Commander William R. Sayles, United States Naval Attaché at Paris, to Commander John V. Babcock
August 4, 1917.
My dear Babcock:
Since you and the Admiral1 left here, I have been attending strictly to my own duties and let Jackson and Baker2 run the show, and I suddenly find myself to a certain extent up against it.
The enclosed letter of protest from the Minister of Marine3 to me against conditions down at St. Nazaire was the first intimation I had of the proceedings down there. Baker was reporting direct to Jackson, and I knew nothing about this going overthe head of the Commandant de la Marine, although I did hear by rumour that they had thrown the Mayor of the town in jail, and had gotten mixed up in local politics generally.
When Admiral Gleaves4 was here, he, Baker, and Jackson, arranged that Baker should be attached to General Pershing’s staff as port-representative of the Navy – the matter thus being taken out of my hands – it was on this authority, I suppose, that Baker sent the cable direct to the Admiral5 with regard to the tug – the wire you brought over here and which I stated I knew nothing about until you showed it to me.
At the present time, although reporting and working for Jackson, Baker is still attached to the Embassy, and, strictly speaking, I suppose I am responsible lawfully for his actions. I have no wish to evade responsibility, but, acting in the spirit of the Admiral’s instructions, there was nothing I could do except by causing a row and playing politics generally. This I refuse to do, - so for that reason, after consultation with the Ambassador,6 Pershing, and Jackson, I have asked Jackson to wire the Admiral to detach Baker from all connection with this Embassy. I am willing to do anything to assist, but no military man will blame me for declining to take responsibility without authority.
The complaint from the Minister of Marine arrived yesterday. In this morning’s mail I find another letter containing trouble, a copy of which is enclosed.7 This letter was the first intimation I have had that the collier was under orders to report to me. Baker was down there, the collier captain reported to him, and Jackson and he have been running that show also.8
I wish you would explain to the Admiral that there has been no row, and there will be none, but I am sure that he will understand that I can no longer be responsible when the troubles come.9
With kindest regards,
Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers. The letter is written on official stationary with “AMERICAN EMBASSY/5. RUE DE CHAILLOT/PARIS (XVIE)” centered at the top.
Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.
Footnote 2: Capt. Richard H. Jackson, American Naval Representative to the Ministry of Marine; and Capt. Asher C. Baker, Naval Representative to the staff of Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.
Footnote 3: Adm. Marie Jean Lucien Lacaze, French Minister of Marine. Lacaze's letter has not been located.
Footnote 4: RAdm. Albert Gleaves, Commander, Convoy Operations in the Atlantic Ocean
Footnote 5: This letter has not been found.
Footnote 6: United States Ambassador to France William Graves Sharp.
Footnote 7: Neither letter has been found.
Footnote 8: Jackson was ordered to France as Sims’ liaison, but the exact division of authority and responsibility between Jackson, Sayles, and Cmdr. William B. Fletcher, Force Commander, Special Patrol Squadrons in France, was unclear. Jackson went beyond the authority granted to him in managing affairs in France, claiming that nothing was being done, particularly regarding naval aviation, and that his actions were urgently needed. His superiors did not always agree. Sims later warned Jackson that he was overstepping his authority in issuing orders to Fletcher. Eventually, Sims tried to recall Jackson, but Benson refused. Jackson later became naval attaché when Sayles was reassigned as an intelligence officer, and the clarified chain-of-command operated much more smoothly. Still, Crisis at Sea: 50-52.
Footnote 9: Sims, who still supported Jackson at this time, wrote a letter the same day to smooth things over with Benson. See: Sims to Opnav, 4 August 1917.