Section 1. AT SEA

3101. The Armed Guard watch shall be set at least one half hour prior to getting under way. The lookouts shall be stationed at the guns in accordance with instructions in paragraph 3202.

3102. Condition 1 shall be set each day during morning and evening twilight. The Armed Guard shall go to their battle stations one-half hour before dawn and again one-half hour before sunset and remain until full daylight or dark. It is essential that this be done, as morning and evening twilight are the "zero hours" of the seaman for it is during these periods that most submarine attacks occur. An entry shall be made in the Armed Guard Log showing time of setting and securing Condition 1, both morning and evening, each day while at sea.

3103. The personnel off watch shall be assembled at quarters, weather conditions permitting, when entering or leaving ports where Allied naval or merchant ships are passed within a reasonable distance. This does not apply when entering or leaving ports of neutral nations.


3104. The following daily routine is suggested while at sea:

  1. Cleaning of battery, gun stations, Armed Guard crew quarters and storerooms.


  1. Quarters for muster and inspections of men and quarters.
  2. Setting-up exercises.
  3. Short "General Quarters" drill for Armed Guards and merchant personnel assigned to battle stations including drill at charging stations, casualty drill, sight setting, and such pointing and loading drills as are practicable; testing everything. During gun pointing drills, full utilization should be made of the check sights, using other vessels and surface or air escorts as targets. Inspection should be made of the gun before holding PTS drill to ensure gun is not loaded, in accordance with instructions contained in paragraph 1205 of Ordnance and Gunnery Instructions for Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships. All members of the Armed Guard should be trained to take over the pointer and trainer stations in case of necessity. Merchant seamen should also be trained for this purpose. The merchant personnel should be intensively drilled with the view of securing them after about 15 minutes instructions at their stations. The standard signals for submarine or air attack should be used for this drill.

    Casualty drill should consist of simulated actual battle conditions. The wounded men should be removed, replaced by other members of the gun crew and merchant crew, and given preliminary first aid.

    Remember your time for drilling is limited. The safety of the ship and all on board may depend on your readiness for action. Gun lookout watches must not be relaxed during quarters and drills.

  4. Test all circuits, communications, and fresh water cooling systems for antiaircraft machine guns.
  5. Instruction covering pistols and machine guns, if furnished. Special caution must be observed in cleaning and handling the pistol.
  6. Talks to crew on antisubmarine tactics, most probable conditions of sighting submarine or torpedo; vital importance of bright lookout; importance of keeping cool, no matter what happens; necessity of fighting the guns so long as a single man remains and as long as the ship floats and gunfire is possible.
  7. Armed Guard officer and petty officers instruct personnel in seamanship and on other subjects for advancement in rating.


  1. A second short "General Quarters" drill sometime before dark.
  2. Hold frequent short antiaircraft drills on recognition, tactics of enemy planes, rapidity of open fire, and fire control.
  3. Instruct Armed Guard in first aid, with emphasis on treatment of burns, shock, and resuscitation.
  4. Make daily inspection of magazines and ready ammunition boxes for maximum and minimum temperatures and daily inspection of samples. Record temperatures and conditions of ammunition in log.

3105. In addition to the foregoing:

  1. For loading crews and ammunition parties utilizing the members of the ship's company detailed by the master. (See paragraph 5803.)
  2. Instruct merchant personnel in their battle stations.
  3. Hold target practice in accordance with Ordnance and Gunnery Instructions, when practicable.
  4. Hold semaphore and signal drills.
  5. Inspect ready ammunition and antiaircraft fuse settings daily just prior to dawn.
  6. Where aircraft attack is possible test daily at dawn all machine guns by firing very short bursts. Indicate by signal to other ships when "testing".
  7. Make positive tests of all firing circuits daily at dawn and dusk.
  8. Inspect all gun crews and lookouts frequently.
  9. Read approximately 18 paragraphs from Articles for the Government of the United States Navy -- 1930, during quarters on Saturday morning with the view of complying with Navy Regulations regarding the reading of the Articles.

