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

          The Caillon

                        November 4, 1918

[Extract]

My Precious Nani,

              This afternoon I dictated a letter to you and gave you all the news, but I want to add a few lines to explain why I am here in London while the terms of the armistice are being arranged in Paris. I am here because I was told that I was not wanted in Paris.

     When the council of Prime Ministers was about to meet in Paris, we members of the Allied Naval Council were notified that we were to meet in Paris to make our recommendation as to the naval terms of the armistice. This recommendation was of course to be a purely technical, military opinion. It had nothing whatever to do with political questions. All the members readily agreed as to what the terms should be in view of the military situation. Benson,1 however, disagreed in one respect, basing his disagreement upon instructions of a technical and military nature from Washington.2

     The next day after this disagreement the naval council was to go before the Council of Ministers to present their case.

     Col. House3 was asked if he wished me to be present and he said he did not, and Admiral Benson told me he thought I might as well return to London. So, here I am and glad to be out of it.

     Benson believes it is his duty to make his own personal opinion accord with the wishes of his superiors.

     Of course the wishes of the superiors should be carried out, but in my opinion the military officer should provide his opinion for the guidance of his superior and should express his own personal, technical opinion in the discussions in the council, otherwise the discussions in council would be of little value as a guide as to what such terms of an armistice should be. It is doubtless because my belief in such matters is well known that my advice is not wanted.

     The situation in Paris is a curious one. All the Allies are represented by their Prime Ministers, Secretaries for Foreign Affairs, Secretaries of War, Secretaries of the Navy, Chiefs of Staff of Army and Navy, and numerous technical advisers, and the United States is represented by Col. House and Ad. Benson alone! and Col. House is not an official of our government. The fact of the matter is that our representatives are in Washington and our negotiations are being carried out by cable.

     However, there should not be much trouble in arranging armistice terms because they do not directly involve national interests. When they come to discuss peace terms there will be very many difficulties, for the attitude of all the allies toward each other is one of marked distrust. The league of nations is a subject of derision.

     There is much amusement over the fact that immediately before appearing at the council table the U. S. announced a building program of 16 capital ships and other men of war to the number of 156, and counting 8 capital ships already appropriated. There may be a League of Nations, but there will be no disarmament, but I am sure that the matter will be arranged so that a world war will never again be possible...

     Please do not make any plans about coming over here when an armistice is signed, because when that takes place the rush for tonnage will begin. About 3,000,000 troops and their equipment will have to be sent to the U. S., Canada, Australia, etc., and trade will have to be resumed. All loads will have to be rationed for 2 or 3 years while the tonnage is being built-up, and we will have to be patient a while longer. It would be useless to guess how long, but it cannot be very long before I will be with you again, at least for a visit.4 I will doubtless have to remain a while to start the demobilization organization, but I should think I might be relieved as soon as it is in good running order. Every available ship, including all our men of war will be used.

     But, my darling, this continued separation will be free from the heavy burden of anxiety – the fear of defeat – of all the time over here up to last July when our counter offensive began to succeed.

     And I am alive and very well, and you are all well, and I will come out of the war with credit, and we have a happy family future to look forward to. The separation is very hard to bear, but we have no great worry to support. Adelaide and Sarah will lose none of their dear miss falls.

     I grieve over missing the sweetness of our wee ones, but a few months more will not make much difference to them.

          I am very thankful when I see all the sorrow about me over here. I know so many mothers who have lost their sons and wives who have lost their husbands. Miss Bath, Babby’s5 secretary has received word that here “boy”, who has been in the far east for 3 years is dead; and Miss Thompson (Mrs. Bennett) has just been informed that her husband has influenza – “severe” – in a hospital in France.

     I am loving you all in a way it would be difficult for you to understand, while you have all the precious ones about you.

              Give them all some kisses for their dadda

                             Your devoted

                                     Will

Don’t forget that some of our soldiers who have been over here for over a year cannot get back for at least 18 months. They will go home by occupations, and not in the order in which they came.

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 10.

Footnote 1: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 2: For the specifics of Benson’s disagreement see: Franklin D. Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson, Enclosure II.

Footnote 3: Edward M. House, an advisor of President Wilson, who led the diplomatic mission to Paris to negotiate the terms of the armistice with Germany and its allies.

Footnote 4: Sims returned to the United States in early 1919.

Footnote 5: Cmdr. John V. Babcock, Sims’ aide.

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