Rear Admiral Henry M. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
8 September 1918.
From: Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.
To: Force Commander.
SUBJECT: Report of Operations Week 1 September to 7 September
1. (a)Vessels Available:
CONNER, SIGOURNEY, CUSHING, NICHOLSON, WADSWORTH, ERICSSON, WARRINGTON, WINSLOW, FANNING, BURROWS, MONAGHAN, FLUSHER, SMITH, REID, ROE, McDOUGAL, O’BRIEN, DRAYTON, LAMSON, WAINWRIGHT, BENHAM
Sea-going Yachts –
APHRODITE, CORSAIR, MAY, NOKOMIS.
Coastal Convoy Escort –
WANDERER, TRUXTUN, WHIPPLE, HARVARD, VEDETTE, UTOWAMA, WORDER, REMLIK, CHRISTABEL, RAMBLER, STEWART, CORONA, MACDONOUGH, SULTANA
CRICCIETH, BARNEGAT, GYPSUM QUEEN, ILE D’OUESSANT.
Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) –
PIQUA, McNEAL, ANDERTON, CAHILL, COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, JAMES, LEWES, HUBBARD, HINTON.
Wrecking vessel –
Station Ships –
PROMETHEUS, BRIDGEPORT, MARIETTA,PANTHER.
Floating Barracks –
(b) Overhaul - LIVERPOOL.
(d) Repairing - Bayonne.
(e) Repairing - La Pallice.
(f) Repairing - Lorient.
(g) En route Liverpool for overhaul.
(h) Being equipped with Walzer apparatus.1
BENHAM returned from overhaul afternoon of 7 September. The PRESTON sailed for Liverpool for twelve days overhaul afternoon of 7 September. LITTLE sailed for La Pallice for docking 3 September, and upon her arrival has found that blades of one propeller were bent. Expected date of return to duty 12 September. TUCKER sailed for Lorient 6 September to dock and replace one propeller. Date of expected return to duty 10 September. Upon the return of the SULTANA to duty with coastal convoy, the EMELINE started routing boiler overhaul to be finished about 12 September. Overhaul of PORTER expected to be completed 10 September; JARVIS, 10 September. The repairs to the NOMA will probably be completed 25 September. The SIGOURNEY struck a submerged object at night at sea and bent propeller blades. She will be docked as soon as possible and in the meantime her speed is restricted to about eighteen knots.
2. Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules 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.2 Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoys.
The escort which took O.R.77 and O.R.78 westward escorted Group Fifty-Eight to Brest. The escort which took O.R. 79 westward escorted Group Fifty-Nine to Brest. The escort which took O.R. 80 westward escorted Group Sixty to Brest.3
Upon the torpedoing of the U.S.S. MOUNT VERNON in O.R.80 the WAINWRIGHT, WINSLOW and NICHOLSON remained with the MOUNT VERNON, leaving three destroyers to continue with the AGAMEMNON, and join Group Sixty.4 As soon as the speed of the MOUNT VERNON worked up to fourteen knots the escort commander recalled the NICHOLSON. At the same time the SIGOURNEY, FANNING and ERICSSON were started towards the MOUNT VERNON. The ERICSSON and FANNING continued on and joined the CONNER with Group Sixty before darkness 6 September. The U.S.S. PARKER, which was engaged in hunting duty also joined the MOUNT VERNON. When off the approaches to Brest the WAINWRIGHT was directed to leave the MOUNT VERNON and report to the CONNER, which it did before darkness 6 September.
