A DISCUSSION OF THE TORPEDO POLICY BEST ADAPTED FOR THE UNITED STATES NAVAL SERVICE
MOTTO:—"In a word, the torpedo has brought into the Navy a fresh zest, a new romance, and possibilities more brilliant than were ever existent before its adoption."— Torpedoes and Torpedo Vessels, Lieut. G. E. Armstrong, R. N.
1. In opening this paper, the writer may as well admit at once that he is an enthusiast on the subject of torpedoes, but he hopes that he is a moderate one and that he fully realizes the limitations of the weapon. He has always been a friend of the so-called "freaks” of the navy, being of the opinion that each of these is of great value under certain conditions and of almost none under all others. What is considered to be the proper field of the torpedo will be pretty thoroughly demonstrated as this paper progresses.
2. The endeavor will be made to show under what circumstances and by what means torpedo warfare can be best carried on by our service with a good fighting show of success. It has seemed to the writer that there is too little literature extant on this subject from the thinkers of the navy, and this paper is prepared in the hope that it may bring forth arguments from those having knowledge and experience in torpedo matters, so that the interest of the service may be excited and a better appreciation of the subject gained by all. Doubtless in the course of the article many old ideas, not original with the writer, have had to be dressed up and dragged to the front again, but the subject in hand has received so little discussion of late in our service and the advance made in torpedo material has been so great that there is an evident need for a further stirring up of minds in regard thereto, and this fact must be accepted as an apology for the reproduction here of many ideas that have been often presented before.
3. Throughout this paper the object has been to consider the matter temperately and to discuss only those methods which promise rather more than a mere possibility of success. While arguing from this standpoint alone it is not meant that unusual exertions under special circumstances may not accomplish results with conditions far more unfavorable than those in any of the situations here considered. It is thought that they would, but the effort has been to avoid making claims for possibilities of success except where there are very good grounds for believing such success to be more than likely. When a new weapon is introduced it is frequently killed by the exorbitant claims of its friends. It may be put down as an axiom that the difficulty of using a weapon successfully increases directly (and perhaps in a higher degree) with the deadliness of its effect. Such being the case, the frequent claims that some particular mechanism for handling high explosives in warfare is going to revolutionize present methods inevitably redounds, as do all excesses, to the detriment of the device in question. The writer has here tried to avoid this mistake.
4. Torpedo-boats and torpedoes are essentially a part of the harbor-defense system of this country. Unlike the powers of Europe, our coast is too far from an enemy's shores, with a possible exception, to make the passage of torpedo vessels from one to the other for hostile purposes a very likely occurrence. It is asked that this statement in regard to the proper sphere of action of torpedo vessels may be accepted for the present as true, for the sake of argument, and the reasons for this belief will be developed at length as the paper progresses. In relation to it, it may be said that the oft-made comparison between the torpedo-boat and the highly-bred race horse is an apt one. Each is the highest type of its race, each gives the maximum speed attainable by any of its kind, each has to be carefully groomed and cared for at all times, but more especially just prior to trial; each will be quickly broken down by constant driving over rough ways, and conversely each will be quickly ruined by lack of proper exercise, while each requires the most expert knowledge on the part of the handlers.
5. But why carry the comparison further? Does not every point advanced go to show that the sole legitimate duty of the torpedo-boat is to choose its own time and weather, and, in company with others of its own kind, to dash forth from its own home port to an attack upon hostile ships within easy striking distance, as would be those of a blockading force?
6. The consideration of the question of torpedo warfare will be taken up in this paper under the following heads:
A. The limitations of torpedo-boats and of their weapons.
B. The method of approach and of attack.
C. The stationing of the flotilla in time of war and in time of peace.
D. The care and preservation of the boats in war and in peace.
E. The proper training of the personnel.
F. Circumstances under which the flotilla may be of assistance to the fleet.
G. The question of ship's torpedo-boats.
H. Modifications of the preceding arguments to make them applicable to torpedo-boat destroyers.
I. The use of torpedoes on board vessels not specifically designed therefor.
J. The use of boats at a distance from their base. When possible and how best accomplished.
K. Modifications of the theoretically perfect system made necessary by our lack of boats, officers and men.
L. Types of boats and their standardization.
M. Types of torpedoes.
N. The bearing upon the above statements of the lessons of the war with Spain.
O. General summing up.
A. THE LIMITATIONS OF TORPEDO-BOATS AND OF THEIR WEAPONS.
7. As far as the boats themselves are concerned, the constant hard running incident to continuous cruising has always been found to disable machinery and render stale the personnel. On the contrary, boats can no more be laid up without a crew on board and then be suddenly called into service and give effective results than can a watch be laid away motionless in a drawer for a long period and then be expected to run accurately when wound.
8. The ideal condition of boats for service is to keep them always in full commission, with full complements of officers and men on board, employed constantly near their base in short runs and torpedo practice. This keeps boats in condition, crew fresh and well instructed and weapons in good shape.
9. The introduction of the gyroscopic steering gear for torpedoes has done much to improve the accuracy of the weapon, but it has one great disadvantage. If not in perfect adjustment, this gear is worse than nothing, as it renders a miss certain. No gyroscope can be adjusted or even examined to see whether it is in adjustment or not, except upon the most stable platform. It is doubtful if it could be done on board even the largest ship, except under exceptional circumstances. Vibration from auxiliary machinery would probably be sufficient to render the adjustment very difficult, if not impossible. So it would seem that the gyroscopic steering gear can only be satisfactorily used when it can be taken ashore and adjusted or frequently examined for adjustment.
