Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar
My dear Nibs,
Your letter of October 29th1 just received today, with the enclosed Patrol Order to catch the submarines coming out of the Mediterranean.2
Things are moving so rapidly nowadays that by the time a letter can get from here to Gibraltar conditions are usually materially changed. Just now the fighting is finished and everything is over except to make the arrangements for the execution of the terms of the armistice. All the submarines are out of the Mediterranean and most of them have returned to their home bases and are now being prepared to be turned over to the allies for eventual destruction.
As for your friends the Brazilians, I see by the cable today that a cruiser and three destroyers have arrived at Gibraltar.3 It is a matter of perfect indifference to me as to what you and Admiral Grant4 do with them. I would suggest that they be interned until the next war.
As I told you in my last letter5 I am seldom consulted by the Navy Department as to changes of the personnel on this side. Although I have no official information whatever still I understand that Wilson6 is to remain at Brest at least for the present.
We were going to establish a mining base at Bizerta to handle the mines for the Aegean and the Otranto barrage but all of that has now been called off. As for the chasers, the principal dignitaries have not yet been able to make up their minds as to whether they want them sent home or into the West Indies during this winter. They may be sent [to] Guantanamo if the necessary arrangements can be made.7
Plans for demobilization are now being drawn up and you will be informed of them in due course. Generally speaking, as soon as the conditions of the armistice have been fulfilled to such an extent as to make everything entirely safe, all of our naval vessels that are not neededon this side will be sent home. All repair ships, tugs, mine sweepers, salvage vessels, and so forth and so forth, will be kept for the present. All bases that are directly connected with the demobilization of our army will be maintained. All others will be dismantled as soon as practicable. That is about all that I can tell you at present about it.
I assume that you will want to get home as soon as practicable. It will of course take some time to complete our demobilization, as we have about 75,000 men and 5000 officers out here and a heap of gearof various kinds, but suitable vessels will probably be used to assist the demobilization of the navy and army. We have been asked to suggest a minimum complement of all suitable vessels that can be handled with efficiency so as to transport a number of troops.
I hope you are remaining as cheerful as usual,
Always very sincerely yours,
(W. S. Sims)
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 76. The letter is addressed below the close, “Rear Admiral A.P.Niblack. U.S.Navy./ U.S.Patrol Squadron./Gibraltar.”
Footnote 1: See: Niblack to Sims, 29 October 1918.
Footnote 2: See: Gibraltar Patrol Orders, 29 October 1918.
Footnote 3: Brazil had entered the war as an ally of the United States in February 1918, committing to send a number of ships to Gibraltar to aid allied naval operations. A series of mechanical issues delayed the dispatch of these vessels; as seen here, they did not arrive in the war zone until the war was very nearly over. See, Opnav to Sims, 13 November 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 4: RAdm. Heathcoat S. Grant, Commander, British Naval Forces based at Gibraltar.
Footnote 5: See: Sims to Niblack, 4 November 1918.
Footnote 6: VAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France.
Footnote 7: For more on the ultimate destination and disposition of the submarine chasers after the war, see: Josephus Daniels to Various Bureaus, Navy Yards, and Districts, 31 May 1919.