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 Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas

February 21st.1918.

My dear Pringle,

          Your letter of February 18th. just received.1 I have no doubt that you will succeed in finding out what has been the matter on board the <MELVILLE>, if indeed there is anything the matter.2

          Of course, I do not know the circumstances; I make a guess that the MELVILLE is efficient but there is some defect in the method or manner which has caused the criticism.

          I cannot give you the name of any particular officer who has made these criticisms, but I will quote something from a letter I have from Babcock3 which was written on board the steamer while he was on the way home:-

          “I have been very much impressed with these young destroyer executives on board. Most of them engineers- I am glad to say. It makes one proud of the service and profession to see such keen, intelligent, clean, young officers. Incidentally I have learned more than one thing from listening to them. A pity they cannot be given commands. Most of them have been in destroyers longer than their seniors who are getting commands.

          I have made it a point to correct any erroneous impressions they have about the campaign, your policies, and other questions – which will help in the propaganda they will spread at home.

          I am impressed with one outstanding fact gathered from their conversations. The MELVILLE is not as efficient as she should be. Compared with the DIXIE she apparently should be rated at least 20% less efficient. They are all loud in their praises of the DIXIE. Am inclined to think the trouble on the MELVILLE is solely with the Executive and Paymaster.4 When the former first went to the MELVILLE he refused to heed any experience of the DIXIE. I remember Leutze and others saying he was hopeless.5 He makes a big display on showy things – like appearing on all special occasions at Club, etc. but they say he is not really efficient. I never liked his talk to me about the destroyers and I know of many petty actions in regard to boats, transfers of men, etc. He is the man apparently who refused to help out the PANTHER and her brood to any extent when they stopped there. The executive and others on the PANTHER at Brest told me about it.

          The Paymaster has little push and go in him. The young officers say they spend their entire time in port trying to get stores – owing to poor organization in his Department. He told me of having ordered tons of cement and other stores from home which were plentiful in England. When I asked him Why? He said calmly that he had been intending to talk to Tobey6 about it but just had not gotten around [to] it. In the meantime the unnecessary tonnage had been ordered.”

          Before I forget let me make sure to tell you that our good friend Danny7 never spoke to me about this at all, but after I received Babcock’s letter I naturally asked Danny what he knew about it and he said there were many complaints from various officers to the same effect as those contained in Babcock’s letter.

          I am sure you will understand why I am sending you this information about the criticisms. You know of course that the man on the top is always in danger of being in the position of the husband of an erring wife, that is to say, he may be the last one to find out that anything is wrong. I have no doubt that you will be able to under-run the whole business

          The shoes arrived this morning and I thank you very much for sending them.

          I met the ONLY NIECE8 at the train at 6 a.m., had breakfast with her at Paddington Hotel, and away she went hunting for the house. I met her again last night when she arrived at 10:40 and took her to Brown’s Hotel. She is now engaged in carrying out that part of her orders which required her calling at certain shops in town. She of course has the use of my car. She is off tonight for Queenstown, probably accompanied by Nashmith.9 I have secured reservations for them. It may be that Mr. Paine will go on the same train;10 he intends to visit Queenstown for a couple of days before going home; missing a steamer in doing so.

                         Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. Following the close, the letter is addressed, “Capt.J.R.P.Pringle. U.S.Navy./U.S.S. MELVILLE./Queenstown.”

Footnote 1: See, Pringle to Sims, 18 February 1918, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79.

Footnote 2: As Sims notes below, at this time, there had been complaints from several officers about MELVILLE’s efficiency as a tender for the Queenstown forces. Sims first raised this issue with Pringle in a letter to him dated 15 February; see: Sims to Pringle, 15 February 1918.

Footnote 3: Cmdr. John V. Babcock was a member of Sims’ staff in London, presently on temporary duty in Washington, D.C.

Footnote 4: Cmdr. Henry B. Price and Assistant Paymaster Dallas B. Wainwright, Jr.

Footnote 5: RAdm. (ret.) Eugene H. C. Leutze.

Footnote 6: Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey, another member of Sims’ staff.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Joseph F. Daniels, Sims’ liaison officer with the Destroyer Flotilla at Queenstown.

Footnote 8: Miss Violet Voysey, Bayly’s niece

Footnote 9: Capt. Martin E. Nasmith.

Footnote 10: Ralph D. Paine worked for the Committee on Public Information and the U.S. Navy. In 1918 his essays were collected in a book, The Fighting Fleets; Five Months of Active Service with the American Destroyers and their Allies in the War Zone (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1918).

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