Honorable Mention, 1914
Motto: The interests of the Nation predominate all others
As the nation has grown the navy has grown until the naval appropriations made for the present fiscal year exceed one hundred and forty millions of dollars; and yet, with this large sum, the greatest peace appropriation for naval purposes in our history, only one ship of the first line was provided for.
During the past summer, in estimating and apportioning the resources of the country under the new tariff law, Senator Simmons for the Senate, in a tentative allotment of funds, allotted one hundred and forty-five millions of dollars to the navy, and Representative Underwood of the House one hundred and forty-eight millions for the coming fiscal year. These sums are enormous and only a very few years ago would have appalled all the people of the country. Even at the present day they stagger many thinking men; and there is a not inconsiderable, and possibly growing, number of people throughout the country asking, Why this great expenditure? and, Is the nation getting a fair return for the money expended?
With such an expenditure as authorized for the present fiscal year, and only one capital ship added to the fleet, it is difficult to frame answers to these questions which will satisfy reasonable men. That naval expenses increase as the navy increases with the growth of the nation is axiomatic. But, does the sea power of the nation, as represented by the fleet, increase proportionately with the growth of the nation and with the money appropriated? That is a question that may well come to any thinking man when he considers the aggregate of the appropriations for the past two years in connection with the fact that for each of these years only one battleship was added to the fleet. This question will come with even stronger force should either of the sums mentioned above as tentatively allotted be appropriated for naval purposes during the present session of Congress, and again only one battleship be provided for.
While nothing, created and managed by human agency can be made absolutely perfect, the writer of this essay believes that great improvements can be made in existing conditions, and the nation given a fairer return in sea power for the money expended, by changes in methods of legislation that are practicable, and by following a systematic policy of expenditure for the money appropriated.
There are, at the present time, approximately ninety-three millions of dollars per annum of the total naval appropriation that may be called a fixed charge, and this is increasing from year to year. The expenditure of this, while supporting the navy in its present state, does not maintain or add to the sea power of the nation. If by any system or policy any portion of these fixed charges can be diverted to the improvement or increase of the fleet, a great gain will have been attained; and there is no subject that should be of greater interest, not only to the navy itself, but to every lover of the navy and to every taxpayer of the country, than any system or policy that will tend to reduce fixed charges for the benefit of the fleet, and so to attain the greatest sea power possible within the limits of the available funds.
Originality for all that will be advanced here is not claimed. The arguments and reasons given are the fruits of many years of study and thought, and of many discussions and interchanges of views with leading officers of the navy and others having the best interests of the nation and of the navy at heart.
Up to the present time it cannot be said that any policy has governed the growth and development of our shore establishment to the state in which it exists today. Beginning with the sail period, when the country was sparsely settled and struggling for its existence, when land communication was of the crudest and most difficult, and land transportation for bulky and heavy freight impracticable, and manufacturing in its infancy, navy yards were first established to meet the conditions of the day, where populations were more centered and material more available and convenient. As the country has grown and expanded other stations have been added to the establishment by the same natural laws, assisted by the local desires of different communities to have large government plants established within their limits, with the consequent large expenditures of government money among the people of those communities.
Once established, continuation of existing shore stations has been along the line of least resistance. Yards which may have been valuable fifty or a hundred years ago may be valueless now with the changed conditions both in ship construction and in ship capabilities. Where in a given area fifty or a hundred years ago lack of transportation and facilities may have required two or more stations, one may suffice now. Where the crude needs of a century ago may have planted a station to meet a local and restricted condition, that station may be so situated as to be useless for the greater needs of the great fleets of today with their wider range of action. Yet, however useless for the maintenance of the fleet an already established yard may have proved, there is a natural hesitation on the part of the government to abandon a plant representing large previous expenditures; and there is, invariably an equally natural strong opposition to such abandonment on the part of the local communities surrounding the plant, whose viewpoint is colored, both by self-interest and by local as opposed to national interests.
The various shore stations, thus, have come into being to meet the needs of the moment, as expediency or sectional interest dictated, and not in accordance with any comprehensive well-digested plan following a policy looking to the best good of the whole nation.
Lacking such a policy, the naval shore establishment of today presents, as a whole, the aspect of a makeshift, an attempt to meet present-day requirements with a plant established under entirely different circumstances, and, like all makeshifts, conduces to waste of public funds, and fails to ensure that maximum preparedness for war which the people as a whole have a right to demand.
All this has been a natural evolution, and must be one of the great elements to be taken into consideration in the formulation of any policy for the guidance of the future. The establishment as it exists today is the groundwork on which we must build, and no immediate and abrupt change is either possible or probable. But our best thought and endeavor should be given to the problem of evolving from what we now have, and being always guided by the fundamental underlying principles involved, a policy for guidance hereafter which will eventually give to the nation all they have a right to expect—the maximum of effective sea power for the moneys appropriated for naval purposes.
The branch of naval policy here under consideration covers the entire shore establishment, from the central administration in the Navy Department to the farthest base or naval station. Any intelligent conception or discussion of it should be founded on the basic principle that the entire shore establishment exists solely for, and is an adjunct to, the fleet. It is on this conception that all the following discussion is based.
The sea power of a nation is measured by two elements: first, the strength and power of its fleet; second, the ability of the nation to maintain this fleet in the theater of operations in a condition of readiness to use its strength and deliver its power. The first of these—the primary element—is not the subject of this paper. It is to deal with the second that this is written, and endeavor will be made to outline a policy which will lead to a maximum of maintenance ability, as necessary for effective war as the existence of the fleet, at a minimum of cost to the people.
