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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


12 June, 1918.

From:-      Force Commander.

To:-        Secretary of the Navy.

Subject:-   U.S. NAVAL AVIATION – Northern Bombing Project.

Reference:- (a) Your cable #6682 of May 31, 1918.1

1. With reference to your cable No.6682 of May 31, 1918, I desire to emphasize the fact that no action has been taken towards the development of the Northern Bombing Squadrons beyond that originally suggested by the Department and approved in detail. This entire project is being conducted as a strictly Naval operation, the mission of which is the destruction of enemy Naval bases on the Belgian Coast, and no attempt has been made whatsoever to enlarge its scope beyond that specified by the Department.

2. This entire project as it stands to-day has been developed after thorough co-operation and consultation with the U.S. Army and the Allied Air Authorities, and in fact we are actually receiving a great deal of assistance from all of our Allies in the training of personnel and in the supply of materiel for this work.

3. It is assumed that the reference in your cable to our 1919 program is confined to the Northern Bombing project and it is considered to be most important that we make every possible effort to carry out our program for 1919 in full co-operation with the U.S. Army,both in the United States and in France, as well as with the British Air Service in the North Sea area.

4. The resources of the United States will be taxed in the production of adequately trained flying personnel, not only for the day and night bombing operations in the North Sea area but for those in the Adriatic as we will have taken over two fully equipped Italian seaplane stations.

5. As soon as the delivery of Liberty engines and material commences, we shall receive a considerable number of night bombing machines in exchange from the Italian Government. Inasmuch, therefore, as it is highly desirable to effect this exchange without delay, it is requested that every effort be made to ship the raw material as expeditiously as possible. The present outlook is that we shall be almost entirely dependent upon the production of Italian Caproni Night Bombers for the operation of our Northern Bombing Squadron as regards night work.

6. Briefly, all of our plans for Naval Aviation contemplate bombing activities over the sea, which activities are entirely separate from those contemplated by the U.S. Army Aviation. The mere fact that we as sailor-men will operate land machines in the prosecution of our work does not necessarily indicate that we have in any way encroached upon the Army’s territory. If land machines appear to be more desirable in the successful operation of Naval Aviation, there is no reason why Naval Aviation should not employ this type of machine. This is actually the case as regards the Northern Bombing Squadrons where land machines can be used more effectively against enemy Naval Bases on the Belgian coast – which is their one and only mission. If, at any time, we are called upon to render assistance to the Armies on the Western Front, these machines could be diverted to strictly military use and so operated under the command of the Allied Army Control.

7. The determining of the position of these Northern Bombing Squadrons, six day squadrons and six night squadrons, was arrived at after thorough investigation on the ground and after conference with the British Air Authorities in that locality who are thoroughly familiar with existing conditions, and it is still believed that the conditions reached were sound and that six of each of these squadrons will actually be necessary for the successful accomplishment of the mission we have undertaken.

8. It is thought that the time is not far distant when we will be called upon by our Allies to furnish them trained Naval Aviators and in consideration of this it is suggested that no curtailment of our training program be considered at this time. This question is now being investigated and further reports will be submitted when we have obtained an estimate of the number of flying personnel which our Allies may call upon us to provide in order that they may successfully prosecute their aeronautical missions. There can be no doubt, however, that the training of Naval Aviators should continue as energetically as possible.

WM. S. SIMS.  

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document identifier: “A-1. 20988.” The signature is a stamp.

Footnote 1: See: Benson to Sims, 30 May 1918. In that cable, Benson and the Navy Department expressed concern that there was “mission creep” in the Northern Bombing project. Also, see: Hutchinson I. Cone to Benson, 3 June 1918; and Sims to Benson, 8 June 1918.