3106. The Armed Guard Log. A daily record of activities on board the merchant vessel shall be kept in a manner similar to the rough log maintained on board a United States man-of-war. The Watch Officer's Guide is an excellent reference with regard to keeping the log. Information required for various reports may be extracted from the Armed Guard log. A smooth copy of the Armed Guard log shall be forwarded to the Navy Department, Office of Naval Records and Library, Washington, D. C. via the port director, upon completion of


the voyage. The correct name and gross tonnage of the vessel shall be indicated in the log. Both the rough and the smooth log shall be classified as confidential. The rough log shall be retained on board the vessel and shall be available for inspection by naval authorities.

3107. Commanding officers' inspections. Commanding officers of Armed Guard units should hold regular daily and weekly inspections of personnel, material and quarters.

  1. Daily inspections should consist of inspection of magazines, guns, material, and other equipment coming under the cognizance of the commanding officer. Cleanliness of Armed Guard crew quarters should be noted in this inspection. A second inspection should be made daily, immediately after securing from evening Condition One, to ensure that all appropriate Armed Guard equipment has been secured for the night.
  2. Weekly inspection should consist of inspection of personnel, crew quarters, magazines, storerooms, messrooms, and equipment, with emphasis on cleanliness and ship shape conditions. This inspection should be carried out in a manner similar to the Captain's inspection on board a Naval vessel. An entry should be made in the Armed Guard log when weekly inspection is held, along with any pertinent remarks.
  3. Additional inspections should be made upon leaving port, and upon encountering rough weather, to insure that all Armed Guard equipment, magazines, storerooms, and quarters have been secured for sea.

3108. Caution -- The Armed Guard commander should caution his men not to sleep or rest on hatch covers at any time. When a torpedo explodes in a hold, the force of the explosion is partially vented by blowing off the hatch covers, tarpaulins, and fastenings upward into the air. There have been a number of cases of seamen being killed in this manner.

3109. All magazine ventilators of the mushroom or cowl type must be secured for sea and made watertight upon encountering rough weather. In some cases it is necessary to unship the ventilator, insert a wood plug and make watertight by lashing a canvas boot over the end of the vent pipe. The rubber or


hemp gasket in mushroom ventilator covers must be free of paint and in condition to be secured watertight.

3110. Magazine hatches, doors, and ammunition hoist covers must be dogged tight to prevent entrance of water when seas sweep over the decks. It is a common occurrence for magazines to be flooded due to failure to properly secure all openings during rough weather. This especially applies to the magazines in the forward end of the ship. Flooding of magazines indicates poor seamanship on the part of the Armed Guard personnel.

3111. Ammunition should be secured in magazines to prevent shifting. It may be necessary to shore up and to tom down the ammunition during rough seas and heavy rolling of the vessel. Stacks of shells, cartridge cases, shell boxes, and powder containers should be stowed as low as possible, leveled off and properly secured to prevent damage.

3112. The Armed Guard commander shall instruct his crew that each man shall carry his life jacket with him at all times whether eating, sleeping, or during drills and shall wear it while on watch or in action. When general quarters is sounded there is no time to locate a life jacket.


Section 2. LOOKOUTS

3201. It must be remembered that it is of little use to arm a ship unless a bright lookout is kept. The safety of the ship depends fully as much upon a proper lookout as it does upon protection afforded by the guns.

  1. Impress all hands that if lookouts are alert and see a submarine in time to permit report, maneuver, and gunfire, before the torpedo is fired, there is small chance that the attack will succeed.
  2. Lookouts must be assigned a definite arc and confine themselves exclusively to watching this arc. Relaxation of vigilance must not be tolerated. Constant supervision of lookouts is essential.
  3. Lookouts should never stand a longer watch than 2 hours for submarines and 1 hour for aircraft.
  4. In general a submarine may either be sighted before she submerges, when she may be seen at considerable distance, or after she submerges, in which case her periscope only will be


    visible, and which will probably never be seen at a distance greater than 4,000 yards. It is imperative, therefore, that the lookouts should be cautioned to look for a periscope or torpedo near the ship inside of 2,000 yards.

  1. Submarines may make many attacks on the surface at night.

3202. The lookout watches stood by the Armed Guard crews shall be stood at the guns, whether sailing independently or in convoy.

