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 Alfred W. Hinds

 

January 25th, 1918.

My dear Hinds,

          Your letter of January 1st, with your estimate of the situation of the same date, has been received and read with much interest.1 I compliment you upon the apparent soundness of your decision as based upon the information which was available to you.

          Of course it goes without saying that if any essential feature of your information is wrong, or if any essential feature of information is not known to you, your decision is liable to be wrong in proportion. As a matter of fact some of the information upon which you based your decision is wholly wrong, and these decisions have been made in the absence of information which is wholly essential. This is the great difficulty of forming an opinion from the outside. I fancy that your information is based upon what you have read in the ne[w]spapers, upon what you have been told in conversation with other officers, and so forth and so forth. I see all of this information in about the same form, and am struck by the difference between this opinion and the actual information in possession of those who are working in positions similar to mine.

          This must necessarily be the case unless the Allies are willing to publish all of the information they have so that the enemy may benefit by it. I think this will illustrate the practical futility of attempting to arrive at a military decision without the benefit of information which is wholly essential to such a decision.

          Naturally, I cannot put on paper an explanation of the respects in which your information is in error or is lacking, but I ask you to believe me that the gap between the information of your estimate and the information as it actually exists is very wide apart. Without violating any confidence I may mention one particular case in point, and that is your insistence with some heat that the Allies have made a grievous mistake in not utilizing the great force of Japan’s million trained men. A close analysis even of the information that has been published on the shipping situation would show that it would be wholly impossible to transport these million men to the Western Front and to supply them there without so diminishing the flow of supplies in other directions as to make this method much more detrimental than it would be advantageous.

          The same applies in only a slightly lesser degree to the situation in Mesopotamia. Anybody could see by looking at the map that the Allies are apparently inconceiveably stupid not to put sufficient forces into that neighborhood and cut off Turkey from her present Allies. You may be sure that this would be done if it were possible.

          In all this business of making estimates of the situation which arrive at a decision which is widely different from that which has apparently been made by the Allies, there is necessarily an assumption which is not flattering either to the initiative, military knowledge, experience or courage of the Allies. These people over here have been fighting for their civilization for the last three years. The best of their military people, as far as they know them, have been employed in the most responsible positions. These people have frequently been in very earnest consultation as to the best means to adopt. In view of this it would seem that it might be assumed that if they have not adopted measures which from the outside seem apparently easy, there must be some very good reason why. I remember once listening to an argument between two officers in a ward room mess. One fellow said “Have you ever seen that durn fool standing on the corner of Broadway and Canal Street with his trousers rolled up above his knee, advertising and selling Boston garters? The ass seems to think he can make a living in that way.” The other fellow replied “I don’t know anything about the merits of the case except that to my certain knowledge he has been there for five years. It is therefore fair to conclude that you are not in possession of the facts and that he is making a living there.”

Very sincerely yours,             

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Captain A.W. Hinds, U.S.N./U.S.S. ROCHESTER,/c/o Postmaster,/New York, U.S.A.” Identification numbers “1/2/3/A/J” appear in upper-right corner in columnar fashion.

Footnote 1: See: Alfred W. Hinds to Sims, 1 January 1918. Hinds wrote Sims suggesting that the Allies should try to get around the stalemated front in France by knocking Turkey and Bulgaria out of the war and pressing Germany from all sides. He further proposed that Japanese troops could do the bulk of the fighting in this theater, thus avoiding having to weaken the lines in France.

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