Motto: Veritas me dirigit.
Would the defence of our coast, and incidentally aggressive action, be better provided for by the expenditure of a given amount in the construction of the largest type of battleships, or in more of a smaller size?
Before proceeding with the argument it will be well to lay down some necessary definitions in order that a "wardroom" argument may be avoided and some conclusions reached. "Large" and "Small," especially in reference to battleships are certainly relative terms! Are we to consider as large a battleship of 32,000 tons displacement, or are we to think of yet larger units that are well within the realm of possibilities? What is a large battleship and conversely what is a small one?
Who shall say? Certainly the large ship of to-day is the small one of to-morrow. It is evidently impossible to fix upon displacement as a criterion. Already we have the Bismarck, a merchant ship of 55,000 tons displacement; length, 955,feet; beam, 100 feet; depth, 65 feet, and engines developing 61,000 I. H. P. On the other hand our largest battleship (New Mexico) will have 32,000 tons displacement; length, 600 feet; beam, 97 feet; draft 28 3/4 feet. As regards displacement, then, we can still double the size of our largest designed battleship.
In regard to armament no limit has yet been reached. Five years ago the popular gun was the 12-inch 50-caliber of about 2900 f. s. velocity. Since then the increase has included the 13.5-inch, the 14-inch, and now the 15-inch, while in this country a successful i6-inch gun has been built and proved. According to the newspapers Rear Admiral C. J. Badger, ret., member of the General Board, in his hearing before the House Naval Committee, stated that the next battleship designed will carry ten 16-inch guns. Going yet further we have the German 42 cm. siege howitzers in actual use and now we begin to hear the first demands for the preparation, at least, of the designs for an 18-inch gun. Is there any guarantee that 16 or 18 inches will limit the caliber of guns? Has not the present war developed startling progress in siege guns?
Even though the limit to the size of guns were in sight we have yet to determine the limit to the number that any one ship can carry. In the last ten years we have progressed from eight I2- inch guns (Michigan) to twelve 14-inch guns (Pennsylvania). In the meantime the French have laid down ships that are to carry twelve 13.4-inch, and the Italians two ships that are to have a battery of thirteen 12-inch guns. Judging from the progress to date is there any reason to believe that the limit to the number has been reached? Surely, if the displacement continues to grow, the number of guns may be expected to grow also.
If we take up the question of speed, we are more at a loss to say what the limit will be than in regard to any other point. With 32,000-ton liners being driven across the Atlantic at an average speed of 26.4 knots (Mauretania); a battle cruiser of 28,000 tons making as high as 33 knots (Queen Mary); an 1800-ton destroyer (the Swift) making 36 knots, and motor boats developing 46.79 knots (Tech Jr.); one would be bold, indeed, were he to attempt to prophesy how high speed will go.
As to armor there is surely no limit in regard to that. Given the greater displacements we can expect to, see increase proportionately the thickness of armor and the total weight assigned to it. Hence it appears that neither by displacement, size or number of guns, speed or protection can be defined the term "large" as applied to battleships.
How can we define the term? It is really very simple after all! A large battleship is one that embodies more fighting strength than any built or building by a possible enemy. Conversely, a small battleship is one that embodies less fighting strength than any built or building by a possible enemy.
The question now reduces to these terms: "Shall we continue to build battleships of greater military power than those built contemporaneously by any possible enemy, or shall we spend the same amount of money for a greater number of second class battleships?" I say second class advisedly, because anything less than the best is second class when the safety and honor of our country is at stake.
Unit cost cannot be reduced without reducing size and size cannot be reduced without sacrificing military power. Any unit carrying less military power than another of the same class is relatively second class.
We are spared an academic discussion on large versus small battleships by the defining sentence of the proposition, viz., "Would the defense of our coast, and incidentally aggressive action, be better provided for…?" We are then to discuss battleships built for a particular purpose, and not the general question of large versus small ships.
Were the United States properly organized for defense, the type and number of battleships as well as all other military units would be the logical result of the correct estimate of the military situation. Our statesmen, and especially the President, the Secretary of State and Congress, would determine and fix the policy of the nation. This policy would express the national aims, aspirations or fears. At present this policy embraces the following tenets: (a) The Monroe Doctrine; (b) The protection of the Panama Canal; (c) The Maintenance of the Rights of Neutrals; (d) Exclusion of Asiatic Races; (e) The Open Door in China. Conversant with the internal conditions and national aspirations of other nations, our statesmen would determine the points at which our policy would be most likely to conflict with theirs, thereby fixing our most probable enemy.
The next step in national defense would lie within the province of a National Defense Council. This council knowing the policy of the nation, and hence our most probable enemies, together with the latter's racial characteristics and military strength, would deduce the most probable areas of war, the kinds of campaigns needed and the military strength required to push the campaigns to a successful issue for the defense and safety of the United States.
The military strength having been determined, the task would be taken up by the General Staff of the army and the General Staff of the navy. Each would determine the number, kinds and strength of the necessary military units together with all the questions pertaining to creating, maintaining and training them for battle. The kinds of units necessary for the navy having been fixed by the General Staff, the technical bureaus of the Navy Department would be called upon to give material expression to these general plans. Finally, Congress would be asked to appropriate the sums necessary to construct the military units deemed necessary to enforce upon the water the national policy as enunciated by the statesmen. The policy having been fixed there should be a clear understanding of the value attached to the different articles in it. In other words what would the people consider them worth? If the cost as represented by the estimates of the General Staffs exceeds the value, the policies should be abandoned.
That England and France as well as Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan have logical and enduring naval policies is evident. Von Maltzahn says:
Our Fleet Law of 19oo was founded on "Defence by Battle." It states in its preamble that "Germany must possess a battle fleet of such strength that war, even for the most powerful naval adversary, would involve such risks as to endanger the latter's supremacy." By "Defence by Battle" is meant the intention to bring the enemy to battle on the high seas. It cannot be hoped to defeat him decisively once for all—the difference of strength which is a presumption of the strategic defensive would indeed prevent this—but it must be able to deprive him of so much of his strength that what remains is not sufficient for his purpose.
In 1889 a committee of admirals reported that England should possess a fleet equal to those of the next two powers plus ten per cent.
The admitted final aim of our naval policy is to maintain a force which will match the navies of France and Russia, or any pair of the strongest naval powers that may be combined against us in war We are maintaining our policy by having the larger number of larger ships.
However, in 1900, Germany, until then contented with a moderate sized navy, passed the fleet law which doubled the number of battleships, increased the number of armored cruisers, and by a continuing ship-building program laid a firm foundation for, the rapid rise to the position of second naval power which she can now rightfully claim. In 1906, 1908 and 1912 her building program was still further augmented until her final scheme called for 61 capital ships of less than 20 years of age.
In 1900 France held as her standard 28 battleships and 24 armored cruisers as opposed to Germany's 19 battleships, 12 armored cruisers and 8 armored coast defense vessels. In spite of the large increase authorized by the German laws of 19oo, 1906 and 1908, France as late as 1939 accepted the principle of only 28 battleships.
Since two she had therefore decreased her estimates by 24 armored cruisers, in spite of the many previous decisions of the conseils superieurs. This decision gave rise to much feeling throughout naval circles and was known as the program of "resignation."
The unprecedented growth of the German navy and merchant marine immediately became the concern of England, and it was not long before every German act became to the English a direct threat. In viewing with alarm the growth of German power, especially that of the merchant marine, the English statesmen were correct, for it was down the golden lane reflected by the water that the Germans hoped to travel to their "place in the sun."
