Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations

April 16th. 1918.

My dear Pratt,

     I enclose you herewith a letter that I have just written to Admiral Benson.1 Also copy of letter to the NEW YORK TRIBUNE on the same subject as the one I wrote to the ARMY AND NAVY REGISTER.2 Can you not drop me a line and tell me what there is in all this business?

     All sorts of rumours drift over here. For example, we have just heard, upon the authority of a letter written by one of our retired rear-admirals to his daughter here, that Admiral Benson is going to be ordered in command of the Atlantic Fleet and that Admiral Winterhalder is to take his place. Can there be anyting in this?3 I can hardly believe it!

     You will know by my letters to Admiral Benson that rumours have also been received here that Eberle4 is to be ordered over to commander the Destroyer Base at Queenstown. I have indicated in my letter to Admiral Benson what I think of this. I do not think that I should be subjected to that sort of thing. Certainly the responsibility of this billet is great enough for the Department to accord me the privilege of selecting the men to handle the situation for which I am responsible.

     To say the least, the Department has had bad luck in people they have been sending me for certain billets. I need only mention the case of Admiral Fletcher. You know what conditions are in reference to Admiral Wilson.5 I assume that you know them because I have written to Admiral Benson fully about it and I assume that he has shown you my letters on this subject.

     Let me also invite attention to the fact that without consulting me at all, they sent Admiral Strauss6 over here to take charge of the mining bases. I hope this will turn out to be satisfactory but it seems to me that on general principles, the selection is not a good one. For a job of this kind we need a confirmed optimist, and you have sent me the leading pessimist of the Navy. Moreover, he was the predecessor of the present Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance,7 andit would be only natural if he did not believe that taking him out of the Bureau decreased its efficiency. The first thing he did when he arrived here was to criticize very severely the action of the Bureau of Ordnance in launching a tremendous undertaking depending upon the efficiency of a mine that had never been tried in its completed form.

     See if you cannot arrange it so that I will be consulted as to who may be sent over here in the future. Also see if there is anything is this Eberle affair; if it cannot be headed off it might be disastrous.

     I am not writing you very much nowadays because I put practically everything in Admiral Benson’s letters.

               Always very sincerely-yours,

Source Note: TL, DLC-MS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. Addressed below close: “Captain W.V.Pratt, U.S.Navy,/Office of Naval Operations,/Navy Dept.,/Washington, D.C.” Document is designated from, ”Personal File.”

Footnote 2: Sims was constantly concerned that he would be replaced, see: Army Navy Register, 16 March 1918. For the letter to the Army and Navy Register, see: Sims to John E. Jenks, 8 April 1918.

Footnote 3: Adm. Henry T. Mayo remained Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet and was not replaced by Benson. RAdm. Albert G. Winterhalter was commander of the Asiatic Fleet until 1917, when he was named President of the General Board.

Footnote 4: Capt. Edward W. Eberle, Superintendent, United States Naval Academy. Eberle would remain at that post for the duration of the war.

Footnote 5: RAdm. William B. Fletcher, Commandant, Seventh Naval District. Fletcher was formerly the Commander of the United States Patrol Squadrons Based in European Waters, but was recalled from this duty due to an inability to manage effectively the patrol squadrons under his command, marked by the sinking of Antilles on 17 October 1917. See: Sims to Benson 15 October 1917, and Sims to Thomas P. Magruder, 23 October 1918. Sims was also resentful of, and unhappy with, Fletcher’s replacement, RAdm. Henry B. Wilson. In March 1918, rumors reached Sims that Wilson was was quite critical of his command. This instigated a series of letters on Sims’ part complaining about Wilson’s disrespect and possible insubordination. See: Sims to Benson, 7 March 1918, and Sims to Wilson, 9 March 1918.

Footnote 6: RAdm. Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 7: RAdm. Ralph Earle, Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance.