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

 

August 30, 1917

Thursday

My darling Sweetheart:

          As you well know, I am busy enough at all times, but just now I am much busier than usual on account of having to spend so much time with the C-in-C.1

     So much so, that I find Thursday has arrived without even having started a letter to you. And what is worse, there is little prospect of being able to write a real one, as there is a big dinner at Admiral Jellicoe’s2 this evening and tomorrow (mail day) I am leaving at 10 am with Admirals Mayo, Jellicoe, etc for an all day trip to one of the ports. We will return to London the same evening, but probably rather late.

     So, in order that you may have a bit of a letter, I have, for the first time, dictated the principal items of news (nothing confidential and mostly impersonal) to my stenographer, Miss Thompson, a very competent person. I hope you will not mind.

     In that letter I have acknowledged a whole lot of yours, extending from Aug. 2nd to 16th., and a mass of clippings. I have already read nearly all of them and am returning some of them. I am also returning Miss Voysey’s3 five letters.

     I will have only a little while to write, so let me first set your mind at ease concerning the reference in your confidential (double envelope) letter to the criticisms in America of the alleged inactivity of the allied naval forces.

     (The letter has been burned.)

     Such criticisms are called “most shabby”. They are a part of every war. Nelson4 spent the better part of his time explaining why ships could not successfully attack shore stations defended by fortifications. It has been said in all wars which navies have been engaged.

     Admiral Mayo and his staff already [know?] that such a thing is impossible, and when they return they will clear up things [with] the department. It is very singular, but it is always the case, that the “man on the street” (and the naval officer who cannot know the conditions) will assume with perfect confidence that certain things are easily possible. Then criticisms amount to an assumption either 1. That the combined experience and intelligence of the allied commanders is insufficient to enable them to understand what the critic sees so clearly 2. or that, seeing it quite plainly, they have not the energy and courage to carry it out.

     They do not make the reasonable assumption that there must be sufficient military or political reasons to prevent them being carried out.

     I am doing all I can to counteract these criticisms, by both personal and official letters, but they will doubtless continue, at least until Admiral Mayo gets home.5

     Do not borrow any trouble over the possibility of my judgment being unduly influenced by personal considerations or personal feeling.

     There is nothing complicated about the main facts of the situation. They are as plain as day. And it is upon these facts that my recommendations are based. I am not the least afraid of the results. You may be sure I will adhere to my judgment at all times. W.W.6 distinctly invited me [to] agree with him, and I declined in no uncertain terms.7 The same is true of the Department. The latter now realizes the situation and I believe there will be no trouble. But if there is trouble, why let it come, and we will make the best of it. I do not believe there will be any. However, why cross any bridges. Why worry. I am, I believe, quite accurately informed of opinions at home, and they are only of the kind that is to be expected-as anyone would know who had read even a little technical war history.

     Do not be nervous about our letters. There is hardly a chance in a million that one of my letters would be interfered with between Washington and Newport. All yours have come to me without any interference[.] Pinky8 sent you some confidential correspondence by express. I used this means for the sake of your peace of mind.

     I am sending you some interesting papers this time, but will not have occasion to do so again.

     It is late now, and I must fly and get ready for dinner.

     I am loving you more than I can tell you. Heaps of hugs and kisses for your and the wee ones.

Your devoted

Will.

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers. This letter has been stapled and holes have been punched in it, obscuring some words.

Footnote 1: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 2: First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe.

Footnote 3: Miss Violet Voysey, the niece of VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 4: Adm. Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) one of Britain’s most celebrated admirals.

Footnote 5: For more on this subject, see: Sims to Pratt, 30 August 1917. For Mayo’s visit, see: Mayo to Daniels, 30 August 1917.

Footnote 6: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 7: For this exchange, see: Wilson to Sims, 4 July 1917, and Sims to Wilson, 11 July 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 8: Capt. Frank L. Pleadwell, Medical Inspector on Sims' staff, as well as the Assistant Naval Attaché at London.

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