Jules James Papers

Manuscript Collection #223
James, Jules
Physical description
1.95 Cubic Feet, 1800 items , consisting of correspondence, logbook, diaries, military orders decorations, newspaper clippings, articles, photographs and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Jules James Papers (#223), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1907-1968) documenting the U.S. Naval career (1910-1946) of Admiral Jules James consisting of correspondence of Naval travels, logbook, diaries, newspapers clippings, radio press news.

Biographical/historical information

Jules James (1885-1957) was born in Danville, Virginia, where he studied at Virginia Military Institute preparatory to entering the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. In 1928 he married Eleanor Standish Gamble, niece of Secretary of War Henry Stimson.

Commissioned ensign in the U.S. Navy in 1910, James subsequently served as White House aide to President Wilson (1912-1913), and Assistant Naval Attache to the American embassies in France, Spain, and Portugal (1923-1926). From 1926 to 1934 he was navigator on the U.S.S. Florida; commanded the U.S.S. Edsall, with which he participated in the Yangtze River patrol; served as naval aide for the Governor-General of the Phillipines; attended the Naval War College; and commanded the Destroyer Division 6, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet.

In 1937 he directed the refitting of the battleship U.S.S. Philadelphia, which he then commanded. From 1939 to 1941, he served as assistant director and acting director of the Office of Naval Intelligence. In 1941 he became commander of the newly acquired U.S. Naval Operating Base on Bermuda, where he also commanded the combined U.S. and British local defense forces. In 1943 Admiral James assumed command of the Sixth Naval District, headquartered in Charleston, SC, and the Charleston Navy Yard. In 1945 he became commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Mediterranean waters and retired from active duty in 1946.

Following his naval career, James became a special representative in Europe for the National Lead Company.

Scope and arrangement

Early correspondence deals with James' naval travels as a young officer. Correspondence (1908-1923) describes Quebec, Canada, and social life in that city (1908); a stopover in the Canary Islands where an American firm had deposited coal during a British coal strike, bringing on the question of civil competition as a primary cause of war (Oct. 13, 1922); social life on Gibraltar and the island's secret tunnels and water supply (Nov. 15, 1922); and a stopover in Odessa, U.S.S.R. (Jan. 6, 1923). James comments on his ship's treatment by the bolsheviks, efforts to get a sick sailor ashore, and life in Russia. Odessa, its harbor, lack of business and industry, the small number of Russians in sympathy with the bolsheviks, and 60,000 people having been shot receive comment. A letter (Nov. 19, 1927) describes Hong Kong, Bangkok, Davrorig's palace, Saigon, and a trip from Saigon to Angkhor, Cambodia.

Several letters pertain to James' activities as American Naval Attache to Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon (1923-1926). He describes his presentation to the Spanish king, palace parties, and the city of Madrid (April 3, 1928, June 10, 1925, undated). Letters (Aug. 17, 21, 1925) deal with James' appointment as technical advisor to the American Delegation to the International Telegraph Conference. A letter (May 16, 1926) describes his sendoff from Paris upon completion of duties as attache.

Much of the correspondence deals with pre WWII naval tactics. James outlines a method for the use of depth charges (Dec. 12, 1927) and a method for using anti-aircraft guns (Dec. 16, 1927, June 15, 1928). Several letters (1930-1935) deal with articles on tactical maneuvers that James had written and was attempting to publish. Other correspondence relates to the deployment of battleships (Sept. 14, 1933, April 19, June 1, 1934, undated), bombing practices (Oct. 6, 1933), torpedo practices (Nov. 16, 1933, Dec. 21, 1933), naval attack doctrine (Dec. 21, 1933, undated), cruising dispositions (April 19, 1934, undated), the battle of Jutland (June 1, 1934, undated), smoke screens and smoke-producing shells (April 5, 1935), and the use of mooring charts (Aug. 14, 22, 1935).

