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 Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France

May 27th. 1918.

My dear Wilson,

          You can search me! I am necessarily all up in the air about this business of transportation, shipping board, turning-round-of-ships, and so forth.

          It is not the least bit our fault. There is an evident lack of co-ordination of these various functions in Washington.

          As you know, there have been a number of people sent over from the various organizations and we do not know just what their function is. Mr.Raymond1 passed through here about a month ago, and I have heard nothing directly from him. I understand he has visited many of the ports in France and Italy. Mr.Sherman2 came to see me the other day and explained that he had been on a similar mission. He agrees with me that the whole aggair [affair] is in confusion; that it should be put up to us on this side to say what ought to be done and to develop the necessary organization for the Navy’s part of the business.

          We tried to do this and requested Washington to send us a number of people that could be stationed in the various ports of England, France and Italy where our ships discharged. We thought this was going to be done. However, somebody had a brain-storm andinstead of sending the people we wanted, they apparently concluded that they would take charge of the whole affair and send over what they considered a bunch of experts in shipping, railroading, stevedore work,and so forth and so forth.

          This was the party headed by Lieut.Commander Bacon.3 While Bacon’s orders were not very specific, still copies of a number of letters that were written to him by the Department, before he left, were sent to me for my guidance.4 From these letters it is apparent that the Navy Department expects this bunch of officers to make a report of their observations in some important port, so that a general scheme can be based upon their advice.

          I leave you to imagine how embarrassing this situation is. Naturally we want to carry out the intentions of the Department. I believe the Department’s idea in this matter to be wrong, but I am sure it would only cause trouble to make a statement to that effect before an attemptwas made to see what would come of it. It is for this reason that I ordered Bacon to go to Paulliac where the rest of his people are, and make the desired report. When we get this, we will be in a position to tell the Department again what we think ought to be done.

          Perhaps Mr.Raymond will see the light in the same way that Mr.Sherman has. The result of Mr.Sherman’s investigations is that the whole matter in so far as the Navy’s part is concerned, should be put up to us on this side to establish an organization that would ensure the rapid turn round of vessels in England, France and Italy. I think we will probably have our way about this, but in view of the Department’s ideas, we will have to exercise a little patience until we get the necessary dope.

          Thereis one other point not at all connected with shipping, that I want to get straight, and that is that the Department is very restive over the transfer of officers from one duty to another. I propose to transfer officers whenever I think it is necessary, and also to transfer officers whenever you or any other of the Base Commanders think it is necessary. But the point I wish to make is this, viz. that as the Department holds me responsible, I must be prepared in all cases to state reasons. This is why I have asked a number of times for further details. Do not imagine for a moment that we at headquarters are the least bit touchy about things being done without specific reasons. We arenot at all. We need the reasons, or may need them, in order to answer the Department’s questions.

          Therefore, in future, when anything like this requires to be done, give us the full reasons therefor, so that we can grant the necessary authority promptly.5

          We have information from Washington that we will surely get during this year 75 more destroyers, and probably 92.6 We have no information, however, as to when the first of these will arrive. I am afraid some of them are being held up for fear of a submarine attack on our coast, but I am recommending that they be sent over at the earliest practicable moment. It cannot be long before we will get some and they will relieve the situation both up here and with you.

          I have telegraphed to Paris and informed the Ministry thatthe increased flow of troop and supply transports is putting an undue strain upon our forces and requesting that some French vessels can be assigned to the western coast so that we may utilize all of our vessels for the necessary convoys.7 I will of course promptly inform you of the result.

          I hope you and the gang are able to remain fairly cheerful under the circumstances.

Very sincerely yours,        

W S SIMS           

|fn7:See: Sims to Richard H. Jackson, 25 May 1918.||

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Rear Admiral H.B.Wilson, U.S.N,/U.S.Naval Forces Operating in France,/B r e s t .” Document is from: “Admiral Sims’/Personal File.” Document reference: “1/5/J.”

Footnote 1: Henry H. Raymond, Commissioner, United States Shipping Board.

Footnote 2: L. H. Shearman was a member of the staff of Raymond B. Stevens, Vice-Chairman, United States Shipping Board and United States Representative, Allied Maritime Transport Council.

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Bacon, U. S. N. R. F.

Footnote 4: Copies of these letters have not been located.

Footnote 5: For more on this general issue, see: Sims to Albert P. Niblack, 23 May 1918.

Footnote 6: See: Benson to Sims, 25 May 1918.

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