Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
January 27, 1918.
FROM: Force Commander.
TO : Secretary of the Navy (Operations).
SUBJECT: Allied Naval Council, first meeting of.
1. The Allied Naval Council met at the Admiralty, London, for its first session at 11:00 a. m., on Tuesday January 22, 1918, and adjourned about 5:00 p. m., January 23, 1918.
2. The membership of the Council and of the Secretariat as thus far established, is given in Enclosure (a) on which the members actually present are indicated thus: *.
3. A number of additional officers, not members of the Council, were present as Assistants and Advisors to the members. Of my Staff, Captains N. C. Twining and F. H. Schofield were present in this capacity.
4. A copy of the Agenda proposed and circulated before the first meeting of the Council is enclosed herewith marked “B”.
5. A draft of the proposed constitution of the Council as circulated to the members before the meeting is enclosed herewith marked “C”. Slight verbal amendments were made to some of the articles; Article 7 was framed and adopted at the first session of the Council; and Article 8 was radically amended. A complete copy of the Constitution as finally adopted will be forwarded as soon as received from the Secretary of the Council.
6. A first proof of the minutes and conclusions of the Council is forwarded herewith marked “D”. This copy is subject to some slight corrections none of which is of great importance. A corrected copy will be furnished to the Department as soon as received.
7. Stenographic notes were taken of all of the proceedings of the Council, but it will be some time before these are transcribed and printed for circulation among the members. Complete copies will be furnished to the Department as soon as received from the Secretary of the Council.
8. The following appointments have been made to comply with the conclusions of the Council on the items below enumerated:
Captain R. H. Jackson, U. S. Navy, to be Liaison Officer for the United States between the Naval Council and the Supreme War Council.
ITEM 18 &c.
Vice Admiral Wm. S. Sims, U. S. Navy, named as United States representative on Commission to meet in Rome about February 7, 1918, to be accompanied by Commander H. E. Yarnell, U. S. Navy, and Commander Chas. R. Train, U. S. Navy.
Naval Constructor S. F. Smith, U. S. Navy, to be a member of the Salvage Committee.
Naval Constructor S. F. Smith, U. S. Navy, to be a member of the International Technical Committee.
As already reported by cable, it is desired that Naval Constructor L. B. McBride, U. S. Navy, be the permanent United States member of the two Committees last named, and it is hoped that he will return to duty here at a very early date. There is ample work here for two Naval Constructors, one being employed on committee work of this sort, and the other on matters relating to the repair of our vessels.
9. It was not made clear at the meetings of the Naval Council just how the relations between itself and the Supreme War Council were to be established. It is of course quite within the power of the War Council to decline to receive the Naval Liaison Officers appointed, but it is hoped that satisfactory arrangements can be made not only for the receipt of these Officers, but for permanent relations of an even closer nature between the two Councils with occasional joint meetings. I should be glad if the Department would cable me any views or wishes it may have on this point.
10. With respect to Items 6 and 7. It is not supposed that the Department will have any very recent information more reliable than that to be furnished by the British and French Intelligence Services, but a cablegram has been sent asking for such information as may be available.
11. With respect to Item 9. While I have cabled for the information which the Council decided it wanted, viz: the official legal opinion of the United States Government as to the legal aspect from the point of view of International Law, of the suggestion that the Allies should take action to resist the infringement by the enemy of neutral territorial waters, when the neutral country concerned is unable to take such action itself, I am entirely convinced that the matter is not one of law, and that the Allies would have no justification except the one of military necessity for taking such proposed action.
Furthermore, I believe it would be extremely injudicious to set up any legal argument in favor of such action, as such an argument might be more to our disadvantage at some future time.
12. I regard the matter of respecting neutrality of neutral territorial waters, or of violating such neutrality, as being purely one of expediency, and to be decided after weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both courses of action.
13. The Committee appointed to consider Items 10 to 17, and Item 26, has, I am informed, completed its sittings. Captain Schofield states that the conclusions of the Committee as they will be reported to the Council are as follows:
That whenever the German submarine cruisers begin operations outside of the present so-called barred zones, they will most probably extend their fields of activities to the western Atlantic, and are more likely to operate in the Caribbean and Gulf regions, than farther north. It is probable that they would proceed to the Gulf after first having made an approach to the coast considerably farther north.
