The Truxtun Tradition
(See pages 1107, August, and 1779 December, 1937, Proceedings)
Captain J. M. Ellicott, U. S. Navy (Retired).—Reading Lieutenant Commander Sheridan’s comments in the December, 1937, issue of the Proceedings on “The Basis of our Naval Tradition” Published in the August, 1937, issue of the Proceedings reminds me of an incident which suggests that “The Truxtun Tradition” may have been handed down through Admiral Farragut to an officer of the Generation following.
In the course of reminiscent experiences told at one of the last annual Manila Bay dinners attended by Admiral Dewey, in the Hotel Raleigh in Washington, Lieutenant Commander Ben Hodges told the following:
Toward evening of April 30, 1898, Commodore Dewey gave orders to his squadron to heave to off Subig Bay and for commanding officers to report on board the flagship. Hodges had been put in supervisory command of the merchant collier Nanshan, and for awhile felt that here was an opportunity to relax, so stretched himself out in an old chair on her poop. Soon, however, he became curious and then he thought “why not assume that I am included in that signal and go over to the Olympia and find out what it is all about?”
So he got out a 2-oared wherry, stuck a flag in her stern and a pennant on her bow and went over, stating to the officer of the deck that he was reporting in obedience to signal.
In the cabin it was evident that the conference was over. An extension table had been vacated and commanding officers were talking in low tones in scattered groups. Commodore Dewey alone remained at the table, tapping a pencil on a chart and gazing abstractedly at it. Scattered around were pencil sketches of the entrance to Manila Bay with lines of supposed mines and battery locations traced upon them.
The Commodore seemed so absorbed in meditation that Hodges, unnoticed, mingled quietly with a group of captains and found them discussing the hazards of mines and batteries at Manila Bay entrance.
Suddenly a sharp rap on the table by Dewey brought them all to attention.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “my mind is made up. I was brought up under that grand old man, Admiral Farragut, and when he had a thing like this to do he went right ahead and did it. We will go into Manila Bay tonight and if there are torpedoes in the channel the Olympia will clear them away for you.”
Sea Language and Its Origins
(See page 9, January, 1938, Proceedings)
Alan Cornwall Smith.—The origin of sea language is a fascinating subject, not only to sailors, but also to a good many landsmen. Unfortunately, none of the landsmen seem to be etymologists, and few of the sailors have technical knowledge necessary to investigate the origins of words in a scientific way. Lieutenant Commander Ranney’s article will therefore be found of great value.
Some of the derivations given in the article are open to certain difficulties. The etymologies of larboard and port have never been satisfactorily explained, most dictionaries, with all their facilities for research, preferring to mark them “uncertain.” The explanation given in the article is the usual one, predicated on the assumption that a vessel having a steering oar to starboard could not conveniently lay that side against a wharf. Unfortunately most vessels, from the earliest times up to the end of the fifteenth century (when the rudder hung on the midship line came into general use), had two steering oars, one on each side. The Egyptians generally had this arrangement, the Greeks and Romans always did, as well as the later Mediterranean countries. Only in northern waters was the single steering oar used, and there a harbor would more likely be called a “haven” and an opening in the side of a vessel a “hatch.”
Of course the English, who did use a single steering oar, might have loaded their vessels from the port side, but we have no evidence that they ever did so load them, which makes the derivation from laadebord rest on very flimsy grounds. A more attractive explanation comes from the Danish word laag, meaning “low.” Thus, laagboard would be the “low side” or the less important side, just as the French say babord or “back side.”
The “platform braced with chains from which soundings were made” is, of course, the chain wales or channels which kept the lower rigging away from the vessel’s sides. At this point the lower deadeyes were fastened to the ship’s side with chains.
One of the most scholarly investigations of the origin of the schooner was carried on by Professor E. P. Morris. He shows that Captain Robinson did not build the first schooner in America, and proves that there never was any such word as “scoons. Words of vaguely similar sound and meaning found in one or two obscure Scottish or Icelandish dialects are not sufficient to establish a connection with America where the word is certainly not found except in that one story, nor with a schooner, which certainly does not “skim over the water.
Inland Water Regulations
The following letter, received by the Editor from Lieutenant Commander Robert H. Wright, U. S. Naval Reserve, is of general interest:
May I bring to your attention the question of Inland Water Regulations as applied to ports and harbors of the United States seaboard. I do not have reference to those of the Great Lakes, because generally speaking very few seagoing steamers ever find their way into our lakes through canals.
