Motto: “Whither Are We Going.”
It has been said that “to prophesy for the future the head may be in the clouds, but to provide for the present the feet must be firm on the ground.” Yet very often we little appreciate that in order to have our feet firmly on the ground it behooves us also to have our heads in the clouds, so to speak. The Navy is today sorely in need of men of vision—men who can sense out the future—who can give to the Navy ideas which, by well- planned experiment, investigation, research and development, may lead to important conclusions. It is a significant fact that, although America has been distinctly in the lead in the invention of types and weapons of prime importance and in introducing new features in the field of naval design, our Navy has, generally speaking, lagged behind in their adoption and application. The submarine, monitor and airplane are cases in point. Our inventors found a deaf ear when they brought their ideas before our high naval officials and such men as Fulton and Ericsson, among others, were forced to go abroad for recognition. Too often we have harkened only to the pressure of war necessity, strong political influence, or the adoption of innovations by foreign powers before we saw the light. We have followed where we should have led.
Military men are naturally, and for well-defined reasons, conservative. They have been so from time immemorial. Over and above this fundamental reason we need only to review our history in brief to see why our naval officers have been conservative. The United States has occupied an enviable position as regards isolation, being bounded on the east and west by oceans thousands of miles in extent and on the north and south by relatively weak countries. We have, until quite recently, zealously avoided alliances and foreign entanglements. “Live and let live” was our policy and, except for the Monroe Doctrine, we sought neither influence nor power outside of our country. Perhaps no other one factor has caused as many wars as trade. It is a first consideration in international relations, and peace and war hang in the balance when national interests clash in this domain. In this field our sporadic efforts were of little concern to foreign countries. We, therefore, lacked the urge of the ever-present probability of war that is continuously felt by most other powers, especially by those in Europe. How natural it was for us to sit back and let other nations experiment with original designs of types, and inventions in general; to let them develop new ideas and demonstrate their usefulness all at their expense, and then for us to accept the finished product. On the whole the quality of our Navy has been mediocre. A navy which makes a practice of copying can be nothing more. Navies possessed with strong vitality have always struck boldly forward on new, untrodden ways. Have we not come to the parting of the ways? Can we safely continue to follow?
The isolation of which we were wont to boast has been decreasing relatively as the speed of transportation has been increasing. Where formerly we reckoned a transatlantic passage by steamship in days, we now do so in hours by airplane or dirigible. The period of colonial expansion commencing with the purchase of Alaska, our penetration of the Pacific and the Far East, and the Caribbean, carried with it increased responsibilities and obligated us to take a new and imperative interest in world affairs. We found, during the World War, that our isolation left much to be desired, since our foreign trade had taken prodigious strides and required protection in all parts of the world. The Washington Conference marked a further step away from our ancient policy of isolation. The Four Power Treaty is the visible proof that our policy of non-entanglement is a thing of the past, although it must be said that it is only the culmination of years of involvement in Pacific and Far East questions. Our trade has built up since 1914 by leaps and bounds until today our combined export and import trade amounts to about eight billion dollars, and most of this is carried in American bottoms. Our war-built Merchant Marine was in a precarious condition after the war when it had to compete with the more experienced European countries but it has survived and will continue to figure as a principal component of the world shipping industry. Our interests are scattered far and wide over the length and breadth of the globe. We are developing keen economic rivalries and by our policy of excluding unassimilable peoples we are arousing racial antipathies. The World War left us in a position of strength, both in military power and in finance, while European countries emerged exhausted. We are aspiring to world leadership and must adapt our conduct accordingly. We must carefully study the international situation and our place in the world. Can we afford to lead in the province of commerce, finance and the rest, but to follow in the study of naval warfare?
We are living in a wonderful age—an era of change. It is a standard remark, and yet, do we fully realize what it means? It seems as though the rate of progress, of civilization follows the same law as that of accelerated motion. And, indeed, it should. The greater the store of human knowledge the greater the foundation on which man has to build. When we study the nineteenth century progress of human achievement in material development, in scientific discovery, and in mechanical invention, we are impressed; and if we should array the steamboat, the railroad, the printing press, steel ships, the telegraph and telephone, the sewing machine, the conquering of electricity, and so forth, against all other similar conquests in the material field of the Christian era up to the nineteenth century, we might very easily decide that the human race had made more progress in this one century than during the entire eighteen centuries prior to it. With the first quarter of the twentieth century almost spent we can look back and see that the rate of human progress has not diminished. We have made the following achievements since the beginning of the twentieth century: airplanes, automobiles, submarines, radio telegraphy and telephony, x-ray, wireless control of moving unmanned ships, wireless transmission of photographs and of power in an experimental stage, and so forth. A survey of the naval situation during these times will show the same results. Let it be our high resolve to maintain the same onward pace of progress. There is no middle ground in the field of naval development, for when progress ceases, decay sets in.
This rapid progress has, of course, tended to diminish conservatism in our Navy as well as in those of foreign countries, but it must be admitted that, in the very nature of things, we are conservative and always will be. It therefore behooves us to be on the alert and utilize our undoubted inventive genius by recognizing demonstrated facts. It is not necessary that a new invention demonstrate its usefulness in war before it should be adopted. No gun of comparable efficiency had ever been used in war prior to the use of the Prussian needle-gun in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866—a gun which fired with such rapidity that it led the Austrians to remark that the “Prussians load during the night and fire during the day,” while the Austrians rammed the charge down the muzzle as of old. Prior to the World War, the airplane had not demonstrated its efficiency in modern battle and yet how foolish it would have been if the European powers had not developed it before 1914, timid though such development was. Again we have seen that, during the World War, in no case did the operations of airplanes, airships and submarines have a noticeable effect in the major naval battles; yet is there one with vision so narrow who would deny that all three of these types will fill their niche in the next naval battle?
Preparation for war is a business—and a serious one. When war was thrust upon us in 1917 all the industries and resources of this great country were called into play; the best brains were mustered to tackle various problems, with the result that the decisiveness and speed of our rush to the Allies’ assistance was a surprise to the world. The American people found an immense satisfaction in their strength. They felt comfortable, and, with the war over, decided that armaments were unnecessary and summarily called for disarmament. The point is that the importance of scientific preparation for war has not been pressed home to the American people. Americans are proverbially careless students of history. They apparently have no conception of what the prepared and powerful British Navy meant to us. How the protection it afforded enabled us to retrieve the mistakes and neglect of previous years in feverish haste and at appalling cost! One has only to think of the destroyer situation. Before the war the General Board recommended a policy of building four destroyers for each battleship, and in the light of the experience of the World War, we know that this was little enough. But invariably Congress cut the number of destroyers to one or two per battleship. Why? Because the battleships appealed to the popular mind and congressmen felt that they represented greater value to their constituents. Cooperation between the Army and Navy, which is of such vital importance, was virtually nullified when, in 1915, by order of the President, the Army and Navy Joint Board was forbidden to hold any further meetings for the apparent reason that it was feared that the Army and Navy might cooperate actively for the preparation for war. Let us think for a minute of what vast moment preparation for war really is. Adequate preparation may avert war or lack of it may induce war. Preparation for war may also cause, or at least promote, war in those countries where the military factions have strong political influence, as in Germany before the war, or in Japan today. Adequate preparation will win a war with minimum loss in lives and money. A nation may win a war in spite of inadequate preparation but with maximum loss of lives and money, or it will lose the war with all the lives and money it has cost. Great indeed is the importance of preparation and, as war becomes more complex and specialized, its effect will increase correspondingly. Under modern conditions it may be assumed that the fundamental conduct of the first two years of a naval war in which we may become engaged will be predetermined by what preparation we have made in time of peace.
Until a few years ago the United States Navy did not have a policy which provided for the future. We lived from year to year, building such ships as Congress appropriated money for, and built them without a definite policy. We now have a policy and, as a temporary expedient, it is doubtless of great value. It is a plan for building and maintaining a well-rounded navy. It provides what types and how many we should maintain in commission, what types and how many to build, and so forth. But is it not, after all, a “makeshift” arrangement—a bolstering up here and a filling there—a nice piece of patchwork? What we need is a carefully worked out plan of a new navy, built to a purpose, adequate and suitable to fulfil the functions assigned to it on the water, below the water, and above the water. On this point we can learn a lesson from Germany. Her navy was built with the definite object in view of disputing the British supremacy of the seas. Realizing, therefore, that the eventual struggle must take place in the North Sea, the German ships were built with moderate fuel capacity, crowded living quarters, and, in general, other characteristics premised on the assumption that they would fight near their home bases. The British ships on the other hand were built with large fuel capacity, comparatively comfortable living quarters, and so forth; in short they were built to fight anywhere. Germany took full advantage of this point and was therefore enabled to put greater fighting power into her ships, ton for ton, than Great Britain.
