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 28, 1918

My darling Sweetheart:

     Another lonely Sunday away from all my dear ones. . . . I got back from Paris today at 11 a.m. Here is an account of the trip[.] We left here on Wednesday, 24th at 5 PM (3 British, 3 Americans – Twining & Babby1 2 French, 2 Italians, 2 Japs and some [  ?  ], and went by the way of Southampton and Havre. . . .

     The passage from Southampton to Havre takes 8 hours instead of 1½ by Folkstone2 and Boulogne. We went in the regular passenger steamer in company with a fast hospital ship and escorted by two destroyers. The steamer was a fine, clean new one and I had a fine stateroom, and the channel was as smooth as a pond. We arrived at Havre at 7 a.m. and boarded the train for Paris, arriving there at noon. . . . The Parisians pay little attention to them [the “mystery” guns]. The disaster in the church caused a bit of a panic, and it is said that 900,000 people left the city3. . . .

     On Friday 26th the conference met both forenoon and afternoon. At 1 pm all the P.Ds4 went to dinner lunch with the deBon family (Chief of Staff). Such charming people! I would like to have you meet them. Ad. deBon is a fine man. Madame is a fine mate for him, and the two daughters are lovely girls.5 Such a nice [little?] family!

     Friday evening I was going to dine with Peg again, but had to go to a dinner given by Sayles to meet the Ambassador.6 It was a stag dinner – Cone, Twining, Babby, Jackson and a few others.7 The Ambassador is a western man of the politician type but a very human individual, and I like him.8 We all had a fine talk about affairs in general, and a right pleasant dinner.

     The next day, Saturday, we had another meeting of the council and finished at noon. It was presided over by the Minister, Mr. Legues, a very able man, and we accomplished a good deal.9

     At 7 P.M. we all lunched with the new British ambassador, Lord Derby, late Minister of war. The lunch was at the Ritz – the former ambassador, Bertie, being very sick10. . . .

     While in Paris I of course talked with all sorts of people about the military situation; including army and navy men, correspondents, diplomats, etc, and found them all optimistic. Grasly11 says he has never known the French army to be in better condition – such a contrast from this time last year. I hope this is justified, tho I must say the situation looks serious enough to me. Both the French and British seem to have unlimited confidence in General Foch,12 and I have also for that matter, if he only had more troops. . . .

Your devoted            

Will     

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

Footnote 1: Sims’ chief of staff Capt. Nathan C. Twining and his personal aide Cmdr. John V. Babcock.

Footnote 2: Folkestone, a port on the southern coast of England.

Footnote 3: On 23 March, the Germans introduced a large piece of artillery that could fire a projectile 75 miles and hit the heart of Paris.  One shell struck Saint-Gervais church, collapsing a section of the roof and killing 88 people. David Stevenson, With Our Backs to the Wall: 57, 87-8, 188.

Footnote 4: People of distinction.

Footnote 5: Adm. Ferdinand-Jean-Jacques de Bon. His wife was Françoise-Emilie Zédé de Bon, daughter of Adm. Gustave Zédé.

Footnote 6: “Peg” was Anne Hitchcock Sims’ sister, Margaret; Cmdr. William R. Sayles, United States Naval Attaché in Paris; U.S. Ambassador to France William G. Sharp.

Footnote 7: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, United States Staff Representative, Paris, France; Capt. Richard H. Jackson, United States Staff Representative in Paris.

Footnote 8: Sharp was from Ohio and served in Congress from 1909-15.

Footnote 9: Georges Leygues. For a detailed discussion of the issues discussed at this third meeting of the Allied Naval Council, see: Sims to William S. Benson, 30 April 1918.

Footnote 10: Edward G.V. Stanley, Earl of Derby; Sir Francis Bertie. On Bertie’s prolonged intestinal illness, see Keith Hamilton, Bertie of Thame: Edwardian Ambassador (Suffolk, England: Boydell and Brewer, 1990), 381-82.

Footnote 11: Charles H. Grasty, an American correspondent who reported for the New York Times. See, Grasty, Flashes from the Front (New York: The Century Company, 1918), introduction.

Footnote 12: On 3 April 1918, Gen. Ferdinand Foch was appointed generalissimo with authority to coordinate actions of the Allied armies on the western front and to oversee “strategic direction of military operations.” WWI Encyclopedia, Vol. 2: 424-26.