(SEE No. 145, P. 41.)
COMMANDER W. W. PHELPS, U. S. Navy.—Lieutenant Commander Knox has clearly analysed the effect of defective naval discipline; preventing, as it surely must do all the way up the ranks and grades, the understanding of how to command correctly. He has given us manifestations of our cumbersome and complicated system, and, in the remedy he proposes, he has gone far; but it would not appear that he has gone entirely to the bottom of the trouble. We should first get at the root of our disease, then his excellent remedy would have healthy tissue to build on. The situation in the Navy to-day has its parallel in the volumes of enactments congresses and legislatures pass year after year to cure trusts and monopolies—the products of a fundamentally vicious and unnatural economic system, while they do nothing to correct the vicious and unnatural economic system whose natural offspring are those same oppressive monopolies.
It is a striking thing that all studies of the principles that should underlie us as a Navy, with the notable exception of the studies of Mahan, largely draw their precepts from the land campaigns of great generals. Why is this? It seems to be because we must necessarily study organizations and systems that are through and through military in methods, in spirit, and in relationships, if we are to draw from the study of warfare things of value to our profession. Why is it, that in all the hundred and twenty-four years of the existence of the Navy, the spirit of the service, which in all these generations has been handed down, has lacked the simple, sound military principles of the initiative and command so ably formulated by the essayist? It seems to be because the Navy has never yet been founded on the principles of military command and military relationship. The industrial foundation of the Navy is a foundation of sand. The military foundation of the Navy will be a foundation of rock. Therefore, if we are going to be able to correctly apply lessons, so as to evolve the excellent doctrine the essayist advocates, it would seem that we must first organize so that our very organization, methods and relationships are thoroughly military down to the smallest units, " . .. down to the corporal's guard, ...," as the essayist (page 42) quotes from Hamley. And does not the essayist quote (page 56) Wilkinson, who says: "The two functions of directing the movements so as to secure victories, and of managing the great business concern, have little in common ... "? We must drive the industrial spirit into the background of the Navy and bring the military spirit into the foreground of the Navy.
The essayist gives under his Rule I (page 59) the almost perfect outline of navy organization, namely: "Fleets. Squadrons. Divisions. Ships. Ship departments. Ship divisions. Squads." And note this essential— "Every group shall have a commander whose duties and responsibilities shall be clearly defined and understood." Without military relationships, without the command responsibility, confided to the group commander even to the smallest unit, we will fail in the fundamental outline of the organization. The "initiative" must underlie the very spirit of the system. The young officer, just graduated, must be in the atmosphere of the training in "initiative" at the very start, because his training begins in the simple command of a few "squads"; and if there is no military command by which he can impress his will on the elements of the small units, and thus at the outset learn (page 41) "the power to accomplish" his "will . . . through the co-ordinated efforts of the several units of the command," then he passes, at the beginning of his career, from the military atmosphere of the Naval Academy, where he learned that the smallest units had military command over them, into the industrial atmosphere of the ship, where he himself has to handle all the details connected with the elements of the "squad" in his "group," when he should command the "squad" commanders, and through them command the elements of the "squads." But this will never become indoctrinated as the military relations of junior officer to petty officer, or of petty officer to man, so long as we continue to express, in marines on board ship, that the marines, only, are expected to have the military occupations and military relationships. Methods and customs instilled into an officer in early youth, are followed by him throughout his whole career.
This whole proposition of organization would seem to be so paramount, so fundamental, that until we have our navy organization on a simple military basis, all remedies proposed for ills growing out of incorrect organization will not bear the fullest fruit. Lieutenant King's prize essay for 1909 contains, in his unit idea, the germ of the ideally correct organization. Having arrived at a substantial homogeneity in our battleships and destroyers, there should be no trouble in reforming all the complements as to ratings—regarding certain differently named ratings in the sense of allied trades for simplicity's sake—and numbers, on the basis of a similar unit principle, with a probable decrease in total complement per ship. But with our vast number of ratings and trades, with our complicated and varying ships' organizations, with the industrial spirit dominant everywhere, without a reasonable margin in the number of men allowed the establishment, there are, at present, almost insurmountable obstacles to any military organization so homogeneous as to afford us the soil in which to cultivate "unity of action." We should constantly aim for uniformity and simplification (amalgamation). Really we should aim to simplify Lieutenant Commander Knox's outline so as to merge "Ship departments" and "Ship divisions" into one. But standing in the way, we come against industrial relationships displacing military relationships. There is, on board ship, a peace time organization of departments and divisions which yields to the industrial needs, and it is in this relationship that officers and men, day after day, fall in at quarters, by divisions. Then, very occasionally, we break up the industrial organization and distribute men and officers into a battle organization in which we come into military relationships once a week—if we have the good fortune to have "general quarters" even once a week. Is it any wonder that naval industrialism dominates? Now when we amalgamate paymasters, we will not be hurting anybody's feelings to distribute and organize officers and men in the battle organization which will also be, as of course it should be, the day to day organization by which the military association of officers and men is kept foremost in their minds; something like this: The paymaster to command the ammunition division, the surgeon the first aid division (including stretchermen), the ordnance officer the fire control and torpedo division, the navigating officer the ship control and signal division (including radio communication), the first lieutenant the repair division (repair parties and deck parties), and the executive the gun divisions. In the ship organization at present the first lieutenant, the navigating officer, the ordnance officer and the paymaster, day by day, have little or no military relationship to the organization at all.