The desire of the people for an adequate navy, as expressed in the platforms of all political parties, leaves no doubt as to their attitude. Congress will always respond to the wishes of the people and provide the necessary appropriations, when they can see and know that the appropriations are producing the result desired. The producing of this result—an adequate navy—at a reasonable cost necessitates the using of the appropriations provided in such a way as to produce the greatest sea power that can be obtained within that limit of cost. The basic principle enunciated above—the subordination of the shore establishment to the fleet—gives the rule by which Congress should be guided in apportioning moneys in drawing the naval appropriation bills, and the department in disbursing those moneys, viz.: with a given and sufficient appropriation for all naval purposes, to obtain the greatest sea power, the maximum amount of the appropriation possible should be put into the construction of the greatest fleet that can be maintained with the remainder.
This requires, for the production of the maximum sea power at a given cost, the reduction of this remainder to the minimum consistent with efficient maintenance; and this entails the greatest efficiency and the greatest economy on the maintenance side of the navy, or in the shore establishment. For, if the money of the people be wisely appropriated with the object of obtaining the greatest sea power attainable with the amount appropriated, and the appropriation bills be so drawn that the money can be used to the best advantage, then every dollar uselessly expended on shore is just so much deducted from the funds available for the increase of the fleet, and by that much curtails the nation's sea power.
Efficiency and economy flow from good organization and administration, combined with concentration of effort and the elimination of all useless parts; and it is a recognized principle in business organization that diffusion of effort and unnecessary duplication and extension of plants are uneconomic and wasteful.
The logical conclusion from the foregoing may be summed up in the statement that good policy demands business organization and concentration of effort; or, as applied to the navy, good policy, from the economic point of view, demands that the shore establishment of the navy shall consist of the fewest number of highly organized elements possible and consistent with the efficient maintenance of the fleet.
This—which we may call the economic principle—provides us with one of the fundamental principles on which our naval policy should be based.
To arrive at the next requires an extensive knowledge of history and strategy, and a careful and exhaustive study of our own national policies and aspirations—both political and commercial—and of the policies and aspirations of other nations whose interests run parallel to or conflict with ours. To this must be added exhaustive geographic studies, from a strategic point of view, covering all the approaches to our own coasts and to our outlying possessions, and all foreign possessions from which those approaches may be threatened. Years of thought and study along these lines have convinced the writer that for the protection of our outlying possessions, of our natural trade routes, and of our own continental coasts themselves, our interests—and, in the case of a war with a nation possessing a strong navy, even our self-preservation—require that we possess a navy sufficiently strong to dominate the Western North Atlantic (including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico) and the Northern Pacific. The word "dominate," as here used, means the having and being able to maintain in the areas to be dominated a superiority of force over any force that is likely to be brought against it. Any less force than this is inadequate and effort largely wasted, since it leaves our detached possessions, Porto Rico, the Panama Canal, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines, open to capture, our foreign trade to destruction and our own coasts to direct attack.
From this follows the second fundamental principle—which we may call the strategic principle—that should govern our naval policy; and, as applied to the shore establishment, may be expressed in the words: Our naval bases and arsenals should be sufficient in number to maintain the fleet in war, and so located as to insure us naval supremacy in the Western North Atlantic (including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico) and in the Northern Pacific.
The two fundamental principles enunciated above, the strategic and the economic, combined with the groundwork furnished by the existing shore establishment, provide all the elements necessary for the deduction of a national naval policy; but before proceeding with the development of the details of the policy which flow from them, a number of definitions will be given, in order to clarify the discussion and avoid the confusion that has so often existed in previous discussions from a misapplication of names and a confusion of terms.
A naval base is, generically, a place from which a fleet can operate and be maintained. Its requisites for the right performance of its functions are: Position, strength, resources.
A naval base may be of two kinds, one a fixed or permanent base; the other a movable or advanced base. With the latter this discussion has no concern, since such bases are temporary in character, and their number, location and strength are questions of the immediate strategy and tactics of the campaign producing them, and not questions of national naval policy.
Permanent naval bases are the fixed naval bases of the country, and their numbers, locations and character are questions of national policy and grand strategy; and in fixing these numbers, locations and character the principles of this policy and strategy should be followed, to the end that these bases will meet every need of the fleet in war for as far into the future as can be humanly foreseen.
Permanent naval bases may be of three classes: Home bases, outlying bases and subsidiary bases.
A home base is a base within the continental territory of the country from which the fleet can effectively operate and be maintained, supplied and upkept at all times in peace and war. The base, in this sense, is a region rather than a spot. Its necessary elements are a harbor of sufficient size, an ample population in the immediate vicinity of the harbor for a labor supply, a navy yard or arsenal with docks, shops, etc., on the harbor for repair and upkeep, a surrounding contributing territory with efficient communications for general supply, and all of these behind adequate fixed defences independent of the fleet. Neither the harbor, the population or city, the navy yard or arsenal, the most ample supplies nor the most adequate defences, alone, or in any combination, except the combination of them all, constitute a home base. They are each and all necessary elements of such a base; and with any of them lacking the base is incomplete, for the fleet cannot freely operate from it, but will be hampered, delayed or tied to the defense of its base, and not free to perform its true function—the gaining and controlling the mastery of the sea.