A study of the parallel development of the French and German Navies between 1900 and 1914 affords a striking example of the difference between a navy built on a scientific policy and one with no policy. The French naval program during these years was a succession of spasmodic efforts and undirected development—a navy built by “fits and starts.” During the same time Germany, under the able direction of Admiral von Tirpitz, created a fleet which was not only far more powerful than the French but almost on a parity with that of Great Britain. This was accomplished with a smaller annual expenditure, with inferior industrial backing, but with a unity, a direction, a perseverance toward a set goal, and a will to win. Superior engineering, construction, equipment, and finances are apt to be of little use unless they are directed by a definite and carefully-planned naval policy.
It is the legitimate province of Congress, after listening to the Navy’s plea as to what appropriations are believed to be necessary, to decide what the nation can and should afford. Only too often Congress has appropriated for one type in preference to another and in general disregarded the expert opinion which it had at its command. We have already cited the instance of the destroyer situation before the war and it is only one of a number with which our history is replete. There have even been instances when Congress has altered the military characteristics of our ships as recommended, as when Congress, with the “too many eggs in one basket” idea, materially reduced the size of the battleships and, again, when they insisted that the after-cage mast be placed between the funnels. On the whole, however, we have fared better as regards the military characteristic than as regards numbers. Had Congress, in order to reduce expenditures, cut the numbers of all types in proportion, it would have left us with a small but well-rounded fleet instead of the battleship-top heavy one which we had in 1917. Perhaps the worst example of congressional interference has been in the navy yard situation and it would indeed be comical were it not for the serious aspects of the case.
In this respect the Navy has been a “political football.” Every seaboard state has fought for its own navy yard and, if its harbors were not such as to warrant a navy yard, it must have at least a destroyer or submarine base. Each state must have its own individual protection; but what is probably the greatest incentive is that the success of congressmen, according to the mass of their constituents, is measured by the amount of appropriations they can secure for their respective states. The result is that we have today not less than twelve navy yards and naval bases, exclusive of destroyer and submarine bases, and so forth. Only three of these are located on the Pacific Coast and not one is fitted out as a fleet base. The creation of the Charleston Navy Yard affords an interesting example of congressional logrolling. The Navy was ordered to appoint a board to investigate and report on the relative merits of the Charleston and Port Royal sites for the establishment of a navy yard. The Navy was not even asked whether a navy yard was necessary at either site. The board investigated as directed but reported that both sites were unsatisfactory, although Charleston was the better of the two. Over and above this report, though using such parts of it as stated that the Charleston site was the better of the two, the necessary legislation was passed for the establishment of the Charleston Navy Yard.
Another more recent example was when the naval board recommended the establishment of a fleet base at Alameda, California, which would be able to provide fleet facilities, such as docking, storage, anchorage, etc., for the entire fleet. The board recognized that it was impossible to provide such a base centered at Mare Island, due to the extremely limited anchorage and the silting conditions which requires continual dredging to keep even a narrow channel open. This proposition, therefore, meant the immediate transferring of a large part, and probably the eventual transferring of all the functions of the Mare Island Yard to Alameda, and the consequent depression of business for Vallejo, which exists for the navy yard. The people of Vallejo, therefore, fought this proposition and secured such political backing in Congress that the measure was defeated. It must in all fairness also be said that there were certain naval officers who supported this group. The rejoicing of the populace would have led one to believe that we had won another battle of Manila Bay had one not known the issue. And we are still without the fleet base.
Navy yards and, in fact, the entire shore establishment of the Navy exists for the sole purpose of serving the fleet. Efforts have been made time and again to reduce the number of navy yards which do not add to the efficiency of the fleet; but in general they have seldom met with success and in all cases have been strenuously resisted. The Navy itself, it must be said, has been lukewarm in pushing for the needed changes for fear of antagonizing the people and their representatives in Congress and thus losing supporters for other naval legislation. There is, indeed, a great deal to be said in favor of this argument, but when all is said and done, has it given us, or can it ever give us the means to attain the highest efficiency? And nothing but that should satisfy us. Can we afford to compromise efficiency at this stage of our history?
Public opinion runs this country, and daily its weight is being felt more heavily. This is a fact which we must appreciate and adopt our conduct accordingly. The Navy belongs to the people of the United States and they want it to be a first class one, if they can have it at a reasonable cost. Would it not, therefore, be the part of wisdom to make an open breast of naval affairs and take the people into our confidence? What would be the weight of the voices of a few thousand Vallejoites or those of any other place where, by force of necessity, the Navy is forced to change its plans when over one hundred million people demand that efficiency be served? Would not, perchance, even the citizens whose personal interests had been injured admire the Navy for its stand? The American people stand for efficiency in business and are intolerant of anything that interferes with it. Would they not feel the same way toward the Navy, if they knew the true state of affairs? How have we catered to public opinion? What does the average man know about the Navy? During the last few years he has read accounts of the Honda disaster where we lost seven destroyers; he has read about the turret explosions in the Mississippi and the Trenton; he has read, mainly, accounts of uninformed writers, who see no reason for the existence of a Navy when we have airplanes; and, finally, he has read accounts that our Navy is hopelessly inferior to foreign navies and outclassed in every branch. What interest can we expect the average man to take in his Navy, unless it is an interest in scrapping it? Is he not apt to say, “Well, if the Navy can’t do any better than that with the three hundred million dollars that we appropriate annually, why waste any more on it?” What are we doing to counteract the insidious propaganda which is being disseminated from various sources? Millions of people read the comments of uninformed writers who have long carried on propaganda for the air service at the expense of the surface navy. The substance of a recent comment was as follows: “A battleship costs $45,000,000. For that sum you can build 2,000 fighting airplanes.” By the term “fighting airplanes” is apparently meant bombers or torpedo planes for it goes on to say “any two of which can sink that battleship.” The above figures are not even fair average initial costs of a modern battleship and a bombing or torpedo plane. But be that as it may, the great discrimination made is that it goes no further. The reader is left with the impression that one battleship and 2,000 airplanes represent an equivalent in cost. It does not consider the comparative maintenance, depreciation, and so forth. Public opinion has the impression now that surface ships are “passé.” What are we doing about it? What are we going to do about it—nothing but study the problems, form our opinions, and then keep them to ourselves?
The Washington Conference and Its Effects.—The Washington Conference for the Limitation of Naval Armament has been heralded as a signal success. It is not the intention of the writer to go into the political aspects of this question but these are so interwoven with the trend of naval affairs that complete separation is impossible. In general, we may say that the conference was a success not so much from the standpoint of naval armaments, which was its primary purpose, but rather in that it pointed the way toward settling disputes and removing or at least decreasing friction in the future. Concretely, it removed the immediate danger of war in the Pacific. From the standpoint of limiting competition in naval armaments, not much can be said for the success of the conference. True, it limited the size and number of battleships, the size and total tonnage of aircraft carriers, and the size and caliber of guns of auxiliary vessels, and so forth. This has enabled us to reduce our appropriations considerably but it must be remembered that we have not maintained our treaty strength. To bring our Navy up to the treaty ratio would require an outlay that would be staggering. It was fondly hoped that the costly competition in naval armaments would be eliminated and the public believes that this has been accomplished. But how utterly impossible this is! The elimination of competition must come from within, and the spirit of the people must be changed. How is it possible to limit competition in naval armaments when we have competition in commerce, in finance, and in every other walk of life? We can limit the size and number of battleships, but we have not eliminated competition; we can limit the size and number of auxiliary vessels, but we have not eliminated competition; we can limit the number of officers and men, but we have not eliminated competition. Even if it were possible, the elimination of competition would be highly undesirable, for when competition ceases, decay sets in.
We in this country have felt a lull in the competition, due to the fact that we scrapped our immense battleship building program. Until very recently battleships have always appealed to the popular mind as the essence of naval power and with the stabilization of the ratios in this element of fighting strength the people were lulled into a false sense of security. Until very recently Great Britain, it is true, was taking a more or less complete respite in naval development, and, judged by her treaty ratio, she could afford to do so. Her fleet is fairly well-rounded, the battleships whose ratio is fixed by the treaty forming the nucleus. Japan has been continuing and enlarging upon her development of auxiliary types. France has made prodigious strides in the development of her air force.
Perhaps it is only coincidence that, except for aircraft carriers, the battleship, the type in which we were bidding for world supremacy, was the only type to be limited by the conference. We had that to bargain with and we sacrificed it in order to make the conference a success. The ratios as established are fair enough if we will but hold to them. In armaments we have always hesitated to go the limit, and it is also probable (as is borne out by the trend since the conference) that the other powers will maintain their ratios at par while the United States will go backward. That the United States will be governed by the letter of the treaty goes without saying and she is setting the other governments an example by abiding by the spirit of it as well. But here is where we will be at a disadvantage, since the other powers, at best, will conform to the letter alone. The American people are idealistic and little realize that love and good will are not controlling factors among nations. While we are debating as to whether we should increase the elevation of our guns and while Great Britain is informing us that it would be contrary to the treaty, Japan has been going ahead and doing that very thing. But even this, apparently, does not justify us in going ahead and doing the same for our battleships.
