Skip to main content

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


RECEIVED:  24th June, 1917.           TO:  Alusna, London.1

          FOR VICE-ADMIRAL SIMS No. 37.

          This is a reply to your various letters and cables.

          The need of reserve of personnel for such active forces as may be engaged on duties of particularly arduous kinds under conditions permitting of little respite is recognised by the Department. This refers particularly to destroyers on active service. There is a limit of the number of trained personnel enlisted and commissioned that can be spared for the reserve indicated above owing to the very heavy demands for this type of man needed for other active operations of most important kinds, however, the Department will endeavour to maintain a personnel reserve in your destroyer forces, consisting of something like one-fiftieth of the destroyer complement. This to be supplied from our naval reserves.2

          Another thing that the Department recognises is the necessity of sending all anti-submarine craft which can be spared from the home waters into active European waters, and when such craft become available will send them.3 In making the local assignments abroad of such forces, the Department requests and will be guided by your advice, which should be given after consultation with the various Admiralties concerned as to priority of requirements.

          The Department is strongly of the opinion – based on recent experiences – that the question of supplying adequate guns and trained gun crews to merchant ships is one which can – in no wise – be treated as a minor issue.4 Coupled with a rigid system of inspection, this method is believed to constitute one of the most effective defensive submarine measures.

          It announces, moreover, as its policy its willingness to co-operate in every way, and will consider the question of supplying additional naval forces of types other than anti-submarine craft, whenever the advisability of so doing is justified.5 The Department is also considering the outline of a scheme which it is hoped will allow of a greater degree of co-operation and ability to supply escort to vessels through the danger zone, without interfering with the destroyers’ other duties as much as does the present system of individual escort, and it will not displace the present method of handling merchant shipping from United States Ports. Details when prevented (?) will be cabled.6

          In the matter of construction, the Department recognises the necessity of pushing to the utmost the type of destroyer of the general specifications recommended by you and this it will do. 19023


          Sec. Navy.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. Identifying number in top right-hand corner of page: “R.231.”

Footnote 1: That is, American Legation United States Naval Attaché. At London, the U.S. naval attaché was Capt. William D. MacDougall.

Footnote 2: This is in reply several cables by Sims, but particularly, see: Sims to Daniels, 19 June 1917.

Footnote 4: Sims had been advocating for the Navy to adopt the convoy system that the British were instituting. See, for example: Sims to Daniels, 13 June 1917; and Sims to Daniels, 16 June 1917.

Footnote 5: Sims had broached the possibility of stationing American battleships in European waters. See: Sims to Daniels, 15 June 1917.

Footnote 6: Sims had complained about the “individual escort” system in cables of 20 June 1917. See: Sims to Daniels, second and third cable of 20 June 1917. On 6 July, Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, proposed a new method of escorting. See, Benson to Daniels, 6 July 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520.