The escort which took O.R. 81 westward had orders to intercept Group Sixty-One the morning of 9 September and escort group to France. The DRAYTON is to sail from Brest morning of 8 September with orders to intercept H.B.115 at daylight 9 September and reinforce escort. It had been the intention to reinforce the Verdon convoy6 which sailed 6 September with a destroyer. Due to the unusual number of destroyers unavailable and furthermore due to the fact that it cannot be told whether the LEVIATHAN will be ready to sail on time for her escort to join Group Sixty-Two, it was impossible to do so and it was only possible to send one destroyer to H.B.11. For obvious reasons it is always considered a necessity to hold destroyers ready to escort the LEVIATHAN as soon as she is ready to go to sea and due to the uncertainty at this time as to whether her escort would be available for Group Sixty-Two, it will be necessary to send other destroyers on this duty, and advantage will be taken of their leaving to sail the CZARITZA and the F.J.LUCKENBACH which is an important store ship, and it is expected the LA FRANCE and the WESTERDIJK.
On September 7th the LAKE PEWAUKE was taken over and placed in commission as a U.S.Naval vessel at Brest. In the coming week it is planned similarly to commission the LAKE LASANG and the KARKENNA, and thereafter it is hoped to commission these vessels upon their arrival at Brest. Difficulty is being experienced for the moment in quartering the officers and men for these vessels but this difficulty is being met by assigning the men temporarily to air stations in the vicinity of Brest, and the officers to Lorient.
Additional barrack space has been secured in the Chateau which will increase the capacity of this Barracks to a total of sixteen hundred and fifty, and still further increases are being considered.
The U.S.S. MOUNT VERNON, whose torpedoing has been noted, was at the time in company with the AGAMEMNON, with an escort of six destroyers. One of the destroyers, the CONNER, due to temporary disabling of her steering engine had left the formation. Convoy was making a speed of eighteen knots, was zigzagging, and five minutes previously had completed a change of course of thirty degrees. The MOUNT VERNON was left ship of the formation and the course was thirty degrees to the left of the base course. The periscope of a submarine was sighted five hundred yards on the starboard bow of the MOUNT VERNON and was fired on by the forward gun of that vessel. At practically the same time the MOUNT VERNON was struck by a torpedo immediately under her bilge keel in wake of the bulkhead between the two after groups of boilers. No sign of the submarine was seen by any of the destroyers but a school of blackfish had been seen in approximately the position from which the attack was made. Five depth charges were dropped by the MOUNT VERNON and six by the destroyers. The four after fire rooms of the MOUNT VERNON were flooded and thirty-six men who were in these fire rooms at the time were killed; this large number being due to the fact that the watch was being relieved. There were twelve injured none of whom is in serious condition.
The vessel proceeded to Brest under her own steam making fifteen knots with destroyer escort. The wounded were placed in life boats at the davits and kept there during the return trip. The vessel settled to a draft of about thirty-nine feet with a gradually increasing list which reached ten degrees before her arrival at Brest at three a.m. six September.
She was placed in drydock on seven September and examination is now in progress to determine the extent of the injury. All of the passengers, including Senator J. Hamilton Lewis,7 are enthusiastic in their praise of the performance of the officers and crew of the MOUNT VERNON and it is apparent that an unusually good condition of discipline prevailed on that ship. The wreckmaster who boarded her upon her arrival states that every precaution had been taken on board prior to the accident to prevent the loss of the ship such as shoring up bulkheads, locating and removing leaks in bulkheads, and closure of watertight doors. For this, great credit is due her Commanding Officer, Captain Dismukes, U.S.Navy,8 and it is considered that the precautions taken on board that vessel prior to the accident might profitably be used on other transports.
On the run to Brest all possible precautions were taken as to additional shoring bulkheads, reinforcing hatches and watertight doors, and pumping her flooded compartments.
4. SUBMARINE ACTIVITY.
The submarine activity of the previous week in the Bay of Biscay has continued, there being at least three submarines - one around the eighth meridian, one around the tenth meridian, and one still further off-shore. On the morning of the 2nd, a fleet of tunny boats was attacked by a submarine in Lat. 47-28 N., Long. 08-40 W. and as a result four were sunk. At 6.40 a.m. on the 4th the DORA in H.N. 81 convoy was torpedoed and sunk in Lat. 49-28 N., Long. 12-46 W. while at 7.52 a.m. on the 5th the U.S.S. MOUNT VERNON, outward bound, was torpedoed in Lat. 48-32 N., Long. 10-38 W., but was able to return to Brest under her own steam. The submarine mentioned in previous weeks off of Santander is evidently on one of its periodic cruises up the coasts, having been reported off Ile d’Yeu and the Gironde during the week, but has, however, caused no damage to coastwise shipping. The following positions are based on the assumption that each represents the successive movements of the same submarine:9
5. MINING ACTIVITY.
The following dangerous areas were in effect during the week:
Radius 7 miles around Triagos 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.
