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reduce their strength in cruisers and submarines to a ratio parity with our voluntarily reduced strength.


As for administrative experience and ability in the fleet, that is the foundation upon which the naval officer builds his whole professional career. officers have to give daily exhibitions of their qualifications in that field, for they have between eighty and eightyfive thousand boys from the wheat fields and asphalt to educate and train, indoctrinate, and eventually turn back to civil life equipped to win success in industrial pursuits and to take their places in the community councils of the nation. That naval officers are eminently successful in these tasks is, of course, partly due to the excellent quality of the enlisted personnel recruited for the service.

In this latter connection I recall a conversation with Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon, R. N., the one-time commander of the famous Dover Patrol controlling the troop movement between the British Isles and the Continent during the World War. Observing our enlisted men detailed to ships, aircraft, and shore stations as units in the Patrol, Admiral Bacon asked me how long we could keep sending him such remarkably competent sailors. I assured him that the standard would not be lowered, and that the men were representative of the entire American Navy.

'Well,' he declared, 'in all my naval experience I have never seen anything like your enlisted men. Their courage is undoubted, but it is their skill in mechanical lines that impresses me. No task is too difficult or complicated for them to solve; their knowledge is astonishing, but their ingenuity and resourcefulness are amazing. In these qualities they outshine the British sailor. It must be due to the fact that British lads enter the navy because

they have to, they have to, there's nothing for them ashore, - while lads desert your the factories because they want to, because they love the sea. In this respect you officers are lucky chaps.'

There is much truth in what Admiral Bacon said. Our men willingly accept discipline, cheerfully attack hard work, and require little urging from the officers. They know that discipline and hard work win trophies in gunnery and engineering, the goals of a year's incessant training, and they know that teamwork with their officers as well as among themselves is the prime factor in 'playing the game.' The survivors, officers and men, of such an exacting régime prove their professional fitness by the mere fact of survival.

But perfection is not a human attribute, and naval officers are human. There are some who do not measure up to the standard that the service has set for itself. These men are generally 'passed over' by the promotion selection boards and are then retired for age in grade. Some few, because of past meritorious service, are given berths within their rated qualifications until they are automatically retired for age. Happily, officers within these categories are becoming rare birds, and, through a careful appraisal of each individual by the detailing authorities, these men are relegated to perfunctory duties of pure routine, having little to do with operations afloat. Thus these officers cannot be made the scapegoats in fixing responsibility for naval accidents. Strange as it may appear, such disasters are almost invariably found in the wake of officers who previous to the accident have had unblemished records and brilliant reputations.


Hence it may be taken as almost axiomatic that accidents in our Navy,

aside from minor mishaps resulting in scratched paint, a bent rail stanchion now and then, a few skinned shins and smashed thumbs, are traceable to abnormalities, either of judgment or of policy, or else come under the somewhat indefinite classification, ‘acts of God.'

Abnormalities of judgment constitute one infrequent cause of serious accidents. An example is that of the officer who, as a result of the constant professional grind, develops a mental quirk, generally unconsciously, in one direction or another until some day he astounds his associates by committing an error in judgment that, coldly analyzed, appears to be nothing less than the act of a downright blockhead. Fortunately these victims of a relentless competitive system are few, and so numerous are the checks and balances against individual judgment in the Navy that their errors have seldom caused serious damage. The single instance in recent years where abnormal zeal in one direction led to erratic judgment of a costly character is furnished by the man who piled the destroyers on the rocks at Honda Point.

Though quite unforgivable, this accident is understandable. There was a heavy fog that day; certain radio compass bearings given the navigator did not check with his dead-reckoning position, and unusual ocean currents prevailed. These conditions called for pronounced caution; but the commanding officer, whose zeal for punctuality in carrying out orders had become a fetish, and who had been directed to bring his division to anchor with the fleet at a specified hour, threw caution overboard, cracked on speed, and led his ships to destruction on the rocks. He and his navigator were heavily punished, although he gallantly assumed all the blame; but punishment does not hide the fact that here is a potential cause of disaster directly

chargeable to personnel faults, which, while it may be more closely controlled, can never be wholly eradicated, because it is a human frailty common to men in all walks of life.

Coming under the classification, 'acts of God,' are those accidents which may be ascribed to the hazards of the sea, where the natural phenomena of wind and wave in combination outweigh all that men may do and that the stoutest ship may stand. There are times when Nature, speaking through the typhoon, the hurricane, the tidal wave, and even the prolonged gale, is not to be denied. Naval vessels, although generally more fully manned and under better discipline than commercial ships, thus having a better fighting chance than the liner or freighter, are not immune from maritime disaster. The baffling and mysterious disappearance of the collier Cyclops in the Caribbean Sea and that of the tug Conestoga in the broad Pacific are cases in point.