As it will be remembered, the non-fortifications agreement of the Pacific is a concession we had to make to Japan in order to obtain her consent to the 5-5-3 ratio. Although it is limited by the terms of the agreement to a period of fifteen years, it is tantamount to a recognition of Japan’s Monroe Doctrine. Japan will gradually assume the attitude that this concession is a recognition of her dominance in the Far East, and we may he sure that when the agreement has run its course Japan will occupy a far stronger position than now. Should we undertake to increase our fortifications, it is most probable that Japan would consider this as a threat of war, so, whether the non-fortifications agreement is renewed or not, the possibility that the Philippines and Guam will ever be adequately fortified in peace is extremely remote. Therefore, in our future naval development program we should hear this in mind and be governed accordingly.
Prior to the conference it was generally recognized that there was a greater net return by avoiding extensive repairs on battleships and devoting the money to new construction. This, of course, no longer applies since the battleships which may be built are now specified by the treaty. It becomes, therefore, a necessity to maintain our battleships in topnotch condition. The competition, in other words, has shifted from one of numbers to one of quality.
What is the future of the treaty limiting naval armaments? It is important that we keep in touch with the international situation so as to enable us to lay our plans as far in advance as possible. What were the conditions when the treaty was signed and what are they likely to be when the fifteen years have expired? When the nations met at the Washington Conference the time was extremely propitious for its success. The main points to be borne in mind are these: the nations of Europe were exhausted after the terrific struggle of the World War; Japan, which had overreached itself by its grasping tactics and attitude during the World War, found sentiment unitedly against her, and had to make heavy concessions, and, finally, the United States, which alone of all nations was in a position to make vast additions to its armaments, was working toward an ideal and was willing to forego the chance of being invincible on the sea. What will be the conditions in 1936 when the treaty terminates? Will the treaty continue in force as it is, will the ratio be changed to suit changed conditions, or will it be impossible to arrive at a ratio which will be mutually agreeable? It is now three years since the nations met at Washington and we find that the conditions have changed to such an extent that were the conference to be held at the present time it would be far harder to come to a mutual agreement. Great Britain and France were still on fairly good terms in 1921 but since then they have been steadily growing apart. By 1936 we may expect to find that the European nations who participated in the World War will have fairly recuperated. Great Britain, with her enormous trade and her progressing dominions, has considerable recuperative power; France, through her frugal and industrious people, will work herself back into a position of power, although it must be admitted that she is on the decline, which was apparent before the World War. Previous to the war it was generally recognized that the Germans as a race were as virile as any on earth. They were set back to second-rate power by the disastrous results of the war and no doubt it will be many decades before they again take primary rank. That they have already begun to come back is unquestionable and France is looking askance at their development. Whereas in 1914 France was backed by powerful allies, she now stands alone, and she still remembers how overwhelmingly superior Germany was as compared to France alone. France will look to her arms and well she must. Russia is in the position of a young giant who does not know his strength. True, she is not a naval power, but she is capable of tremendous development and her growth as an industrial and military power will have its influence on the naval position of other countries. If Japan continues during the next twelve years the development which she has shown in the past, she will be in a far stronger position than she was in 1921. The dominance of her kultur in the Far East—the goal toward which she has been striving—will then probably be a fact. Other nations, also who are not now parties to the treaty will undoubtedly have made great strides in their naval armaments; as for instance, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, in addition to Russia and Germany. It appears probable, therefore, that in order to make the treaty effective other nations will have to be included in the limitation agreement. Will the contracting powers be satisfied with the present ratios of strength? The United States probably will, Great Britain and Italy may, Japan probably will not, and France most certainly will not. The chance that a new set of ratios, satisfactory to all, will be arrived at is small indeed. With the possible exception of the attitude of the United States, all of the factors that made for success in 1921 will have disappeared. In addition, there will be other powers whose ratios must be fixed and that alone will greatly increase the difficulty. It seems, therefore, that the treaty will go by the board in 1936 and it behooves us to study the future development of those types of ships and weapons which the treaty restricted.
Under the terms of the treaty, battleships are limited in size to 35,000 tons and the caliber of their guns to sixteen inches. This represented a tonnage slightly larger than newest battleships completed about 1921, with the exception of the Hood which displaces 41,200 tons. The California of 32,300 tons, and the Nagato of 33,800 tons were both completed in 1921. The Hood represents a hybrid type between battleship and battle cruiser, and it is safe to say that the design would not have been perpetuated. In order to keep pace with the growing demands for greater armaments, armor and speed, it was necessary gradually to increase the displacement. It is safe to say that all battleships built under the treaty will be of maximum displacement, as indicated by the Rodney and Nelson which Great Britain has laid down. The following characteristics may be taken as a conservative estimate of the treaty battleship; displacement 35,000 tons, length 700 feet, breadth 104 feet, draft twenty-eight feet six inches, speed 23 knots, main battery nine 16-inch guns in triple mounts, secondary battery twelve 6-inch guns, anti-aircraft battery ten 3-inch guns, armor on conning tower and turret faces sixteen inches, armor on sides (max.) fourteen inches, protective deck five to seven inches. It is safe to predict that, prior to 1936, our constructors will find difficulty in incorporating in new battleships all the latest requirements in armament, armor and speed, especially on account of the unsatisfied demand of the battleships for protection against aircraft and submarines. The potentialities of these latter have not yet been exhausted but so far as can be foreseen at present the battleship will probably survive the perils of aerial and submarine attack. No doubt it will require considerable modification as time goes on and other types develop apace. It seems quite certain, therefore, that if the treaty continues after 1936 the powers will increase the displacement limitation. Similarly, the increase in size of main battery guns is apt to be halted only temporarily by the treaty limitation of sixteen inches.
There has been considerable talk about calling a new conference for the purpose of limiting naval auxiliary craft and aircraft, all of which types are unrestricted at the present time. Congress, in fact, added the suggestion to the last two naval appropriation bills. The President, however, has not acted on them for very good reasons. As has already been shown, the time was propitious when the Washington Conference met in 1921 for a successful culmination. The battleship ratio was fairly easily adopted because the United States stood ready to sacrifice the battleship supremacy which lay within her grasp and because Japan had been placated with the non-fortifications agreement. However, when it came to discussing auxiliary craft, the case was different. The conference soon recognized the insurmountable difficulties and abandoned all efforts along this line. Today, there is considerably less chance that such limitation could possibly be agreed upon. France and Great Britain have gradually become estranged. During debates in the French Congress their dissatisfaction with the results of the Washington Conference were openly aired and it was plainly brought out that France would be averse even to discussing any further scheme of naval limitation. Japan has become embittered by the brusque action of our Congress in passing the exclusion act. Japan’s naval policy since the Washington Conference has aroused considerable misgivings, not only in the United States but also in European countries. The United States—after abandoning her battleship building program—and the other treaty powers have been taking a more or less complete respite from naval building, but Japan has been continuing her tremendous development of auxiliary types which were not limited by the Washington Conference. Then, too, it is doubtful whether the United States and Great Britain could agree on the question of limiting auxiliary types. Secretary Hughes proposed at the Washington Conference to extend the 5-5-3 ratio to other types as well as battleships, but Great Britain objected to this on account of the necessity of guarding her long trade routes. Could and would we be satisfied with anything less than parity with Great Britain? It has been demonstrated that, unless there is probability of success, it is much better for international relations not to call a conference at all rather than to run the risk of failure. In considering aircraft there is this to be borne in mind—that military and naval aircraft are not yet sufficiently specialized and differentiated from commercial aircraft to make such limitation really effective.
The treaty forbidding the use of poison gas in naval warfare is still in abeyance—France being the power which has withheld approval. Judging by the disapproval voiced by French statesmen, it is doubtful if that country will ever ratify the treaty and it is not under consideration at the present time. Even if it should be ratified it would be a doubtful benefit to humanity. It is an undisputed fact that both the Allied and the Central powers overstepped the bounds of international law, due to the pressure of war necessity. Where the rights of neutrals are involved belligerent nations are apt to tread more cautiously for fear of adding others to their foe. Such would not be the case in the use of poison gas, where the foe alone would feel the infringement. It is not hard to imagine any one of a number of foreign countries who would violate this treaty as well, if, pressed by war necessity, they saw a means of gaining an advantage over their adversary. The nation which cherished the high ideals would be at a disadvantage.
As to Organization.—An organization to be efficient must be centralized, and, in general, the more strongly centralized the more efficient it is apt to be. The organization of the German Navy Department before the war was strongly centralized, as is that of Japan today, and in both the efficiency displayed is largely due to this fact. Similarly, the government of Germany before the war and that of Japan today are strongly centralized and this is a vital factor toward the successful prosecution of any war.
