File No. 763.72/13321a

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


5089. For Admiral Sims from the President:

From the beginning of the war I have been greatly surprised at the failure of the British Admiralty to use Great Britain’s great naval superiority in an effective way. In the presence of the present submarine emergency they are helpless to the point of panic. Every plan we suggest they reject for some reason of prudence. In my view this is not a time for prudence but for boldness even at the cost of great losses. In most of your despatches you have quite properly advised us of the sort of aid and cooperation desired from us by the Admiralty. The trouble is that their plans and methods do not seem to us effective, I would be very much obliged to you if you would report to me, confidentially of course, exactly what the Admiralty has been doing and what they have accomplished and add to the report your own comments and suggestions based upon independent study of the whole situation without regard to the judgments already arrived at on that side of the water. The Admiralty was very slow to adopt the practice of convoy and is not now, I judge, supplying convoys on an adequate scale within the danger zone, seeming to prefer to keep its small craft with the fleet. The absence of craft for convoy is even more apparent on the French coast than on the English coast and in the Channel. I do not see how the necessary military supplies and supplies of food and fuel oil are to be delivered at British ports in any other way within the next few months than under adequate convoy. There will presently [Page 118] not be ships or tankers enough and our shipbuilding plans may not begin to yield important results in less than eighteen months. I beg that you will keep these instructions absolutely to yourself and that you will give me such advice as you would give if you were handling an independent navy of your own. Woodrow Wilson.