To naval readers it is not necessary to expatiate on the experiences of Naval Reserves in the late war. The fleet was largely increased and it was necessary to man it The one-year's men helped out materially, but they were not numerous enough to meet all requirements. As a result the Naval Reserves were utilized in the general service. It is known that they were not altogether satisfactory; it could not be expected that they should be; but on the whole they filled positions that would have been otherwise vacant, and some of them did very good work. The navy is indebted to them, and they should be made to feel it. The writer served a couple of months with a large contingent of them aboard an auxiliary cruiser. Actual hostilities had ceased at the time, and it was possible to observe these men after the excitement of war had subsided. They were intelligent and patriotic, and while all were not sailors, they did their work creditably. To have become the equal of man-of-war's men they would have had to continue permanently in the service. This of course was out of the question. But I often reflected that with their capacity and local organization and the time they could ordinarily command for drill and instruction, there were one or two specialized duties of real importance to the navy in the discharge of which they could be made actual experts.
The Government felt that much of the trouble of the Reserves was due to lack of uniformity in organization, drill and instruction. But as this will always be the case when there is no governmental supervision or control, the remedy seemed to lie in enrolling and training a reserve that could be called on with confidence in emergencies like the one that lately confronted us; at least such is the impression I have gained from newspaper reports and the bill for enrolling a reserve now before Congress. This bill seems to follow the able report made by Lieutenant Southerland to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. It is to be hoped it will pass, as it will accomplish a great deal of good in the right direction. It seems unfortunately to have aroused opposition in some quarters. I am not in a position to know if this will prove serious. I have had talks with a few reserve men, and the ground seems to be that the tendency will be to disrupt the local organizations. This of course would not be desirable, as the local training is of great importance in supplementing any drill and instruction that can be included in a government scheme.
The problem then is to encourage the local organizations as an important adjunct to the governmental enrollment. Any opposition that exists to the enrollment comes from that section of the present Naval Reserves, the individuals of which feel that they are not deep-sea sailors and do not desire to bind themselves to serve anywhere and at any duty to which the government may see fit to order them. When it is considered that the non-sailor element is largely in the majority in the Naval Reserves, it is seen that there are possibilities here of a serious complication.
There are, generally speaking, two classes of men available for re-enforcing the navy in time of war; men with previous nautical training and men without it, or with very little. If the former class was numerous enough to fill all the requirements the question would be simple enough; but it is well known that this is not the case. The numbers of available seamen are not nearly adequate to the navy's needs in time of war. Fortunately, of the other class there are many men of nautical inclination and some knowledge of the water who are ready at the call to war to render any service that lies in their power. Since it is impossible to obtain all the seamen that would be desirable, it will be decidedly to the interest of the navy to make use of these other men also. And to get the best results from their services, it will be necessary to determine in advance the character of their work, train them for it, and when war breaks out assign them to it. If to assure the success of the seaman reserve movement it is necessary to provide government supervision and control; equally will it be necessary for the government to supervise and control the non-seaman organization and management.
To divide these classes again on slightly different lines, there are men who are ready in time of war to serve the country anywhere and on any duty, and there are men who are unable for various reasons to do this, but who would be glad to serve locally in such capacity as they could. As the national reserve will be composed of the former class alone, some other provision will be required to ensure the services of the latter class. Here seems a fitting place to draw a distinction between the two general classes referred to above. The term naval reserve has been used rather loosely since the incipiency of the movement. To make a distinction some State organizations have been called naval militia. The difference is this: The ordinary meaning of a reserve of anything, whether of force, or of men, or of money, is something held back, but available and ready for use in an emergency. Under this definition a true reserve would be composed of seamen alone, or of men with sufficient nautical and naval training to step aboard the man-of-war, settle down in their places, and thenceforth be to all intents and purposes a part of the regulars. This, I take it, is the scope of the present national reserve movement. As such it is a splendid thing and deserving of success.
The so-called State reserves were usually not reserves at all, that is, referring to perhaps nine-tenths of their membership; and this was the reason for the adoption of the term naval militia. It is an improvement on naval reserve in the meaning conveyed, though still open to objections. Militia in its derivation suggests soldiers; and though in the present day the naval service is said to be a military service, it seems good to stick to its own designation. To make a general distinction between the two classes why not limit the use of the term reserve to the seaman class alone, and characterize all the other available elements as naval volunteers? The term volunteer has sometimes been applied to the one-year's men, but without any real necessity, as these latter were regularly enlisted in the rates they were qualified to fill, the only distinction being in the term of service. Volunteer has in it something of the suggestion of amateur, which is very much the meaning to be conveyed. The men designated are mostly amateur sailors, and in war would be serving the country for love and patriotism, or for the love of adventure; the result is the same.
The national reserve then takes cognizance of men who are sailors and have served aboard the man-of-war; or if they have not, can still be given sufficient training in peace time to make them useful and available in war for the regular duties of the blue-jacket afloat. Can not we also by additional legislation take cognizance of the men of nautical inclination and some local knowledge of the water who would be glad to serve their country in special directions and near their homes to the best of their abilities, the men whom it has been suggested above to call naval volunteers? Perhaps they also could be enrolled in a national organization after demonstrating their fitness in certain branches, which will be considered later. The national reserves and the national volunteers could then serve side by side in the same local organizations with mutual benefit. In time of war, the reserves would be called away, but the volunteers would continue under governmental control the same general work they had been drilled at in time of peace, and as far as possible under their own officers and organization. Rank, pay and privileges could be made equivalent in the two branches. It is perfectly possible that men qualified to serve in the reserves might for various reasons prefer the volunteers, or a volunteer might perfect himself and be able to pass an examination as a reserve. Men satisfactorily qualified could well be permitted to transfer from one branch to the other under suitable limitations.
