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 Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar

April 12th. 1918.

My dear Nibs,

          Referring to your letter of March 29th.in reference to the bad state of affairs at Genoa,1 you will be glad to know that, probably due to the efforts of Train, Rear Admiral Belleni has been sent to take charge of the port, superseding all of the civilian push that have been balling matters up.2

          Some time ago I reported conditions down there to the Navy Department and asked to have an officer sent me who would take charge of the port, and have under him a patrol of sufficient force to keep our people in order.3 The Italians are very jealous of that sort of thing and it may be that our known intentions in the matter have made them get a move on and take military charge of the port themselves.

          In reference to your general hard luck story about affairs down at Gibraltar, I asked Stark to prepare a letter telling you just what had been done and what was being done in the way of getting officers sent down to you.4 I can understand perfectly well that it conveyed a rather hapless impression to have your commissioned officers taken away and sent north. This action was not mine, but was ordered by the Navy Department. It may be some little consolation to you to know that since the very beginning the yachts on the French coast have been operating with only one commissioned officer on board. As you may imagine, I have protested very energetically against this, and have told the Department that if that condition of affairs resulted in disaster some of these days, there would be no possible defense.

          Unfortunately, the promises the Navy Dept. made as to the number of destroyers that would begin to come out from January last have fallen down nearly completely. I had it from Pratt5 that we might expect ten destroyers a month beginning in January. You know what has happened. I don’t know what the reason is. This leaves us all upagainst it in all stations until some new destroyers arrive and some of the 110 ft. chasers. Fortyeight of the latter have arrived at Bermuda and a number are now on the way being escorted to the Azores. The first thirty are destined for hunting squadrons in the Otranto Straits.6

          You may be entirely sure that we will improve conditions down your way just as soon as it can be done.

Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 76. Addressed below close: “Rear Admiral A.P. Niblack, U.S.Navy./G i b r a l t a r”.

Footnote 1: Although Niblack’s letter of 29 March has not been found, he wrote a letter to Sims with an extensive discussion of the situation at Genoa on 18 March as well. See: Niblack to Sims, 18 March 1918.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché in Rome, and RAdm. Silvio Belleni of the Italian Navy. For Belleni assuming command at Genoa, see: Train to Sims, 6 April 1918.

Footnote 3: Sims’ request for an American officer for Genoa has not been found. He wrote to Train later in April and reported that the Navy Department replied “that they rather fear that if that were proposed the Italian Government would feel slighted because we did not send an officer of greater rank.” He considered asking for an officer of sufficient rank to satisfy the Italians, but ultimately decided that “for the present, I think we had better let things along.” See: Sims to Train, 18 April 1918.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Harold R. Stark, assigned to the Secretarial and Personnel Section of Sims’ staff. For Niblack’s “general hard luck story,” see: Niblack to Sims, 3 April 1918.

Footnote 5: Capt. William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 6: A hand-written note over this sentence reads, “They will not be used for anything else.”

Related Content