The government of the United States is not strongly centralized under normal conditions but in time of war the President can and would assume the necessary powers to aid in the centralization. Our Navy Department is poorly centralized and even in time of war it could not efficiently prosecute a war of first magnitude.
The Secretary of the Navy, in whom, under the President, all authority is vested, is a civilian. From a technical point of view this is, of course, in itself an argument against efficiency, but under bur form of government it is, no doubt, for the best. The Secretary of Navy represents the people and in this country the voice of the people should and always will dominate. The Secretary also serves as a valuable connecting link between the people and the Navy. He is our best spokesman because he understands the civilian mind. He can, in general, approach Congress with greater success than could the naval officers. Sometimes the man who is the best politician has the best success when it comes to dealing with Congress, as, for instance, Josephus Daniels. The latter aroused much friction and was under constant attack from naval officers because first and foremost he was a politician and was inclined to view the Navy from that standpoint.
Previously, it was the policy to look upon the office of the Secretary of the Navy as a political position. No qualifications from a naval point of view were necessary. Our last two Secretaries have been not only civilians but civilians who had an interest in the Navy. Secretary Denby saw service in the Navy and the present Secretary is a graduate of the Naval Academy. They both understood the naval mind and have its interests at heart. The people in general have expressed their approval of this policy and it is likely that our future secretaries will be required to have an interest in the Navy. This will most certainly work for greater harmony.
Our government structure is founded on the principle of cooperation and our Navy Department is similarly modeled. It reduces direction to a minimum and requires cooperation to the maximum. The American people lend themselves to this form and it is to this fact that we must attribute the harmoniousness with which our states are moulded into one whole. Prior to the late war we were fairly well satisfied with our system of departmental organization but we found that it left much to be desired in the acid test of war. The founding of the Office of Naval Operations was certainly a step in the right direction. There are, however, two fundamental flaws; one is that the Chief of Naval Operations is powerless to do anything except routine work without the consent of the Secretary of the Navy; and the second is that the bureaus are not directly subordinate to the Chief of Naval Operations. The latter has not the power lo direct that he should have. He is really an adviser to the Secretary and the power of decision rests with the latter. This is as it should be in time of peace when the civil voice directs; but in time of war when diplomacy has failed and the military is called upon to defend the country, should not the final decision as to how the war shall be conducted be left to the military?
The Chief of Naval Operations should have a staff, adequate and capable of directing the naval end of a war. In short, we should have a general staff of which the present Chief of Naval Operations should be chief. The term “general staff” is a sort of bugaboo to the American people and seems to convey the idea of something “Prussianistic”—something that would be a menace to American ideals, but, after all, it is simply an organization of naval experts who can direct the Navy’s efforts toward a set goal with maximum efficiency. The chiefs of the bureaus should be members of this staff. Modern war is no longer a detached operation of the nation’s military forces but it has become the business of the entire nation. Every effort must be bent toward the accomplishment of that end. Not only must naval operations receive expert direction but the thousand and one activities connected with the Army and the industrial life of the nation must be coordinated and guided to serve to the best advantage. During the World War super-agencies were appointed by the President to control important factors. This is the logical field of the general staff.
Until comparatively recent years the battleship force was generally regarded as the Navy, and for this reason a battleship was invariably designated as fleet flagship. Such ships as the German Friedrich Der Grosse and Baden, the British Queen Elizabeth and Iron Duke, and our California were designed and constructed as fleet flagships, although primarily they were to be ships capable of taking their place in the line of battle. The World War demonstrated the importance of the battle cruiser and the light cruiser. The effect of destroyer torpedo fire at the Battle of Jutland was a revelation. Since then the fleet submarine has been evolved and in the next naval battle that type will have to be reckoned with. Aviation with the fleet has made great strides and it is certain that the commander-in-chief will have to give serious consideration to the air forces in the next naval battle. It is apparent, therefore, that whereas he formerly had to depend on his battleship force for the decision, he now has a complicated battle organization composed of many factors—every one of which has its niche to fill. It is obvious that by staying with the battleship force his vision will be narrowed and he will have difficulty in obtaining a true perspective of the battle situation as a whole. It is for this reason primarily that the army in time of battle establishes its headquarters well to the rear of the fighting line.
At Jutland both the British and the German commanders-in-chief used battleships as their fleet flagships and these were stationed approximately in the middle of the first third of the battle line. This position was considered as being the best for observing any possible development in the battle and also for distribution of signals to the fleet. Neither of the commanders-in-chief was able to size up the general situation prior to the contact of the battle lines, and this in spite of the fact that the scouts had clashed hours before this and contact reports had been received. They were, therefore, forced to accept a situation the development of which had passed out of their control. The use of smoke and, in general, the low visibility seriously restricted their fields of vision. The tactical use of smoke screens by destroyers and airplanes has been almost entirely developed since the battle of Jutland. The next naval battle will witness their extensive use and the possibility that the commander-in-chief will be able personally to supervise the combat is extremely remote. He must, therefore, depend upon communications for his information and he would most certainly be able to get faster and more reliable communication if he were stationed out of and behind the battle line.
Recently we have made the U. S. S. Seattle our fleet flagship and, as a makeshift arrangement, this is satisfactory. The ideal fleet flagship, however, will have certain functions to fulfil and she should therefore have certain definite characteristics. She should be of sufficient size to provide for the following: Quarters for the commander-in-chief and staff, space for administrative offices, plotting room, game board room, conference room, and so forth; also adequate radio facilities for multiple sending and receiving. She must have facilities for carrying, launching, and, if possible, receiving aircraft in sufficient numbers for observation and protection. She must be seaworthy and steady, of high speed and large cruising radius; she should have an armament designed to protect her against isolated cruiser, destroyer, submarine and aircraft attack, and moderate armor protection.
The late war demonstrated clearly that in order to win a modern war of the first magnitude it is of fundamental importance to organize Army, Navy and industry for efficient cooperation. The Army and Navy, indeed, are merely units of a larger organization—the fighting forces. Historically, in most major operations of these two services cooperation has been of a low order, and the separate efficiency of each service has been of little value in the net result. Jealousy, lack of understanding and knowledge of the sister service, and many other causes may have stood in the way of effective cooperation, but perhaps the most fundamental cause has been the lack of cooperation at the source; that is, in the War and Navy Departments. Plans of the two services have frequently been at variance, and were often drawn up without the least understanding of the problems of the other service. One of the most glaring instances of non-cooperation in history is the British conduct of the Dardanelles campaign in the World War. It is strange that Great Britain had not learned her lesson, considering the fact that she had been conducting such operations for centuries. The cause in this instance may be found mainly at the source. There was a distinct lack of cooperation between the War Office and the Admiralty, and the British War Cabinet, which governed the policy, was weak and vacillating in its decisions. On the other hand, the combined operations of the Japanese in the Chinese War and again in the Russian War are examples of close and effective cooperation.
During President Taft’s administration the United States established the Army and Navy Joint Board, and although it has gone through certain stages of decrepitude it is today a most important factor in the organization of our fighting forces. It is composed of high ranking army and navy officers and its function is to furnish professional advice on the two services to the President through the Secretaries of War and Navy. It is purely advisory and has no power of direction. No real effective cooperation can be ours until our War and Navy Departments have a common professional superior; and the latter should be a joint staff, or board, if you like, which would coordinate our efforts in the preparation and execution of our war plans. It should also be the duty of such a joint staff to plan the industrial campaign, which will be a factor of vital importance in any major war of the future.
For years it has been the policy for the Naval War College and the various army schools to exchange officers and, in general, to keep in close touch. The two services are working together in many ways with mutual benefit. They have never understood one another better than today and where they have cooperated it has been with harmony. This policy should be continued and extended. It is a vital connecting link which gives knowledge and understanding of the other service. The problem is, after all, not so much one of organization as one of education.
As to Personnel.—Napoleon said: “In war, the morale is to the material as three to one.” The American people, notoriously poor students of history, were rudely awakened when the experiences of the World War were pressed home to them. They thought the Navy meant ships; they thought that superior numbers or superior quality meant victory. It must be said that the Navy also entertained this sentiment. Personnel was supposed to exist for the material. Material things were uppermost in the naval mind. The World War vindicated Napoleon’s dictum. The tremendous factor of morale in the present day conduct of war was amply demonstrated. We can still feel the spirit of victory when we repeat the words of the French at Verdun, “They shall not pass.”
We have discovered that the Navy has a soul—that it has a spiritual side which is major in importance, and, in so doing, the Navy has found itself. We were as a man groping in the dark; he feels to a certain extent but his vision is blurred. He cannot see himself in his true relation to his surroundings. In recent years the curtain has lifted and we can see. What? First and foremost, that man is greater than his creations. The finest ships are so many tons of cold steel unless men drive them. A high order of intelligence and efficiency among the higher officers is no longer sufficient. The modern man-of-war requires skilled men in many branches to operate its complicated organisms and to make its movements coordinate with those of the fleet. They must not only be trained and efficient but also imbued with a high morale. We can further see that our officers and men are what we make them, and finally that we, individually, have the divine spark within us to make ourselves.
