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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims


June 13, 1917

My precious sweetheart:

I have your letters from the 24th to 31st of may, both inclusive, and such a good time as I had reading them and the enclosures and clippings.

Apropos of clippings, do not put “clipping” on the envelope, as printed matter is taboo unless sent by the publisher. For example, I could not send you British newspapers in the open mail. I would have to go to the publisher’s office and get him to send them. The reason is because enemy agents could prick tiny holes (or make do with invisible ink) under the letters, and thus send out information – and of course same could be done with clippings, see? . . . None of you letters have ever been apprised by the censor, and I am sure that none will be.

. . . . I am to take command of the Irish station during Admiral Bayly’s absence (18th to 23rd).1

     This is a very unusual honor – in fact quite unprecedented during this war and the best of it is that it meets with the cordial approval of the Admiralty and of all the British officers I meet. They think it will have a good effect not only upon our forces, but upon the British and, particularly, the French – and perhaps some effect upon the Germans, for it is probable that the fact of my being in command of the combined forces will be published

     I am assured to find that the Admiralty think it a remarkable achievement that I have been able to get along so well with Admiral Bayly. They regard the fact that ad. [i.e., Admiral] Bayly recommended me for the command as the most conspicuous evidence of success in this business of cooperation–and if they publish this fact and the approval of the Admiralty, it will be evidence in the same line for the British navy and the public. . . .let me warn you once for all, not to pay any attention to rumors that get about after they are circulated by the enemy’s agents. For example, there is one now going the rounds in London to the effect that all the American destroyers have been sunk, and doubtless it will soon reach the other side. The fact is that none of our boats have had any casualties at all.

     Babby2 becomes more and more valuable. It would hardly be possible for me to get along without him. He does a half of [the] thinking and makes very many valuable suggestions. . . .

Yesterday London was raided by Hun airplanes and about 100 people were killed, including many children This was the opposite end of London from the Embassy and Hotel, but singularly enough my realtor was on an errand in the raided district at the time. Considering the great size of this city, of course the chances that any particular house will be hit are very small. As for the chances that any particular person will be injured, they are but one in many millions. So, don’t let such things cause you any anxiety . . . .3

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 9.

Footnote 1: VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ aide.

Footnote 3: Aerial bombing of civilian targets began on 21 August 1914, when German Zeppelins attacked multiple port cities in France and Belgium. Zeppelin raids on Paris and Great Yarmouth, England followed shortly thereafter. The first air raid on London took place on 31 May 1915. Casualties in these early raids were fairly limited, but the ability to strike at civilians far from the front lines led to widespread fear and outrage. It was only in late May 1917 that bombing from conventional aircraft began, and London soon thereafter became a regular target. The 13 June raid killed 162 civilians and sparked widespread panic among Britons. All told, German air raids killed 1,413 people in Britain. While Britain attempted a variety of measures to defend against aerial attacks – blackouts, searchlights, and anti-aircraft guns – none were particularly effective. Allied difficulties combating air raids led to the widespread belief in the interwar years that strategic bombing would insure quick, decisive wars in the future, making land armies obsolete. Beckett, The Great War, 190-192.

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