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 Martin Egan, Publicist for J. P. Morgan & Company

November 6th.1918.

My dear Mr.Egan,

     I have just had a chat with Commander Baker1 and to my great surprise he tells me that you are under the impression that I am not in complete sympathy with General Pershing.2 How such a rumour could have arisen is more than I can imagine.

     If you could glance over the personal correspondence that I have had with the General, and the official letters I have had concerning the Navy’s relations with the Army I am sure your mind would be completely disabused of any such idea.

     In my letters I have repeatedly stated to the General that my understanding of the Navy’s position is that it is nothing in the world but the line of communications behind the Army. I believe I have explained that there is really no naval war going on; that the submarines are not fighting our military vessels but are attacking the supply transport of munitions and food. In other words that the German Navy is really making war against the armies of the Allies and that our business as naval men is to do our best to ensure this line of supply.

     Not only have I been in complete sympathy with General Pershing but I have been lost in admiration over the way in which the biggest military stunt in all history has been handled. If I have not actually said it to the General, I have repeatedly said to others that I have little conception as to how such a problem could be handled without getting things tangled up; that the stunt the Navy has to perform is in comparison simplicity itself, and I have always expressed my sincere sympathy with the difficulties the Army has to encounter.

     Of course you know, as well as I do that a war cannot be conducted by a number of Allies without there being a certain amount of criticism in each country of all of the other Allies. We have of course not escaped such criticism. You will hear at times in general society both in London and in Paris expression of regret that things are not going as well as could be expected with the American Army, or the British Army or the Italian Army as the case may be. Unfortunately when such opinions are occa[s]ionally refuted some people will try to bolster up their case by quoting the supposed remarks of people who are more or less in the public eye. It is possible that I may have been quoted in this way, but I can assure you that it is wholly unjustifiable.

     Of course I do not know what rumours and gossip you may have heard, but I should consider it a favor if you would write to me very frankly as one American to another, and tell me what you know so as to give me an opportunity to state my case.

Very sincerely yours,            

Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 77. Addressed below close: “M.Egan Esq.,/c/o Morgan Harges & Co./P a r i s .”

Footnote 1: Lt. Cmdr. George B. Baker was on assignment in France facilitating the transmission of news about the war to the American press. See: Sims to Daniels, 2 October 1918.

Footnote 2: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, American Expeditionary Forces.

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