Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims
June 25, 1917
My Darling Nani,
I have really been too busy to write you the last few days. I sent you a letter by the steamer of last Saturday (if indeed a steamer sailed on that day – they have been off schedule lately) and I left a lot of letters to be mailed before I left London.1
Admiral Bayly1 came back day before yesterday after having a good rest. He said he was able almost to forget that there was a war.
I am remaining here a few days until our troop transports begin to arrive in France. The [Navy] Department made an awful mess of it – they tried to manage the details from Washington and even directed that the French Admiralty arrange some of the details while I was to manage others!! It was such a dangerous proceeding that I was obliged to disobey all instructions and take charge of the whole business. I had to telegraph to Paris and inform them of this necessity and tell them I would accept full responsibility. It has been an anxious time, as you may imagine, but I have not been worrying.2 The first convoy has not yet arrived, but is expected tomorrow morning, and the next armies a day later, and the third two days later still. Each convoy is escorted by six destroyers, so there is little danger of their being attacked.3
I will be off to London about the 27th, and a few days later I expect to go to Paris. . . .
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 9.
Footnote 1: VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland. Sims had temporarily replaced Bayly in command at Queenstown while Bayly was on leave. See: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 16 June 1917.
Footnote 2: This was the first convoy of American troop transports, departing on 14 June 1917 and docking at St. Nazaire 26 June. The convoy was under the command of RAdm. Albert Gleaves, Commander, Convoy Operations in the Atlantic Ocean. See: William S. Benson, to Gleaves, 13 June 1917; Still, Crisis at Sea: 357-359. In his memoirs, Gleaves confirms Sims’ contention that things were badly planned. He quotes the Naval Attaché at Paris, Capt. William R. Sayles, who wrote:
The admiral in command of the convoy [Gleaves] had been told in Washington that he would be met by French destroyers, etc., and, as a matter of fact, they didn’t exist. Like a great many other matters, it seemed impossible to make the navy department in Washington believe to what desperate straits the French naval forces had been reduced. They had only five destroyers on the West Coast and on the night of 21 May 1917, I had personally seen four of them put out of action for weeks or months to come in a destroyer fight off Dunkirk. Gleaves, The Admiral: 143.
Footnote 3: The convoy was reportedly attacked by submarines, see: Seattle Report on Sighting of Submarine, 24 June 1917.