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Commander Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché in Rome, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


Naval Attache,

American Embassy,


Dec. 9/17.

Dear Vice Admiral,

          Before anything else I want to thank you for giving me permission to use your name in any ways possible to get away. It now seems hopeless as the Secretary does not seems able to do anything after telling Mr.Page that he would try.1 I want very much, if I am destined to remain here, to handle your end of the job, as it would be an awful blow to have someone here representing Operations and thus take the most interesting part of the work away, which now will increase probably owing to our war with Austria. I think I can handle the job satisfactorily to both you and me as I am now well in with the Italian Navy, and know the conditions throughout their waters, as well as the Italians themselves as well as anyone. The man they sent out here to assist me is not yet much help, and of course I would require a little help but I could do without if conditions required it.

          The front is holding as well as possible but the pressure is tremendous. The enemy have had wonderful weather to help them. The food question is a very serious one. The Army lost 1/3 of their entire equipment & supplies.2 So you can imagine the condition of their store houses. There is darned little food for anyone and growing worse unless a big help comes. How we are to feed a big army in France when we can’t feed what is already here I don’t know. I am against the big army scheme in France anyway and believe the best way to serve the cause would be to keep only a moderate army there and to furnish the specialists i.e.- Aviators etc.

          I am up to my neck in work and deplore being away 8 to 9 days for my Brest trip – but I realize that you did all you could to help me out.

With best wishes for Christmas,        

Very sincerely and respectfully,

/s/ C.R.TRAIN.     

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Document reference: “I/3/J.”

Footnote 1: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Walter Hines Page.

Footnote 2: Train is referring to massive losses by the Italian Army during the Battle of Caporetto from 24 October to 9 November 1917. The Italians suffered a disastrous defeat in the face of a Austro-German invasion of Italian territory in north of the Piave River. The Italian army had 40,000 casualties, and 265,000 Italian troops were captured, along with massive amounts of store and weaponry, including nearly half of the nation’s artillery pieces. WWI Encyclopedia, Vol. 1: 263-265.