Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims
London, February 25, 1918
My precious Sweetheart:
By this time you have seen Babby1 and he has told you something of conditions in Washington in general and the navy department in particular. But I wonder how much he has told you?
He has written me an extraordinary series of letters, giving information and impressions gained from day to day. He could hardly have reproduced all this for you. But some of these days I will send the letters to you. You will find them of great interest from many points of view — not the least of which is the light they throw on the ability and loyalty of the ever faithful Babby.
They will show you also that his liaison visit was most opportune and of great value on both sides of the ocean. They depict a worse state of affairs in the department than I thought possible after ten months of war. There is practically no organization—and it would be so easy to create one! Babby will have told you all about this condition.
There is war to the knife between the P.Ds and the C-in-C.2 The latter has demanded to be sent out here, and the matter is being considered. Babby may bring some news about it. I think he must be about sailing, and will be here in ten days. Perhaps he will be able to tell you something about it when you see him.
It is of course not to be mentioned. Either the C-in-C will come here and I will quit, or he will be detached.3 Perhaps this will be made a separate command, with, or without, increased rank for the commander. Caperton is an Admiral and so is Knight,4 and each commands about three ships very remote from the war area_ and there are over 100 here! Human ambition is a curious thing. Both Jackson and King “knifed” me as soon as they returned from their trip.5 They want to come over here with the C-in-C.
Don’t imagine, however, that this worries me in the least.6 I really do not think I will be displaced. I might have been before Benson and the Mission returned home,7 but since that time it has been generally recognized that those who considered me radical in my recommendations at first are now convinced that they were mistaken and the department is now doing everything that I recommended in April.8
Besides, I do not think the department or administration would care to face the criticism my removal would create. It would be difficult to explain.
It is a great world! It would be so easy to conduct this war on sound lines so far as our part is concerned. I tell you all this so that you may be prepared for any turn events may take.
I think I told you that I wrote to Benson last week and told him very plainly that my position would be quite impossible if a senior were sent over here, and that I should ask to be relieved.9
I will send this letter to you by hand—to be expressed to you from the other side—so that you will not imagine that all hands read it on the way from Washington to Newport. Perhaps I can send you Babby’s bunch of letters at the same time. I am having extracts of valuable advice made from them. Twining is doing it, and he is the only one I will show them to.
Twining is a real tower of strength.10 I rely upon his judgment to a great extent, and you may be sure I will give him full credit upon his reports of fitness.
Good night my darling. No matter what happens, I will have you and the precious children.
Source Note: ALS, DLC, Williams S. Sims Papers, The letter is written on stationery. “U.S. NAVAL FORCES/OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS” and a U.S. Navy insignia is embossed at the top of the first page.
Footnote 1: Sims’ personal aide, Cmdr. John V. Babcock, who was then on a visit to the United States.
Footnote 2: The “P.Ds,” or principal dignitaries were presumably Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, and possibly President Woodrow Wilson; the “C-in-C” was Adm. Henry T. Mayo, commander, Atlantic Fleet; and, in theory, the officer to whom Sims reported.
Footnote 3: Sims was not relieved nor was Mayo detached.
Footnote 4: RAdm. William B. Caperton commanded Light Cruiser Division One, though he was about to be relieved of that command so he could serve on the Navy’s General Board; RAdm. Austin M. Knight was commander of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.
Footnote 5: Sims is referring to Capt. Orton P. Jackson and Cmdr. Ernest J. King, aides to Mayo, who accompanied Mayo on his mission to Europe in August and September 1917. Mayo’s staff had criticized Sims’ arrangements, maintaining that he was not following the table of organization established for the fleet. See: Sims to William V. Pratt, 7 September 1917.
Footnote 6: Sims’ repeated letters concerning this possibility belie his statement here. For example, see: Sims to Benson, 15 February 1918.
Footnote 7: Benson had visited Sims as a member of the mission headed by Col. Edward M. House in November and December, 1917.
Footnote 8: As seen in the controversy over Sims’ receiving an honorary appointment to the British Admiralty Board, Sims’ reputation in Washington was not as secure as he believed. See: Diary of Josephus Daniels, 31 January 1918.
Footnote 9: See: Sims to Benson, 15 February 1918.
Footnote 10: Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ chief of staff.