  1. At each gun of 3-inch or larger two men will be on watch day and night.
  2. When the Armed Guard crew is four men or less, one man at each gun.
  3. There will be no relaxation of lookout watches regardless of the presence of escorts. Each ship must maintain the required lookout watches at all times, including when traveling in convoy. Armed Guard lookout watches will be stood at the guns, as required above, so that the guns may be brought into action immediately upon sighting the enemy. The stationing of stand-bys, who are not required to be on the alert, at the guns, while lookouts are stationed other than at the guns, is not approved. The stand-bys shall alternate with the lookouts so as to divide the lookout watches as equally as possible among the men available in the watch section. If rough weather makes exposed gun positions dangerous to personnel, the lookouts should be shifted to a place of greater safety.
  4. All Armed Guard lookouts should be instructed and trained so that the two men on lookout duty at each gun of 3-inch or larger will be able to load the gun, set sights, point and train, and open fire in the general direction of the attack without delay while the balance of the crew are reporting to action stations.
  5. In order to make for a more equal distribution of watch duties, Armed Guard watches should be dogged once a week during the evening watch on Saturday. This would make two watches of the 1600 to 2000 watch, i.e., 1600 to 1800, 1800 to 2000.
  6. In areas where aircraft attack is possible, one man shall be stationed at each antiaircraft gun during daylight. This watch should be 50 percent Armed Guard and 50 percent ship's crew, on vessels carrying .50 caliber or 20 mm antiaircraft guns.


  1. Lookouts shall be assigned sectors. If two men are on watch, one port, the other starboard. If four men on watch, one shall be assigned to each of the four quadrants. Lookouts must confine themselves to their own sector.
  2. All lookouts should be provided with binoculars.
  3. Lookouts should be selected with due regard to keenness of vision at night. It should be noted that men of equal vision in daylight do not by any means make equally good lookouts at night. So called "Night Blindness" is much more common than generally supposed and its presence can only be detected by actual test under conditions of darkness and twilight.
  4. Lookouts should be at their station 15 minutes before taking over so that their eyes may become accustomed to darkness.
  5. There should be no noise or talk on the bridge or on deck which might interfere with the lookout's hearing. He must listen as well as look. At night, the lookouts should be instructed to listen for sounds of Diesel motors such as produced by a submarine operating on the surface or charging batteries.
  6. If there is moonlight, lookouts should be particularly vigilant on the side of the ship away from the moon as the submarine would probably attack from that side to get a silhouetted target.
  7. Subs can attack in very bad weather and also can operate near ice packs. Do not for a minute relax your vigilance.

3203. The function of an Armed Guard crew is to sink the submarine or force it to submerge without attacking. The Armed Guard officer must dispose lookouts under the different conditions, considering the number of men available, so that the battery may be quickly and effectively brought into action under all conditions.

3204. All lookout watches required on the bridge, in the crow's nest, at the bow, or at the stern, for navigational or other purposes, will be stood by merchant seamen.

3205. The Armed Guard officer shall instruct the lookouts in their duties. This instruction shall include method of reporting object sighted, stating relative bearing and extremely brief description such as: torpedo, periscope, submarine, ship, etc. Lookouts should be shown pictures and silhouettes of


periscopes with and without feathered wake, of conning towers, and of submarines in awash condition.

3206. In the interests of uniformity of training and procedure aboard ship, lookouts should be instructed to use the usual Navy point system of relative bearings, giving the position angle in degrees, when reporting aircraft sighted. Example: "Aircraft sighted, 2 points on port bow, elevation 20°."

3207. The general alarm bell circuit is extended to the crow's nest and to the forward and aft gun stations. The lookouts at these stations, either Armed Guard or merchant personnel, should be instructed to ring the authorized signal on the general alarm bell system when sighting a torpedo, periscope, submarine or unidentified aircraft so that all hands may be aroused and proceed to their battle stations. The lookouts must be instructed in the proper signals to be sounded on the general alarm circuit. It is essential that the proper signal be sounded without delay to permit personnel to leave their sleeping quarters.


Section 3. ACTION

3301. It is extremely important that the battery and gun crews be kept in instant readiness for action; a few seconds gained in opening fire may save a ship.

3302. Men detailed to a gun crew must remain in the vicinity of their gun, taking it as easy as possible. When off duty, rest. While on duty vigilance is required. Men off watch should sleep by their guns, weather permitting; otherwise in shelter near the gun.

