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Commander William R. Sayles, United States Naval Attaché at Paris, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


April 28, 1917.         



     After consultation with French general staff, and on account of seriousness of losses from submarines, I went to London had conference with Sims on April 25th. My opinion military necessity of situation demands immediate centralization of all recommendations of policy made to Navy Department from European powers. Expressed these views to Sims, he agreed and conferment my opinion of necessity of immediate concerted action to combat growing submarine menace, but stated he was not accredited to French Ministry. My further representation convinced him that military necessity demanded he take responsibility without reference to the Department. Am in constant touch with Sims by telephone and telegraph. All questions of general policy and demands for assistance by France will be forwarded by me to Sims. French Naval Attache at London2 attended conference agreed in substance to proposition. Will take up question with French General Staff to-day. Will attempt through ambassador3 to persuade French government that all questions affecting naval matters be taken up by ministry of marine referred to me then transmitted through Sims to the Department. In this connection also would inform Department that I have not latest secret code. 16028.




Source Note: C, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. There is an identifying number, “52,” in the upper right-hand corner of the cable.

Footnote 1: In later testimony, RAdm. William S. Sims provided context for this cablegram:

It very early became apparent to the other naval officers on duty in Europe, that nothing but confusion could result, if each one of the allied Governments were to go independently to the Navy Department with every request that they had to make for forces or assistance. Thus, for example, the American naval attaché in Paris, Commander W. R. Sayles, came to London to see me in London at the end of April, 1917, with regard to requests being made by the French, and I found that he was in entire accord with the view that immediate concerted action was necessary to combat the growing submarine menace, and that the military necessity of the situation demanded the immediate centralization of all recommendations as to policy, made to the Navy Department by the European powers. He cabled this recommendation to the department on April 29, and, throughout the next three months, worked in complete harmony with me in an endeavor to coordinate our relations with the British and French navies. Naval Investigation, 1: 122.

The account here mirrors what Sims wrote to his wife on 26 April, just after Sayles arrived in London. Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 26 April 1917, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers.

Footnote 2: Adm. Maurice-Henri Baron Mercier de Lostende. In a letter to his wife, Sims called him “one of the handsomest and most charming men I have ever met.” Ibid.

Footnote 3: The American Ambassador to France was William Graves Sharp.

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