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 Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotilla

May 16th. 1918.              

My dear Pringle,

                              Your letter of May 12th was duly received.1 I am entirely in favor of Church going home when the time arrives that you think you can spare him.2

          As for Berry’s case, we will have to await developments in Washington and abide by them. There is no use kicking against a certain kind of influence.3

          As for the three destroyers we intended to send to the Mediterranean, I have telegraphed you that that is off for the present. The reason is that we have received such an insistent telegram from the Navy Dept. concerning the safety of troop transports, the augmentation of their escorts, even at the expense of merchant shipping, and so forth, that I don’ feel justified in sending them down without at least referring it to Washington.4 This I have done but I do not believe that the department will consent at the present time.

          It is of course regrettable that the circumstances have been such as to oblige us to take away a number of the senior officers of the force.5 However, there were many impelling reasons for this and it could not well have been avoided. I believe that the fellows that are coming up to take their places will do an acceptable stunt.

          I have no definite news as to when Taussig, Johnson, Vernou, and so forth, will be starting over. I am afraid that the alarm caused on the other side by the apprehension as to the visit of a German submarine may keep them over there, at least for a certain length of time.6

          Three destroyers have just been ordered to the Azores. This is bad business from a military point of view.7 Politics and fear of public opinion is doubtless the cause of it.

          I note what you say concerning Bryant, Carpender & Newton.8 This is a matter which I think should be left entirely up to you. I may say however, that if in your judgment the general efficiency of the flotilla would be greater with these men in their present positions, it would of course, be decidedly wrong to detach them just because they would prefer to have duty at sea. There are half-a-dozen people on my staff who would like very much to go away to sea, but you can readily understand that it would not be good business for me to let them go and try to break in new men into jobs that these men have been working at so long. Such men as Twining, Long, Babcock, Tobey9 and so forth, are of great value to me not only on account of their personality and professional knowledge, but on account of their familiarity with all of the complicated ropes here in London, and on account of the extremely desirable personal relations they have been able to establish.

          I may tell you that there was some Little opposition in the staff on this question of detaching the three men you mention from their present duty, until I explained to them that such a question should be left entirely up to you.

          I can well understand that Davy’s visit is going to turn out a very useful one. It illustrates once again how nearly impossible it is for anybody in Washington to really visualize conditions over here from our telegraphic and written reports.

          I am much pleased with the attitude taken in the case of McCrary. I have authorized him being placed upon the Admiral’s staff. I think it is an excellent scheme.10

          Old man Price11 turned up here on the 15th and we are showing him the town. Really that is an honest man if ever there was one. After all of the disagreeable esperiences that he has been through, to have maintained his present attitude of mind shows the inherent integrity of the man. If I were to report to you the exceedingly complimentary remarks that he made to me about you, I am afraid it would embarrass you. He is as enthusiastic as you could possibly imagine for everything at Queenstown from Admiral Bayly all down through the list. I have a very warm spot in my heart for this fine gentleman.

          I really hope to get up to Queenstown before very long but cannot quite see my way yet.

Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79. Addressed below close: “Captain J.R. Poinsett Pringle U.S.N./U.S.S. MELVILLE/Queenstown. Ireland.” Note at top: “Admiral Sims Personal File.” Identifying number in top center of the copy: “1/3/J/D.”

Footnote 1: See: Pringle to Sims, 12 May 1918.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. John G. Church. Church wanted to return to the United States to consult with the Bureau of Steam Engineering.

Footnote 3: For more on the case of Cmdr. Robert L. Berry, see: Sims to Leigh C. Palmer, 29 April 1918; and Sims to William S. Benson, 30 April 1918.

Footnote 4: See: Diary entry of Josephus Daniels, 13 May 1918; and Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 16 May 1918.

Footnote 5: See: Pringle to Sims, 16 May 1918.

Footnote 6: As seen in the diary entry of Joseph K. Taussig of 14 May 1918, U.S.S. Little, Taussig’s command, and U.S.S. Kimberly, commanded by Comdr. Alfred W. Johnson, were to depart from the United States on 18 May 1918. See: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 14 May 1918. U.S.S. Sigourney, the new destroyer assigned to Cmdr. Walter N. Vernou, had just been commissioned. However, these destroyers were temporarily assigned to the United States Naval base in the Azores. See: Benson to Sims, 15 May 1918.

Footnote 7: See: Benson to Sims, 15 May 1918.

Footnote 8: Lt. Cmdr. Samuel W. Bryant, Lt. Arthur S. Carpender, and Lt. Cmdr. John H. Newton commanded the destroyers Allen, Fanning, and Patterson, respectively.

Footnote 9: Members of Sims’ staff: Capt. Nathan C. Twining; Cmdr. Byron A. Long; Cmdr. John V. Babcock; and Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey. Lt. Cmdr. Charles G. Davy worked at the Bureau of Navigation. See: Leigh C. Palmer to Sims, 26 March 1918.

Footnote 10: Pringle discussed Cmdr. Francis B. McCrady’s joining the staff of Adm. Lewis Bayly in his letter to Sims of 12 May. McCrady was commander of all American naval aviation in Ireland.

Footnote 11: Cmdr. Henry B. Price, executive officer of the MELVILLE.