1. "The mission of the Merchant Ship Control Service under the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, is to provide for the safety of movements of merchant vessels in time of war. Where enemy activities either in the air, on the surface or underseas make peace-time routes untenable, new and diversified ones are selected. Where it is impossible to avoid enemy action, surface escorts and air cover are provided by the combatant forces under Commanders in Chief, Area and Sea Frontier Commanders so as to maintain the supply lines to military forces and the world's sea-borne trade. This involves not only the assignment and furnishing of routes and reporting of movements, but also general cognizance of communications and war-time equipment so as to ensure the maximum amount of defense for all United Nations merchant shipping." So does the "Operating Plan for the United States Merchant Ship Control Service" (MER-I, issued 28 February 1944 to practically all of the principal commands of the U. S. Navy) partly define the objectives of work performed by Convoy and Routing.
2. Actually, in addition to thus seeking to reduce the risk of damage from enemy action, C&R and other merchant ship control authorities have further broad objectives, most important of which are to:(a) Reduce the risk of collision by proper routing and diversions and by other means such as ordering the burning of dimmed navigational lights when warranted.3. Thus it can be seen that to establish and maintain a proper balance between adequate safety for and most efficient use of shipping is a constant and ever changing wartime problem for the Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, under the cognizance of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and the merchant ship control section, Convoy and Routing.
(b) Further reduce the risk of marine casualties by avoiding hurricanes, storms and areas of dangerous navigation; and
(c) Not only reduce to a studied minimum the inevitable delays the very act of convoying causes to shipping, but relieve ships from convoy so far as is consistent with calculated risk by routing them independently. Most important among the delays caused by the larger convoys are congestion of port facilities while unloading and loading ships in large groups, reduction in speed of the faster ships to that of the slowest ship in convoy, longer distances which ships may have to sail to reach port of destination, and waiting in port for the next convoy to sail. Where convoys are requisite, an important duty of C&R is to arrange schedules of departure and arrival, routes and speeds so as to effect the most efficient flow of shipping possible in view of existing conditions as to the number and type of vessels available for escort and anticipated enemy operations.
The more important functions of the Merchant Ship Control Service other than convoying, are defined in MER-I as follows:
1. MERCHANT SHIP CONTROL: The term :Merchant Ship Control: includes all matters pertaining to the movement and direction of shipping of all nations within the ocean areas of merchant ship responsibility. It does not include "protection" of such shipping by combatant forces. "Merchant Ship Control" embraces the following:
a. Convoy control (See Chap. III, B);
2. INDEPENDENT SHIPPING: The term "independent shipping" means shipping that is sailed singly, and routed singly to its destination.
3. ROUTING OF SHIPPING: The term "routing of shipping" relates to sea routes to be followed; time of departure from port; assembling ships for convoy and sailing them; timing at meeting points (rendezvous) along the sea routes; and the delivery of instructions for routing. (The nomination of ships for voyages together with instructions for cargo to be loaded; the ship, cargo, and bunkering agents to be employed, and the general commercial management of the vessel are not considered as part of routing).
4. ROUTING INSTRUCTIONS: "Routing Instructions" issued by Routing Officers to Convoy Commodores, commanding officer escort, commanding officers of escort vessels, or masters, include the following;
(1) The route vessels must follow, alternate routes, and instructions pertaining thereto.
(2) Instructions concerning communications, including matters relative to the use of radio at sea and in port, codes and ciphers;
(3) Operating instructions, including the methods of maneuver, safety precautions, control by Naval forces and other matters relative to the preservation of safety of vessels at sea and in port;
(4) General or specific instructions as circumstances may warrant.
