Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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

[Extract]

April 30th <1918>

OFFICE OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

Dear Sims—Just a line if you won’t kick at my handwriting. You certainly do need cheering up. I don’t know of any way to stop rumors. They will come out. People will talk. However I can tell you whether they are true or not.1

     About Benson2 don’t you believe it for a minute. He will stay CNO. He will not go C-in-C. The rumor probably started because the Secty.3 once said the real C-in-C of the fleet in this war was the CNO. Winterhalter4 hasn’t a look in I think though Daniels is very fond of him. I think the Administration will not stand for it, German name etc.

     To the best of my knowledge there is not nor will there be any one sent to relieve or supersede you. I have talked often to CNO about it. He feels you are the only man on the Admirals list with the grasp of the big things. Once in a while he gets mad over some minor matter, but you are all right. Nor will Mayo or Coffman come over.5

     About Eberle,6 I strongly think he did his best to get NAV. to order him. I am not sure but I feel he wanted the destroyer job and I strongly suspect NAV is or will back him for it. I have not heard of him going. In fact I understand the Admiral to say he was going to the Fleet. I will look into it closer.

     About Wilson,7 I know. The CNO has shown me. And about Jackson too.8 I have pulled, & schemed and done my d— to get Jackson out of a job too big for him. You ought to have a real Admiral like Knapp,9 I should think.

     About Strauss,10 Navigation put the position over. It was like this. When the barrage plan was made CNO was over in Europe. I got Secty. to push it & to get it Pushed, I got him to pick R.R. Belknap11 who was the one man with drive, knowledge & get it done to make the job a go. Then it got big. I was perfectly willing for Belknap to hold it even if it was an Admirals job. But NAV kicked like hell. However I would not budge nor did I and no more was made until the Admiral got back. In fact we canned Hoogerwerff12 to give Belknap the job. But in the end an Admiral had to be Chosen and CNO & I talked it out & picked out Strauss as being the most harmless and the one least apt to interfere with Belknap. Now this is strictly entre nous but that is the reason & Dont tell it. Pick an Admiral I and you. Go down the list and find them will you. You want a man for a job & you have d— hard work finding a trained man on the Admirals list In In thought, my scalp hangs at the belt of many an Admiral & I have as much chance as a snow bird in hell on the day of selection. There are a bunch of them that want my job I expect, but the old man says no & he won’t even consider my details for sea. I don’t kick because...

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 78. The remainder of this letter is missing and thus not printed here.

Footnote 1: Pratt here is referring to rumors that Sims believed he was going to be either superseded or replaced as the commander of American naval forces in Europe. Sims has also expressed dissatisfaction with the recent selections of officers sent to serve under him. See: Sims to Pratt, 16 April 1918.

Footnote 2: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 3: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Albert G. Winterhalter had been the Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet until 1917, when he was named President of the General Board.

Footnote 5: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and VAdm. De Witt Coffman, Mayo’s Second in Command.

Footnote 6: Capt. Edward W. Eberle was Superintendent of the Naval Academy and remained at that post for the duration of the war.

Footnote 7: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France.

Footnote 8: Capt. Richard H. Jackson, United States Staff Representative and Naval Attaché, Paris.

Footnote 9: RAdm. Harry S. Knapp, Military Governor of Santo Domingo, and Military Representative of the United States in Haiti.

Footnote 10: Capt. Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force.

Footnote 11: Capt. Reginald R. Belknap, Commander, Mine Squadron One.

Footnote 12: Capt. John A. Hoogerwerff.

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