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 Rear Admiral Samuel McGowan, Paymaster General, Bureau of Supplies and Accounts

July 1st, 1918.    

My dear Paymaster General,

          Things are certainly popping over here now and we are all under very considerable anxiety as to the outcome on the Western Front, particularly as to the effect this will have upon us and the war in general, if it goes against the Allies.

          These anxieties combined with the continually increasing organization and demands upon our time, are putting a considerable strain on all hands.

          In the middle of this condition along came your letter in reference to Tobey,1 and it came pretty nearly giving me heart failure. I doubt if you could realize how very much a man who knows nothing about business is dependent upon the services of a man like Tobey who does know about these things. The business part of my command is, as you know, very great. It is therefore at least uncomfortable for the fellow who commands in chief to realize that he knows little about such things. It is a correspondingly immense comfort to have with him a man upon whom he can implicitly rely both for his loyalty, integrity and efficiency.

          But, quite independent of this matter of efficiency and so forth, and quite realizing that there are other men who are just as efficient, there is the very important question of personal relations that have been established after many months, and some ticklish situations – and which depend so very largely upon the question of personality.

          I do not think that anybody who has not been in a position of grave responsibility, and who has necessarily had to depend upon the assistance in each branch of his business, can really understand what a jar it is to have even the suggestion made that one of these men is to be removed; that a new and personally unknown man is to be sent to take his place and that all this ticklish business of establishing personal relations has to be gone through with again.

          Really, though I may be to a certain extent wrong about this, and though I may be a little bit super-sensitive on the subject, still I have the job to perform and I have to do it with the temperament and the set of nerve with which the good Lord provided me, and therefore, feeling as I do, I do not think that anything should be done to add either to my anxieties or to the burden of my responsibility.

          By your Intra-Bureau order,2 you have annunciated the principle that the request of the man on the spot should be complied with whenever it is materially possible to do so. I have never made any request from over here upon which I feel more strongly than that there should be no change in thepersonnel of my staff, except in case of absolute necessity, and this necessity should be based only upon a change which would manifestly materially increase the efficiency of the staff.

          This is not the first time that I have been worried by the prospect of valuable assistance being taken away. They proposed at one time to replace McBride by another man. They succeeded in getting Dr. Pleadwell away from me.3 They also actually proposed to take away a member of the Planning Staff to take the place of a man in Washington who wanted to go to sea. They even proposed to send me a succession of ordnance men to relieve each other in order to carry back information to the United States.

          Upon my representing the facts as they are over here, that there is really a war on over here, and here is where we need continuity of effort, these attempts were abandoned and I think all hands are now tolerably well agreed that no changes are to be made in my staff that I do not recommend.

          I hope, therefore, that in view of the above considerations, you will not think of taking away from me any of my tried and trusted assistants.

Always very sincerely yours,      

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Addressed below close: “Rear-Admiral S. McGowan, U.S. Navy,/Bureau of Supplies and Accounts,/Navy Dept./Washington, D.C.” Document is from: “ADMIRAL SIMS’ PERSO NAL FILE.” Document reference: “1/3/J.”

Footnote 1: Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey. McGowan’s letter to Sims has not been found, but for more on this issue, see: Sims to Benson, 29 June 1918.

Footnote 3: Naval Constructor Lewis B. McBride and Medical Inspector Frank L. Pleadwell.

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