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Lieutenant Commander Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché in Rome, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


Telegraphic address     AMERICAN EMBASSY

Alusna, Rome,          Rome

January 11, 1918.      

Vice Admiral Wm. S. Sims, U.SN.,

     Force Commander,

          U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters,

              30 Grosvenor Gardens, London S.W.

Dear Vice Admiral:

     I have given a letter of introduction to Captain LARKING, R.N., British Naval Attaché,1 which he will present to you upon his arrival at London for the coming Conference.2 He has kindly offered to carry this week’s mail. I am sure you will find him agreeable. He is my best friend in Rome and we know the conditions, we think, pretty thoroughly.

     I got from the Ministry the subject[s] which are to be discussed at the coming Conference. I wish it were possible that I could be furnished with these questions in order that I could send to you, previous to the Session of a Conference, any special information I may have on any one of the subject[s] to be discussed. Of course, I don’t say that I will always have information that you may not have on file, but I should think this request would meet with your approval.

     The question regarding the protection of merchant vessels I have studied very carefully, and feel that, in the CEMENT SYSTEM to be applied to vessels already constructed, and the PUGLIESE SYSTEM to be installed in ships building, the Italians have two systems which are and will be successful.3 I have kept the Department informed on all these experiments and believe that I have stirred up interest in this regard, and in my opinion, this protection should have long since been installed. The English have always been against these systems, believing it more profitable to continue the construction without the small increase of time necessary for the installation of the protection which is estimated to be about 3 months.

     The growing congestion in Italian ports is becoming very serious. This is due to shortage in rolling stock and labor. I believe that upon the arrival of the Luckenbach tugs I can greatly remedy this situation, but I must get them as quickly as possible. The great shortage of coal has added to the reduction in freight trains, in addition to the shortage of cars, and it was for this reason that several month ago I proposed the COASTAL TRAFFIC, and the daily increasing congestion in Genoa particularly makes it of paramount importance that this TOWING SCHEME of mine be given a thorough trial. Those tugs should base on Italy and operated by me. I have arranged for 2 English-speaking liaison Chief Petty Officers to be assigned them. These men are thoroughly informed on the Italian coast and will be of great help. This office is in great need of a paymaster and if I could get one, the basing of these tugs on an Italian port would be easily done. I have requested the dismantling of a number of their smaller sailing vessels for this work, keeping only their lowermast.

     The question of unused sailing ships is being thoroughly investigated, but in my opinion, -which is given previous to receiving complete data- the sailing ships in Italian ports which could be of service outside of the Mediterranean are few and are unmanned, -their crews having long since been sent to other jobs. There may be a few sailing ships in commission which would be of service outside of the Mediterranean. There are great numbers of small 2 masted craft which are of little use, and which I propose to adopt for my towing traffic as they draw little water and will be more easily handled by few hands.

     The CONFIDENTIAL DISPOSITION of the Italian Fleet, which I am enclosing, is for your personal use, and I have requested it as such.4 I have endeavored, in the short time at my disposal after its receipt, to indicate roughly the classes of vessels making up the various squadrons, and in cases of torpedo craft, have indicated their approximate tonnage. I am also enclosing a short report on the FLEET ORGANIZATION, with one or two suggestions.5 As regards OPERATIONS IN THE ADRIATIC, -there aren’t any, except the daily reconnaissance work.

     I take this opportunity to thank you for your letter of December.6

     With kindest regards, and best wishes for the New year,

              I am,     very respectfully

                                      s/ C R TRAIN

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 23. At the top of the first page is written, “ADMIRAL SIMS’ PERSONAL FILES.” and “1/5/6/J/Q”. In addition, the typist who prepared this copy of the original letter wrote at the top of the page, “Note in pencil:/Paymaster to Italy.”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. Dennis A. H. Larking.

Footnote 2: The first meeting of the Inter-Allied Naval Committee was set to take place on London on 22-23 January.

Footnote 3: The Pugliese Underwater Protection system, named after its designer Umberto Pugliese, was intended to reduce the effectiveness of torpedo strikes through the use of a hollow steel drum that ran along the length of the underwater bulkhead. In theory, any incoming torpedoes would collapse the drum, expending its blast energy in the process and thus reducing the damage dealt. In practice however, the effectiveness of this device when compared to more traditional systems was questionable. While it could (and did) stop torpedoes under favorable conditions, it had several drawbacks and a weakness to non-direct hits, which made its value in combat limited. The Cement System followed the same basic method, using cement instead of steel drums to absorb the torpedo blasts.

Footnote 4: The referred to document is no longer with this letter.

Footnote 5: The referred to document is no longer with this letter.

Footnote 6: It is not known to which date (and thus letter) Train is referring.

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