Chapter VI

1. As an outgrowth of the Ship Movements Division of the Chief of Naval Operations in World War I, the Convoy and Routing Section gradually emerged into active operation pursuant to the basic war plan WPSC-46 nineteen days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After six months under the Chief of Naval Operations this section was transferred to the Operations Division of Headquarters of the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet. Just over a year later, on 20 May 1943, it was attached to Headquarters of the newly created TENTH Fleet (Anti-Submarine Warfare), of which Admiral Ernest J. King, USN, was also Commander, and there remained until after VE Day when it reverted to CominCh Operations. Rear Admiral Martin K. Metcalf, USN (Retired), served as Director of Convoy and Routing from 26 January 1942 until after the end of the war in Europe.

2. The principal function of C&R - to provide for the safety of movements of merchant vessels and troop transports in time of war - was internally divided into two parts, Independents and Convoys. By far the greater portion of it's activity was directed to Atlantic waters against German submarines, but it also had a limited interest in the Pacific.

3. C&R's control of ship and convoy movements consisted primarily of:

  1. the plotting, reporting, evasive diversion and in many cases routing in the U.S. areas of responsibility outside of the Sea Frontiers
  2. the recording of movements of all merchantmen of the United Nations, consisting of close to 10,000 ocean-going vessels by VE Day
  3. the complex scheduling and detailed recording of some 8,680 U.S. convoys in the Atlantic, including the coastal system from Halifax to Rio de Janeiro
  4. the original preparation and maintenance of certain registered publications specifying exact methods of control, procedure, routing, etc., such as MER-1, GIRO, MACRI and MPRI
  5. the intermittent release from convoy of certain types of shipping in certain areas to maintain the most efficient worldwide flow of merchant vessels and troop transports consistent with escorts available and enemy tactics.
To perform this multitude of intricate duties C&R was assigned a complement averaging about 55 officers and 45 enlisted personnel, including Waves.

4. In the early months of 1942 the U/Boats made a vicious, widespread attack upon our coastal areas, sinking 205 merchantmen before any convoy defense could be set up in the middle of May. Before convoys could be extended into southern coastal areas early in July the casualty list had grown to 325 ships sunk. But by September 1942 a complete convoy network was in operation throughout the danger area, and with effective anti-submarine measures casualties dropped off sharply, never again to reach critical proportions.

5. C&R first assumed full responsibility for the policy of routing, reporting and evasive diversion in U.S. areas on 1 July 1942. The planning and subsequent scheduling of the coastal convoy system was largely carried out by C&R in conjunction with CominCh, CinClant and the Commanders of the Sea Frontiers, including Commander, Fourth Fleet. Sailings were timed to make best connections with the transoceanic convoys to and from U.K. and the Mediterranean, and abroad with British convoys between U.K., the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.


6. While U.S. warships participated in the escorting of the important North Atlantic Trade Convoys and troop convoys in 1942, when the shortage of escorts in the United Nations' naval pool was at its lowest ebb, complete handling of strictly U.S. convoys across the Atlantic was not begun on a large scale until after the successful invasion in North Africa in November 1942. The UG/GU system finally extended into the Mediterranean as far as Bizerte, and was followed in 1943 by other dry cargo, tanker and troop convoys, principally the UT/TU and CU/UC systems to U.K. and Continental ports. From the time of our entrance into the war until VE Day, the aggregate number of convoys, ships, escorts and casualties suffered (including escorts), for both ocean and coastal convoys, both ways, were as follows:

Summary of Atlantic Convoys in U.S. Areas of Responsibility, as Tabulated in History of C&R
  Casualties (Enemy Action)
  Convoys Ships Ships
Escorts Escorts
per Convoy
Sunk in
Sunk as
North Atlantic Trade Convoysa 609 30,330 50 4,200 6.9 242 84 29
U.S. Escorted Convoys:                
   1. To U.K.b 257 5,666 22 1,739 6.8 24 2 11
   2. To Mediterraneanc 268 12,001 45 2,294 8.5 9 5 13
Total Trans-Atlantic 1,134 47,997 33 8,233 7.3 275e 91 53
Total Coastal Convoysd 7,546 49,680 7 19,197 2.5 67 7 18
Grand Total 8,680 97,677 11 27,430 3.2 342f 98 71
(a) HX, ON, SC, ONS
(b) Principally CU/UC, UT/TU and AT/TA (but excluding independent AT sailings of "Monsters")
(c) Principally UGS/GUS, UGF/GUF and OT/TO (but excluding "Torch Operation")
(d) All regularly scheduled convoys between Halifax and ports on Atlantic Seaboard in Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and Brazilian ports to Rio de Janeiro, plus SG/GS; plus special or irregular convoys originating in Sea Frontiers (with exception of 1942, for which records not tabulated)
(e) A ratio of 1 ship sunk for every 174 ships in convoy.
(f) A ratio of 1 ship sunk for every 285 ships in convoy.

7. According to Army reports, of 4,453,061 U.S. troops embarked from U.S. for action in Europe between 7 December 1941 and VE Day, only 1,094, or 0.024% were lost at sea on outbound moves from all causes. Army troop losses from enemy action in U.S. convoys aggregated 406, of which 404 were lost in SG 19 (see Chapter IV, J), and 2 in Key West 123. In addition, 88 were lost in 3 sinkings in North Atlantic trade Convoys (SC 118, SC 121 and HX 224), and 20 in one sinking in XB 25. Troopers in UT, TCU, CU, UGS, UGF and AT convoys (excluding unescorted AT's) carried 2,455,329 troops to Europe (excluding the North African operation of November 1942) without the loss of a ship or even a man from enemy action. In addition, the independent "monsters" (such as the "Queens", "West Point", etc.) continued to shuttle back and forth at highest pitch of efficiency, carrying hundreds of thousands more, without a casualty by the enemy. This is not to mention the vast quantity of troops returned safely to U.S. shores.


8. When the United States entered the war in 1941 it is estimated that there were about 41,000,000 gross tons of ocean-going bottoms available to the United Nations. Of this nearly 12,000,000 gross tons (2,343 ships) were lost through enemy action during 1942, 1943 and 1944, plus the losses of 1945. About 70% of these losses were caused by submarines, and 59% as independents. The ebbing tide of net available shipping reached its lowest level about September 1943, but due to rapid new construction and efficient surface and air action against the enemy, the United Nations ended 1944 with a net of about 57,000,000 gross tons, a gain of 39% over 1941. Still, however, there was no substantial alleviation of the shipping shortage because of constantly expanding requirements for the invaded nations and the armed forces in both the Atlantic and Pacific.

MARTIN K. METCALF, Rear Admiral, U.S.N. (Retired)
Director of Convoy and Routing,
Headquarters of the Commander in Chief,
United States Fleet, and Commander
TENTH Fleet,
Navy Department, Washington, D.C.

May, 1945


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