As you are fully aware, immediately a vessel enters the coastal limits of our eastern and western coasts, including the Gulf of Mexico—whether man-o-war, merchantman, American or foreigner— she automatically comes within the scope of the present inland waters laws. Only the ports of the United States are affected in this manner; in every other port of the world, including those of the Philippine Islands, Panama Canal, the International Rules of the Road at Sea are practiced and carried out.
I have been informed by members of the Virginia Pilot Service that a line drawn from Cape Henry, Virginia, to buoy situated 76o true 10 miles from Cape Henry, and from that buoy on another line drawn to Cape Charles, embraces Inland Waters and that vessels within these areas are subject to those laws.
If my information is correct, it leads one 0 wonder concerning difficulties which m£y arise in the case of fog, especially when the vessels involved may be (1) east- ound from Cape Henry to sea; (2) west- ound from sea to Cape Henry; (3) southbound; (4) northbound.
Under Inland Waters Rules, I also believe that one whistle signal only is legal and to be used, viz., “one prolonged blast or vessel under way.” I have also underwood and been so informed that the international Rules of the Road which require “two prolonged blasts for vessels topped but under way and having no Way upon them,” which of course covers vessels not at anchor or in tow, is disallowed and illegal in our inland waters, and that if vessels use them they are Wrong in every manner. This being the case, the problematical proposition is submitted: A vessel in dense fog clearing Cape Henry hears a prolonged blast anywhere ahead—she does not know whether the vessel she has heard is south or northbound—east or westbound; all she may know is that the fog signal she hears is somewhere outside Cape Henry but within inland waters jurisdiction. The eccentricities and “silent areas” in fog are only too well known, and add to the seaman’s difficulties in judging bearing and distance.
In this premise, may it not be quite within the bounds of possibility that the hypothetical vessel is a foreigner bound in either of the four directions named, and almost certain to be without a pilot on her bridge to advise her Master that she is within the limits of American Inland Waters Regulations. It is easy to see that with a case of this sort, conflicting whistle signals (one ship using the well-known International Rules and the other one the Inland Waters) might easily result in collision, or, in narrow waters, stranding in avoiding collision. The writer has discussed this situation with naval officers, merchant officers, and the members of the various pilotage services around our coasts, and can truthfully state that a general consensus is that considerable doubt, confusion, and annoyance would be eliminated if our ports were to use the International Rules of the Road at sea, as is the custom in every other country in the world.
Bell’s Vision of Wireless
(See page 1537, November, 1937, Proceedings)
Dr. Harold S. Hulbert.—A month or so after the Armistice, on board the Leviathan, I was pleased to encounter Captain Selby, a former commanding officer of passenger vessels and an old school friend. En route to Europe he told me many stories of his life aboard passenger liners, one of which concerned Alexander Graham Bell, as follows: On one of his westbound trips across the Pacific, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell were passengers aboard the liner Captain Selby then commanded. One evening a few days out, Professor Bell gave a talk to the first-class passengers, Captain Selby presiding. Mrs. Bell sat in the balcony and occasionally waved her handkerchief while her husband was telling of the start and evolution of the telephone.
The next day was clear and of good visibility. Mr. Bell was invited up to the bridge to visit. Actually Captain Selby wanted to ascertain tactfully why Mrs. Bell had been waving her handkerchief at times, not at important times when her husband had reached the narration of some triumph in his marvelous work, but apparently at any time.
When conversation turned that way, Mr. Bell laughed and said, “You know my hearing is bad. I do not hear my own voice now. It may drop too low for my auditors. So Mrs. Bell always sits as far away as she can. I watch her. When she waves her handkerchief I speak louder.”
Talk turned to the sentimental interest of relatives and friends. Captain Selby- said to Bell, “Quite some time ago I arranged with the captain of another of our (Pacific) liners to give him a message this morning. We reckoned our ships would pass. He is an ardent and affectionate family man. His wife was expecting, and if her reckoning was right the new baby would be born before the father would arrive. We agreed that if I had any news I would signal him. We should sight him any time now.”
Just then the lookout reported, “A ship, hull down, sticks up, on the starboard bow. I can just see her masts.”
Captain Selby turned to a flag-quartermaster, “Hoist the signals for the word ‘SON’,” for the other captain’s wife had sent Selby word before sailing that the baby had come, and was a boy.
Looking up, Captain Selby laughingly told Graham Bell, “The signals spelled ‘SUN,’ but he will understand when he gets the message.”
The ships passed each other hulls down, so except by prior reckoning there was no assurance of recognition of identity.
