Several years ago, the Commander in Chief, U. S. Fleet, called together a large group of officers to consider the problem of enlisted men’s families. Prior to this, Commander Battle Force had surprised not only the Navy, but the press, by publishing the results of a survey showing that 9,000 enlisted families were living in Long Beach, California. Both instances point to the fact that the Navy is facing today a social situation never before encountered in naval history. As a ranking Admiral expressed it, “I am responsible not only for my material, but for my personnel, and with a large portion of the enlisted personnel married, I cannot close my eyes to their family problems.”
Twenty years ago, only a handful of our men were married; now every third or fourth man is married, raising these three important questions:
- Would it not be desirable to make a survey of the living conditions of our married men?
- Can a constructive program be evolved for dealing with men whose efficiency is definitely impaired by an unsuccessful marriage?
- And most important, what can we do for those wives and children, who by providing happy homes, definitely increase the stability, efficiency, and ambition of our men?
Obviously these questions affect a large percentage of our men, as well as the peace of mind of our commanding officers, executive officers, division officers, medical officers, chaplains, and Navy Relief representatives. There is no specific answer to these questions. They are soluble only as other problems are soluble, by a thoughtful estimate of the situation. In studying the situation, the following should be considered.
Modern Enlisted Men and Marriage
We have attracted a class of men who look at the Navy as a lifetime vocation, rather than as an adventure, as did the youngster 20 years ago. The devil-may- care lad who joined the service for a cruise of adventure gave little thought to a man’s life. Often he was illiterate. (One of the chaplain’s first duties was to teach illiterates to read and write.) The modern navy man, a high-school graduate, joins the Navy to learn a vocation, and to make a career for himself. As he looks at his career, he naturally considers marriage as part of his scheme of life.
Let us take an average case. In Billings, Montana, Harold Brown hears that the Navy trains men for highly skilled trades, affords advancement, and offers good retired pay. Enlisting, he goes to a trade school, or studies navy education courses. Finally he attains a second class rating. During his first years he “scouts around,” visiting dance halls and amusement centers, seeking feminine companionship. As his pay advances, he realizes that he can afford a $20 bungalow and pay the grocery bills. The futility of “Spudlocker Kate” and the “Sage Brush Hen” is evident, and he longs for a little house where it “smells like home,” with a steak cooking; where he may turn on the radio and sleep in a clean little bedroom—and where in time his baby will play.
Sailormen seldom go half way in their relations with women. While they may go the limit with the demimondaine, a good wife brings out moral courage, dependability, earnestness, and ambition—qualities of vast importance to our personnel. These qualities typify average married men as I have seen them. They make excellent husbands and fathers.
The Girls Our Men are Marrying
Like attracts like. The girls, in general, come from good homes. In general they are courageous, bright, and good homemakers—producing fine little homes on allotments ranging from $40 to $60. Their problems of marriage adjustment, however, are far more difficult than are the man’s. The man’s life is active, changing, and competitive. Unless he is a weakling, there is little tendency for his body and brain to become flabby, less capable, as the years go by. The girls, however, are in grave danger of disintegration. They are unemployed, and the long days of waiting tend to produce laziness.
They come from good homes. They have led active lives. Many of them have been partially or wholly self-supporting for from two to four years. They have had family influence and respectability as a background, their girl friends, and their churches. Suddenly they are married—and presto, all is changed. When they arrive, friendless, at a fleet base, what do they find? In most cases a slight but nagging prejudice against the sailor, the man they love. Rents are too high, and many are forced into districts which subject them to lack of privacy, discomfort, and sometimes a questionable environment. Their husbands are away much of the time because of intensive fleet activities. They are poor (seldom can a sailor’s wife obtain suitable employment, as she is an outsider, and local applicants receive preference). Even should she be able to get a job, it would only be makeshift on account of the very nature of her life—following her husband to Bremerton, or returning to her mother during the “long cruise.” If she seeks a solution by “going home to mother,” domestic tragedy almost inevitably follows. She becomes absorbed by her mother’s family, the husband loses prestige as a married man, and, in spite of the love of the two young people, the marriage drifts slowly but inevitably toward separation or divorce.