England lives by the sea and nothing so quickly stirs the English to action as a threat of rivalry in the world's carrying trade. That Germany realized wealth was to be gained from the sea is evident. In 1912 Von Maltzahn, in the article previously referred to, expresses the German view as follows:
The sources of welfare of every nation, now as ever, are within the country itself, whether it be mineral treasure, in natural home products, or in the value of productive labor; but the economic activity of the great commercial states has brought it to pass that no state can any longer dispense with the open highway of the sea. Naval warfare can touch only one limb of the whole system of traffic and commerce referred to above, namely, sea borne trade, nevertheless, the interruption of sea borne trade hampers or brings to a standstill almost the entire system of economic activity, and demonstrates that the whole country is dependent on the sea and therefore on naval warfare.
From 1900 to 1914 the English statesmen were not idle and gradually a new alliance was formed with France. In the meantime the naval building program had become so burdensome that the likelihood of trouble with France having been obliterated, the preponderance of the English navy was gradually reduced to 6o per cent over, that of Germany.
In 1903, the General Board reported the first building program for the United States navy. It then stated that by 1919 we should be possessed, of 48 battleships. No definite policy having been formulated by our statesmen and no National Defense Council existing to decide upon campaigns and needed military forces, the General Board, without any legal status, assumed, and has since maintained, insofar as it has been maintained, our naval policy. In 1915, a new policy, born of the terrible strife now existent in Europe, was voiced by the General Board as follows:
The navy of the United States should ultimately be equal to the most powerful maintained by any other nation of the world. It should be gradually increased to this point by such a rate of development year by year, as may be permitted by the facilities of the country, but the limit above defined should be attained not later than 1925. . . The General Board believes that the course of the present war in Europe affords convincing reasons for modifying the opinion which it has expressed for the past 11 years as to the proper size of the navy. A navy in firm control of the seas from the outbreak of the war is the prime essential to the defence of a country, situated as is the United States, bordering upon two great oceans. A navy strong enough only to defend our coast from actual invasion will not suffice. Defence from invasion is not the only function of the navy. It must protect our sea borne commerce and drive that of the enemy from the sea. The best way to accomplish all these objects is to find and defeat the hostile fleet or any of its detachments at a distance from our coast sufficiently great to prevent interruption of our normal course of life.
The cases of England and Germany have been thus lightly touched upon to show that the two leading naval powers of the world have well defined naval policies as the direct result of their national policies. Later I will show that these policies determine the size and number of battleships that these two nations have built.
So should it be in our country! We should have a well defined national policy which in itself would determine the number and size of battleships needed to maintain it. But we have not got it. The only thing we have at present is a General Board which must assume the responsibilities of the missing statesmen, the missing National Defense Council and the missing General Staff of the navy. Not only must the General Board determine the probable enemies that our ships may be called upon to fight, but also the kinds and number of ships needed to fight them.
In view of the strange alliances we behold in Europe can anyone longer say, "our most probable enemy," when basing naval estimates? Did anyone expect to see Japan allied with Russia ten years after the close of their own bitter strife? Or England joining hands with France after centuries of enmity? What a remarkable lesson on the fickleness of nations when we find the Russians succoring Englishmen on the Euphrates, while Bulgaria and Turkey fight side by side in Serbia! Do you blame me for using the term "possible enemy" in my definitions, or the General Board advocating the most powerful navy in the world?
We have ever been content to say and think that we need a navy second only to that of England. This a long step in advance to have our General Board demand a navy second to none. It will take some time to educate our people to this point of view, so long have they been accustomed to believing and hearing that we need a navy "second to England."
Do the English take it for granted that our friendship with them is so strong that it never can be broken? In 1912, Mr. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, introducing the naval estimates to the House of Commons, in the course of his speech, said:
And it was realized that for the future the fleet which would most powerfully influence British naval policy would be that of Germany. With no unfriendly feeling, but merely in recognition of this new factor in the naval situation, the British authorities had to turn from the Russian fleet in its weakness, and the French fleet already suffering from years of confused naval policy, to the consideration of the rapidly growing navies of Germany and, in a limited sense, the United States.
And Hislam says:
What the object of the United States is in building such a fleet as she now possesses, and further, in being determined to increase it, it is difficult to see…whatever be its raison d'être, however, the fleet is there, and it cannot be altogether ignored, no matter what may be the comparisons between blood and water.
Let our marine trade, from any cause whatsoever, begin a growth which would indicate that henceforth it would have to be reckoned with, or that it might assume the position it occupied at the outbreak of the Civil War, and it is not to be doubted that soon we should hear rumblings and grumblings from our friends across the water. England's life depends on the sea. Close the highways of commerce to her in time of war or deprive her of the major portion of the carrying trade in time of peace and she must falter and die. Brine is good for sick nations as well as sick men.
It may be asked what all this has to do with the proper size of battleships. It has everything to do with the question! I intend to show that the question of whether it is proper to build large or small battleships for a certain sum of money cannot be settled on any basis of displacement, speed, gun-power, steaming radius or unit cost, but only on the basis of what our possible enemies are doing. In other words, it is incumbent on us always to build more and better ships than anyone else in building.
The General Board determines what shall be the military features embodied in our battleships. The Board of Construction decides how many thousand tons displacement will be required to float all the military features the General Board signifies as desirable. It will then serve our purpose if we imagine ourselves on the General Board, confronted with the question of how many and what size battleships to ask Congress to appropriate for. This question must be decided yearly by the Board.
The members of the General Board are not god-like. They are quite the opposite—they are naval officers. Just as we should arrive at the proper decision as to the size of battleships, so do they— by a logical conclusion based on reasoning from history, our national policy, experience as seamen, military experts, scientific knowledge, the decisions of other nations as expressed in their building programs, the wealth of the nation and the amount it can afford to spend on national defense. There is no other way to determine this all important question—no mathematical formulas, no supreme court, no superman. It must be decided by human beings, of whom there are none so qualified as naval officers, on whom the country must depend for expert opinion. Admiral Sir R. Custance, R. N., expresses the same idea in these words:
A ship of war embodies the tactical and strategical ideals of the age in which she is designed and built. To examine those ideals, to reject those which are false and to set forth those which are true, together with the military principles underlying them, is the business of the naval officer. To embody those principles in a design is the part of a naval architect. Whence should the naval officer derive his ideals? From a wide and searching inquiry into war in all its aspects, from its human as well as its material side, in past as also in modern times. From this comprehensive study will spring a knowledge of principles without which the imagination is apt to run riot, and the lessons drawn either from isolated actions or from peace experiments are liable to be wrong and misleading.
On the part of our General Board such studies as mentioned in the above quotation lead inevitably to laying down battleships superior to any building by possible enemies. If not, why our New Mexico and the new designs to carry ten 16-inch guns, or projected battle cruisers to carry ten 14-inch guns and to maintain a speed of 36 knots?
In 1830, Sir Thomas Hardy, Nelson's flag captain, of whom Nelson said, "I never knew Hardy wrong on any professional subject," became First Sea Lord of England. In regard to his policy as to the size of ships, his biographers write as follows: "He was strongly impressed with the conviction that our naval superiority could only be maintained by large and powerful line-of-battle ships carrying heavy armament, as in action nothing could resist their concentrated fire." 10 By ships of the line Hardy undoubtedly, had in mind 120-gun ships like the Orient, which signally defeated the Bellerophon (74) at the battle of the Nile, or the Santissama Trinadad (130) which bore the brunt of the British attack at the battle of St. Vincent without suffering capture or destruction in the Spanish defeat.
