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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Lindon W. Bates, Chairman of Engineering Committee, Submarine Defense Association


30, Grosvenor Gardens,  

London. S.W.

August 8th. 1917.

My dear Bates,

          Yours of the 26th.1 just received with all of the dope about your remarkable son.2 It is really a wonderful record of achievement. I would be very glad to have such a man for duty with me here and in Paris, but I know from experience with the Navy Department that it would be useless for me to apply to have him enlisted in this Branch of the Service. I have tried it repeatedly and have always been refused.3

          However, I am quite sure that he would be of even greater use to General Pershing4 than he would be to me because the latter must necessarily be so intimately associated with the French, and must therefore be in need of the experience and the attainments of a man like your son.

          I am therefore going to send the information down to General Pershing (who is a good friend of mine,though I met him only when he came over here) and explain to him, based on my experience in France, how usefulLindell would be to him. I hope this will be successful.

          I only wish I had the time to write you a gossipy letter about how things are going over here, but as this would be quite impossible under the present circumstances I will simply say that everything is going as satisfactorily as could be expected under the circumstances. That I realise is a rather indefinite expression but, perhaps you will understand when I say that by circumstances I mean principally the Navy Department and our Government officials in general and their at present lack of appreciation of the seriousness of this war into which we have entered.

          Everybody on this side seems to be in great and more or less confident hopes that America will come forward with some solution of the submarine problem.

          Personally I am convinced that the possibilities in this case must almost necessarily be confined to some kind of apparatus that will, from a distance of four or five miles, notify us of the presence of a submarine.5 It must be be such an apparatus as will record the presence of a submarine even when the vessel carrying the apparatus is going at full speed, and there is consequently considerable noise from machinery and so forth. If such an apparatus could be perfected it means that the submarine passes out of business both as a war weapon and as a destroyer of commerce. This is some problem, and if it can be solved our difficulties will be largely over.

          I thank you very sincerely for your highly flattering expressions of congratulations on my present job.

          Please give my love to Madame Bates and believe me,

Always sincerely yours,           

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 47. Addressed below close: “Lindon W.Bates Esq.,/615 Fifth Avenue./New York City./N.Y. U.S.A.,”

Footnote 1: This letter has not been found.

Footnote 2: Lindell T. Bates. It is uncertain whether the younger Bates was ever appointed to the staff of an officer in the Army or Navy. His older brother, Lindon W. Bates Jr., was killed in the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat on 7 May 1915. Shortly after the sinking, Lindell travelled to Europe in a search for his brother’s body (which was recovered eventually, having washed up on an island); during his search, Lindell was briefly arrested on suspicion of spying for the Germans, but his innocence was quickly established., accessed 9 January 2019.

Footnote 3: Early in his command, Sims complained frequently at the Navy Department’s slowness in providing him with an adequate staff. This improved over time, and by the end of the war he had well over 900 people (officers, enlisted men, and civilians) working at his headquarters. Still, Crisis at Sea: 33-35.

Footnote 4: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 5: For the development and use of listening devices as a means of defending against submarines, see Still, Crisis at Sea: 447-457.

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