Commander Percy W. Foote, Assistant to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
November 27, 1918.
My dear Admiral Sims :-
I am forced to write hurriedly due to rush of business this morning, but I feel that I should not delay longer in writing to give you my opinion about certain matter so that you may be fully informed as to the situation.
The matter to which I refer, is that, in regard to the number of American troops carried to Europe by British ships and by American ships.
The figures complied [i.e., compiled] by Admiral Gleaves|1| indicate that up to the signing of the armistice, the American number of troops carried by English ships and American ships are very nearly the same – and I think (speaking from memory, I am not quite certain) the percentages are about 53 for the English and 49 for the American ships.1
The Secretary has carefully avoided making any public official statement giving a comparison of the percentage of American troops carried by English ships and American ships – he has frequently stated thato he was not going to keep any books with the English in this connection.
A good many people seem to form the idea from your reports that the British ships have carried very much the greater part of American troops to Europe, and this impression seems now to be so magnified that remarks are heard from the man in the streets that “practically all of the American troops were carried to Europe in British ships”.
Of course, I know it is from your desire that such an impression should [not?] be created, and I am writing to bring this to your attention as it may be best for you to say something which would tend to correct some of these impressions which have been formed on the public.
As an instance of what I mean, the New York Times, in quoting from certain remarks from Mr. Hurely,2 quoted the statement from him that “ the seven British liners which have carried 60 percent of the American soldiers abroad since March.”
I understand that some of the British liners which have carried most of the American tropps [i.e., troops] abroad since March are the Aquitania, Mauretania, Carmania, Cedric, Olympic, Justicia and Caronia, and that the total number of troops carried by these liners is 156,184 which is 10.37 per cent of the total number of American troops carried abroad since March.
Another reason for bringing this to attention is that I think some people are beginning to feel America may not receive full recognition for its enormous efforts which have been put forward to win the war, and although it is only proper that we should duly recognize the fact that the larger naval effort had been made by Great Britain, yet I should extremely regret if any act or statement of yours might be so misinterpreted as to create an impression that through your great admiration of some of the things accomplished by the British Navy, you have underrated accomplishments of our own Navy.
It is unfortunate, for instance, that the artist who painted the picture of the meeting of the British Naval officers and the German Naval officers, did not choose a meeting at which American Naval officers were present as the subject for his picture.3
I think the above will indicate what I mean. I am sure there xx has been no definite opinion formed which is derogatory to you, but feeling that “ fore warned is fore armed “, I am, as I said before, bringing these matters to your attention, for after all, some of the problems which now present themselves for your solution carry with them more difficulties than those which were presented before and during the war.
I still hope that the Secretary may make his trip abroad and that I may have the pleasure of seeing you sometime within the next few months.4
Always with best wishes,
Yours most sincerely,
Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 24.
Footnote 1: RAdm. Albert Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser Force and Transport Force. According to historians, British ships carried 49% of the American Expeditionary Force to Europe; U.S. ships carried 45%, and other Allies transported the remainder. Lawrence Sondhaus, The Great War at Sea: A Naval History of the First World War (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 281.
Footnote 2: Edward N. Hurley, Chairman, United States Shipping Board.
Footnote 3: Possibly, “The Surrender of the German Navy” by artist John Lavery.
Footnote 4: Daniels travelled to Europe for consultations with the Allies in March 1919. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries, 378