If the wife makes her home at a fleet base, she lives in a tiny apartment, where there is too little housework to do, with poverty and loneliness as her only companions. Some of them become homesick and give up, some become cynical, some throw discretion to the winds and find companionship in dance halls. Several years ago my wife stood beside the casket of a fine young chief petty officer, whose death was attributed to suicide. The widow, a girl of 20, said, “If I hadn’t done it, he would not have died. He would have tried to get well. But I didn’t have a friend here. I was lonely and got in with the wrong crowd. I didn’t realize what I was doing.” Many girls are paying the price of failure, directly or indirectly attributable to loneliness.
The Average Home
Enough has been said of the darker side of the picture. Now let us look at the normal bluejacket’s home. Long Beach will find him living in a bungalow court, or apartment, on Daisy or Cherry Avenue, or, as the prices advance, in the environs of Compton or Wilmington. Outside, there is a strip of lawn, with two or three flowers; inside, a small living-room with “the radio Jack gave me before the long cruise,” a tiny kitchenette, a breakfast nook, and a bedroom large enough for only a bed and a bureau. But it is clean, immaculately clean; the floors shine, and the walls were recalcimined on the first pay day after they moved in. On the wall is a framed honorable discharge, a picture of the Neptune party, and the crew of the California. The girl is in a clean bungalow apron, and lying on the bed is the baby. The man walks to the landing each morning, and eats a man-sized breakfast and dinner on the ship. The supper is frugal, but enough for them both; it satisfies them because it is in their home.
The majority of our enlisted families make ends meet and avoid debts—except when faced by unforeseen emergencies. This is due to stringent economy such as few officers’ families are forced to practice. Seldom do you see more than one child in a family below the first class rating. The man’s pay is ordinarily turned over to the wife and administered with rigid economy.
L. C. Jones, Sea. 1c, has a wife and a two-year-old daughter. Their monthly expenditures are as follows:
Family budget $52.25
Man’s small stores 1.50
Total budget $53.75
Total pay $62.00
Total budget $53.75
Balance not budgeted $8.25
Note: No provision was made in the above budget for medicine, or hospitalization, which in many cases amounts to $5.00 a month, nor for amusements, insurance, nor special emergencies. Cigarettes were rationed at 1½ packages a day between the husband and wife. It should be noted that food and rent have been reduced to a minimum.
The individual case naturally deviates in one detail or another from the above. By no means is every family happy or successful. But, in general, the home is thriftily administered, self-respecting, and satisfying to the man’s desire for the fundamental things of life. Out of the average home comes a mature man, who gives to his job an earnestness not so noticeable among his unmarried comrades.
Two Typical Cases
Following are two case histories illustrating (a) increased efficiency after marriage, (b) decreased efficiency after marriage. Both cases are authentic, but names, ships, and other details have been altered.
(a) A case history demonstrating man’s increased efficiency after marriage and indicating our thoughtful consideration of his family problems.—H. E. Meyers, Sea. 1c, enlisted in June, 1929, in Boston, Mass., and during his first enlistment served in the New Mexico and the John D. Edwards on the Asiatic Station. As an unmarried man he made routine “pay-day liberties” getting drunk ordinarily twice a month and contracting a serious venereal infection, which later recurred. The recurrence necessitated 54 days hospitalization. Although somewhat undependable, he avoided punishment with the exception of a deck court-martial.
In November, 1933, he married a girl whom he sincerely loved, and who has proved a good wife and conscientious mother. She is devoted to him and their three-year-old daughter. She is adapted to naval life and has managed the home economically. In the five years of his married life he has been drunk approximately five times, resulting in each case from a New Year’s party, or other celebration. Drunkenness has decreased on account of his desire to give the maximum of his pay for the support of his wife and baby, and to avoid “doing anything foolish” while intoxicated. His record is clear. His pay has increased from $59.00 (when married) to $82.10. The family lives on a strict budget, has no debts, and is buying nothing on the installment plan. They economize on clothes. With the money thus saved, they buy pieces of furniture for a future home. The family appears contented and happy; their home is attractive and immaculate. Meyers’ executive officer states that he is “entirely satisfactory.” The man states that he believes the Navy is a good lifetime career.
