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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations


7th September,1917.

My dear Admiral,

     I enclose herewith for your information, what I consider is very important as well as interesting information in connection with submarines.

     I am not sending it through officially on account of its nature and the manner in which it was obtained.

     I think we all have a general impression which was principally formulated before the War and during the early stages of the war, that submarines are very thin skinned craft which could stand and survive little damage.

     The Submarine Division of the Admiralty have permitted one of my staff to go through all reports from their submarine officers which have been submitted during the war and take extracts of all information bearing upon the above subject.

     As this information has not been compiled by the Admiralty, and in view of the manner in which I was permitted to obtain and compile it, I would prefer that it may not be given general circulation.

     I am permitting Naval Constructor McBride1 to send a copy by this mail to the Chief Constructor.2 I think it will be of great interest also to Ordnance in connection with their development of anti submarine weapons.

     I have frequently been told by various officials of the Admiralty that they are perfectly willing to give any information in their possession to you, that is, to Operations, but they shew hesitancy to giving certain classes of information to our Intelligence Service, that is, all representatives of the office of Naval Intelligence because they understand that practically all reports sent in to Intelligence are printed and circulated generally through the Service. Their experience of the war has shewn that there is always a serious danger of leakage of important information which is circulated generally to all officers or to all ships of the Fleet. For example: even in censorship questions they find that there is more trouble with officers than with men. Officers will write to their wives, and are constantly discovered attempting to evade the censorship regulations in order to communicate with their own families. Repeated cases of important information which was trusted to all officers being passed about London over dinner tables have been experienced.

     Sometime ago, I asked the Admiralty to send certain confidential publications to the British Naval Attache in Washington3 to be delivered to you for the information of Operations. I did this because I had noted their hesitancy as mentioned above and I thought it better therefore not to ask for the reports to be forwarded to Naval Intelligence. I assume that the British Naval Attache has delivered these reports to you.

     I trust that you will keep me informed of any information which Operations needs or feel that they are lacking, as I can always obtain it if it is obtainable and forward it to you personally.

Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 49. The letter “D.” appears in the upper-left corner. Address below close: “Admiral Benson, U.S.N./Chief of Naval Operations,/Washington D.C.”

Footnote 1: Naval Constructor Lewis B. McBride, Assistant Naval Attaché at London. McBride’s letter referred to here has not been found.

Footnote 2: RAdm. David W. Taylor, Chief Constructor and Chief of Bureau of Construction and Repair.

Footnote 3: Commo. Guy R. Gaunt.