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Lieutenant Dudley W. Knox to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Navy Forces Operating in European Waters

Navy Department

Office of Naval Operations


6 November, 1917.  

My dear Admiral

     I had intended long before this to answer your last letter1 asking me what I thought of the situation. But meantime I have been shifted from Intelligence to Operations, and my affairs have been somewhat unsettled during the transfer.

     I am sending along a copy of an estimate of the situation made privately and which has no official significance. It expresses my personal view of matters in regard to the submarine situation.2

     More generally speaking I think this country is not yet fully awake to the seriousness of the war and that it should be waked up. Due most probably to the German influences there has been a feeling at large that peace will come soon – consequently opinion generally prevailed that the necessity for great effort on the part of the U.S. did not exist. I think that a few pointed remarks from you and Pershing3 calculated to dispel such pernicious lethargy would do a great deal of good. Do you not have an opening for such missionary work when from time to time summaries of the situation are cabled. If you do not cable such summaries I suggest that it be done about weekly – it could be easily arranged here to have the substance of them published.

     There is a good deal of feeling in Naval circles that the British are not frank with us4 – as the French are; and that they are strongly influenced by fears that after the war we are going to be an uncomfortably strong trade rival. If this is the case it is too bad that the success of the war should be in any degree jeopardized by it.

     I believe that you should make a visit on this side during the winter. We need some of the atmosphere of reality to stir the pulse of imagination and theory. Such a visit should also serve a good purpose to your office and to the British Admiralty.

     If any barriers are placed I trust that those responsible will not be persuaded to leave any gaps, either in width or depth, for any purpose whatever, A gap for anything is a gap for a submarine.

     With many kind regards from all three Knoxes to you and Babcock.5

most sincerely     


Dudley m Knox.

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23.

Footnote 1: Document has not been found.

Footnote 2: Document was not attached to this copy.

Footnote 3: Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 4: Claims that the British were being less-than-honest with the United States, as well as harsh critiques of the British Admiralty’s management of the war, came from both inside and outside the American Navy. Britain made a considerable effort to dispel dissension. See: Guy R. Gaunt to Admiralty, 8 October 1917; and Winston Churchill to Woodrow Wilson, 22 October 1917.

Footnote 5: Cmdr. John V. Babcock acted as Sims’ aide and de facto Intelligence Officer. A reference to Knox’s wife, Lily H. Knox, and child.