3303. Whenever anything resembling a submarine is sighted it is extremely important that the course of the ship be changed instantly in compliance with doctrine. Change of course upsets all the submarine's arrangements for firing a torpedo, and gives the ship time, which is very important. In cases where the lookout sights something that is not instantly seen from the bridge, the same rule should hold -- change course at once and investigate afterwards.

3304. If a gun crew sights a submarine, fire should be opened on it at once without waiting for orders.


3305. Rules for Change of Course.

Case 1 -- Submarine more than 60° bearing either bow, any range -- turn away using gunfire.

Case 2 -- Bearing less than 60° on bow, range over 1000 yards, no torpedo in evidence, turn away using gunfire.

Case 3 -- Bearing less than 60° on bow, range less than 1,000 yards, turn toward, using any guns that bear, attempt ramming.

Case 4 -- Under all conditions when torpedo track in sight take quick avoiding action to bring the ship parallel to the track of the torpedo.

Case 5 -- In case ship is torpedoed, turn away, and use stern guns.

These rules for changing course do not apply in convoy.

3306. Every man not actually serving the guns should keep the sharpest possible lookout for other submarines. If one of the guns does not bear on the submarine in sight, keep it manned and ready to open fire on a second submarine, if sighted.

3307. Fire should be opened in the general direction of the attack to keep submarine submerged while the vessel is maneuvering to avoid the torpedo attack. Every effort should be made to destroy the periscope by surface-gun and machine-gun fire. Short shots are preferable in that the shots may result in hits and the splashes will disconcert the enemy; however, not time should be wasted in getting on target.

3308. Sirens and howlers are designed for use aboard ship as "Watertight Doors" or "Collision Quarters" alarm signals, and should not be used as general alarm or "Cease Firing" signals. Armed Guard officers should not deviate from this standard practice. In the event of failure of battle phone circuits during action, the Armed Guard officer should use his police whistle to attract attention in cases such as when ordering "Cease Firing".

Tips on Submarines

3309. Under conditions of clear weather and smooth sea:

  1. A submarine on the surface is visible on the horizon.


  1. A submarine that is "awash" is visible at distances up to 5 miles.
  2. A submerged submarine with periscope showing is visible at distances up to 2 miles.
  3. A torpedo wake may be picked up at a distance of 1 mile when the light is favorable.

3310. Submarines in the "awash" condition may often be mistaken for a small fishing craft.

3311. Submarines intending to submerge and attack with torpedoes when in somewhat open water, with only occasional vessels passing, will usually lie in the "awash" condition in order to increase the range of vision while maintaining readiness for quick submergence. In areas patrolled by aircraft, submarines will usually remain below the surface and utilize listening equipment to locate merchantmen. They will also expose their periscopes for a few seconds at about half-hour intervals to check listening devices.

3312. Submarine motor sound -- Before several submarine attacks at night, the lookout reported sounds of a Diesel motor. In one instance, the master paid no attention to this report. If motor sounds are heard by lookouts, there is every likelihood that a surfaced submarine is maneuvering about the ship in order to take up a forward position for a torpedo attack. The master of a ship has some opportunity to maneuver in such a way as to keep stern to the motor-noise and to force a stern chase. If the submarine should be sighted in such maneuvering, and if the gun crew of the ship can worry the submarine enough to force it under, the submarine no longer holds the advantage, since its speed is halved. If moonlight produces a path down which the escaping ship can move, the submarine cannot surface astern without offering a good target for the gun crew.

3313. After submarine attack, an especially sharp lookout by the crow's nest and other lookouts must be kept as the submarine may attempt to work in position for another attack.

3314. There shall be no surrender and no abandoning ship so long as the guns can be fought. In case of casualty to members of the gun crew the remaining men shall continue to serve the gun. The Navy Department considers that so long as there remains a chance to save the ship the Armed Guard


should remain thereon and take every opportunity that may present itself to destroy the submarine. It is suggested that in as much as it is probable that before broaching the submarine will first circle with only her periscope exposed in order to assure herself that that the ship has been abandoned, thus all men at the guns should lie down or otherwise conceal themselves and wait until the submarine has fully emerged and, if possible, until it is seen that its conning tower has been opened. Then rapid fire should be opened by all guns that bear.

