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 Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations

June 15th.1918.

My dear Pratt,

          I enclose herewith a copy of a letter which goes by this mail to Admiral Benson.1 This contains all the current news since my last letter. Of course there is a great mass of official stuff goes in every week, but I do not know how much time you have to look into this.

          Your last letter was received a few days ago,2 and I believe I understand completely your attitude with reference to the measures to be taken against the submarine which is on the other side.3 Of course you know that the crying necessity on this side is for more destroyers to convoy troop ships in and out and to get after the submarine. The necessities of troop convoys, and the equally essential mercantile convoys of supplies for the troops is now straining all of our destroyer forces to the limit. This leaves us practically nothing in the way of supports for our submarine chasers. Also, the condition in the Mediterranean is extremely disquieting because of the lack of destroyers to add to the convoys. The losses there are out of all proportion to what they would be if we had a few more destroyers. It has been a matter of the keenest disappointment that all the predictions as to the rate of arrival of destroyers have failed so. Cannot something be done to get some more over here?

          There are over thirty captains and nucleus crews on the other side for new destroyers. I hope they are not wasting time trying out machinery of these boats to see if they can squeeze out the last knot. If I had my way I would put them through a trial of 25-knots and if they can pass that I would start them the next day for Europe. There is a war on over here, and it is at its crisis. See if you cannot help us by dispatching some of these vessels.

          I am glad to know that you do not expect to keep many destroyers on the other side to quiet public opinion. Of course they are quite useless to send out into the open Atlantic to chase a solitary submarine. I am afraid the Germans are making good on their objective in sending this submarine to the other side.4

          We have sent you a telegram about the probability of a base for submarines being established on the other side.5 This could hardly be anything but a base where the crews can be rested and some minor repairs made. If I had my way about it I would keep a sharp eye on all the probable localities, discover the locality of the base, but not interfere with its establishment in any way. If we can find out where the base is and get prompt information when the submarine arrives there, you will have the best chance that you will ever get of either destroying it or keeping it from every coming out. To prevent the establishment of the base will result in nothing but inconvenience to the submarine and her crew. All experience on this side has shown that these vessels are able to stay out some months. They will run into a refuge anchorage for a rest if they get a chance. If not, they seize a vessel and use that as a rest base. Your best hold is to allow the base to be established and then watch it.

          You will note the attached correspondence in reference to Wilson.6 Cone7 is going down to try and straighten out the whole business but it looks disquieting. I think the job is probably getting on Wilson’s nerves very seriously. If so, this will not be helped by shifting the responsibility for the escorting of the troop convoys from Queenstown to Brest.8

          I enclose herewith for your amusement a very fine letter written by Awtrey.9

Always very sincerely yours,

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 78. Addressed below close: “Captain W.V.Pratt, U.S.Navy,/Office of Naval Operations,/Navy Department./Washington. D.C.”

Footnote 2: See: Pratt to Sims, 27 May 1918.

Footnote 3: The German submarine was U-151. See: William S. Benson to Sims, 7 June 1918.

Footnote 4: On what Sims believed the German objective was in sending a U-boat to American waters, see: Sims to Josephus Daniels, 30 April 1918.

Footnote 5: This cable has not been found.

Footnote 6: It is not clear what correspondence Sims attached.

Footnote 7: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, United States Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.

Footnote 8: On the transfer of destroyers, see: Sims to Benson, 5 June 1918.

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