1. The scope of C&R's work can best be indicated by setting forth a few vital, concise shipping statistics. When we entered the war in 1941 there were available to the United Nations about 41,000,000 gross tons of ocean-going merchant vessels of 1600 tons and over, of which some 8,500,000 tons were U. S. Already lost by that time, between September 1939 and December 1941, were 3,087 ships of 10,179,000 gross of Allied and neutral (including American) merchantmen.21
C. VOLUME OF SHIPPING INVOLVED AND CASUALTIES SUFFERED
2. During our first three full war years (1942, 1943, and 1944) an additional 3,123 ships of 13,467,000 gross tons of Allied and neutral shipping were lost, of which 11,960,000 gross were due to enemy action. To this must be added the losses of 1945 up to VE Day. (see App. I).
3. Here then, is a staggering total of 6,210 ships, making up 23,645,000 gross tons of invaluable merchant ocean transportation, lost in the first 5 years and 4 months of war, of which 20,726,000 gross or 88% was due to enemy action. In short, the enemy had sunk just about one-half of all the merchant tonnage available to the Allies in 1939.122
4. The ebbing tide of net Allied ocean-going shipping available reached its lowest level about September 1943, by which time the new construction at last had equaled losses since 1939, and has been rising rapidly ever since. The net gain during 1944 alone was some 12,000,000 gross tons. The result is that by the end of 1944 the accumulated net gain of construction over losses for the entire war stood at 15,900,000 gross tons.21
5. Thus, the United Nations ended 1944 with about 57,000,000 gross tons of vessels of 1600 tons and over, a gain of 39% over the prewar 41,000,000 gross.21
6. The following table of all losses, year by year, high-lights the crisis of 1942, when the great volume of American tonnage first came under intensive attack at a time when we were ill-prepared to defend it.
Enemy Action Marine Casualties Total Period No. Gross Tons No. Gross Tons No. Gross Tons Sept.-Dec. '39a 216 746,712 107 188,716 323 935,428 1940a 982 3,877,394 363 672,286 1,345 4,549,680 1941a 1,114 4,141,915 305 551,510 1,419 4,693,425 Sub-Total
Sept. '39-Dec. '41
2,312 8,766,021 775 1,412,512 3,087 10,178,533 1942a 1,562b 7,713,119b 290 597,936 1,852 8,311,055 1943a 588 3,209,915 257 508,390 845 3,718,305 1944a 193 1,036,904 233 400,689 426 1,437,593 Sub-Total
1942 - 1944
2,343 11,959,938 780 1,507,015 3,123 13,466,953 Total
Sept. '39 - Dec. '44
4,655c 20,725,959c 1,555 2,919,527 6,210 23,466,486
a. Source: 122
b. Of which 1.149 ships of 6,257,831 gross or 81% were sunk by submarine alone.
c. Of which 2,697 ships of 14,264,574 gross or 69% were sunk by submarine alone.
7. The next table, however, clearly shows the salutary effect of convoying and anti-submarine warfare measures. Whereas 4,993,000 gross tons of independent
shipping was lost from enemy action in 1942, when only 30% of all shipping losses occurred in convoy, the next year independent losses fell to only 1,018,000 gross when 66% of all losses were in convoy. In other words, losses in convoy were reduced from 2,192,000 gross tons in 1942 to 1,926,000 in 1943 in spite of greatly increased number of convoyed ships.
