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Captain Damon E. Cummings, U. S. Navy (Ret.)—With Ensign Hughes’ article I have no quarrel. It is most interesting. I ^ish, however, to take issue with one of his introductory remarks, although his statement has no particular effect on the main argument. He says in the first paragraph that limitations of tonnage by treaty posed the Problem of obtaining the best in fighting qualities into a given disposition, and that in the past they could design the size of the ship to fit the desired requirements.” This is Perfectly true if he does not carry his past too far back. Prior to about 1907 Congress imposed limiting tonnages on battleships, thus causing designers to face a similar problem as they did after the disarmament conferences. In January, 1907, in fact, the Secretary of the Navy, the Attorney General (who had been the former Secretary of the Navy), Captain Richard Wainwright of the General Board, and Commander W. S. Sims, Inspector of Target Practice, appeared before a Congressional subcommittee to ask that a tonnage limitation on battleships authorized the previous year he eased from 16,000 tons to 18,000 tons in order to permit a better compromise, including an all big-gun battery. Shortly thereafter Congress stopped Placing tonnage limitations on battleships.
Hall of Naval History at Smithsonian
Captain E. John Long, U. S. Naval Reserve.—For a number of months last year (1952) one of the major exhibition rooms of the Smithsonian Institution, was carefully screened from the eyes of visitors. Workmen struggled in with heavy ship models, full-scale torpedoes, mines and shells, huge paintings, etc. New fluorescent lighting was installed, much paint applied.
Finally the screens were removed, and the “Hall of Naval History” was formally opened as one of the permanent attractions of the U. S. National Museum, which, with its more than 3,400,000 visitors annually is unquestionably the premier tourist mecca of the United States, if not of the world.
The new Hall has a preferred location, just to the right of the main exhibition room containing the original “Star Spangled Banner” that flew over Fort McHenry; also therein are the first Wright plane and Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.
By means of carefully selected ship and other models, paintings, prints, and original mementoes and relics related to celebrated naval craft and leaders, the exhibit traces the whole exciting story of American naval development from the privateers of the War for Independence to the present day carrier, battleship, landing craft, seaplanes, and ship- launched guided missiles.
For many years valuable collections of marine memorabilia have been coming to the Smithsonian Institution. Some of these priceless relics, still in their original packing cases, were stored; others were loaned to government departments where they were as often as not displayed in dimly lighted hallways or in conference rooms where the> could not be seen by the general public.
Now, for the first time, the cream of these collections has been assembled in one spot and presented in such a manner that their relative significance and chronological sequence can be readily understood, even by persons whose knowledge of the Navy and the role it has played in national defense is limited to what they read in the daily paper or hear on the radio. Cooperating with the Smithsonian in the job of assembling and arranging the material in the Hall of Naval History were the Department of the Navy, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the Naval Academy Museum, and the Naval Historical Foundation.
Old Navy hands will find a number of things to interest and delight them, not only because the items are here displayed for the first time but also because well-written captions with each relic or exhibit make the services of a guide or a curator unnecessary.
To meet the limitations of space assigned to the project, Mendel L. Peterson, Smithsonian curator of military and naval history (a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve), has divided American naval history into fourteen historic periods.
The first, the American Revolution, is represented by a fine model of the Bonhotnme Richard, flagship of that early naval task force with which John Paul Jones carried the war back to the shores of Britain itself. With the model is displayed a rare French print depicting the iBonhotnme Richard’s historic engagement with the British frigate Serapis, the battle in which Jones gave the Navy its famous slogan: “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Less known than the daring exploits of Jones are the services of the armed privateers of the Colonial Navy. These are recalled by a painting’on wood of the privateer Hazard of Salem, Mass.
The next period covers the time when the newborn republic was making its sovereignty respected throughout the world—the naval war with the Barbary pirates and the quasiwar with France. Two paintings by the French naval artist Corne, one of Admiral Preble’s attack on Tripoli and the other of the Mary, of Boston, beating off three French corsairs near Malaga, Spain, are shown with relics of the period.
