Sims versus Gleaves: The Battle Over How to Convoy During the First World War

March 8, 2022

Join Dr. Sal Mercogliano to discover the internal naval battle between admirals as they fought over how best to protect Allied ships during World War I.

The German use of unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917 resulted in the tremendous loss of shipping off the Western Approaches to the English Channel. The attacks included several American vessels and contributed to the nation's decision to join the First World War. Rear Admiral William S. Sims arrived in England and learned of the desperate situation facing the Allies due to the loss of merchant vessels. Admiral Sims, as Commander U.S. Naval Forces in Europe became a staunch advocate for the large-scale convoying and escorting of merchant ships as they entered the war zone.

Back in the United States, Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves saw his force of destroyers sail east to join Admiral Sims and leaving him without mission. When the Army decided to ship the 1st Infantry Division to Europe, he was assigned as Commander Convoy Operations in the Atlantic. This appointment would place Gleaves into direct opposition with Sims in how to conduct convoy operations, the proper allocation of warships, and the concern about a potential submarine attack on the East Coast of the United States.

Their struggle led to the deployment of nearly all U.S. destroyers to Europe, leaving the U.S. East Coast and North Carolina open to U-Boat attacks in 1918.