(b) A case history demonstrating man’s decreased efficiency after marriage and indicating consideration of his separation from the service.—T. H. Bowers, EM. 2c, enlisted in August, 1928, in Cleveland, Ohio, and has served in the Oklahoma, Chicago, Charleston Navy Yard, and ________. As an unmarried man he was intelligent and hard working. With these characteristics he obtained the rating of electrician’s mate first class in minimum time. His record and marks were excellent.
In 1931 he married a highly educated school teacher, who was his mental superior, and who attempted to dominate him. Although Bowers deeply loved his two children, the increasing domination of his wife brought out unrevealed stubbornness and recklessness. This was evidenced in drinking sprees when he temporarily freed himself from her domination, and by contracting extravagant debts, to defy her pleas for further support.
While at the Charleston Navy Yard, the executive officer repeatedly tried to solve the debt problem. The chaplain visited all creditors and obtained extensions which would enable him to eventually “clear the slate.” He did not conscientiously meet any of these payments.
In 1937, his wife returned to her former profession, taking their two children. This further increased his recklessness and irresponsibility. Transferred to the _________ in September, 1937, he was disrated to electrician’s mate second class, during the following quarter. A recent letter from his executive officer states: “The financial status of Bowers is ‘poor’.”
Following are the major debts contracted by Bowers:
U. S. Finance & Thrift Co $80.00
Coast Loan Co 26.00
Bank of Italy 48.00
Mercer, Inc 46.00
Commercial Bank 58.00
The last named loan has been called, and a chief petty officer, with an excellent record, who has a wife and two children, has been forced as co-signer to pay the balance. A man of the Bowers type is a liability to the Navy.
From the foregoing it is apparent that certain of our men are benefited, and certain ones injured by married life. Let us now consider our problems in an effort to work toward a solution.
(1) We should attempt to ascertain in some methodical way how many of our men are married, and make an estimate as to the classes of men benefited (or injured) by married life, in relation to their ages and ratings.
In a certain naval district each unit reports on the first of each quarter the names and addresses of all dependents, as well as the ages and sex of all children. In this district, 1,103 enlisted men have reported 461 dependents—230 adults and 231 children. Wives composed more than 90 per cent of the adults, although mothers-in-law, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers were included. The children were distributed as follows:
39 Chief petty officers 70 children
47 Petty officers, first class 85 “
26 Petty officers, second class 42 “
7 Petty officers, third class 9 “
16 Seamen, first class 23 “
1 Private, U.S. Marine Corps 1 “
If all units, ashore and afloat, required such reports, we could study the number of marriages and the financial problems of our men and efficiently attack the problem, determining whether immature enlisted men of the lower ratings should be permitted to marry without the consent of the Bureau of Navigation.
Obviously, marines and bluejackets in the lowest ratings should not marry. Their pay is $21 and $36, respectively, and welfare data require $40 per month for the support of a wife and child. Men of these ratings should be prohibited against marrying without the consent of the Bureau of Navigation. Should they marry without informing the Bureau, or without the Bureau’s authorization, they should be awarded inaptitude discharges, as being irresponsible and lacking in the fundamentals of good judgment. This brings up the question as to whether such a procedure should not apply to all marriages, of men below the rating of petty officer second class.
(2) Unsuccessful marriages (where the man’s naval efficiency is definitely impaired, or when family problems become service problems) should call for the separation of the man from the service. The man whose thoughtless debts absorb so much of his pay that he is unable to support his family should be returned to civil life, where the state, rather than the Navy, may provide for the family. The man who hesitates to support his legal wife or children should be held to the provisions of the Bureau of Navigation’s pamphlet (Nav. 5-K-Service, of April 28, 1933), which sets forth the following as a general guide for the support of wives and children pending formal determination in a civil court: .
Wife only one-third of gross pay
Wife and one child one-half of gross pay
Wife and two children three-fifths of gross pay
Through a definite policy of dealing with those men whose marriages impair their efficiency, we would clear the service of some of the “dead wood” and open the path of advancement to those who are successfully handling their problems.
(3) The Navy should determine what assistance could be offered to families which are definitely contributing to the stability, conscientiousness, and ambition of our men. In this connection, the following should be noted:
(a) Medical care of wives and children.—Hospitalization of dependents ranges in different locations from Navy Relief “free beds” to expensive private institutions charging sometimes as much as $200 for an operation. Naval hospitals charge $3.75 per diem for dependent service. It would seem as if hospital rates might be more generally standardized, and that Navy Relief loans might be granted according to a more uniform policy with repayments by allotments according to the size of the family income and justifiable obligations.