In this manner the development of the Navy is traced through the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the War Between the States, the War with Spain, and the two World Wars. Enlarged photographs supplement prints and paintings where necessary to show ships or weapons in action. One of the most striking paintings in the exhibit reveals the atom bomb test at Bikini, drawn by Captain Charles A. Bittinger, chief of the camouflage section of the Bureau of Ships during World War II.
Few Americans realize that the American Civil War was a period of significant naval development and change. The exhibit makes this clear to the general public by devoting considerable space to the battle between the Monitor and the Virginia (Merrimac) at Hampton Roads. Captions point out that not only was this the first real combat between naval ironclads, marking the doom of the old wooden warship, but it also proved beyond argument the merits of the revolving turret, enabling gunners to keep an enemy vessel within range without aiming the whole ship.
Scale models and diagrams showing how the ironclad and ram developed from the traditional wooden naval vessel should be of particular interest to naval engineers and students of marine engineering. This exhibit also contains the original ensign of the Monitor and a graphic lithograph of the battle that changed naval history.
One section of the Hall is devoted to progressive stages in the history of naval weapons, many examples being full size, minus their explosive charges. Included in this display is one of the original “obstruction torpedoes” of Civil War days. These had thick cast-iron shells and were essentially very crude forms of what we would now call mines. Captions state that it was not until after that war that an actual moving torpedo—the Whitehead “automobile torpedo” —was developed. It was a primitive device, compared to the torpedoes of today, and had a range of only about 500 yards. The Navy’s role in producing an efficient aerial torpedo, launched from planes, is also fully related, along with cut-away specimens.
The U.S.S. Maine, whose sinking in Havana harbor touched off the Spanish- American War, is remembered with the original steering wheel, the binnacle, and part of the nameplate. Such little-known chapters of Navy history as the mobile 14-inch guns, rushed to the Western Front during World
War I, are recalled by fine scale models of two of the guns mounted on their railway carriages.
To curators and others interested in naval history or research, the Hall of Naval History should have a special appeal for its unique and very effective touches of real showmanship. Fluorescent lighting, for one thing, gives the effect of daylight in all the cases, permitting colors to stand out in their true values, whether the weather outdoors is cloudy or bright. Caption cards are pale blue, with sea blue lettering. The latter is large enough and clear enough to be read easily, even by visitors with failing eyesight. Picture frames in the large cases have a weathered driftwood finish, and the platforms or horizontal surfaces on which models or relics sit are a deep sea green.
Considering the overabundance of material available, an excellent job of selection and elimination has been done. There is no sense of overcrowding, nor of any irrelevant material dropped in just to fill a space.
Visitors seem to linger longest before the cases containing scale models of ships. In addition to the Bonhomme Richard, other fabled craft represented include the Constitution, Kearsarge, Olympia (of Admiral Dewey renown), the cruiser Wichita (the “auld witch” of the battle for Okinawa), the carrier Yorktown (lost at Midway), and the battleship Missouri.
The model of the Missouri, built by Gibbs & Cox, naval architects of New York, is unquestionably one of the finest and most complete ship models ever made in this country. It is complete down to the most minute detail, including even a miniature reproduction of the peace table on the starboard forward deck.
By way of contrast, the case containing the Missouri also includes a model, to the same scale, of the Hannah, one of the armed schooners of George Washington’s infant navy. On the deck of the “Mighty Mo,” above the Hannah, one of the battleship’s catapults holds a scout plane ready for launching. The catapult, which occupies only a part of the stern of the Missouri, is just about the same overall length as the Hannah! Thus has naval history marched on.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Disciple of Mahan
(See page 713, July, 19S2, Proceedings)
Frank Uhlig, Jr. -Professor Neumann’s article is an interesting study of letters between the great admiral and an energetic Assistant Secretary of the Navy. But it fails to show that Mr. Roosevelt was a good naval strategist. Nor does it show that Roosevelt, when the opportunity was presented to him, followed the teachings of Mahan, particularly in regard to the concentration of the fleet, on which Dr. Neumann properly places such stress.
