Within several months of the war’s beginning in Europe, the high seas became one of its dominant battlegrounds. Great Britain blockaded German seaports and Germany responded with frequent bombardment of English towns. By the end of 1914 belligerent nations engaged in all-out submarine warfare that generated concern within the Wilson Administration over the safe passage of American cargo and passenger vessels. By 1915 America’s trade with Britain and France in war supplies and food was quickly becoming the mainstay of the nation’s economy and such commerce relied on the safe, unencumbered passage of American merchant vessels across the Atlantic. Yet America’s supply of seaworthy vessels and those properly equipped to navigate waters with German-laid mines was woefully inadequate to meet commercial demand. In early 1916, well before the U.S. declared war on Germany, the United States Shipping Board was created in order to restore the nation’s merchant marine and outfit vessels with the necessary defensive accouterments. Ten days after America’s declaration of war the Emergency Fleet Corporation was established as part of the Shipping Board to acquire, maintain, and operate merchant ships to meet the demands of national defense in addition to foreign and domestic commerce during the war.