Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of State Robert Lansing to American Embassy, London

PARAPHRASE and OPEN

November 8, 1917.

To:       American Embassy, London.

From:     Department of State, signed LANSING

Dated:    November 7, 1917, 8 p.m.

Received: November 8, 1917.

No.       5739

Please furnish Admiral Sims and Mr. House a copy of the following statement, which will be published as soon as the Department is advised that the Mission has reached London:-1

    The Government of the United States will participate in the approaching conference of the Powers waging war against the German Empire and has sent as its representative Mr. Edward M. House, who is accompanied by Admiral W.S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations; General Tasker H. Bliss, Chief of Staff, U.S.A.; Oscar T. Crosby, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; Vance C. McCormick, Chairman of War Trade Board; Bainbridge Colby, United States Shipping Board; Mr. Alonzo E. Taylor, representing the Food Controller; Thomas Nelson Perkins, representing Priority Board; and Gordon Auchincloss, as Secretary.

    The conference is essentially a “War Conference” with the object of perfecting a more complete coordination of the activities of the various nations engaged in the conflict and a more comprehensive understanding of the respective needs in order that the joint efforts of the co-belligerents may attain the highest war efficiency. While a definite program has not been adopted, it may be assumed that the subjects to be discussed will embrace not only those pertaining to military and naval operations but also the financial, commercial, economic and other phases of the present situation which are of vital importance to the successful prosecution of the war.

    There will undoubtedly be an effort to avoid any conflict of interests among the participants; and there is every reason to anticipate that the result will be a fuller cooperation and consequently a much higher efficiency and a more vigorous prosecution of the war.

    The United States in the employment of its man–power and material resources desires to use them to the greatest advantage against Germany. It has been no easy problem to determine how they can be used most effectively since the independent presentation of requirements by the Allied governments have been more or less conflicting on account of each government’s appreciation of its own wants, which are naturally given greater importance than the wants of other governments. By a general survey of the whole situation and a free discussion of the needs of all the approaching conference will undoubtedly be able to give to the demands of the several governments their true perspective and proper place in the general plan for the conduct of the war.

    Though the resources of this country are vast and though there is every purpose to devote them all, if need be, to winning the war, they are not without limit. But even if they were greater they should be used to the highest advantage in attaining the supreme object for which we are fighting. This can only be done by a full and frank discussion of the plans and needs of the various belligerents. It is the earnest wish of this Government to employ its military and naval forces and its resources and energies where they will give the greatest returns in advancing the common cause. The exchange of views which will take place at the conference, and the conclusions which will be reached, will be of the highest value in preventing waste of energy and in bringing into harmony the activities of the nations which have been unavoidably acting in a measure independently.

    In looking forward to the assembling of the conference, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that it is a war conference, and nothing else, devoted to devising ways and means to intensify the efforts of the belligerence against Germany by complete cooperation under a general plan and thus bring the conflict to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion.

Lansing.     

Mr. LAUGHLIN2

Copies sent to Naval and Military Attaches for information.

Source Note: CyS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. This mission, known as the House Mission, was dispatched to London in early November to help alleviate any lingering feelings following the visit of Admiral Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, on the part of the Navy that the British Admiralty still did not consider it a “full partner” in the war effort. The House Mission spent nearly a month in the war zone, the highlight of which was a second Allied Naval Conference, at which Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations as a member of the Mission, represented the Navy. As a result of this conference, the Navy and Admiralty agreed to a deployment of United States battleships to European waters, the formation of an Allied Naval Council, with Sims as the American representative, the dispatch of additional subchasers, the creation of a planning section in London, the establishment of the North Sea Mine Barrage, and the creation of an American naval base at Ponta Delgada in the Azores. Still, Crisis at Sea, 75-76.

Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, and Edward M. House, personal advisor and confidante to President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 2: Irwin B. Laughlin, Secretary to Walter H. Page, United States Ambassador to Great Britain.

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