(b) Housing conditions.—Since the Navy cannot provide quarters for its men’s families, can it not give moral support to those who are adequately providing them?
In a certain port, four years ago, a man paid from $25 to $35 for a dark, ill-equipped apartment and the use of a common bath. An ex-enlisted man has, within these last four years, formed a corporation of enlisted men and constructed ten excellent, well-furnished houses, renting for $25 per month. (See illustration pages 89-90.) It is manifestly impracticable for the Navy to take part in any housing venture. On the other hand, would it not be natural to recognize such service (when encountered in our various ports) by giving it our spontaneous, though unofficial support?
(c) Navy Relief efforts to aid families.—Individual auxiliaries carry on the following activities to aid our families:
(1) Dependent personnel service.—Where a qualified worker assists in solving financial or domestic problems, giving information on budgets, prenatal care, etc., and providing layettes as necessary.
(2) Thrift Shops which clean and repair clothing, selling articles from approximately $.05 to $1.00.
(3) Vegetable supply providing free vegetables (raised on navy fields) to needy families during the winter months.
(4) Visiting nurse service.—It would seem obvi ous that the Navy should assist in spreading these activities more generally throughout the various bases and districts, and give to them its united support.
(d) Civilian organizations assisting our families.—The American Red Cross, with experienced and trained field directors on duty at such places as Long Beach, and in all of our navy hospitals, is doing valuable work in connection with domestic and financial problems. The Navy Mothers Clubs, with 60 units, are providing clothing and layettes for needy families. Navy Wives Clubs are doing their share in providing healthy recreation to counteract the demoralizing effects of loneliness referred to in a preceding paragraph, making layettes, and sending in “mothers’ helpers” in cases of illness or death. These organizations are carrying on activities of definite value to our personnel, and should receive our recognition.
The Navy today is facing a real problem. The men have married, and are marrying in great numbers. Those who are happily married are more stable, dependable, and ambitious. The small minority of unhappily married men tend to become less and less efficient.
Can both the positive and negative elements of this situation be so handled that the problem, as a whole, may be solved for the benefit of the service? Definitely yes. The Navy has ably solved each personnel problem in the past, and can solve this problem. But it would seem that our first step would be a survey of living conditions of our married men, their pay and dependents, followed by a curtailment of “irresponsible marriages”; second, the handling of unsuccessful marriages; and third—and most important—concerted action to provide uniform medical service, more adequate housing, and effective family service through the Navy Relief Society, Red Cross, Navy Wives Clubs, Navy Mothers Clubs, and like organizations.
The first two steps would seem to come under the cognizance of the Bureau of Navigation. Important light could be thrown on the last by officers who have studied these problems, as well as medical officers, chaplains, and Navy Relief officials. Attacking the problem in both its negative and positive aspects should result in increased efficiency and morale.
How the First Five Ships of the Navy Were Named
Someone with a sense of humor and a knowledge of American history once remarked, “American history is all cluttered up with the Adamses.” And a true statement it is, for at every period in American history there has always been at least one member of the Adams family to play a prominent part in American life. One of the greatest of this memorable family was John Adams, second President of the United States. Though he is better known for his services as Chief Executive and as a diplomat, it is also true that he played a very important part in the founding of the Navy. For he was one of the members of the first naval committee appointed by the Continental Congress in October, 1775, and as a member of that committee purchased the first vessels for that interesting organization, the Continental Navy.
Adams, a man gifted with a remarkable memory and a flair for pungent writing, in his later years wrote his autobiography in which he recounted, along with countless other activities, his services on this naval committee: “This committee soon purchased and fitted five vessels; the first we named Alfred, in honor of the founder of the greatest Navy that ever existed; the second, Columbus, after the discoverer of this quarter of the globe; the third, Cabot, for the discoverer of this northern part of the continent; the fourth, Andrew Doria, in memory of the great Genoese admiral; and the fifth, Providence, for the town where she was purchased, the residence of Governor Hopkins, and his brother Ezek, whom we appointed first captain.”—John Adams. Life and Works, Vol. 3.