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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

[Extract]

U.S.NAVAL FORCE    

OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS

The Carlton, London, Nov. 6, 1917

Tuesday       

My darling Sweetheart:

     Times do not get any less strenuous. The business is expanding all the time. We have outgrown the house we are in tho it has 23 rooms, and we are going to two more houses of the same size next door. There are 75 people in the building at present; and more are coming all the time, what with the air service, etc.

     Tomorrow morning Babby and I are going down to Plymouth to meet the P.Ds.1 who are coming over for the conference. You will doubtless know all about it before this reaches you. They are coming on Robison’s ship and another similar one. They include Col. House, wife and maid, and Admiral Benson. There are also a number of “shipping” and “food” men and some army officers.2

     No date has yet been fixed for the conference, tho it has been stated in the press that it will be about the middle of next month. It will probably be in Paris. I do not know whether I am to be a member of the conference. I have received no word on the subject. At all events, it will be interesting, as I will doubtless attend some naval conferences. Just how long the commission, of the Admiral, will remain, I have no idea. There is talk of his making the same kind of a tour that Mayo3 did, and possibly of visiting Italy. I assume that I will have to go along. . . .

     I also enclose copies of the remarks I put on Danny’s and Pringle’s.4 The latter commands the Mellville and is my Flotilla chief of staff. I made just as favorable comments on Twining’s5 and Babby’s reports. How fortunate it is to have such assistants! It is a pleasure to make such reports upon such men; but it is painful for me to have to make the opposite kind of a report. Fortunately, I do not often have to do so. It could not be avoided in the case of poor Fletcher.6 His force was inefficient and in a bad state of discipline. Some troop ships were sent out with an insufficient escort (inviolation of orders), one of them was torpedoed and 67 men lost their lives. He started home on another transport and she was torpedoed but not sunk. It is all very sad. He may not have his temporary appointment as rear admiral confirmed.

     Taussig, Vernou (whose destroyer had her stern blown off by a torpedo) and Johnson (Alfred, the one you know)7 are sailing for home, each with 25 trained men, to put in commission and bring out three new destroyers that are nearly ready. We have officers to take their places and other officers are coming out to be trained and do likewise when more captains are sent home. They are sending us nearly 2000 men to be trained for the new boats. This puts the training where the destroyers are and where the new men can acquire all the points about this very peculiar kind of warfare. The Flotilla got up the scheme and the department at once adopted it. . . .8

     Your devoted Will.

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 9. Document on, “U.S.NAVAL FORCE/OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS,” stationary.

Footnote 1: Cmdr. John V. Babcock. The persons of distinction referred to was a party of American dignitaries and officers coming to England for a military conferences.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. John K. Robinson was in command of the Huntington. The other ship carrying members of the incoming conference was the St. Louis. The conferences members were Col. Edward M. House, Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, Gen. tasker H. Bliss, Army Chief of Staff, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Oscar T. Crosby, legal advisor Paul Cravath, Chairman of the Trade Board Vance C. McCormick, Shipping Board representative Bainbridge Colby, Alonzo Taylor of the Food Administration, and War Industries Board member Thomas Nelson Perkins. Seymour, Colonel House: 207-208.

Footnote 3: VAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Joseph V. Daniels and Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle. The reports referred to were not attached and have not been found.

Footnote 5: Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ chief of staff.

Footnote 6: RAdm. Wilson B. Fletcher.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig, Lt. Cmdr. Walter N. Vernou, Lt. Cmdr. Alfred W. Johnson.