Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Rear Admiral Leigh C. Palmer, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation
December 14th, 1917.
My dear Palmer,
Your letter of November 5th, turned up in due time. It expressed the sad state of the commissioned personnel in our Navy, in reference to lack of regular trained officers. I have also gone over carefully the tabulated statement that was made out with a view to finding the number of officers allowed to vessels of each type. There is no doubt that you are entirely correct in this matter, provided the estimate of the situation upon which it is evidently based is equally correct.
If all the vessels enumerated are to be kept in commission, and if they are to be kept on a war basis, of course you will need all the men that your tabulation shows. The only point I have made in the matter is that in all human probability many of the numerous vessels that are kept in commission on the other side can, by their activities, have no material effect upon the ending of this war. Of course, I may be mistaken in this matter. But according to my idea the situation is now of such a grave character as to demand the most serious consideration as to how it can be improved by the increased force, and the increased efficiency of the forces, on this side. That is, at the Front, where alone the fighting is going on.
I have represented this as strongly and as earnestly as I can to the Department, and the final decision rests with them. This is not a war in which, according to my opinion, we are justified in playing the game on a basis of safety first. Risks will have to be taken in some areas in order that the necessary power may be exerted where it will have to be exerted if we are going to win.
If I had the decision in this matter I would go through the Navy on the other side with a fine tooth comb and I would rake out every active commissioned officer that can possibly be spared, even at the expense of a certain amount of inefficiency on the other side, in order that our power at the front might be increased. But, as I said before, the decision in this matter rests with the Department.
However, no matter what this decision may be, you may depend upon it that the forces on this side will cheerfully accept it, and do the best they can.
Very sincerely yours,
Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Rear Admiral L.C.Palmer, U.S.N./Chief of Bureau of Navigation,/Navy Department,/Washington,D.C.” Document reference: “1/3/J.”