An outlying base is a permanent naval arsenal without the continental limits of the country on an outlying possession, and should be designed to be an impregnable point of support from which the fleet can operate in war, and from which it can be subsisted for limited periods in war. Its elements differ from those of a home base in degree rather than kind. Its harborage, supply of both labor and material, and repair and upkeep facilities may be less, but its defences should be equal or greater.
A subsidiary base is a base that contains all the elements of a home base in lesser degrees, and which, while not capable of supporting the fleet, may support lesser elements or portions of it.
A navy yard, or arsenal, is a docking, repair and supply station for the fleet. It is always a necessary element of any permanent naval base, but neither does nor can, of itself, constitute a naval base in any sense, though so generally confused with one.
A fortified port is a port whose approaches are guarded. It may or may not contain repair facilities. Within such ports ships may take refuge, or from them minor operations may be launched in war. Unless they contain all the elements, they are in no sense naval bases, though, like navy yards, they are often spoken of as such.
The above definitions have been given at some length in order to emphasize and bring out strongly the absolutely necessary requisites of naval bases as distinguished from navy yards and fortified ports, with which they are so loosely and so generally confounded in the public mind, and sometimes even in the professional mind.
THE AIM OF POLICY
The ideal of a shore establishment would be a central administration, or Navy Department, organized for war, with an efficient naval (military) staff, and with its material, offices and divisions organized for administration and supply as in war; a system of schools and stations for the education and training of officers and men and for scientific naval experiment; and a system of bases, home, outlying and subsidiary, sufficient in number to fully maintain the fleet, and so located as to give the fleet control over the areas required by our national interests, and only this number.
Such an establishment represents the goal towards which we should strive and towards which our policy should be shaped. The attainment of that part of the aim, however, which relates to the organization of the Navy Department and the interior administration and conduct of business in the offices of the department, in the schools and in the bases themselves, are questions of administrative reform rather than of policy, and will not be dealt with here. But the questions of the number, location and character of bases are questions of pure policy and strategy, and will be treated in order at some length.
As stated before, the groundwork from which we must build is what we already have. As defined, we have now no completely developed home bases. We have navy yards or naval stations at Portsmouth, N. H., Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Charleston, S. C., Key West, Pensacola, and New Orleans on the East Coast and Gulf, and at Mare Island and Bremerton on the West Coast. Starting with these as a foundation, and with the two fundamental principles already deduced as guides—the "economic," or principle of means, and the "strategic," or principle of objective—how many and where should our home bases be?
The principle of economy calls for the establishment of the least number of home bases that will maintain the fleet. If this principle alone could be considered, and the strategic principle ignored, one great home base centrally located and fully developed on the East Coast, and one on the West Coast could maintain the fleet in time of peace at less cost than any greater number. The strategic principle cannot be ignored, however, for the fleet must be maintained and be free to act both in peace and war; and with our long coast line on both oceans, distances of action would be unduly great with only one base; and should this single base be blocked, contained, or suffer injury in any way during war, all operations on that coast would be paralyzed. Further, disaster to the fleet, or portions of it, is possible, and true strategy provides always more than one line of retreat when it is possible to do so. Therefore, the strategic principle imperatively demands at least more than one home base on each coast, and that they should be sufficient in number to maintain the fleet at all times, in peace and war.
In reconciling the opposing interests of the two principles, three elements must be taken into the maturest consideration and carefully weighed: the national safety; the efficient maintenance of the fleet, and economy of means. The first must be absolute, and is insured by the second, which must be secured within the limits of the third. Considering the great cost of a properly developed home base, and the means that will be available for their establishment within a cost allowed by the revenues of the country, the reconciling statement may be expressed in the words, the number of home bases should be the smallest compatible with the insurance of the national safety and the efficient maintenance of the fleet in war.
In the opinion of the writer all the conditions of the problem can be met by two properly located and developed home bases on each coast; and he believes that more than two such bases are not needed on either coast by the application of the strategic principle, and that their extension beyond this number is directly contrary to the economic principle and would lead only to extravagance and waste, and a consequent reduction in the sea power of the nation. As will be seen later, this does not preclude the establishment of certain permanent subsidiary bases, nor the present use of existing navy yards. The development of the home bases will be an evolution that will extend over a considerable period of years, and the needs of the fleet will call for the use of all existing facilities during that period.
The locations for the four home bases called for by this policy have been long a subject of grave consideration and study. Strategy requires that they shall be located to give naval control over the Western North Atlantic and the Northern Pacific. Economy requires that they shall be located in centers of supply and industry. Natural conditions require that they shall have ample harborage, and be provided with adequate independent defence. All may be summed up in the three requisites: Position, strength, resources.
In weighing the advantages and disadvantages of locations for home bases, these being the great maintaining and supply bases of the fleet, given "position" sufficiently favorable to accomplish the strategic result of control, and natural or supplied "strength" for effective defence, "resources" should be the determining factor in selecting location.
On the East Coast, nature in providing the great estuary of the Chesapeake, and no other estuary or harbor south of it equal to the demands for harborage of a home base, has fixed the location of the southernmost base. This location is not ideal, and strategy would be better served if the base were farther to the southward. Its "position," however, is sufficient to fulfill the requirements of strategy; and the natural laws of trade have centered on the Chesapeake all the "resources" of the Middle and near Southern states; and it is the distributing point of the great steaming coal fields of the country. Its present defended anchorage is large and ample, and, on the completion of the projected fortifications on Cape Henry and the Middle Ground, will extend over the entire bay and its tributaries. It already possesses considerable of the needed docking and repair plant in the Norfolk Navy Yard and the Newport News Shipbuilding plant; and to those facilities the plant of the Maryland Steel Company can be added with the completed defence of the mouth of the bay.
