J.C.S. Files

The Commander in Chief, United States Fleet ( King ) to the Secretaries of the Combined Chiefs of Staff 1

Enclosure to C.C.S. 335

CominCh File FF1/L11–7

Serial: 001863

Subject: Allocation of CVE Type Ships to England.

Reference: (a) Report of Allied Anti-Submarine Survey Board, serial 0011, dated 27 August, 1943.2

There is great need for additional CVE type ships in anti-submarine operations. I am aware of the policy of the Royal Navy that basic and extensive alterations are necessary in CVEs, built in the United States, to U.S. naval specifications, before these ships can be operated by the British.
With reference to paragraph 16(e) of the enclosure, it is my view that further efforts should be made to advance the date of operational readiness of these ships rather than change allocations already agreed upon.
E. J. King



The Allied Anti-Submarine Survey Board to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet ( King )3

Serial: 0011

Subject: Employment of CVE’s in offensive action against U–Boats.

The Board has given consideration to the recent success in the Anti-Submarine War and the marked falling off in tonnage of shipping lost. It is felt that in certain quarters the past successful months and the present lull may tend to distract attention from the Battle of the Atlantic, as, in fact, has occurred during similar lulls in the past.
The number of submarines at sea today, considering the number potentially available, is very low. The cause of this temporary reduction [Page 1297] in enemy effort is not entirely certain, but the Board, cannot believe that this situation will continue indefinitely. It is possible that at least 150 submarines could suddenly appear in the Atlantic, which, regardless of A/S tactics which have proved so successful during the past few months, might well result in a serious increase in sinkings.
The Board has moreover given consideration to the change in tactics employed by U–Boats on passage to and from the Bay of Biscay ports. The recent success of the Bay air and surface offensive has caused the enemy to adopt a route close to the coast of Spain where effective air support can be afforded to his submarines and where the Bay A/S patrols are least effective. This has met with a considerable degree of success and a consequent falling off in the U–Boat sinkings. There is thus a gap in the offensive as a whole.
It is considered essential that this gap in the Bay offensive should be closed insofar as is possible and it would appear that with this change of the enemy tactics the only really satisfactory remedy is the immediate employment of CVE’s on offensive A/S operations in the Southern approaches to the Bay. A minimum of two CVE’s on station would be required for this purpose.
In addition to the above the Board wishes strongly to point out the other pressing A/S commitments for these valuable vessels. The proportion of independent shipping sunk during the war far exceeds that sunk while in convoy. There will never be sufficient escorts to protect all ships at sea but it is not generally appreciated that at any one time there are on the high seas a very large percentage of unescorted ships. The belief that unless the enemy returns to an offensive against the Atlantic lifeline he has lost the U–Boat war cannot be wholly subscribed to. Should the enemy be able and decide to operate a hundred submarines against independent shipping it will only be necessary for each submarine to sink One ship per month for our shipping losses to return to the unacceptable figure of previous months. It may well be that with defeat of “pack tactics” the enemy may resort to this dispersed form of U–Boat warfare providing he can find a means of breaking through the blockade of his bases.
In the opinion of the Board, apart from the Bay, the most pressing need is for a carrier in the Cape–Mozambique Channel area. A large percentage of sinkings in the past months have been in this area and in July alone 12 out of the 14 ships sunk were unescorted. The distances involved make the employment of a CVE the only practicable form of offensive against these U–Boats. (It is understood that the carrier (HMS Unicorn) originally assigned the Eastern Fleet is now employed on special operations.)
It is also possible that the Bay offensive may force the enemy to make greater use of the Northern approaches. It is possible to cover this area by air and, with the reinforcements recently sent to the Bay offensive, it may now be possible to detach a squadron from the Bay to strengthen an offensive against this Northern U–Boat route. Should, however, aircraft not be available for this route, it would appear that consideration must be given to the employment of a CVE when available.
During the visit of the Board to West Africa the Board was impressed with the lack of proper escorts in the area. Subsequently, although a comparatively large number of U–Boats operated in this area, the fact that there has been only one U–Boat sunk or even probably damaged bears out the opinion formed during the Board’s visit. The desirability of having an escort carrier in this command should therefore be kept in mind when planning future requirements.