Convoy vs. Independent status of merchant vessels lost world-wide from enemy actiona Independents Lost
(including ships dispersed
or detached from convoy)
Percentage of total of these columns which were convoy losses Period No. Gross Tons No. Gross Tons Sept. - Dec. 1939 196 644,000 17 100,000 14% 1940 534 2,059,000 293 1,286,000 39% 1941 453 1,842,000 377 1,551,000 46% Sub-Total
Sept. 1939 - Dec. 1941
1,183 4,545,000 687 2,937,000 39% 1942 961 4,993,000 411 2,192,000 30% 1943 215 1,018,000 328 1,926,000 66% 1944 79 428,000 89 487,000 53% Sub-Total
Sept. 1942 - Dec. 1944
1,255 6,439,000 828 4,605,000 41% Total
Sept. 1939 - Dec. 1944
2,438 10,984,000 1,515 7,542,000 40%
a. Excluding losses suffered in Military Operation at anchor or in port, totaling 708 ships of 2,121,000 gross. Computed from source 21
8. Here, then is the crux of the story of merchant shipping, at one and the same time a vital activity and the principal bottleneck of this global war. In spite of the net gain in tonnage thus shown, there was still no substantial alleviation of the shipping shortage because of the expanding requirements for the continental armed forces., the delay in European ports caused by damaged harbor facilities, the requirements of the liberated counties, the replacement of old and worn out vessels, and the ever lengthening voyages and growing volume of supplies in the Pacific. Just prior to VE Day there were plotted by C&R about 9,641 ships of over 1,000 gross tons in the service of Allied and neutral countries (see Chapter II, F, 1).
9. Comparison with Casualties of World War I:
Worldwide Merchant Shipping Lost Through Enemy Action, (excluding commissioned auxiliaries) for like periods in both wars follows:
World War I World War II Period (gross tons) Period (gross tons) 1914 (5 mos.) 312,672 1939 (4 mos.) 746,712 1915 1,307,996 1940 3,877,394 1916 2,327,326 1941 4,141,915 1917 6,235,878a 1942 7,713,199a 1918 (10 mos.) 2,666,942 1943 (12 mos.) 3,209,915 Total, 4 yrs. 3 mos. 12,850,814 Total, 4 yrs. 5 mos. 19,689,055
a. The highest rate of sinking worldwide by enemy action during any 3 months period of World War I was reached in the spring of 1917 (April, May, and June) following our entry into the war, when the rate was 721,721 gross tons per month. Interestingly enough, in the current war the highest rate was reached in the spring of 1942 (March, April, and May) also following our belligerency, when the level was 721,707 gross tons per month.23 Furthermore, on he basis of sinkings during any one month only, the highest rate of sinking by enemy action was 881,027 gross tons during April, 1917, only moderately exceeding this year's high of 824,430 gross tons during June, 1942. 122
Convoy Losses. The volume of convoying in World War I was relatively restricted and did not commence until April, 1917. However, the Convoy Section of the British Ministry of Shipping reported for the entire war a total of 1,134 homebound and outbound convoys, consisting of 16,693 ships, of which 102 ships, (a ratio of 1:163), were torpedoed and sunk while actually in convoy. This compares with a ratio of 1:174 for the 46,000 ships convoyed across the Atlantic between the end of 1939 and VE Day, 1945 (see Chapter III, C, 1).
World Tonnage, excluding enemy powers and Russia, at the commencement of World War I was 35,000,000 gross tons, but was reduced to 32,000,000 by April 1918, fro which time onwards it increased22.
U/Boat Strength. Germany started her unrestricted submarine campaign in the autumn of 1916 with 139 U/Boats, and reached a peak of 180 in September, 1918. When the war providentially ended, she had 174 in service and about 225 under construction22. During the entire World War II it is estimated that about 1200 U/Boats of 230 tons or over were completed, of which about 700 were destroyed by Allied action. Some months prior to VE Day, before the heaviest bombings of German ports, there were probably nearly 500 U/Boats in service, plus an unknown quantity under assembly. The highest rate of construction was planned by the enemy for 1945, perhaps at the rate of 45 per month.
D. DEVELOPMENT OF U.S. SHIPPING CONTROL PRIOR TO OUR ENTRY IN THE WAR
1. Since the beginning of their war in 1939 the British Admiralty, through their Naval Control Service Officers (N.C.S.O.) in the principal ports of the world, have maintained a routing, diverting and reporting service, covering all areas except those under control of the Axis. The details of instruction for N.C.S.O.'s are laid down in "Naval Control Service Instructions". The reporting system so established was called "VESCA" system, and that portion of it devoted to U.S. merchantmen was known as the "CHATFOLD" system, centered in Ottawa. Individual routes for all independently sailed ships under British and Allied registry were furnished from main ports under such standard routing orders as those contained in "Mercantile Atlantic Routing Instructions" (short title MARI)54 64 (see Chapter V).
