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 Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

January 10th. 1918.

My dear Admiral,

          I fully intended to write you a bit of a letter this week, but a combination of circumstances has consumed nearly all of my time except that for carrying out necessary administrative work.

          I started for Queenstown in the latter days of December with decided symptoms of lumbago, and arrived there just in time to be put to bed in Admiralty House1 for nearly a week. I am all right now, but a great deal of work accumulated while I was gone.

          While I was there I made a trip on the cruiser ACTIVE, Admiral Bayly’s flagship, to see an experiment with mortars designed to throw torpedo charges. The experiment was very successful. Charges were fired simultaneously from two guns on opposite sides of the poop while a 3rd. charge was dropped from the stern. They all went off practically together, and covered a very considerable area.

          You doubtless know that our destroyers have been seriously hampered in the matter of an insufficiency of torpedo <depth> charges. This has also been the case with British destroyers. This is now being removed by greater rapidity of manufacture. Also we have five thousand charges on the way to us. This will enable us to drop a number of depth charges each time there is a necessity for using them and by using certain helm, inclose and describing a circle first in one direction and then in another we can be sure to inclose the submarine within these figures. This will either insure getting him or giving him a very severe shaking up.

          When we received your cable about the organization on the French coast, we telegraphed for Wilson and his Chief of Staff and Jackson and Cone, and we have all come to a unanimous conclusion which will be embodied today in a cablegram to you.2

          Our discussion developed the fact that the organization at present in existence on the French coast is working very smoothly, and is to all intents and purposes practically the same as that which you recommend us taking up.

          Your cables were received yesterday in reference to being appointed an honorary member of the Admiralty Board.3 I communicated it to Sir Eric Geddes this morning.4 He is evidently much disappointed at the decision, because he says that it is difficult to keep me in thorough touch with everything if I have not the privilege of listening to discussions upon which decisions are based.

          He also spoke about the question of announcing the presence of the battleships over here.5 He is much in favor of this being done on account of the influence it will have upon “the man on the street” in both England, France and Italy. He says the influence of this can be nothing but good as far as these countries are concerned and that it will give Germany no information she has not had long ago.

          There is now under discussion in the Admiralty the probable tactics of the German cruising submarines of the later type, some of which will probably be in operation next summer.

          In reference to your letter of December 8th,6 I am sorry that I did not know that you had something more to tell me before I left the MOUNT VERNON. As soon as I came on board, Colonel House7 asked me to walk up and down the deck with him in order that he might talk to me about various things, and that is where I spent my time. I had naturally supposed that as we had been together for three or four days that you had told me everything that you wanted.

Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. Following the close, the letter is addressed, “Admiral W.S.Benson, U.S.N./Chief of Naval Operations,/Washington, D.C./U.S.A.”

Footnote 1: The Queenstown headquarters and residence of Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, Patrol Forces Based in France; Capt. John Halligan, Wilson's chief of staff; Capt. Richard H. Jackson, American Naval Representative in Paris; and Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, United States Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service. Neither of the documents referenced here (Benson’s cable or Sims’ response) have been located, however, the latter undoubtedly was: Sims to Wilson, 12 January 1918. For a statement from Sims concerning the state of affairs on the French coast that reflects what might have been contained in Sims’ response to Benson, see: Sims to Josephus Daniels, 9 January 1918.

Footnote 4: First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Eric Geddes.

Footnote 5: Geddes wished to publicize the fact that a division of four U.S. Navy battleships had joined the British Grand Fleet on 7 December 1917 and that American battleships were planning to remain until the war’s end.

Footnote 7: Edward M. House, head of the diplomatic mission to Europe to which Benson was attached. MOUNT VERNON was the troopship that transported the House Commission back to the United States.

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