-04 11-34
18 Sept. 0415 47-34 10-36 Direction finder Call Sign
19 Sept. 2025 47-53 09-18
20 Sept. 0720 47-40 07-10
20 Sept. 1300 47-38 07-10
No. 3. 16 Sept. 0055 48-52 11-16 Allo
17 Sept. 2040 49-02 11-18
20 Sept. 0210 48-24 10-00
20 Sept. 2000 48-26 09-54
No. 4. 16 Sept. 1700 47-43 03-41 PHILOMEL sunk
17 Sept. 1600 46-30 02-00 Submarine bombed
19 Sept. 0900 48-09 04-47 FANNY torpedoed.
5. MINING ACTIVITY.
The following dangerous areas have been in effect during the past week:
Radius 7 miles around Triagoz and Sept Ile.
Radius 6 miles around 48-51 N. 04-00 W.
Radius 3-1/2 miles around 46-57 N. 02-28 W.
Radius 5 miles around 45-55 N. 01-31 W.
Between 49-15 N. and 49-25 N. parallels ships are not to pass eastward of 02-26 West Meridian.
On the 14th the area bounded by Lat. 47-08 N., Lat. 47-13 N., Long. 2-40 W., and Long. 2-49 W. was declared in effect rather than the former area Lat. 47-10 N., Lat. 47-15 N., Long. 2-40 W., Long. 2-49 W. A mine was discovered on the 19th in Lat. 47-45 N., Long. 04-20 W. and on that date an area three miles around that point was declared closed to navigation, while on the 20th at 8.00 a.m. two hundred meters from the southwest coast of Ile d’Yeu a drifting mine was sighted. On the 19th on account of suspected mines all channels to Brest were closed with the exception of the Petit Leach, but on the following day no mines having been found, channels were declared again open.
6. EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.
15 September – The American cargo steamship , while entering the Gironde in convoy 11 September, 1918, grounded in the river and was considerably damaged.
An interesting ceremony took place today on board the U.S.S. STEWART in the Harbor of Brest, when those members of the crew whose heroism has already been mentioned in the Diary, were decorated in accordance with the order of the Department with the Medal of Honor by the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France. The two men concerned, namely, Frank M. Upton, QM3c, USN, and Jesse W. Covington, SC3c, USN, gained their Medals of Honor by jumping overboard and saving one of the wounded from the FLORENCE H. at the time of her explosion and destruction by burning. Today the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France with an Aide visited the STEWART and was received with formality by the ship’s officers and crew. In presenting the medals to the two men he expressed his pride at having under his command a ship with such an excellent record and cited among her exploits the saving of the Steamship WILLIAM BALL on March 17, 1918, and the sinking of a submarine with which she has been credited, as well as her performance in rescuing the survivors of the FLORENCE H, stating however that these were only outstanding incidents in the glorious record of the ship. “While the Department has designated these two men”, he said, “the honors were not limited to these; for the whole ship’s company with their ship have all consistently distinguished themselves.” After conferring the decorations,the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France shook hands with all on board.
A Court of Inquiry into the circumstances attending the collision between the USS BURROWS and the French fishing boat No. 269 from Audierne and the loss of life occasioned thereby, has been ordered to meet Sept. 16, 1918, on board the USS BURROWS at Brest. . . .
The Commanding Officer USS SIGOURNEY, in reply to a request for information from the Force Commander, states that the increased economy of fuel, reported informally, has been due not to new methods of operation, but only to care, attention, and constant watchfulness in the engine room. An effort will be made to obtain data by which a tabular comparison can be drawn up showing present and former mileage in relation to fuel consumed.