The cardinal principle of military strategy is to bring a superior force against an inferior one. This principle endures throughout the ages, because it is based on common sense. Superiority does not necessarily mean superior numbers; it signifies superiority in as many factors as possible bearing upon winning a fight, a campaign, or a war, and may assume the form of superior numbers, guns, speed, protection; strategical or tactical position, materiel, personnel, or simply moral qualities, like bravery, gallantry or mental poise. When Nelson said, "Numbers only can annihilate" he must have meant superior numbers as opposed to equal or inferior, ships of the enemy. Take the case of the Rivolutionaire (110) in Lord Howe's battle of May, 1794. She was first engaged by the Bellerophon (74) for an hour and a quarter. She was then engaged in succession by two other seventy-fours, but survived all three attacks of ships aggregating just double her gun-fire, coming in succession against her." Of this action Captain Mahan says:
The concentration upon her though eminently judicious, served to bring out vividly the advantage, which should never be forgotten, of one heavy ship over several smaller, though the force of the latter may, in the aggregate, be much superior.
The same eminent critic in another article" makes the following statement:
Undoubtedly, if all other things, skill, courage, numbers, combinations, fortitude, are the same on both sides, bigness, barring accidents, will carry the day; but when have all other things been the same? We are putting in the foremost place of consideration that which military history shows to be the least of several factors…Providence is most often on the side of men who best know how to manage their battalions, or their ships; the smaller have more often triumphed by their conduct than the bigger by their weight.
The admiral here seems to deal with bigness in the sense of physical size only. No one contends that 32,000 tons of battleship is desirable unless each ton is a ton of fighting strength and the whole is 32,000 tons of military power. Neither is it clear why the officers and men on the big ships cannot have as many military virtues as though they were on small battleships which like wolves would depend upon numbers to give the strength and courage to attack. Not only would .the personnel possess as many virtues, but they would hold that one most necessary of all—confidence in themselves and their weapons.
At Coronel the Germans under Von Spee won by virtue of their superiority, in that they had two ships carrying a broadside of four 8.2-inch guns, each, as opposed to the Good Hope carrying two 9.2-inch guns; off the Falkland Islands they suffered the same fate that they had inflicted upon Cradock, because their superiority had been lost and the English possessed it in two broadsides of eight 12-inch guns. In the Dogger Bank action, in which the most modern units were engaged, we see unit strength combined with numbers again winning. In the last two actions the weaker side began to run the instant their inferiority was discovered. No effort was made to replace modern long range guns by conduct. And yet when defeated and death was at hand,was ever conduct more gallant than that shown by the crews of the Good Hope, the Scharnhorst, the Gneisnau or the Bleucher, the Cressy, the Aboukir or the Hogue?
Does the conduct of men in the war now raging suffer by comparison with that of men in former wars? The bravery of men in the face of new and terrible dangers; their endurance when pitted against days, weeks and months of cold and wet: their love of country and forgetfulness of self have never shown forth as they do now. Evidently there are no grounds for fearing, as' Mahan does, that the growth of ships in size and power tends to lessen the heroic qualities of men.
Increase in size denotes progress. We live in an age when vast strides are being constantly made in the arts and sciences. Is it any wonder then that they should find immediate expression in the battleship which is the embodiment of the skill and ingenuity of man? Because the iron worker of 50 years ago used a Topound sledge to hammer out his forgings, would one have the iron worker of to-day refuse the use of a trip hammer to perform the same tasks?
That our fathers believed as we do is manifest. Each attempted to gain the advantage by building their galleys and then their ships superior in some way to those possessed by their enemies.
In April, 1816, the President was authorized by Congress to cause to be procured the steam engines and all the imperishable material necessary for building and equipping three, steam batteries on the most improved plan and best calculated for the defence of the ports and harbors of the United States.
As self-appointed members of the General Board let us now examine into the cost of ships to determine, if we can, how many small battleships we can build instead of a less number of larger ships. On what are we to base the cost? Shall it be displacement, speed, protection or guns in the main battery? The naval constructor will quote the cost per ton displacement; the engineer will dwell on the machinery weight per I. H. P., or in other words, the machinery installation cost; the man who builds ships for passive defense only, will concern himself with the armor and its cost per ton; what, then, should the admiral who commands on the day of battle take as his basis? Evidently he should consider the pounds of steel he can land per minute within his enemy's armor as the determining factor.
One other point must be kept in mind when cost is under consideration, and that is the cost of maintenance. Sir William White defines a modern warship as, "essentially a mobile gun platform capable of transporting weapons of offense to any desired sphere of action and bringing them into play against an enemy." No exceptions can be taken to this definition, so it is evident that maintenance as well as, first cost should be based on gun power. Assuming that the 12-inch 45-caliber, 12-inch 50- caliber, 14-inch 45-caliber and 50-caliber guns all have the same loading interval, and this can be done without any material error since the salvo interval depends more on other factors than the loading interval, and further assuming two 8-inch salvos to one 12-inch salvo, which is all in favor of the ships carrying the 8-inch guns since this caliber will be ineffective except at close, modern battle ranges, we derive the following table.
This table and the curves plotted therefrom show clearly two important facts, viz:
(a) The change from a mixed battery to a one caliber battery has resulted in an average decrease of 21.65% in the cost of battleships per pound of broadside.
(b) The average cost per pound of displacement of ships carrying one caliber batteries has been 9.89% less than those carrying mixed batteries.
Leaving out the Pennsylvania (modified) and dealing with ships in service, an examination of columns (6) and (7) shows that in building battleships, as in other forms of business, the overhead charges are reduced when the size of the output (weight of broadside) is increased. Taking into consideration the average cost of ships in a class we derive the cost of the emplacement of a 12-inch gun on a Michigan as $842,451; on a Delaware as $832,432; and on a Wyoming as $810,741. The actual cost of the installation is thus seen to decrease as the number of units installed increase. What is much more to the point is the kind of emplacements we have provided for our guns in each case! No one can dispute that as the size of the ships increase so proportionately increase all those military features—size of guns, speed, steaming radius, protection, and seaworthiness—which are essential components of the well-balanced ship.
The most interesting examples are the Idaho and Mississippi in comparison with the Louisiana and Connecticut. The two former ships are what Jane terms "particularly interesting ships as they put into practice the 'moderate dimensions theory.'" But, considering cost only, columns (6) and (7) show that it was more expensive to build and maintain second than first class battleships. The money lost was a small item compared to the military value lost.
That the same conclusions in regard to cost have been realized in the past is shown by numerous writers. Among the deductions stated by Lieutenant Fisher is the following:
For the same expenditure on building and upkeep, more power can be obtained in larger ships than small.
Lord Brassey, in discussing the Prize Essay, 1878, by Captain Colomb, said:
It is not proposed to reduce dimensions in order to spend less. We are deficient in the number of ships; and if we spend a smaller sum on each, we can build more for the same money…A ship which is twice as strong as another, but costs three times as much, should be looked on as the weaker of the two, as an item of naval policy.
The cost table shows clearly that as the military power of battleships decreases the proportionate initial and maintenance costs increase. Another English authority in 1878 wrote:
We must therefore consider this: take some given sum of money, say £3,000,000, what is the best squadron we can make for three millions of money? It is not too much, because the Italians are investing £2,500,000 on four ships. It will produce six Inflexibles or it will produce 120 Gammas. Now which is the most powerful? This question has been answered by the Admiralty; they have had to consider whether they would build six Inflexibles or a larger number of slightly smaller ships. Instead of going to 11,000 tons they have taken a displacement of 8500 tons, as in the Ajax. costing £350,000, which will give them for £3,000,000, nine ships. We. therefore, have nine A faxes against six Inflexibles. Nine rams and 18 pairs of 38-ton guns against six rams and 12 pairs of 80-ton guns.
The above was written during the heyday of the ram. The worship of this fetish led the English Admiralty into the error of building small ships with small guns instead of putting their trust in heavy guns on fewer ships. In less than 10 years they abandoned the ram for the real weapon, the gun, and the nine A faxes hence became of less military value than would have six Inflexibles with their 8o-ton guns. Lord Brassey, in a letter to the London Times, 1906, wrote:
Let it be assumed that forty 12-inch guns have been ordered. Shall they be concentrated as in the dreadnought in four ships, or distributed in more ships. It will cost considerably more to build, let us say, six ships as against four. The risks will be more divided. I submit that it is an essential gain and worth the cost.
