USS Allen (Destroyer No. 66) escorts troop transport Leviathan by Burnell Poole.
As 1917 began,
the administration of President Woodrow Wilson was focused on building a navy with which it could dictate the post-war peace, with no expectation of being drawn into the war in Europe.
On 1 February, however, stymied in the land war, Germany instituted a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. The impact was immediate: with 40 U-boats lying off the western approaches to Great Britain, Germany sank more than 1 million gross tons of shipping in February and March, threatening Britain with imminent food shortages.
On 6 April. the United States responded by declaring war on Germany. Divisions of 1,000-tonners and flivvers were soon ordered to Queenstown, Ireland. The first to arrive1 were:
- Conyngham, Davis, McDougal, Porter, Wadsworth (flagship of Division Eight Commander J.K. Taussig) and Wainwright on 4 May.
- Cassin, Ericsson, Jacob Jones, Rowan, Tucker and Winslow on 17 May.
- Benham, Cummings, Cushing, Nicholson, O’Brien and Sampson on 24 May.
- Flivvers Drayton, Jenkins, Patterson, Paulding, Trippe and Warrington on 1 June.
Patrols from Queenstown were not initially successful in halting merchant shipping losses. The adoption of convoys, first for inbound traffic and later for all, however, proved effective.
- One destroyer was damaged by torpedo: Cassin on 15 October 1917 by U-61 20 miles off Mine Head on Ireland’s southeast coast.
- One destroyer was sunk: Jacob Jones on 6 December 1917 by U-53 off England’s Isles of Scilly.
- In return, one U-boat surrendered and was sunk: U-58 on 17 November 1917 by Fanning and Nicholson.
420-tonners, too, were ordered to Europe from the China station. Steaming by way of the Suez Canal, Bainbridge, Barry, Chauncey, Dale and Decatur arrived at Gibraltar on 20 October 1917 to commence patrol and convoy escort duty.
- In darkness on 19 November 1917, the British merchantman SS Rose rammed Chauncey, which sank about 110 miles west of Gibraltar.