Another abnormality responsible for too frequent naval accidents is the marine road hog, the 'hit and run' mariner, the merchant-ship commander who laughs at the international rules of the road and sideswipes or rams anything and everything afloat in his erratic path. In this category comes the S-51 tragedy. We have a submarine on the surface, observing the rules of the road as it proceeds on its way, its course and progress visible for miles by the aid of its brightly burning running lights. The City of Rome, eastward bound, bears down on the submarine. But there is no cause for alarm; the rules of the road take care of such situations. Under those rules the S-51 has the right of way; she holds her course. But right of way and rules of the road are somehow quite neglected, and the heavy stem of the City of Rome sends the S-51 and her law-abiding

crew to the bottom. When raised, the wreck of the S-51 proved, by the position of her rudder and steering gear, that her helmsman kept a legal course until it was realized that the City of Rome would ram; then he shifted his helm to escape, but too late to avoid the crash.

Once in a while the tables are turned - it is the road hog that gets rammed and the naval ship that does the ramming. But the cause of this type of accident, in the majority of cases, can be traced to the neglect or ignorance of the rules of the road of some party or parties outside of and not an agency within the service. The Navy is not always blameless, but this kind of accident points to a serious situation demanding harsh corrective measures, at least something more harsh than a few months' license suspension, the penalty usually meted out to offending merchant officers.


We have bared some of the relatively infrequent causes of naval accidents. Undoubtedly the most frequent cause of such accidents, directly and indirectly, is the present abnormal administrative policy.

None more clearly than naval officers themselves understand the fact that the Navy does not exist for itself alone. It is an agency of the Federal Government, fed or starved by the Congress, moved at the beck and call of the State Department, shackled by the treaty-making authorities, subject to the political whims of the party in power, and exploited by the press. Naval administrative policy does not originate within the Navy itself. The policy of the times has for its very essence the political slogan, 'Economy in governmental expenditures.' The chief agency for enforcing this 'economy' policy is the Bureau of

the Budget; but so potent has the slogan become that it has been adopted by the Congress, which, despite its claims of liberality toward the Navy, and to the discomfort and chagrin of a truly sympathetic and well-informed Naval Affairs Committee in each Chamber, not only refuses appropriations to bring the fleet up to the strength provided for by the Washington Conference treaty ratio and to provide sufficient personnel to man and operate what ships we have, but further refuses to appropriate the funds necessary to keep in repair the undermanned ships that the Navy Department is directed to keep in commission. To require the Navy Department to accomplish the tasks for which the Navy is maintained with the meagre sums appropriated is demanding that the Department make bricks without clay.

For example, take the appropriation for matériel maintenance. Before the Washington Conference left us with a treaty-bound Navy, a number of new ships were built each year to replace obsolete, obsolescent, or worn-out craft. This policy served to maintain an average age in vessels; thus an average yearly expenditure for repairs could be readily controlled. But since the Conference there have been few replacements through shipbuilding, the average age of craft is constantly increasing, and the necessity for repairs is growing by leaps and bounds.

This state of affairs is well known, yet when the Navy's budget is under consideration by the Administration, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Naval Affairs Committees of the Congress, the first declaration on the part of those authorities is that there shall be no increase in appropriations beyond those of the previous fiscal year. This fixation of appropriation does not take into account the increasing deteriora

tion of ships, so that where, in the fiscal year of 1925, needed repairs to motive machinery and its adjuncts were two and a half million dollars in excess of available funds, for the year 1926 the excess was nearly five millions and for 1927 will reach about seven millions. Nor can money be spent and a deficiency appropriation be asked for; instead, the work accumulates and the repairs are not made.

The Navy Department bureaus allocate the funds available to the various navy yards to be apportioned among the ships scheduled for repair and overhaul as far as the amount will go toward keeping the ships seaworthy and safeguarding the lives of their crews. Almost superhuman efforts on the part of the personnel make up for many deficiencies, but no ship in the Navy, with the possible exception of some of the ten new light cruisers, is actually in complete repair and ready for war. If war were forced upon us, so many ships would have to be rushed to the yards for refitting and reconditioning, at a time when the yards would be needed to arm and condition merchant auxiliaries, that congestion would reach the stage of actual calamity. The ships in commission are seaworthy-witness the overseas mission of the fleet to Australasia a year ago, and the annual grand manœuvres. Seaworthiness and battle condition, however, are two separate and distinct things; a ship may be seaworthy without a single gun on board.

