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Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

Admiral Sims’

Personal File.


WASHINGTON.    15 December, 1917.

My dear Admiral:-

          I am in receipt of your very interesting letter of November 26th1 and it gratifies me more than I can tell you to have first hand the information which your letter contains. The demonstration of efficiency as has been shown by the men under your command has reached all the people in America and it has heartened them in the great preparations which they are making to add to the effectiveness of our fighting fleets. I have been most happy to learn, not from one, but a number of people who have visited England and France during the war of the high esteem in which the Navy is held and of the consideration with which your views are received in the highest quarters.

          I do not know whether you recollect our first meeting and the long discussion we had at the War College upon the occasion of my first visit to that institution.2 I was so impressed then by the clear and able way you enforced your arguments that I made up my mind that when the time came for important service you had the qualities which would enable you to fitly represent the highest interests of the service. That opinion formed then was strengthened by more intimate knowledge of your service and your loyalty and it was because of this that I suggested you to the President3 when he determined to send a naval officer abroad. I have been happy that you have had the opportunity for important service and happier that you have rendered in a way to reflect honor upon the Navy of your country. I know your labors are arduous and I think of you and the other men of the Navy daily, and when Admiral Benson4 went over, I earnestly wished it were possible for me to go with him and stay a while and come in touch with the scene of action and the important work that is being planned and being done. Of course, I realized my place was here where there is so much to do and I wish you and all the others in their severe labors abroad to know that at home we are not sparing ourselves but in the Department here and elsewhere in the service there is such hearty enthusiasm and zeal and effort as we have never known before.

          I quite agree with you in the matter of making public the recognition which was given to officers and men of the Navy by the Admiralty. Of course, these distinguished service orders cannot be accepted, but I thought it would be only just that the recognition of their services by those with whom we are cooperating across the sea should be made known to their friends and their countrymen. In accordance with this view I made it public some days ago, as soon as I received your communication.

          You are quite right that it took all the naval discipline in me to repress the journalistic instinct with regard to the FANNING.5 The details of that distinguished action would have thrilled America and it seemed a sin to me as a newspaper man and as a citizen and [an american?] to repress it, but I recognized that military necessity, backed by the best military and naval opinion, would not permit me to print it at this time. I think it ought to be given to the press just as soon as it can be done without any possible danger and I should be glad if you will cable me when you think it can be properly done.

          I am very sorry that the yachts and other vessels which we had to purchase upon the breaking out of the war have not turned out as well as we had hoped. The truth is that I never signed a requisition for the purchase of any of these vessels except under protest because I knew they had not been constructed for the purpose for which we needed them but I appointed a board composed of three of the ablest civilians in the New York yacht Club and three of the ablest civilians in the New York Yacht Club and three of our ablest officers to inspect them and buy those that were best. It was a case of either buying them or having no ships of that character to help us until our destroyer program could enable us to send much larger force of smaller ships to add to your command. I am taking up the matter with Captain Pratt6 in the absence of Admiral Benson and your communication to which you refer will have our prompt attention.

          I was in Newport the other day and had the pleasure of taking luncheon with Captain Johnston and was very happy that your wife was a fellow guest.7 She is looking very well and I am sure while she misses you she was proud of the service you are rendering. When you see him will you be good enough to present my warm regards to Ambassador Page8 and my compliments to Sir Eric Geddes and my affectionate regards to Twinging9 and your other associates in the great work you are doing.

Sincerely yours,             

s/ Josephus Daniels.    

Source Note: TCy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Vice-Admiral W.S.Sims, U.S.N.,/Commanding U.S.Naval Forces,/Operating in European Waters,/C/o Postmaster, New York City.” Document reference: “1/J.”

Footnote 2: Daniels first visited the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., in June 1913. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 74.

Footnote 3: President Woodrow Wilson. Actually, Daniels wanted to send Capt. Henry B. Wilson to England as liaison officer but turned to Sims when Wilson turned down the assignment. Ibid., 121, 122.

Footnote 4: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations. He went to England in November as part of the mission headed by Col. Edward House.

Footnote 5: Daniels is referring to the FANNING’s successful attack on U-58 on 17 November 1917. See: Diary of Angus W. Wiggins, 17 November 1917. Daniels was a newspaperman and was owner and long-time editor of the Raleigh, NC, News and Observer.

Footnote 6: Capt. William V. Pratt, Acting Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 7: Capt. Rufus Z. Johnston, commander of the Newport Naval Training Station, and Anne Hitchcock Sims. The luncheon took place on 17 November 1917. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 238.

Footnote 8: United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Walter Hines Page. Page was from North Carolina and, like Daniels, had been a newspaper editor in Raleigh. Leigh A. Craig, Josephus Daniels His Life and Times (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016), 67.

Footnote 9: Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the British Admiralty; Sims’ chief of staff Capt. Nathan C. Twining.