Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland
My dear Admiral,
I returned yesterday from Paris and find your letter of the 27th1 has been answered in my absence by Captain Twining.2
While I was in Paris I attended the meeting of the Allied Naval Council which we held for the purpose of expressing the naval views as to the terms of an armistice. The soldiers also expressed their views and at the time I left Paris these views had both been laid before the Council of the Prime Ministers of the Allies for a final decision. I do not know just what this will be, but there can be no doubt that it will be in line with President Wilson’s expression of opinion that the terms of the armistice must be such that it will be wholly impossible for Germany to continue the war.3
Of course I am not at liberty to state the terms that were agreed upon at the Naval Council, but I may say that the question of Heligoland was discussed both by the army and the Navy representatives and the unanimous conclusion was that there would be no military advantage gained by taking over Heligoland and this for the reason that it could not be held against the attack of bombing machines operating from such a short distance – about thirty miles from their bases. You doubtless know that the experience of this war has shown that there is no practicable means of defense against the attack of bombing planes at night because they operate at great height and cannot be located in the darkness. Moreover, though considerable damage can be inflicted upon some of the operating planes, there is no possibility of an adequate defense, in view of the fact that these planes now drop bombs containing 2000 lbs of high explosive, and can easily drop similar bombs containing more than twice as much. It will readily be seen that it would only be possible to hold such a position as Heligoland if it were very much nearer the Allied bases than the enemy’s.
I have heard nothing at all in regard to the recommendations placed on our officers records by foreign officers being removed. I cannot believe that this is true. If I find that it is, I shall take means to get recommendations on the records of the officers by incorporating them in a letter of my own.
I am standing by to return to Paris at any time that the discussions may be continued. It would seem that no matter what the severity of the terms of the armistice Germany in her present position would be obliged to accept them. With Austria and Turkey out of the game, and the Black Sea doubtless soon in our possession, it would seem that she could not possibly continue the struggle with any chance of better terms of peace. If she decides to resist it can only be putting off the time of surrender and in that case the terms would be all the harder. It is to be expected of course that before the terms are finally accepted there will be considerable diplomatic discussions with a view to accustoming their people to the idea that they are defeated.
There is no doubt that the Allies will be guided by two objects in stating the terms. One is that these terms shall be a demonstration to the German people that they have been definitely defeated, and the other is that they shall be such as to render it impossible for Germany to enter into a race of armaments with the Allies in the immediate future.
These are certainly interesting times. The submarines have all gone home, and it is not likely that they will be out again though if they do, they will probably be out in greater numbers at first than ever before. We will of course be prepared for this.
Always very sincerely yours,
Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 47. Addressed below close: “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N./Admiralty House,/Queenstown. Ireland.”
Footnote 1: See: Bayly to Sims, 27 October 1918.
Footnote 2: Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ chief of staff. See: Twining to Bayly, 30 October 1918.
Footnote 3: For more on Wilson’s views regarding an armistice, see: Daniels Diary, 3 November 1918.