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 Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS

U.S.S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.

TELEPHONE, VICTORIA 9110                30, GROSVENOR GARDENS,

CABLE ADDRESS, “SIMSADUS”                        LONDON, S.W.1

REFERENCE No.                                   May 2nd. 1918.

My dear Benson,

          I enclose herewith a copy of a letter which explains itself.1 The references in the letter to certain paragraphs in the reports in question are as follows:-

From the report of April 20th:2

     “4. ROSYTH BASE.

          Without knowing positively, it is assumed that the fleet3 will remain based here indefinitely.”

From the report of April 27th:4

     “2. CONVOY MOVEMENTS AND ENEMY’S ATTACKS.

     “As previously stated the supporting force to trans NORTH SEA convoy usually consists of a division of battleships and destroyer screen, a division of light cruisers and screen, beside the armed convoy guard consisting usually of a leader, ten destroyers, and an average of about six armed trawlers.

          The plan of operations call for a west bound convoy to leave a NORWEGIAN port on the arrival of the east bound one; the same supporting force to protect both. This will usually require the supporting force to protect both. This will usually require the supporting force to remain at least a couple of days at a dangerous distance from the Grand Fleet’s base, and invites an attack in force by the enemy.

     A discussion of the probabilities, possibilities, “ifs”, etc., would be endless; the salient points to be considered being dependent upon previous information of the convoy’s movements reaching the enemy, and the enemy’s movements reaching the Commander-in-Chief.

     I am of the opinion, which is shared by most, if not all of the flag officers of the GRAND FLEET, that there are possibilities of grave disaster to the supporting force, and that it is a matter for deep consideration.”

          As stated in the enclosed letter to Admiral Rodman,5 I have thought it best to take this matter up personally. Rodman has been doing excellent work in the Fleet but he is rather impulsive and liable to “slop over” at times.6

          I am quite sure he did not at all realize how detrimental the criticisms referred to might very well be, and I believe that he will recognise this and that there will be no further trouble.

              Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 49.

Footnote 1: Sims’ letter has not been found.

Footnote 2: This report has not been found.

Footnote 3: The British Grand Fleet, commanded by Adm. Sir David Beatty.  The United States Atlantic Fleet’s Battleship Division Nine was attached to the Grand Fleet under Beatty’s command.

Footnote 4: This report has not been found.

Footnote 5: RAdm. Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine.

Footnote 6: Although Sims’ letter to Rodman is not included here, it is quoted in Jerry Jones’ “Battleship Operations in World War I.” Sims strongly objected to Rodman’s comments, saying they indicated “a complete lack of confidence in the commander-in-chief [Beatty] and the Admiralty.” He feared that if Rodman’s comments reached Beatty or anyone else in the British Admiralty, it would cause serious strains in Anglo-American relations. Rodman apparently took Sims’ rebuke to heart, and there is no indication of him making any further complaints. Jones, “U.S. Battleship Operations”: 104-106. While Sims approved of Rodman’s performance during the war, the two experienced a very severe falling out during subsequent Congressional hearings into the Navy Department’s wartime performance. Still, Crisis at Sea: 48-50.

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