Let us turn from the consideration of costs, which clearly indicate the advisability of building large ships, to the next point. In taking up this point it is necessary to bear in mind the words "would the defence of our coast, and incidentally aggressive action, be better provided for…?" Suppose the General Board to be evenly divided on the question of whether to ask for four small or two large battleships. In face of the record of the past 13 years, could the Board do otherwise than ask for the two large ships? Since 1903, the General Board has recommended the construction of 42 battleships and in that time Congress has appropriated for 20. At the same time 315 other vessels have been requested and 153 allowed. In view of this well defined attitude of Congress, would it not be foolish of the General Board to recommend small battleships when the probability amounts almost to a certainty that the allowed number will be one or two each year? If for no other reason, the General Board is thus obliged to ask each year for the most powerful battleships. Did they not, the country would very soon suffer not only from a deficiency in the number deemed necessary for adequate protection, but also in the quality of those possessed. The United States would be the owner of a fleet of second class battleships instead of one composed of first class ships, as it now is.
On November 27, 1914, Mr. Winston Churchill, the First Sea Lord, in a statement made before the House of Commons enumerated the following named ships that would be added to the active English fleet before the end of 1915:
5. Emperor of India
6. Queen Elizabeth
13. Royal Sovereign
15. Almirante Latorre
Look well at this list! Fifteen capital ships of 394,000 toils displacement and carrying seventy-two 15-inch, forty 13.5-inch, ten 14-inch, and fourteen 12-inch—total 136 guns, all put into commission in 18 months!
Before we can contemplate building more ships than this possible enemy, we must wait until we can at least approach the rate at which she builds. Many will claim we are not building battleships with which to fight England and that it is ridiculous to discuss a building program based on such an hypothesis. We are not building battleships with which to fight any particular nation! We sincerely hope all our ships will become obsolete and targets for gun practice without ever firing a shot at an enemy. However, we do not know who our enemies will be, and since we do not, we want to be ready for any. We build battleships for defense, but in defending ourselves we do not contemplate resting inert until attacked. The offensive-defensive appeals to us. "The best way to accomplish all these objects is to find and defeat the hostile fleet or any of its detachments at a distance from our coast sufficiently great to prevent interruption of our normal course of life."
The last extraordinary budget asked for in England brought up the cost of the war to more than ten thousand four hundred million dollars! The daily expenditure has risen to over twenty-five million dollars! There is as yet no end in sight. Twenty-five million dollars will build two "large" battleships. In other words England is daily spending for war the cost of two capital ships. It is believed that it would be true economy to spend annually between fifty and one hundred million dollars for building ships until we become possessed of a fleet that will absolutely insure us peace. However, it is not within the province of the naval officer, the expert upon whom the country must depend for a right decision as to number and kinds of ships needed, to discuss costs. The expert must give his honest opinion as to what is needed—the people through their representatives in Congress most decide if they want to pay the cost of adequate protection.
An eminent English authority used the following words:
It needs little reflection to conclude that the question as to what is the size proper to a battleship must be differently answered at different times, on account of the intervening advance of invention and manufacture. Again, size, for a particular nation, is affected by what is done elsewhere; and any distinct advance in one country must, in general, be answered in others. It may be, however, that for a nation of strictly limited resources, requiring vessels for use in home waters, the best policy, is to have such ships somewhat smaller, but mounting a limited number of the heaviest guns…One of the characteristics to be embodied in a warship at a given period, is that of the number of vessels required to adequately perform the duties devolving on the navy, in home waters and abroad, in peace and war.
Darrieus expresses the same idea more succinctly as follows:
A country ought to ha.N.re the fleet of its policy.
It is the English policy to have a great number of just such ships as Welch describes, "Somewhat smaller, but mounting a limited number of the heaviest guns." How admirably the 15 enumerated on page 1095 fulfill these conditions! And if England requires this type why not the United States? Because England built during the past 10 years for conflict with a definite enemy—Germany. She built to guard her trade on the seven seas; she built to guard her coasts from the attacks of German fleets and armies based within 300 miles of her harbors; she built to protect her island possessions and colonies which encircle the globe. All these duties her navy is doing to-day with such thoroughness that it commands the admiration of all. To perform these gigantic tasks there are needed a great many ships of all types. According to the newspapers, England has added 1,000,000 tons to the displacement of her navy since the war began. To secure and maintain the safety of the great trade routes upon which England and her allies are so dependent, an absolute clearing away of German ships was necessary. This task called for many cruisers to search out and hunt down the German commerce raiders. In the beginning of the war, these raiders were to be found not only acting singly, but, as occasion offered, they combined to form a squadron for offensive purposes and defeated an English squadron sent to search for them individually. This victory of the Germans was immediately answered by the English dispatching a squadron containing units from the battle fleet which in a short time discovered and sunk the German squadron.
The Invincible and the Inflexible were exponents of the well recognized rule that commerce or overseas expeditions by virtue of the weakness of their units must be protected by more powerful forces than any enemy will probably bring against them. If the enemy threatens with battleships or battle cruisers then the threat must be answered by a more powerful force of like units. In addition to clearing the seas of all German warships that had escaped to sea at the outbreak of the war, cruisers are maintained off all the important neutral ports to prevent the escape of interned ships and the passage of contraband in neutral bottoms. By sweeping clear the seas of German ships and then by diligently watching all ports from which others might issue. England has kept open the trade routes for herself and her allies. Who can say that to destroy the battle fleet of the enemy is the sole object of a "fleet in being"? Is riot a decision in the present war promised more from treasuries than from the battle-fields of Europe? With a blockade constantly becoming more stringent, can the economic conditions within the Central Empires improve? Is not the effect of the blockade already indicated by the greatly depressed exchange rates on German marks or Austrian kroners? We have before us to-day the most striking example of the effect of one belligerent destroying the trade of the enemy while preserving the integrity of its own. Not only does the absolute blockade fix the state of trade, but in military matters it likewise has the greatest weight. England by means of her blockade and freedom from fear in regard to German attack on the water, can transport in almost certain safety millions of troops and countless tons of stores and military supplies across the Channel, to and from distant colonies, the Dardanelles, or Salonica. At the same time a powerful battle fleet has been constantly maintained at such a base that it is centrally located with respect to the different routes by which the German fleet may come forth. This base, as foreseen before the outbreak of the war, is close to the . source of supplies and coal, and since the primary object of building the battleships is to fight an enemy some place in the North Sea or contiguous waters, it follows that the amount of coal and stores to be carried are small in comparison to those carried by ships acting far from their bases.
Not only was the English battle fleet built to fight in the shallow waters of the North Sea and possibly the Baltic, but also, if necessary, to engage the enemy in the shoal waters of Heligoland bight and similar estuaries. All these reasons make desirable ships of moderate draught, bunker and store-room capacity, while the multitudinous duties to be performed requires a very large number of ships. A very large number of capital ships of moderate dimensions, but each carrying a heavy battery is thus seen to be the type best adapted to England's needs.
It is evident, then, that the moderate size ships are not built because a limited number of guns on a ship is thought best, but conversely the moderate size ships considered as best fulfilling the military requirements, can carry only a limited number of heavy guns.
The United States should build for quite different reasons. In the first place the truth enunciated by the General Board should be borne in mind and plans made to wage any war in which we may become engaged in the waters of the enemy, instead of sitting passive and allowing the conflict to be carried to our own coasts. In other words we must prepare to take the initiative. Since wars are becoming more and more a matter of dollars, that nation which can maintain to the greater extent her normal life and foreign trade, will, other things being equal, win the contest. The first requirement in maintaining normal the life of the people in time of war is to keep the conflict at a distance from them. This cannot be accomplished except by assuming the initiative and carrying the war into the enemy's country instead of allowing him to inflict our people with the turmoil of battle. Only by keeping undisturbed the mass of the people can business and manufacturing be maintained normal, and the export of manufactured articles continue. Without revenue from outside the limits of the country, which revenue is only to be gained by selling raw material and manufactured articles, no country can exist for a great length of time.
