The Victory at Sea

by Rear Admiral William Sowden Sims, U.S.N., in collaboration with Burton J. Hendrick. New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1920. Royal 8vo, xiv+410 pp. Portrait and Maps. $5.00.
THIS is a very readable and important book. It indicates, in a way, a new departure in the literature of the personal record, for The Victory at Sea marks the first attempt made by any officer of high command to prepare his account for a distinctively civilian audience.
The material has been well chosen. In spite of the fact that the author of the book was of late engaged in a bitter public controversy, there is no hint of the matter in these pages, and one’s progress to the final lines is nowhere barred by a wilderness of that technical jargon which so many military and naval authors have seen fit to employ. Yet the whole story is here, admirably, clearly, and stirringly told.
Perhaps the point which will most impress a reader’s mind is the frank avowal of the disaster which faced the Allied arms in 1917. It is time the truth were known. The chapter is a dramatic one. In February some 536,000 tons had gone to the bottom; in March, the figure had risen to 603,000 tons; in April, the losses reached the appalling amount of 900,000 tons. Admiral Sims writes that he had ‘never imagined anything so terrible.’ No wonder Lord Jellicoe, on handing over a confidential memoir of submarine losses, exclaimed, ’It is impossible for us to go on with the war if losses like this continue.’ Circumstances had actually reached the point where the British Navy was scarcely able to keep more than four or five destroyers in the supreme danger area off the Irish coast! Submarines were lurking on all the important trade routes. Every principle of strategy appeared to favor them. Evidently a disaster so monstrous as to seem almost incredible was darkening the horizon of the Allies, and sweeping on.
Such was the situation which confronted the first vessels of the United States Navy to arrive in European waters. Of how the dark challenge was met by our navy, with skill, audacity, bravery, and that most American of characteristics, inventive ingenuity, is the theme of the book. It is a record in which this nation will long find an honorable pride.
The Victory at Sea is more than a book for the historian or the friend of the navy: it is a book for every American citizen. H. B. B.