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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

Cable Dispatch.

SENT:  June 19, 1917.   TO: Secretary of the Navy.

THROUGH: Admiralty.     FROM: Queenstown.

     782. Efficiency of force and safety of ships and personnel requires immediately a reserve of experienced officers and men, particularly officers and petty officers.

     Officers and men must be replaced immediately which are incapacitated by sea or other sickness or inaptitude or inexperience.

     Have redistributed officers to give minimum of five on each ship taking majority of watch officers from parent ships stop British experience shows that each ship should have six stop.

     Have relieved executive of one ship and engineer of another for inaptitude and inexperience stop1  Others should be relieved for chronic seasickness and inexperience stop  Already one merchant ship sunk probably due to inaptitude of watch officer on escorting destroyer.2

     No further reliefs or possibilities of exchange.

     This service demands experience stop Officers now going from strenuous bridge duty to exacting engine room and other duty.

     Request reserves previously requested be sent immediately by mail steamer.

     If above conditions result in loss of vessels or lives we will have no possible defense.3


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG45, Entry 517.

Footnote 1: Sims wrote to RAdm. Leigh C. Palmer, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, on 11 June that he was considering relieving the engineer of Tripp, Lt. Howard A. Flanigan, saying that, although Flanigan was “well-intentioned,” his lack of experience was leading to repeated engine breakdowns on the ship. Although he did not mention any officer by name, Sims complained that he had been forced to remove a few officers from their ships already. See: Sims to Palmer, 11 June 1917.

Footnote 2: The incident Sims is referring to here is unclear.

Footnote 3: Sims repeatedly complained to Daniels about the shortage of experienced officers, as well as the terrible strain duty in submarine-infested waters created, the danger to an entire ship of even a single mishap, and the importance of relieving inadequate officers without hesitation. The Navy Department had other priorities besides Sims’ command, and the rapid expansion of the service in the summer of 1917 meant that manning the fleet with large numbers of reservists was unavoidable. See: Daniels to Sims, 24 June 1917. Sims remained dissatisfied with the numbers and experience of the officers under him until the end of the war. See: Sims to Daniels, 30 May 1917; Sims to Daniels, 1 June 1917. Still, Crisis at Sea, 192-196.

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