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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations


Date: May 13, 1918.

To:  Opnav.

Prepared by: CS.  Approved: NCT.1  Code: 34 ARD. No. Simben 3.


Simben 3. The situation in the Eastern Mediterranean taking into consideration a possible offensive movement by Turkish and former Russian vessels now in possession of Germans2 demands that the Allied forces become sufficient and that their disposition be suchthat they could successfully oppose any such movement. In the opinion of the Allied Naval Council the forces are sufficient, but their present disposition is not satisfactory, and owing to the lack of training of Italian battleships the efficiency of a combined French-Italian force is doubtful.3 The Italians now appear to be determined not to send their dreadnoughts to Corfu unless all French forces withdraw from that base, except those French ships that are to join the Italian ships as a Corfu force, and this force be under an Italian Admiral and not subject to the French Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean.4 Both the British Admiralty and myself fear that an impossible situation would be created by such a disposition, and that a disaster might easily occur should the enemy issue from the Black Sea in considerable force and the Austrians cooperate from the Adriatic.5 Allied Naval Council will hold emergency meeting London May fifteenth at which this subject will be discussed. I give this advance information in order that the Department may be prepared for a possible request that a division of oil burning American dread-noughts be sent to the Mediterranean.6 Oil burning vessels preferred as they can be more readily supplied with oil via Suez than coal from England. 21513. Simben 3.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Notation at bottom of page: “COPY.”

Footnote 1: Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ Chief of Staff.

Footnote 2: Sims was referring to the Russian Black Sea fleet. For more on this fleet and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, see: Sims to Benson, 17 May 1918, and Sims to Josephus Daniels, 12 May 1918.

Footnote 3: This was a matter discussed at length at the recent meeting of the Allied Naval Council in Rome on 26-27 April. For more of this discussion, see: Sims to Benson, 30 April 1918, and Trask, Captain and Cabinets: 255ff.

Footnote 4: VAdm. Dominique Marie Gauchet, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Naval Forces, Mediterranean.

Footnote 5: For a solution proposed by the British-the appointment of an “Admiralissimo” in the Mediterranean-see: Sims to Charles R. Train, 16 May 1918, and Sims to Benson, 17 May 1918.

Footnote 6: American battleships were not dispatched to the Mediterranean.