It, therefore, devolves that the training of men, and of himself first, is the highest duty of a naval officer. The best training efforts are of little avail unless backed by the force of example, which is by far the most potent influence wielded by man. In general, we may say that the officers of the Navy set its tone. The men are what we make them. If we are trained, efficient officers of high character, our men will tend to be likewise.
Since it is a fact that no stream can rise higher than its source, it is well for us to first look into the situation as regards ourselves. The founding of the Naval War College marked an epoch in the history of our service. The need of instructing our officers for higher command in the conduct of modern war—its strategy, tactics and logistics—was recognized. That these subjects had been previously disregarded cannot be said, but they had been neglected. Such officers as had studied them had formed their own opinions and conclusions—individualistic and impressionistic. There was no service doctrine. The War College has done much to fill this void and has especially assisted in training officers for higher command. In addition, for the instruction of the line officer personnel, we have the postgraduate school which instructs a limited number in technical material subjects and also the recently established junior war college course to train officers for duties in command. We have, indeed, done little in the education of our officer personnel considering the strides that have been made in material development. Engineering, ordnance, communications, fleet tactics, and so forth, have developed to such an extent that the average officer today knows something about all of them but is far from proficient in any of them. As our material develops, as our types of ships and weapons increase, and as our fleet tactics develop through one, two and three planes, so also must our educational facilities increase. Naval officers of no other naval power are required to cover the scope that we do and no other offers fewer opportunities for education. In general, the Japanese place the greatest emphasis upon naval education and put their officers through periodical and progressive courses of study. We should have not less than three general schools for line officers. For lieutenants (junior grade) with about five years of commissioned service, we should have a one-year course in general line duties. For lieutenants and lieutenant commanders we should have a one-year course for duties in command. For commanders and captains we should continue the present one- year course at the Naval War College for training in higher command. In addition, of course, we should continue the present postgraduate courses for specialized instruction in technical subjects. The Bureau of Navigation has made recommendations for a complete and progressive system of instruction but has not been able to put it into effect on account of the shortage of commissioned personnel. This is doubtless a valid reason but the condition will never be remedied unless we take drastic action and whole-heartedly and unitedly push for the things we absolutely need.
Realizing, as all naval powers do, the tremendous importance of commissioned and enlisted personnel to a navy, it is rather surprising that the Washington Conference took no steps to regulate naval personnel. No doubt it recognized the difficulties attendant to any such attempt. One such attempt was made in the last century and its limitation was virtually nullified. After the peace of Tilsit in 1807, Prussia was allowed an army of only 40,000 men. Scharnhorst reorganized the army and instituted what is known as the “Kremper” system, by which recruits were inducted, trained intensively for a few months, then discharged, and new recruits enlisted in their place. In this way Prussia trained and organized about forty battalions, in addition to her standing army of 40,000 men.
Since the treaty takes no cognizance of personnel, it is apparently left to each power to decide for itself. Japan maintains an officer and enlisted personnel considerably in excess considering its establishment of ships. A considerable proportion of its officers are on shore under instruction and, in general, all ships are overmanned. Her staffs are also abnormally large. In this way where we would have to call on partially trained reserves and untrained civilians, Japan can meet any sudden expansion by drawing on her surplus active complement. This is a situation which demands attention, for if we are to maintain our ratio of 5-5-3, we must do so not only in ships but also in officers and men.
We are living in an age of specialization. In all branches of civilian professions so much progress has been made that it is impossible for any one man to keep up to date in all phases of his chosen calling. Within comparatively recent years we have witnessed a revolutionizing change in the medical profession, for instance. Where formerly we had a man who was able to advise us concerning any part of our anatomy, we now have numerous specialists covering the same field. One takes the eyes, another the heart, another the liver and kidneys, another is a diagnostician, another is internist, and so on almost without end. Why? Because our knowledge of all these various organs has increased to such an extent that one man cannot keep posted in all departments. Intimate and accurate knowledge is, nowadays, demanded of our physicians. In-our naval profession we have also witnessed an unprecedented development in all its varied branches but, unlike our physicians, we are still trying to master it all. We must cover a number of subjects—any one of which would be considered a man’s job. Perhaps the situations are not parallel but we must recognize the fact that a point can be reached when the officer cannot keep up in his profession. It is the writer’s opinion that the time has come when we should take steps toward dividing the load, notwithstanding the well-known advantages of the present system. Most officers come to their new assignments in an unripe condition. They spend perhaps a year in learning their new job, and when that is well in hand it is time for the next one. Most foreign countries have recognized this situation and have segregated the engineering department. This is, no doubt, the logical one. Close harmony and cooperation must, however, be, provided for. Both engineering and line students should go through the same course at the Naval Academy and for the first five years of commissioned service should serve both on deck and below in the engineering department. Then those that elected engineering duty would be sent to the engineering school for one year’s course of instruction and the others would be sent to the school for general line duties.
One of our greatest difficulties in recent years has been in the shifting personnel situation. Continual transfers, discharges and desertions have disrupted our organizations and we have in most instances not advanced beyond the stage of elementary training. The modern man-of-war requires a personnel—intelligent, efficient and trained to work with close cooperation. This can only result after long training together. We pride ourselves on having a superior type of enlisted men but who would be so bold as to say that they can attain the same proficiency as the men of foreign navies with their seven to twelve-year enlistments. We are obtaining a large percentage of reenlistments and that helps but it does not fill the bill. When the man is discharged the organization is usually disrupted, even though the man does reenlist on board the same ship. The only solution in sight is the six-year enlistment. This would add greatly to the stability of the ship’s organization. We can get good recruits for a six-year enlistment, although perhaps it may be advisable to make an upward revision of the pay schedule. The importance of this step cannot be overestimated and it should be pressed home.
As to Aviation.—Aviation is as yet a virgin field which presents great possibilities. This subject, therefore, is one which lends itself to our imaginations and for this reason we should be careful in approaching it lest we be swept into the realm of dreams. Since the airplane was put into use there has been a tremendous development in all branches of aircraft, and it is still going on—perhaps even at an accelerated pace. We know that during the war the science of the air made notable advances, due to the pressure of war necessity and the unlimited funds which were available. But, if we review the progress which has been made in this branch since the Armistice, we may readily decide that the peace-time development has outstripped that made during the war. Airplane engines, for instance, have made notable advances over the Liberty engine which was the equal of any in the world of comparable power in 1917-18. The fundamental requirement of the war period was great production, and therefore types were held at a minimum.
In general we may say that the sphere of naval aircraft during the World War was extremely limited. Naval airplanes were used primarily for anti-submarine work, detached raids and scouting expeditions. Airships showed to greatest value to the Allies in convoy work, but for the Germans they excelled in their reconnaissance, scouting with the fleet, and bombing raids. The Germans had reached a far higher development of the airship than the Allies and had rather clearly divined its ultimate destiny.
The Armistice halted the development of aircraft, and in particular airplanes, toward an emergency purpose. It was recognized that aircraft were to fill a definite role in the great scheme of naval warfare and the development took a new turn with that in view. The development of types, and in particular the development of types suitable for use with the fleet, resulted; and this, together with the coordination of their use to the fleet, we may say was the raison d’etre of the Bureau of Aeronautics. We have developed rigid and non-rigid airships and the following types of airplanes: fighters, bombers, torpedo planes, scouting planes, observation planes and patrol planes. These are the fundamental functions which naval aircraft have to perform and it seems unlikely that there will be additional types in the near future, although of course there will be modifications of the present ones. On the other hand, the consolidation of types has already begun and it is readily apparent why the number of types with the fleet should be kept to a minimum, provided the necessary functions can be covered. One of the fundamental characteristics of a torpedo and bombing plane and of a scouting plane is their ability to carry a large, useful load and therefore, for use with the fleet, these functions have been combined in one general type.