A large part of the successful conduct of a war lies in the control of the sea borne trade of both parties to the contest. To control the trade of the enemy we must be prepared to attack it where Corbett shows it its most easily defended—at the source and destination. The points at which the routes of exports and imports converge will be determined by geographical features, but as a rule they will lie close to the enemy's coast. To attack the enemy's trade will therefore require a battle fleet which will, by its preponderance in power, either drive the enemy's fleet into his harbors, or defeat it in battle. The United States have no outlying naval bases. The battle fleet must then be based on distant points, a condition which requires long lines of communication exposed to the threats and attacks of the enemy. To make the battleships as self-sustaining as possible by reducing the frequency with which they must be re-fueled and provisioned and to enable them to carry a maximum amount of ammunition so that they will not be found impotent after an action, size is required. Small battleships demand naval bases to support them. In this respect the United States are absolutely lacking. We possess numerous ideal forts, strategically situated, in which to create powerful bases for our battle fleet, but, to date, advantage has not been taken of our opportunities.
How different is the case of England! Pick out any first class power and somewhere close at hand will be found an English naval base. The long series of abortive efforts to invade England made by France and other European powers show conclusively that so long as the battle fleet of a nation remains undefeated and unconfined, a successful invasion of that country is impossible. Not only must the convoy of transports and storeships be protected during the initial passage, but also as long as the armies continue in the invaded country. Attacking ships must therefore be kept at a distance from the transports which would fall victims to the weakest warships. To keep the attacking force at a distance from the transports there is required a guard stronger than the force that can be brought against it. This guard does not necessarily have to be in company of the convoy, but wherever it is it must be able to interpose its force between the convoy and an attacking force. The strength of this guard will be based upon that of the probable attacking force. The helplessness of transports and the train demanded by an overseas expedition is so great that until the sea is clear of the battle fleet of the enemy and a very large degree of immunity from attack is enjoyed, such an expedition cannot be undertaken.
It is for these reasons that an attack in force on our coasts is not to be feared until after our battle fleet has been defeated or compelled by superior forces to withdraw from the disputed area. To prevent such a crisis our battleships should be superior in force to an equal number of the enemy and this result cannot be assured unless, ship for ship, we build our battleships superior in power to those built at the same time by a possible enemy.
Let us now turn to the question of guns. It has ever been a cardinal principle of American naval officers to install aboard our ships batteries that would give a superiority in weight of broadside over an enemy of equal displacement. To this principle many victories are directly attributable. Shall we in these modern days when the range has increased from goo yards to nine miles, depart from this principle? Assuredly not! The raison d'être of the battleship is to carry guns. That the standard for guns is constantly changing is evident when one considers the statements made by authorities in the past.
Not to go too far back we will take as our starting point the Spanish-American war. A board of survey ordered to report on the wrecks of the Spanish cruisers destroyed July 4, 1898, reported, among other things, (a) "No torpedoes should be carried in fighting vessels," (b) "Rapid fire batteries in battleships are of supreme importance." As a result of these conclusions, no torpedo tubes were installed in the Kentucky, Alabama, Illinois and Wisconsin and our building for the next five years consisted largely of cruisers with weak batteries.
Rear Admiral Mahan advocated the installation of three 6-inch guns in place of one 12-inch. Misled by the account of Semenoff and others who dwelt upon the damage done to the crews and the upper works of the Russian ships at Tsushima by a large number of 6-inch shells and doubtless unaware of the great change that had taken place since 1900 in the methods adopted to obtain a very great increase in the accuracy of pointing and the rapidity of gun fire, the admiral, together with eminent English, French and American writers, advocated mixed batteries—a few 12-inch guns to sink the ship—a large number of smaller guns to destroy the crew. As late as 1910, Sir William White placed himself on record with these words:
The writer desires to place on record his personal opinion that in no case is it desirable to carry more than eight heavy guns in a single ship; that these guns are best arranged in four positions as in the Michigan class, and that they should be supplemented by a powerful and well-protected secondary armament.
Meanwhile, Captain Percy Scott, R. N., had developed some new ideas and methods of his own. These proved so successful that their effect was immediately seen in the Dreadnought, the first ship to carry a main battery of ten 12-inch guns emplaced in five turrets. In spite of the advocates of mixed batteries, the A. B. G. B. S. school was soon in the ascendency and so logical were the arguments upon which was based the change from a mixed to a heavy one caliber battery for offense that within five years the former system had been abandoned by all the nations. Even before the plans of the Dreadnought had become public, those of the Michigan and the South Carolina, each carrying eight 12-inch guns on a displacement of 16,000 tons had been drawn by our designers.
No officer who has ever been responsible for the fire control of a pre-dreadnought with its battery of four 12-inch, eight 8-inch and numerous 6-inch guns, each caliber demanding separate control with the accompanying complication of personnel, materiel and information required, no one, it is repeated, who has ever been a member of such a fire control party can fail to appreciate the simplicity and ease with which a one caliber battery can be more efficiently controlled.
It seems remarkable, indeed, that the English should have laid down the Dreadnought the same year that the Russo-Japanese war ended. To the Japanese the lesson of the battle of Tsushima was the value of a large number of guns of intermediate caliber, as manifested by the batteries of the Kurama, Satsuma and Aki which were laid down in 1905 and 1906. At this time English naval officers were presumed to have access to more definite Japanese information than anyone else, yet just as the Japanese decided a large number of intermediate caliber guns are desirable, England builds the first dreadnought. What was the reason? Just as it is extremely doubtful that the Japanese divulged all their information to the English, so is it to be doubted whether the English had impressed on the Japanese naval officers the value of the new ideas in training gun crews and controlling gun fire in action. A bold step was needed, also, to gain an added lead on Germany. The unheralded appearance of the Dreadnought with her turbine driven engines developing a speed of 21 knots, her battery of ten I2-inch guns and her superior protection immediately cast into the second class all ships previously built. The race between England and Germany took a fresh start with England well in the lead.
The change in battery was not made, however, without protests from many naval officers and designers of note such as Mahan in this country, as previously noted, Custance, "Barfleur" and Hovgaard." The latter expressed himself as follows:
I sounded a warning against a too rapid increase in the displacement of battleships and pointed out the drawbacks connected with excessive size. Not till all the technical means of improvement at our disposal have been exhausted should we resort to an increase in displacement, and then only in a conservative manner, so as to make the ships match the battleships of other nations, or, if thought necessary, surpass them to a certain extent. Upon these general conclusions and under existing conditions, I recommend building battleships of about 18,000 tons displacement (i. e., 2000 tons more than any battleship so far laid down in this country), of 19 knots speed and with a principal armament of a combination of 12-inch with 9 or 10-inch guns.
Hovgaard further recommended using turbines, liquid fuel for mixed combustion and small tube boilers to decrease the machinery installation. By so doing he stated that it was possible to produce a ship of about 18,000 tons displacement and 19 knots speed that would be superior to the Dreadnought in armor and armament. On the other hand Mr. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, in his remarks to the House of Commons on March 18, 1912, said, referring to the Russo-Japanese war:
The war also illustrated in particular that the decisive factor in a naval engagement was not, as had been supposed, the secondary armament of battleships the 6-inch guns, but the primary armament of heavier weapons, 12-inch and larger guns.