On the basis of what proved to be fundamental errors of judgment (for example, directing in the spring of 1940 that the U. S. Fleet be based at Pearl Harbor instead of at Pacific Coast bases; the movement of major naval units from the Pacific to the Atlantic during 1941; the proposed formation of a cruiser blockade across the Pacific to halt trade with Japan), it seems fair to say that President Roosevelt was neither a great naval strategist nor a great student of Mahan. He saw the dangers in Europe and the Atlantic, but he allowed his nation to go into the war with the Fleet divided. The squadrons in the Pacific were far out on a limb and were faced by the Japanese Combined Fleet, which was then the greatest single naval force in the world. Mr. Roosevelt’s contribution to the U. S. Navy was not in the realm of strategy and ship movement but rather in the field of new construction. The ships built between 1933 and 1940 carried the burden of the first year of the war, and they stood between us and defeat.
(Editor’s Note : The writer of the following comment is the Editor and Publisher of the Arizona Daily Star of Tucson, Arizona.)
William R. Mathews.—The article in your July number by William L. Neumann on Franklin D. Roosevelt as a disciple of Admiral Mahan, prompts me to suggest that some of the untold naval history of the war be recorded.
This was brought to mind by the emphasis that Mahan put on the principle of keeping the main battle fleet concentrated and never dividing it. Yet, despite all that reputed advice from Mahan, Franklin Roosevelt, as president, did divide the fleet in August of 1941. He reduced the Pacific fleet to nine dreadnaughts by the movement of the Third Division to the Atlantic.
When I heard of it, I, on November 4, 1941, wrote Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox as follows:
“Dear Colonel Knox: I am shocked to hear that the Pacific fleet has been reduced to nine dreadnaughts by the movement of the third division to the Atlantic.
“I always thought that the first two elemental principles -of strategy called for maintenance of force and knocking out your weakest opponent first. Surely experience shows the truth of these principles and how disastrous violation of them usually turns out to be.
“I know from my personal experience in Washington and in the east that the blind Anglophiles insist upon defeat of Germany first, with the assumption that in the meanwhile Japan will remain inactive and disgorge at our command after Hitler is defeated. From what I know of the Japanese, they are not going to wait peacefully for such a development and although in reality they have nothing to gain by going to war now, they would rather go down fighting than submit to overwhelming force after Hitler is defeated.
“As Secretary of the Navy, you will be responsible for the division of our naval force that you have ordered.”
Under date of November 13, 1941, Colonel Knox replied as follows:
“My dear Bill: Your letter is a good and shining example of the unwisdom of writing before you get all the facts. I am not at liberty to disclose to you now just how it is to be accomplished, but there is to be an access instead of a diminution of naval strength in the Pacific. Your letter offers me a good chance, which I know you will understand and take in the right spirit, to point out how unwise it is for us editors to try to deal editorially with the subject of naval or army strategy.
“There are so many factors that enter into the determination of strategic moves that no one outside of the armed services can possibly have the requisite information upon which to base a sound judgment. I have to keep warning my own people in Chicago against this danger which I am now trying to emphasize to you. For your own satisfaction and assurance, I am glad to tell you that we all feel that the maximum measures of security possible with the naval strength available have been taken against any possible emergency in the Pacific
“Confidentially, I wish I felt half as safe about the outcome of affairs in the other theater of active operations, namely, Europe, as I do about the issue in the Pacific. If Japan should choose war right now, in my judgment, she is committing national suicide. There is certainly a quality of fatalism in the Japanese that may lead them to do this very thing, but it will be suicide nonetheless.
“I wish I could see you face-to-face and talk to you about this situation, and I am sure that you would go away from such an interview entirely satisfied in mind.