Dangerous area 2 miles around 49-20 N. 02-23 W.
Between 49-16 N. and 49-25 N. parallels ships are not to pass eastward of 02-26 West Meridian.
6. EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.
2 September - Lieut. Andrew E. Carter, U.S.N.R.F., and Ensign Royal W. Locke, U.S.N.R.F., both attached to the U.S.S. WEST BRIDGE, will be tried in Brest by General Court Martial on charges of Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline and Scandalous Conduct tending to the Destruction of Good Morals, growing out of their actions in connection with the presence of women stowaways on that vessel on her recent voyage from the United States. Lieut. Carter is also charged with perjury, drunkenness, and disobedience of a lawful order of the Secretary of the Navy, in imparting military information.
The Carola Orchestra10 will leave Brest for Pauillac on September 4, 1918, where they will remain until September 10, 1918. An intinerary of the Rochefort District for the Orchestra is being formulated with a view to returning to Brest not later than Monday, September 16th. It is intended that they shall make visits of one day’s duration each to Croix d’Hins, Rochefort, Moutchic, Arcachon, and any of the other air stations which can be visited within the time allowed.
3 September - The following fifteen troop transports in two convoys arrived this morning from the United States bringing troops as listed respectively for each vessel. The total for all vessels together exceeds by several thousand the largest figures of arrivals hitherto attained in the port of Brest for any period of twenty four hours :-
First Convoy: Troops.
RIJNDAM. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3197
LENAPE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2024
PRESIDENT GRANT . . . . . . . . . 5528
WILHELMINA. . . . . . . . . . . . .2070
PRINCESS MATOIKA. . . . . . . . . .3851
PASTORES. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1870
ANTIGONE. . . . . . . . . . . . . .2712
CZARITZA. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1334
DANTE ALIGHIERI. . . . . . . . . . 2323
DE KALB. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1035
LUTETIA. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2468
SOBRAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ._407_________
Total First Convoy 28,799
Second Convoy: Troops.
MOUNT VERNON . . . . . . . . . . . 4767
AGAMEMNON. . . . . . . . . . . . . 3396
FRANCE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4687_______
Total Second Convoy 12,760
Grand Total 41,549
The Superintendent Base Section No. 5, S.O.S.11 has forwarded to the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France, a letter12 to himself from the Director Army Transport Service,13 setting forth the policy of the U.S. Army relative to the management of harbor craft as follows:
“ It is the policy of the A.T.S. to keep entire control of our harbor craft and to operate them with Army personnel. It would therefore be contrary to this policy to turn these tugboats over to the Navy for operation. Personnel for this work is being gotten together in the United States and will soon be over. It is hoped, therefore, that you will continue at Brest, as in the past, until the expected help arrives. There will be no objection to your using Naval crews upon the tugs until our help arrives, if need be, provided the vessels remain in our control absolutely and our crews be substituted as soon as they are assembled here.”
