Captain Richard H. Jackson, United States Staff Representative in Paris, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
<October 8, 1918.>
C A B L E G R A M RECEIVED Y-11
Origin Comfran Brest (Naval Staff Representative Paris) 8161
Ref’d to Date
CS Oct 9
8161. VERY URGENT. “Prime ministers of Great Britain, France and Italy have prepared certain terms of armistice with the Central Powers.1 Referred to meeting military representatives Versailles with whom were associated representatives American, British, French, Italian navies. Meeting held this morning and military and naval details drawn up and signed by all but General Bliss and Captain Jackson. General Bliss has cable President asking power sign for United States.2 Following message gives terms agreed upon by naval members Vice Admiral Debon3 presiding and accepted by joint body. Provided President approves General Bliss’ request authority to sign I request authority to sign.”4 18108 8161
Sent: 11:29 p.m., October 8, 1918.
Recd: 11:38 p.m., October 8, 1918.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: On 7 October, the Swedish Envoy to the United States, Wilhelm August Ferdinand Ekengren, handed Secretary of State Robert Lansing a note from the government of Austria-Hungary offering to conclude an armistice and enter negotiations to end the war. See, Lansing to Woodrow Wilson, 7 October 1918 and enclosure, Wilson Papers, 51: 258-59. The conference with Prime Ministers David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Vittorio E. Orlando began on 5 October, and on 7 October they proposed terms for an armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary. The situation was complicated by the fact that the day before the United States had been approached directly by the government of Germany concerning peace on the basis of an address Wilson made at the Metropolitan Opera House on 27 September. The note from the German government, dated 6 October, is printed in Wilson Papers, 51: 253; Wilson’s speech appears in ibid., 127-33. On 7 October, Wilson replied to the German note seeking further clarification of their intentions and at the same time, clarifying his own words. Wilson Papers, 51: 255-57.
Footnote 2: The cable from Gen. Tasker H. Bliss, American Permanent Military Representative, Allied Supreme War Council, which was addressed to Secretary of War Newton D. Baker and Gen. Peyton C. March, the Army Chief of Staff, presented the proposal of the Prime Ministers for an armistice not only with Austria-Hungary, but with Germany as well. According to Sir William Wiseman, who acted as liaison between President Woodrow Wilson and the British government,
Bliss said he was asked to agree on behalf of U.S.
He objected to certain of the terms on military grounds.
The second cable dated 8th said that the three Prime Ministers wanted the document signed by three o’clock that afternoon.
He added that his military criticisms had now been met by certain alterations in the terms.
B. Bliss uses the words the principles of an armistice which have been accepted.
The President and the State Department interpreted this to mean that the three Prime Ministers had definitely agreed [on] the terms of an armistice...
Colonel House also spoke to me about the cable. Both he and the President were much disturbed about it.
C.I suggested that General Bliss’ cable was not clear and a more probable interpretation was that the three Prime Ministers took the occasion of their meeting to get the views of their Naval and Military experts on the terms of a possible armistice—that the U.S. Military Representative was present and the draft terms seem to have been even modified to meet his views.
Wisemen went on to say that there was a rumor from a source the U.S. considered reliable that the allies were bound by a secret treaty “regarding Turkey” and were acting on the basis of that treaty and that a separate peace had already been arranged with Bulgaria.” Wiseman added: “I need not emphasize the effect on public opinion here if it was through that steps towards peace were being taken without consulting U.S.” He suggested that the British Prime Minister cable Wilson with assurances and that they urge that Presidential advisor Edward M. House be sent to Europe immediately; ibid., 291-92.
Footnote 3: Adm. Ferdinand de Bon, Chief of French Naval Staff.
Footnote 4: For the reply, see: Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 9 October 1918.