Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims
Sunday, April 28, 1918
My darling Sweetheart:
...May 3rd 1918
Last night I was invited to dinner by a Mr. Hunsicker, an american who has lived in London many years representing steel companies. The dinner was at the American officer’s club. The other guests were Mr. Sneider (Schneider), the great steel man of France and his son, an aviator, Sir.....Hadfield, one of the principle munition manufacturers of England, and husband of Lady Hadfield, who has established (and manages) a hospital at Boulogne, Lord Fairfax, and Lord Gainsborough.1
After dinner a y.m.c.a. man gave us an account of being torpedoed in the Irish Sea with 57 other y.m.c.a. people. There were no losses. Lord Bryce presided.2 It was only moderately entertaining. Europe is suffering from a plague of “Welfare” organizations. There are dozens and dozens of organizations that you never heard of. One lady got up an organization to supply bathtubs for our people, succeeded in raising money, came to Europe and brought her automobile with her. There is a craze to “get into the game” in one way or another.
I was invited to another dinner the same night by Mr. Cravath, a member of the House Mission who remains over here on financial business.3 He is a fine man – about 3 inches taller than I am and stockily built. As I could not accept, he asked me to drop in after dinner, which I did. I found there (he lives in a private house) General Biddle (perhaps you used to know him in Washington), a Red Cross general, Mr. Davidson, the Red Cross man, and a man whose name I did not catch.4 Davidson is, I understand, a partner of J. P. Morgan,5 a very able man, but he does not look the part. He is small, fat, and looks dull, and he has little to say.
I am sending you by this mail a copy of the “interview” that I told you about. It is released for Sunday, May 26th, but I don’t know any special paper it will be in, but I suppose in a good many all over the country. It was written by a Mr. Marshall, of the Marshall News Syndicate.6 I think I told you that Babby7 went to dinner with Mr. M. and spun him yarns, then Mr. M. wrote the interview. It is not well done – being in the slap-dash newspaper style. We tried to polish it up, but didn’t have much luck. However, it is a pretty good “story”, as the newspaper men call it, and has some good stuff in it. It will help to contradict the criticisms you saw in the Army and Navy Register.8
A propos of that criticism, one of the destroyer captains, now at Fore River to bring out a new boat, wrote me about it, and said he “had an idea” it would be refuted in the press, and that he would send me some clippings.9
I have just received a letter from the Columbia Graphophone Co. from which I quote the following
“A plan of propaganda has been organized in America by the Nation’s Forum. It is proposed to circulate gramophone records containing messages by prominent statesmen, generals and admirals of the Allied countries.
This scheme has the support and endorsement of Mr. George Creel, Chief of the Publicity Bureau in America. The records are to be reproduced by means of special loud-speaking instruments to schools, Chambers of Commerce, public and private gatherings, to men in the training camps, in the canteens, etc.
“Records have already been made by most of the members of the cabinet, including Sec’y. Daniels, ex-Ambassador Gerard and prominent Senators and others.10 I have just returned from Paris, where I made records by General Pershing, Marshall Joffre, Bishop Brent, and Mr. Brand Whitlock, and I hope to send back again to take records by M. Clemenceau, General Foch and King Albert.11 I hope to succeed in securing messages from Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Asquith and other prominent men in public life here.12
“The American people are most anxious to have a message from you which can be delivered to thousands of people in your actual words and in the tone of your voice.
“I hope you will do me the honor to give this subject your favorable consideration.
Now what do you think of that? I shall have to try to get up something, but I find that sort of thing “hard sledding”. I wish I could have your help on all such matters.13
Comdr Berry was sentenced by the general court to lose 15 numbers – as I think I told you this in my last letter.14 He is in a bad condition mentally. The shock of the disaster and the loss of 60 men of his crew shakes him very much. He has been down to London to see me. He is of course not fit to go on duty now and wanted to go home and bring out a new destroyer. I could not consent to this, as it would be an injustice to the captains who have been here so long and are due to go home next. So I have ordered him home to report to the Dept. for such duty as they wish to assign him. So he leaves by the next steamer. He has worked himself up to such a state that he believes the flotilla “has it in for him”; that the court of inquiry was packed against him; that the court martial should have acquitted him, etc. He did not tell me this, but to members of the staff. Sometimes he says he is going to get a new destroyer and come right back, and sometimes that he is going to have them appoint him Chief of Bureau of Navigation in Palmer’s15 place. Of course I have written Admiral Benson all about it.16 He does not seem to have it in for me, but for the “gang at Queenstown”. It is a sad case, and I am sorry for him.
The mail has been put off from day to day, and it is now said it will not go until Monday, May 6th – tho it will probably close in London Saturday evening or Sunday.