With all these advantages, possessed by no other location on the coast to the southward,—for besides lack of harborage, at no other place has trade centered the needed "resources,"—the lower Chesapeake must, perforce, be the location of the southernmost home base on the East Coast.
In selecting the location for the northern base on the East Coast there has been, and still is, some considerable divergence of opinion among experts as to the best location. We have navy yards at Portsmouth, N. H., Boston and New York, and a naval station on Narragansett Bay. These are all included in what may be called the northern base "region," which would include the New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the near Lake states, all of whose "resources" would be contributory to the northern base. Of the places in this region where we have already naval establishments, Boston, Narragansett Bay and New York have all had their advocates as the right location for the base, especially Narragansett Bay and New York.
Considered from a strategic point of view, there is little to choose from between the three sites as far as "position" is concerned. In point of "strength," they can all be made secure, though New York is very considerably stronger than either Boston or Narragansett Bay, both by nature and by supplied defences.
When we come to the question of "resources," however, which should be the deciding element for a home base, even at some expense to the other two elements if necessary—which is not the case so far as these three places are concerned—all comparison ceases.
Boston, which means all behind its defences, has some very considerable resources in its large industrial population, its large trade, its extensive and efficient means of communication, and its existing navy yard for a docking and repair plant. To this latter may be later added a dock and repair plant proposed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its harborage, however, is, and must always be, totally inadequate to the needs of a home base; and this alone, though other advantages were equal, would preclude it forever from selection as a home base under any well-digested plan of naval development.
Narragansett Bay, which has had many and ardent advocates as the proper location of the northern base, should, to the mind of the writer, be placed without the pale of discussion when the question of "resources" is under consideration. The natural laws of trade have side-tracked it in the field of commerce. On land its only seaport is approached by one single-track railroad. Its sea approaches can be easily blocked. Its surroundings that could be used for naval base purposes are without supply of either labor or material needed for those purposes. There is nothing existent in the way of docking and repair facilities. Considered, therefore, from the point of view of existing circumstances, its "resources" may be said to be nil. To establish a home base there would mean the supplying artificially, at a cost not to be calculated, all the "resources" needed for such a base, which natural laws have already so liberally supplied elsewhere, and the performing of this Herculean feat in the face of the opposition of all the natural and settled laws of trade that have grown up with the country. For it can be safely stated that no amount of expenditure of government money about Narragansett Bay will divert trade with its concomitants—the centering of supplies of labor and material—from Boston on one side or New York on the other.
Incidentally it may be stated that the magnificent expanse of anchorage in Narragansett Bay has been somewhat exaggerated, and that "the great advantage of two entrances" is a myth. The bay is large, but the area available for deep draft ships is restricted; and the so-called second entrance can only be used by ships of lighter draft, and is of no especial advantage for them, since both entrances debouch on the ocean together.
One inherent advantage Narragansett Bay does possess—a natural deep water entrance. Neither Boston nor New York are provided with such an entrance by nature; but the needs of commerce at those two great centers of trade will always provide channels adequate to all naval needs.
All things considered the lack of natural "resources," and the prohibitive cost of supplying those necessary for a home base artificially, should eliminate Narragansett Bay from consideration as such a base. Its legitimate use in naval warfare will be discussed later.
There is left for consideration New York, whose incomparably greater "resources" it is that causes a cessation of comparison with any other place on the coast when discussing the question of selection of a site for a home base from the point of view of "resources." Natural laws have centered there greater "resources" than at any other place in the country. It is the trade center of the eastern littoral, with incomparable means of communication, and is the greatest reservoir of supply, both of labor and material, that we possess. In addition it possesses an efficient—though badly located and inadequate—docking and repair plant, and unlimited anchorage. For the anchorage of a New York base extends from the fortifications at Sandy Hook, through the sound to the fortifications of the eastern approaches on Fisher's, Plum and Gull islands, including lower and upper New York bays, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound to the Race. It already possesses two entrances more than a hundred miles apart for vessels of moderate size, and, with improvements at Hell Gate, can be made to possess them for vessels of any size. Its reservoir of labor supply in the millions grouped about the lower Hudson, whether in New York or New Jersey, and its reservoir of material supply is the greatest existing on the continent. Its one weakness, from the point of view of "resources," is its badly located, restricted and inadequate docking and repair plant; but even in this weak point it is superior to all other locations that have been considered in this region. It would, however, be the part of wisdom to select another site below bridges, and not requiring the navigation of the East River to approach, preferably on the Jersey side, and begin the establishment of a new docking and repair plant, meantime making full use of the navy yard we already have; and, in the opinion of the writer, this should be started at the earliest date practicable.
From all of the foregoing discussion it seems clear that, in "position," New York is at least equal to any point in this region where the establishment of a home base is practicable; in "strength" it is greater; in "resources" it is so much greater as to silence comparison. Hence, logically, and in accordance with the fundamental principles of good policy, New York—meaning, as stated above, all that lies behind the defences of both approaches—should be the location of our northern home base.