10. Torpedoes kept in tubes and ready for use on board torpedo-boats, as they must always be in war time, are subject to constant deluging with salt water when at sea, and it would seem that the chances of a successful run from a boat which had been long away from port would be very greatly reduced on that account.
11. For these reasons torpedo-boats cannot, except under exceptional circumstances, be called upon to operate far from their base.
B. THE METHOD OF APPROACH AND OF ATTACK.
12. This being one of the most important questions in relation to torpedo warfare, seems nevertheless to be one of the least discussed, at least in our service, and one in regard to which fewer fixed ideas and opinions prevail than almost any other. The German method seems to have many advantages. In this a "section boat" leads a "section" of six other boats in a wedge formation, the section boat at the apex, the two boats, one on each quarter, forming the first "division," the two at the rear end of the right flank the second "division," and the two at the rear end of the left flank forming the third "division." These boats advance to the attack so close together, the section boat leading, that a man may step from the bow of one boat to the quarter of the one next ahead. Each follows the motions of the boat ahead, changes of speed being signalled by flashing a small lantern at the stern of each boat, so arranged that the light is thrown down into the wake. The wash from the screws tends to keep the boats from touching the sterns of their leaders. When sighted by the enemy, or at signal from the section boat, the boats spread out on each side and deliver the attack from seven different points of the compass, the section boat making a direct attack. Prior to the attack, a route of retreat is agreed upon to diminish the chances of collision.
13. The writer may say at once that he sees no better method of attack than this, then proceeding to criticise and discuss its leading features. Any scheme which involves preconcerted attack at the same moment by a number of vessels is difficult, even in the day-time; and at night, especially under the circumstances of weather when a torpedo attack should be made, it is almost certain that some of the boats would be ahead of the others. What is the best method of reducing this error to a minimum?
14. The first thing is to adopt the method of approach which shall keep the boats together as long as possible without subjecting them to the fire of the adversary while grouped or sacrificing the advantages of a scattered attack, while at the same time, the time element is eliminated to the greatest possible extent. The formation should be such as to permit the quickest possible systematic opening of order should the flotilla be discovered while grouped. The formation should be that which will enable the senior officer to retain control of all its units to the last moment possible while engaged in that hunt for his adversary which it will often be so difficult to bring to a successful termination.
15. It seems to the writer that the German wedge offers the best answer to all the above requirements. In it the senior officer retains control to the last moment possible, open order position is taken by the simultaneous action of all the boats, and they can therefore more quickly spread, if detected while grouped, than from almost any other formation.
16. The ideal attack would, of course, be that in which the attacking force discovers its object without itself being at once detected. The approach being made at a speed sufficiently low to prevent the rolling up of a mass of foam under the bows and to enable the fires to be so handled that there will be no masses of flame bursting from the funnels, the section boat would continue towards the enemy at the same speed, changing her course if necessary; the signal for dispersion would be given, and the boats would spread out into positions say two points apart, at varying speeds, the flank boats moving most quickly. They would then continue the approach, the section boat gradually working up her speed, after allowing a time interval of short duration to elapse to give the others a chance to place themselves, and when discovered it would be full speed at once for all.
17. Of course if the section is discovered before it has opened out, full speed must be attained at once, and the wing boats would only spread out enough to break up the grouped target. In this connection a suggestion recently made by Lieutenant A. P. Niblack, U. S. Navy, might be adopted with probable success, it being for the boats as they spread to drop overboard phosphorescent buoys to tempt the fire of the enemy. A few such marks judiciously dropped in the open sectors as the boats cross them would probably prove a very strong temptation to the captains of the secondary guns.
18. In relation to the method of delivering the fire, it may be said that the introduction of the adjustable gyroscopic steering gear has added greatly to the chance of a hit. With, for example, two central pivot tubes on the fore and aft central line of the boat, these should be set one broad on each bow. The steering gears of the torpedoes should be set to bring them both to run parallel to the course of the boat at the moment of firing. Then the commanding officer has only to steer his boat for the point at which he wishes his torpedoes to run and to fire them at the right moment. Two torpedoes will thus be simultaneously discharged in directions ninety degrees apart, one of which will make a turn of forty-five degrees to the right and the other of the same amount to the left, and they will then run parallel at quite a distance apart. The advantage of such a method of fire over anything possible prior to the latest improvement of the gyroscope is very apparent.
19. The return from the attack is not important. The boats should be saved if possible, of course; but no one can go out expecting to return, and any man who lets that idea seriously enter into his calculations had better stay at home altogether. Let it be agreed as to how the boats will turn for the retreat after delivering their fire, in order that the chances of running into each other may be diminished, and then let the boats all make the best of their way to a rendezvous independently. This spot should be as near the enemy as possible, while protected from him, and the boats should stand by there to help the injured until all are either in or given up.
20. The question of attack by two or more sections renders the matter still more complicated. The sections should remain together as long as possible without sacrificing any other advantages, and then the time element must be taken into account to secure simultaneous attack. The difficulties are manifest, and they can only be overcome by officers whose boats are a part of themselves and whose knowledge of each other and of the waters in which they are operating is so perfect as to be instinctive.
