Skip to main content

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims





HÔTEL DE CRILLON                         Saturday,Sept.15,1917


My darling Nani:

     This has been a busy day. It is now 6 p.m. and we have been on the go since 9-30 this morning making official calls.

1st. On Admiral De Bon, Chief of Staff in the French Navy.1

2nd. The Minister of Marine, Monsieur Chaumet.2

3rd. We attended a ceremony at which the Ambassador presented to Marshal Joffre3 a gold wreath presented by a number of New York men.

     I noted that “Papa Joffre” speaks French with a strong accent. He comes from the South of France, near the Pyrennes.

4th. The Prime Minister Monsieur Painleve (an odd name), a young man who has just succeeded in forming a cabinet.4 He is not much over 40. . . .

5th. The Chief of Staff of the French Army, General Foch, who took such a fine part in the battle of the Marne.5 He impressed us all as being a very strong man. I had met him before – each time I have been.

6. The President of the republic, M. Poincaré.6

     None of the Admiral’s7 staff speak any French, so I had to do all the translating. They all appreciate the handicap of not being able to speak the language. I have been jeering the Admiral’s staff about it-telling them that an admiral should really pick out educated men for his staff.

     At the Joffre ceremony I met Consul General Thakara.8 He is looking very well and seems very happy about having his boy in the naval reserve, and in command of one of the new 110-foot “submarine chasers”.

     Sayles9 happened to mention that he is going to dine this evening with the [Benedicts?] and that Winston Churchill9 is going to be there; so I at once telephoned and asked them to set a place for me. Later I received a card saying they would be glad to have me. 

     The last I heard of Winston, he was at the Navy Department looking up information with a view to writing a book about our navy’s part in the war. At least that is what I understood. I did not know he was on this side. I shall be very glad to see him. Ever since I learned he was collecting information about the navy, I have wanted to see him. I assume that he will come to London later. I should like to take him up to Queenstown to see the flotilla. I am sure he and Admiral Bayly would get on famously. Moreover, I have great confidence in Winston’s opinions upon things in general, and I am sure he can tell me many useful things about conditions in Washington. . . .

     We leave here for Brest and St Nazaire on Monday, 17th. and from the latter place I will go on to Bordeaux, as that is the base of one of our patrol squadrons. Then I will return to Paris en route to London.

     The C-in-C returns to Paris from St.Nazaire, thence goes to the Western Front, to Genl Pershing’s10 headquarters, thence returns to Paris before going on to London via Dunkirk and Downs.

     Most of this is a sight-seeing trip that has nothing to do with my business. So I have neither the time nor the inclination to go on it. Moreover, I have forbidden all the officers in the command to ask the French (& British) permission to go to the front, especially during the present drive.

. . . .I have just returned from dinner at the [Benedicts?]. Winston was there, and he was more than interesting. He is coming to see me tomorrow, and he is coming to London to go into the whole situation with me. He is in the confidence of the president,11 who received him and discussed the whole situation with him. At the same time Winston submitted a paper to him, which Pratt12 and others helped him draw up, recommending certain reorganizations of the Department, and the P. gave orders based upon this paper.13 Winston is here to look into the situation and report what he sees. This is very fortunate. He must go and see you when he returns, and tell you about it. He is in a way of doing a great amount of good. I wish I could tell you the whole story right now. I will get it to you either through Winston or by express by some officer going home. For you should know about it, as the situation is very exceptional. . . .

Your devoted


Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 9.

Footnote 1: VAdm. Ferdinand Jean-Jacques de Bon, Chief of Staff, French Navy.

Footnote 2: Charles Chaumet, French Ministere de la Marine.

Footnote 3: Field Marshal Joseph Joffre, former Commander-in-Chief of French forces on the Western Front.

Footnote 4: Paul Painlevé became Prime Minister on 12 September 1917. His tenure proved brief, with Georges Clemenceau replacing him on 16 November 1917.

Footnote 5: Marshal Ferdinand Marie Foch, Chief of the General Staff.

Footnote 6: Raymond Poincaré.

Footnote 7: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 8: United States Consul-General at Paris Alexander Montgomery Thackara.

Footnote 9: Lt. Cmdr. William R. Sayles, Jr. The Winston Churchill referred to herein was a prominent American journalist, not to be confused with the British statesman.

Footnote 10: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 11: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 12: Capt. William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations.