Rear Admiral William S. Sims to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
SENT: April 14th, 1917. TO: Secretary of the Navy.
THROUGH: State Department.
The situation is as follows:-
The submarine issue is very much more serious than people realize in America. The recent success of <submarine> operations and the rapidity of construction constitutes the real crisis of the war. The morale of the enemy submarines is not broken only about fifty-four are known to have been captured or sunk and no voluntary surrenders have been recorded. The reports of our press are greatly in error. Reports recently circulated concerning surrenders are simply to depreciate enemy morale and results are very <un>satisfactory.
Supplies and communications of forces <on> all fronts including the Russians are threatened and control of the sea actually imperiled.
German submarines are constantly extending their operations further into the Atlantic increasing areas and the difficulty of patrolling. Russian situation critical. Baltic Fleet mutiny<;> eightyfive Admirals Captains and Commanders murdered and in some Armies there is insubordination.
The amount of British neutral and allied shipping lost in February was 536,000 tons, in March 571,000 tons and in the first ten days of April, 205,000 tons. With short nights and better weather these losses are increasing.
The British forces could not effectively prevent the escape of some raiders during the long nights but the chances are better now.
The Allies were notified that hospital ships will continue to be sunk this in order to draw destroyers away from operations against submarines to convoy hospital ships in this way causing a demand for large convoy forces in all areas not before necessary and also partially immobilizing the main fleet.
On account of the immense theatre and length and number of lines of communication and the material deterioration resulting from three years’ continuous operation in distant fields with inadequate base facilities the strength of the naval forces is dangerously strained. This applies to all of the sea forces outside the Grand Fleet. The enemy has six large and sixty-four small submarine mine layers, the latter carry eighteen mines<;> the former thirty-four also torpedoes and guns. All classes submarines for actual commission completed at a rate approaching three per week. To accelerate and insure defeat of submarine campaign immediate active co-operation absolutely necessary.
The issue is and must inevitable be decided at the focus of all lines of communication in the Eastern Atlantic, therefore I very urgently recommend the following immediate naval co-operation.
Maximum number destroyers to be sent accompanied by small antisubmarine craft former to patrol designated high sea area westward of Ireland based on Queenstown with an advance base at Bantry Bay, lat<t>er to be an inshore patrol for<ce> destroyers<,> small craft<,> should be of light draft with as high speed as possible but low speed also useful. Also repair ships and staff for base. Oil and docks available but advise sending continuous supply of fuel. German mainfleet must be contained demanded maximum conservation of the British main fleet. South of Scotland no base is so far available for this force.
At present our battleships can serve no useful purpose in this area except that two divisions of dreadnoughts might be based on Brest for moral effect against anticipated raids by heavy enemy ships in the channel out of reach of British main fleet.
The chief other and urgent practical co-operation is merchant tonnage and a continuous augmentation of anti-submarine craft to reinforce our advanced forces. There is a serious shortage of the latter craft. For towing the present large amount of sailing tonnage through dangerous areas sea-going tugs would be of great use.
The co-operation outline above should be expedited with the utmost dispatch in order to break enemy submarine morale and accelerate the accomplishment of the chief American objective.
It is very likely the enemy will make submarine mine-laying raids on our coast or in the Caribbean to divert attention and keep our forces from the critical area in the Eastern atlantic through effect upon public opinion. The difficulty of maintaining submarine bases and the <fo>cusing of shipping on this side will restrict such operations to minor importance although they should be effectively opposed principally by keeping the Channel swept on soundings. Enemy submarine mine<s> have been anchored as deep as ninety fathoms but the majority at not over fifty fathoms. Mines do not rise from the bottom to set depth until from twenty-four to forty-eight hours after they have been laid.
So far all experience shows that submarines never lay mines out of sight of landmarks or lights on account of the danger to themselves if location is not known. Maximum augmentation merchant tonnage and anti-submarine work where most effective constitute the paramount immediate necessity.
Mr. Hoover informs me that there is only sufficient grain supply in this country for three weeks. This does not include the supply in retail stores. In a few days Hoover will sail for the United States.