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British Foreign Office to the Governments of France and Italy


          At the suggestion of the U.S. Government and in order to secure the further co-operation of the American and Allied Fleets and to discuss the best plans of operations to ensure victory, it is proposed that a Naval Conference should be held between such officers as the Governments may select to represent them.

          The U.S. Government have selected Admiral Mayo (Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet) and Vice-Admiral Sims (Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters) to represent them.1

          It is proposed that the Conference should commence in London on Tuesday, September 4th.

          If the proposal is acceptable it is requested that information may be given as to the officers selected to represent France, Italy, Russia.


(Sent by Foreign Office)

17th August, 1917.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The decision to hold the naval conference proposed herein was the result of concerns from President Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, and Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, that Sims was providing inadequate information about naval matters to Washington and that Sims’ affinity for the British was causing him to subvert U.S. naval interests to those of the British. It was due to the efforts of VAdm. Sir Montague E. Browning, Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station, that Wilson, Daniels, and Benson agreed to send a naval mission to Europe for a conference of senior Allied naval officials, in order to clear up any misunderstandings or misconceptions. This conference took place 4-5 September. Though few concrete agreements or policy decisions resulted from this conference, First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe and First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Eric Geddes were pleased with the result; Mayo and the officials in Washington, however, still doubted Britain’s regard for American interests. For more on the origins, and results of this conference, see, Still, Crisis at Sea, 73-76, and Klachko and Trask, Benson, 82.

Footnote 1: Henry T. Mayo and William S. Sims.

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