Ships that are never in quite complete repair, that always have some patched-up equipment, are more liable to accident than even naval officers themselves are wont to admit. Disaster may result from seemingly trifling causes a stripped screw thread, a short circuit in a steering device, a worn-out boiler. Under such conditions only the most minute and constant

attention and vigilance spell safety, and even the personnel cannot tell at what moment some vital but overpatched apparatus may fall to pieces.

Notwithstanding the abnormally dangerous conditions imposed by this policy, the Navy Department must carry on. Ships must be moved in fogs, in storms, in dangerous waters at night, and in complex tactical formations in time of peace if they are to be so moved in time of war. And if guns and torpedo tubes are to be effective in battle, target practice during peace must be a constant activity. Nor can aircraft be utilized to advantage in battle unless they have been made to fly in peace-time evolutions under conditions similar to those of war.

The more prolonged and intensive these battle drills are made, the greater the risks to ships and personnel, and it is not too much to say that the hazards are compounded out of all reason by the abnormal financial policy now visited upon the service, for its blanketing limitations practically wipe out the factor of safety in operations gained by tempering tactical boldness with caution.

This statement is not conjectural on my part. To make up for deficiencies due to reduced personnel, the lack of submarines for fleet duty, and a shortage of scouting and screening cruisers, and yet weld the fleet into a fighting unit trained for battle, despite its general condition of inadequate repair, it has been found necessary to put in force an operating schedule which has no respite other than the short intervals when favored ships are docked for overhaul. Speed and yet more speed in gun practice, ever-increasing use of submarines submerged in the midst of dashing squadrons, closer and closer ranges in night attacks by destroyers, faster and faster aircraft for shot

spotting in night battle practice these are the activities which make up the inescapable abnormal operating schedule, a schedule responsible for serious accidents, such as the turret explosion on the Mississippi and the gun-house explosions on the Trenton, and promoting the possibility of submarine collisions, destroyer collisions, and aircraft crashes. Behind that schedule is the 'economy' policy, the real responsible factor in naval disasters, the continuance of which is the surest if not the quickest means of sweeping our Navy off the seas or under them.

Under this régime, responsible for dangerous shore-station improvisation and neglect, we find the old magazine at Lake Denmark, built many years ago, greatly enlarged and expanded to meet the demands of the World War, overstocked with explosives, and right in the track of electrical storms drifting westerly from the lower Hudson Valley a huge mark inviting what it got when lightning struck it. Although accustomed to living over floating powder mines aboard ship, the naval authorities realized that there was an added danger at this enormous cache of explosives and took what steps the circumstances permitted to reduce the hazard. The proper step, the building of other magazines in less exposed locations, was never taken. What representations were made to the appropriating authorities in this connection. I do not know, but when it is impossible to secure funds to keep the fleet in repair it is a forlorn hope to expect the Congress to build new magazines, no matter how great the need.

Five years before the Shenandoah accident, four years before that ship and the Los Angeles were placed in commission, and in anticipation of those events, Commander Lansdowne and I, on duty together, reported the need of

additional weather-reporting facilities in the area between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes. The Weather Bureau went before the proper Congressional committee with a request for forty thousand dollars to supplement the existing service. This request was repeated each year without success. The same policy which, in the face of the fact that the Navy was acquiring two rigid airships, had refused the funds to extract helium gas for more than one would not permit the installation of this vital aid.

There being no facilities for reporting sudden local storms, Commander Lansdowne timed his trip to avoid the season when such storms are most prevalent. The fateful voyage of the Shenandoah may be likened to that of the Titanic, the latter ship starting her tragic voyage before facilities for reporting the location of icebergs had been established. The Titanic dashed to her doom against an uncharted iceberg. The Shenandoah went to her destruction in the grasp of an unreported windstorm. It required the loss of the Titanic and the sacrifice of many lives to bring international iceberg patrols to the aid of ocean navigation. It required the loss of the Shenandoah and fourteen of her crew to break down the barriers of 'economy' and assure the establishment of twenty-one weather-reporting stations in the area where the disaster took place.


Before suggesting a remedy for this situation, it is necessary to trace the policy behind it to the source of ultimate responsibility. The press has repeatedly placed this responsibility, first, upon the Secretary of the Navy, secondly, upon the editorially christened 'bureaucrats' in high administrative position in the Navy Department. Not even the reckless sensationalism

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