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

23 Dec 1917

From: V. A. Sims.


2366. Your 1732.1 I strongly deprecate any effort to create an impression that our naval forces to European waters have been avoidably hampered by failure of the Navy Department to comply with my recommendations for various things, particularly personnel period.

     It is of course well known that the anti-submarine campaign and the protection of allied shipping have been and still are hampered to a considerable extent by insufficient number of certain types of vessels, especially destroyers, and by certain class of personnel, and I have repeatedly made recommendations in accordance with the requirements of the situation. To these recommendations the Department has always responded with the assurance that reinforcements of both vessels and personnel were being sent to the maximum extent consistent with the many requirements of the Department in these respects.

     The decision as to the relative importance of the employment of our Naval Forces and personnel in the theatre of actual war operations in European waters and at home must necessarily rest with the Department and I consider it the first duty of those at the front loyally to accept such decisions and to make the best of conditions which are at present admittedly unsatisfactory and must so remain until the energetic measures now being taken to increase our anti-submarine force produce the necessary reinforcements.2 08223.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: This is probably a typo for Document No. 1733. See: William S. Benson to Sims, 21 December 1917.

Footnote 2: Sims wrote this message only after being prompted to do so by Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, probably at Daniels’ urging. The House Committee on Naval Affairs had criticized the Navy Department for failing to meet the needs of its force in Europe, and Benson asked Sims to provide a “strong positive statement” refuting the committee’s complaints. Although Sims seemed to comply with Benson’s request here, he later wrote his wife that he did indeed believe the department was providing him with inadequate staff and personnel, and that he made this statement of confidence in his superiors as tepid as possible in hopes of subtly conveying his true feelings. In summarizing the above letter, he concluded that “I fancy they [Daniels and Benson] did not derive much comfort from it.” In 1920, once the war was over, Sims wrote directly to Congress complaining about the Navy Department’s leadership before and during the war, triggering a lengthy congressional investigation; Morison, Admiral Sims: 402-403. Benson’s letter to Sims and Sims letter to his wife are both reproduced therein.

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