Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Lieutenant Commander Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché in Rome, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in Europe

  NAVAL ATTACHE

Telegraphic Address

  “Alusna Rome.”              AMERICAN EMBASSY

                                R O M E

11 May, 1918.

Dear Admiral:-

     Today I am sending you a telegram regarding the latest development of the Italian dreadnaught Corfu situation.1 I could not very well explain where I got it from; but it is needless to say that I saw the telegram to which my cable referred. I regret that the situation has not seemed to clear up; but of course it is of the utmost importance that the Italian squadron gets out of Taranto before the French squadron is divided and before the enemy block up Taranto.

     The following is a translation of a telegram that the Italian Naval Attache, in London, sent on the 9th inst., to Revel, which may be of interest.2 I hope you will not refer to this in any way, as it would undoubtedly bring about a very embarrassing situation, particularly among my friends who are as desirous as I am of satisfactorily settling this situation.

   “At the suggestion of the Ambassador,3 I consulted Admiral Wemys4 about the new dislocation of Allied Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, pointing out to him the grave inconvenience of a moral and political nature, that would result from putting our squadron under the orders of the French Commander in Chief.5 The Admiral set forth that in the last Naval Council, the desirability was unanimously recognized of bringing together at Corfu, the naval forces opposing the Austrian-Hungarian forces. He insisted upon the greater strategic position of this port, andon the precarious position of our ships in the inner harbor of Taranto, adding that he considered it relatively easy, moreover, for the submarine to blockade the Gulf of Taranto, and thus prevent the union of our squadron with the French squadron. He suggested that after all, the question of the dislocation of the Naval Forces in the Ionian Sea, seemed of secondary importance in comparison with the necessity of separating into the Aegean Sea a part of the French squadron at present at Corfu. As to the matter of assigning command, he declared it seemed to him the question should be discussed between Italy and France; and should be settled also in the event of our squadron remaining at Taranto, since this squadron ought to work in concert with the French. The Admiral gave me to understand that he saw reason for intervention by the Admirality only in the event (not improbably) that the French, in separating part of their Naval forces in the Aegean Sea, laid down the condition that they be first reinforced at Corfu by our ships.”

          In regard to the assignment of the “CITTA di CAPTANIA” and the “CITTA di SYRACUSA” to England, as mine layers, I am told that the question has been taken up with the Prime Minister,6 and that orders would promptly be given for these vessels to go to the British Navy.

          I shall be glad to see Yarnell and Hal Dunlap,7 and will do all I can for them.

Yours very sincerely,

S/   C. R. TRAIN        

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “To Vice Admiral William S. Sims, U.S.N.,/Force Commander U.S.N., In European Waters,/LONDON./TRAIN.” A document reference appears at the top of the first page in columnar fashion: “1/5/6/j/Q.”

Footnote 1: This telegram has not been located. For additional information on the “Corfu situation,” however, see: Sims to William S. Benson, 30 April 1918.

Footnote 2: RAdm. Giuseppe De Lorenzi and Adm. Paolo Thaon di Revel, Chief of the Italian Naval Staff.

Footnote 3: Marquis Guglielmo Imperiali.

Footnote 4: First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Roslyn Wemyss.

Footnote 5: VAdm. Dominique Marie Gauchet, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Naval Forces, Mediterranean.

Footnote 6: Vittorio Orlando.

Footnote 7: Capt. Harry E. Yarnell and Col. R. H. Dunlap, USMC, both members of the Planning Section, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters. Yarnell and Dunlap were sent to Rome to study further the project of securing and blockading the Adriatic Sea as part of a committee that was to meet 15 May to examine certain plans of operation already in existence. See: Sims to William S. Benson, 30 April 1918.