Skip to main content

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Contre-Amiral Jean-Etienne Ratyé, French Delegate to the Malta Commission

September 17 1918.

My dear Admiral Ratye:

          With reference to the anti submarine studies which you so kindly forwarded to me with your letter of July 26th,1 I was particularly interested in your suggestions regarding the necessity for a Programme Doctrine. It is only by such a common understanding and definite objective that we can reach our maximum efficiency in combating the submarines.2

          I am glad to see that you place so much emphasis upon the counter attack by escorting vessels. This subject has been given particular emphasis in all of our escort work, and I have had occasion repeatedly to note the importance of a prompt and effective counter-attack. I enclose herewith a copy of our instructions on this subject.3

          I am thoroughly in accord with your idea that for escorts up to the time of attack the role is defensive, but that immediately thereafter their role becomes offensive.

          Your suggestion of a Grenadier de la Mer is interesting and would undoubtedly be very effective once contact with a submarine was made, if we had vessels of that type available.

          I agree with you that the early completion of the Otranto Barrage is a fundamental strategic necessity of the present situation in the Mediterranean.

          I am interested in your proposals that merchant vessels should carry depth charges and in the formations which you prop<o>se as appropriate to such arming of merchant vessels. There are of course difficulties in the execution of this plan at present, owing to shortage of material.

          The importance of the offensive position for some of the Escort vessels is very clearly brought out in your study. This has received our attention in all of our escort work. I am not certain that we have not under-estimated the value of the offensive positions for indirect defensive purposes as you suggest.

          I shall take pleasure in forwarding you studies to the Navy Department and shall suggest to them that they be circulated in our Service.

          I can assure you that I feel highly complimented by your courtesy in sending me the valuable results of your very important studies upon this very important subject, and I am sure that we shall profit by them.

Believe me, my dear Admiral,           

Very sincerely and gratefully yours,

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 24. Addressed below close: “Contre-Amiral Ratye, Delegue General a la Commission de Malta,/Ministere de la Marine, Paris.” Document identifier: “1/3/J.” Notation in top right-hand corner: “Admiral Sims’ Personal files.”

Footnote 1: Neither the letter nor the “studies” have been found.

Footnote 2: It is interesting that at this time, the assistant British chief-of-staff in the Mediterranean, John H. Godfrey, wrote that the French were reducing their commitment to “pooling” their anti-submarine resources because Ratyé no longer had “direct boat control of the patrol and escort forces.” That control was now exercised by “the Préfets Maritime at Toulon and Bizerta,” which Godfrey called “a decidedly retrograde step.” Godfrey to Capt. Reginald G. Henderson, 11 September 1918, Royal Navy in the Mediterranean: 542.