Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations
January 14th. 1918.
My dear Admiral,
I enclose herewith for your information, a copy of a letter I have just written to Wilson.
I do not know whether the conditions indicated by this letter are likely to become serious, but I hope not. You will readily read between the lines that it is Wilson himself who has been the offender.
One cause of the trouble probably is that he belonged to the “conservative” party during the period when I was in difficulties caused by the efforts to improve target practice, etc. and he has probably retained at least some of the prejudices of that time.
He personally dislikes Cone,1 and has recently stated that he considers him “one of the most dangerous men in the service”. Perhaps he regards me in the same light.
Possibly his criticisms and reflections are due to his impulsive temperament and rather boyish nature, rather than to any malice in his disposition.
He has always been rather a puzzle. At the recent conference in London over the question of the organization of his forces he was everything that could be desired. We reached an agreement without the slightest trouble, and he was as cordial and agreeable as possible and left with many expression of apparently the most cordial good will. It was, however, the same when he first came up from Gibraltar.
His staff, especially Halligan and Kurtz,2 are everything that could be desired in the way of efficiency and loyalty, and will exercise a good influence.
I hope there will be no more trouble, but I am informing you of the conditions so that you May understand the matter in case there should be.
Very sincerely yours,
Admiral W.S. Benson, U.S. Navy,
Chief of Naval Operations.
<The criticisms referred to were by Wilson himself – violent denunciation of me and of headquarters made on several occasions in the presence of a number of officers>3
January 14th. 1918.
My dear Wilson,
It has come to my knowledge that for some time past there has occurred in your forces certain criticisms of my official actions, and also expressions of disloyalty, both before officers of the force and before other naval officers outside the force, and that this has at times taken the very serious form of impugnment of motives.
The information concerning these criticisms has been brought to my attention unofficially, but in such manner, and upon so many occasions, as to leave no doubt that these grave offenses have been committed.
Therefore I am writing to you personally to request that you take the necessary measures to suppress them and inspire a spirit of loyalty in such a way that there May be no recurrence of them.
As you doubtless know, one of the serious obstacles to successful cooperation in this war has been due to the difficulties caused by criticisms, and the suspicions and ill feelings that have resulted.
This accentuates the absolute necessity of the most frank and loyal relations within our own forces (as well as with those of our Allies), to the end that the loyalty essential to military efficiency May be maintained.
No one is more ready than I am to accept proper criticism which can be utilized for the general improvement, and it has always been my policy to welcome it from all ranks. In fact, I believe that the maximum efficiency cannot be attained without the assistance of the brains and experience of the entire command expressed in really constructive criticisms submitted through the usual channels so that we May all derive benefit therefrom.
I am glad to say that our recent conference in London left me with the impression that your gang and mine are in complete accord as to the details of your organization and as to its relations to that of the whole command.4
Wishing you every success, and with my best regards to McCulby, Magruder, Evans, Halligan5 and the rest of the push,
Always very sincerely yours,
Rear Admiral H.B.Wilson, U.S.N.
Commanding U.S.Naval Forces in France,
B r e s t .
Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23.
Footnote 1: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, Naval Aviation Forces In Europe.
Footnote 2: Lt. Cmdr. John Halligan Jr., Wilson’s Chief of Staff; and Lt. Cmdr. Thomas R. Kurtz, who served as Aide for Operations and Convoys on Wilson’s staff.
Footnote 3: Sims added this handwritten note for Benson.
Footnote 4: Capt. Newton A. McCully, District Commander, Rochefort, Capt. Thomas P. Magruder, District Commander, Lorient, and Cmdr. Frank Taylor Evans, formerly commander of U.S.S. May.