21. A question of importance to be considered is the avoidance of the enemy's picket boats, and here we have something which must be left more largely to the dictation of circumstances than almost any other part of the tactics. Whenever possible, the attack should be made from the quarter where it would be least expected, from the seaward if possible. Unfrequented and little known channels should be used to attain a position on the outer side of a blockading fleet, thus enabling the attack to be delivered from the off-shore side. Where practicable, the cutting of such channels at proper points should be made a part of the defenses of every harbor. At times it would, perhaps, be possible to have the attack delivered by a section from some other port than the one off which the enemy is lying, or by two sections, one from within and another from without simultaneously. An attack from off shore, assisted by a feint from the harbor mouth to distract the pickets and the enemy's fire (to be turned into a real attack if the chance occurs) would give great chances of success.
22. Failing in the chance to attack from an unexpected quarter, it would probably be best to make a few preliminary attacks to destroy the picket vessels by gunfire, every such feint to be turned into a real attack if the chance comes. An effort might be made from within in weather in which the enemy would find it impossible to handle his small picket vessels.
23. Another method of attack proposed is to have the section find the quarry and then steam around it in column, boats dropping off the rear end at intervals, until all are distributed, when the attack is to be made. Here the section escorts each boat to its station and the time consumed in doing so would be relatively very great and the chances of discovery much increased. It would be impossible of accomplishment were the boats discovered as soon as they found the enemy, and the section would then be left without a plan.
24. Of course, the German wedge might be changed into a column, if desired, but the arguments for so doing are not clear. It does not seem likely that the boats in the wedge could be kept as close together as has been indicated, when operating under service conditions, and the danger to the bows of the boats from the twin screws of their leaders would be very great. The Germans make great use of single-screw boats, and it would be easier with them. It is also probable that the stern lights would have to be extinguished at least as soon as the proximity of an enemy was discovered.
25. The nomenclature here adopted differs somewhat from the German, and it may be well to give the following definitions of terms which are consistently used in this report:
(a) The "flotilla" includes all the torpedo vessels of the navy.
(b) A flotilla "section" is a squadron of seven boats acting together as a unit.
(c) A coast "district" is a section of the coast to which one or more sections are assigned.
(d) A district "base" is the depot and refitting establishment of the district.
C. THE STATIONING OF THE FLOTILLA IN TIME OF WAR AND IN TIME OF PEACE.
26. In discussing this question, the war basis will be first taken up, after which will be considered the changes that it seems most advisable to make in that disposition consequent upon the arrival of peace.
27. From his personal knowledge of torpedo-boat duty, the writer is very positively of the opinion that it is too complex and its wants too immediate to enable it to be properly handled under the present system, where the boats are, for various purposes, under the control of several independent bureaus. In the way of stores, the very smallness of their wants makes them subject to being overlooked in the bureaus, and such a failure will very largely ruin the efficiency of a boat. The flotilla should have some officer in the department, preferably in the office of the Assistant Secretary, who can take entire charge of the boats. He should be a man who has had large practical experience with torpedoes and torpedo-boats, and who is interested in his work and zealous for the advancement of the particular weapon with which he is concerned. All correspondence, requisitions, etc., relating to the flotilla should come to him, and he can then exercise the personal supervision over them which is now felt to be nobody's business. In other words, the flotilla must have a head. It is not desired that this head shall be so placed as to be antagonistic to the different bureaus; on the contrary, there should be chosen for the place an officer who will have tact enough to enable him to make himself regarded by each of the chiefs of the various bureaus in the light of an assistant in his own particular bureau, one who will take up the very small, but very important, details of the flotilla.
28. So much for the departmental organization of the flotilla. As far as the division of the torpedo force is concerned, the coast should be divided into districts, and the following is suggested as a most appropriate division:
No. of Name of
District. District. Limits of District Base.
1. Maine. Eastport to Portland. Rockland
2. New Hampshire. Portland to Rockport. Portsmouth.
3. Massachusetts. Gloucester to Provincetown. Boston.
4. Rhode Island. Provincetown to Fisher’s Id. Newport.
5. Long Island Sd. Fisher’s Island to New Haven. New London.
6. New York. New Haven to Barnegat. New York.
7. Delaware. Barnegat to Winter Quarter Near mouth of
Shoal. Delaware Bay.
8. North Chesapeake. Winter Quarter Shoal to Cape Yorktown.
Henry and Chesapeake
Bay, north of Thimble
9. South Chesapeake. Cape Charles (Hampton Roads) Fort Monroe.
to Cape Hatteras.
10. North Carolina. Cape Hatteras to Cape Romain. Wilmington.
11. South Carolina. Cape Romain to Port Royal. Charleston.
12. Georgia. Port Royal to St. Mary’s Savannah.
13. Florida. St. Mary’s Entrance to Cape Jacksonville.
14. Key West. Flowey Rocks to Dry Tortugas. Key West.
15. Tampa. Key West to Apalachicola. Tampa.
16. Pensacola. Cape San Blas to Ship Island. Pensacola.
17. Mississippi. Ship Island to Atchafalaya Bay. Near mouth of
18. Galveston. Atchafalaya Bay to Rio Grande. Galveston.
19. Porto Rico. Porto Rico. San Juan.
20. Cuba. Cuba. Havana.
21. Puget Sound. Cape Scott (Vancouver Id.) to Bremerton.
22. Oregon. Westport to Cape Blanco. Astoria.
23. North California. Cape Blanco to San Francisco. San Francisco.
24. South California. San Francisco to Point San Francisco.
25. San Diego. Point Conception to the Rio San Diego.
29. Should Cuba be annexed, it would be advisable to have a North Cuba district, base at Havana; and a South Cuba district, base at Santiago. In the future the carrying out of the system here indicated by the formation of districts in the Hawaiian and Philippine Islands would naturally follow, but for the present discussion the division above indicated is sufficient.
