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 the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Subject Copy.                                 File No. <4/6/13>

Cablegram Sent August 22 <23> 1918  EJW

To  Opnav Washington.                        Serial No. 3383

Prep. by   A-1                  D.R. SX

18 ARD.            

S E C R E T

3383 Your 9982.1 From Naval operating standpoint amalgamation Air Services complete failure.2 Fact that English have already found it necessary to re-establish Naval Group in Dunkirk area as well as to operate lighter-than-air craft by the Navy is significant. Admiralty is making serious attempt to re-establish Naval Air Service. For period of about four months prior to final amalgamation serious loss of efficiency was apparent due to the fact that all departments refused to make decisions or to make plans regarding matter which would be out of their hands. Such a period of inefficiency is fatal in war time. Youthful Generals in the Royal Air Force who have attained high rank by virtue of amalgamation are strongly in favor of it. To the best of my knowledge all officers of the Royal Naval Air Service consider it failure.

     Naval Aviators must be trained in seamanship and recognition of friendly or hostile surface craft and many other matters purely naval whereas Army Aviators must be able to recognize on sight different types of troops, transportation of and number of men in formations, etc. Formation of third war making department in the middle of war and at the present moment when ready to begin operations would result in great confusion and greatly retard any progress we are making. Am therefore strongly of the opinion that operations should be kept separate under Army and Navy Commands.

     Single service for production and supply of aircraft and all that pertains thereto is undoubtedly sound and strong argument to prevent duplication and competition. This should not be undertaken, however, if it would tend to amalgamate army and Navy Air Services. Such so-called amalgamation would in reality result in Army annexing Navy which would lose all individuality as such. Recommend Naval Aviation Service remain separate from Army at least until conclusion of present war.3 011423 3383.

Sims.         

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The handwritten date is confirmed by the time/date stamp. The first two lines of the document plus the serial number are repeated on the second page of this two-page document.

Footnote 1: Sims quoted from this cable from Opnav in his message to Hutchinson I. Cone of 18 August 1918. See: Sims to Cone, 18 August 1918.

Footnote 2: The Royal Air Force was founded on 1 April 1918 when the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were amalgamated. Historians agree with Sims that it harmed naval aviation and was unpopular among the British naval aviators. See, for example, Geoffrey Till, Air Power and the Royal Navy 1914-1945, A Historical Survey (London: Jane’s Publishing Co., 1979), 111-22; Hank Adlam, The Disastrous Fall and Triumphant Rise of the Fleet Air Arm from 1912-1945: Sea Eagles Led by Penguins (South Yorkshire, England: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2014), 23-34.

Footnote 3: After the war there was an attempt in the United States to create a unified air force, like the Royal Air Force, but the attempt was unsuccessful and the Navy retained a separate air service.

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