Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
Office of Naval Operations
April 2nd, 1918.
This is another of the short letters which I try to get to you from time to time though I have not had very much luck.
You have kept us in more constant touch with what is going on abroad than we have been able to keep you. If I had some officer besides myself who was thoroughly in touch with the situation to do nothing but gather up reports and valuable information sending it to you, it would be well but such does not exist. Babcock1 got more than any man who has ever been here because he knew exactly what you ought to have and where to go to get it. Morever, he knew just about what I wanted to say to you and the things I would say if I had the time.
To get down to business. I am sending you a few private memoranda of mine to the Admiral in order that you may be somewhat in touch with our views on the Siberian situation which to my mind, is the most delicate thing we have to handle at present. Treat this most confidentially.2
The Admiral I think is in accord with my views, in fact I am sure of it, but as it is not the official accapted view it can only be taken for what it is worth, merely my private view.
To me personally the most important development has been the establishment of your plans section. I miss Schofield3 tremendously. He was the only man in the office whom I felt it perfectly safe to leave absolutely in charge knowing that the Admiral’s policies would be carried out with absolutely the correct interpretation as well as with the utmost loyalty. He is the clearest thinker I know, however, his talent was to an extent wasted here and he is doing where he is a better work for us at home as well as abroad, than we would be doing here.
My particular job, as I see it, is to translate your material wants and plans into actual production and then place that product where is can best beused. In that way, I take Iam doing the work which best fits in to our joint efforts. It is exactly for that
freason that the estimates made by yours plans section are of so much value to me. I merely suggest that in case certain important estimates have been concurred inby all the interesting parties, that you cable concisely the decisions and perhaps we may get quicker action that way. I am so used to following the line of thought of the chaps you have that it is really the decision which I am after immediately.
There are two subjects bearing on this war which I wish very much out plans section could find the time to take up:
1. I would like an estimate from your point of view of the time when we should begin to change our present building policy (which as you know is a drive on the destroyer, chaser, submarine, and merchant ship programme) and return to the big ship programme. Further than that I would like a policy outlined of the characteristics, (in sufficient detail tobe readily understood by the technical experts) of all of our leading types. I would like particularly that outline for the battlecruiser, scout type and submarines of all descriptions. I would also like particularly the political or other conception upon which we should base our standards as to the proper numbers to be incorporated in a building programme.4
2. From the point of view as you see it I would like an estimate made of the far Eastern situation:
(a) The present situation and efforts that should be made.
(b) The outlook for the future, having in mind the various contingencies.5
I have not expressed this very well but your chaps will get at what I am driving after. I have already formulated, in my own mind, more or less of an outline of what I believe to be our needs but would like very much to get the opinion of your plans section particularly on those two points.
Morever if you can ever spare the time make a point of considering any of the problems which you know may effect usin the future for you people are in a wonderful position to get a world wide point of view which will never happen again and I feel that you may be laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
When I get a good one I will send you a picture of the only real live kid going.6 Some peach and a chip of the old block if I do say it myself. With best wishes,
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims, Papers, Box 79. Document is from: “Admiral Sims’ Personal File.” Document reference: “1/3/J.”
Footnote 1: Cmdr. John V. Babcock, the head of the Operations Section of Sims' staff. Babcock had just recently returned from a three month assignment in Washington. See: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 22 February 1918.
Footnote 2: See: Memorandum for William S. Benson, 28 March 1918.
Footnote 3: Capt. Frank H. Schofield, who went to London to join Sims’ Planning Section.
Footnote 4: For the report prepared in response to this request, see, “Memorandum No. 49: Submarine Situation in General, Antisubmarine Measures, and the Utility of American Shipyards,” American Naval Planning Section London: 345-51.
Footnote 5: For Sims’ response, see: Sims to Pratt, 4 April 1918.
Footnote 6: A reference to the birth of Pratt’s newborn son, William V. Pratt, Jr.