In this connection attention is invited to the following quotation from Mahan's Naval Strategy, 1911, pages 169-170:
Chesapeake Bay and New York on our Atlantic Coast are two ports clearly indicated by nature as primary bases of supply, and consequently for arsenals of chief importance. For these reasons, they are also the proper ports of retreat in case of a bad defeat, because of the resources that should be accumulated in them. . . . . Other ports on the same coast, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston and others may serve for momentary utility, disseminating provisions and preparations. . . . . Economy of means and of money forbid the multiplication of maritime fortresses beyond the strictly necessary. (The italics in the last sentence are the writer's.)
On the West Coast, there is neither choice nor room for argument as to the proper location of the home bases for that coast. Nature itself has provided two, and only two, locations for such bases, well situated for such purposes, in providing the two great estuaries of Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay and no others of sufficient space. The natural laws of trade have centered on these two estuaries the "resources" of the western country; they are of great natural defensive strength and have ample harborage for the fleet. So, in them, we have combined in a greater degree than anywhere else on the West Coast the three requisites, position, strength, resources, needed for home bases. They are both lacking in the ship docking and repair element of "resources," since the navy yard at Bremerton is not yet fully developed to meet all the demands of the fleet, and the navy yard at Mare Island is, from its location, incapable of such development except at a prohibitive and continuing cost. At Puget Sound the resources in this element are increased by the presence of the Seattle Construction and Drydock Company's plant, and lesser plants at Seattle, and are greater than would be shown by the naval plant alone; and at San Francisco Bay by the Union Iron Works and some lesser plants. It would be the part of wisdom, however, to have at each base a fully developed naval plant, and for this reason facilities at Bremerton should be increased, and a new station developed in lower San Francisco Bay on deep water.
In speaking of the development of the four home bases here-in recommended—at New York, the lower Chesapeake, Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay—it is not intended that the idea is to be conveyed that these four bases are to spring at once into full being, as Minerva from the head of Jove, and that all other plants and stations are to be immediately abandoned. Their full development must, of necessity, be a growth of years, during which period the fleet must be maintained and kept prepared for war with what plant we now have. But the policy should be, in the using of funds for the shore establishment, to use all funds available for development on these bases, and only such as are absolutely necessary for maintenance on other stations for as long as their use may be necessary, with an ultimate view of discontinuing all stations not serving as bases of various kinds, and not needed for the maintenance of the fleet in war.
These, like home bases, should be reduced to the minimum consistent with preparedness for war. Theoretically, there should be none; but there are certain naval activities, like the care and preservation of ships in reserve, the care and preparation of the auxiliary fleet, the manufacture and preparation of certain naval supplies and equipment, the fitting out of oversea landing operations, which may be better and more economically performed elsewhere than at the home bases. There may be other places possessing peculiar strategic advantages of their own where the establishment of a home base is neither desirable nor practicable, but whose occupation for particular purposes would be vital in war.
Philadelphia, situated well in the interior, and thus perfectly secure from sea attack, in the center of the largest shipbuilding interests of the country, and of other great manufacturing interests, and with resources of labor and material second only to New York, is most happily located for naval manufacturing or building purposes; and with its fresh water harbor added to its other advantages, it becomes an almost ideal place as a home for ships in reserve and for the fleet of auxiliaries. Further, its security, and the space owned there by the government, capable of almost unlimited development, together with the ample supply afforded by the Philadelphia markets, make it a particularly suitable place for organizing advanced base outfits, or fitting out any large oversea landing operations.
As a home base, its lack of strategic "position," and its distance from the sea up a long narrow channel, puts it out of consideration. But as a subsidiary base, for the purposes indicated above, no place could have been better designed by nature or have been given greater natural facilities. Therefore, in the opinion of the writer, Philadelphia should be always retained as our leading subsidiary base, and the navy yard there developed along the lines indicated as a building and manufacturing yard, and as a home station for the reserve fleet and auxiliaries and the advance base outfit.
Key West, from its position on the Florida Straits, guarding the entrances to the Gulf of Mexico, and as the most advanced post of our Eastern littoral towards the Caribbean and Gulf, occupies a permanent strategic position for torpedo warfare, and will later in air warfare, when that branch of the service has been developed. Further, it occupies a position of great strategic importance relative to the Caribbean base that will be discussed later.
Physical conditions prohibit the establishment of a home base there, even if one was needed—which it is not; but as a subsidiary base for torpedo warfare, with later aerial additions, its "position" could hardly be better; and the present naval station there should be always retained for that purpose, and developed along those lines.
The writer of this essay, after many years of thought on and study of naval history, warfare and strategy, can see no need for any more bases along our continental coast lines, either home or subsidiary, for the successful prosecution of war and the efficient maintenance of the fleet than the four home and two subsidiary bases indicated in the foregoing discussion, when they shall have been developed; and he believes that the maintenance of any more after that period will lead only to extravagance and waste, and the reduction of the sea power of the nation. The uses of the other branches of the present naval establishment within the continental limits of the country will be discussed later under another head.
From Eastport, Me., to Colon, via the Windward Passage is 2493 miles; from Nome, Alaska, to Panama is 5970 miles; from Porto Rico to Manila, via the Panama Canal, Hawaii and Guam, is 10,546 miles ; our continental Alantic Coast extends over approximately 1600 miles, and our continental Pacific coast, excluding Alaska, extends over about 1200 miles.
If our national interests and indeed our self-preservation demand, as the writer of this paper firmly believes they do, that we should in war maintain naval supremacy over the Western North Atlantic and the Northern Pacific, then policy demands that we should establish in those areas .a series of outlying bases sufficient in number and so located as to insure us that supremacy, since, as shown in the paragraph immediately preceding, distances are too great for the fleet to operate effectively from the home bases alone over those areas.