2. Article 714 of Navy Regulations specifies that in time of war "the Commander in Chief shall afford protection and convoy, so far as it is within his power, to merchant vessels of the United States and to those of Allies." As the Axis threat developed it gradually became apparent to the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington that the U. S. Navy would require an organization similar to the Admiralty's particularly in the event of the war being forced on us. A Ship Movements Division (Op-38) had been set up during World War I, and had continued in existence. Furthermore, in June 1939 a new Naval Transportation Service, War Plan Orange (WPNTS-1) had been issued, based on the tasks assigned by the Basic War Plan, as a consequence of which the Port Directors (San Francisco and New York particularly) had built up their organization. The Joint Merchant Vessel Board, also organized in World War I, but virtually inactive since, was revitalized by
transfer to Op-30-M in September 1939. On 13 November 1939 the C.N.O. (Op-30M-BD, Serial 7904) sent a letter to Commandants of all Naval Districts, less 9th and 16th, concerning duties of Port Directors in war; "Port Director - Guide for Peace Time Preparation for War". About August 1940 the first compilation was made of merchant vessels and small craft suitable for Navy use. Shortly thereafter, on 14 November, Op-30-M was transferred to Op-38 and set up as Op-38-S, Ship Movements Division31.
3. Material progress appeared in the "Report of the Combined British-United States Staff Conversations" (short title ABC-1)dated 27 March 1941. By Annex V of this report the world was divided into two spheres of merchant ship control in place of the previous world-wide British system. U. S. control was to extend over the western half of the Atlantic from about 26° W and the whole Pacific to 100° E. The British service was to continue to function in the U. S. area until such time as we were ready to assume full responsibility. The Sea Frontier had not yet been established and the idea of a fleet control zone outside the limits of the coastal zones was still a basic feature50.
4. After the conclusion of this ABC-1 agreement there was prepared in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Division of Ship Movements, Captain Charles S. Alden, U.S.N.) the "Principal Navy Shipping Control Plan, Rainbow No. 5" (short title WPSC-46). This basic plan - which superseded pamphlet "Navy Shipping Control-General Instructions", prepared by Op-38-S on June 19 1941 - outlined the tasks of the Chief of Naval Operations, Commanders in Chief and what were then known as Coastal Frontier Commanders in connection with the control of merchant shipping; agreements with great Britain, New Zealand and Australia; and general instructions for the operation of the Merchant Ship Control Service. (Note: This plan, which is based upon Navy Basic War Plan - Rainbow No.5, was actually promulgated 15 December 1941 by C.N.O. letter, Op-38-S-P, serial 064038. It was to remain the basic ship control directive until superseded 28 February 1944 by MER-1, issued with Cominch serial 00678, mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this history)5 31 59.
5. On 17 October 1941 the first actual routing directive for merchantmen of American Flag was issued by Op-38-S-A, under the subject of "Routing of American Flag Merchant Shipping", and addressed to Commanders, Coastal Frontiers and Naval Districts and Commanders in Chief, Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic Fleets. Although the routing of merchant ships continued to be of the utmost importance, considerable opposition was experienced from merchant ship operators, Maritime Commission, etc., and long conferences wasted valuable time4 31.
6. Finally, on 18 November 1941, to administer the directives of WPSC-46, a "Convoy and Routing Section" (Op-38-O) under the Ship Movements Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, (then Admiral H. R. Stark) was organized and placed in effect with the immediate objective of assuming responsibility in the Western Atlantic area west of the dividing line of responsibility. Thus it can be said that "Convoy and Routing", gradually developed as "Ship Movements Division" since the summer of 1940, was finally brought into operation only 19 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor59.
