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 French Minister of Marine Charles Chaumet

3rd October, 1917

To:  Minister of Marine,

          Ministry of Marine,

               PARIS.

Sir,

          I quote below for your information a communication received from the United States Navy Department in reply to certain representations made to Admiral Mayo by your representative during the recent Allied Naval Conference in London.1

“First.   With regard to supply of coal for U.S. troops in France, the Department states that three colliers of the United States Navy have already been assigned to carry coal from Great Britain to France for United States Troops in France.

          The Department is prepared to send as many more vessels as may be needed to ensure that the United States troops in France are self-supporting in this respect.

Second.   Investigations and arrangements are now in progress with a view of selecting the ports in France and in England which can best be used for the debarkation of American troops and their equipment. The large size of some of the ships which are available for troop transport and which it is desired to use, introduces certain difficulties which require special arrangements and which are under serious consideration. In this case the Navy Department is considering the question of the furnishing of an adequate dredging apparatus if such a course seems desirable in the ports which may be selected for debarkation of American troops in France. This question is being discussed with the War Department in order to obtain the advice and perhaps assistance of United States Army engineers.

Third.    With reference to certain merchant shipping which was under construction in the United States for France and which has been commandeered by the United States Shipping Board, it is desired to say that although the Navy Department has no jurisdiction in this matter, it has in the past and will continue in the future to use its good offices with a view of obtaining the release of any ships specifically needed by the French Government and in any cases in which the French Government specifically indicates that such release is necessary to the best interests of the French Nation.

Fourth.   With reference to the French proposal to have certain French cruisers which are now not used owing to lack of personnel manned by personnel from the United States or other allied governments, the Navy Department would be pleased to receive definite information as to the particular cruisers which are available for this purpose.

Fifth.    With reference to the French suggestion that certain United States predreadnoughts might be used to replace certain of the older French dreadnoughts, in order to release French naval personnel, the Department states that it does not consider such a course to be practicable.

Sixth.    The general question of assistance to France in questions of Naval Aviation activities, will be dealt with in separate correspondence. In this connection Commander Cone, U.S. Navy, has been sent abroad to take charge under Admiral Sims of all questions of U.S. Naval co-operation in regard to naval aviation activities.2

Seventh.  The United States Navy Department is using every endeavor to reduce delays attending the transfer and delivery of patrol vessels and tugs purchased in the United States by the French Ministry of Marine.

Eighth.   Both the United States War and Navy Departments are fully aware of the situation that may arise if the number of troops in France together with supplies necessary for their upkeep, should fall below present estimates and every endeavor is being made, and will be made to ensure the complete execution of present plans.

Ninth.    The United States Navy Department has commandeered twelve seagoing tugs which will be sent abroad as soon as possible for duty where most needed.”

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) WM. S. SIMS.

          Vice-Admiral, U.S. Navy.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. There is an identification number in the top left-hand corner: “D.1685.” Chaumet replaced Lucien Lacaze as French Minister of Marine on 2 August 1917.

Footnote 1: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. Chaumet’s representative at the London Naval Conference was Adm. Ferdinand Jean Jacques de Bon, Chief of the French Naval Staff.

Footnote 2: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone. Cone was dispatched to replace Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Whiting as head of the U.S. naval aviation force in France.