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


SENT:  June 23, 1917:  TO: Secretary of the Navy;

THROUGH: State Department: (Mr. Snowcroft’s[?] code)

     Number fiftythree: With reference to problem and solution by Commander Schofield dated April seventeen1 stop  Submarine attack is now almost exclusively with torpedo without submarine being seen at all before firing stop  Actual extended experience demonstrates beyond question that neither men of war nor merchantmen can detect approach of submarine ten per cent of attacks stop  This liberal estimate stop  This fact independent of skill of half hour lookout or caliber or amount of armament or skill of gun crews stop  Tactical discussions of gun encounters are futile stop  Destroyers and all types of war craft are not immune to attack any more than merchantmen except that submarine cannot expend torpedoes on them and accomplish his mission of destroying shipping stop  Another fundamental error in reasoning is discussion of any measures which cannot be applied immediately to all Allied essential shipping not to American alone which cannot affect present situation stop  Protection of all Allied shipping in time – I repeat in time – is present mission stop  Whatever efforts we can exert must be put into operation at once if they are to be effective stop  Reliable submarines would be of great use to strengthen British submarine patrols and also as scouts ahead of convoys stop  All submarines we can send to Irish Coast in time will therefore be invaluable in insuring success of convoy system and hence success of war provided these submarines are supplied from America and based upon their own mother ships.


Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/656. At the bottom of the document, there is a list of files to receive copies. “Copies: Original./Confirmation./Chronological File./Subject File.”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. Frank H. Schofield was one of the aides to Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations. In the Congressional investigation of naval preparedness that took place after the war, President of the General Board RAdm. Charles J. Badger entered a letter into evidence that was written by Schofield on 5 April 1917, in which Schofield recommended the U.S. send “a number of destroyers” as soon as the declaration of war passed Congress. During the war, however, Schofield advocated for arming merchant ships, a move that would have deprived destroyers of desperately-needed men and likely slowed the implementation of convoying. Naval Investigation: 1104-1105; Wheeler, Pratt: 106.

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