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 Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotilla

June 4th. 1918.

My dear Pringle,

          Your letter of June 2nd.1 has just reached me as I was about to leave the office and intend to take the train tonight for Invergordon and the Grand Fleet to be gone until Saturday morning [8 June]. From this you will see that I will not have time to write to you as much as I otherwise would.

          I quite agree with you in your attitude towards the Club, that is, it should be our Club and entirely self-supporting and entirely separate from official support. Of course we would keep such a Club under strictly official supervision as far as we deemed necessary.

          You will get both Johnson and Zogbaum.2 I shunted these two fellows to Queenstown, because I knew it would be agreeable to both you and Admiral Bayly.3

          As far as concerns the circumstances of the loss of the PRESIDENT LINCOLN,4 all we know about it we placed in the Bulletin which you will have received before you get this. I had a letter from Foote5 that reached me the day the ship was torpedoed and in it he told me about his fine ship and what afine organization she had. The shipmwas [i.e. ship was] the second one in a line of four ships proceeding to the westward in latitude 15, the escort having left them in latitude 12. The report is that she was hit by three torpedoes. The other ships went on to escape the danger and the LINCOLN sunk in eighteen minutes, but all the people were gotten into the boats except three officers and twentythree men. All these details are in the Bulletin and we have not received any further details. They were picked up about twelve hours later by two destroyers and taken into Brest.

          As for the Western Front, I do not really know anything more about it than we see in the Press. The First Sea Lord|6| returned from Paris yesterday and he says that the people down there are in their usual optimistic state. There seems to be a complete confidence in Foch7 and that he will strike when the right time comes. There can be little doubt that the attack towards Paris was a surprise.8 Considering the shape of the salient towards Amiens it was comparatively easy to strike towards the North or towards the South and I suppose they could not be completely prepared in either sector. I do not know enough about land warfare or enough about the lay of the land in the theatre of operations to make my opinion of any use, but I must say that the situation looks to me to be serious. However, no matter what happens in France, Great Britain and the United States are into this business to see it through and a complete defeat for the Germans no matter how long it takes.

          Shortly after I come back from my visit to the North I am going to try and get up to Queenstown.

          Congressmen Kelley and Currie9 of the Naval Committee have been in France visiting Brest, St.Nazaire and so forth, and have been to the Western Front. They are going up to the Grand Fleet tomorrow and expect to sail next Saturday. I am trying to persuade them to leave here on Friday next arriving in Queenstown on Saturday, go to the Men’s Club that evening to the usual Saturday entertainment, have a lookaround on Sunday, and take a later steamer in the early part of next week. I have turned this over to Tobey10 and some of the others. Possibly they will be able to persuade them. They are both very agreeable men and I need not say, very powerful ones. I believe we have created a very favorable impression upon them. They say the Navy’s reputation on the other side is as fine as possible, and that anything we ask for over here we can get at once.

          I have written to both you and Admiral Bayly concerning the transfer of a dozen or so destroyers to Brest, and I hope that you will both agree that this is the proper thing to do at this time.11 We have given all the reasons in these letters as to why it would be more economical and more efficient particularly now as the flow of transports is so much greater.

          The Admiralty, and indeed all of us, were much interested in the account we had of the STERRETT chasing the submarine, but we have received no further details.12

          We were much depressed this afternoon over your first telegram of the torpedoing of the WILKES, but correspondingly elated by your second telegram.13

          This letter will necessarily come without signature, as I am off in a few minutes for the North.

Very sincerely yours,        

Wm.S. Sims.        

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 79. Addressed below close: “Captain J.R.P.Pringle. U.S.N./U.S.S. MELVILLE./Queenstown. Ireland.”

Footnote 1: See: Pringle to Sims, 2 June 1918.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. Alfred W. Johnson, Commander, U.S.S. Kimberly, and Lt. Cmdr. Rufus F. Zogbaum, Jr., Commander, U.S.S. Davis.

Footnote 3: Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 4: PRESIDENT LINCOLN was torpedoed and sunk on 31 May 1918. See: Pringle to Sims, 2 June 1918, and Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 3 June 1918.

Footnote 5: Cmdr. Percy W. Foote, Commander, PRESIDENT LINCOLN.

Footnote 6: Adm. Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.

Footnote 7: Gen. Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander.

Footnote 8: The German “Blucher” offensive of 27 May 1918 succeeded beyond its planners’ expectations, driving back French and British forces within 56 miles of Paris, close enough for the Germans to begin shelling the French capital. Strachan, The First World War, 297-298.

Footnote 9: Patrick H. Kelley and Gilbert A. Currie, both Republican members of the House of Representatives from Michigan.

Footnote 10: Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey, a member of Sims’ staff.

Footnote 11: See: Sims to Bayly, 1 June 1918. For Bayly’s response, see: Bayly to Sims, 4 June 1918.

Footnote 12: STERRETT spotted the submarine U-97 on 31 May 1918. The destroyer dropped her entire supply of depth charges, but failed to destroy the U-boat. She pursued it for several hours, and later came within 20 feet of ramming it, but the sub ultimately escaped. DANFS

Footnote 13: These cablegrams have not been found. Pringle was apparently mistaken in his initial report, as WILKES was never torpedoed, but did rush to the scene of a reported submarine sighting on 30 May 1918. No submarine was found. DANFS.

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