30. To each coast district should be assigned a section of the flotilla, consisting of at least seven boats, say one destroyer and six boats. For this there would be required 175 boats, which is not an excessive number towards which to build.
31. The commanding officer of the destroyer in each section should command the section, and only officers who have had practical experience in torpedo work and who are believers in the weapon should be selected for this duty.
32. The section commander should also command the district base. The purpose and nature of these bases are indicated in another section, and here it may only be stated that they should never be located at navy yards. Their great object will be set aside unless the section commanders can absolutely control them. A very few watchmen and laborers would need to be employed at each base.
33. The daily occupation of the flotilla in time of war is evidently a question which does not need discussion except as to tactics, and that point will be found covered in another section. Let us now proceed to the discussion of the stationing of the sections of the flotilla in time of peace.
34. To avoid sickness from climatic influences, the boats should come north in summer and go south in winter. This could be easily done without breaking up the flotilla sections by ordering two or more of them to the same district of coast for the season, each section to act as a unit, but the senior section commander to control them all.
35. Then, for purposes of instruction of personnel and preservation of material, section commanders should be required to keep their sections busy in legitimate work. Other senior officers should not be permitted to interfere, except at such times as the department should order one or more sections to report to the commander-in-chief of the heavy fleet for exercises.
36. It is not thought necessary to go into further elaboration of the details of this scheme. Its many advantages are manifest. Among them may be mentioned the ease with which two or more sections can generally be brought together. It would also be possible in many cases for one or more flotilla sections to deliver an attack from seaward upon a hostile fleet operating in another coast district.
37. As to the plea, which will doubtless be advanced, that we will never have enough boats for this division, the writer would say that any scheme is better than no scheme. He believes that the one here laid down is a consistent outline of the best methods of using the torpedo for coast defense, which he believes to be its legitimate field, and does not think that the number of boats mentioned will be in excess of the number that our navy will finally have. As soon as the boats now building are finished, the many voters employed in their construction will be certain to bring their influence to bear upon Congress for the purpose of having the construction of more boats authorized.
D. THE CARE AND PRESERVATION OF THE BOATS IN WAR AND PEACE.
38. The arguments advanced in the preceding sections make it almost unnecessary for the writer to state that he is most strongly of the opinion that there is but one way, either in peace or war, in which the torpedo-boat flotilla can be kept ready for duty on short notice, and that way is to keep all the boats constantly in service. The least dangerous modification of this method will be considered later in this paper, but for the present the discussion will be confined to the ideal condition indicated, that where all the boats are in commission with full complements at all times.
39. At the base of each district there should be proper wharves and storehouses. Each boat should have its own wharf and its own storerooms, to which the commanding officer should have the key. Thus each boat could have her supplies at hand, and yet the present overcrowded condition of the boats in regard to stores could be avoided. There should be barracks for the men, who should ordinarily live there, and a separate dormitory for each boat, with either separate messes or a common mess for all, as circumstances might show to be best. A separate building, with sleeping apartments and accommodations and mess arrangements for all the officers of the section should be arranged. Then, as in almost all foreign torpedo services, the officers and men could live under sanitary conditions, making such daily runs as might be desired for exercise, and living on board the boats for short periods during more extended runs to the limits of the coast district.
40. At each base there should be a coal shed with the best quality of coal in bags, so arranged that it could be carted to the wharves alongside the boats ready for speedy coaling. Fresh water connections should be established alongside each boat. A general storehouse at each base should also be maintained, where standard stores of all kinds should be kept on hand, together with a supply of such special stores as might be needed for each particular boat. This storehouse should be able to meet at once every possible want of each individual boat without the necessity of waiting for the accomplishment of a purchase. Every system of accounts or requisitions which in the slightest degree retards the supply of the boats should be changed at once. Torpedo-boat officers cannot keep books and handle returns and reports except to the extreme detriment of their legitimate work. A small machine-shop capable of doing torpedo repairs of moderate dimensions should be established at each base, where work could be done by the force of the boat needing it. It is thought that advantages would accrue by having the machinists who run the engines do as much as is possible of the repair work upon them. At each base there should be a dock or railway capable of taking from the water the largest destroyer, even were she in a sinking condition.
41. With the facilities herein recommended, commanding officers could with ease gain every sort of experience necessary, run their boats continuously to keep them in proper order without using them up, could oversee and direct such repairs as became necessary, and would have every facility for torpedo and gun practice.
E. THE PROPER TRAINING OF THE PERSONNEL.
42. We must bear in mind the delicacy of the mechanisms involved and the extreme difficulty of the service upon which the officers and men of the flotilla are to be sent. Each torpedo is an individual whose whims and fancies are only known to him who has watched and lived with that individual weapon for many days. Each boat is an individual, and a very highly strung one too, whose eccentricities of helm and general action must be learned by experience. Each engine is an individual whose peculiarities can be known only to those who have spent days and nights with it under all conditions. The cracking of some obscure and unnoticed valve, when the critical moment comes, may set at nought all efforts. The compasses all are individuals, many of which do not come far from being invalids (such uncompensated errors as 50 degrees are frequent), and only by the greatest familiarity with his own particular one can an officer hope to guide his boat aright through the darkness, rain or fog through which the attack should be delivered.