The Commander U.S.Naval Railway Battery No. 1 reports that, having reported for duty at General Pershing’s headquarters, he has been directed to report to the Commanding Officer, Artillery Reserve, Haussimont. He further states that Army regulations will require him to have the following transport with each gun train; viz: 1 6-ton truck, 1 motor ambulance, 1 touring car, and 3 motorcycles. He requests that Cadillac cars and drivers shall be obtained for the trains from the Pauillac Naval Air Station. He also requests that 1 50-ton locomotive crane be shipped as soon as possible to St. Nazaire for erection by the men of his command at the Reserve Artillery base at Haussimont. He also recommends, after conference with the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in European Waters, the building of 5 additional gun mounts together with the necessary train equipment; and the assembly of 500 men of similar qualifications to those now under his command together with 5 officers of the regular Naval Service to take charge of these new units; and that all the above personnel and material be shipped as soon as possible to France. He further requests immediate shipment of 1300 remaining rounds of ammunition and an additional allotment of 20 rounds of ammunition per day, from date of Sept. 16, 1918. He prefers that if no delay in shipment should be involved, new shells should be substituted for present service shells.
17 September – The USS LITTLE reports, relative to the period of her stay in dock at La Pallice that the facilities there for work on destroyers are very poor, few tools, bad lighting, no hoisting crane on the dock, not much material, and few workmen, who are generally slow and ignorant, though willing. The scarcity of water compelled the shutting down of all boilers most of the time, thus necessitating the use of oil lamps at night, attracting quantities of flies from the neighboring latrines which were very dirty and un-sanitary. There were no salt water connections for washing down the decks while in dock. The presence of a German prisoner camp nearby, poorly guarded, and the occurrence recently of several suspicious fires in the vicinity of the Navy Yard also render this dock undesirable. Repairs were executed mainly by the ship’s company, the local workmen were not themselves competent to execute the repairs undertaken by them. An examination for alignment of the port shaft of the LITTLE shows that is [i.e., it] is out of line; but on this occasion no attempt could be made to true it up.
Under date of Sept. 12, 1918, the Commanding Officer USS TENADORES has submitted to the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France a commendation of the excellent performance of the destroyer escort under the command of Commander William D. Puleston, U.S.N. “In spite of a heavy sea, rain squalls, and high wind”, the letter adds, “The escort was admirably commanded and a maximum of protection afforded under the stress of the weather.
A report from Capitaine de Vaisseau G[eorge-Abel-Élie]. Loizeau, Director of Movements of the Port in Brest, addressed to Rear Admiral [Pierre-Paul] Benoit, Commandant of the French Arsenal, points out the inadequacy of horse power in the French and American tugs now on duty in the Harbor of Brest, and suggests the immediate building of one or more tugs, equipped with two engines and twin screws with horsepower amounting to at least 10,000. He cites the difficulties recently experienced in docking the SS FRANCE and the U.S.S. MT. VERNON, where the total horsepower available for handling them during their entrance into the dock, in a strong cross current, amounted to only 4,000 and was barely sufficient to accomplish the docking without accident after prolonged effort. He also points out the frequency after which vessels have to be towed in after torpedoing at long distances from land. He states that such tugs, however, could not be built at the present time in any French yards.
With regard to the statement by the U.S. Naval Port Officer St. Nazaire that certain French ships,namely, the cruiser NORMANDIE, the SS BRETAGNE, both of them obsolete, and the SS PARIS, which is incomplete, are all occupying valuable dock space which could be used to unload cargo ships, and that no efforts of the Army to have them moved have achieved any results, the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France requests the Staff Representative, Paris, to lay before the Ministry of Marine the importance of removing these vessels from the docks at St.Nazaire at the earliest possible moment. He states:- “With the increase of the size of the U.S.Army in France, there will be a corresponding increase in the number of store ships to be handled and in the necessity for dock space.
Inform the Ministry of Marine that the U.S. Navy will be very glad to co-operate if the services of any of its vessels will facilitate the removal of the NORMANDIE, PARIS, or BRETAGNE.”
A complaint has been received from the Commanding Officer of the Lafayette Radio Station as to very serious defects in certain material supplied to the station, namely, chains intended for the hoisting of steel building material to great heights. The complaint points out that such faulty material will jeopardize the structure and the lives of the men, and that closer inspection as to the material and workmanship entering into the construction of these chains should be made.
In accordance with a decision reached at a conference between French Naval Constructors and Admiral Wilson, it has been decided to make temporary repairs to MOUNT VERNON as rapidly as possible, to permit her to return to the U.S. at the earliest possible date.
