Rear Admiral Herbert O. Dunn, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in the Azores, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
Feb. 15, 1918
My Dear Sims,
I am trying to root out a spy gang here and that’s one reason I sent you the cable about the censorship. I have made a dicker here with one of the high officials to get the Government cipher and I had to promise him I would do my best to get three hundred tons of flour to tide them over until the next crop. Will you please push the matters with the Dept. so I may keep my influence. There is no doubt in my mind there are serious leaks here in the communication system and as soon as I get the cipher I think I can put a plug in several holes. The whole cable business is unsatisfactory -- undermanned and overtaxed – duplication of messages between Flemming and myself. (I was told in W_ not to interfere with the English communication officer). I have cut out the post office through which all messages formerly were sent and by them telegraphed to the cable station. I pay them the toll but send the messages direct to the station by auto. At best however messages are delayed.Under the present orders I have to wait (before reporting arrivals) for the captains to come ashore and show me their orders and give me a report of their needed repairs. Often in bad weather the pilots take several hours after getting inside in securing and mooring their ships and the Commanding Officers are not able to see me for many hours after I see them enter. If it happens to be late in the PM no cable can be sent until the next day. It’s very easy for Flemming to shoot a cable off as soon as a ship enters but I have to wait until I get all the information “according to Gunter”. At the way I view the matter he ought not to report men of war. My report should be sufficient and you could inform the Admiralty in all cases when it was necessary. It certainly would ease up on the overburdened cable. We are trying our best to hustle things along but there are many vexatious delays which can not be avoided. S.O.S. calls are coming in constantly. Already the Montauk and Barnegat are out searching for ships. The Isabell had to go out and
view rescue the C.D.No.1 and she returned with engine troubles which prevented her leaving with Prometheus. I pushed the latter out with the two destroyers to avoid any delay, trusting the Isabell could catch them before they arrived at their destination. It’s lucky I had the two tugs here. I don’t know what I will do when they go. Sea tugs are of more service to me in this port of trouble than anything else. It’s a sailor’s job so far. The Galatia and Margaret are unseaworthy. I really believe if they get caught out in bad weather I will lose them. The Tonapah has only one screw left and altogether I am up against it –like the dog who defricated [i.e. defecated] peach stones against the briar. However I remain cheerful – I only want you to get the point of view of
P.S. To illustrate delays -- the Hancock arrived off the harbor at 10 a.m. She got in about dark and it took her until 4 a.m. next day to haul her stern up against a gale to the chain moorings. Captain did the job in person, not being very sure of his executive. The Prometheus crowd arrived off the port about 11 a.m. and the last one of his boats got in the harbor after dark.
The cable office was closed before I could get the data to send you and about 14 hours lost. If you want prompt reports of arrivals -- the data will have to be cut out and sent later. Otherwise bear with the organist -- he's doing his best.
By the way, the coal coming here this month is consigned to <one> Weber. He received notice it was coming one day before I did and of course it is public news now. I think the shipper sent him notice. I don’t see how it got through the censor.
I hope to have the gun near breakwater in working order before the end of this month.
N.B. Montauk is just off the harbor with Sovington and I think Barnegat is going to get “Virginia.”
For the love of mike get me two good sea-going tugs here so I can save the many ships that are sending in calls for help almost every day. I know of no place they are needed more.
Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 23. At the top of the page is typed, “Admiral Sim’s Personal File” and the identifying notation, “1/5/J”.