43. Imagine, then, an officer and crew sent aboard a strange boat to go out as soon as possible to the attack in the darkness and storm. The officer has no confidence in his compass, and if that boat has just come from reserve, his lack of confidence would undoubtedly be justified. The engineer's force are in constant doubt as to what they are doing, which is not conducive to steadiness on the part of men moving among such machinery as is found in the engine and fire-rooms of a torpedo-boat. The deck force have no idea as to what the torpedoes will take it into their heads to do when fired.
44. Is it right to so place officers and men who are willing and eager to risk their lives in the most dangerous form of attack known to modern warfare? Is the general feeling of strangeness and doubt which must prevail under these circumstances the proper atmosphere in which to send men out to such duty?
45. The answer is plain. Only after long familiarity with every detail of the individual boat and her outfit, the equipment, and armament, can officers and men justly be called upon to set forth upon that journey from which no man who starts can ever reasonably expect to return.
46. Therefore, most emphatically, boats should be kept in commission with officers and men on board at all times, and upon the outbreak of hostilities the greatest caution should be exercised that changes in the personnel may be reduced to a minimum. Exercise runs should be of almost daily occurrence, and should be taken under all possible conditions of weather, etc., at night as well as in the day-time. This also should be done in sections as for attack, and separate sections should be exercised in delivering the attack at a certain point simultaneously, as it would have to be done in actual service.
47. The question of training of officers as local pilots in the waters in which they are to operate is of the utmost importance, and by the plan here proposed officers could gain that knowledge to the utmost, each for his own district; and then in case of concentration on any particular district, there would always be competent pilots to lead the formation.
48. The torpedo-boat sections should also be frequently exercised with the heavy fleet, being placed temporarily under the orders of the commander-in-chief for that purpose. These exercises should include night attacks upon the fleet under service conditions and also co-operation with the fleet against an enemy.
F. CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH THE FLOTILLA MAY BE OF ASSISTANCE TO THE FLEET.
49. If a fleet leaves a blockaded port, or one threatened by the approach of an enemy, the torpedo flotilla could probably be of material assistance. Several boats could hang under the shelter of each large ship until the moment arrived for action. It is doubted, however, whether the boats would be able to get far in the day-time, even under such circumstances; they are too easily destroyed. Every argument would point to delivering an attack from a home port against a foreign enemy in pilotage waters at night, and then the boats would stand an excellent show of accomplishing something. In such a case, however, the plan of action must be clearly understood, and by the gun-pointers of the big ships as well as by their officers, for under the best of circumstances the torpedo-boats will be very apt to receive an occasional shot from their own ships.
50. Operations with the fleet at a distance from the base, it is believed, could only be successfully carried on under the conditions mentioned in section J, and the results of such operations are matters of grave doubt to the writer.
51. Any attempt to make the boats a part of the heavy squadron for general purposes will surely result in utter failure and the ruin at least temporarily of the boats. When called upon for the supreme test they will be found wanting, in all likelihood, and the blame will fall upon those officers and men who are risking their lives and reputations in this most hazardous calling instead of upon those in high places who order such action.
52. The flotilla could be of undoubted service in aiding the fleet to repulse an enemy who was endeavoring to force an entrance into a harbor. The tactics for this purpose would depend so much upon the topography and hydrography of the port that no general rules can be laid down, other than that the fullest advantage must be taken of all favorable points.
G. THE QUESTION OF SHIP'S TORPEDO-BOATS.
53. The tendency in our navy of late has been to do away with this form of launch, and this the writer believes to be a mistake. These boats can do what the regular flotilla cannot: they can go with the fleet under all circumstances, ready for use if the conditions proved favorable. They can deliver a very fair attack under certain conditions, which would be not unlikely to occur, and they would be invaluable as picket launches, etc.
54. The boat adopted for this service should be as fast as may be without sacrificing her seaworthy qualities, should be as large as can be handily carried and gotten in and out, should have a single central pivot tube on the fore and aft line on deck, and should not be called upon to carry air compressors or other unnecessary machinery. The torpedo should be placed aboard her ready for firing.
55. It would be an undoubted advantage for every fleet to have with it a torpedo depot and repair ship such as the English Vulcan, which would be a supply and repair ship for all torpedo material, and could carry half a dozen torpedo boats of a higher type than the regular vessels of war could accommodate.
56. Very stringent regulations in regard to the use of ship's boats should be passed. They should be exercised with their crews at every possible opportunity, and at the same time their use, even occasional, as steam launches should be most strictly forbidden.
H. MODIFICATION OF THE PRECEDING ARGUMENTS TO MAKE THEM APPLICABLE TO TORPEDO-BOAT DESTROYERS.
57. Fundamentally, the destroyer is built to cruise with and to act as an adjunct to the fleet, to repel torpedo-boat attacks, and to destroy the attacking boats. The writer finds it a little difficult to see how there is much chance for them to perform these legitimate duties in our navy. The type was called into being in Europe where the countries are so close together that a blockading fleet could easily take the destroyers with it, which would of course be an enormous advantage. The destroyers could there habitually cruise off the enemy's coast. On our part, with the possible exception of the English possessions to the north and of certain nations of no military importance to the south, our destroyers could never do this. The possibilities of getting them across the ocean in condition to work are practically nil. In the same way it seems very unlikely that they would ever be called upon to combat any boats of a higher type than those carried by big ships, for how are others to be brought to our coast?
