WE ARE READY NOW: WWI CENTENNIAL:
R 031110Z MAY 17
FM CNO WASHINGTON DC
MSGID/GENADMIN/CNO WASHINGTON DC/DNS/XXX//
SUBJ/WE ARE READY NOW: WWI CENTENNIAL//
RMKS/1. One hundred years ago, on 4 May 1917, the first U.S. combat forces
arrived in Europe, less than one month after the United States declared war
on Germany and entered the First World War, a bloody contest ongoing since
August 1914. Six U.S. Navy destroyers, under the command of Commander Joseph
Taussig, arrived in Queenstown, Ireland.
2. In the spring of 1917, German U-boats were waging unrestricted submarine
warfare, sinking so many merchant ships so fast that the island United
Kingdom was only a few weeks from running out of food. The situation was
critical, and the entire Allied war effort was threatened with collapse. The
Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, desperately short of destroyers to combat
the deadly U-boat threat, requested immediate U.S. Navy help, as soon as the
U.S. entered the war. The USN representative to the Royal Navy, Rear Admiral
William S. Sims, cabled to Washington on 14 April 1917 that the situation was
much worse than had been reported, and recommended the urgent dispatch of
U.S. destroyers. The very same day, Taussigs destroyers were ordered to get
underway from Yorktown and immediately proceed to New York and then Boston,
where they commenced their unrefueled trans-Atlantic crossing on 24 April.
The delay in Boston had more to do with policy formulation and decision-
making in Washington than the readiness of Taussigs destroyers. Despite the
short notice, U.S. Navy ships had been regularly deploying to the far corners
of the world since the early 1800s, so when the call came, the U.S. Navy
3. Upon arrival in Queenstown, the Royal Navy Admiral in command of the area
asked Taussig when the U.S. destroyers would be ready to commence operations
against the U-boats. According to newspapers, Taussig answered We are ready
now, sir. That’s not exactly what Taussig said, but it was close enough.
Taussigs statement was a huge boost to British morale at a very dark time,
and within days his ships were operating in combat. Within two months over
30 more U.S. destroyers joined the fight, and more would follow, bringing
U.S. Navy innovations such as underway refueling and radio-telephones, and
incorporating British innovations such as depth charges, which created an
effective anti-submarine capability. By the end of the war, over 2,000,000
U.S. Army troops, transported and protected by the U.S. Navy, arrived in
France and quickly turned the stalemate into an Allied victory, at great cost
in lives on land but with virtually no losses at sea.
4. Since World War I, the United States Navy and the Royal Navy have been
such close allies that it is difficult to realize that in 1917 that was not
the case. For over 100 years since the hard-fought battles of the American
Revolution and the War of 1812, there had been no love lost between the U.S.
and the Royal Navy. Throughout the 1800s, the Royal Navy remained by far the
largest and most capable in the world, but the fighting spirit of the U.S.
Navy had earned their respect. The senior officer in the Royal Navy in 1917
was First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, victor in the great naval
battle of Jutland. Jellicoe sent a welcome letter to Taussig stating, There
is no Navy in the world that can possibly give us more valuable assistance,
and there is no personnel in any Navy that will fight better than yours.
Jellicoe’s statement was true in 1917 and remained true in the 100 years
since. The legacy of the U.S. Sailors who turned the tide in World War I
lives on in our Navy today.
5. Released by VADM J. G. FOGGO, Director, Navy Staff.//