Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
Chronological Copy. File No. <28-11-2>
Cablegram Received <September 4, 1918. JFG
Origin Opnav, Washington (SecNav) Ser. No. 904
CS Sept. 8
904 Your 3561 3964 3834 4892 6077 6723 9337 1765 3267 3880. Our 3734 4486 6489 93271 This is a matter of importance but it seems evident from cables cited that definite plans are difficult to arrive at between the various allied powers concerned. There appears to be a lack of coordination not only between the various naval projects required but also between the naval, military and political interests involved in the particular area. Looking at the problem from the broadest point of view the Department inclines to the opinion that a solution should be sought which not only reconciles the various naval projects submitted but which also coordinates the military and political interests of the East Mediterranean Sea and Adriatic Sea with these same naval projects and which in turn must be made to fit in with or become a part of the more important military campaign conducted elsewhere. This in general is the Navy Departments conception of a proper solution and it feels that any naval effort short of this will not tend to that unity of effort so necessary for quick and successful termination of this war. The Department also recognises that insistence now upon the Cape Bon to Sicily barrage ahead of other projects may be placing its interests before those interests which are more directly involved in the section of the Mediterranean Sea east of this proposed barrage. For the above reason and in allied interests and to produce the unity of effort so essential to success the Department will relinquish it’s claim to the primacy of the Cape Bon to Sicily barrage and will consider any other projects which are practical and which it can reconcile with its sensible view of the present situation. The Department therefore assents first to the proposed barrage of the Dardanelles leaving the details to be determined by the Allied Naval Council and stipulates that it will assume damage caused by <its> appropriate share of this work as determined by the Allied Naval Council, the United States however, to take no action that would violate the territorial waters of Turkey. As regards the various Adriatic Sea barrages proposed or in existence the Department submits following: it is willing [to] assist with material resources in the laying of the present Otranto net barrage but it cannot augment this barrage with deep mines in waters over 1200 feet in depth for we have not yet developed a mine which can operate successfully at these extreme depths. For this reason Department does not look with favor upon the 2 other barrages proposed in your 32672 in this immediate vicinity. The Department therefore proposes a counter proposition for consideration, referring specifically to your early cable 3561.3 There have lately been indications of a state of grave unrest among those provinces subjugated by Austria whole racial characteristics are not Teutonic. If the Adriatic Sea barrage problem could be coupled with such a political setting that it, while not military in tis prime objective and involving but few military forces to held the necessary base, could effect the naval purpose and at the same time from this base furnish through proper efforts of propaganda a disrupting effort in the interior lines to strengthen the main military effort elsewhere, then the Department believes a correct solution of the Adriatic Sea barrage problem is found. The general military situation has greatly changed since your 3561 was proposed and the condition now seems ripe to put into effect, not however as a military move but as a naval move with such a political setting that it will if properly handled strengthen the entire military situation. With this in view the Department desires you to take up through the Allied Naval Council with the Supreme War Council the proposition suggested in your 3561 of a barrage from Gargano Promontroy to the Island of Curzola and the Sabioncello4 which 2 points it is suggested might in the interest of propaganda best be held by our forces. For the Naval part program the Department can furnish 1 division of old battleships and mines necessary to form barrage together with adequate net protection for the base. It can also furnish a small air force for the base. War Department has been approached on this subject but it does not view it with favor states that it would distract from its efforts on Western front. State Department considers matter entirely military and naval. To get joint naval and military decision take matter up in the manner indicated.5 18994 904
350 PM September 5 1918
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The cable message, which is four pages long, is typed on a Chronological Copy form. Each of the four pages is headed by the first three lines of the message.
Footnote 1: These cables all deal with planning for operations in the Mediterranean and particularly the Otranto barrage.
Footnote 2: See: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 22 August 1918.
Footnote 4: The Gargano Promontory has been called the spur on the Italian boot. It is in southeast Italy in the province of Foggia, Apulia, and projects into the Adriatic Sea. Curzola (modern day Korčula) is an island in the Adriatic sea just off the Dalmatian coast. Sabioncello (the Italian pronunciation for modern-day Peljeŝac) is a peninsula in southern Dalmatia in Croatia. For more on the American plan to seize this portion of the Dalmatian coast, see Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean: 435.
Footnote 5: For more on this memorandum and how it was received by the other Allies, see, Ibid., 519-21. Also, see: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 8 September 1918.