The increase in the size of guns has followed logically from improved mechanical devices and a better understanding of the art of gun construction. Coincident with these advances have been vast strides in the perfection of gunpowder on the one hand and armor on the other. Our ability to build a 50-caliber 4-inch gun with such longitudinal strength that it suffers little or no droop of the muzzle follows not only from a better understanding of gun construction, but also from the advancement made in steel manufacture and the turning out of large, heavy forgings composed of metal without flaws. This advance from a 35-caliber to a 50-caliber gun would, however, be of no avail had not the advance in the manufacture of smokeless powder kept pace with that of steel. To-day we can construct with greater accuracy and less liability of error a 50-caliber 4-inch gun than to years ago could be built a 40-caliber 12-inch gun. On the other hand the same advance in the art of steel making that provides better guns, gives also much better armor and projectiles. In addition to the gains in the ballistic properties of large guns are added corresponding improvements in sights and their mounts, gun mounts, the delicate control Of the guns both in train and elevation, the supply of ammunition, the rapidity of loading, and the protection of the guns' crews.
All these advances would be wasted, however, were it not for the invention of the gyroscopic compass and its incorporation in the range finding installation; the growth of range finders from one to eight meters with their ready means of adjustment, automatic transfer of the range to desired points, and a higher degree of workmanship. The result of all these improvements, or rather the object of them, is to enable guns to hit at longer ranges and more often. The whole object is expressed in "hits per gun per minute." That ship which can hit her enemy first and then more often and with more destructive projectiles than she is hit in the same time is bound to win, other things being equal.
The 12- and 14-inch 50-caliber guns are already actualities. The 15-inch 45-caliber gun is in service abroad. There seems no reason to suppose we cannot make a successful 50-caliber 16-inch gun inasmuch as a 16-inch 45-caliber test gun was built and proved several years ago. One of the most startling points brought out by the above comparison is the small gain in danger space made by increasing the caliber of the gun and the weight of the shell. One of the favorite arguments in favor of increasing the size of guns is thereby destroyed, but if we look at the penetration of armor, we immediately see the strongest argument in favor of the heavy gun. At 17,000 yards, the range at which Vice Admiral Beatty reports hits were made by the English battle cruisers in the Dogger Bank action, the 12-inch projectile would penetrate 11.2 inches of armor upon fair impact. It would therefore fail at that range to pierce the main belt armor or turret face plates of any English battleships of the Orion or later classes; any German battleships of the Kaiser and following ships; any Japanese battleship built subsequent to the Aki (1905). On the other hand the 50-caliber 16-inch gun could pierce the main armor belt or turret face plate of any English ship built to date and, so far as known, any battleship built or building.
To provide for future .development in guns and thus avoid the possibility of having our ships become obsolete in that respect before a normal lapse of time, and also to retain that superiority in gun fire which has ever been found advantageous and which, as has been said, is one of the cardinal principles of of the navy of the United States, the installation of the 16-inch gun capable of piercing 16.2 inches of armor at a range of 18,000 yards, nine sea miles, is deemed advisable. The 16-inch gum is considered necessary because it can be served as rapidly as guns of less caliber; its danger space is greater than that of the 14-inch gun. The destructive effects of the shell exploding inside the armor of a ship should be at least 1 1/2 times as great as that of the 14-ihch shell.
Considered defensively a most powerful argument for increasing the caliber and thereby the range of the guns of the main battery of a battleship, lies in the vastly increased range and accuracy of torpedoes. Examination of the effective ranges of the latest types of torpedoes against enemy ships of high speeds shows that already these ranges have increased, under certain conditions, to the practicable limits of gun fire. In view of the recent rapid advances made in the ranges of torpedoes can a limit thereto be set? Has not the effective range of the gun got to be increased to such a point that ships of high speed but light armor Protection cannot assume favorable positions for launching salvos of torpedoes against our battle formation?
The need of battle cruisers to prevent the same type from attacking with torpedoes, is apparent. If the enemy brings battle cruisers into the action, we must have them also, otherwise our battleships will not be free to hold their course to preserve the maximum gun efficiency. Again we see that we must have the same types of ships as the enemy, but with the units of each type better than any he can bring into the fight.
For the foregoing reasons a main battery of at least ten 16-inch guns is considered necessary. Battleships are deficient in one factor of offensive power in that they possess limited speed. This deficiency must be more than compensated for in some other offensive factor and that factor must be the battery. Both in the size and number of guns must this preponderance be gained over faster ships, and since there are now battle cruisers of 33 knots, carrying eight 15-inch guns, our battleships should carry ten or more 16-inch guns. With such an advantage in offense combined with superior defense in armor, the battleship will have nothing to fear from the high speed battle cruiser. In addition to the main battery, ample torpedo defense and anti-aircraft batteries are absolutely necessary.
Insofar as protection is concerned, it is a universally accepted axiom that guns must be protected from similar guns. Since the entire ship constitutes the gun platform, it follows that the stability of the ship must be protected against guns equal to those of the main battery. Not only must the stability of the battleship of to-day be protected against gun fire, but it also must be defended against torpedoes and mines below water as well as bombs from aircraft above water. The defense against torpedo and mine attack calls for more extended and minute cellular construction, together with longitudinal bulkheads, coal or liquid fuel so stored as to protect the integrity of the ship, and any new devices like torpedo flexible bulkheads.
The torpedo requires a large ship to withstand it. Rear Admiral R. H. S. Bacon, R. N., in his article on "The Battleship of the Future" says:
Is a large or small ship more liable to be lost by a torpedo? Constructionally, there seems no doubt that the larger the ship the more likely is it to survive the blow of a torpedo. Provided the number is kept constant, although their size increase no danger from torpedoes accrues to the nation by building larger ships. In building the small ship, speed, size of gun, and power of each hit are sacrificed. Moreover the length of the battle line is considerably increased.
The threat from overhead demands heavier protective decks and more of them. All of these improvements require increased displacement upon which to float them.
As to speed, a uniform speed of 21.5 knots should be maintained. Change of speed more than anything else causes ships to become obsolete before their time. Just so long as they can keep up with the battle fleet, they are not obsolete. Given good guns each can do something in the fight. It is generally conceded that a slight advantage in speed is of strategical value to a commander-in-chief opposed by an enemy as able, resolute and resourceful as himself. To quote Rear Admiral Schroeder:
The victory was won by the faster fleet, but that does not necessarily carry the conclusion that speed was a determining factor; as a matter of fact .a close study fails to reveal any material damage properly attributable to it from the moment that tactical contact was established until the Russian fleet was shattered and its remnants seeking refuge in flight.
Again in the same article with reference to speed, he says:
But the frequent and attractive expression that one fleet can thus choose the fighting range does not represent a wholly safe presumption. The faster fleet can avoid action ab initio, and can always bring on close action; but if the other resolutely opposes the choice, it cannot maintain a long range without continually heading off, and that is attended by several grave considerations.
In reference to gaining speed in capital ships by the sacrifice of other qualities "Barfleur" speaks thus:
In tactics it (speed) 80 is less important than tactical skill, and it gives a very limited control over the range. In strategy it is discounted by the demands of enduring mobility, by the conditions of war, and by the strategical ability of the admiral. In all cases its uncertainty is such that reliance cannot be placed upon it.
Again quoting Sir Reginald Custance:
For very small squadrons the speed ratio might possibly reach 4 to 3, but the curvature would be immaterial in their case. For fleets of any size the ratio will be perhaps 9 to 8 or more probably unity, which means that for present day ranges, speeds and differences, the courses may be taken as straight, and the permissible number of ships in a fleet unlimited by this consideration.
Nevertheless, if 10% superiority of speed over any possible enemy could be obtained without the sacrifice of some other military quality, that extra speed would be a desirable asset to a commander-in-chief. In other words no admiral would refuse more speed simply because it was speed, but such additional speed cannot be obtained even in a small degree without a heavy increase in the cost or decrease in the battery power, protection, steaming radius or habitability of ships.
