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 Rear Admiral Herbert O. Dunn, Commander, Azores Detachment

May 7th, 1918.     

My dear Diplomat,

               Your letter of April 6th,1 reached me on May 6th. I suppose this long time in transit is inevitable. However, I was very glad indeed to hear how successfully you have made things go in the Azores. Let me assure you that I appreciate this very much. After the war I may have an opportunity to spin you some of my hard luck stories which will enable you to appreciate how very valuable is the initiative and cooperation of a man who goes ahead and does cool things.

               On this particular subject I enclose herewith a few camouflage remarks that I made on your report of Fitness.2 I am very glad indeed of the opportunity to express such an opinion.

               Since you wrote your letter we have obtained through diplomatic channels the permission for us to handle our own guns in the Azores. Possibly some of these days you may get an opportunity to take a pot at a submarine with one of them. Of course they will not come within range if they know the guns are there, but they may assume that they have not yet been planted. (Side-note in ink) we have telegraphed recommending that the two 5” guns be supplied.

               The big cruising submarines have so far been knocking about to the east of the Azores, around Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands and off Dakar. It is quite possible that before this reaches you you may hear of one or more being in the neighborhood of the Azores.

               These vessels are of the Deutschland class. That is they are commercial submarines transformed into military ones. We have been watching them pretty much all the winter, and it is suspected that, generally speaking, they will not loaf around in any neighborhood, where anti-torpedo craft may be encountered. They are very clumsy boats and slow divers. On account of their length and unhandiness there is only one know<n> instance where they have attacked a convoy and that was not successful. There are only two known instances where they have attacked single vessels with torpedoes. Their game is to attack the lightly armed vessel with guns, make her surrender, then loot her and either keep her for a while as a base or sink her and take the crew off. The great enemy of the cruising submarine is the Allied submarine. All experience has shown that they willalways move on at once as soon as one of the Allies submarines appeared in that neighborhood. If therefore you have any S.O.S. calls from your immediate neighborhood you may be sure that a subma<r>ine sent to that locality will make a big submarine move on. Moreover, it will give an excellent chance for one of your submarines to put <pot> one of these big fellows. It would be great stuff if you could succeed in doing so.

     I had hoped long ago to be able to send the PANTHER.3 We expected that the BRIDGEPORT would have been here long ago. My idea was to send her to Brest as the repairs of the mining forces could be looked out for by the British. However, I now undertand that they have set her to work ferrying chasers from Bermuda to the Azores. It is very gratifying that these chasers have arrived in the Azores in such good condition. Of course I know that they have required a good many small repairs, but that is to be expected from such small boats after such a long trip. Six of them have just arrived at Brest and will proceed at once to a Channel port from which they will operate ashunting squadrons with one of our destroyers. I am in great hopes that they will be able to make it exceedingly hot for the submarines in that neighborhood.

     At the time the first lot of Corfu, Adriatic chasers left the United States, the Navy Dept. did not know where they were to be based, because this was decided afterwards at a meeting of the Inter-allied Naval Council. Consequently, the Department did not know they were to be based where they could not obtain supplies locally. It was because of this that it was necessary to ask you to do the best you could in fitting out the LEONIDAS.4 This best was a very good best indeed and it save the situation for us in fine style. It is that sort of thing that is very satisfying and very gratifying to those who are responsible that things go as well as possible.

     For a long time I was in considerable anxiety as to the condition of affairs in the Azores. I knew of course that the people of the Islands were very distrustful of the United States; that they were rather afraid that is we ever established ourselves on shore that we would never let go again. I believe it to be due to your diplomatic measures, and the means you have taken to ingratiate yourself with the inhabitants that this danger has been largely averted.

     Of course the cargo of flour and allowing the Islanders to send home some of their freight in the HANCOCK has touched them in their most susceptible part.

     I have looked over the program of the dramatic entertainment that was given there, with much interest. I would like to have attended the show myself.

     As for Lieut. Dresel,5 it is just like you to want to give the young man a chance at your own expense in losing an efficient aide. I will do the best I can to get him over here. I will ask Palmer6 to send a good man out to you who will carry orders to Dresel to proceed to London and report for duty in the destroyers.

     I would be very glad indeed to recommend that you should have half-a-dozen destroyers at the Azores if they were available. Unfortunately the program is a long way behind. Six or seven months ago they assured us that we would have ten destroyers a month beginning last January and all we have up to the present time is three new ones. In a month or so they will begin to come out two or three a month and it will be towards the latter part of the year that they begin to come out five, six and seven a month. We were also informed that about June there would be about ten Ford destroyers7 delivered and twenty each month thereafter. Recently we received a cable from the Navy Dept. to us saying that we will only get twenty in all before the end of the present year. You can imagine our disappointment. We are using every destroyer to the limit in order to bring in and take out the greatly increased troop transports <and the mercantile transports> and as it is many vessels must go unescorted in the Channel and Irish Sea, particularly on their way to the rendezvous where the convoys are formed. It is in these areas that we are losing nearly all the vessels that are now being sunk. That is to say, the convoy system has practically defeated the submarine but we have not enough destroyers to do the necessary escorting in the inclosed waters let alone enough to organize the hunting squadrons which are the sole hope of putting the submarine out of business for all time.

     We have received an increased allowance for entertaining purposes, and I understand that they have sent a second sum of money. You may be sure that in the distribution of this money nobody will be forgotten.

     I neglected to say that if any of the cruising submarines come your way, you may or may not find a few mines in front of your port. I rather doubt the submarines coming as close in as would be required for this, on account of the danger to them if they were discovered in comparatively shoal water. However, these submarines can carry twenty mines, if they reduce their supply of thirty torpedoes by ten.

     If you keep a personal war diary of your diplomatic activities in the Azores, I fancy that it will be very entertaining after the war.

     I am sure it is not necessary for me to admonish you to remain cheerful!      Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Rear Admiral Herbert O. Dunn, U.S.N./Azores.” Document is in: “Admiral Sim’s Personal File.” Document reference: “1/5/J.”

Footnote 1: See: Dunn to Sims 6 April 1918.

Footnote 2: Dunn’s fitness report has not been found.

Footnote 3: U.S.S. PANTHER was a destroyer tender.

Footnote 4: U.S.S. LEONIDAS was a submarine chaser and tender.

Footnote 5: Lt. Alger H. Dresel.

Footnote 6: RAdm. Leigh C. Palmer, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

Footnote 7: For more information on Eagle Boats, see: Sims to Charles R. Train, 6 May 1918.