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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


SENT: June 23, 1917.         TO: Secretary of the Navy.

FROM: Vice Admiral Sims, Queenstown.  VIA: British Admiralty.

No. 874. From Vice Admiral Sims for Secretary of Navy. Mystery ships are of little use without motive power.1 In any case they must stimulate <simulate> merchantmen perfectly in rig and all respects and should be as nearly unsinkable as possible.2 The great need for any type craft which can keep sea and carry gun and radio.3 The need is immediate. Losses are not decreasing while demands on anti-submarine craft are steadily increasing. Numbers of craft are the necessities of the situation.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 1: Mystery ships, also known as “Q ships,” were heavily-armed vessels disguised to look like unarmed merchantmen. Although manned by naval personnel, the officers and crew dressed as civilian merchant seamen, and kept their guns carefully concealed. Believing them easy targets, German submarines would close in to torpedo the Q ships, only to have the target quickly open its gun ports and begin blasting its full firepower at the U-boat. Although Sims expressed skepticism here, after the war he had nothing but high praise for the mystery ships. He credited them with multiple kills and praised their crews for “an endurance, a gallantry, and a seamanlike skill that has few parallels in the history of naval warfare.” Sims, Victory at Sea: 122, 142, 169.

Footnote 2: Sims was responding to Daniels’ cable of 20 June. In it, Daniels proposed using former military vessels as mystery ships.

Footnote 3: That is, anti-submarine warfare craft. As seen in his cable to Daniels of 20 June, Sims advocated sending “any character of armed craft which can reach these waters.”

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