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 Flotillas

March 6th. 1918.  

My dear Pringle,

          I am giving a letter of introduction, of which I enclose a copy,1 to Doctor James Cannon, Junr. of Virginia, and Doctor E.J.Moore of Ohio, officers of the Anti-Saloon League of America who are coming to Europe for their organixation to make a first hand study of the conditions surrounding our soldiers, with special reference to the drink evil. The purpose of these gentlemen is to make a report to the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy2 and to get the actual facts.

          The above is quoted from a letter of introduction that these men brought to me from the Secretary of the Navy. I have assured them that we will give them every facility to make their investigations at any of the naval bases they choose to visit. They are going to France first.

          These gentlemen have explained to me that their object is to get at the facts in order that they may advise the Congress of the United States as to the necessity of further legislation on the subject. I believe their idea is that it will be beneficial if the Congress would pass a law providing that it was a military offence for any member of our military forces to consume any alcohol. I believe they have been considerably stirred up by the announcement that Pershing3 has issued an order to his people forbidding them to drink hard liquors but permitting wine, beer, and so forth.

          You will easily see that the report made by men who represent, as these men do, a powerful Prohibition League, may have a very marked effect upon the war. They seem to have idea that the United States would be justified in stating that as the United States are sending their troops over to this side to help the Allies, that the United States would be justified in asking, or demanding that Gt.Britain and France discontinue the consumption of grains for the manufacture of alcoholic drinks.

          I have endeavoured to impress upon these men that that is a question which can be properly decided only by those most intimately concerned; that the question of the morale of the working populations of the countries concerned is one of extreme importance; that if such an attempt were made by the United States and it should result in a revolt of the working populations of the European countries it would lose us the war.

          I have endeavoured to impress upon them that the decision in this respect, that is made by the governing officials of the countries concerned, should be loyally accepted by the United States. Whether I succeeded in impressing these gentlemen with this fact or not I cannot be sure. They did not seem particularly radical and they declared that they will make as wise a decision as they are able, based upon all of the facts. In any event, we can do no less than give them every facility to get at the facts of the case in so far as our forces are concerned.

          I will give them a letter of introduction to you, simply stating that they are to be given every facility for making their investigations.

Very sincerely yours,       

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. Addressed below close: “Captain J.R.Poinsett Pringle. U.S.Navy./U.S.S. MELVILLE./Queenstown. Ireland.”

Footnote 1: This enclosure is no longer attached to this letter.

Footnote 2: Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

Footnote 3: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.

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