Incorrect organization based on industrial necessities is at the bottom of (page 48) "(2) Juniors lack proper elementary military instruction and fail to truly appreciate the military necessity for unqualified support of, and loyalty to authority. (3) There is lacking that mutual confidence . . . (4) The task of each person is not always clearly defined. . . .
That (page 52) "(c) There is no well-defined doctrine of command—no codified set of rules governing the relations between seniors and juniors," is to a great extent the cause of an unfortunate tendency, yielding to the pressure of industrial necessities, toward obliterating the principles of "Rank, command and duty." In the Atlantic Reserve Fleet the battleships have run along under the nominal command of officers ranging in rank all the way from commander down to lieutenant; nominally, the executives range from lieutenant-commander to junior grade lieutenant; nominally, the senior engineers range from lieutenant to machinist. In our Monthly Navy List, one finds on recruiting duty, officers ranging in rank from captain to lieutenant; one finds on inspection duty under. Bureau of Ordnance, officers ranging in rank from captain to gunner; one finds on inspection duty under the Bureau of Steam Engineering, officers ranging in rank from rear-admiral down to machinist.
The essayist's Rule VI is rather sweeping. We have had war games furnished to our wardrooms some years now, but experience shows that our life afloat is so strenuous that human nature, especially in youth, wants and needs relaxation from professional tasks. Youthful officers, while perhaps they should read Von Spohn on the Art of Command, might not be required to read Henderson and Vonder Goltz and Griepenkerl, and be made to attend ship meetings and discussions involuntarily. (The write is sorry to admit that he has not yet caught up with all this excellent reading.) All the elementary principles of the Art of Command might be compiled into a midshipman's hand book and studied and applied on the practice cruises. Youth and middle age have different standpoints, different thoughts, different ideas, different aspirations, different recreations; this must be recognized in every organization whether civil or military. Ensigns and young lieutenants will get their training in "initiative" in their own spheres, provided the organization and system are once founded on military necessities. Middle aged officers should take all the essayist's rules well to heart, in order that this excellent doctrine should go into the spirit of the service, and thus be handed down. A military system will engender a desire to study military writers voluntarily, while the system of naval industrialism will continue as heretofore to breed the average young officer to regard the reading of military philosophy as irksome. But be that as it may, there are fine principles laid down by the essayist. His differentiation of "Orders" from "Instructions" is especially excellent; and it serves to point out, that "Instructions" for the juniors who should learn to handle details with service uniformity are best promulgated in "manuals"; and the time appears to have come when there is so much chaos as to warrant the promulgation of a manual covering the ordinary everyday life on board ship. "Different ships, different ways," is as old as the hills, and has been inseparable from naval industrialism. The essayist points out how wide these differences have become. Should these differences really exist in a military organization? They should not if we are to get "unity of action." They will not if we get on the foundations of a military organization; and the first step toward getting on a military foundation is to take the marines out of our complements.
LIEUT COMMANDER H. E. YARNELL, U. S. Navy.—Lieutenant Commander Knox, U. S. Navy, deserves great credit for having described in a clear and concise, and yet forcible manner, a condition of affairs which has existed in our naval service for a number of years.
The great body of American citizens are prone to regard adequate military preparedness as unnecessary, probably due to temperament and to the instruction received in youth from the so-called "histories" which omit all reference to defeats and national mistakes, and enlarge upon the victories.
It is needless to remark that such an attitude of mind should not exist in a corps of military men and it is probably true that most officers in the naval service are fully cognizant of its excellencies and deficiencies. Unfortunately the service is permeated with the national belief that all ills are cured by legislation, and that efficiency will result by act of Congress. This is permissible when it can be truly stated that further increase in efficiency under existing conditions is not possible.
As but a short time has elapsed in our service since the initiation of a method of military instruction which was developed in Prussia, and put to the test of a successful war nearly half a century ago, it is reasonable to believe that a field exists for the increase of efficiency, which requires no additional legislation. No one can read this essay and believe otherwise.
The readiness for war of the naval service would be greatly increased if there existed in the country a number of competent civilian critics as is the case in Great Britain. But the greatest assistance of all would come from a more general understanding by the people of the United States of the true relations between national welfare and national defense.
This could be brought about in a generation by the introduction in our public school curriculum of the following books: "The Military Policy of the United States," by Upton; "Sea Power in its Relations to the War of 1812," by Mahan. There are others, but these are sufficient to indicate clearly the depths of humiliation and degradation experienced by our nation through lack of adequate preparation for defense.