Alexander Graham Bell then said in the awed voice of prophecy, “An Italian, an inventor named Marconi, has undertaken some electrical explorations on telegraphy without wires! I would not be greatly surprised if some day ships as far apart as we were could communicate with each other by electricity.” And almost to himself he softly said, “The happy father!”
Heavy Weather Sea Ladder
Chief Boatswain G. B. Martinson, U. S. Navy.—The accompanying sketch of a sea ladder made by me while attached to the U.S.S. New Mexico and U.S.S. Oklahoma, and now used by those vessels, may be of interest to members of the Institute and to vessels of the Fleet.
The ladder is to be used during heavy weather conditions, such as may be encountered at sea or during Santa Anas, for the purpose of embarking or disembarking liberty parties, observing parties, etc., into or from ships’ boats. It is usually hung over the side on the quarter or where a good lee may be had, and the bottom should reach at least to the water s edge, so that it hangs between the boat and the ship.
The ladder is attached to the deck beading and unrolled to drop over the side, two 10-pound weights with recovery lines attached being used to hold down the lower end. It then hangs clear of the side sufficiently so that a climber will not pine his hands between rungs and ship, even though the ladder must fall over a blister or armor belt. The bottom and center life lines are unrigged in the vicinity of the ladder, so that a climber arriving at the top will have the upper life line to use as a grab line.
A 15-inch round fender should be hung over the side forward of and abaft the ladder to fend off the boat, which should ride to a long bow line and a stern line.
The construction of the ladder is indicated on the sketch. When not in it can be rolled up and stowed away. The vertical wire legs should be either serve or slushed with a preservative that dries hard, for purposes of cleanliness and preservation.
(See page 1537, November, 1937, Proceedings)
Lieutenant Commander W. P- Cogswell, U. S. Navy.—Lest it be assumed that “silence gives consent,” some sort reply to the condemnation of radiotelephone by the author of the excellent a tide “Wider Horizons” appears to be in order.
It is surprising to read that “radiotelephone has a definite and important function in communications, but not in Navy” and then find television strongly
advocated for fleet use by the author, in view of the fact that disadvantages cited against radiotelephone apply with far more force against television. For instance, television side bands are, roughly, hundreds of times as wide as telephone side bands. If channels cannot be found for radiotelephone they certainly cannot be found for television.
Some exception may be taken to the figure of 5:1 given as the ratio of transmission range of a telegraph transmitter over a voice transmitter of equal power. Actually the power in the side bands, fully modulated, compares with the unmodulated carrier power as 0.5 to 1. Since the distance range is, neglecting attenuation, proportional to the square root of the power the actual differential is theoretically 1.4:1 instead of the cited 5:1. Conceding the points that the average modulation is much less than 100 per cent, and that the available carrier telephone power will be less in any given transmitter than the available CW power, by an amount depending in some degree on the modulation system chosen, there still remains the fact that the range of a telephone transmitter can be increased, and its band width halved, by use of single side-band transmission and carrier wave suppression, as is accomplished in transatlantic telephony. And leaving the theory for actual practice, it will be found that the usual high frequency aircraft combination telegraph and telephone set in use will, within its direct range, lay down an intelligible phone signal nearly as far as a readable keyed signal, because of the rapid attenuation of the direct wave for both as the limiting range is approached.
It may be added that the “roar of an airplane engine” bothers a pilot very little when fitted with a suitable radio helmet connected to a receiver having a moderate amount of audio amplification, that aircraft microphones have negligible distortion, and that the inductive interference present in a modern airplane is at a lower level than on ship or in a city. There is no difficulty in receiving a radiotelephone signal in an airplane if the signal be there.
By all means it is agreed that the radiotelephone will never supplant radiotelegraph for long-distance formal communications. Radiotelephone is advocated only for short-range use in such manner as the following:
Scene—a gray, drizzly dawn at Sitka, overcast, 500 feet, one-half mile. Patrol Squadron SEVEN taxiing from buoys for take-off, destination Seattle, 800 miles away. Radiotelephone as > can be used:
“Patrol SEVEN from Seven Prep One,—repot when ready for take-off”
“Seven Prep Two Ready,” “Seven Prep Three Ready,” etc.
“Patrol SEVEN from Seven Prep One,—takeoff in succession, execute!”
No further conversation. A pelting rain. Squadron Commander at 200 feet. Then:
“Patrol SEVEN from Seven Prep One,—course two two five, speed ninety knots, receipt” “Seven Prep Two, Roger,” “Seven Prep Three, Roger,” etc.