Substantial correspondence deals with the refitting of U.S.S. Philadelphia (1938). James, who was in charge of the refitting, particularly wanted the captain's cabins and pantries relocated (1937). Shortly after U.S.S. Philadelphia went to sea, President Franklin Roosevelt used the ship for a vacation. Two postcards (April 28, 1938), a letter (May 21, 1938), and a ship booklet entitled "Presidential Cruise" concern his stay.

Correspondence of 1940 deals with James' activities as assistant director of Naval Intelligence. A significant letter deals with the world situation of the allies: the dire condition of the French Army, steps to be taken upon the fall of the allied army in France, evacuation of excess population from England, and the opinion that the U.S. enter the war immediately (June 14, 1940). James also evaluates the situation of the British and American navies, hostile navies, where the U.S. fleet should be placed, as well as the probability of wartime aid from China (Oct. 11, 1940). He criticizes and comments on the Bureau of Naval Intelligence, suggesting that its duties should be concerned only with operations and intelligence (Sept. 29, 1943).

Much correspondence deals with the U.S. Naval Operating Base at Bermuda, which Jules James commanded (1941-1943). Letters describe the establishing of the base (May 26, 1941, enclosure to July 2, 1941), and comment on British-American co-operation (Aug. 20, 1941), defenses on the island, lack of guns and landing fields (April 9, 1941), and covert activities by private citizens (Sept. 7, 1941). The base, the foundation for its development, ceremonies celebrating the anniversary of the founding and James' duties are described (April 19, 1944, letter from Alice Meade; January, 1946). Other letters (1945) detail military operations on Bermuda during World War II, especially those of the U.S.S. Owl.

Many social and economic aspects of Bermudian life receive comment. Sir Brooke Francis comments on Bermudians and highway laws (Mar. 8, 1944), a potato shortage, effect of war on the island's Negroes, and problems caused by the increase of automobiles (Feb. 18, 1944). Relations between Americans and Bermudians (June 24, 1944, encl. to July 24, 1944), Coral Beach as a recreation area (Oct. 4, 1944), the history of Bermuda being written by Iris Vaughan (Sept. 26, 1945), social activity, weather, roads, and water supply (May 18, 1944 note on April 26, 1944 letter attached to May 25, 1944 letter) all receive comment. An article by James, "History of the Naval Operating Base, Bermuda," is included in a letter of October 22, 1945. An undated letter comments on Bermudian social life, British refugees on Bermuda, English socialism, and British war-time regimentation leading to communism. Moreover, it comments on the Bermudian government, buying and renovating a club, the high cost of wages, lack of hired help, damages done to Bermuda by a hurricane, and the number of automobiles and their bad effect.

Numerous correspondents comment on World War II. Lady Vincent Astor early commented on the evil in Germany (Nov. 7, 1939). Discussion of the danger of deficit spending, rearmament, military expansion, educating U.S. citizens in Americanism, and how to inculcate a philosophy of a democratic heritage is found in the correspondence (July 16, 1940 and enclosures). In addition, these letters comment on the unfitness of the intelligensia and politicians for leadership in a proposed "Americanism" education campaign. Charles Lindbergh and conditions that would exist if Germany won World War II are topics of discussion as are Adolf Hitler (July 14, 1940), British sea power, disaffection in England, the invasion of England (Aug. 6, 1940), British-American unity (Sept. 30, 1940), bombing of England (Dec. 3, 1940), when the U.S. should enter the war, need for more destroyers (Aug. 14, 1940), fifth-column activities in Mexico (Oct. 21, 1940), and the question of American entry in the war (Nov. 7, 1940).

Other letters relate to the tide of World War II. Correspondents comment on the importance of sea power, German tactics (May 16, 1940), the condition of the military effort abroad (June 5, 1940), and war strategy (June 8, 1940; June 13, 1940, encl to July 16, 1940; Aug. 14, 1940; Aug. 20, 1941; Mar. 8, 1944).

Paralleling the war effort, a letter (Mar. 8, 1944) comments on the activity of the Wave Recruiting Program in Raleigh, NC; freeing the Cooper River Bridge from tolls for the war effort (Mar. 22, 1944); and a War Bond Drive in Greensboro, NC (April 13, 1944).

