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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims



October 19, 1917

My darling Nani:

            . . .  I have had to take very drastic action in the case of our friend Rear Admiral Fletcher.1 I have detached him and sent him home. He failed to carry out my orders and probably in consequence of this an 8000 ton transport (going home empty) was torpedoed and sunk and 70 of the 237 men on board were lost.2

     I have ordered Admiral Wilson from Gibraltar to take his place at Brest-3

     It is hard to have to do such things, but it is a duty I cannot avoid. I am very sorry for him, and, particularly, for his wife.

     I have done this without reference to the Department but have informed them of my action — and expect their approval.4

     Do not mention this before it becomes common knowledge.

Time is up

All my love

Your devoted


I am sorry to write you such a sad letter

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 9.

Footnote 1: RAdm. William B. Fletcher, Commander, Patrol Squadrons Based on the French Coast.

Footnote 2: On the sinking of the troopship Antilles, see: Sims to Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, 19 October 1917.

Footnote 4: A court of inquiry was later held to determine if Sims was justified in relieving Fletcher. The court found that Sims was “warranted” in relieving Fletcher but that everyone involved “endeavored to perform their duty” and that there was “no evidence of culpability or of culpable inefficiency.” DNA, RG 125, Entry 30, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy),  Box 247, p. 2206-8.