58. Admitting that this argument is sound, our own destroyers will then be used more as torpedo-boats than for their theoretical purpose. They become with us simply torpedo-boats of a greater range of action, but that range is not great enough to take them far from their bases. Their tactics may then be considered as the same as those of the boats previously considered, only with the distance scale and that of ability to keep the sea in bad weather somewhat increased. The destroyers in a certain locality could be brought together to deliver an attack upon an enemy off the coast under circumstances of weather and distance which would bar the smaller boats from action, and such is believed to be their proper sphere of action in our navy.
I. THE USE OF TORPEDOES ON BOARD VESSELS NOT SPECIALLY DESIGNED THEREFOR.
59. The writer believes that torpedoes in unprotected positions on board ship are a source of danger great enough to more than compensate for any possible advantage that might accrue from their presence. On board vessels built for the special purpose this risk is a legitimate one which is of a necessity to be run, but it should not be taken on board larger ships except under very exceptional circumstances.
60. If a vessel be large enough to carry a couple of submerged tubes, torpedoes then become weapons which may be invaluable; and they should certainly be installed, for their presence in no way constitutes more than ordinary danger. In this connection it may be remarked that with such tubes it will be essential that the actual firing be done, without any intermediary, from the pointing station on deck, and also that the captain of a ship in action cannot possibly give the matter sufficient attention to do it himself. An experienced torpedo officer should be stationed where he can himself fire the torpedo at the proper moment, as shown by his own judgment, after having been notified by the captain that an opportunity for the use of the weapon is expected. The retention of above-water tubes and torpedoes without warheads on board regular war vessels for purposes of instruction and practice only, of course, does not affect the point at issue.
61. Under exceptional circumstances, where a weak vessel must face overwhelming odds, in defense of her own home ports for instance, it is recognized that the torpedo is the only weapon which can place the weak vessel on an equality with the strong one. In this case it is submitted that the weak vessel loses her own character and becomes distinctly a torpedo vessel, and advantage should be taken of torpedo tactics pure and simple in delivering the attack. Tubes for this purpose could be placed aboard any vessel on very short notice, and it is thought that the chance of such a condition arising is not sufficiently great to warrant other action than the mere consideration of the circumstances as here set forth. On board the larger vessels, where the room can easily be spared, the retention of a couple of tubes for practice is the adopted policy, and war-heads might be supplied to such ships. If they are, however, it should be understood they are for these forlorn hope tactics, and no captain should be subjected to censure because of their presence should he prefer to go into an ordinary action with them stowed away below.
J. THE USE OF BOATS AT DISTANCES FROM THEIR BASES. WHEN POSSIBLE AND HOW BEST ACCOMPLISHED.
62. It may sometimes happen that it is highly desirable to operate the boats at a distance from their base, in spite of the fact that only partial results are to be expected from such action. It should be distinctly understood that there is but one way in which anything can be done. That way is to have them accompanied by a repair and depot ship which can carry their weapons and help them to groom themselves at the end of the passage.
63. It is not believed that any successful results could be expected under the circumstances unless the boats could find smooth water at the end of the run for a long enough time to enable them to get in condition and rest the crews prior to the attack.
64. Almost every officer in the navy feels that he appreciates the severity of the service on board torpedo vessels; and all realize the fact that no crew, at the end of a long passage, would be in fit condition, without rest, to do justice to themselves or to their weapons.
65. Here again comes in the question of the adjustment of the gyroscope. Without it the torpedo is a weapon of very doubtful value, with it badly adjusted it is even worse than without it; with it in proper order the weapon is almost one of precision, and this advantage should not be thrown away; but how are we to tell on board ship whether it is in adjustment or not? There are two ways of telling, one by putting the machine in the adjusting stand on shore, and the other by running the torpedo for an exercise run. The writer knows no others.
K. MODIFICATIONS OF THE THEORETICALLY PERFECT SYSTEM MADE NECESSARY BY OUR LACK OF BOATS, OFFICERS AND MEN.
66. In every effort to lay out a consistent scheme of any kind in our service, we are met by the lack of means to carry it out, so that we always have to adapt our plans, which we are of course prone to consider the best, to the material available. So in this case our theoretical scheme (the main features of which the writer hopes to see in operation before his day is over) will have to be changed, probably, along the lines here indicated.
67. The less important coast districts should be included (for purposes of boat handling alone; their identity should never be forgotten, nor the effort to bring them into real being relaxed) in the neighboring districts.
68. The number of boats in a section must be reduced to five, or even three. In this case several sections should be frequently brought together for exercise. They would in time of peace be, more or less, together all the time, under the proposed arrangement.
69. The navy yards will have to be used as bases, but efforts should be made to relieve the flotilla, as far as may be, of the many papers and much routine of the big navy yards.
70. Where men and officers are lacking to keep all the boats going, a large crew should be assigned to each section, and they can go from boat to boat and care for them all, taking them out for exercise in turn. The writer wishes, in this connection to utter a most impassioned protest against the custom of laying these boats up with only the ordinary navy yard care. They cannot stand it, and the ruin of the flotilla will result if it is largely resorted to.
71. Here, as in some other parts of the paper, it does not seem necessary to go into further details. Those will adjust themselves as work progresses.
L. TYPES OF BOATS AND THEIR STANDARDIZATION.
72. In regard to the styles of boats most available for general service of the nature indicated, the writer recognizes but three types that can be advantageously employed. They are:
(a) Torpedo-boat destroyers.
(b) Torpedo-boats of the type described below.
(c) Torpedo-boats to be carried by ships.