3315. When a vessel is torpedoed or mined, the damage must be ascertained at once and necessary measures taken without delay to keep her afloat. The Armed Guard commander should have a general knowledge of damage control procedure, which knowledge may prove to be of great value in an emergency.

3316. Enemy Surface Raiders -- Enemy raiders operating on trade routes may be warships or armed merchant vessels. Instructions as to tactics, if confronted by such craft, are found in the publications that the master and Armed Guard commander receive. Again, it is the Armed Guard commander's absolute duty to make prearrangements with the master as to the contingency.

3317. Publications received by the master at the convoy conference, and those you receive as Armed Guard commanding officer, should be consulted regarding tactics in case of various types of attack and conditions. It is vital that you work out plans with the master for every type of situation.

3318. Tactics in case of submarine attack by gunfire are found in publications that are issued to you or to the master of the vessel. Make certain that both you and the master are completely familiar with them.

3319. The Armed Guard officer, when attending convoy conferences, should request the latest information regarding the enemy's tactics which may be expected during the course of the prospective passage.

3320. Armed Guard officers shall submit a list of all Armed Guard and communications liaison personnel with their voyage reports covering action with the enemy. This list should indicate those killed, wounded, missing, or survivors. It is imperative that the above be complied with in order to reduce the possibility of error in personnel records.


Section 4. AIR ATTACKS

3401. Rapid identification of enemy aircraft is necessary so that an enemy may be quickly engaged. A general rule is to open fire on any unidentified plane flying directly toward the ship at a range less than 1,500 yards. This rule does not apply to the Western hemisphere.

3402. For effective antiaircraft defense the gunners on machine guns or gun captains on larger guns are authorized to open fire immediately without orders from the bridge:

  1. Upon aircraft definitely identified as enemy.
  2. Upon unidentified aircraft flying directly toward the ship at a range of 1,500 yards when within 1,200 miles of enemy shore-based aircraft.

3403. The Armed Guard commanders should be familiar with the information in Wartime Instructions for Merchant Ships regarding opening fire against aircraft in certain specific areas. This information is subject to change depending upon local conditions and therefore cannot be included in this book.

3404. Instances have been reported in which shipmasters have been alarmed by patrol planes which flew low over merchant ships. It is probable that such action may be due to failure of the ship to break out identification signals promptly, and fly same in such fashion that they may be seen and understood by the planes. It is the duty of protecting aircraft to attack enemy ships. Any merchant vessel which is slow in identifying itself risks the danger of bombing and machine gun attacks from such aircraft.

3405. Aircraft Escorts -- Attention of all shipmasters is directed to the great importance of maintaining a sharp lookout for signals from any airplanes in the vicinity of the ship.

3406. In a recent instance, the pilot of an escort plane saw a torpedo break water at a distance of over a mile from a convoy. He raced over the wake of the torpedo toward the leading ship, rocking his wings violently and gunning his engine in an effort to attract the attention of the watch officer to the torpedo -- which was on the surface and splashing along like a high-speed motor boat. The pilot was unsuccessful in his attempt to warn the watch officer, and the ship was struck by the torpedo.


3407. Diving and zooming, rocking the wings, and "gunning" the engine are standard methods used by pilots of aircraft to communicate warnings. Furthermore, if the aircraft is able to indicate the direction of a torpedo (as in the above instance) there is always the chance that appropriate avoiding action may be taken in time.

3408. Even if you are in a well-escorted convoy maintain your watches just as if you were alone. The asdic device and plane detection system do not always foresee the danger in time to warn the merchant ships. This is especially true of air attacks. Always keep the required watch standing by your antiaircraft guns when in area subject to air attacks.

3409. In the event of an air raid, or an air raid alert, be certain that all antiaircraft guns are properly manned. On some ships it may be advisable to have the dual purpose broadside guns operate independently under the control of the gun captain after the order to open fire has been given by the Armed Guard commander. AA machine gun fire should be controlled by the Armed Guard commander. Bear in mind that the greatest faults in machine gun fire control are opening fire too soon and expending available ammunition before the target is within range, and failure to lead the target sufficiently to make hits.

