Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Destroyers Operating from British Bases, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

CABLE DISPATCH.

SENT: May 21st, 1917.              TO: Secretary of the Navy.

THROUGH: State Department.         FROM: Rear-Admiral Sims,

Queenstown.

     21117 (stop)   22017 (stop)   27017 (stop)

     General plans and operations confined to patrolling with British destroyers and other patrol craft in the area westward and south westward southern Ireland as far west as necessary to oppose enemy submarines all this area under direct control Vice Admiral Queenstown1 (stop) Experience has shown imperative necessity of utmost secrecy concerning details of operations and the results thereof (stop) Communication of this nature never entrusted to mails or secret codes but sent to Admiralty by courier only (stop) Tour of patrol about five days with two day rest and re-fuel (stop) Tours of patrol duty alternatively at base and advance base with about six day overhaul every five hundred hours of steaming (stop)2 Patrols are interrupted as necessary for convoy of valuable cargoes and to meet enemy developments (stop) vessels eighth division have seen three enemy submarines but outside effective range3 (stop) Three torpedoes have passed near our ships from unseen submarines (stop) Our ships being supplied and fitted with all offensive equipment used by British vessels (stop) General co-operation between American and British forces excellent (stop) British war cabinet decided in favor of general announcement presence of an American Flotilla not giving numbers or locations4 (stop) Secret service information indicated that sailing of our forces from home waters was known in Berlin four days after their departure and Queenstown harbour entrance was mined day before their arrival (stop) Will request Admiralty to communicate any further announcement concerning our forces to the Department before publication (stop) Department will be informed of important developments or prospective changes general plans5 (stop) Staff here entirely inadequate to handle special Navy codes except for very important messages of special secret nature between our forces and Department (stop) No necessity has arisen so far for such messages (stop) Embassy has expert coding staff with various State Department codes and has had extensive experience during war with long and difficult messages (stop) Their codes adapted for long and complicated messages (stop) In order that our staff officers here be available for important military duties, it is urgently requested as recommended my previous dispatch that State Department codes and staffs be utilized for all communications except those of special secret nature Department Navy codes will be used for latter and handled only by commissioned officers (stop) Our forces afloat use British service secret codes6 (stop) Services of Captain Pratt urgently necessary as Chief of Staff.7

SIMS.

NO.OF COPIES.  4.                            REFERENCE NO.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520.

Footnote 1: VAdm. Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 2: See: Bayly to American Destroyer Captains, 26 May 1917. Also, see: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 8 May 1917. The advanced base was Berehaven, Ireland.

Footnote 3: Destroyer Division Eight, the first contingent sent to Queenstown, began patrolling on 9 May.

Footnote 4: For information on concern about the timing of the release of information in England and the United States as to the arrival of the first flotilla of destroyers, see: Daniels to William MacDougall, 19 May 1917.

Footnote 5: In his diary entry of 25 May, Daniels wrote that Sims’ information proved it “Necessary to be vigilant to Keep movemnts [of U.S. Navy ships] secret. This shows it to be needed.” DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1.

Footnote 6: This cable was sent via the State Department as were most of Sims’ messages to Washington in the first weeks of the war.

Footnote 7: On 27 May, Sims again asked that Capt. William V. Pratt, be sent to serve with him, adding that he knew Pratt to be “peculiarly well adapted to requirements of this situation.” In that cable, Sims also asked that he be allowed to select his own staff because of the “strain of this position” and the fact that “responsibility is heavy.” DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. Despite Sims’ requests, Pratt remained in Washington serving as aide to Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

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