Agreed that the ocean escort system should only be extended as need for such extension appears, it being better to suffer some initial loss of ships, rather than to slow up the operations of merchant ships by putting them in convoys in regions in which no attacks have yet been made.
The French representative expressed himself as being satisfied with the British practice as set forth in official publications , which the French Ministry had not seen at the time this item was proposed. Some minor changes were proposed, and it was agreed that these publications would be reviewed carefully by the Ministries and suggestions for changes sent to the British Admiralty.
The publications in question are the following:
C. B. 620
C. B. 680
If the Department has any suggestions as to changes in these publications, it is requested that I be informed at an early date.
It was thought desirable, if practicable, to establish an additional convoy from Hampton Roads to the Bay of Biscay for vessels coming from Gulf ports. A cablegram on this subject has been sent to the Department. It is not certain that the necessary destroyer escort for such a convoy from this side could be provided, but the matter is being looked into, and it is hoped that French or United States vessels based on Verdon, could be utilized.
Is covered by Items 11 and 13.
It was stated by the United States representative that the United States undertook to provide all necessary escort for United States troops, and the Committee, therefore, gave no further consideration to the matter. In view of this decision it seems unnecessary at present to bring up with the Supreme War Council the question of “Future arrangements for the transportation and reception of United States troops” as was embodied in the conclusions of the Council. See Item 15, page 5.
The French representative states that this matter had been arranged to their satisfaction in correspondence with the Admiralty since the item was placed on the Agenda. No further discussion was, therefore, had.
The United States representative stated that we could not supply vessels for this particular work, and he further suggested that it was unwise to take convoys into Tangiers or Gibraltar, if they were bound to the United Kingdom, as this unnecessarily exposed the vessels to submarine attack. He further stated that if the Navy Department should approve the use of older battleships for trans-Atlantic escort, some of the British cruisers now engaged in that work might be released for the Dakar-Tangier route.
The French representative stated that they had taken measures to arm a considerable number of the fishing vessels with guns of 65 mil[l]imeters caliber and less, and that no request to the Allies to furnish protection for these vessels would be made, but hoped that arrangements might be made for getting supplies to them in safety while they were on the fishing banks, as they would not be able to send out the usual supply ships from France. The United States representative stated that he had no doubt the necessary supplies could be had in the United States, and that sailing vessels could be found to transport the supplies, but that the whole matter was a commercial one which would best be taken up by their consular officers in the United States.
14. With reference to Item 21 and 24. A brief statement was made regarding the latest American sound detection devices, and it was agreed by the members that the offensive action against submarines by means of hunting groups fitted with listening devices, should be pushed with all possible energy.
15. With reference to Item 23. I am not in full agreement with the conclusion of the Council that the construction of dirigibles for escort purposes is “very desirable”, but as it seems extremely improbable that any such construction can be undertaken on a large scale, the question is not likely to become more pressing. As indicated in the conclusions, page 6, I shall discuss this matter with the Controller of the British Admiralty.
16. With reference to Item 30. I have already made inquiry of the Department by cable as to its views regarding the necessity and desirability of compiling the information regarding losses and gains of merchant ships. No correct public announcement of actual losses has as yet been made by any one of the belligerent governments, and I deem it probable that there will be quiet resistance on the part of some of the members of the Council to any proposal to furnish the Council officially with correct figures of this kind.
17. In the discussion of Item 31, it was agreed that the Japanese representative should take up with his government the question of sending additional Japanese destroyers to the Mediterranean.
18. With reference to Item 33. This matter was brought before the Council in accordance with the Department’s wishes, and no objection was made by any member to the assignment of Brazilian vessels to duty under or in cooperation with American forces.
19. In general comment on the proceedings of the Council I would say that very little if anything definite and concrete was accomplished, but no other result could reasonably have been expected. It seems probable, however, that the work of the Committees will be useful and that by the end of the next session of the Council some useful results will have been obtained.
WM. S. SIMS.