Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in Europe, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

            A-1 57009                       September 26, 1918.

From: Force Commander.

To:  Secretary of the Navy (Operations),

      Navy Department, Washington, D. C.

Subject:  Future Naval Air Policies.

Reference:     (a)  Our cable of Sept. 26, 1918.

              (b)  Notes on proposed agenda for Anglo-American

                   Aviation Conference of Sept. 16, 1918.

              (c)  Notes concerning conference with French

                   Marine Air Authorities, held in Paris at the

                   Ministry of Marine on August 29, 1918, dated

                   August 30, 1918.1

Enclosure:     (1)  Reference (b).

     1.   In the early part of August most of the United States Seaplane, Dirigible and Kite balloon Stations in France and on the British Isles, which had been established and located at the request of the French and British authorities respectively, were practically completed. At that time conferences were arranged with the French and British Naval and Air Force authorities for the purpose of planning for the future the most effective Allied Naval Air Program and to consider what part of the program should be undertaken by each of the services. A similar conference was contemplated to be held with the Italian Naval and Air Force authorities. Minutes of the conference held with the French authorities (reference “c”) have been forwarded. Notes prepared for discussion at conference with the British aviation authorities are enclosed for your information. Minutes of the conference held with the British authorities on Sept. 17, 1918 are in process of preparation, and will be forwarded when completed.2

     2.   Preparatory to these conferences, as complete a study as possible was made of the tactical military situation as well as the technical and practical aviation situation by the Force Commander’s Planning Section in conjunction with the U. S. Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.

     3.   A summary of the conclusions reached at these conferences and an indication of the future effort that should be made by U.S. Naval Aviation Forces has been cabled in reference (a). They are as follows:

(a) That seaplane operations from U. S. Stations already built or authorized should continue with the exception of those at Dunkerque and without consideration of Italian seaplane stations, which will be subject of conference with Italians. The character of the operations to be adjusted to operating conditions.

(b) 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.

(c) That naval bombing squadrons shall be composed of land day and night bombing machines, augmented as necessary by protecting squadrons of land fighters.

(d) That in aircraft for fleet use each Navy will proceed as it deems most desirable.

(e) That the projected but unstarted United States Naval Air Station at Rochefort be abandoned.

(f) That United States Air Station, Dunkerque, be abandoned and for it substituted two squadrons of DH-4 land planes or similar type, to be operated from flying fields of the Northern Bombing Group. The character of the operations to be adjusted to operating conditions.

(g) That United States Naval Northern Bombing Group be augmented by United States Naval Aviation Forces consisting of two squadrons of day bombers and two squadrons of night bombers and possibly in the future a few squadrons of fighters.

(h) That conference with the Italian authorities shall determine American and British effort in Italy, but that it is highly desirable that British bombing operations against enemy naval bases in the Adriatic be taken over and augmented by United States Navy in cooperation with the Italians. The British Air Forces thus released to augment forces in the Aegean. Subject to complete investigation this may roughly require twelve night squadrons, six day squadrons, possibly a few fighting squadrons. These operations possibly to be in cooperation with surface craft.

(i) That plans and production be started for bombing operations against naval bases in and near the Heligoland Bight.

     4.   These conclusions are in exact accord with the fundamental principle of Planning Section Problem No. 6,3 with which Captain Yarnell4 is familiar. It is strongly recommended that all of the above be approved in principle, inasmuch as it is considered that the successful prosecution of the mission for the accomplishment of which our naval forces have been established in European waters demands a vigorous and continuous bombing of enemy naval bases by aircraft.

     5.   Authority has been requested in reference (a) to negotiate with the Italian authorities, as outlined above. In the same cable it was suggested as of the utmost importance that Captain Irwin5 come here immediately to take part in this conference.

     6.   Inasmuch as British aviation plans for 1919 are dependent upon the approval of these recommendations, an early reply is requested.6

WM. S. SIMS.            

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: None of the three documents referenced herein have been subsequently located.

Footnote 2: See: Sims to Opnav, 25 September 1918.

Footnote 3: This was a memorandum that Sims’ Planning Section prepared on 11 January 1918, entitled, “Closing the Skagerrak.” For a copy of this memorandum, see, American Naval Planning Section London, 27-34.

Footnote 4: Capt. Henry E. Yarnell.

Footnote 5: Capt. Noble E. Irwin, Director of Naval Aviation. Irwin came to Europe for an inspection tour in October and November 1918; see, Sims to Charles R. Train, 30 September 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 6: According to historian Geoffrey L. Rossano, the Navy Department “accepted many of the conference suggestions, though some in Washington must have been astounded at the scope of the proposals.” The exception was the abandonment of the Dunkirk seaplane station and the substitution of two DH-4 squadrons. Instead, the Naval Department advised that Gen. John J. Pershing be consulted about enlarging the northern bombing group and what machines should be used. According to Rossano, “the clear message from Washington was ‘Stay away from land bombers! Use seaplanes! Be wary of treading on Army turf!’” Ibid., 350-51.

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