E. C&R IS TRANSFERRED TO HEADQUARTERS, COMMANDER IN CHIEF U. S. FLEET
1. With the advent of war, C&R's duties immediately became closely involved with convoying as well as with the control of independent shipping. For convenience of presentation, therefore, this history will divide itself henceforth into
these two main activities, after the preliminary shifts of organization are outlined. The detailed story of the control of independents will be carried on in Chapter II, while that of convoys will be taken up and developed in Chapters III and IV.
2. On 15 December 1941 the basic plan for ship control, W.P.S.C. 46, was promulgated, as had been stated previously.31 59
3. As of 20 December 1941, by Presidential order, Admiral Ernest J. King was appointed Commander in Chief, United States Fleet (CominCh) with headquarters in the Navy Department, with the primary duty of coordinating control over U.S. Naval activities in all oceans as one area and effecting proper distribution of our naval power.1
4. In the meantime, C&R continued as Op-38-0 until January 26, 1942 when its designation was changed to "Convoy and Routing Division - Op-37". Rear Admiral (then Captain) M. K. Metcalf became Op-37, Division Head; Captain A.M.R. Allen, Op-37-1, Assistant Division Head and in charge of Routing and Merchant Plot (also called Merchant Ship Control); and Captain W. C. Wickham, Op-37-2, Convoy Section. At this time a personnel of 96 was divided as to 52 officers (of whom 35 were Reserves), 17 enlisted men and 27 civilian clerks. Rooms occupied in the Navy Department Building were 2601-2615 and 2602-2616, inclusive.201
5. As of 18 March 1942 (coincident with Admiral King's appointment as such) the duties of the Chief of Naval Operations were combined with the duties of CominCh, to facilitate the logistic support of all forces afloat.1
6. Effective 15 May 1942, by order of Admiral King (Serial 1194 of May 14) the "Convoy and Routing Division of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations" was transferred to the Headquarters of the Commander in Chief. A "Convoy and Routing Section" was thereupon established under the Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) to "have cognizance of all matters relating to the routing and other personnel or functions of the activity were made by this order. However, civilian personnel in C&R were subsequently replaced by naval personnel. The first CominCh directly under the Assistant Chief of Staff (Operations) F-3, who in turn was under the Deputy Chief of Staff F-01, the Chief of Staff F-00 and the Commander in Chief F-0.10
7. On 18 February 1943 C&R moved to room 3517 to 3536 inclusive thereby facilitating liaison with F-3. Here they stayed until after VE Day, with one or two internal readjustments of space.201
1. On 20 May 1943 the TENTH FLEET (Anti-Submarine Warfare) - Admiral King, Commander - was established "to exercise unity of control over U.S. anti-submarine operations in that part of the Atlantic Ocean under U. S. strategic control" (CominCh serial 02561 of 29 July 1943). In addition to general anti-submarine duties and the protection of allied shipping in the Eastern, Gulf and Caribbean Sea Frontiers, the TENTH Fleet was assigned tha task of exercising control of convoys and shipping that are U. S. responsibilities. The Convoy and Routing Section was incorporated into the Staff Organization of the TENTH Fleet, without any change in its world-wide activities as to routing, division and reporting of shipping or methods of communication.11
F. C&R IS TRANSFERRED TO TENTH FLEET.
2. On 29 June, 1943, this incorporation of C&R was completed, whereupon it became "TENTH FLEET (C&R)" short title FX-37, although it remained a part of Headquarters, CominCh. Rear Admiral Francis S. Low, U.S.N., was named Chief of Staff, TENTH Fleet and Assistant Chief of Staff (Anti-Submarine), U. S. Fleet (FX-01). On 2 January 1945 he was relieved by Rear Admiral A. R. McCann, U.S.N. (see Appendix P).
