The first U.S. convoy leaves Hampton Roads, Va. to cross the North Atlantic after entering World War I on May 24, 1917. A total of 18,653 ships are escorted as they transport vast quantities of freight to the armies in France and the civilian population of the Allies, as well as more than 2 million troops.
During the 18 months of war, while American vessels escort convoys through the war zone, 183 attacks are made by submarines, 24 submarines are damaged and two are destroyed.
Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, USN, commanded the Cruiser and Transport Force, consisting of forty-five commissioned ships, to help safeguard the transportation of American service personnel. The troopships departed in groups, about two hours apart, and sailed at different speeds. Each group was met while steaming off Europe and given additional escort into port from Queenstown, Ireland, destroyers. Though convoys gathered targets together, as the critics of the convoy system stated, the system proved to be a deterrent.