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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations


August 13th.1918.

My dear Pratt,

          When the history of this war comes to be written there will be a number of features that will not be very creditable to the United States Navy. If hearings are held on the conduct of the war, number of rather disagreeable facts must inevitably be brought out.1 Without going into details, I may say that as far as the Navy is concerned we will have fought this war with the bulk of our experienced personnel of the Navy on the side of the ocean where there is no war. We will have to be able to show that it was necessary that we should have had to fight the war over here with a very large proportion of reserve officers who did not have the necessary experience.

          With this little preface, I invite you to read the enclosed paper prepared by Lieutenant Commander Carter,2 entitled: SET A THIEF TO CATCH A THIEF. See if you can find any holes in the argument.

          I am not writing you much these days, because I send you always a copy of my letter to the Admiral,3 which contains all of the iterms I wish to touch on outside of the general report.

          I am naturally very much interested that you are really attempting to get up a staff organization in the Department. It is rather a curious reflection that the Navy Department should have watched a war for three years and been in a war for one-and-a-half years without having organized a practical piece of machinery to carry on its work.

          However, cheer up!

Very sincerely yours,        

Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 78. Addressed below close: “Captain W.V.Pratt. U.S.Navy./Office of Naval Operations,/Navy Department./Washington.D.C.”

Footnote 1: In fact, Sims was the one to instigate a congressional investigation into the Navy Department’s performance in the war. Biographers of both Sims and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels conclude that the Navy Department emerged from the hearings with its reputation essentially unscathed. Craig, Josephus Daniels: 364-365; Morison, Admiral Sims: 460-461.

Footnote 2: Lt. Cmdr. Worrell R. Carter, Commander, U.S.S. Fulton. Carter’s paper has not been found.

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