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 Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force, Atlantic Fleet

U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS

U.S.S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.

TELEPHONE, VICTORIA 9110                30, GROSVENOR GARDENS,

CABLE ADDRESS, “SIMSADUS”                         LONDON, S.W.1

REFERENCE No.                           September 7th 1918.

My dear Strauss:

         I have been distressed from time to time by reports of bits of friction that have occurred between our people and the British in connection with the laying of the mine barrage. I have not the slightest doubt that we are not wholly, or even chiefly to blame. But I think that in the interest of getting along with the war we should do everything we possibly can to avoid such incidents and to eliminate their causes.

         White it is true that certain more or less personal frictions would not probably interfere materially with efficiency, still I can assure you that they bring no inconsiderable strain upon me.

         I think in all probability that this trouble has been caused largely by misunderstanding as to the actual division of authority. This has been tried before in various ways among the Allies, and, so far as I know, it has never failed to cause friction except in those cases where the authority for operations is centralised and strictly defined.

         It is for this reason that I have placed our forces always under the senior Allied Commander in so far as concerns their purely military operations. This has been done, as you know, at Queenstown, and it has been an unqualified success. It might be possible to retain a certain amount of military authority for our operations if the Admiralty were so constituted that decisions were sufficiently localised. One of the causes of the trouble has been that there is apparently a division of direction not only between the Commander in Chief1 and the Admiralty, but even in the Admiralty itself. It is probably for this reason that instructions have sometimes gone out from the Admiralty when even those in the Admiralty when even those in the Admiralty who should have known about it were ignorant about it. Of course, we cannot correct anything of this kind but we can avoid all other causes of misunderstanding by placing our forces under the military control of the Allied Naval Commander in so far as concerns the actual operations.

        In a word, our relation to him should be exactly the same as though he were an American Admiral and our forces a part of his.

        Very sincerely yours,

                  Sims

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Joseph Strauss Papers, Box 4. Addressed below close: “Rear Admiral Joseph Strauss, U.S.Navy,/Commander Mine Force,.” The letter is written on stationery so the first part is printed and appears at the top of both pages of the letter.

Footnote 1: Adm. Sir David Beatty, R.N., Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet. 

Footnote 2: According to historian William N. Still, Jr., “Strauss encountered difficulties with British naval officers, especially Beatty and Admiralty officials” and although reminded repeatedly that Beatty had overall responsibility for the mine barrage, Strauss would appeal to Sims over Beatty’s head.” Still, Crisis at Sea: 439-40. For his part, Strauss claimed that Beatty disliked him “because I had forced them to carry out the plan to which they agreed.” Quoted in ibid., 440.

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