The same principles of economy and strategy hold in the establishment of outlying bases that apply to home bases, viz.: that there should be the least number of them compatible with the object to be accomplished—the naval control of the Western North Atlantic and Northern Pacific—and that they should be so located as to give this control.
The most probable, and almost certain, naval theater of action in any war that we may have with a European nation will be in the Caribbean Sea or waters adjacent thereto, since it is there we are weakest and most vulnerable, with our present long undefended line of communications from Hatteras via the Windward and other passages to the Panama Canal. It would be a bold nation that would make a direct frontal attack on our Atlantic seaboard, where we are strongest, and whose adjacent waters are within the radius of our home bases, unless our fleet had been annihilated or driven from the ocean. We must, therefore, for the national safety, secure this weak flank extending through Porto Rico and the Panama Canal, and via which the way to attack is opened to the Gulf ports. With the effective radius of action of fleets, there is one and only one way to attain this security, viz.: to establish a strong and secure outlying base in the Caribbean Sea, covering the line of our own communications, and on the line of approach of any possible enemy.
While Samana Bay, at the eastern end of Santo Domingo, with its capacious harbor, and the ease with which its entrance could be defended, would offer probably the best position of any in the West Indies for an outlying base, it is unfortunately not in our possession; and we must look to our own possessions for a base. It was for the purpose of establishing such a base that we acquired Guantanamo Bay at the close of the Spanish War; and, after Samana, this fine harbor offers the next best position; and is, indeed, in some respects superior, being more directly on our lines of communication, and more easily supplied and re-enforced, since with the completion of the Florida East Coast Railway, and of the railway from Santiago, Cuba, to Guantanamo Bay, there is direct railway communication to it from our own centers, except for a short sea passage from Key West to Havana, well behind the line of defence.
The "position" of Guantanamo is excellent, though not ideal; it is capable of being given the needed "strength" at a reasonable cost, and its "resources" can be supplied and maintained better and at less cost than can those of any other Caribbean site. Further, we have already expended considerable sums there, and begun its development; and this development of it into a proper outlying base of the requisite strength and resources cannot be proceeded with too soon for the good of the national defence.
The Isthmus of Panama constitutes the next link in our line of defence and communication. Happily, here, where an outlying base is so much needed, the navy finds one already established to its hand, by the wise foresight of the government and of the Canal Commission, and will be burdened only with the care of keeping certain distinctly naval supplies on hand. The "position" is there by nature, and the requisite "strength" and general "resources" have already been provided for.
With Guantanamo and the Isthmus secure, the Western North Atlantic (including the Gulf and Caribbean) is provided for, since these, with the home bases, will fully cover the whole area to be dominated, and the establishment of any further bases on this side would only be waste of money and effort.
With war in the Pacific, our operations would have to extend to the coast of Asia itself, and to do so we must be able to take the fleet across the whole broad expanse of the Pacific and maintain it there. To operate effectively across this distance requires at least two secure points of support. Nature has placed on this line two points of peculiarly strong strategic position, Hawaii and Guam, one with reference to America, and the other with reference to Asia. The holder of the Hawaiian Islands commands every line of approach to our West Coast from Alaska to Panama. The holder of Guam commands every line of approach to the Asiatic Coast, including Japan and the Philippines, even better, since distances are shorter. Those two stations are in supporting distance of each other, and Hawaii is in supporting distance of our West Coast, and the two together form the necessary links to span and control the Pacific. Happily, they are both in our possession, and only need development as outlying bases to insure us supremacy in the Northern Pacific. The value of the Hawaiian Islands as an outlying base has been already recognized, and provision is being made for its development. That Guam, of even more strategic value in a war with an Asiatic nation, or with any enemy coming from Asia, and so necessary to our control of the Pacific, has not been more fully recognized seems almost incredible. Its value is better set forth in the words of Admiral Mahan than can be done by my pen. In a letter written by the great strategist in July of 1910, he says:
. . . . and I think no one can believe that the United States is willing, or if willing, would find it cheaper, to protect the Pacific coast by land force than by a superior fleet based ultimately upon Pearl Harbor and secondarily based on Guam. Guam securely held, with a navy superior to Japan, threatens every Japanese interest from Dalny and Corea to Nagasaki and Yokohama.
. . . . But a caution is needed. Neither strength nor resources should be accumulated there, unless the whole is made so strong that it cannot easily be reduced. If Guam must fall to a surprise, or to a seige, better it should fall a bare situation, than provided with works and armament and supplies available for such a land force. . . . . Let us not by half measures contribute to her greater success. Advanced national outposts, like Malta and Gibraltar, must be Maltas and Gibraltars.
In brief, granting a superior American fleet, which I believe now exists, it is my opinion that the Philippines can be more securely maintained by the secure establishment of Guam as an advanced base than by local tenure in the Philippines themselves. The same is true of our Pacific coast. . . . .
Guam and Guantanamo, suitably fortified and with a superior fleet based upon them defend, respectively, the Pacific and Gulf coasts better than any local seaboard defences. They defend also more comprehensively. That is, the defence they afford defends also the coast trade and lines like those from the Gulf to the Isthmus of Panama; in short, all lines that lie behind them. For these reasons they appear to me rather first class ports, because they defend so comprehensively
These words should be brought home to every one having to do with the national defence, and nothing clearer can be said or written to define clearly the necessity of and fix the location of our outlying bases: Guantanamo, Pearl Harbor, Guam, with Panama already provided.
