Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William V. Pratt, Assistant (Acting) Chief of Naval Operations, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

SECRET

Memorandum for Secretary.               [c. Nov. 17, 1917]

     1. There is something so attractive in this proposition that it has been the dream of other powers than ourselves.1

     2. I think, possibly, and in this I have had the support of some military men, that the scene of an active offensive may lie in the Eastern Mediterranean and as a strategic move nothing looks more promising than an undertaking which separates Turkey in Asia, from Turkey in Europe, at the Dardanelle.

     3. But while this may always loom as a future move, to attempt precipitate action now, or to attempt any movement not in force would be to invite disaster for:

     (a) It diverts us from our main objective which for the present is the Western front.

     (b) It scatters our efforts at a time when the main body of our military forces are neither large enough, nor sufficiently well-trained to enter a new field.

     (c) It starts a new enterprise with a very long line of communication, before the shorter sea line America to England and France is even secure.

     (d) It contemplates a sea attack unsupported by a military force. History invariably records ultimate defeat for such undertakings. Gallipoli is a striking example of it.

     (e) The bombardment of ports without their military occupation immediately, would serve only to inflame the Turks and I fear put us a little in the German class.

     4. At this time, to my mind the one feasible plan to effect a counter in Turkey lies through Japan. Their line of communication via the Gulf of Aden or Red Sea, though long, is practically secure. How willing they would be to enter into a party, having such an offensive as an objective, is not known to me. But I do believe that our every move tending to make our relations with Japan closer, is a step to the good, and through us (for I believe England is to an extent losing her influence in that quarter) such an offensive might be undertaken.

     5. For Japan to undertake to strengthen the Russian front, in the present state of chaos, would be to precipitate Russia into German arms I fear. But a strong offensive by Japan in Turkey in Asia, would probably be the best move the Allies could make having the seperation of Turkey from Germany in view. W. V. Pratt

 

Source Note: Wilson Papers: 72-73. The approximate date was assigned to this memorandum by the editors of the Wilson Papers based on the date Daniels received it from President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 1: Abram I. Elkus wrote to President Woodrow Wilson concerning the possibility of declaring war on the Ottoman Empire. Elkus felt that an aggressive attack would instigate popular uprisings among Ottoman minorities. Wilson asked Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to comment on the idea. Wilson to Daniels, 15 November 1917, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers.

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