In a moment, “Seven Prep Four from Sever Prep One,—report when your section is joined up”
“Seven Prep One from Seven Prep Four-- number five has not joined up, am making MOs for him”
Ten minutes later, “Seven Prep One from Seven Prep Four,—second section joined up, receipt”
“Seven Prep Four from Seven Prep One, Roger, Patrol SEVEN from Seven Prep One, -- course one three five”
The squadron of six patrol planes is now squared away on course to Seattle. Three hours will elapse before they have anything more than 300 feet ceiling and mile visibility. As the overcast begins to break the skipper will detach a plane to take a look upstairs and report conditions on top. After this report he will climb his squadron through the next good-size hole and cruise in comfort. His radio operator has in the meantime handed him a complete weather report, radiotelegraph of conditions prevailing at the destination There is nothing phenomenal about the foregoing—merely routine for patrol plan which are built to cruise 30 hours in whatever weather there is. The squadron has been smartly handled, commanded, by use of a radiotelephone circuit between pilots at the controls. For those die-hards, who shudder with horror at the thought of voice modulated naval frequencies, dot and dash is available; all we ask is, just try it once.
There is no question but that radiotelephone, like radiotelegraph, telephone, and cable, and eventually television, has its place in the Naval Communication System. It is only a question of fitting it into its proper place, where its peculiar advantages may be put to service. This is being done today by aviators, not because they don’t like dots and dashes, or can’t send and receive them, but because they see no sense in doing something the hard way when there is an easier way.
The fundamental advantages of radiotelephone are speed and articulation. Speed is obtained only when the action officers are on the circuit—replace them by talkers and the speed vanishes. Articulation provides emphasis, recognition, shade of meaning, and variety of expression. Combining the two (and bear in mind that events occur by split seconds in aircraft tactics), radiotelephone finds its logical function in the fleet in the shortage tactical channels, manned by action officers.
Known Sunk—German Submarine War Losses, 1914-1918
(See page 66, January, 1938, Proceedings)
Brockholst Livingston.—Mr. Robert T Grant has given us a very useful resume of the causes of German submarine losses in the last war but the table* at the end of his able article bears analysis. Averting the causes of destruction into percentages we have the following:
Mined 35 per cent
Sunk by Depth Charges 20 per cent
Sunk by Gunfire 16 per cent
Rammed 11 per cent
Torpedoed 11 per cent
Other causes or unknown 7 per cent
We thus find that mines, depth charges, gunfire, ramming, and torpedoes, in the order given, were the best defenses against submarines. Let us consider each of these defenses separately and attempt to arrive at some adequate solution of our own problem of defense against submarines. It must be remembered that what may be proper for one nation is not necessarily the best for another. The United States is certainly in a different position from most nations in the matter of defense requirements.
First, we had mines accounting for 35 per cent of the total submarine losses. The principal areas of operations were concentrated in relatively easily mined waters. The Dover Barrage and Northern Barrage permitted means of defense which could not be duplicated in many of the waters in which the United States Fleet would be expected to operate. Mine fields would, of course, be laid at entrances to important harbors and operating bases but we could not expect to bottle up enemy submarines, to prevent their exit from their own bases, or to restrict their operations to a closed area which could be well patrolled. Consequently, we must come to the conclusion that mines as a defense against submarines would have their limitations in our general defense scheme.
Depth charges follow as the most efficacious defense. These can be used from practically every type of vessel. With depth-charge racks and projectors an enemy submarine in the vicinity can be given a very warm welcome. The best types to carry these charges, with the greatest chance of successful attack, are those which can maneuver rapidly and have enough speed to get away from the spot where the charge is dropped. The destroyer and small antisubmarine vessels are, undoubtedly, the most satisfactory types yet evolved for this purpose. However, experiments have been suggested with a view to the use of depth charges from the large patrol planes which, since they have replaced the destroyers in the Scouting Force, should be capable of filling more than merely the scouting functions of the surface ships they have displaced. Considering the advantage such craft have over surface vessels in spotting submarines, the ability to destroy the undersea boats would be a great asset. It is questionable whether in the present stage of development of the patrol plane, such craft are capable of carrying a sufficient load of depth charges. The dangers involved in the carrying of such missiles must also be borne in mind. The matter warrants further thought, nevertheless, and should receive it.
Defense against submarines by gunfire needs little discussion, as gunfire is, after all is said and done, probably the best defense against any form of attack. Ramming, on the other hand, which accounted for 11 per cent of the losses in the last war, against 16 per cent from gunfire, is a defense of chance and should not be relied upon.
