Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Subject Copy. File No.
CABLEGRAM SENT <November 10, 1918.>
To SIMSADUS LONDON <(For Opnav.)> Serial No. <Mission 9>
Prep. by D.R.
For Opnav. Mission No. Nine. The following instructions have been sent Rear Admiral Bullard1 quote It is desired that you send one or more chasers with officers in whose discretion you have confidence to Cattaro and other ports along the coast in which there are Austrian naval or merchant vessels. Get in touch immediately with French Commander-in-Chief2 and as far as practicable cooperate with him and the British representative.3 The attitude of the Italians is not clear nor altogether satisfactory.4 If the situation warrants and it is practicable proceed to Pola and get in touch with the Jugo-Slav representatives. Do all in your power to convince them that we are in sympathy with their efforts and will do everything to safeguard their national interests. USS BIRMINGHAM leaves Gibraltar November Ninth to report to you in Adriatic. A destroyer will also be ordered to report to you in the Adriatic.5 Due to the attitude of the Italians the situation is becoming extremely delicate and the Department will expect you to handle it. It is very necessary that the Jugo-Slavs be fully impressed with our sympathies and our intention of lending them every possible assistance to establish a stable government and afford them all necessary relief and assistance.6 Unquote
Paragraph. Latest information at French Ministry of Marine indicates that Bullard is at Venice. <Unquote. 021910.>
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Someone has written “file” just above the signature. The handwritten date is confirmed by the time/date notation handwritten at the end of the text of the cable. In the top left-hand corner is printed “Form A.”
Footnote 1: Adm. William H. H. Bullard had been appointed as the American representative to a delegation to execute the naval armistice with the Austro-Hungarians.
Footnote 2: VAdm. Dominique Marie Gauchet.
Footnote 3: Commo. William A. H. Kelly, Commander, British Adriatic Force.
Footnote 4: For background on why Benson was concerned about Italian actions in the Adriatic, see: Richard H. Jackson to William S. Sims, 6 November 1918.
Footnote 5: In a later cable on 10 November, Sims informed Benson that RAdm. Albert P. Niblack had been ordered to send immediately a destroyer to Bullard. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 6: On 10 November at a meeting of Allied political leaders in Paris it was agreed to intern all warships flying the Yugoslav flag in Adriatic ports where allied surveillance could be maintained. The fate of the vessels was to be determined at the Peace Conference. According to historian A. C. Davidonis:
this meant that Italian opposition to Yugoslav ownership of the [former Austro-Hungarian] navy had triumphed; that all ex-Austrian naval units were demanded for surrender instead of the several named in the armistice. Obviously such a policy entailed allied acceptance of the Italian position that Jugoslavia, being then an unrecognized state, could legally own no navy, and hence the Austrian transfer was void. Davidonis, The American Naval Mission in the Adriatic, 1918-1921, 20-21.
Footnote 7: On this same day, Sims sent a cable to Benson informing him that he had allowed the U.S. Naval Attaché at Rome, Cmdr. Charles R. Train, to proceed to Venice but that he had instructed him as to U.S. policy and that he had sent Benson’s instructions to Bullard which “should make the situation clear to him.” DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Later Sims cabled Benson to inquire if Bullard should refer “matters of policy only” to Benson but not “matters relating to the actual operation of forces.” Ibid.