As in the case of the home bases, it cannot be expected that these outlying bases will spring into full being at once. It may be years before they can be fully completed; but the policy of the nation should be to continue the development at Guantanamo and Pearl Harbor as rapidly as the revenues of the country permit of funds being available, and to start at once the development of Guam; and to devote to these purposes all development funds of the navy that might otherwise be used in any unwise extension or development of stations in home territories that will not be needed for the maintenance of the fleet on the completion of the bases.
If the principles of the policy outlined in the foregoing discussion are accepted, and the interests of the nation as a whole be placed before local interests and desires, and made our guiding light, the system of bases indicated above will prove all that is necessary to meet the needs of the fleet in war, and will eventually, when their development is completed, meet all those needs for as far into the future as can be foreseen. When all needs are met by those bases, then other navy yards and stations become superfluous, and their continuance an extravagance and a waste; for, as already demonstrated in this paper, and as so forcibly stated in the quotation from Mahan's Naval Strategy previously given:
Economy of means and of money forbid the multiplication of maritime fortresses beyond the strictly necessary.
The question then arises, What is the action that good policy and the best interests of the country demand should be taken in the cases of the various navy yards and stations we already possess that are not marked for repair plants of bases, taking into consideration the immediate needs of the fleet, and the necessity of keeping that fleet prepared for war during the evolutionary period of putting the policy into effect?
The answer to this is, To use the facilities of such navy yards as we now have in operation to the best advantage for the upkeep of the fleet for as long as they may be needed; but to so conduct business in all those yards not marked as the repair plants of bases that no money will be wasted in extensions or development, and with a view to their being ultimately closed.
A naval station at Portsmouth, N. H., is not permanently required by either policy or strategy. The existing navy yard there, however, possesses some valuable facilities that are required at the present time for the upkeep of the fleet, and these facilities should be used for as long as may be needed. But no money should be expended there for expansion or development, or for increasing the present facilities in any way; and, as soon as development of the bases permit, the yard should be definitely closed and Portsmouth viewed only in the light of a fortified port, and used as such in naval warfare. It should be the first of the existing yards to be marked for closure, as being of least value.
Boston occupies in policy and strategy a position similar to that of Portsmouth; but on account of its far greater naval facilities, one of much more importance for the present and the immediate future. After the development of the New York and Chesapeake bases, it will have no reason for being as a naval station, and should then be closed and Boston viewed in the light of a fortified port. It will probably be many years, however, before the bases are developed to the state which will permit the closing of this yard, which is one of the most completely equipped on the coast. During this interval this yard should be continued as a subsidiary base in its present state, and full use made of all its existing facilities in fleet upkeep. But only such expenditures should be made there as are necessary to retain the present plant in efficient condition; and no large sums should be expended looking to development and expansion. From its superior equipment and present value in fleet maintenance, it should be the last of the unnecessary yards to be closed.
Charleston to the South occupies a position similar to that of Portsmouth to the North. Neither policy nor strategy requires the establishment of any kind of a naval base or station there; and while its existing facilities may be of some present value to the navy in fleet maintenance, they are small as compared with Boston; and the station there should be marked for closure following Portsmouth, when development of the bases has sufficiently advanced; and the port thereafter should be viewed in the light of and used as a fortified port in naval warfare. Meantime, since the plant and facilities there are better fitted for the care of small vessels than for large, the station, until closed, should be used for the upkeep of torpedo craft and their auxiliaries; and no money should be expended there for further extension and development.
From the point of view of policy, strategy and economy the cases of both Pensacola and New Orleans were very wisely attended to some years ago, when both of these yards were closed.
The Spanish War, resulting in our acquisition of Porto Rico and Guantanamo, with a supervision over Cuba, followed later by the acquisition of the Panama Canal zone, has advanced our Southern sea frontier from the Gulf Coast to a line from Hatteras through the Windward Passage to Colon (or more than a thousand miles from either Pensacola or New Orleans), with Porto Rico as an outpost. This leaves the Gulf of Mexico, from a naval strategic point of view, a closed sea far in the rear. As has been already demonstrated in the discussion of bases, the defence of this line rests on the outlying bases at Guantanamo and the Isthmus and the subsidiary base at Key West, supported by the home bases on the East Coast.
To consider any point so far withdrawn from the inevitable field of action, in case of a naval war in the Atlantic, as are either Pensacola or New Orleans as a base, is not only to violate every principle of strategy, but every principle of reason and common sense as well. That neither is needed for the maintenance and upkeep of the fleet has already been demonstrated by their actual closure for several years. The only logical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that economy of means and the best good of the nation require that their closure shall be permanent; and that both should only be viewed as fortified ports of refuge, in case of general disaster.
On the West Coast the only navy yards we have are within the limits of the proposed home bases, and have been discussed under that heading.
There has been, at times, some consideration given to the establishment of some kind of a naval station at San Diego, and we have at that port a small coaling plant. It is further proposed to establish there a fuel oil supply and a high-power radio station. This port is favorably situated, in regard to weather and other conditions, as a headquarters for ships in the Pacific exercising at fleet drills and maneuvers in peace; and the providing of a fuel supply there of both coal and oil is both wise and economical. Climatic and other conditions are also favorable for work with aircraft, and it would be wise to establish an air plant and training school there as well. But beyond these, no thought should be given to the establishment of any kind of navy yard or station there, since neither policy nor strategy require one. Its role in war can be fully subserved by viewing it in the light of a fortified port, as it is.
