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 Major General John J. Pershing, U.S.A., Commander, American Expeditionary Force

                         P E R S O N A L

7 June, 1918.      

My dear General Pershing:-

          With further reference to your letter of May 10, 1918,1 I have investigated this subject very thoroughly and I am strongly of the opinion that, both individually and collectively, my Naval Aviation Forces have made every effort to co-ordinate their efforts with those of your Army Air Service Authorities. As an illustration of this, I find that we have had for some time past an officer actually in your Air Service Headquarters in Paris2 whose relations have been most intimate and cordial. Furthermore, I find that your Air Service Authorities have always been informed promptly of our plans as they have been conceived, and that they have actually been furnished with definite written statements as soon as such plans have matured. Briefly, it seems that your Aviation Forces have been receiving from the officer in command of my Naval Aviation Forces reports identical to those which I have myself been receiving. This with a view to keeping you thoroughly posted with all of our plans and operations.

          With particular reference to the establishment of our Northern Bombing Squadrons, I enclose to you herewith copies of letters which have been exchanged between the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of War3 which seem to indicate very clearly to me that the establishment of these squadrons meets with the unqualified approval and support of our respective Chiefs in the United States. On this score, therefore, I cannot see how we have in any way drifted from our ideas of co-ordination. This project is, to my mind, essentially a Naval one as its mission is the destruction of enemy submarine bases on the Belgian Coast and the mere fact that we as sailormen are operating aeroplanes of the land type does not necessarily indicate that we have encroached on the Army’s territory.4

          Although, in principle, the amalgamation of the Army and Navy Air Services is undoubtedly a very sound proposition, I do not consider that the present time is propitious for the execution of such an enormous undertaking. I quite agree with you in that eventually this amalgamation will probably take place, but to do so during the present crisis would entail considerable lost motion with resulting delays and serious postponements of projects which we both have well under way.

          The latest reports I have received from Captain H.I. Cone, who is in direct command of my U.S. Naval Aviation Forces on Foreign Service, indicate to me that he has already established close personal relationship with General Patrick,5 and I sincerely trust that this co-operation will extend throughout both of our Air Services to the end that we may work in perfect harmony and agreement for the attainment of our common cause in which aircraft will play such a very conspicuous part.

          With my hearty congratulations on the magnificent work which your gallant aviators are performing, and with best wishes for your continued success.

Very truly yours,            

WM. S. SIMS.       

Vice-Admiral, U.S. Navy.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Addressed bottom of the front page: “General John J. Pershing, U.S. Army/American Expeditionary Forces,/F R A N C E.” Document reference: “A-1.”

Footnote 2: Ens. George R. Fearing.

Footnote 3: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and the Secretary of War Newton D. Baker. See: William S. Benson to Sims, 30 May 1918.

Footnote 4: The leadership in the Army Air Service was frustrated by the dedication of bombers based on land for the Northern Bombing Group. They found the force to be a distraction from the more important efforts on the front and a stumbling block to amalgamation. Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. William S. Benson on the other hand believed the force to be a forward thinking instrument to fight German submarines. In the end, Benson and Sims got there way, and the Northern Bombing Group was formed to operate against submarines and amalgamation never occurred. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat:319, 324.

Footnote 5: Gen. Mason M. Patrick, U.S.A., Chief of Air Service.

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