What is the present performance of the airplane and what is its status? Airplanes have attained a maximum speed of about 265 miles per hour, a ceiling of about 39,000 feet, and a non-stop flight of about 3,000 miles. A land plane has been developed to carry two and one-half tons of bombs; another twenty-five infantrymen. These are records and do not give us a tangible footing on which to base their probable average performance in time of battle and under battle conditions. In general, we may say that a fighter has a maximum speed of 160 knots, a ceiling of 20,000 feet, and a cruising radius of about 450 miles. A scouting plane has a speed of about 105 knots and a cruising radius of about 1,000 miles. A torpedo and bombing plane can carry a torpedo or bomb of 1,500 pounds at a maximum speed of 105 knots, and has a cruising radius of about 500 miles. Such a plane carrying a torpedo cannot be launched from a catapult or from an aircraft carrier. A bomber may be launched from the deck of a carrier with a maximum weight of bombs of 300 pounds and, if launched from a catapult, with about 150 pounds of bombs. The modern rigid airship has a maximum speed of 65 knots, a cruising radius of 4,000 miles at 40 knots and a useful load of thirty-five tons. It should be remembered that the given speed of aircraft is the air speed. We have reached the stage in airplane development where it is impracticable materially to increase the size of the plane in order to increase the useful load. We have what appears to be a vicious circle; when the size is increased the heavy stresses when alighting are increased, and therefore the structural weight must again be increased. Hence we should not expect any marked increase in the cruising radii and the useful load carried by airplanes. Of course we may expect continued development in motors, propellers, structural methods, and so forth, and therefore gradual improvement. The opposite holds in the case of airships, where an increase in size increases relatively the useful load. This apparently holds good no matter how great the size may become, because if the airship is increased proportionately in all its dimensions, the volume increases as the cube but the surface as the square. Therefore less power is required relatively to the speed. Recently Great Britain has commenced construction of two airships of 5,000,000 cubic feet for use on its route to India. This is over twice as large as our Los Angeles. What is the limit? Formerly the limit was the size which could be handled by the ground force but since the development of the mooring mast it is recognized that the mooring factor as yet is no fundamental deterrent on increasing the size, although it also has its limits. Since a large useful load at a high speed is the fundamental argument, we look forward to a considerable increase in the size of airships
The Navy, after much study and investigation, has decided that the air service is a powerful auxiliary for the fleet but that the battleships still represent the backbone of naval power. We believe that the three planes of naval activity—on the water, above the water, and below the water—are interdependent, supplementary, and cannot exist apart. Most of us face the future with open minds, but as things stand at present and in the visible future we are loath to scrap the power which has for so long been the deciding measure on the sea and which was the essence of the Allied sea power in the war so recently concluded. But just as surely as we have been forming this opinion, public opinion has formed the exact opposite. The people of this country believe that the battleship is as doomed as the armored knight was of old, and that the virile airplane with its bombs, torpedoes and poison gas, and the submarine are now the all-important factors. It is a peculiar enigma that the American people will look to their engineers for their bridge and road work, to their doctors for medical advice, to their lawyers for legal advice, but when it comes to the Navy it seems to be taken for granted that technical knowledge may be dispensed with.
If we do not take steps to see that public opinion of the United States is guided by enlightened service opinion, we may undoubtedly expect the people so to influence congressional legislation that our military efforts will result in a series of crazes and spasmodic efforts, similar to those of France in recent years.
We have reached a stage in airplane development where we may say that in the near future there will be few fundamental changes. We may, however, confidently look forward to a gradual improvement in radius of action, speed, reliability and all-round efficiency.
New types will be evolved from time to time as may be necessary. Recently the Navy has developed, built and tested a small plane which can be carried on board a submarine. This is the XS-1, a small biplane with a twenty-one foot wing spread, weight 1,000 pounds and equipped with a sixty h.p. air-cooled motor. It can be knocked down and stowed in a four-foot hold within about five minutes and as readily assembled. Plans are also under discussion to carry one or more planes on destroyers but as yet no definite steps have been taken. It is likely, however, that eventually a catapult will be installed on destroyers at or near the stern for the launching of such aircraft.
We are realizing more and more the important advantage of having reliable engines in our naval aircraft. It will permit our aircraft to become, in fact, fleet aircraft by extending their operations at sea. It will reduce losses, increase the morale of our pilots, and reduce the number of carriers and tenders required. The present trend seems to be toward single high-powered engines with a probable future development of a standard three unit power plant—any two of which can support the plane in flight. High speed, ceiling and other advantages should, if necessary, be sacrificed for reliability.
A most important feature for a naval airplane is its useful load. If the airplane is to wrest the supremacy from the battleship it must first of all be able to carry bombs and torpedoes sufficient in size and number to sink them. The useful load of a bomber is therefore a first consideration. The amount of useful load depends upon the available horsepower in excess of that required to lift the airplane itself. Hence the importance of increasing the power output. There are only about thirteen engines, of 600 or more horsepower, that have actually been completed; of these seven are of French design, three British, two American and one Italian.
Of recent years the building of water-cooled engines is gradually being discontinued and in their place has been developed the direct air-cooled engine. Today practically all engines of less than 300 horsepower are of the latter type. This is a step of great importance since the water-cooling system is in excess of twenty-five per cent of the weight of the engine itself.
Heavy oil engines operated on Diesel principles for aircraft have been experimented with in several countries and it is claimed that a satisfactory type has been developed. Apparently they are of the direct injection type and operate without carburetor and spark plugs. The fuel is ignited by subjecting it to the required pressure. The fundamental advantages are the safety from fire, and fuel economy, which not only means the economy resulting from a cheaper fuel than gasoline but also, it is claimed, a decreased weight of fuel consumed per horsepower hour. The chief disadvantages are the greater initial weight of the plant and perhaps also a reduced flexibility of control.
The disadvantages which an airplane incurs in forewarning the enemy of its approach by reason of the noise and in increasing the difficulties of communication have long been recognized and efforts have been directed to overcome them. The well-known drone of airplanes is caused primarily by the exhaust gas leaving the engine and secondarily by the whirr of the propeller. Perhaps the most efficient silencer yet produced is the Swiss “Ad Astra” type, which, it is claimed, reduces the exhaust noise about seventy-five per cent. The use of geared propellers has also been found to work to advantage in this connection.
Aircraft communication has been receiving more and more attention lately but even so we may say that it is still in its infancy. Some developments that have been made of late have increased the reliability and general efficiency of aircraft communication to no small extent. An emergency transmitting apparatus has been developed for multi-motored planes which enables them to send radio messages when the plane has been forced to land on the water. The radio generator is run by one of the good motors. The problem of providing planes with suitable antennae has been a difficult one. It was formerly the practice to use a trailing antenna while in the air. This was wound on a reel when not in use and before landing and, obviously, provided no antenna when the plane was forced to land on the water. Some planes were provided with an antenna rigged to the upper wing—a skid-fin antenna. This provided communication irrespective of whether the plane was in the air or on the water but the range was small—about ten or fifteen miles. A kite has been developed which carries the antenna when the plane is on the water. At present, airplanes are capable of communicating over distances of about 400 miles with ships and shore stations and about 150 miles between planes. Aircraft communication, especially that between planes, is not reliable at the present time and this is an urgently needed line of development for the future. Airship communication is considerably in advance of that of airplanes, as was demonstrated by the Shenandoah on her transcontinental flight. She maintained reliable communication at all times, although in many instances she worked through amateur operators.
Progress in the all-metal construction of airplanes has been slow. Numerous countries have been carrying on development work in this direction and successful tests have been reported. High cost and various problems incidental thereto have been militating against general adoption of this type. Steel, aluminum and duralumin have been experimented with, the latter apparently combining greatest strength and elasticity with least weight, but also, it must be said, greatest cost. The benefits to be derived from the use of all-metal construction in decreasing the vulnerability of the airplane, reducing the fire hazard, and decreasing the soakage weight of seaplanes are obvious. In connection with the latter it was found that an F-5-L plane had gained 1,500 pounds weight from soakage after operating for several months with the aircraft squadrons. For rigid airships it is probable that an aluminum sheeting will be developed and used for the outer covering in future construction, primarily for its greater durability.
Although inventors have been working for years to develop a satisfactory helicopter and zest has been added to this development by the prize of £50,000 which the British Government has offered for a helicopter which will meet certain specifications, little progress has been made and at the present time, so far as is known, there is no helicopter in existence which can approach the British requirements. However, the advantages of this type are so great that its development should be continued. It would be an ideal machine for fire control and observation, and, in general, would have the combined advantages of the plane, the dirigible and the stationary balloon with practically none of the disadvantages. It could rise from the deck of a ship without the need for a flying deck or catapult and soar over any desired point or over the ship whose fire it is observing, or, when required, translate its motion into horizontal movement. It might even be able to return to the ship from which it took off; a feat which is now impossible except on aircraft carriers fitted with a flying-on deck. No radical improvement may be expected in this type, but there are hopes for the future.
The idea of a carrier airship is fundamentally sound, as was proven by the experiments completed by the Army last year at Mitchell Field, Mineola, Long Island, when airplanes were picked up and released in flight by an airship. The problem of releasing and taking on the planes offered no serious difficulties. There is one very important problem which must be solved before the airship can become a carrier of airplanes and that is the question of ballast. With a seagoing aircraft carrier, such as the Langley, the release and taking aboard of airplanes offers no problem at all so far as weight and ballast are concerned; but with the airship the release of a plane means an increase in altitude and conversely the taking on of a plane, a decrease in altitude. The release of a plane can at present be compensated by valving, but this precludes the possibility of taking the planes on again and, in the case of helium, means the loss of a precious gas. This difficulty may perhaps be overcome by generating gas on board. Then, too, perhaps in the future it will not be necessary for the airship to take the planes aboard except for short intervals when in need of fuel, repairs, a relief pilot, and so forth. This would help solve the ballast problem and also would enable the airship to serve a great many more planes. The carrier airship combines the advantages of the long cruising radius and reliability of the airship with the speed and punch of the airplanes. It will be invaluable in the execution of many tactical and search problems, although the seagoing aircraft carrier is unquestionably more efficient and economical under ordinary circumstances.
