File No. 763.72/13317

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State


6503. Personal. Very confidential for the Secretary and the President:

I have hesitated to telegraph more about the submarine situation but the condition so increases in danger that in addition to Sims’s reports to Navy Department I cannot refrain from sending the following facts. The British reports are incomplete and to a [Page 107] degree misleading. They fail to report tonnage. Of course they do not include the other Allies’ or neutral vessels. The British alone last week lost 194,000 tons. The destruction is thought to exceed merchant vessel building in all countries. Rate of destruction is therefore a cumulative net gain for the enemy. The British naval and military authorities while partially concealing rate of destruction from the public view the situation with utmost gravity, The only known method of reducing loss is to provide, if possible, enormous anti-submarine patrol far larger than any now in existence or in sight or hitherto thought of and thus force submarines from attacks on shipping to attacks on anti-submarine craft. Would it be possible for our Government to send over hundreds of armed seagoing tugs, yachts, and any kind of swift small ships to supplement the existing inadequate patrol? Unless some such help come from some quarter naval supplies and material for the British Army and Navy will soon fall below requirements and the present fighting efficiency be impaired. Certain kinds of such material, such as lubricating and fuel oils, will be exhausted before a serious food shortage occurs as time goes on. The need of safe transportation of our Army and its needs will greatly increase required shipping and even with great expected output of our shipyards the total tonnage afloat will constantly decrease. This critical situation demands the fullest and most prompt action possible. It seems to me to be the key to any possible early end of the war. It may well be that the issue of the war is itself involved unless such aid come. The fighting power of the Allies will inevitably be lowered within a few months and be very seriously impaired before we have an army to come and to be maintained in the face of constantly increasing dangers. The Germans are making such positive gains by submarines that they can afford to withdraw gradually in France and to hold on until the Allied fighting power is thus weakened. It is the most serious situation that has confronted the Allies since the battle of the Marne.