Learn about the beta

File No. 763.72/3840

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


5997. Admiral Sims requests me to send the following which he wishes you kindly to give to Navy Department. The necessity for the utmost secrecy cannot be overstated.

[Page 24]

Situation as follows:

Submarine issue very much more serious than realized in America. Rapidity of construction and recent successful operation constitute real crises of war. Enemy submarine morale not broken. No voluntary surrenders recorded and only about fifty-four total known as certainties captured or sunk. Reports our press greatly in error. Recent reports surrenders circulated to depreciate enemy morale and results very satisfactory.

Communications and supplies all forces all fronts including Russian threatened and control of sea actually at stake.

Enemy submarines constantly extending operations further into Atlantic increasing areas and difficulty patrol. Russian situation critical. Mutiny Baltic Fleet eighty-five admirals, captains, and commanders murdered, insubordination, some arming.

Five hundred and thirty-six thousand tons shipping, British, neutral, and Allied lost February; 571,000 tons, March; and 205,000 tons first ten days April. Losses increasing with short nights and better weather.

British forces unable effectively to prevent escape some raiders during long nights but chances are better now.

Allies were notified hospital ships will continue to be sunk. This for purposes drawing destroyers away from operations against submarines to convoy hospital ships thus demanding large convoy forces all areas not before necessary and also danger of partially immobilizing main fleet.

Strength naval forces strained due immense theater and length and number lines communications and material deterioration consequent upon three years’ continuous operation distant fields with inadequate base facilities. This applies all sea forces outside of Grand Fleet.

Enemy has 64 small, 6 large submarine mine layers, former carrying 18 mines, latter 34 and also torpedoes and guns. Completion all classes submarines for actual commission approaches 3 per week.

In order insure and accelerate defeat submarine campaign immediate active cooperation imperative. Issue is and must inevitably be decided at focus all lines communication in eastern Atlantic.

Therefore with all possible urgency recommend following immediate naval cooperation:

Send maximum number destroyers accompanied by small antisubmarine craft, former to patrol designated high-sea area westward Ireland, base of operations, Queenstown, advanced base Bantry Bay, latter to be inside patrol for destroyers. Small craft should be light draft and high speed as possible but low speed also useful.

Also repair ships and staff tor base. Docks and oil available but advise sending continuous fuel supply. Enemy main fleet must be contained demanding maximum conservation British main fleet. No base so far available for this force south of Scotland.

Our battleships can at present serve no useful purpose this area except two divisions dreadnoughts might be based Brest, for moral effect against anticipated raids in Channel by heavy enemy ships out of reach British main fleet.

[Page 25]

The principal other urgent practical cooperation is merchant tonnage and continuous augmentation of anti-submarine craft.

Seagoing tugs would be of great use in towing present large amount sailing tonnage through the dangerous areas.

Cooperation outlined herein should be expedited with utmost despatch to break enemy submarine morale and accelerate accomplishment of paramount American objective.

Enemy is very likely to make submarine mine-laying raids our coast or Caribbean to divert attention and keep our forces from critical area eastern Atlantic by effect upon public opinion. Difficulty of maintaining submarine bases and focusing of shipping this side will restrict such operations to minor importance although they should be effectively opposed principally by keeping channels swept on soundings. Enemy submarine mines have been anchored as deep as 90 fathoms but majority at not over 50. Mines do not rise from bottom to set depth until 24 to 48 hours after laying.

All experience so far shows that submarines never lay mines out of sight of landmarks or lights owing to danger to themselves if location is unknown.

The paramount immediate necessity is anti-submarine work where most effective and maximum augmentation merchant tonnage.

I am informed by Mr. Hoover that there is but three weeks’ supply grain this country not counting that in retail stores. Hoover sails in a fortnight for America. Sims.