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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

[Extract]

London, England.       

Sunday, April 21, 1918

My precious Nani:

     ...It is cold, with occasional flakes of snow, and I am constantly thinking of the two or three millions of men fighting on the western front – fighting the most distressing and unnecessary war of all history-a war of greed and thirst for power. The situation remains critical, and will doubtless be so for some time – perhaps for some months. Both sides are sending in all possible reinforcements and apparently it is going to be a struggle to exhaustion that will cost many thousands of fine young lads. What a wretched business, but it must go on. To be ruled by the Hun is unthinkable.

     As I told you in my last letter, the trip to Paris was interrupted, or postponed[.]1 We now leave on Wednesday, 24th for a meeting of the council on the 26th and 27th. We are leaving a day early, as trains are rather uncertain in France just now. We expect to be back by the 28th or 29th...

Monday, April 22

     ...Dont imagine I am worried over the c-in-c’s report- or the efforts of my enemies to undermine me.2 I feel sure they can accomplish nothing. You doubtless understand the meaning of the criticism of which you sent me the clipping from the Tribune. I wrote at once to Adml Benson3 about it- and explained that I did not want any change made at Queenstown and I asked him to answer me by cable that none would be made. I also wrote to the Tribune (a personal letter, not to be published) and to the Army and Navy Register.4 I think I sent you copies of the letters, but I will do so when I come back from Paris. These criticisms came from the fleet, but they were timed badly for the critics-just at the time of the public approval of General Pershing5 for doing exactly what I have always done since the day the first naval forces arrived on this side. This is all explained in the article which will appear in the Sunday Sun and other Sunday Papers before this reaches you. Babby6 wrote the paper, and it is an able one. Of course any naval officer would recognize that it was inspired by me, or my people[.] I dont think any official notice will be taken of it, but if the P.Ds want to bring up the question, I will ask them why they allowed me to be publically criticized for official actions of mine which had their official approval. I had a long talk with General Pershing today and he agrees fully with me[.] We cooperate most cordially. I sent you a copy of a recent letter to him.7 He was very much pleased with it. Personally, I like him very much, and I am sure he likes me.

     ...The “ship” is growing all the time. We are about to take on a 5th house. We hear that Josephus is coming over. I hope he does, so that he can see what the job is like. We pay about $18,000 rent. The Army pays about $150,000, as they have taken two hotels and have to pay according to what the business was making – and hotels are very scarce in London because so many have been commandeered for offices, etc.

...Your devoted

Will

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 10.

Footnote 1: The meeting was postponed so that the Italian Chief of Naval Staff, VAdm. Paolo Thaon di Revel, could attend. See: Charles H. Train to Sims, 16 April 1918.

Footnote 2: Sims feared that another officer would be sent by the Navy Department to command the destroyers based at Queenstown, thus undermining his authority. He also worried that Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, might leave Washington and establish his command in Europe, thus effectively demoting Sims. Neither came to fruition, and Sims repeatedly insisted he would resign if they did. See: Sims to Sims, 22 February 1918; also, Still, Crisis at Sea, 28-30.

Footnote 3: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 4: See: Sims to John E. Jenks, 8 April 1918. The articles Sims was refuting contended that American naval personnel were under the command of British officers.

Footnote 5: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 6: Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ personal aide.

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