It is also desired to stress the importance of the time factor. The disasters which overcame the U–Boat during the months of May, June and July undoubtedly resulted in a serious weakening of morale. If the most is to be made of this weakening it is essential in no way to relax the pressure but to continue to harass and sink U–Boats so that the crews have no chance of regaining their morale. Should they do so and regain the initiative the effect on Allied grand strategy might well be serious.
It is apparent from operations in the past 6 months that the use of Support Groups and particularly Support Groups with CVE’s had a very large share in the successful anti-U–Boat campaign. The CVE was originally developed for A/S operations; but it is fully appreciated that the increasingly rapid developments in Allied strategy have created urgent demands for this valuable type of craft for operations other than anti-U–Boat offensives. At the same time it appears that an unduly small proportion are now being employed on anti-submarine work.
CCS 203, dated 24 April, 19434 (Annex I to App C) sets up 31 CVE’s as the minimum for Atlantic A/S operations and although a large number of this type have been placed in commission, at the present moment only five (all U.S. Navy) are actually being used in the Atlantic for this purpose. Of the 13 British CVE’s in commission in the Atlantic none are at this moment being used for A/S work. Of the 6 that are operational 4 are allocated to CinC Mediterranean for special operations, one is refitting and one has serious defects. Of the remaining seven two are working up, 4 are undergoing modifications and one is assigned for deck landing training.
It is understood that seven CVE’s are allocated to the British for delivery in the next three months. However, extensive modifications required by the Admiralty, together with working-up time, etc., involves a delay of 24 to 30 weeks from the time of delivery to date of becoming operational. These modifications cover changes in gasoline installations, bomb stowage, and fighter direction.
At the present stage of the war these delays are not considered acceptable. By the employment of larger crews the U.S. Navy have proved that they can operate these ships most successfully without these very lengthy modifications. Failing some drastic cut in these delays it appears to the Board that it is worthy of consideration that as many of these next seven CVE’s as they are able to man and equip with planes be reallocated to the U.S. Navy so that an adequate proportion may be employed on A/S operations immediately. It is estimated that all seven could be operational by about the end of January, 1944 which would effect an over-all saving of at least three months. A subsequent readjustment of the British allocation should be made.
In the opinion of the Board no considerations should be allowed to stand in the way of getting the maximum number of these highly valuable ships into service in the shortest possible time.
In conclusion the Board wishes to stress that the present lull in the enemy’s Atlantic offensive in no way justifies any relaxation of the Allied Anti-Submarine effort. On the contrary, it is essential to maintain the maximum pressure that operational commitments permit in order to ensure that the enemy has no time to improve his present weakened state of morale.
The following recommendations are now made:
That a minimum of two British CVE’s on station be employed Now against the U–Boats passing in and out of the Southern approaches to the Bay.
That one British CVE be allocated to the Cape–Mozambique Channel area for offensive A/S operations.
That steps be taken to increase the offensive against the Northern passage and that failing adequate shore based aircraft consideration be given to the employment of a CVE when available.
That the inadequacy of A/S offensive measures in West Africa be kept in mind with a view to allocation of a CVE to this area in due course.
That failing a drastic reduction in delay in getting British CVE’s into operation, consideration be given to the U.S. Navy manning some or all of the next 7 CVE’s allocated to Britain with a view [Page 1300] to a higher proportion of these vessels being employed on A/S operations with the minimum delay.
J. M. Mansfield

Rear Admiral, R.N.
J. L. Kauffman

Rear Admiral, U.S.N.
  1. Circulated under cover of the following note by the Secretaries of the Combined Chiefs of Staff (C.C.S. 335), September 3, 1943: “The attached memorandum from the Commander in Chief U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations and the enclosure thereto are submitted to the Combined Chiefs of Staff for consideration.”
  2. Printed below.
  3. For the action taken on paragraph 16 of this report at the 118th Meeting of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, September 10, 1943, see ante, p. 1221.
  4. “Measures for Combatting the Submarine Menace”; not printed.