73. The destroyers are here regarded, for our purposes, as the highest type of torpedo-boat, and their use has already been indicated. The ones we are now building are of a little over 400 tons displacement, a little under 250 feet long, about 24 feet beam, and a mean draft of about 6 1/2 feet, with a speed of about 30 knots. This seems a serviceable type for our purposes.
74. It is thought that the best type of torpedo-boat would be something between the Du Pont and the Morris. The Du Pont is rather long for easy handling, being 165 tons, 175 feet long, 17 3/4 feet beam, 4 3/4. feet mean draft, and 28.51 knots speed. The Morris is somewhat smaller than necessary, being 105 tons, 138 feet long, 15 1/2 feet beam, 4 feet mean draft, and 24 knots speed.
75. The writer believes that if a boat larger than the Du Pont is desired, it would be well to use a destroyer, and there is no object apparent in building smaller than the Morris. It is not thought that the Mackenzie would be any less distinguishable at night than the Morris, and the difference of draft is not of sufficient importance, in the writer's estimation, to warrant the loss of seaworthiness consequent upon the adoption of the smaller types.
76. The only argument the writer can find in favor of the Mackenzie, McKee, Talbot, Gwin class is that they can go through the canals. Under our present treaty with Great Britain, in regard to the maintenance of war vessels on the great lakes, this is perhaps an advantage. It is believed that the transportation of the larger boats by rail could easily be contrived in case of necessity, and it would certainly be a most wise thing if experiments in that direction could be carried on. This would at once do away with the one advantage possessed by the smaller boats. It may be said that in the two Herreshoff boats of this type (the Talbot and Gwin), which are beyond question the best of the four, their advantages in regard to capacity and weight are gained by the use of only a single boiler, which makes the boats so liable to a complete breakdown that they are not fitted for independent action of any sort. In other words the Herreshoff boats have been made unsafe in order to make them light and speedy.
77. The writer does not believe that standardization of types can be carried to the lengths that some authorities expect. It is not thought that the crew of one boat could transfer to even a sister boat and successfully operate her without previous experience with the particular vessel. The familiarity of the men with the particular boat they are to operate is thought to be of more importance than all the standardization possible, when coupled with a familiarity on the part of the officers with the other boats and officers of the section. Standardization is a most excellent thing, and the writer does not wish to be understood as decrying it, but a valve may be built just like another and still the two may be very individual in their action in such mechanisms as we are called upon to deal with in the torpedo business. Torpedoes cannot be so built that familiarity with a type will qualify a man to operate with certainty all the individuals of the type, and the same applies with more or less force to boilers, engines, etc.; and, last but not least, compasses.
78. In regard to speed, the writer doubts the advisability of building for such high speeds in small boats that weights have to be unduly reduced. It is thought that a sure 25 knots available on short notice, with solid, reliable machinery, is better than 30 knots which can possibly be attained but which brings with it a fair chance of breakdown. The length of time in which the extreme speed will be employed is not so very great, and the difference between twenty-five and twenty-eight knots, for that interval, will not amount to much. The Morris type, increased slightly in size, seems to be a good one.
79. The submarine boat is hardly far enough along for serious discussion, but the type certainly offers the perfection of coast-defense torpedo work. The Holland Company seems to have a very good boat, but further trials are awaited with interest.
80. In this connection it may be well to refer to what are known as the "freaks" of the navy. After a careful examination of the Katandin, the writer believes her to be a most valuable adjunct to the harbor-defense fleet. As a part of a night attack upon blockading vessels, which must of necessity be at a low headway, a vessel of her type (with more speed if possible) would be a most dangerous factor. Presenting in the approach almost no target, what there is being eighteen-inch armor, and hence impenetrable to secondary battery shell, and with the low chance of a hit from heavy guns at night, it is firmly believed that an attack would stand every chance of success. Certainly with several of that type in New York harbor, together with say twenty torpedo-boats, all in the hands of determined officers and men who are thoroughly familiar with their weapons, the chances of occasionally striking one of an enemy's fleet in the neighborhood would be most excellent, and the presence of such a flotilla would be a most powerful deterrent upon hostile action, to say nothing of the drag it would be upon the hostile personnel.
81. The Vesuvius has yet to prove her usefulness, but it would be of interest to try a torpedo-boat with one of these guns on board so arranged that great range is not sought; in other words, to take the weapon out of the gun class and regard it as a torpedo of superior range and accuracy.
M. TYPES OF TORPEDOES.
82. Prior to the adoption of the Obry gear, the writer was a believer in the Howell torpedo, because it undoubtedly ran through to the point for which it was aimed, something which no other torpedo could be depended upon to do. Now, however, the gyroscopic steering gear gives to the compressed air torpedo practically all the advantages of the Howell, while retaining its own particular good points.
83. The Whitehead and the Schwartzkopff are the two best known and most successful automobile torpedoes; and, without discussing the relative merits of the two, it may be said that a torpedo can now be made use of in service which shall carry about 130 pounds of explosive at a speed of 30 knots for 800 yards with extreme accuracy under all conditions of firing (provided the weapon is in proper order) with an initial air-flask pressure of 1500 pounds per square inch, and which will run accurately for 1000 yards at a speed of 28 knots. The difficulty of keeping the gyroscope in adjustment has been touched upon elsewhere. With it, the torpedo can be launched, from a fixed submerged tube for example, and then be made to change its course after firing and take up any desired direction within reasonable limits. These statements are of what has already been done and not of possibilities. It will be seen, therefore, that the torpedo, within the limits claimed for it in this paper, has made great strides towards becoming a weapon of precision, and is no longer a thing which the enemy can afford to disregard.
