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 Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadrons Based on Gibraltar

December 10th, 1917.   

My dear Nibs,

          Your letter of November 27th, received upon my return here today after attending the conference in Paris and visiting Brest and so forth with Admiral Benson.1 In the first place, let me tell you, as I have often told you before that your handwriting is very difficult to read, so I hope that you will one of these days learn to writhe on the typewriter and spare us both some time.

          I am sorry to hear that you have had such a hard time getting down to Gibraltar, but I assume you have forgotten your troubles by this time.

          I am glad to know that old man Decker is doing such good work in Spain.2 I quite agree with you that the information he gets should be sent to me as soon as possible. I took up this whole matter with the Department some time ago because I found that certain important pieces of information had been sent by mail to Washington and came back to me a month or so later when the information would have been useful to me if I had had it as soon as it was gotten.3 The Navy Department in consequence gave orders that the Naval Attaches should me copies of all information the send to Washington.4 This helped matters to a certain extent but was not nearly satisfactory for the reason that the Naval Attaches necessarily send through a good deal of information much of which is not correct. Very possibly some of it is put in their way by agents of the enemy. At all events, I have often found it necessary to telegraph to Washington the information that certain telegrams from the Attaches convey information which the Secret Service here was able to inform me was not correct. I therefore took up the whole subject with Admiral Benson and he entirely agrees with me that all reports made by the Naval Attaches should come directly to me so that I can collate them, compare them with the secret information here, and send through what we consider to be the correct dope. I believe this will be straightened out when Admiral Benson gets home.

          It is a common thing up here for British Vice-Admirals and Rear-Admirals on the retired list to accept a lower rank in the reserve and command all sorts of vessels. It shows a very fine spirit. Some of these men are seventy years of age.

          I am telegraphing today for Yarnell as I have to have assistance in this office right away as the administration and detailed work of this force is getting away from us.5 We are leaving King with you.6 As you say he will get used to it after a while.

          I have explained very thoroughly to Admiral Benson the hardship experienced by officers over here in certain positions in paying their expenses, and [he] has promised to take the matter up directly and see if he can have an adequate allowance made for all officers so situated. I have a telegram from McGowan saying he is working on the same scheme.7

          Admiral Benson will also make every effort to get the three new repair ships over to this side, and I think at present one of these will be sent to you at Gibraltar where I am sure she will be of great use not only in making repairs but in serving as a Receiving Ship.8

          I am much too busy just now to write any particular gossip, but I may say that in my opinion the results of our mission to this side are going to prove of great value. They have all gone back thoroughly impressed with the seriousness of the situation and determined to do everything they can to help us out on this side. Benson says he will send over every destroyer that can be gotten across to this side either under her own steam or by being towed. It is a great pity that the mission did not come over here in the early weeks after our entry into the war.

          Remain as cheerful as you can,

                   Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 49. Following the close, the letter is addressed to “Rear Admiral A.P.Niblack, U.S.N./Gibraltar.”

Footnote 1: See: Niblack to Sims, 27 November 1917. As Sims notes, he was in Paris attending the second Allied Naval Conference on 27 and 28 November, the major result of which was the formation of an Inter-Allied Naval Council. Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, also attended this conference, acting as the Navy’s representative on the House Commission, headed by Edward M. House. This diplomatic mission had arrived in London in early November to gain a fuller picture of joint British and American naval efforts and to devise additional methods for further cooperation and coordination as equal partners is naval planning and strategy. Following the conference in Paris, the Mission, accompanied by Sims, toured the various naval installations in France before returning to the United States on 4 December.

Footnote 2: Capt. Benton C. Decker, United States Naval Attaché in Madrid.

Footnote 5: Lt. Cmdr. Henry E. Yarnell. On 23 October 1917, Sims wrote to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels asking that Capt. Frank H. Schofield, Cmdr. Frank H. Clark, Lt. Cmdr. William S. Pye, Lt. Rueben B. Coffey, and Lt. Cmdr. Walton R. Sexton be sent over to form a new Planning Committee that would assist him with his work; see: Sims to Daniels, 23 October 1917. Schofield and Cmdr. Dudley M. Knox were the first officers dispatched to London to form an American Planning Section (see: William V. Pratt to Sims, 2 December 1917), and were later joined by Yarnell (who later exchanged places with Capt. Luke McNamme in the Planning Section of the Nay Department) and Maj. Robert H. Dunlap, USMC (later replaced by Col. Louis McC. Little, USMC). Still, Crisis at Sea, 44 and Sims, Victory at Sea, 253.

Footnote 6: Lt. Rufus King.

Footnote 7: RAdm. Samuel McGowan, Paymaster General and Chief of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. The telegram that Sims references herein has not been located.

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