At the Battle of Jutland we find the first instance in history of an aircraft carrier operating with a fleet in a modern naval battle. This was H.M.S. Engadine. She was, of course, an improvised carrier and launched the planes by putting them over the side with the crane. The British were not only first in this field but they have also done more development work along this line than any other nation. They have two big aircraft carriers, the Eagle, an ex-battleship, of 22,790 tons, and the Furious, an ex-battle cruiser, of 19,100 tons; and two carriers of moderate size, the Argus of 14,450 tons, and the Hermes of 10,950 tons. The Hermes is the first ship especially designed as an aircraft carrier. The Eagle and the Furious have not proved very successful but the Argus has given good results in actual practice and is, perhaps, the most successful of them all. Japan has one converted carrier of moderate size and is building two others of large proportions. The United States has the converted Langley, of 12,700 tons, and is building two others of 33,000 tons. The treaty of limitation of naval armaments has limited the size of future aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons with the exception of several, originally laid down as battle cruisers. We are limited by the same treaty to a total tonnage of 135,000 in this type, exclusive of the Langley, which is classed as an experimental type. This leaves, therefore, 69,000 tons of this type that we may build. How may we utilize this tonnage to best advantage? In 1926 the Lexington and the Saratoga are due to be commissioned and the solution of many problems will depend on the experiments to be conducted with them. If we wish to add to our Navy 69,000 tons of aircraft carrier, as indeed we should, we have to decide whether we should build a few large ships of this type or a greater number of smaller size. Judging by the ships building at the present time one would be led to believe that the experts of the naval powers are decidedly in favor of aircraft carriers of large dimensions. This is perhaps true but the main reason why, is that the United States and Japan had large battle cruisers building which, by the terms of the naval limitations treaty, were permitted to be converted. The hue and cry of “too many eggs in one basket” has again been raised but as in the case of battleships this argument may be overruled by other considerations.
Perhaps the most important question in this connection, however, is what types and how many of each is the ship to carry. This question is, fortunately, not one which demands immediate and accurate solution since the planes are not built into the ship as are guns on battleships. However, we should study this problem carefully and lay our plans accordingly.
There is no one answer to it. It is readily apparent that the composition of our planes must vary with changing conditions. In one case we might need a preponderance of fighters, or, under other circumstances, bombers. With the fleet we must take what we have in preparing for battle but with our aircraft we are certain of having a selection. The advantage of looking ahead and studying future requirements cannot be overestimated.
Many years ago men watched birds in flight and when aviation was in its infancy attempted in their experiments to imitate the movements. It has long been a source of interest and wonder to watch birds remaining in the air for protracted periods and even actually gaining altitude without any apparent motion of their wings. We know now that the birds utilize the force of the windin doing this. The glider existed before the airplane but its progress has not been so great and certainly not so spectacular. In recent years the glider has been receiving more attention than ever. Germany, forbidden by the terms of the Versailles Treaty to continue aviation development, has undertaken extensive glider experiments, and France, not to be outdone, has done the same. In these experiments gliders have been maintained in the air for hours at a time and have actually equalled the feat of the birds and have gained altitude. This, of course, was accomplished without any motive power and simply utilizing the force of the wind. On January 3, 1923, Lieutenant Thoret, a French military aviator, established what is believed to be the world’s record to date when he succeeded in keeping his glider in the air for seven hours and three minutes at Biskra, Algeria. The glider has no engine and is therefore considerably lighter than an airplane, but otherwise it is not essentially different; also, glider experiments have been successfully made when using regulation army planes. Perhaps it will be some time before we can utilize this glider experience in our aviation work but eventually, no doubt, it will be combined. Airplanes in fire control, observation and patrol work will use their motors only occasionally and during the remainder of the time soar over their station. This would be of great advantage in fire control observations and in communications. It would also increase the plane’s cruising radius and its ability to stay out for longer periods.
Various foreign countries, as well as the United States, have developed successful pilotless airplanes, controlled by wireless from the ground. These planes are made to take off, level off at a certain altitude, circle over a desired point, and then descend safely to the ground. This is a marvelous development and speculation has been rife in our newspapers as to its effects. Some writers seem to think that it portends a war of combats between crewless planes, bombardment of distant cities by crewless airplanes, and, in general, the declining usefulness of the aviator in war. However, this is a situation not founded on present or prospective development. In order for the crewless airplane to be under wireless control it must be in sight of the operator on the ground. Bombing with accuracy is difficult enough for the aviator who is in the bombing plane; how much more so must it be when the plane is distantly controlled. What chance would these planes have against an intrepid aviator in a fighting plane? Would they, in fact, be able to defend themselves? It is, however, not hard to imagine special situations in which the use of pilotless airplanes would be advantageous and this much should also be said for them: they can be used without risking human lives. This, however, should be mentioned guardedly, knowing as we do that history teaches us the disastrous effects of trying to dodge risks in war.
The wireless transmission of power has been successfully demonstrated experimentally, and a British inventor, H. Grindell-Matthews, has established beyond question the practicability of paralyzing an internal combustion engine fitted with electrical ignition. This has opened up another field for development and one which may have a pronounced effect on naval warfare. In the future it may be necessary to provide some other motive power for airplanes and the eventual engine may be an electric motor to which power is transmitted by wireless from stations on the ground.
The air force has, in the past years, continued to supplement the functions of the fleet and in the future may wholly take over some of these functions. It is not difficult to visualize their undertaking additional functions, such as the transportation of small expeditionary forces to enemy countries or the succoring of beleaguered garrisons.
As to Material in General.—Unlike the airplane, the submarine has not gained materially in power since the war, and the prospects for the future are not very promising, due to the fact that it has certain definite and ineradicable weaknesses. It has a comparatively low submerged speed and it will always be relatively vulnerable to counter-attack. The submarine costs about twice as much per ton to build as a battleship and about four times as much to maintain in commission, ton for ton. The submarine, both submerged and on the surface, requires a considerably greater horsepower for the same speed per ton displacement than the battleship or the destroyer. In fighting power per ton, the submarine is far behind surface craft. The quality of submergence makes this type necessary and important, but this can only be obtained by a very heavy sacrifice in the other factors.
Before the development of the depth charge and anti-submarine tactics of the World War, the submarine’s defense against its enemies at sea was positive and absolute. It took years of war before the Allies had learned to take full advantage of the submarine’s limitations. The submarine will always be dangerous and formidable, especially as a commerce-destroyer, but as a menace to the capital ship it is less to be feared today than prior to the World War.
The United States Navy is at present sorely in need of submarines which have the speed, sea-going qualities, and other characteristics necessary to operate with the fleet and which have been so trained. In the next war a submarine force will undoubtedly operate with the fleet in battle, and to this end they must be trained, indoctrinated and coordinated with the other fleet units in time of peace. The submarine mine layer should be developed since it seems to be a type which will be of considerable use in fleet tactics.
Professor O. Flamm, a noted German naval architect and submarine expert, has designed a very interesting super-submarine of 7,067 tons surface displacement. To appreciate what a step this is into the unknown, it need only be said that the largest submarine which has been built to date is the British X-1 of 2,780 tons surface displacement. It is to carry five-inch armor on conning tower and upper works, two 8.2-inch guns, four 3.4-inch guns, and ten torpedo tubes. It is to have a surface speed of 22.5 knots and a cruising radius of 23,000 miles. He has also designed a minelaying submarine on the same order which would carry 1,000 mines. Granting that he has solved the problem of stabilizing such a large submarine as this is, it has at present no clearly defined role in naval warfare, and its usefulness, considering the tremendous cost, would be extremely doubtful.
The future of the battleship has been discussed to a certain extent as to the effects of the Washington Conference. There are also several lines along which the battleship seems destined to develop which are more or less independent of the effects of the treaty limiting naval armaments. The problem of properly protecting battleships against aircraft has not yet been solved. The anti-aircraft battery requires improvement in numbers, design, location, operation and control. Bombs and high-angle fire render imperative a greater protection to the upper works and the vitals of the ship. Since the caliber of guns is now limited to sixteen inches, development undoubtedly will tend toward greater muzzle velocities. The improvement of fire control instruments and methods toward simplicity and flexibility of operation is under consideration. The part which gas will play in the next naval battle is a matter of speculation. The gases which may be used are well known and it is doubtful whether much progress has been made since the Armistice toward discovering new and more dangerous gases. We do know that gases for war purposes are being made in volume by all of the powers. The problem which the Navy has to solve is to bring these gases in quantity to the scene of the naval battle. Gas is a factor which must be considered in the next naval battle, and from the point of view of the battleship, protection against these gases must be provided.
