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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

[Extract]

Hotel de Crillon, Paris

March 23, 1918

Saturday

My darling Nani:

     Yesterday morning at 11 we left London. When we arrived at Folkstone1 at 1-30 we found such a thick fog that the channel boats were not running—they could not get into the small port of Boulogne. But as Calais was reported clear of fog, they gave us a destroyer and we crossed in her and just caught the train, and found our reservations in the sleeper all right, tho energetically disputed by some Army people.

     We arrived here at 6-30 am, and after a wash up and breakfast, went to the Ministry of Marine for a naval conference over the business that brought us here. This afternoon we will motor to Versailles for a conference with the Army Council, and we expect to take the 11—40 pm train for Boulogne and be back in London Sunday evening2. . . .

     I was invited to dine with Secretary Baker, at the Ambassadors on Friday evening,3 but had to leave for this conference. When we reached Boulogne, on the way to Paris, we found that the Secretary was there in a special train waiting for the fog to clear away. It was then 9 p.m. and he had been there since 9 a.m. Of course he missed the dinner_tho doubtless the Ambassador postponed it, and perhaps I will be back in time for it. Anyway I will be back in time to see the secretary.4

     These are busy times! The much advertised offensive on the Western Front is said to have commenced, but we do not know yet whether it is a real one.5

     There is said to be an air raid on in Paris while I am writing, the first that has been attempted in daylight, but I have not heard any guns or bombs. It cannot amount to much in daylight as it is a perfectly clear day and the enemy machines will doubtless be vigorously attacked by the French. . . .

     My heart and spirit is with you and our darlings every minute

Your devoted  

Will.    

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 9. Document is on: “U.S. NAVAL FORCES/OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.”

Footnote 1: That is, Folkestone, a port town on the English Channel in southeastern England.

Footnote 2: For more on these conferences, see: Sims to William S. Benson, 25 March 1918.

Footnote 3: Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and Ambassador Walter Hines Page.

Footnote 4: Handwritten in the margins is: “Took lunch with him yesterday and dined with him at the Ambassadors Mr. Lloyd George M. [Arthur] Balfour and Lord Derby [Edward Stanley] (Minister of war) were present.” For more on this luncheon, see: Sims to Benson, 25 March 1918.

Footnote 5: The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was anticipated in the wake of Russia’s withdrawal from the war, freeing up German troops from the Eastern Front. Gilbert, The First World War: 402-6. The German’s offensive centered on the Somme River and began on 21 March. Hart, The Great War: 417.

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