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


To:-  Opnav, Washignton.                      24 May. 1918.

8437.  Request following message to be delivered to Chief Constructor Taylor,1 for Joint Army and Navy Airship Board, if Department approves:-  Begins – Major Finney2 has reported to me his conclusions in regard to the results of his examination into rigid airship situation in allied countries. I concur in the following recommendations in regard to desirable policy to be pursued by the United States:-

     (a) That United States embark as soon as possible on building program of rigid airships.

     (b) That Major Finney be authorized before returning to the United States to approach Italian authorities with a view of discussing a tentative joint construction program to be carried out in Italy. This course is rendered desirable by following facts: British and French already have in hand extensive construction programs; Rigid dirigibles constructed in Italy would be of immediate value in prosecution of the war; an excellent technical and scientific organization and experienced labor are available in Italy, but due to shortage of materials, it is impossible for Italy to embark on a construction program of her own without assistance from the United States. If a technical Commission with a nucleus of American workmen is sent to co-operate with Italians in construction program, we will gain necessary practical experience in the development of the art, permitting continuance of program subsequently in the United States. Due to geographical proximity, this course would permit full utilization of experience already acquired by France and Great Britain. If this recommendation is approved in principle, further report can be made in regard to details and the United States would not be committed to definite action without further authorization.

          Major Finney now plans to sail for the United States May 30. Definite instructions are therefore requested at once in order that he may proceed to the United States or to Italy without delay.


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: Radm. David W. Taylor, Chief Constructor and Chief of Bureau of Construction and Repair.

Footnote 2: Maj. John H. Finney. Assigned to duty with the Army and Navy Airship Board on 13 January 1918, Finney sailed form France on 27 February in order to investigate the zepplin airships the Navy had constructed in France. After this investigation, Finney undetook examinations of zepplins in France, Italy, Scotland, and England. After making his reports on these visits, he returned to the United States 22 June 1918.

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