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Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

9 January 1919.    

FROM:     Force Commander.

TO:       Secretary of the Navy (Operations)

SUBJECT:  General Report regarding “Demobilization” and Organization of Forces in European Waters.


     1.   This report is submitted in view of the number and character of cables received by the Force Commander urging him to expedite demobilization, and the fact that some of them seem to indicate that the degree of demobilization carried out to date, and its actual character as affecting the future, is not clearly understood.

     2.   As soon as the nature of the armistice and the fact of its acceptance by the enemy was certain, the Force Comamder [i.e., Commander] submitted a general plan of demobilization which was finally approved on November 23rd. From that date to the present the plans referred to have been carried out with the utmost expedition possible.

     3.   It is believed that the term “demobilization” as applying to this command, that is, the forces in European Waters, is not clearly understood.

     4.   Until an exact and sp<e>cific definition is agreed upon by all concerned, it will be wholly impossible to reach any definite date upon which it may be said that demobilization is complete and finished.

     5.   There are numerous naval activities in European Waters which must continue for an indefinite period, some of them a minimum of six months and others much longer – perhaps more than a year.

          In fact, in view of world political conditions, it is entirely impossible to prophesy, not only the duration of such U.S. Naval activities as are now existent, but further, as to their possible and in fact proper extension.

     6.   The Force Commander is not fully aware of governmental policy upon which of course, all naval operations are always based. For example, is he<’s> not aware of the intentions of the Government as regards assisting in correcting the political ch<a>os that now exists in Russia and Eastern and South Eastern Europe.The world is most certainly confronted under these conditions with a form of militarism fully as dangerous and fraught with disquieting possibilities as it was confronted in the case of German militarism, against which the war was principally directed.

     7.   He is also unaware of the degree of responsibility which the Government intends to assume in connection with the vast and complicated problem of distributing food to enemy and other countries which are now suffering from the effects of the war. If for example the Government is to send U.S. food in U.S. ships to these countries it is assumed that responsibility for proper distribution to consumers will be involved.

          This may easily involve the actual use of force in <many scattered> and remote ports where the army will not be available, which would necessitate the presence of a naval force. Control, or so-called “Policies [i.e., Policing?] of the seas” under these conditions will be a necessity.

     8.   Since approval of the Force Commander’s plan of demobilization on November 23, a total of 132 ships and 59 chasers, 2742 officers and 39408 men have been sent home. As practically all ships had to pass throu<gh> the Azores where both harbor space, fuel, storage and water are limited it was necessary to co-ordinate the sailing to prevent congestion and to avoid exhausting supplies of oil and water. This was successfully accomplished. With the possible exception of the sub-chasers, the only delay now being experienced in such further demobilization as can be carried out, is involved in awaiting the arrival of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy2whose approval is necessary before our financial and legal obligations are consummated.

          Such settlements will be delayed at least one month. Our base on shore at Queenstown could have been entirely closed up some weeks ago if the Force Commander had been authorized to make the necessary settlement.

     9.   The present state of demobilization was fully covered in the Force Commander’s report of 1st January, 1919 (copy attached) and has been further covered in a cablegram this day addressed to the Department (copy attached).

          A cablegram received this morning calls for a report as each station is demobilized. This will be made, assuming that the Department means the total abandonment and disposal of the Stations, but it should be understood that there are a number of station on shore which must be held for an indefinite period, as for example, the Mine Sweeping Base, the Army Coal Trade Base at Cardiff, the Base at Brest, the tenure of which is entirely dependent upon army de<m>obilization, and the port Offices which are, of necessity, being extended reather than demobilizaed in order to guard the interests and efficient operations of all Government controlled ships.

     10.  It will therefore be seen that so-called “demobilization” as far as forces in European Waters are concerned, will, in a very short time, (Principally dependent upon the action of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy) be reduced to a status from which the<y> cannot further demobilize for an indefinite period.

     11.  The character which U.S. Naval activities will be reduced at that time (which should not be later than February 15) will be as follows

(a)  French Forces and Base at Brest.Duty in connection with demobilization of U.S. Army.

(b)  Cardiff Forces (67 shi ps U.S., 43 Swedish and 3 British ships under our control) and Base Duty in connection with supplying coal U.S. Army in France.

(c)  Forces, White Sea, Aegean. Duty in connection with U.S. interests in these waters.

(d)  Adriatic Forces. Duty in connection with execution of Armistice Terms and U.S. interests in these waters.

(e)  Forces, Baltic and German North Sea Ports. Duty in connection with execution of Armistice Terms and U.S. interests in those waters.

(f)  Forces and Base, Scotland. Duty in connection with sweeping North Sea Mine barrage – sweeping cannot be carried out in bad weather.

(g)  Sub-chaser Forces and Base, Plymouth, necessitated until sub-chasers are disposed of by sale or return home.

(h)  Port Offices and Officers. Duty in connection with interests and movements Government controlled Merchant Ships and to assist Army demobilization.

Liverpool,Southampton,Plymouth,Havre,Cherbourg,Bordeaux,St.Nazaire,Rouen, Saint Malo,Granville, Tours,Nantes,Haliguen,Marseille<s>,Rochefort,La Pallice,<St.>Jean de Luz,<Les> Sable<s><d’Olonne>, Rotterdam, <Triest.>

(i)  Azores, Necessary to retain base until demobilization of Army is complete. Aviation of Azores is also being maintained by orders of Department.

(j)  Gibraltar, Base to be maintained as long as storeships and feedships are passing Gibraltar in considerable number.

(k)  Southampton, Base to be maintained to handle cross-channel steamers which furnish means of transport for U.SArmy and Navy personnel.

     12.  In view of the above, and for many reasons which it would be difficult to adequately explain in correspondence, but which are based upon the Force Commander’s knowledge of the situation in European Waters based upon nearly two years experience in directing and administering the forces operating therein, the following “command” organization is recommended –

(a)  As long as permitted by international relations the Force Commander’s office in London should continue as the Department’s representative organization in Europe and as the Headquarters of the Senior U.S. Naval Officer in Europe.

     Some of the many reasons for this recommendation are continued in a separate memorandum attached, to which attention is specially invited.


     The Senior U.S. Naval Officer in Europe should also be the Naval Attache and he should be a Flag Officer, not only because of his command and direction of our Forces in European Waters, as the Department’s representative, but also because, and as long as, other countries retain Flag Officers as Attache.

(b)  Brest, Headquarters of Senior U.S. Naval Officers in France as long as any naval activities in French Waters are required for demobilization of Army. This officer to be sub-ordinated to the Senior U.S. Naval Officer in London.

(c)  PARIS: Naval Attache’s office as at present, the naval Attache in addition to his other duties to be the representative in Paris of the Senior U.S. Naval Officer abroad.

(d)  Other bases and forces as given above in paragraph 11.

     13.  It is to be anticipated that eventually the only U.S. Naval representative on shore in Europe will be the Naval Attache as in pre-war days. When this time will be reached is, as stated above, dependent upon Government policy, political conditions in Europe, and the final results of the Peace Conference.

          It is certainly in the broad interests of the U.S. Navy to maintain a close relations<h>ip with other Naval Services which has been built up during the war, just as long as possible. It is the Force Commander’s opinion that this relationship should be continued indefinitely and under peace condition if any ways and means at all can be found to permit of such a course.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The initials “A.C.” appear in the upper-left corner.

Footnote 1: The enclosures were not included with this copy and have not been located.

Footnote 2: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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