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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



From Vice Admiral Sims to British Admiralty.1

“For Secretary Navy, Washington f<rom> Vice Admiral Sims (begins)I trust I have made the critical nature of the Military situation entirely clear (stop) I consider it my duty to report that if we cannot offer more immediate actual assistance even to the extent of sending the majority of the vessels patrolling our own coast lines which cannot materially affect the Allied cause which future history will show to have been necessary (stop) My recommendations concerning the convoy system were not based upon American vessels but upon all Allied shipping for it is upon the preservation of the remainder of this  shipping that our success against the enemy is entirely dependent(stop) It is assumed here that the comparative immunity of American Shipping from Submarine attack is due to German hopes that such a policy will strengthen the peace propaganda in America (stop)2 This is apparently clearly indicated by the German Press (stop) Actual and extended experience has shown that arming Merchantmen does not protect from attack but simply forces the submarine to attack without warning thus obliging her to use up her torpedoes and shorten her cruise(stop)3 Armed Merchantmen are being sunk daily off this port(stop) The success of the convoys so far brough in shows that the system will defeat the submarine campaign if applied generally and in time (stop) The system is merely a plan that obliges the submarine to fight anti-submarine craft in order to attack Merchantmen (stop) The present campaign is not succeeding (stop) The necessity is again presented of sending all destroyers, tugs, yachts, and other craft which can reach the critical area by themselves or towed part way by reserve battleships or any Naval Vessels (stop) If the situation is not made clear I hope the Department will indicate the further information required (stop) Time is a vital element in any measures taken (ends).”

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. In the top right hand corner are identifying numbers: “825”.

Footnote 1: Sims often sent cables to Washington through the British Admiralty because he believed that American codes were easily compromised.

Footnote 2: Kaiser Wilhelm II refused to declare war on the United States and early in May Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, Chief of the German Admiralty Staff, instructed U-boat commanders to avoid sinking American ships. Still, Crisis at Sea: 31.

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