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 Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

CABLEGRAM SENT.          Nov. 13, 1918 Y 3

To:  Opnav. Washington.

Prep. by: A C

9589. Your 4882.1 It is considered that the outstanding accomplishment of the Navy abroad in this war has been the character and degree of co-operation and in fact consolidation of our Service with those Services with which we have been associated. The Navy beginning with the arrival of the first ships abroad has stood our [out] for unity of command even though this in some instances involved sacrificing something of our identity as an independent service. This has not been an easy task.

It is believed to be a safe statement that the degree of accomplishment of our service in this respect is without precedent in Allied warfare. This vitally important co-operation has been accomplished and continuously maintained not only without friction but with a continuously strengthened development of good feeling and understanding. Our forces have always been small in comparison with the naval forces of the Allies. We have, however, transported 45% of the U.S. troops who have come abroad – about 900,000 and have escorted over 61% to the theatre of war without the loss of a soldier from enemy action.2 Our Naval forces abroad which now aggregate 368 naval ships including 128 subchasers and 85 auxiliary ships, 70,000 men and 5,000 officers have practically maintained themselves as regards supplies and nearly all repairs except those requiring docking. Considering the entire Atlantic Convoy system, including ships of all nationalities carrying troops, supplies, munitions, and all requirements of Allies, we have escorted 27% thereof.

The U.S.Navy has furnished twelve per cent of the battleship strength of the British Grand Fleet, the foundation of the military and naval campaign against the enemy.

All U.S. vessels have been constantly employed to the maximum of their endurance.

We have taken part in and actually laid 80% of a great mine barrage 230 miles long from Scotland to Norway. Total mines laid 56449 all of which were designed and manufactured in the United States and transported and laid by U.S.Navy.

23 Aviation Stations have been established along French Atlantic Coast[,] Irish Coast, in England and in Italy. All material transported from home. Bombing squadrons both day and night have been operated from bases in Flanders against enemy submarine bases all employing 18,000 enlisted men 1,300 officers. Owing to material difficulties our principal aviation accomplishment has been the establishment of these stations in foreign countries under difficult conditions.

Our accomplishments are, however, principally to be judged by a comparison between the size of the Navy at the outbreak of war and its expansion since that time, the percentage of entirely new or very old material and ships and the large percentage of the personnel without previous experience with which we have worked together with the fact that the character of the war was one for which we had not prepared, and for which there was little prewar training. The major difficulties with which we have contended are not and can hardly be made a matter of statistics or written record. Your 4822 125413. 9589


Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520.

Footnote 1: This document has not been subsequently located.

Footnote 2: Sims was being deliberately specific about the percentage transported in American ships, as he had reason to believe the Navy Department blamed him for a widespread perception that the British had transported the bulk of the American Expeditionary Force. His friend, Cmdr. Percy W. Foote, Assistant to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, had recently written to warn him that “many people seem to form the idea from your reports that the British ships have carried very much the greater part of American troops to Europe,” and that “it may be best for you to say something which would tend to correct some of these impressions which have been formed on the public.” See: Foote to Sims, 27 November 1918.