Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
<January 9, 1919>
To : Opnav
3503 Your 54701 Negotiations to obtain service of German passenger vessels for transportation United States troops are entirely in hand of Mr. Hurley.2He informs me that at informal conferences certain understandings which are subject final confirmation by respective Governments have been arrived at by Representatives of Great Britain France Italy and himself. Proposals for utilization of this tonnage will be made to German representatives at conference for renewal of Armistice to be held January 11 to January 17. If arrangements with allies are confirmed and proposals are accepted by Germany about 20 vessels aggregating approximately 350,000 tons will be allocated for American troop transports. Mr. Hurley states definitely that if these vessels are obtained Navy will be requested to man them. Following Hamburg-American Ships would probably be included: BISMARK 56000 IMPERATOR 52,000 KAISERIN AUGUSTA VICTORIA 25,000 JOHANN BURCHARD 20,000 TIRPITZ 19,000 VICTORIA LOUISE 17,000 CLEVELAND 17,000 PATRICIA 14,000 PRETORIA 13,000. Following HAMBURG South American vessels may be included: WILLIAM OSWALD 20,000 CAP-POLONIO 19,000 CAP-FINISTERRE 14,000. Following North German Lloyd vessels may be included: COLUMBUS 35,000 PRINCE FREDERICK WILHELM 17,000 BERLIN 17,000. No definite allocation of vessels has yet been made and above list is merely tenature and is based on general informal understanding referred to above, that, as general principles, the high powered vessels would be assigned for United States troops. In the case of several vessels named above it is not even known that they have been entirely completed in German shipyards. In case Navy undertakes to man these vessels the officers and crews should be assembled in the United States as personnel is not now available on this side. The Department can always be informed of progress of negotiations 121709
3 copies to Gen. Hines3
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: This document has not been found.
Footnote 2: Edward N. Hurley, President of the United States Shipping Board.
Footnote 3: Maj. Gen. John L. Hines, Chief, Army Embarkation Service.