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 Commander Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché in Rome

July 1st, 1918.         

My dear Train,

          Your two letters of June 25th.received yesterday and today your cable concerning the Admiralissimo. I have also received your account of the Versailles meeting on this subject and have read it with great pleasure.1 It certainly wasa fine scrap between the principal dignitaries, and the Italians came out at the very small end of the horn. It is astonishing that white men could consent to put up the arguments that they did. I was particularly pleased with the remarks of Mr.Lloyd George and Monsieur Clemenceau. If you were to judge of the military competence of the Italians as compared with Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Clemenceau based exclusively upon the arguments they presented, you would unhesitatingly say that thecivilians knew more about war than the other fellows.2

          You know the kind of a showing they made up here. Triangi very decidedly weakened after the Council was finished. They tried to get him to submit any corrections he wanted to before he left London but he held on to his paper until he got aboard the boat at Folkestone and then sent it back to London and fled for Rome. He practically took back everything he had agreed to. He evidently had cold feet as to what di Revel3 would do when he got back. I do not recommend that either of these gentlemen be given the American Military Cross.

          I note what you say about the favorable attitude of the Italian Navy. I think they are fine fellows. The trouble with the ones above mentioned is that they are undoubtedly bound down by political instructions. I should like to see the Military Cross given to Rizzo.4

          No doubt the festive Romans had a fine time gutting theGerman Embassy. However, they probably know by this time that that is an expensive sort of an amusement as all of the damage will have to be paid for by the Italian tax payers.

          I am glad to learn from your letter that our Government, through Ambassador Page,5 have represented to the Italian Government, the desirability of getting together in the Mediterranean. I recommended that this be done and I am glad that the recommendation was adopted.

          I hope that the evvect [i.e. effect] of this will be that they will come to come practical solution. The Admiralissimo will be no good unless he has the proper power over all the forces in the Mediterranean.

          I do not think that you have anything to fear at all from the Selection Board. I think it is well understood now that this question of sea service during the war is in abeyance. I am not clear as to whether it has been legally settled, but I think it is well understood that men like you and the men serving on my staff, and Captain Pratt,6 and so forth, should not be obliged to suffer because they are doing invaluable work for the war, instead of sitting on a battleship training recruits up Funk River.

          I received the map from Yarnell,7 so I am happy again.

          Please give my love to Madame Train, and your husky young son, and believe me,

Very sincerely yours,             

Sd. W. S. SIMS               

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 24. Addressed below close: “Commander C.H.Train, U.S.Navy,/American Embassy.,/R o m e ./I t a l y.” Document is from: “Admiral Sims’/Personal File.” Document reference: “1/5/6/J/Q.” and “11.”

Footnote 1: See: Train to Sims, 25 June 1918; Train to Sims, 25 June 1918. Train’s 1 July letter reported:

British Ambassador had interview with Minister Foreign affairs relative Admiralissimo for Mediterranean Sea and was handed memorandum in English of points substantially agreed upon when British Prime Minister in heat withdrew entire subject from last conference supreme war Council. Foreign Minister Sonnino expressed himself ready to resume discussion outside conference on line contained in said memorandum but does not wish it reopened in conference. British Ambassador has sent first Lord a letter reporting interview and enclosing memorandum. Foreign Minister opposes idea of a joint Inter-Allied Naval Council as impracticable causing delay in matters where, speed essential while agreeing as to an Admiralissimo he opposes anything like exclusion of Italian Naval Chief of Staff from Council. Train to Sims, 1 July 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 2: French Prime Minister George Clemenceau. The Italian government was resisting efforts to unite efforts in the Mediterranean under a combined command and utilize Italian ships. For more information, see: Sims to Officer of the Chief of Naval Operations, 10 June 1918.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Arturo Triangi de Maderno, Assistant Chief of the Italian Naval Staff, and Adm. Paolo Thaon di Revel, Chief of the Italian Naval Staff.

Footnote 4: Adm. Luigi Rizzo. Nicknamed the Sinker, Rizzo served as the commander of the Italian torpedo boats (MAS - Motoscafo armato silurante) against ships belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Navy. On 10 June 1918 Rizzo sank the large Austro-Hungarian battleship SMS Szent István off Premuda. The sinking of the 21,700-ton SMS Szent István was the greatest success of any MAS torpedo boat and is still celebrated in the Italian Navy on June 10 every year, as it represents an important anniversary in Italian naval history. For more on this event, see, Paul Kennedy, “The Sinking of the Szent Istvan,” in The History of the First World War, (BPC Publishing Ltd., Bristol, 1971), vol.7, no.14 :3072–75.

Footnote 5: United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom Walter Hines Page.

Footnote 6: Capt. William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Harry E. Yarnell. The map referred to was one of London. See: Train to Sims, 25 June 1918.

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