Although President Wilson immediately issued a proclamation of neutrality when hostilities broke out in Europe, America's preeminent military service, the U.S. Navy, needed to go into action. There were countless Americans and American businesses that had been trapped in potentially hostile territory. Funds would be needed to extract them or provide some sort of lifeline for them. The solution was to send gold to key banking centers for ready access by U.S. diplomats and agents. The Navy was given the job of moving the gold. Here's the story of the month-long mission told in chronological form.
4 August President Woodrow Wilson issues a proclamation for a policy of neutrality in regard to the conflict in Europe.
5 August Senate and House of Representatives pass House Joint Resolution 314 for the relief, protection, and transportation of American citizens in Europe away from the emerging conflict. The resolution authorized the armed forces to deliver gold abroad, empowering the president “to employ officers, employees, and vessels of the United States and use any supplies of the naval or military establishments, and to charter and employ any vessels that may be required with an appropriation not to exceed $2.5 million.”
|Armored Cruiser USS Tennessee (Later USS Memphis)|
6 August At 10:20 p.m., the armored cruiser Tennessee (CA-10) sails from New York Harbor for Falmouth, England, carrying $3 million in gold from private banking interests and $1.5 million in gold coin from a Congressional appropriation to provide financial relief to Americans caught up in the outbreak of the Great War. Aboard Tennessee are a delegation of Army officers, additional Navy and Marine Corps officers, five bankers, representatives of the banking interests sending private funds, five representatives of the Treasury Department, a State Department diplomatic advisor, the national director of the American Red Cross and his secretary, and eight War Department clerks and a messenger. Under the auspices of the United States Relief Commission in Europe, the funds are intended to shore up the collapsed European credit system to enable the 125,000 Americans and their interests stranded abroad means to return home.
7 August Armored cruiser North Carolina (CA-12) and collier Vulcan (AC-5) sail from the Boston Navy Yard and rendezvous off Cape Cod with the armored cruiser Tennessee (CA-10) bound for Falmouth, England.
16 August Armored cruiser Tennessee (CA-10) arrives in Falmouth, England, at 7:45 p.m. The following day, $400,000 in gold is sent to London, with $300,000 consigned to U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Walter Hines Page with the other $100,000 provided to two U.S. Army officers for relief work.
18–19 August Armored cruiser North Carolina (CA-12) sails from Falmouth, England, and arrives in Cherbourg, France, the following day carrying $200,000 in gold and additional American officials for the U.S. Relief Commission in Europe.
20 August Armored cruiser Tennessee (CA-10) sails from Falmouth, England, for the Hook of Holland.
21 August Armored cruiser Tennessee (CA-10) arrives off the Hook of Holland at 4:40 p.m., three miles outside Dutch territorial waters, and is met by the Dutch cruiser Nord-Brabrant, which will accompany American officials and $200,000 in gold ashore to The Hague.
29 August Armored cruiser North Carolina (CA-12) sails from Falmouth, England, destined for Turkish waters carrying $150,000 in gold relief funds for American-owned institutions and businesses cut off from usual channels of commerce and banking because of the war.
Source: United States Navy and World War I: 1914–1922, by Frank A. Blazich Jr.