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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

[Extract]

The Caillon, London, Dec. 9,1917

Sunday.       

My darling Nani:

     Here I am “at home’ again, after being absent since Nov. 27th. I sent you a number of letter from Paris by the pouch, and two by the Mount Vernon-the vessel that took the famous mission home. . . .1

     From St. Nazaire we went to Brest arriving there in the forenoon with Ad. B., Jackson, Cone, Babby, and Blakeslee. At 1 p.m. a special came in from Paris with Col. House and all the other members of the mission.2 The train went into the Navy Yard and the whole party went at once on board the Mount Vernon, anchored in the Bay with the San Diego. I went on board with them; and had a long talk with Col. H and with other members of the mission. They were all really enthusiastic about the work I have been doing, and thanked me very warmly for my assistance. They all understand that months ago I recommended everything they have already recommended, or are going to recommend when they get home, and they all understand what a mistake was made in not sending over a mission with all sorts of experts as soon as we came into the war.

     I spoke quite frankly to Col. House about the position in which I had been placed, about the long delay in sending me a staff, and the opinions as to my being pro-British, etc., but I made it clear that I did not do so in [excitement?] or complaint because, as I stated, I had enough knowledge of the history of warfare to understand that in the beginning of all wars the relations between the seat of government and the “front” were always the same; but that I hoped that, now that they had studied the situation for themselves, they would be able to make it clear that my estimate of the situation in April and May had been sound and not the least panicy.3 He said he was sure they could do so. I accentuated the advisability of relying upon the judgment of the man on the spot, to which he quite agreed. But I also said that in addition to the military and diplomatic representatives over here, there should be a permanent mission headed by a man whose name was well known on both sides of the Atlantic, and whose duty it would be to keep our government continuously informed through a continuous study of the situation. He seemed to think favorable of this.

     There can be no doubt that the report of this mission will clear up all doubts and difference and create a new atmosphere among the P.Ds in Washington-a new attitude toward the people on this side.

     The Mount Vernon and San Diego were escorted through the zone by six destroyers. I sent plenty of them because it was common knowledge that several members of the mission were very nervous about submarines. I visited all the destroyers that were to escort them and had a chat with the officers. I remained at Brest until the following evening (Saturday), and made the trip to London, via Paris, in 28 hours continuous traveling, having 3 hours wait in Paris.

     During Saturday, I visited the vessels in Brest, and made a bit of a talk to all the reserve officers of all the ships, who were invited on board the Panther for the purpose. . . .

     Long before this reaches you, you will have seen an account of the loss of the Jacob Jones (destroyer) with about half of her crew. She was commanded by Lieut. Comdr Bagley, brother of Mrs. Daniels.4 He was saved, as well as al the officers except one. This is the first destroyer we have lost—in seven months operations. I do not know the details yet. One boat is still missing and may yet get in or be picked up. It is very sad that so many lives should be lost. I suppose many of the men were killed by the explosion. . . .5

Your devoted       

Will          

I am in my usual perfect health.

Source Note: ALS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 9. Document is on: “U.S.NAVAL FORCES/OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.”

Footnote 2: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, Capt. Richard H. Jackson, Cmdr. Hutchinson I. Cone, Cmdr. John V. Babcock, and Cmdr. Edward G. Blakeslee, and Col. Edward House.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. David Worth Bagley, brother of Mrs. Addie Worth Bagley Daniels.

Footnote 5: Jacob Jones was torpedoed on 6 December 1917, by U-53 near Brest. The officer referred to was Lt. Stanton F. Kalk, who died of exhaustion while rescuing crewmen form the water. Of the 110 man crew, 62 perished. DANFS.

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