3410. The German scout bombers will patrol in almost any kind of weather, even in foggy weather and light snow squalls. It is the practice of the bombing planes to attract attention, thus diverting attention from low flying torpedo planes which generally fly directly toward the ship at low altitude and drop their torpedoes from a considerable distance. The fire of the broadside and 3-inch AA guns should be used to lay a barrage as protection against the torpedo planes. Fire of machine guns should be withheld until the plane approaches within effective range.

3411. The German scout patrol plane is usually a two-motored, single tail, long fuselage Dornier. It usually flies slowly around the convoy just off of the water. For this reason it is sometimes mistaken for a friendly plane. Do not hesitate to open fire if it approaches within 1,500 yards of your ship.

3412. After sighting a German patrol plane you may expect either an air, surface, or sub attack within a few hours. Be prepared for it.


3413. When expecting an air attack have your men cover an assigned area. Do not let all your men face the plane even when you are firing at it unless it is a clear day and you know there are no other planes in the vicinity.

3414. If attacked at night by planes keep your men searching the sky in all directions and do not let them just follow the plane caught in the searchlights. It is a common practice for one plane to draw the searchlights and fire while another drops the bombs. The planes come from different directions and criss-cross above the ships. Enemy planes have flown in low with running lights burning in hopes they would be mistaken for a friendly plane.

3415. The days with low clouds with occasional breaks are the type that the bombers like best. Keep extra alert on such days and be sure someone is always looking for them

3416. If ships are without escorts and an enemy plane is sighted then open fire with several bursts from all guns although plane is out of range. This has been observed to cause pilot to bank away from ship that opens fire and center his attention on non-firing ships. "Keep your eyes on the nose of the plane" and each time it points in the direction of your ship open fire with several bursts again. Try to unnerve the pilot by quantity of fire if he comes within bombing range so his aim will be inaccurate.

3417. If more than one 20 mm gun is firing on any one plane care should be exercised to fire alternately to prevent the guns from running out of ammunition necessitating a change of magazines at a critical moment. Machine gun magazines and feed boxes should be refilled immediately upon discharge during action and returned to the ready service boxes.

3418. When enemy planes dive or drop bombs they usually open fire with machine guns. Do not expose your men unnecessarily.

3419. Be sure your men wear steel helmets, especially where large antiaircraft batteries are firing.

3420. Acquaint your gun crew and ship's crew with signals used during convoy so they may constantly be on the alert and immediately give proper alarm.

3421. Keep deck of antiaircraft gun platforms and larger guns free of ice and snow at all times.


3422. Attention is directed to antiaircraft gun fire control contained in the current Ordnance and Gunnery Instructions for Naval Armed Guards on Merchant Ships.

3423. The authorized allowance of ready service boxes on armed merchant vessels has proved sufficient and should not be exceeded. The stowage of ammunition in ready service boxes in excess of the authorized allowance is not approved. In case of fire aboard ship, such excess ammunition would prove dangerous and extremely embarrassing.

3424. The Armed Guard officer should train the merchant seamen in the passing of ammunition from the various magazines to the guns so that they will be prepared to perform this duty in action.

3425. Ready service boxes for eight 20 mm magazines are provided at each gun. The additional four 20 mm magazines allowed per gun shall be stowed in the magazines and/or clipping rooms. The merchant crew should be trained by the Armed Guard officer to load the 20 mm magazines and to pass them to the guns as needed.

3426. Attention is directed to the fact that it is possible to pass magazines from the 20 mm guns on the unengaged side of the ship in order to continue firing in case of delays. The four extra 20 mm magazines per gun are provided so as to allow for magazines in transit from the clipping rooms to the guns; therefore, it is considered unnecessary to provide for service stowage for more than eight 20 mm magazines per gun.

3427. In prolonged action emergency clipping rooms should be set up for loading the 20 mm magazines. Such locations should be in sheltered passageways or other protected spaces as near as possible to each group of guns.

3428. Armed Guard officers with battle experience have realized the need for planning along the above lines, and have had impressed upon them forcibly the urgent need for properly training the merchant crew in loading 20 mm magazines, passing ammunition from the magazines to the guns, and in returning empty 20 mm magazines to the clipping rooms or magazines for reloading. Ammunition party drills should be conducted regularly, with Navy personnel instructing the


merchant crew members in all phases of ammunition handling so as to be ready for action.


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Transcribed and formatted by Rick Pitz for the HyperWar Foundation
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