While the depth charge and gun can be carried by almost every type of vessel and be used in practically every instance, the other forms of defense are only suitable in special cases—an inadvisable basis upon which to place much reliance in a defense plan. This is particularly true of the torpedo, which we find, from Mr. Grant’s figures, accounted for 11 per cent of the submarine losses. It will be noted, however, upon an examination of the tabular list of sinkings, that out of the 20 submarines which were sunk and their loss charged to torpedoes, 18 were destroyed by other submarines. The remaining two were sunk by “Torpedo of C-24 (decoy)” and “Torpedo of C-27 (decoy).” It is not clear if these were submarines acting as decoys or special decoy vessels. The point in question does not appear to necessitate research to determine the exact nature of the destroying ships. It is clear that no regular combatant surface vessel accounted for a submarine by using its torpedoes. The arguments in favor of mounting tubes on antisubmarine vessels should, consequently, be satisfactorily answered. It seems impossible that a surface ship would be in a position to use torpedoes against a submarine. If such action were possible, gunfire would undoubtedly prove as effective.
Considering Mr. Grant’s article, we are inclined to believe that, for the United States, the best defenses against submarines are the destroyer armed with guns and depth charges and, when possible the mining of mineable areas. Submarines may be used to the extent their numbed permit and important harbors should be supplied with small antisubmarine craft of high speed, capable of maintaining station in a moderately heavy sea. The motor torpedo boats being developed in other countries may suggest the type of craft which would be suitable for our antisubmarine defense vessels. These vessels should be as low in the water as possible in order to avoid observation from submarines, although this characteristic will be dependent upon their ability to maintain an adequate lookout. Their primary armament would, of course, be the depth charge. The future may add the patrol plane to this list.
In the light of our antisubmarine defense requirements, it would seem advisable to examine our building program. Our destroyers are fully capable of carrying out the duties which would be assigned them. Our submarines, although relatively few in number considering the length of our coast line, and especially with respect to underage vessels, are nevertheless excellent examples of modern undersea craft. Our major deficiencies appear to be in mine-laying craft, of which we have no modern examples, and small antisubmarine vessels, in which we are equally backward. The Coast Guard has in recent years done considerable development work in small vessels but it would be advisable for the Navy to construct experimental examples of the types which would need in war time. If we should deem it necessary to construct specially designed convoy escort vessels for antisubmarine defense, they should not have torpedo tubes mounted and, consequently, it is believed that the patrol gunboat is as well adapted to this service as any special type could be. The deficiency in speed would be its only shortcoming and this might be rectified by compromising between the characteristics of the two types and embodying the result in one type suitable for both duties. Excellent seakeeping ability should be one of the most important considerations in the design of convoy escort-patrol gunboat.
Reference has been made in earlier discussions to the need for net layers. There is an even greater need for modern mine-laying vessels for fleet use. The converted destroyers would be useful, however, as auxiliaries to the fleet layers. The provision of patrol gunboats in greater numbers also a need both in time of peace and of war. Investigation of the possibilities of the patrol plane as an antisubmarine defense should be continued. Great Britain has seen fit to make provision in her naval building programs for a great variety of specialized vessels. Some of these may not be necessary for the United States but there is a definite requirement for certain types which we have thus far ignored. It is to be hoped that future building programs will provide us with examples of the many types of both combatant and auxiliary vessels which a well-rounded navy demands.
Lieutenant Robert T. Sutherland, Jr., (C.C.), U. S. Navy.—-Before the invention of clocks, the flow of water through an orifice was used as a means of measuring time. Ctesibius made an instrument in which the flowing water took the form of tears dropping from the eyes of a small statue, bemoaning the flight of time. The teardrops were gathered in a container where they floated a figure which pointed out the hour on a vertical scale. The vessel automatically emptied itself daily by a siphon arrangement which operated machinery indicating the day and month. . . . The present rank of junior grade lieutenant was formerly designated as “Master.” . . . R.H.I.P. Card playing was once forbidden aboard navy ships—except in the captain’s cabin. . . . The ancient belief in mermaids may have arisen from the reports of seamen who had sighted the cetaceous mammals dugong and manatee. These aquatic mammals have pectoral nipples, fore fins rudely fashioned like arms and hands, and a fishlike tail. They have frequently been sighted rising to the surface to breathe, clasping their sucking young to their breasts. . . . Peter the Great of Russia, deploring the lack of knowledge of ship construction and navigation in his country, overcame an addiction to seasickness and made several voyages in trading vessels in order to acquire an insight into navigation. Later, after watching the crude progress of shipbuilding at Archangel, he betook himself to Holland, where he labored as a common artisan in the dockyards and compelled his royal suite to do likewise. Ships, colonies, and commerce were the great objects of his stupendous labors.