In the Philippines we still have some remains of a station at Cavite and an embryonic station at Olongapo. This latter, since we already have it, and it possesses some useful facilities, may be considered as a certain peace asset which may be used for the upkeep of ships on the Asiatic Coast as long as peace continues. In war it would have to be abandoned, and such of its material as could be moved retired behind the fortifications of Corregidor. It is therefore contrary to sound policy to expend any money there beyond that strictly necessary to keep the plant in a condition to perform its peace functions.
The present and future status of the Philippine Islands is now somewhat nebulous, but whether a final decision be reached that we are to hold them, or whether a contrary decision for their abandonment should prevail, for complete mastery of the sea and effective naval operations in far eastern waters, a subsidiary base somewhere in these islands will be a necessity. It would therefore be the part of good policy to select now the strategic site; and if the final decision be for the abandonment of the islands, this site should be retained for future development as in the case of Guantanamo in Cuba.
In the meantime, however, and until some definite national naval policy is adopted, it would be most unwise to expend any money on naval development anywhere in the Philippines, but we should make use of what peace facilities we now possess there; and in the event of war, make what use is practicable of the fortified port of Manila.
OTHER BRANCHES OF THE SHORE ESTABLISHMENT THAN BASES AND NAVY YARDS
In the earlier part of this essay it was stated that the ideal naval establishment, besides the central administration, or Navy Department, and the bases, should contain a system of schools for education and training, and of stations for special technical purposes and experimentation. The schools for education we now have at the Naval Academy and the War College. The schools for training we have at Newport, Washington, Norfolk, Charleston, the Great Lakes and San Francisco. Some of these may not be in the best location, but good policy calls for their encouragement and extension. To these should be added at least one properly equipped Air School on each coast.
Stations for special technical purposes and experiment exist at the torpedo station, Newport, at Washington, Indian Head and Annapolis. These are all most highly needed and should meet with all the encouragement and development possible; for on them depend not only the creation of a large part of the war material of offence for the navy, but the advance and improvement in this material and in machinery.
In establishing such special stations the principle of economy requires that they should be limited in number to the strictly necessary, the same as in bases. Their location, unlike that of bases, should be governed by the economic principle only, since their operations do not enter the field of strategy, but that of production and experiment. They are, or should be, established only to meet needs in technical work that cannot be met otherwise as well, for the assurance of the perfection of our war material; and while great liberality should be used in improving and perfecting such special stations as are necessary, economy should absolutely prohibit the establishment of any that are not. In the opinion of the writer, we have now in number and kind all of such stations the needs of the navy call for; and economy and good policy require that these be extended and improved, and no other kind provided for.
All the foregoing discussion has been earnest endeavor:
First. To apply reason and logic to the teachings of history and the lessons of war and strategy, and to deduce therefrom the fundamental principles that should underlie our naval policy for the shore establishment for the best good of the nation.
Second. To apply these principles to the shore establishment as it exists today, and evolve from this application, for future guidance, the elements of a naval policy that will give to the nation the greatest return for the money expended, in assuring the national safety by producing the maximum of sea power the amounts appropriated are capable of producing.
The elements of the policy so deduced and proposed for consideration may be summarized in brief as follows:
(1) A Navy Department organized for war.
(2) The continued support and development of the existing schools for naval education and training, and the existing special stations for technical work and training. To these add a special school with efficient plant for air training on each coast.
(3) The gradual development to completion of four great naval home bases, at New York, the Chesapeake, Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay.
(4) The continued development of the Philadelphia navy yard as a subsidiary base for building and manufacturing purposes and as a home for the reserve fleet, auxiliaries and advanced base outfit and personnel; and of Key West as a subsidiary base for torpedo vessels.
(5) Continue the use of the existing navy yards at Portsmouth, N. H., Boston, Mass. and Charleston, S. C., now in operation, for as long as their use may be necessary for the upkeep of the fleet, pending sufficient development of the home bases to fully accomplish this upkeep; but expend no money on any of them beyond that necessary to keep their existing plants—without extension or development—in efficient condition for performing their present work; and conduct business in all of them with a view to their being eventually closed as navy yards, when the development of the bases has sufficiently progressed to permit of the disuse of their facilities.
(6) Continue the closure of the navy yards at Pensacola, Fla., and New Orleans, La.
(7) Continue and push to completion the outlying bases at Guantanamo and Pearl Harbor, and begin the work of founding a complete outlying base at Guam. The needed outlying base at Panama has been already provided for under Canal appropriations.
(8) Select a site in the Philippines for possible future development as a subsidiary base; and continue to use such facilities as we now have at Olongapo; but expend no money for naval purposes anywhere in the islands at this time, beyond what is absolutely necessary to keep the Olongapo plant in condition to do its peace work.
To carry out the proposed policy and adopt the reforms suggested requires the placing of the national interests before all others; and will further require the full and patriotic cooperation of Congress, and a revised method of making naval appropriations. Let us hope that this will come in due time, now that indications point to consideration being given to the adoption of the budget system; and that there will follow a more comprehensive and less detailed method of drawing appropriation bills, under fewer and more general headings, accompanied by a strict accountability of the administrative and disbursing officers of the government, which will permit of the total amount of the money of the people appropriated for naval use being used to the best advantage of the nation.