Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

MEMORANDUM for C. N. O.

     On February 28th there was prepared a memo1 in which the following salient points were noted, in regard to the Siberian situation:

     (a) The greatest evil so far developed in this war, affecting the Allies and preventing their united military effort was lack of thorough cooperation.

     (b) It was evident that Japan had two roads to pursue (1) stick to the Allies, (2) or grow closer to Germany.

     (c) That an immediate need existed to do something in Siberia, to offset the German propaganda and military effort there.

To effect the above it was thought wise:

(1) To get in touch with Japan.

(2) To be perfectly frank and fair with her.

(3) Induce her to make our aims and ideals as set forth by the President her own.

(4) Under these circumstances to offer to cooperate with her, on the same terms as with the other Allies, for the suppression of a growing menace

     At the time this memo was written Japan’s line of action was indicated as being toward intervention. The great German drive in the West had not materialized and unless internal political events demanded it, it looked as though German policy might contemplate aggressive political action and military occupation in the east and defensive military operations in the West

     In the meantime despatches were received from the C-in-C of the Asiatic2 giving much conflicting information, but all emphasizing the need for a clean cut general policy upon which he might base his future action.

     On March 21st a cable was prepared but not sent which tentatively outlined as a policy (1) the restoration of the true representative voice of democratic Russia as its first aim and (2) that in putting this policy into effect each interest concerned must be consulted and considered in proportion to the weight of interest involved.

     It was thought such a cable would have the effect of drawing together in closer cooperation, the various xxxxx interest concerned, and of inducing each interest to more definitely outline its aim and purpose, and that the net result would be to promote Russia’s and the Allied aims as a natural counter to the German effort.

     Since then more cables have been received showing the spread of the German propaganda and a certain amount of danger to munitions in Siberia. The German western drive has started I[t] has met with an initial success. And the attitude of Japan towards intervention has cooled or has turned.

     There is no escapiing the facts and the inference to be drawn, of the bearing that the German western offensive may have on the political and strategic situation in the far East.

     If the present western drive is a success, the wedge driven and the French and British Armies rolled back, then possibly complete victory is the result, with perhaps a German peace for some of the Allies. If the line remains as it is, it may require a re-adjustment of the British left flank, perhaps exposing Dunkirk and Calais.

     If there ever was a time when complete cooperation between all the Allies and a definite exposition of the Aims of each was needed, it is now. There seems no better way for the United States to get this than to take the initiative in the movement.

     It would seem a strong move now right at the present, for the United States to inaugurate or cuase [i.e., cause] to be inaugurated a intensive counter offensive in the far East, political at first, but with a possible later military significance, directed not against Russia, but in aid of Russia. And for the United States to make use of every power that can be brought to serve on this front, seems sound. If there lurked the seeds of disaffection to the Allies Cause or a lukewarm apathy which might later turn to open hostility there would seem not better way to expose it, than by a frank, open, vigorous and straight forward policy, outline immediately.3

<& Sent Mar 28 1918>

Source Note: TDS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. There is a note at the top of the first page: “info only/Sims Strictly/Private WP.”

Footnote 1: Memorandum referred to has not been found.

Footnote 2: Adm. Austin M. Knight, Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet.

Footnote 3: For more on American policy in Siberia, see: Diary of Josephus Daniels, 29 March 1918.

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