Correspondence relating to Pearl Harbor comprises a historically significant part of the collection. James comments on the Japanese as a fighting people and discusses naval strength at Pearl Harbor (Oct. 21, 1940). Telegrams of December 7, 1941 announce the attack on Pearl Harbor; and one from Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox exhorts military personnel to gear up for impending war as a result of the attack (Dec. 9, 1941). A later letter (July 8, 1955) contains comments relating to the intelligence breakdown that allowed the Japanese to attack the island.

A postwar letter (Aug. 25, 1949) describes conditions in Germany and contains interesting comments on the Marshall Plan, Germany's Social Democrats, the dismantling policy, the Atlantic Pact, and treatment of Germany by the American press.

Most of the correspondence of the 1944-1945 period concerns James' administration of the Sixth Naval District and the Charleston Navy Yard. James writes of the lack of submarine activity in the district and of work at the Navy yard (Mar. 11, 1944). He describes the duties of the captain of the Navy yard (Mar. 20, 1944), James' duties at the yard (April 1, 1944; Feb. 6, 1945), lack of discipline (Mar. 21, 1944), command relationships (Oct. 25, 1944), and the contribution of the 6th District to the war effort (April 3, May 10, 1944). Other letters deal with shipbuilding and with service organizations. Significantly, letters of April 4, 1945 concern the use of German Prisoners of War at the yard; while letters of August 13, 1945 concern discrimination against Negro soldiers at the base.

Correspondence of 1946 deals largely with administrative details of the Mediterranean fleet which James commanded. A significant letter (Mar. 6, 1946) discusses the strategic location of the Mediterranean. Others pertain to the Mediterranean command (June 9, 1946), the Senate War Investigating Committee, and one contains an article entitled "Investigation of the National Defense Program" (March, 1946).

In 1951, James joined the National Lead Company as special advisor. Correspondence from 1951-1956 reflects his job. Topics discussed include attempts of the National Lead Company to acquire the Titan Gesellschaft Company in Leuerkusen, Germany (1957); the International situation; availability of education in Germany for employees' children; Alger Hiss (June 26, 1951); and the 1952 election of Dwight D. Eisenhower (Jan. 4, 1953). Other letters concern mining in Turkey (June 26, 1953, Sept. 2, 1953), the stock market and stock trading (1954-1956), Eisenhower's reelection in 1956, Nehru, and the political situation in the Arab world (Dec. 1, 1956).

A substantial portion of the collection is devoted to inventions, especially James' machine gun sight-director and his exploding mine. Correspondence (1939-1947, undated) contains James' application for patents, description of the sight-director, Department of the Navy responses, sketches and plans. Letters concerning his mine (1918-1940, undated) are also of a similar vein. Other correspondence dealing with inventions pertain to Sharpe's Reversing Gears being implemented and tested by the Navy (Mar. 6, 1944, encl to Feb. 18, 1944, Aug, 21, 1953, Oct. 19, 20, 1953); the "astigmatizer" (attachment to rifle telescopes) (Feb. 26, 1954); and a remote observation device for submarines.

James' logbook (entries from Oct. 19, 1922 to Dec., 1939) contains brief sketches of events beginning with his leaving Virginia Military Institute in 1904. Subsequently, James lists ships and duty stations on which he served. He comments on his activities in the Battle of Vera Cruz and in World War I; and describes a naval stopover at Odessa, Russia, and life in Paris as a naval attache.

James' typescript war diaries run from Mar., 1942-April, 1943 and December, 1945-June, 1946. His Prelude (April 7, 1943) sketches a brief history of the U.S. Naval Operating Base, Bermuda, from its inception. He comments on initial British and American hostility, island defenses, base conditions, setting up of the Naval Air Station, and the eventual rapport established between Bermuda and the U.S. Of primary concern is the administration of the base, but interesting comments exist concerning searches for enemy submarines, submarine attacks, and torpedoing of allied ships. Also included is a chronological list of submarine encounters derived from information in the diary. The latter portion of the diaries (Dec., 1945-June, 1946) deals primarily with the command of the Naval fleet in the Mediterranean, duty in Naples and Palermo, Italy, and Naval administration.