On our latest battleships, the Maryland, Colorado and West Virginia, there are installed Diesel engines which drive the electric generators for general port use. No steam is required except for the main engines. This accounts for the small fuel consumption of these ships in port and the resulting gain in economy is about one third. This is an indication of what may be expected. The Diesel engine and the modifications of Diesel electric, etc., will herald a new epoch in naval engineering—greater, indeed, than when the turbine superseded the reciprocating engine. Some of the important advantages of the Diesel engine over steam machinery for naval vessels are (1) greater radius of action per ton of fuel; (2) economy of operation; (3) ship can get under way quicker; (4) risk of serious damage to machinery in battle greatly reduced due to absence of boilers and steam pipes: (5) absence of uptakes and funnels would reduce vulnerability to attack from bombs and high-angle fire, increase efficiency of armament, reduce deck-hamper, which is important for aircraft carrier, reduce visibility at night due to absence of sparks and flames (this is especially important in evading aircraft), and reduce visibility during daylight, due to absence of smoke; (6) full power can be reached from cruising speed in shorter time. As a seventh advantage the writer would list the absence of condensers, since it has been his misfortune to have considerable trouble in this connection. It has, however, general application and we have only to recall how greatly the British fleet was handicapped, especially during the early months of the war, due to this same trouble.
So great, indeed, are the advantages of the Diesel engine, that we must have it and once we make up our mind to that effect we will have it. The great difficulty which has been met in the Diesel engine is the low power capacity of the individual cylinder and until this is considerably increased it cannot replace steam machinery on our capital ships. With this end in view the Navy has been conducting extensive research work in scavenging, super-charging air compressors, mechanical fuel injection and similar lines. No Diesel engine of really large power has been produced and successfully operated to date. A prominent marine engineer, however, predicts that in the near future battleships will be equipped with Diesel engines generating 10,000 b.h.p. on each of four shafts. Eight cylinders would drive each shaft. Each cylinder, therefore, would have to generate 1,250 b.h.p. Cylinders of that power have been produced experimentally. The 40,000 b.h.p. which such a plant would develop would be sufficient to drive a 35,000 ton ship at about 23 knots.
The radio is of vital importance to the Navy and yet under certain circumstances in time of war it may be impracticable to use it. In the late war, both the British and the Germans report that they were able to locate and identify enemy ships by their radio and in numerous cases were even able to tell what operator was sending the message. We now are forced to maintain radio silence when expecting contact with the enemy fleet, when approaching the enemy coast, and in other similar situations. Successful experiments have been made in directive radiation which will cause most of the waves radiated from a radio transmitter to follow a particular path rather than to spread broadcast, as at present. This will be of valuable assistance in time of war. Wireless telephony is at present a short range means of communication. Recent developments, however, have shown that long distance transmission is possible.
Ever since about 1910 gyro stabilizers for ships have been experimented with and these are still in progress. The development has been slow and numerous reverses have been suffered. The advantages of such a stabilizer for a naval vessel may be summarized as follows: (1) Improved gun platform. (2) Improved landing platform for aircraft carriers and other ships with flying deck. (3) Guns would be less hampered by spray in heavy * weather. (4) Improved living conditions and comfort—this is an item of importance on transports and hospital ships. The speed per unit of power would also be increased as well as the accuracy of steering and both of these mean increased cruising radius but this would probably be counterbalanced by the power required to run the stabilizer. The stabilizers which have been experimented with were designed to eliminate rolling only. No really successful ship stabilizer has been developed to date, but its advantages are such that development work along this line should be continued.
An important factor in the modern naval battle is the stability control of battleships and it is one which the United States Navy has only barely touched. The Germans had made great strides in this study and on several battleships during the Battle of Jutland it was used to good advantage. By stability control is meant the art of giving, reducing and controlling the lists of a ship by the flooding of certain compartments. It may be utilized to give the main battery guns a greater range, by increasing the angle of elevation, than would normally be possible. In time of battle when a battleship is closely engaged it is a considerable detriment to have a list. The ship and its appliances are designed and built to operate on a normal keel. A list makes the guns hard to load and difficult to handle. It may expose a portion of the hull unprotected by armor. It may reduce the efficiency of the director system. It changes the angles of elevation of all guns on the ship. This is bound to reduce their efficiency and may prevent certain guns from being brought to bear. Boilers, bearings and other machinery are designed for operation on normal keel. With a list, machinery derangement is apt to occur, and, in the case of boilers, portions of the heating surfaces may be uncovered. In time of battle there should be one officer solely charged with the stability control of the ship. He should have adequate training and frequent opportunities for experimentation in time of peace.
It is interesting to compare maximum effective gunnery ranges which have been used in actual battle since Nelson’s day. At the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 it was but 300 yards; at the Battle of Santiago, ninety-three years later, it was only 2,000 yards; at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905 it had increased to 9,000 yards, and at the Battle of Jutland in 1915 it was no less than 18,000 yards. The above figures are, of course, open to dispute, since it is a question in each case at what point the maximum effective range commenced, but they are approximately and relatively correct. The striking point in comparing the above figures is the great advance which has been made in gunnery ranges since the Spanish-American War. That this progress is still going on is apparent from the results of recent target practices and today the maximum effective range is well over 20,000 yards. Gunnery ranges have been limited by the visibility. Since the Armistice, extensive experiments have been conducted in the observation of gunfire by aircraft but the problem has not yet been definitely solved and main reliance must remain on observation from the fighting tops of the ships themselves. Eventually, it is certain that primary control of the observation of fire will pass to aircraft but there remain two fundamental problems which must be solved first. It is essential to devise for fleet engagements a reliable means of designating to the aircraft the target at which the ship is firing and reliable communication between ship and plane must be ensured. When that has been accomplished there is no reason why considerably greater ranges should not be attained. The present tendency is to develop higher velocities rather than to increase the weight of the guns. The Germans at Jutland showed what could be done with comparatively light, high-velocity guns, fired with rapidity and ably controlled. Fire-control must be made more flexible, so that commanders of battleship divisions will be free to develop battle tactics without having to give irksome consideration to its effect on gun fire.
Our present system of gunnery development is such that progress is not assured. We experience a periodical change of gunnery officers in the fleet and with each new regime we experience a change in gunnery theory and practice. Gunnery theory, in particular, must be stabilized, standardized and developed throughout the service. To do this, we must have a gunnery school. This would insure unity and direction in gunnery development. By staggering the detachment of the officers on the staff of such a school, a permanent nucleus would be left to carry on the work uninterruptedly.
The great disadvantage of the compressed air torpedo, as noted during the World War, was the fact that it left a wake. Observers on the ships were able to follow these wakes and, by maneuvering, were able to dodge them. The Germans undertook the development during the war of a trackless torpedo in order to meet the needs of the submarine service. This torpedo consists essentially of a storage battery which furnishes the necessary power for driving electric propulsion motors. The size of this torpedo was approximately twenty-one inches. It had a maximum effective range of 1,650 yards and a speed of 25 to 27 knots. Various countries have since been experimenting with the electric torpedo and it is understood that reliable torpedoes have been produced which have a maximum effective range of about 5,000 yards. As German manufacturer claims that he can turn out a twenty-five-inch electric torpedo with a range of 10,000 yards. The advantages of the electric torpedo are so manifest that its development should be pushed to bring it to a high state of performance. The wireless control of torpedoes after they have been launched has received considerable attention during recent years and the successful experiments which have been conducted would lead one to believe that the practical application of this invention is entirely feasible. This will permit of the changing of direction of torpedoes after they have been launched and thus, to a great extent, it would nullify the possibility that the enemy will be able to avoid torpedoes by maneuvering.
Conclusion.—Never before in all history have navies been confronted with such a complex problem as at the present time. The last great fleet engagement, the Battle of Jutland, was fought by surface ships entirely. The next great naval battle will be fought not only upon the surface but also above the surface and below the surface. Not only must the doctrine and tactics of each type be developed, but the interrelation of the different types must be determined. The naval forces on three planes must be indoctrinated and coordinated to work toward the common end—victory in the next fleet engagement.
Editor’s Note.—The author, while receiving his education in the high schools and Reed College, Portland, Oregon, joined the Oregon Naval Militia and attended the officers’ school for two years. In June, 1917, he successfully passed the entrance examinations to the Naval Academy, but did not enter the Academy. He enrolled in the National Naval Volunteers and was ordered to the Naval Training Camp at Seattle, being afterwards transferred to the Atlantic for duty in the Transport Service. In 1918 he was transferred to the Officer Material School at Pelham Bay, New York, later receiving a commission as ensign in the Reserve Force, followed by a transfer to the Regular Navy, first being commissioned as a temporary ensign and later receiving a permanent commission. His serivce has included both battleship and destroyer duty.