N. THE BEARING UPON THE ABOVE STATEMENTS OF THE LESSONS OF THE SPANISH WAR.
84. It is believed that the arguments herein advanced are all borne out by the occurrences of the late war with Spain.
85. The Spanish torpedo-boat flotilla went to the Cape Verde Islands, and there the scheme of bringing the smaller boats across had to be abandoned. The idea was wild from the beginning. The three destroyers came over with the fleet and were from the start a drawback and not an advantage, and when they arrived one of them had to be left in Martinique broken down. The other two were in doubtful condition. Whenever they appeared before our ships in the day-time they were quickly put out of action, and they never did come out at night. So they really accomplished nothing. The conditions at Santiago were exceptional, in that our fleet was allowed to keep the only exit, a very narrow one, brightly lighted at night. That the inertia of the forts allowed these conditions to prevail and the destroyers were therefore unable to even attempt anything is no just argument that under proper conditions they could not have done their work. No fleet could keep a proper flotilla from coming out of New York harbor for instance, and the presence of such a force within would certainly have the very greatest effect upon the conduct of the blockade. The writer is firmly convinced that the successful torpedoing of a large ship under these circumstances would be no infrequent occurrence.
86. From our own point of view in the war, the fact that the torpedo-boats cannot be used as cruisers and despatch-boats and blockaders and still retain their efficiency was amply proven. The fact that a few of the boats were carried through the war without breakdown owing to the superhuman efforts of their personnel and other causes does not lessen the force of the argument. In the same way the fact that the boats did not go into the narrow harbor of an enemy, facing certain destruction from the heavy boom that was certainly to be found across the entrance, is no proof that they could not have come out of their own harbor. In point of fact, by the time the thing could have been attempted, our flotilla was so broken down by other uses that it would have been very hard to have gotten together a sufficient number of boats to make the effort.
O. GENERAL SUMMING UP.
87. To sum up, it may be said that under the circumstances here pointed out as favorable for torpedo warfare, with the modern types of the weapon, the writer is confident that success is more than likely to follow a daring effort by experienced men. To have men and implements always at the highest point of efficiency should be our great aim, and this cannot be done except by keeping the vessels in commission and their personnel at work.
88. As has been said before, there seems now to be no definite scheme or policy laid out, and it is hoped that criticism of the points here set forth may develop something towards which we can look as an ideal and which we can struggle to attain.
89. And here it may be of interest to give some historical facts as to the use of the automobile torpedo. Full accounts of the actions may be found in "Ironclads in Action," by H. W. Wilson, and there it will be seen that the results here given have been generally attained under disadvantageous circumstances. Of course the weapons employed were in no case fitted with the gyroscopic steering gear.
90. May 29, 1877, the English Shah fired one Whitehead torpedo at the Peruvian Huascar, but it had not power enough to run the distance.
91. December 27, 1877, the Russian Tchesme fired a Whitehead torpedo at the Turkish Mahmoodieh, and the weapon ran straight but exploded before reaching the target. The Russian Sinope fired another at the same time, but it failed to explode.
92. January 25 1878, the Russian Tchesme and Sinope fired one Whitehead torpedo each at the Turkish guard ship at the entrance to the harbor of Batoum, both of which exploded under and sank the Turkish vessel.
93. January 27, 1891, a torpedo launch from the Chilian Blanco, in revolt, fired a Whitehead at the Balmacedist armed steamer Imperial, but missed her.
94. April 23, 1891, the Chilian government vessels Lynch and Conde11 attacked the revolutionary fleet in Caldera Bay and fired five Whitehead torpedoes, one of which sank the Blanco Encalada.
95. May 14, 1891, the Conde11 and the Lynch again attempted to surprise the revolutionary ships, but could not get near enough to fire.
96. April 4, 1894, the Brazilian government vessels Gustavo Sampaio, Alfonso Pedro, Pedro Ivo and Silvado attempted an attack on the revolutionary flag-ship Aquidaban, but were repulsed before they got within torpedo range. The next night they tried again, and one of the four torpedoes fired sunk their adversary.
97. July 25, 1895, the Japanese claim that in time of peace the Chinese Tsi Yuen treacherously fired a torpedo at the Naniwa, but missed her. The Chinese deny, and probably truthfully, that this ever occurred.
98. September 17, 1894, at the battle of the Yalu, the Chinese fired several torpedoes, but all missed.
99. January 30, 1895, sixteen Japanese boats attacked the Chinese fleet in Wei-hai-wei, but failed.
100. February 4, 1895, at the same place, the same attempt was repeated, and again failed.
101. February 5, 1895, the attempt was again made, and as a result the Ting Yuen, Wei Yuen and Lai Yuen were sunk at once, and the Ching Yuen was so disabled that she sank not long after.
102. It is seen here, leaving out the doubtful case in which the Japanese claim a breach of peace by the Tsi Yuen, and followed it up by a savage attack on her, that out of eleven attacks, four succeeded, resulting in the destruction of seven vessels. And this was with weapons far inferior to those of to-day and under adverse circumstances, as a rule. The moral is that there are immense possibilities in the torpedo, and we cannot afford to neglect them. We must have a policy and must follow it, and the sooner the service awakes to a fuller appreciation of the chances offered by this weapon the better we shall be prepared with a warm reception for any hostile visitors to our coast.