1. Director (FX-37).
G. GENERAL DUTIES OF KEY OFFICERS OF C&R.
As Director of Convoy and Routing, Rear Admiral Martin K. Metcalf, U.S.N. (Retired), has the responsibility of general direction of all its duties. He first joined the Ship Movements Division (Op-38) on 10 January 1941 and became Head of Convoy and Routing Division (Op-37) on 26 January 1942. He was promoted from Captain to Rear Admiral on 21 March 1942, and as of 14 May 1942 was detached from duty in Naval Operations and reported to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet for duty on his staff, thereby becoming F-37.201
2. Assistant Director (FX-371).
The Assistant Director was first Captain Archer M. R. Allen, U.S.N., assuming duties of Op-37-1 on 26 January 1942. He was relieved to assume duty as Shipping Control Officer Forward Area (Pacific) on 25 March 1944, when Captain Williams C. Wickham, U.S.N., took over. On 10 May 1944, Captain Wickham was detached for hospitalization and was relieved by Captain Robert A. Dyer, U.S.N., who retained the position through VE Day. The duties of Assistant Director were specified in the Organization Chart of 18 September 1943 as follows:
- Directs the exercise of merchant ship control over independently routed vessels in the area of U.S. responsibility.
- Establishes general routing policy for U.S. area of responsibility.
- Administers world-wide reporting system.
- Maintains liaison with the British Admiralty Delegation (B.A.D.) for purpose of coordinating the routing, reporting and diverting activities.
- Maintains liaison with Op-39 (Naval Transportation Service), Op-16 (Naval Intelligence) and the State Department for purpose of administering personnel engaged in merchant ship control activities.
- Maintains liaison with Op-13 (Central Division) and Op-16-FT (Intelligence) regarding control of neutral merchant vessels.
- Maintains liaison with Op-16-B-5 (Intelligence) to investigate and recommend disciplinary action in cases involving infraction of Naval orders by Masters, officers and men of merchant marine.
On 25 March 1944 when Captain Wickham relieved Captain Allen the control of convoys were added to (a) above, until Captain Wickham was detached.
On 10 May 1944 when Captain Dyer relieved Captain Wickham the duties of the Assistant Director were changed to the following which were in effect through VE Day:
- Director of subsidiary sections.
- Merchant Ship Control and general Routing Policy for independently routed merchant ships and convoys in area of U.S. responsibility
- Liaison with British Admiralty Delegation and Naval Member Canadian Staff for coordination of routing, reporting, diverting and convoying operation.
- Liaison with other Government agencies and with Bureaus and Offices of the Navy Department in matters concerning convoy, routing and control. 102 201 (see Appendix Q).
3. Convoy Administration or Control (FX-372).
Captain W. C. Wickham, U.S.N., had charge of convoy administration, from 26 January 1942 (Op-37-2) until 10 May 1944, when he was relieved by Commander H. J. Verhoye, U.S.N., who retained the duty through VE Day.
The duties of Convoy Administrator were outlined on 18 September 1943 as follows:On 20 November 1944 the duties of Convoy Control (changed from Administration) were listed as follows:
- Directs the operation of convoys in the area of U.S. responsibility.
- Maintains liaison with the British Admiralty Delegation for purpose of coordinating convoy operations.
- Maintains liaison with Army, W.S.A. and other governmental agencies regarding inclusion of ships in ocean convoys under U.S. control.4. Communications (FX-375).
- General supervision of:
- Convoy Routes and Schedules.
- Convoy Organization, including assignment of Commodores for transatlantic convoys under U.S. control.
- Hospital Ship Routes.
- Safe Conduct Routes.
- Liaison with Combat Intelligence, Atlantic (F-21) for current information on enemy activity.201 (see Appendix Q).
Commander G. P. Markoff, U.S.N.R., first reported for duty with Ship Movements Division on 6 April 1941 and has remained Communication Officer of Convoy and Routing activities to date.201 (see Chapter V).
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