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Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt to President Woodrow Wilson


October 29, 1917

Dear Mr. President:

  I am very sorry to bother you, but in view of our several talks during the summer I am sending a copy of a memorandum which I have just given to the Secretary.1 As you probably know, Admiral Mayo reported on his return2 that the British Admiralty would like “serious consideration” of the Straits of Dover and Scotland to Norway barriers, and a week or so later we telegraphed Admiral Sims3 to ask whether the British Admiralty really approved attempting the plan. We received an affirmative reply a few days ago and now our General Board4 has also approved.

  This much has been accomplished in six months, but it is my duty to tell you that if the plan is put into execution with the same speed and method employed in the past other priceless months will be wasted and the success of the plan will be jeopardized. I can only repeat what I have told the Secretary: Some one person in whom you have confidence should be given the order and the necessary authority to execute the plan without delay, and he, working with an Englishman clothed with the same orders and authority, will succeed if success is possible.

  I dislike exaggeration, but it is really true that the elimination of all submarines from the waters between the United States and Europe must of necessity be a vital factor in winning the war.

Faithfully yours,       

[Franklin D. Roosevelt]

Source Note: Transcript, Elliott Roosevelt, ed., F.D.R. His Personal Letters, Volume II, (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1948) 366-367.

Footnote 1: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

Footnote 2: VAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet. Mayo traveled to Europe in the fall of 1917 for a conference with Allied naval leaders.

Footnote 3: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 4: General Board of the Navy, VAdm. Charles J. Badger, President.