Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to John E. Jenks, Editor-in-Chief, Army and Navy Register

April 8th. 1918.

My dear Jenks,

          In the issue of the ARMY AND NAVY REGISTER of March 16th, page 323, the article entitled “DESTROYER COMMAND IN EUROPE” appears to me to be not only very damaging but also a very unjustifiable criticism both of me and the Navy Department.1

          The article is very badly mistaken in a number of respects, both as to matters of fact and as to the suggestions which the article makes.

          For example, it is stated that the American destroyers in question are under the immediate command of Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, the local commander in these waters.2 This is wholly in error. The destroyers in question are under my immediate command. Admiral Bayly is not the local commander in these waters but commands all of the waters of Ireland and the Irish Sea. There are many British forces that are operating in this area and the command is an exceedingly important one particularly on account of the political condition of Ireland just now. It would be wholly untenable for this great station to be commanded by a foreign Admiral.

          Admiral Bayly has nothing whatever to do with the administration, supply or discipline of the forces in question. These forces are operating with the British forces but are under the command of Americans.

          I notice recently, in the American Press, expressions of great satisfaction that the forces of our Army in France have been placed under the authority of the new Allied Commander, in the theatre of operations – General Foch.3 It is manifestly entirely logical that General Pershing4 should have done this. What he has done just now is exactly what I did when our forces first arrived on this side, in so far as concerns the actual military operations of the forces. In other words, it is a purely American force operating with the British in the Common Cause.

          Your article seems to imply that the forces in question have been rapidly increasing. This is not the case. There are not more than two or three units now than there were six or eight months ago and the particular forces in question will not need to be increased materially.

          You have also stated in your article “That the conditions that have developed are not so much the result of intention on the part of the British Authorities as from inaction on the part of our Navy Dept. in failing to initiate proceedings that would lead to a change in the conditions.”

          It would be hard to imagine a more <complete> mis-statement to be made or implied in six lines than have been accomplished by the quotation given above. There was no question of intention on the part of the British Authorities. The condition of affairs is a direct result of my own decision, taken immediately upon the arrival of our forces on this side, and maintained not only at the base in question, but at all other bases where our forces are now operating.

          This was therefore not due to any inaction on the part of the Navy Dept. in failing to initiate proceedings, and so forth. The Navy Dept. is of course thoroughly informed of the condition of affairs and it meets with their official approval.

          I think you will see from the above that your article had inflicted upon me, and upon my work, and upon the Navy Dept. and upon the Naval Service a very distinct injury.

          I know you well enough to be entirely sure that you never had any intention of this kind, and I believe you know me well enough to understand that I am doing what I believe to be best for the interests of the Allied Cause.

          The above must be considered as entirely personal and confidential and it is not to be published or given out to anybody else. It is intended solely to correct a mistake which I believe you will recognise. I should be glad indeed to hear from you on this subject.

Very sincerely yours,       

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 46. Following the close, the letter is addressed, “John E.Jenks Esq.,/Editor, ARMY & NAVY REGISTER,/P.O. Box 341./Washington.D.C.”

Footnote 2: Bayly was the British Royal Navy commander in Southern Ireland. His headquarters was at Queenstown, Ireland, where the American destroyers were based.

Footnote 3: Ferdinand Foch.

Footnote 4: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.

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