“I am sorry not to have seen you more often than I have in these trying times. If you come down this way at any time, don’t fail to come in to see me.”
On December 4, 1941, I saw Colonel Knox in his office at the Navy Department in Washington. At that time he explained to me that the reduction made by the departure of the third division had been made good by the sending of the two British battleships, Repulse and Prince of Wates, to the Pacific. When I asked him if he was ready for a surprise attack, he said: “Hell, yes, but those Japs do not dare to attack. If they do, it will be suicide for them.” When I asked him how much of an oil supply the Japanese had, he said: “Six months.”
Now that the war is over and the military and naval strategists are trying to learn lessons from the past, it surely seems a bit ironical, and proves beyond question how the violation of a basic principle, such as the division of forces, almost always brings on a calamity.
President Roosevelt could not say that he did not know better, after his instructions from Mahan.
(See page 1067, October, 1952, and page 317, March, 1953, Proceedings)
Lieutenant Commander J. C. Busby, S.C., U. S. Navy.—Captain Fitzhugh Lee’s thoroughly delightful article “Operation Snowstorm” in the October issue of the Proceedings may possibly have pictured the Navy’s paper work situation as somewhat worse than it really is.
Probably no one in the Navy is more cognizant of the red tape problem than the good brethren of the Supply Corps. Many are the service stories of Supply Corps officers who made heroes of themselves by either throwing all the manuals overboard or by frustrating the demands of the various Bureaus with fiendishly clever communications designed to prove that THEY could not be bothered with petty trivia of records and reports because THEY (alone) were fighting the war.
Since World War II it has been my distinct impression that the Navy (and the Supply Corps particularly) has made rather considerable strides in improving our internal communications system. This has even gone so far as to lighten some of the signature load on line officers. I am sure you will pardon me if I feel the particular problems of the latter are somewhat secondary in character, since I have on occasion served in billets that required signing—in longhand—my own name some 100 or more times a day, month in and month out. This has had subsequent disadvantages in that my present unreadable signature is looked upon with great suspicion whenever I try to cash a check.
Returning to Captin Lee’s article for a moment, the new Navy Regulations provide:
“1601. The term ‘official correspondence’ as used in these regulations shall be construed to mean all recorded communications sent or received by a person in Naval Establishment in the execution of the duties of his office.
“(1) The commanding officer or officer- in-charge shall sign all official correspondence addressed to higher authorities relating to the mission or efficiency of his command or activity.
“(2) Official correspondence which is required [underlining supplied] by law or regulation to be signed by an officer in the execution of the duties of his office shall be signed by him in his own handwriting.
“(3) Other than the above, official correspondence may be signed for the Chief of a Bureau, or office of the Navy Department, an officer in command, or an officer-in-charge of an activity by subordinate officers when authorized by him to do so.”
This seems to be pretty clear. Unless a document is actually required by law or regulation to be signed by the Captain, it would appear entirely within his prerogative to delegate that duty to whomever he so desires.
The Bureau of Naval Personnel seems to be fairly liberal in its requirements for the Captain’s signature. In the BuPers manual, article B2305, it repeatedly states “The initials, or signature, of either the commanding officer, executive officer, or other officer designated by the Commanding Officer are required. . . .” There are, of course, certain documents which do and should require the Captain’s signature . . . for Example, travel orders to officers written in the field (see article B5303 BuPers manual).
While I make no pretense of being an authority on the subject, there seems to be no requirement for commanding officers to sign the reports on musicians and motion pictures to which Captain Lee refers.
Although I do not feel that regulations are quite as restrictive as “Operation Snowstorm” implies, there is no doubt but that much improvement still lies ahead of us. Captain Lee’s recommendations certainly deserve mature consideration, but I hope he will modify his call “Arise, Line officers! Rebel!” to “Arise all ye fellow sufferers.” In the paper snowstorm, Line Officers are like the man with no shoes—Supply Corps officers like the man with no feet.