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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

[Extract]

AMERICAN EMBASSY,

LONDON.

The Carlton, June 8, 1918.

Saturday evening   

My darling Nani:

          This morning at 10 I arrived from Scotland after a very pleasant and a very satisfactory trip. . . . We had breakfast at the fine terminus hotel then drove 8 miles in a motor and went on board the New York, Ad. Rodman’s1 flagship. I inspected the general quarters, then went through the ship including the engine room. She is entirely spotless and is, I believe, very efficient in all respects. Her upkeep has been a matter of astonishment to the British. They have nothing in the Grand Fleet to equal her in smartness. British officers have inspected her and have so reported. It is “bucking” them all up. After the inspection I asked to have the crew mustered on the quarterdeck and made them a bit of a speech and told them the reputation they had made in Europe both as to the ships and the conduct of the men. At 1 p.m. our five dreadnaughts got underway and went outside for target practice but unfortunately it proved too hazy to see far enough; and we returned in the afternoon. During the afternoon I called on all the other four ships and made a speech to each one of the crews-1400 men in each. That evening I was invited to dine with the commander in chief, Sir David Beatty. Babby went with me, also Lt Thompson, the gunnery man.2 All the British Vice Admirals and rear admirals (8 or 10 of them) were there. . . .

     I found everywhere the most cordial relations between our people and the fleet. This was particularly the case in the grand fleet itself. This is known to be an essential part of my policy.

     We hear rumors of changes in the fleet at Havre, but nothing definite. My force is, as you know, theoretically a part of the Atlantic Fleet, but actually a separate command with authority to correspond directly with the Department. Recently the C-in-C3 has ordered copies of all reports sent to him. There are tons of them, and to send copies would require a great expansion of my office. I have protested in a private message to Benson and have suggested that it is about time this was made a separate command.4 That was about a week ago, and there is no reply as yet. The rumors are that the C-in-C is to leave the fleet, but it is not stated who will take his place. It is also said that Caperton will come ashore. Knight retires in December and Coffman in November.5 So, they can appoint two new admirals and one vice admiral if they want to. This is at present the most important command, and it will be half as large again by the end of the year. It would seem that the fiction of its being a part of the Atlantic fleet could not hold out much longer. Nous allous voir.6 At all events it is reasonably sure that I will be left in command. . . .

Monday, June 10.

     . . . . I have received a clipping (from a Phila paper) of the article by Mr. Marshall7 (written by Babby). It is a very able production and will do more good than my “interview” (written by Mr. Marshall-after talking with Babby). It gives a very clear and convincing account of my policy and methods and the results, and will, I believe, effectively silence all criticism.

     What I told you about the conceited conduct of our soldiers applied only (as I am now informed) to the regulars who came over first. The national army is of quite different material. They are willing and anxious to learn and are making a fine impression. . . .

     Your devoted

          Will

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 10.

Footnote 1: RAdm. Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine. Rodman’s division was assigned to operate with the British Grand Fleet, where it was designated the Sixth Battle Squadron.

Footnote 2: Adm. Sir David Beatty, Commander-in-Chief, British Grand Fleet; Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ personal aide; the only Thompson on Sims’ staff was Medical Inspector E. Thompson, and there is no Lt. Thompson listed among the officers of the Sixth Battle Squadron.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 4: See: Sims to Adm. William S. Benson, 4 June 1918. Sims’ command was not separated from the Atlantic Fleet, nor was he promoted to full admiral during the war. However, Mayo’s requests to travel to Europe and thereby displace Sims were rejected, and Sims remained functionally independent.

Footnote 5: RAdm. William B. Caperton, Commander, Pacific Fleet; RAdm. Austin M. Knight, Commander, Asiatic Fleet; and VAdm. De Witt Coffman, Second in Command, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 6: French for “We are going to see.”

Footnote 7: “Mr. Marshall” has not been further identified. The Marshall News Syndicate of London was one of the important news services of the early twentieth century, offering a variety of articles and interviews related to the war effort. For more on this, see: Sims to Sims, 3 May 1918.

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