The design and fitting of the patch over the hole and the patching of the line of weakness across the bottom plating of the ship from bilge keel to bilge keel will be undertaken by the French, under Naval Constructor Briend. In consultation in regard to the details of the design with Naval Constructor Fisher, the only work to be performed by the American workmen in this part of the ship will be the cleaning out of the damaged area and the cutting away of interfering material, as directed by the French. It is agreed to furnish the assistance of American mechanics to work under the supervision of the French as requested by them.
The work to be performed by the American repair forces will comprise the patching of the upper deck; the examination and making water-tight of the bulkheads, namely, the forward engine-room bulkhead and the double-bottom bulkhead below it, and the transverse bulkheads forward of boiler group number 3. The ship’s force will make the necessary examination and repairs to all pipe lines, boilers, and damaged machinery. This comprises the testing and repairing of all boilers and the testing and repairs to feed lines, steam lines, exhaust lines, and ballast and other water piping, together with the repairs to the boiler fittings. There should be no question about the possibility of placing the three single-ended boilers in boiler group number 2 in commission and it is hoped to get at least boilers 16 and 17 in this group in commission as well.
The carpenter’s gang on the MOUNT VERNON should assist the repair force under Lieutenant Commander Gillette in making the repairs to decks and bulkheads as much as possible and the deck force of the MOUNT VERNON should be utilized to the utmost in removing coal, ashes and other debris in order that there MAY be no delay in the actual undertaking of the repairs themselves.
All laying-out, template work and shop work in connection with the patch over the hole and that under the bottom will be done by the French, but it is proposed to offer the services of American workmen in drilling holes, riveting up and calking, in order to assist the French and save time. It must be borne in mind that owing to the differences in method between the French and Americans, it is necessary that the templates be made by the French if the shop work is to be done by the French and similarly, that they be made by the Americans if the shop work is to be done by the Americans.
Under date of Sept. 17, 1918, the restrictions as to freedom of behavior in Brest due to the epidemic of grippe have been modified in so far as to allow officers and men to enter stores for ordinary purchases.
18 September 1918 – The Commander U.S.Naval Railway Battery No. 1 reports that at high elevations of the guns the standard rotators on service shells are unsuitable. He has tried all sorts of rammers but the projectile is often unseated. He adds that, nevertheless, the projectile, when fully charged, gives extraordinary results. The new projectile, he states, should have a less steep band and the shell be thoroughly tested in the United States to ensure that with hand ramming they do not unseat at high angles.
The Commanding Officer of the USS CUMMINGS reports under date of 13 Sept. 1918 as to the use of the radio direction finder recently installed on board that vessel. On Sept. 9, the visibility being low, and it being advisable to make contact with convoy before dark, the USS CUMMINGS steamed ahead in a very heavy sea and gale and took a radio bearing of the convoy thirty degrees on her port bow. Having headed south, after running seven miles she picked up the convoy with ease. The convoy was seven miles out of position and was not steering the course given in the morning. Contact probably would not have been made without the aid of the bearing obtained by the radio compass. In forwarding this report to the Force Commander, the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France comments in part as follows: “The work in connection with the installation of radio direction finders on board ships attached to this force is progressing satisfactorily. Although the compasses installed during refit periods at Liverpool have been found to require considerable overhauling and re-arrangement of the apparatus, the work done in installation of the house has proven satisfactory. Calibration of individual compasses is being undertaken as opportunity presents itself, and, from the results indicated in the enclosure, this preliminary calibration is found to be sufficiently accurate so that the bearings taken on what are considered as the sectors having the greatest eeor [i.e., error?]: i.e., diagonally with the center line of the ship, MAY be considered as reliable.”