The increase of 6 knots in the speed would be obtained by a loss of 30% in the armor and armament.
The modern long range torpedo is the most potent factor in favor of high speed. The superiority in speed is needed to gain positions from which to launch the torpedoes against the enemy as well as to evade attacks by the same weapon.
Increase of speed above the adopted standard, about 21.5 knots, is not worth the price. On the other hand decrease of speed cannot be considered because a ship to be effective in the battle fleet in time of war must be able to maintain her station in the fleet formation. Any battleship that cannot take her place in the first battle line is a second class battleship. Therefore the size of battleships cannot be reduced at the cost of speed.
Referring to Table I, page 1091, we note that for ships of the same speed, seven Wyomings can be built for five modified Pennsylvanias. As self-constituted members of .the General Board, we must now decide from a tactical point of view whether we want to build seven small ships to take into action against five very powerful ones. Seven Wyomings will carry eighty-four 12-inch guns with a weight of broadside of 73,080 pounds; five modified Pennsylvanias will carry sixty 14-inch guns, weight of broadside 84,000 pounds. As the 14-inch and 12-inch guns will have the same firing interval, the relative efficiencies will be 84 to 73 in favor of the 14-inch battery, a gain of 13.6%, in so far as the weight of broadside is concerned. On the other hand there will be fired in a given time 1.4 as many 12-inch shells as there are 14-inch shells. This would give a probability of hitting of seven to five in favor of the 12-inch battery. If the 14-inch and the 12-inch shells had equal penetrative power and equal destructive effects, we would certainly want the eighty-four 12-inch guns. They have no such equality in destructiveness! As a matter of fact the 12-inch shells will not pierce the vitals of a modified Pennsylvania, until the range is reduced to 12,000 yards, by which time the Pennsylvanias will have had the Wyomings within effective range from somewhere outside of 18,000 yards. The majority of the hits made by the Pennsylvanias should pierce the side armor, barbettes or turret face plates and explode within the ship or her turrets. Each shell so exploding would hurl 1400 pounds of steel fragments under the impulse of its bursting charge.
In the Dogger Bank action the feed tanks of the Lion were pierced by a piece of armor or heavy splinter that had been driven downwards by a shell that had entered the vessel. This one shell put the Lion out of action!
Imagine the devastation wrought by a 16-inch shell which is capable of piercing to the very vitals of a ship! Some will contend that the probability of hitting at ranges beyond 12,000 or 14,000 yards is so small that a commander-in-chief would not be justified in consuming his ammunition at those ranges. Right here lies one of the most virgin fields in which our naval officers have an opportunity to work. The steady increase of effective ranges is indicative of the fact that the limit has not yet been reached. The further application of science to firing guns is clearly apparent. The perfect ballistic properties of our powder, the greatly improved shells, a better understanding of erosion and its ballistic effects, a constantly increasing accuracy of rangefinder ranges, the ability to compute the ballistic correction after the course, speed and predicted range of the enemy is known, all justify the belief that it is possible to hit and to hit often at ranges hitherto considered excessive.
Although the material damage done by hits at long ranges will be sufficient to justify firing, the moral effect on the enemy will be equally as great. An enemy approaching to engage at 12,000 yards will be badly handicapped if he finds himself being hit at ranges of 16,000 to 18,000 yards. His whole scheme of battle will suffer. How much more, then, will he be at a disadvantage, if, with our first ranging shot we hit him with a i6-inch shell, and 30 seconds later straddle him with a salvo! Think of the enthusiasm and high hopes aroused throughout our own ship when, at the end of 25 seconds of suspense after hearing the first shot fired, word comes, "A hit!" The battle would be half won! Trial –trip records would be broken and gun loading intervals halved!
The principle objection made to firing at long ranges is wasting ammunition, so that when decisive ranges are reached there will not be left a sufficient number of rounds per gun to destroy the enemy. This argument is all right for those who do not believe they can hit at long ranges, but it is believed possible to hit. Large ships make it possible to carry a greater number of rounds of ammunition per gun so that the firing at long ranges would be right for the large ship when it would not for the small.
Equal speed having been one of the premises, the seven Wyomings are no more able to close in than the five Pennsylvanias to open out. Let them find themselves under the guns of the Pennsylvanias on an average day when the target can be clearly seen up to 18,000 yards and there is little doubt but that the weaker ships would be badly damaged before they had arrived at their decisive range. If seven Wyomings should suddenly run out of a fog and find themselves within 12,000 yards of five modified Pennsylvanias, they could doubtless overcome them; but is it not unreasonable to suppose such an extreme case? Not all believe thus, however, for Vice Admiral Gervais, one of the best naval officers of his day and one of the finest tacticians of the French navy, has long maintained that one strong and fast battleship would certainly be a match for two, or possibly three, weaker vessels. Battleships are not supposed to travel alone in time of war and it is not worth while to build ships that must depend on fog or other accident to enable them to defeat the enemy.
Having built any multiple of seven Wyomings, what assurance can be given that in time of war they will always find themselves in the presence of the enemy with a numerical superiority of seven to five? However, assuming that the ratio has been preserved and two squadrons find themselves in tactical contact, what will be the result? Let us first examine the case from the battery point of view.
Concentration is the first principle of tactics. The battle line that can show more and heavier guns to the mile is the superior tactically. On the flanks, the line containing the greater number of units would possess an advantage over the short line only after the range has been closed to the effective range of the weaker units. As the weaker units possess no advantage in speed, they cannot close to their decisive range except at the will or by the errors of the stronger. If allowed to close to the decisive range of the weaker gun, the ships carrying them must pass through a zone several thousand yards wide in which they will be exposed to the effective fire of the enemy while their fire is relatively ineffective. This zone can be crossed only at the rate allowed by the enemy.
Although the premise of equal speed for the seven Wyomings as against the five Pennsylvanias has been adopted, there are some other factors that must not be lost sight of. The size of a ship cannot be changed in one dimension only. If the size be reduced on account of carrying a less battery in either number or size of guns, then some other factor must be reduced with it. The speed can be kept the same, but the protection will then be reduced and this is the usual condition in battleships. Not only the protection against gun fire, but also that against mines, torpedoes and aeroplanes will be reduced.
In producing the Idaho on 3000 tons less displacement than the Connecticut, two knots speed, considerable armor in both thickness and area, and even more of the effectiveness as gun platforms and habitability were sacrificed. In saving 2000 tons by building Michigans instead of Delawares the following losses in power were accepted—two knots speed, two 12-inch guns, and especially gun platform value and steaming radius. Only one conclusion can be reached, viz.: a numerical superiority of ships carrying comparatively weak batteries and protection without superiority of speed, is useless. "Speed, tactically, is a useful complement of, but can never be a substitute for armament."
The following data is indicative of the gain in offensive and defensive power made by increasing the size of the ship:
Ordnance alone contains only a part of the offensive and defensive powers of a ship. In addition to the great increase in the proportion of the ship's displacement given over to ordnance in the large ship, gains in military power are made in seaworthiness, habitability with its direct effect on the efficiency of the personnel through their health in body and mind, protection against torpedoes and mines in the construction of the ship, protection against aeroplane attacks.
Since the cost of ships increases slower than the increase in battery power, it follows that everything else being equal, a given number of guns of the same caliber can be cheapest carried in large ships. To carry for the same price a certain number of guns on a large number of small ships instead of a small number of large ships, therefore necessitates the sacrifice of some military power—protection, speed, steaming radius or seaworthiness on the part of the small ships.
