Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

305 West 113th Street, New York.

September 12, 1918.

Admiral Sims,

     Commanding U.S.Navy in European Waters,

          London, England.

Dear Sir:-

     There is a matter which, though of grave importance, I do not consider a suitable subject for public discussion and have therefore made no mention of it in any of my articles in The Outlook or other publications. Several days ago however, I wrote freely of it to Col. House1 and to Mr. B. M. Baruch,2 and will now write of it to probably five or six men high in authority in our country and to Lloyd George,3 Sir Eric Geddes,4 Lord Northcliffe5 and Admiral Beatty.6

     It is this:- since the adoption of our army program that will put four million men in France and Flanders for the campaign of 1919 and the wonderful development in the efficiency of our navy, <splendidly> coordinating with the British to defeat the German submarine, there remains only one possible grave menace to our cause, only one thing that may prevent our early and decisive victory and a righteous and enduring peace. If by stealing through the fog or taking premeditated advantage of the confusion of naval battle, several German battle cruisers succeed in escaping from Heligoland and Wilhelmshaven7 to harass our convoys and sink our troop, or food, or munition carrying transports, the situation would be fraught with great difficulties and grave perils. This is emphasized by the fact that in all our navy there is not one battle cruiser and not a ship that combines the speed to overtake with the strength to fight a battle cruiser. Such a fleet could long maintain itself by foraging its fuel and other essential supplies from intercepted tankers and cargo ships and from our ill protected ports if not from “neutral” sources. Is it not our best hope to so bottle them up as to make escape impossible.

     When their situation becomes otherwise hopeless, the German warlords will be fools indeed not to make that last desperate attempt. They are not fools in warfare, therefore we may conclude that they will make it, and it may be very soon.

     In all probability this has been duly and well considered and provided for.8 The marvelous efficiency of our Navy Department and also of the Naval Department of our ally, Great Britain, would seem to give assurance of it. But my concern for our country and our great cause will permit me to take no chances, not even so small a one as this.

     Therefore I make bold to write this letter and most respectfully to request your kind consideration of the matter of which it treats.

     I am also taking the liberty to enclose my pamphlet,9 issued in July, “A Supreme Effort to Win the War in 1919” The pamphlet was personally handed to the President10 by Col. House and has also been read by Secretary Baker,11 General Crowder12 and many others connected with the War and its co-ordinate departments. I have personal letters from the President, <Genl. Crowder,> Mr. Baruch and Col. House very kindly commending it, <and from Cprl. Kild expressing the “thanks of the War Department” for it.> I make mention of this not only to excite your interest to read it but also with the thought that it may cause you to give more thoughtful consideration to this letter.

          Sincerely yours,

                         Samuel Colcord

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 24.

Footnote 1: Edward Mandell House or “Colonel House” was a close adviser to President Woodrow Wilson on European affairs. Despite his nickname, he did not serve in the military.

Footnote 2: Bernard M. Baruch, Chairman, War Industries Board.

Footnote 3: David Lloyd-George, Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Footnote 4: Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty.

Footnote 5: Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe.

Footnote 6: Adm. Sir David Beatty, R.N., Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet. 

Footnote 7: Heligoland is a small German archipelago in the North Sea. Wilhelmshaven is a coastal town in Germany on the Jade Bight.

Footnote 8: CR to plan US German raiders.

Footnote 9: Enclosure not found.

Footnote 10: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 11: Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War.

Footnote 12: Maj. Gen. Enoch H. Crowder, Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army.

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