I will close for tonight, but will doubtless add a few more lines. I should have the new photographs tomorrow, and may get them off by this mail. I hope so. The little statuette was packed up a while ago, but I have neglected to get it off. I will send it in charge of some officer and I think I can arrange to have it sent right on to Newport to be examined by the customs there if they want to see it – so that it won’t have to be packed again. Such packing is a job for a specialist.
I am sending you a very sad letter from Admiral Jellicoe. Before I knew that Lady Jellicoe was ill, I went to congratulate her upon the birth of the fine young son. The Admiral opened the letter and replied that Lady Jellicoe had been unconscious for ten days and that he was very anxious about her. I don’t know what is the matter, but I know she has had an operation. The poor little boy is thriving well.17 How sad it would be if the little man should lose his mother. Think of never knowing a real mother’s loving care!
Any babies are fortunate to have such a precious and loving and wise mother to cherish and guide them, and form their characters. And I am the most fortunate of men to have such a wife and wee ones.
Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 23.
Footnote 1: Mr. Hunsecker has not been further identified. The other guests were: Eugène Schneider, II, Chairman of Schneider-Creusot, or Schneider et Cie (today Schneider Electric SE), a French iron and steel-mill that had become a major arms manufacturer during the war; Jean Schneider, the eldest of Eugène’s sons; Sir Robert Hadfield, a prominent metallurgist who discovered manganese steel, one of the first steel alloys, invented silicon steel, and managed Hadfield’s Steel Foundry Company; Lady Frances Belt Hadfield, whose hospital at Wimereux, near Boulgne-sur-Mer, was one of the first Red Cross hospitals established in World War I; Albert Fairfax, 12th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, a member of the House of Lords; and Charles William Frances Noel, 3rd Earl of Gainsborough, also a member of the House of Lords.
Footnote 2: James Bryce, 1st Viscount Bryce, member of the House of Lords and former Ambassador to the United States (1907-1913).
Footnote 3: Paul D. Cravath, a prominent Manhattan lawyer and leader of the “Atlanticist” movement, a group of influential upper-class lawyers, bankers, academics, and politicians of the Northeast, committed to a foreign policy centered on the principle of Anglophile internationalism. The House Mission was a diplomatic mission led by Edward M. House, one of President Woodrow Wilson’s closest advisers and confidantes, which traveled to the United Kingdom and France in November 1917 to pursue closer relations between the Allied Powers.
Footnote 4: Maj. Gen. John Biddle, Assistant Chief of Staff, United States Army, and Commander, United States Army Forces in Great Britain and Ireland, and Henry P. Davison, Chairman, War Council of the American Red Cross.
Footnote 5: American financier, banker, and philanthropist, John Pierpoint Morgan, Jr.
Footnote 6: Edward Marshall, a correspondent for the New York Times. The Marshall News Syndicate of London was one of the important news services of the early twentieth century, offering a variety of articles and interviews related to the war effort.
Footnote 7: Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ personal aide and member of Sims’ Planning Division.
Footnote 8: See: Army and Navy Register, 16 March 1918.
Footnote 9: Sims heere is referring to correspondence he received from Lt. Cmdr. Benyaurd B. Wygant on 5 April 1918.
Footnote 10: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and James W. Gerard, formerly the United States Ambassador to Germany, 1913-1917.
Footnote 11: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces, Joseph Joffre, Marshal of France and head of the Supreme War Council, Bishop Charles H. Brent, Chaplain General, American Expeditionary Forces, Brand Whitlock, United States Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Belgium, 1913-1917, and Ambassador to Belgium, 1919-1921, Prime Minister of France and Minister of War Georges Clemenceau, Gen. Ferdinand Foch, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces, and King Albert I of Belgium.
Footnote 12: Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Lloyd George and H. H. Asquith, Lloyd George’s predecessor as Prime Minister (1908-1916), currently the Wartime Opposition Leader.
Footnote 13: Sims did agree to this request, providing a recording sometime during the month of May. See, Sims to William V. Pratt, 29 May 1918, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 49.
Footnote 14: Cmdr. Robert L. Berry. For more on Berry’s situation, see: Sims to Leigh C. Palmer, 29 April 1918. For Sims’ description of Berry’s situation to his wife, see: Sims to Sims, 30 April 1918.
Footnote 15: RAdm. Leigh C. Palmer.
Footnote 16: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations. See: Sims to Benson, 30 April 1918.
Footnote 17: Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe, formerly the First Sea Lord, and his wife, Florence Gwendoline, neé Cayzer. The newborn child was the Jellicoes’ sixth child and first son, George Jellicoe, who himself would have an illustrious military career in World War II and became a distinguished politician, diplomat, and businessman. Despite the ordeal, Lady Jellicoe did survive the ordeal of George’s birth, making a complete recovery.