Tactically, the short line composed of powerful units is more easily handled than the long one of smaller ships. The commander-in-chief can keep under his immediate control a stronger force; signals can be made in less time; maneuvers can be more readily performed—the whole force gains in elasticity and coordination. To quote another English writer:
A great cause of the increased size of ships is the necessity of having as much gun power as possible in a limited length of line. We have seen that a long line of ships becomes unwieldy, and in practice the number that can be conveniently handled is limited, say to 12 ships. These ships must carry as large a number of offensive weapons as possible, which leads to big ships…If for the same original cost and cost of upkeep, two ships could be built of the same defensive powers and speed as one big one, but each with one-half the offensive power, they would have a considerable advantage in fighting the big ship, as they could obtain concentration of their fire whilst forcing dispersion of that of the enemy. If the length of the line were not limited, we should doubtless see a larger number of smaller ships for this reason.
Before finally deciding between large and small ships on which to spend a given amount for the defense of the country, let us consider the question from the view point of seamen. Little time need be spent in weighing the relative nautical qualities of the large as compared to those of the small ship. The sea speed, that is, the proportionate part of the maximum speed in smooth water, that the large ship can make is the greater; therefore, both the strategical and tactical values of the large ship's speed exceed that of the small ship, and the propulsion of the large ship is more economical than that of the small, because the seas have less retarding effect on it. Modern speeds in a seaway cause a great amount of spray. The high bows necessary to keep a ship dry forward under such conditions call for size. The avoidance of flying spray forward is absolutely necessary to keep clear the sights of the forward turrets, the conning tower and the fire control tower. To avoid spray and the interference of a clear view of an enemy at a distance, it is necessary for the gun turrets to have higher elevation than can be afforded by ships of low freeboard—these reasons likewise call for size.
To be able to fight the torpedo defense battery in any moderate seaway demands more freeboard than the small ship furnishes:
Our battleships must be able to take and keep the sea in all seasons and for long periods. These qualities demand fuel supply, numerous, commodious store rooms and reserve feed water tanks besides sufficient evaporator and distillery plants. Each item demands space and weight which in turn calls for added size and displacement to accommodate and float them. Finally, to afford the officers and crew living space to house them comfortably that their military efficiency will not be lessened by ill-health and discontent requires large ships. It is believed that one of the most potent reasons for the great increase in the percentage of re-enlistments is directly due to the added comforts that the men are finding on our new large battleships. How different is going to sea on one of our latest battleships to the green seas on the forecastle and quarter-deck of the Missouri in a moderate sea; to the ever-leaking gun ports of the Louisiana; the cramped quarters both above and below decks on the Idaho; the pitching and rolling of the Michigan.
A favorite argument against large battleships is the question of restriction of movements due both to draught and unwieldiness. It is perfectly true that the large ships will not be as free to enter ports as are the smaller old ships. This fact has a bearing on the question, but examination shows that as the ships demand deeper water, it is made to accommodate them. The Kaiser Wilhelm canal is one of the best recent examples of this point. On our own coast we see constant deepening of channels going on. Boston, New York, and Hampton Roads all now contain channels that will take our battleships for some time to come. The progress in shipbuilding carries with it increased channel depths to float the ships.
The limit placed on the size of battleships for the United States is at present defined more by the depth of water over the sills of our drydocks and the size of the locks in the Panama Canal than by anything else. It would mean tremendous additional expense to build our ships to draw more than 30 feet or to demand a breadth of lock of more than 110 feet. However, if other nations began to build ships that exceeded these limits, there is no doubt but what we would build them also and provide the facilities for handling them.
The days of flying moors with the sparks darting from the hawse pipes, the chains clattering over the decks and the ship throbbing from the backing engines are already things of the past. Battleships of to-day cannot be stopped in their length as of old. However, the added unwieldiness of the new large ships does not prevent them from going in formation at higher speeds than heretofore when at sea. Battleships cannot be built to make them handy harbor ships. There is always plenty of time when coming to anchor in port; it is at sea with an enemy unable to fire his battery on account of the high waves or attempting to escape an action or capture, that the large battleship comes into its own.
In 1908, before the Senate Naval Committee, Rear Admiral Capps testifying in regard to criticisms on our battleships by Reuterdahl in McClure's Magazine, made the following statement:
Every battleship is a compromise. If you have excessive armor protection, you have to take weight from some other feature. If you have excessive speed, you must be content with diminished armor or armament. If you have excessive gun power, the extra weight must be taken from machinery or armor or some other essential element. The ship designers and the sea-going officers of different countries may reach different conclusions as to the best final compromise, but concerning the most important features of design they are in accord.
The General Board having decided upon the military features desirable in ships to be laid down, the next step is to call on the Bureau of Ordnance for an estimate of the weight required for the armament and its ammunition; upon the Bureau of Navigation for the complement of men and officers necessary; upon the Bureau of Steam Engineering for an estimate on the weight of machinery to give the desired speed; upon the Bureaus of Supplies and Accounts and Medicine and Surgery for the weight of stores under their cognizance that would be required for the complement for a given period. All these estimated weights are then furnished the Bureau of Construction and Repair which proceeds to make sketch plans of types of ships that would fulfill the requirements.
A former chief constructor of the navy stated the constructor's task as follows:
The problem of the naval architect should be to produce the best military unit for the least amount of money, and it remains for those who command naval vessels to say what limit of military power shall be placed upon the individual unit of the fleet. A distinguished foreigner once asked why our battleships are so large, or of so great displacement, and was told in answer that the conditions of our service seemed to make it necessary for our battleships to go anywhere and be ready to fight when they get there!
The standard of size is a variable quantity. It increases from year to year, keeping pace with the growth of the knowledge and skill of men. Just so long as progress is maintained in the arts and sciences just that long will ships continue to grow. The growth will not always be in size, but it always will be in power.
The advent of the automobile torpedo, threatened the battleship's supremacy as queen of the seas; yet the battleship did not disappear. It held its own, emerging greater and more powerful. It will be remembered that France, under the spell of this marvelous weapon, feverishly built torpedo craft for a number of years and neglected her battle fleet. Like all such radical movements, conceived under the impulse of hysteria, the pendulum swung too far. France, believing that her logical enemy was England or Germany, thought that with countless torpedo craft she could sweep the seas. But it was soon shown by less impulsive thinkers that the mastery of the sea was impossible without those great vessels armed with large caliber turret guns and France was obliged to again take up her interrupted battleship construction program…
The future mistress of the ocean will likewise be a vessel in which there can be placed the utmost confidence. She must, therefore, be a thoroughly trustworthy type, capable of keeping the sea in all weathers. She must be habitable for a large crew and be armed with the most powerful weapons. She must be able to take the offensive and defensive against any possible opponent. She must be swift, active and dependable and must be able, with the aid of her auxiliaries, to control the entire area through which she will have to operate.
In his Esprit des Lois, Montesquieu says:
The nature of defensive warfare is discouraging; it gives to the enemy the advantage of the courage and energy of the attack; it would be better to risk something by an offensive war than to depress minds by keeping them in suspense.
This is the state of mind which the personnel of a navy of small ships would eventually develop. Dependent always on numbers, the first thought of the leaders would be to look for help. On the other hand the leaders of a navy consisting of a fleet of battleships more powerful than any possessed by the enemy, and with all other types of vessels of such numbers and strength as to form a well balanced whole, the leaders of such a navy would be possessed of that confidence in selves and tools that they would instinctively assume the part of the offensive after war had begun. "Fortunate the soldier" says a great German general, "to whom destiny assigns the role of assailant." "The best way," says the General Board, "to accomplish all these objects is to find and defeat the hostile fleet or any of its detachments at a distance from our coast sufficiently great to prevent interruption of our normal course of life."
For a given sum of money we want to build large battleships, i. e., battleships more powerful than those building by any other nation, for the following reasons:
(a) The first cost and the maintenance per unit of military power vary inversely as the size of the battleship.
(b) Both tactically and strategically the large battleships are superior.
(c) Large ships engender the most desirable virtues in the officers and men who conceive and man them.
(d) The national policy demands large battleships.