Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Lieutenant Commander Henry C. Dinger, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based at Brest
September 6, 1917.
My dear Dinger,
Your letter of August 27, turned up a couple of days ago. I am very glad to know that you and Fletcher are managing to make out with the necessary repairs to the patrol vessels. I have been after the Department continuously for a repair ship for Brest, and I am glad to say that they have finally consented to send the PANTHER there. She will also be accompanied by the five oil burning destroyers now in the Azores.1 They have not indicated when they will be ordered from the Azores. They will go for a little while to Queenstown to get the necessary depth gear equipment, and to pick up the points from the gang there as to anti-submarine work.2
Of course you know that the Department turned down our recommendation for a base at Pauillac3 and they have now informed us that three new mother ships are being fitted out for service on this side. I do not know yet when they will be ready. We get our information about such things in all sorts of ways and at all sorts of times. Apparently that sort of thing has not yet been systematized in Washington.
A number of the 110 ft. Chasers are to be sent over in tow of some of the yachts. I do not think these vessels will be very efficient but they will certainly be of some use. I understand that they are to be presented to the French Admiralty to be used as they see fit. Of course they will be manned by their own crews.4
As for the vessels building in France for anti-submarine work, I was informed that these vessels are of various types to suit the engines that were available. These engines had been designed for other purposes and you may say that the vessels were built to suit the engines. This was a makeshift but has resulted in vessels of very considerable usefulness.
As for what you say concerning the appointment of a new Engineer-in-Chief next December, I have always made it a practice to avoid making recommendations of a personal nature. What I mean by this is that I do not think it quite proper for me to exercise any personal influence that I may have when at the same time my personal opinion is manifestly not based upon actual technical knowledge. It has always seemed to me that this principle was sound. I can readily imagine that if I should express the opinion which you desire it might have an irritating effect upon those upon whom the decision depends. They could always say, and with very considerable truth, that such an opinion was a personal one and that I had not business to express it, not being in a position from which my purely professional opinion would have been of any value. I have been in the Navy so long that there are probably very few officers connected with the Navy who do not know how limited is my knowledge and experience of engineering matters.
If you do not agree with me in this, I shall be sorry, but I really believe that my recommendation would not help matters in the least.5
Very sincerely yours,
Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 23. Addressed below close: “Commander H.C. Dinger, U.S.N./c/o Captain R.H. Jackson, U.S.N./Ministry of Marine,/Paris.” There is a note at the top of each page of this letter: “Admiral Sims’ personal files.” Dinger had been the commander of Maumee until the end of July 1917.
Footnote 1: See: Sims to Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, 6 September 1917.
Footnote 2: According to the war diary of Reid, one of the destroyers then in the Azores, Destroyer Division One spent nine weeks in the Azores, departing on 5 October 1917, and arriving at Queenstown on 16 October. Part of the division left for Brest on 19 October and the remainder on 21 October. George M. Battey, Jr., 70,000 Miles on a Submarine Destroyer or, The Reid Boat in the World War (Atlanta, The Webb & Vary Company, 1919), 48, 65.
Footnote 3: Despite what Sims wrote here, a small base was later established at Pauillac to support patrol and escort vessels. Still, Crisis at Sea: 114-15.
Footnote 4: The first seventeen subchasers did not arrive in France until December, 1917. Thye performed well enough that the French requested additional subchasers. In the end, fifty were turned over to the French Navy. Ibid., 318.
Footnote 5: Dinger did not become Chief of Civil Engineers in 1918; the position went to Charles W. Parks, instead.