Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Memorandum of Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


March 10, 1918     


          A number of objections may be raised to the proposed plan, of which the two below discussed seem to be the most probable:

 (a) The proposed operation against Cattaro may be considered by some as an attempt to reduce shore batteries and effect an occupation of hostile territory by naval means alone. With respect to this, the plan does not contemplate any such operation. The operation against Cattaro is purely in the nature of a raid, and contemplates merely rushing a strong naval force into the harbor, destroying as much of the shipping as possible and getting out. The operations against the shore batteries would be purely incidental and in the nature of a containing operation merely designed to reduce the effectiveness of their fire against the raiding force while the mail operation was in progress.

 (b) It may be said that the proposed plan to land a force and cut the railroad to the eastward of Sabbioncello peninsula is too much of an undertaking for a naval force and would involve us in extensive military operations which would require an army of considerable size.

          The answer to this is, as in the case just discussed, that the operation is purely a raid, having as its object paralyzing one of the enemy’s lines of communication, in fact his only land line of communication in that region by destroying bridges, tunnels or other permanent works. With respect to the force that is thrown ashore, two courses of action are open:

First: To withdraw it as soon as its primary object has been accomplished.

Second: Leave it ashore until it is threatened by a superior force.

          Circumstances at the time would have to determine whether there would be any advantage gained by leaving the landing force ashore after its primary object had been accomplished. Unless there were some such advantage in sight, it would be best to withdraw the force at once, because in that case it would withdraw on the heels of victory, whereas, if it were kept ashore until threatened, the enemy would say it had been driven out, and there would be a consequent loss of prestige for our force, and gain in morale for the enemy,

     It should be further pointed out that neither of these operations is essential to the general plan, though each of them is a brilliant operation and if successful would improve the morale of our own side and correspondingly weaken the enemy’s morale.

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     This matter is at present in rather an unsatisfactory state, and there is considerable uncertainty as to just where the Brazilian vessels are to operate, as is shown by paper No. 55 appended hereto.1

     It had been expected by us that the Brazilian vessels would come out and report to our Admiral at Gibraltar2 as a part of his force, and would be operated by the S.N.O. Gibraltar3 in exactly the same manner as obtains in the case of our own vessels. This expectation was upset by the news that a Brazilian Rear Admiral senior to Admiral Niblack, was coming out in command of the force.4 As this Brazilian Admiral is also senior to all of our Flag officers afloat, with the exception of the Admirals and Vice Admirals, it does not make any difference where his force goes so far as concerns their operation under an American Admiral, and it would seem that the most we can do to carry out our Government’s wishes is to so allocate these Brazilian vessels that they will always be operating in the same area with American vessels.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 23. Document identifier: “1/2/3/6/Q/J.” There is a note at the top of the document: “Admiral Sim’s Personal File.”

Footnote 1: The appended memorandum has not be found. For a discussion of what the United States hoped concerning the Brazilian navy contingent, see: William S. Benson to Sims, 17 January 1918.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Albert Niblack, Commander, United States Patrol Sqaudron at Gibraltar.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Heathcoat S. Grant, Senior Officer, Gibraltar.

Footnote 4: Adm. Pedro Max Fernando Frontin, Commander, Brazilian Naval Division for War Operations.