Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

November 29, 1918. 

My dear Admiral:-

          Your personal letter to Admiral Sims dated November 21st1 did not reach the office until the 26th, at which time Admiral Sims was sick, as he still is, and I, therefore, opened the letter to see if it was anything requiring immediate attention.

          As Admiral Sims will probably not be able to attend to this matter in person for several days and as I think I am fully advised as to his views in this matter, I think I would best make a reply.

          With regard to the legal situation which may arise in connection with our demobilization:

          I believe that these have already been fully anticipated and provision made for meeting them in a satisfactory manner. I enclose herewith for your information a copy of Circular Letter No. 107, dated the 25th of October,2 concerning the establishment of a Legal Section on Admiral Sims’ staff. The Section was as a matter of fact established sometime before the date of this Circular Letter but the intervening time had passed in studying the situation with a view to the best methods of procedure.

          After consulting with Commander McGrann,3 who is the head of the Legal Section, and the officers of the staff who are familiar with the Aviation situation, it does not seem to me that the appointment of a Board or Boards to settle pending claims would be entirely practicable, as a large amount of the work such Boards would be called upon to do would involve the investigation and research, such as might best be done by the Legal Section with Headquarters at London with subordinate organizations elsewhere as required.

          I am very much of the opinion that the difficulties which we at one time feared in connection with settling up Aviation matters are not going to be particularly formidable because most of our French Stations will either be turned over to the Army or to the French and we shall have only questions of rental and incidental damages to settle.

          The Aid for Aviation here at Headquarters4 feels that our interests are being thoroughly taken care of and as we have heard nothing to the contrary from Admiral Wilson5 it is assumed that the work now being done in Paris by Commander Pollock6 is satisfactory to him and that, therefore, the appointment of a Board to do the work which is now being done by Commander Pollock would not only be confusing to all concerned but would fail accomplishing the desired end.

          As to the Naval Air Stations in England:

          There will probably be no difficulties whatever, as we are going to turn them back to the British and there will be little difficulty in adjusting claims due to our tenancy.

          The situation as to the Irish Stations is not yet quite so clear but it has been made a subject of considerable study and the Legal Section now has it well in hand. It is probable that it will take us several months to settle this particular matter as the British are not yet ready to say which, if any, of the Stations they wish to take over from us.

          I have thought it desirable to have Commander McGrann go to Paris and see you personally to obtain a direct expression of your views and wishes as well as to explain to you in such detail as you may desire the steps that have already been taken with respect to the legal points involved in the Aviation business as well as in other fields of our activities.

          With respect to demobilization in general:

          I am endeavoring to keep you informed daily of the progress made and if at any time you think you are getting too much detail and would prefer more summary statements I can change the plan so as to do what you desire. Admiral Sims thought it would probably be best not to send any of the destroyers home from Brest or Queenstown until after the arrival of the President7 but our plans are already made for sending home at least half of them immediately after that event. As soon as the destroyers are gone Queenstown can be demobilized very rapidly and demobilization of Plymouth can be accomplished as soon as the submarine chasers are disposed of.

          With regard to the other matters mentioned in your letter to Admiral Sims:

          I think they have all been covered in official correspondence, so that I need not refer to them.

          Admiral Sims was taken sick on Monday and has not been out since. The Doctors think he had a touch of influenza with a very close approach to pneumonia. The crisis was passed on Wednesday Night and they now think he will be able to be out on Monday.

Very sincerely yours,            

Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 49. Addressed below close: “Admiral/W. S. Benson, U. S. Navy,/Hotel Maurice,/Paris, France.”

Footnote 1: See: Benson to Sims, 21 November 1918.

Footnote 2: See, Circular Letter, Number 107, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 678.

Footnote 3: William H. McGrann.

Footnote 4: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone.

Footnote 5: VAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France.

Footnote 6: Capt. Edwin T. Pollock, Naval Examining Board. Pollock was appointed to this position 29 September 1918. Prior to this assignment he served as the commanding officer of the troop transport George Washington. Edwin T. Pollock and Paul F. Bloomhardt, The Hatchet of the United States Ship “George Washington,” (New York: J. J. Little & Ives Co.: 1919), 34, 157.

Footnote 7: Woodrow Wilson.

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