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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Lindon W. Bates, Chairman of Engineering Committee, The Submarine Defense Association

June 15, 1918.

My dear Bates:

     Referring to your letters of May 9 and May 13, 1918,1 in regard to further developments in the work of the Submarine Defense Association, I have forwarded the copies of these reports to the Secretary of the Technical Committee of the Allied Naval Council, in order that their contents may be placed at the service of the Technical representatives of our Allies.

     You make certain criticisms of the British Dazzle System of camouflage,2 the adoption of which, as you state, was recommended by me.3 I do not pretend to say that this system is the best which can possibly be evolved; nor do I think that any one can, with safety, claim that this, or any other system is the best which can be worked out. I made my recommendation on this matter toward the end of last year, at a time when the British Dazzle System was well developed, and was being applied in actual practice on a large scale with,I believe, considerable success. In the United States, at the same time, there was, I believe, very excellent work being done by six or eight different individuals or associations in the investigation of camouflage systems, but that no consensus of opinion had been arrived at in regard to which system was the best. In fact, I believe there were very violent differences of opinion on this subject. It therefore appeared to me that the best policy was to proceed at once with the adoption of a system which, though it might not be the best possible, was, however, giving apparently excellent results in actual service. As the application of any system to all of the vessels of any Merchant Marine is a very long process, I believe the Department adopted precisely the right policy in proceeding with the application of the Dazzle System, but,at the same time,in setting up a research organization for carrying on continuous work, looking to the improvement of the Dazzle System or the development of another system which would guarantee better results.

Very sincerely yours,


Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 47. Addressed below close: “Linden W. Bates, Esq.,/The Submarine Defense Association,/No.141 Broadway,/New York, N. Y.”

Footnote 2: For more on the British “Dazzle System,” see: Norman Wilkinson to Clement Greatorex, July 16, 1917.

Footnote 3: Sims recommendation to the Navy Department has not been found but there is no question that he was supportive of this camouflage system. For example, see: Sims to Lewis Bayly, 14 August 1917.

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