The District Commander Brest has forwarded to the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France letters from the Supervisor of the Harbor under date of 14 Sept. 1918, regarding the coaling facilities at Brest and the recent demands upon them by the arrival almost simultaneously of many large transports in need of bunker coal. He lists the following ships with the amounts of coal needed respectively by them as having recently required to be supplied at very close intervals of time and requests that steps be taken to arrange the routing of these vessels so as to avoid arrival in the same convoys or in convoys with less than ten days intervals between arrivals at this port, and citing the cases of the USS HARRISBURG and the USS PLATTSBURG, specifically requests that these vessels be diverted from this port and routed to such ports as have adequate coaling facilities for handling them without excessive delay. These latter vessels have been in the habit of coaling at eigher [i.e., either] end of their runs at coaling piers provided at their company docks and have even then required 36 hours to complete this coaling with gear that was previously arranged and provided for them. These ships have no equipment and have to be provided with coaling stages, baskets, and shovels. He adds that coaling facilities at Brest are so limited that when two ships requiring over 1000 tons arrive in the same convoy or in convoys separated by not more than four days, it is found impracticable to coal them and turn them around without excessive delay to one of the vessels. Below given is the list of vessels and their coal requirements, above referred to:
LEVIATHAN. . . . . . . . 4500 tons
FRANCE. . . . . . . . . .4500 tons
VON STEUBEN. . . . . . . 3400 tons
NEDERLANDEN. . . . . . . 1000 tons
AGAMEMNON. . . . . . . . 1500 tons
LUTETIA. . . . . . . . . 2000 tons
SOBRAL. . . . . . . . . .1600 tons
PATRIA. . . . . . . . . .1100 tons
HARRISBURG. . . . . . . .1400 tons
PLATTSBURG. . . . . . . .1650 tons.
19 September – The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France has addressed the following letter to the Prefet Maritime Brest:-
“ Radio Operators are now maintained at the station at Mengam by both the French and Americans which involves the employment of more men than are actually required. Additional and improved radio equipment will be available to be utilized by the U.S. Naval Forces in Brest within the next few days. The radio station maintained in the Credit Lyonnais by my force is, due to certain inherent defects, incapable of being improved beyond a certain degrees, and does not result in our having satisfactory communication with vessels well out at sea.
If it meets with your approval, I have now under my command sufficient operators to take over the entire operation of the station at Mengam, thus releasing for other duty the operators the French now maintain at that place. If you will permit me to take over the station, I will maintain it, will add additional radio apparatus, will forward you immediately by wire copy of all messages received, and transmit all messages for the force under your command.
I am prepared to take over this station immediately upon the receipt of your approval. ”
The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France has appointed the Commanding Officer Carola Barracks to serve as his representative on the French Commission concerning Barrack space for the American Navy. He states to that officer that the minimum requirements for barrack space for the American navy are as follows: Base barracks, 3,000; Receiving barracks, 2000. He continues:- “The desire of the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France at present is to obtain Fort Mautberry. It is intended to have Civil Engineer Conrad look over the situation regarding the practicability of obtaining water at that place. If he reports favorably, this office will do all in its power to obtain the concession of that Fort from the French Navy. There are several rooms in the Fort without light or ventilation which will be of small value to us and if the French desire to use these rooms for stowage of spare parts, etc., it is believed feasible to turn there rooms over to them where their gear can be locked and sealed. ”
20 September – The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France has requested from the Force Commander permission to carry out a departmental organization to take care of claims for damage arising out of accidents incident to the operations of the Naval forces. This request is based upon a survey of the subject recently prepared by the Aide for Courts and Boards in which the growing frequency and importance of these claims is shown to be a natural incident to the numerous industrial enterprises in the way of transportation, terminal business, etc., now being carried on by the Forces in France.
The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France has submitted to the General Commanding Base Section No. 5, S.O.S., a description of a British harbor steamer capable of carrying 1000 to 1200 persons in sheltered quarters which could be obtained for the debarkation of troops in the port of Brest, if desirable.
A letter of reprimand to the Commanding Officer of USS BURROWS has been written by the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France under date of 17 September, 1918, blaming him for bad judgment in leaving the neighborhood of the USS WESTBRIDGE with the survivors from that vessel on board his ship and returning to port, while the WESTBRIDGE was still floating in a disabled condition and without other escort.|