While I do not propose in this paper to consider fully the employment of the naval volunteers, it is perhaps desirable to enumerate some of the duties to which they might appropriately be assigned. The reconnaissance of the coast and pilotage of the harbors and inland waterways, the preparation of war maps, the coast signal service, including the pigeon-messenger service, the mining and patrolling of the harbors, and the torpedo-boat service for local defense are all duties which it would be the part of policy to turn over to them at once.
For the reconnaissance of the coast there would be needed a few small craft of various kinds. A converted yacht in each district would be a good beginning. In addition, there should be one or two steam launches and several cutters. Records would be kept and the results of the work noted on the war maps and charts. A knowledge of local pilotage would necessarily follow. The work would be directed entirely by the local organizations, but on a plan devised by the government and uniform for all districts. An annual report would be made of the results, and such portions published as were not confidential. A rivalry would thus result between the various districts to excel in the amount and quality of the work.
The present State organizations are already familiar with navy signaling. Under a central direction coast signal stations would be established at various points and manned entirely by the local volunteers. Practice would be undertaken with sufficient frequency to keep the men proficient. Telegraphy and the care of telegraph and telephone circuits would be a part of the requirements. Recruits for this branch could very readily be found. The pigeon-messenger service would fall naturally under the same central management. Distributed about the country are numerous clubs and private individuals interested in pigeon flying. They should be encouraged to join a national organization and perfect a plan in time of peace whereby pigeon cotes suitably located and an ample supply of trained birds could be at hand when wanted.
The mining of our harbors is now by law in the hands of the army engineers, though in most foreign countries these duties, with reason, devolve on the navy. The sailor's knowledge of boats and tides, and the fact that he must be trained in submarine mining in order to make use of it in operations on the enemy's coast, are sufficient reasons for giving him control of the system in our own waters. Added to this, that the mines are intended for use against hostile shipping, and that the sailor is familiar with the ways of ships and can often anticipate their movements and thus locate the mines in the most advantageous positions, and the case seems clear for the navy.
Here, indeed, is a field for our naval volunteers. With the large and growing knowledge of electricity, and of the handling and manipulation of electrical cables and telephone circuits, recruits for this branch of work could be had with ease. It is interesting to note that these were the men in demand by the army engineers for mining our harbors in the war just passed. It will be much better to train them in peace times for the requisite duties. With the knowledge of the water that every resident of a seaport acquires in youth, and with instruction at stated intervals by officers of the regular service, these men would become actual mining experts, and their services would be of the greatest value to the government. The same men would compose the harbor patrol, the chief duty of which is regulating the traffic of the harbor and enforcing the rules relating to the channels through the mine fields. I believe there were disagreements on these points during the war, mainly by reason of the divided control.
But perhaps the most valuable, interesting and attractive work of any would be in connection with the local torpedo-boat defense system with which this country must surely very soon be provided. We know that, generally speaking, torpedo-boats are of two classes—destroyers, designed to accompany fleets, and the smaller coast defense boats operating from fixed bases. The destroyers would, as now, be officered and manned from the regular service, as would a certain number of the more seaworthy of the smaller boats, capable, as circumstances permitted, of keeping touch with the fleet in its operations near the coast. But of the remainder, there must be eventually a certain number stationed permanently at each prominent port on our coast. The regulars of the navy could not man all of these if they wished to. Who other than the local naval volunteers can possibly form the personnel of this service? The alternative will be in laying up the boats in large numbers, against which permanent practice I should like to register a most earnest protest. They must, of course, be laid up in the winter season at our northern seaports, and some will always be under repair; but with these exceptions they should be kept for the greater part continually in use. The training of a crew for effective work requires weeks of practice, and if some twenty odd officers and men are sent to launch a boat from the ways, get up steam and go out to look for the enemy, they are going to meet with ignominious failure should they come up with him in the first few days.
To organize a permanent local service we must look for these requirements. The officers and men must be watermen, if not deep-sea sailors. They must have a good knowledge of the pilotage of all harbors, bays, inlets, inland waterways and shoal channels in their own district. They must be of a mechanical turn of mind to appreciate the machinery of the boat and the mechanism of the torpedo. These are the requirements, and it is easily seen that they can be met by material now in the present State organizations. The perfection of the material depends on practice; and as to that, if the boats should be made available, they would be in use by the different crews every long summer afternoon as a welcome respite from routine office or machine shop work.
The districts would be in command of regular officers, and there would have to be enough instructors and torpedo experts to keep the work moving. The boats themselves could be eventually officered and manned entirely from the naval volunteers, under whose care they would be hauled out and laid up in winter.
I have thus tried to show that there is work for a corps of naval volunteers as well as for the reserves. Of course, all of this work could be done by reserves if enough of them could be got together. But it does not seem likely that there will be more than enough for many years to fill up the war complement of the fleet. Therefore it becomes a necessity to utilize men who can acquire a working knowledge of various specialties but who are in no sense man-of-war's men, and therefore cannot form part of a true reserve.
The reserves and volunteers would have no trouble in coming together in the local organizations, and would, indeed, derive mutual benefit from the contact. If reserves alone are enrolled and the State organizations are still maintained, there must be inevitable bickerings between the members who do and those who do not belong to the national organization. By enrolling the volunteers also, it is probable that all cause for friction would disappear, and the local organizations would be stimulated and encouraged as never before. A man then with any nautical skill or liking, however slight, and with any mechanical or sailor-like knowledge up to that of the trained man-of-war's man, can find a place where he will fit in, and can count on being employed in time of war on a duty with which he is familiar, a consideration which it seems to me must be the beginning of any success in organizing the auxiliary navy.