7 September - The Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France in a letter to the District Commander Brest14 and the Commanding Officers of the USS PROMETHEUS, and U.S.S. BRIDGEPORT,15 has explained the organization of the Repair and Salvage forces in Brest, as follows:
“ Captain Lyon of the PROMETHEUS is Force Repair OFFICER. Commander Fisher, Naval Construction Corps, if[i.e. is] Force Naval Constructor,16. Lieutenant Commander Wotherspoon, Naval Construction Corps, is Force Salvage Officer.17 Lieutenant Danenhower is Wreckmaster.18 In addition to his duties as Force Repair Officer, Captain Lyon of the PROMETHEUS is Industrial Manager, Brest: his mission being to co-ordinate and direct the repair activities as regards personnel, organization and equipment of the following: U.S.S. PROMETHEUS, U.S.S. BRIDGEPORT, Repair Base Brest, Ordnance Repair Base Breast, Radio Repair Base, Brest. He will make necessary distribution of work and personnel, and will control the distribution of material received for repair purposes. Lieutenant Commander Gillette, under Captain Lyon, is in charge of the construction, equipping and operation of the Repair Base Brest. Lieutenant Brown is attached to the Repair Base Brest as Liaison Officer with the French Arsenal. Lieutenants Cunningham, Sage, and Garrett are assigned to the Repair Base Brest. The salvage section, including the U.S.S. FAVORITE, is independent of the District Commander Brest, and will be handled directly by the Flag Office; the status of the FAVORITE being that of a vessel visiting the port. In the case of a salvaged vessel being brought to Brest, the Wreckmaster will retain charge until no further precautions are required to render her salvage certain. The prosecution of the work will then be turned over to the Industrial Manager.” . . .
Source Note: D, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 440. Attached to the report is a list of ships that arrived and departed from ports in France for each day covered by the report. The list for each day is done on a separate sheet.
Footnote 1: The Walzer apparatus was, according to one historian, “essentially a nautical version of the physician’s stethoscope: a diaphragm covers and air-filled chamber that is connected to the ears by rubber tubing, no microphone needed.” William van der Kloot, Great Scientists Wage the Great War (Fonthill Media, 2014). See: Sims to Henry B. Wilson, 3 August 1918.
Footnote 2: Enclosure not printed.
Footnote 3: O.R. convoys were those sailing from Brest either store or troop ship convoys returning to the United States and South America.
Footnote 4: MOUNT VERNON’s No. 1 guncrew spotted a periscope some 500 yards off her starboard bow, early on the morning of 5 September 1918, as the transport steamed homeward in convoy some 200 miles from the French coast. MOUNT VERNON immediately fired one round at German submarine U‑82. The U‑boat simultaneously submerged, but managed to launch a torpedo at the transport. The ship could not turn in time to avoid the missile, which struck her amidships, knocking out half of her boilers, flooding the midsection, killing 36 Sailors, and wounding 13. Mount Vernon's guns kept firing ahead of the U‑boat's wake and she launched a pattern of depth charges while damage control teams worked to save the ship. The transport was able to return to Brest under her own power for temporary repairs before proceeding to Boston for permanent ones. DANFS.
Footnote 5: H.B. convoys were loaded store ship convoys from New York for the Bay of Biscay ports of France.
Footnote 6: O.V. convoys were those sailing from Verdon (Gironde River) either store or troop ship convoys returning to the United States and South America.
Footnote 7: Senator J. Hamilton Lewis was a Democrat from Illinois and a member of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs.
Footnote 8: Capt. Douglas E. Dismukes, Commander, troop transport Mount Vernon.
Footnote 9: This refers to a table of the mentioned submarine’s movement that is not included in this transcription.
Footnote 10: No further information.
Footnote 11: Brig. Gen. George H. Harries, American Expeditionary Forces, Commander, Services of Supply, Base Section No. 5.
Footnote 12: Document not found.
Footnote 13: Lieut. H.F. Jennings, R.F., Army Transport Service, Brest.
Footnote 14: Capt. Henry H. Hough, District Commander, Brest.
Footnote 15: Capt. Frank Lyon, Commander, U.S.S. PROMETHEUS; Capt. Earl P. Jessup, Commander, U.S.S. BRIDGEPORT.
Footnote 16: Cmdr. G.W. Fisher, Jr., Naval Constructor, Ship Repair Base, Brest.
Footnote 17: Lt. Comdr. W.W. Wotherspoon, Naval Constructor, Salvage Section, Brest.
Footnote 18: Lt. Sloan Danenhower, Wreckmaster, U.S.S. WEST BRIDGE.