Newspaper clippings relate to James, the U.S.S. Philadelphia, and miscellaneous subjects, including Pearl Harbor and Bermuda.

James wrote several articles, the drafts of which are included in his papers. "Planes vs. Battleships" is an eyewitness account of the sinking of the American allotment of the World War I German fleet. "Prevention of Wars and Civil Disorder" advocates the separation of the national races after World War II in order to insure future peace. "Tactical Notes- A Lesson from Jutland" discusses the proper disposition of a naval battleline.

Photographs in the collection are of Jules James and also of the machine gun sight-director that he invented.

Included in miscellaneous material are "Radio Press News" a leaflet from the U.S.S. Philadelphia (Oct. 21, 1937) and "Presidential Cruise," a U.S.S. Philadelphia booklet (May 1, 1890) relating to the cruise of President Franklin Roosevelt aboard the ship. A chronological list of encounters with enemy submarines near Bermuda, 1942, is in the miscellaneous folder.

Oversize material includes a schematic drawing of James' machine gun sight-director, a map showing World War II submarine activity near Bermuda, the September 21, 1942, issue of LIFE Magazine which contains an article about the illustrator Floyd Davis's nine paintings of U.S. forces (including Rear Admiral Jules James) on Bermuda during World War II, and sheet music entitled "Travelling High" written and published by Jules James. Newspapers in the oversize folder include the 4th Anniversary Issue (April 7, 1945) of The Nobby News, the base publication for Naval Operating Base in Bermuda, which contains James' photograph; several pages of the May 10, 1925, issue of the Danville Register (Virginia) listing the "Pittsylvania County and Danville Roll of Honor" in which Jules James is listed; and an article entitled "Uncle Charlie" from the Richmond Times-Dispatch April 7, 1935, issue relating the recollections of former slave Uncle Charlie James of General Lee's surrender at Appomatox, Virginia, ending the Civil War. He had been at the surrender with his former master Col. Bruce James of Rocky Mount, Virginia.

For related material, see O.H. 28, an interview with Jules James' widow, Eleanor Gamble James.

Administrative information
Custodial History

March 28, 1973, ca. 1800 items; papers (1904-1956), including personal and official correspondence, diaries, official orders, clippings, subject files, photographs, and miscellaneous. Gift of Mrs. Jules James, Washington, D. C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Jules James

Processing information

Processed by D. Lawson, January 1978

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
James, Jules, 1885-1957
Corporate Names
National Lead Company--Employees
Naval Intelligence Support Center (U.S.)--Officials and employees
United States. Navy--Drill and tactics--History--20th century
United States. Navy--Military life--Diaries
Inventors--United States
Navy-yards and naval stations, American--Officials and employees--Bermuda Islands
Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941--Personal narratives, American
World War, 1939-1945--Naval operations, American
World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, American
Bermuda Island (Bermuda Islands)--Social life and customs--20th century

Container list
Box 1 Correspondence, 1907-1939
Box 2 Correspondence, 1940-1944
Box 3 Correspondence, 1945-1949
Box 4 Correspondence, 1950-1968
Box 5 Folder a Correspondence, undated
Box 5 Folder b Machine gun sight-director correspondence, 1939-1947
Box 5 Folder c Exploding mine correspondence, 1918-1940
Box 5 Folder d Logbook, 1904-1939
Box 6 Folder a War diary: prelude, (April 7, 1943); March , May 1942
Box 6 Folder b War diary: June-August 1942
Box 6 Folder c War diary: September-December 1942
Box 6 Folder d War diary: January-April 1943
Box 6 Folder e War (and post-war) diary: December 1945-June 1946
Box 7 Folder a-c Military orders, 1908-1946
Box 7 Folder d Military decorations, 1920-1949
Box 8 Newspaper clippings
Box 9 Folder a Articles written by Jules James
Box 9 Folder c Miscellaneous, 1906-1943
Folder os1 Newspapers, architectural drawing, schematic diagram of sight-director, map, song