In the meantime the naval service can do no better than follow the advice given by Admiral Mahan to the War College class in 1888: "I will sound again the note of warning against that plausible cry of the day which finds all progress in material advance, disregarding that noblest sphere in which the mind and heart of man, in which all that is God-like in man, reign supreme; and against that temper which looks not to the man but to his armor. And indeed, gentlemen of the Navy, if you be called upon some day to do battle, it will be for the country to see that your weapons are fit and your force respectable; but upon your own selves, under God, must you rely to do the best with the means committed to your charge. For that discharge you will be responsible, not to the country only, but to your own conscience; which will condemn you if, in the eager curiosity to know how your weapons are manufactured, you have neglected to prepare yourself for their use in war."
The essayist has clearly stated the necessity for and a method of making a broad step in this direction.
LIEUT. COMMANDER W. C. WATTS, U. S. Navy.—Lieutenant Commander Knox is certainly to be congratulated and thanked for his valuable essay on "Trained Initiative and Unity of Action," and it is believed that his scholarly presentment of the theories involved, and the pertinent historical precedents, will go far with all his readers toward remedying faults that have long existed in our service, but that only in comparatively recent years have been brought under scrutiny by the increasing complexities of naval warfare.
While considering that the analysis by the essayist of our present system of command is perhaps somewhat unduly uncomplimentary, there is no doubt that the majority of the summarized faults are to a great extent traceable to our lack of a more scientific and thoroughly understood code.
However, I do not think that it is a fair conclusion to blame the "spirit of hostile criticism towards those in authority," set forth under (a), primarily on the present system, for this deplorable, yet recognized, frailty of human nature will inevitably rise to be combated by any system of command, and will thrive only in so far as inherent and perfectly apparent abuses of any system are permitted to exist.
Furthermore, although agreeing emphatically with the explanation of the harmful effects of the faults set forth under (d) and (e), I believe these are matters capable of correction without necessarily involving any radically new code of official life.
The fact that the United States is essentially a non-military country causes, I think, some need in peace time for a more highly centralized authority, particularly in the relations of the Department to the fleets, with us, than is required where opposition to the Navy is not so frequently encountered. If there were in this country a well-educated public Understanding of the reason and needs of the Navy, and a cordial support by the legislative branch of the logical requirements for its development and efficiency, many of the present violations of a theoretically correct code of command would be easily eliminated.
This leads to the distinction that should be made between the relations existing within a fleet, and those between the Department and the very numerous officers in supreme command, afloat and ashore, all over the world, who look to the Secretary of the Navy for instructions. Although in some ways it appears as an anomaly, yet it is felt that great difficulty will be experienced in bringing these to a sufficient degree of similarity to permit of the application to both of the same rules. Any steps in the right direction in the fleet should certainly be enlightening to the Department, and official cognizance by the Secretary of the importance of the subject would assist throughout the service.
The broad subject of "the initiative of the subordinate" is really the keynote of the essay, and the labors of the Naval War College have brought this question to the careful consideration of many officers in recent years. Graphic representations, recitals of existing conditions, but above all actual failures in tactical and strategical games have impressed upon the students at recent conferences the importance of developing such intelligent initiative, yet the question always arises: "But how can we start?"
I was so fortunate as to be permitted to study some preliminary notes by the essayist on this subject about a year ago, and I then felt that the most practical step toward a uniform understanding of the duties of officers afloat would be a standardization of organizations on board ship, so that throughout the service the same conditions of responsibility for certain duties would be found. Numerous boards have been appointed and much good should follow.
After carefully studying the corrective measures suggested by the essayist, I am led to the opinion that the mere promulgation of a Departmental policy to adopt a certain doctrine, consisting of brief rules in general terms, of which the spirit of several may already be said to be in force, would not result in that intelligent cooperation essential to success. Without amplification, the reason for so unusual an order would not be understood by the vast majority; and in some cases it would be resented as a "new fangled notion," as is sometimes the fate of other equally meritorious evolutions of science. In fostering regard for new principles, frank and open appeal to the reason of the masses has been found to be the most efficacious treatment; the same applies to the Navy, and I believe any effort to compel immediate adoption of a necessarily rather intangible and undescribable doctrine would jeopardize the ultimate success of this most highly desirable process of gradual evolution.
I would therefore prefer to see a pamphlet prepared to include very much the same matter as is found in the essay under discussion, but arranged in somewhat different form toward the end so as to avoid the semblance of iron-clad rules; this pamphlet to be issued to the service with the approval of the Secretary and with his earnest exhortation that all offices make their best efforts to effect the change with the least confusion. The great desirability of the matter could not fail to be apparent to all, if presented as admirably as is done by the essayist, and I think the service could be relied upon to work out its own salvation, under the exhortation of the Department, until, at some later date, when general opinion is well crystallized, it might be possible to cover the case with definite and precise orders.
As stated at the outset, but more emphasized by my later remarks, I feel that the wide circulation among the readers of the Institute of this excellent essay by Lieutenant Commander Knox will of itself do a great amount of good in spreading the doctrine that we all so much need, and that accordingly he is duly deserving of the thanks of all truly interested in the efficiency of the service.