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Rear Admiral William S. Sims to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

Aircraft, seaplanes.


SENT: FTD                To: Secstate, Washington

     April 21, 1917.

THROUGH: State Department.

          6058 --- April 21, 5 p.m.

          For Secretary of the Navy,

               “Replying Departments 20 April



               The best type is the Large America.


Boat Hull.  2 Engines.       Pilot and 2 passengers.


H.-12.  Each 2-250 Rolls Royce. Constructed by Curtiss with

         British modifications.

F. 3.  Latest type of the above.  2-320 Sunbeam Engines.

Speed 85 knots.   Time to climb 16,000 feet – 1 hour.

Endurance 8 hours.  Armament; 2 Lewis Guns.

500 rounds ammunition.  4-112 lb. bombs.

Wireless:- Range 250 miles.

Require large shedding accommodation 100 feet doors strong slipways.

Curtiss have all details.1



Present type:-

Short 184 type.  240 Sunbeam or 340 Renault.

Speed 70 knots. Pilot and Observer. Wireless Range. 120 miles

1 Lewis Gun. Endurance 4 hours. 4—65 lb. bombs.

     Wings to fold to facilitate stowage in ships.

     Floats fitted with wheels to fly off deck.

     Require a flying deck of 120 feet and a wind speed of not less than 20 knots.


Campania type with 250 R.R. Engine, increased speed and fuel endurance is being developed, having passed experimental stage.


Sopwith Baby Type:- 110 Clerget Engine.

Speed-85 knots.  Endurance-3 hours.

1 Lewis Gun. Pilot. Can carry 2- 65 lb. bombs.

Type is being developed.


     The present method is flying off the deck and normally type 184 Short (weight about 2.3/4 tons) can fly off a 120 feet deck if wind speed is not less than 20 knots.

     Baby Seaplanes under some conditions can fly off a 75 feet deck.

     Experiments are nearly completed for using a monorail instead of a deck.

     In addition, catapult experiments to fly off a Short 184 type in progress.

     Considerable advance is being made in the development of aeroplances flyingfrom the deck of ships in lieu of seaplanes.

     Machine is being constructed to give the following performance

     Single Seater Fighter. 130 Clerget Engine.

Speed 110 miles per hour at 10,000 feet. 3 hours fuel.

1 Lewis Gun, 8 Le Prieur Rockets.

Wireless Range – 30 miles.

Air Bags in fuselage to keep machines afloat on water for 4 hours after landing.

To rise off a 70 feet deck with wind speed of 20 m.p.h.


Best type is Large America. 412 or F3 type for Permanent Stations.

Short 184 type for semi-permanent Stations.

     I have had thorough consultation British Government Air Craft Commission. They are willing and anxious to give us anything and help our development in any way. Their experience in design and construction as well as operation has been bitter and gained by “blood and fears”. The best and most vital present co-operation is to exchange their experience for our facilities of supply. We should profit by their mistakes and not repeat. First vital step is to accelerate and increase their American contracts all of standardized parts which we will need as well as they. Important to get our best design and supply men here as soon as possible. Not necessarily fliers. British now supplying France with large amount air material. Development has been so rapid that only in past few months have they been able to contract very far ahead for material in quantity. Bitter experience shows Army and Navy and all aircraft design and supply should be consolidated as it has finally been here. Torpedo carrying planes very successful. The greatest care must be taken in inspection all aircraft supplies. Many lives lost through poor material smallest parts. Urgently recommend Government take steps to expedite completion and transport all British contracts. They prepared to do everything possible to assist our development. Difficulties being experienced with sea launching devices. In exchange for courtesies extended request complete drawings and specifications our launching catapult be forwarded first mail.          Sims”.


No. OF COPIES. 2                        REFERENCE NO.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. For greater security, the message was sent via the State Department and using their code.

Footnote 1: America was a large flying boat pioneered by the Curtiss Company in 1914. It was an innovative three-engine biplane designed for transatlantic flight. In 1916, the United States Navy ordered an improved version of the America known as the H-12, which was powered by twin Curtiss engines. In early 1917, Curtiss exported to England another model, the H-16, which was a modified version of the H-12 powered by Rolls-Royce Eagle engines. William F. Trimble, Wings for the Navy: A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 1917-1956 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990), 17. The F-3 was an adaptation developed by Lt. CMdr. John Cyril Porte of the Royal Navy. In his earlier version, the Felixstowe F-2, Porte invented a sturdy wooden box-girder similar to contemporary landplanes to which was attached a planning bottom and side sponsons. This new hull had much better take-off and landing characteristics and was more seaworthy. The F-3 was a larger and heavier version of the F-2, which gave it greater range and a heavier bomb load but also poorer agility. J.M. Bruce, British Aeroplanes 1914-18 (London: Putnam, 1957).

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