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Bill Thayer

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Part I
Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
One Man's Fight
for a Better Navy

Holden A. Evans
[Former Naval Constructor, U. S. N.]

published by
Dodd, Mead & Company
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Part II
Chapter 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

Part I

 p90  Chapter VIII

Education on the Clyde

In Glasgow I found a fellow officer, Ensign Laurence Adams, two classes below me in the Naval Academy, who had been assigned to the Construction Corps. We threw in together and began a search for "diggings." Accommodations were very poor. Finally by dint of advertising we found a satisfactory place — living room, two bedrooms, and bath. The canny Scotch student would have considered the price exorbitant, but we thought it quite reasonable.

Our Government paid all university expenses and besides gave us an allowance for "rent of study." Each month, when we paid up, we had to get from our landlady a receipt for "rent of study."

With our salaries clear, we could live in comfort, without financial worry, and devote ourselves to our lectures and studies. This we did. Both of us worked hard — and what professors we had!

Our principal course was Naval Architecture, Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. At the head of this school was the brilliant Professor John H. Biles, afterwards Sir John H. Biles. He had designed and built the passenger liners Paris and New York, which then represented a distinct advance in naval architecture. He was a member of the British Board of Trade and consulting naval architect for the American Line, the Southwestern Railway, and the Japanese Government, besides having lesser clients.

We took two additional courses. One, Natural Philosophy, was under Lord Kelvin, the greatest scientist of the age. The  p91 other was Applied Mechanics and Hydraulics, under Professor Archibald Barr. Professor Barr was an eminent engineer with a world-wide fame in military circles as the inventor of the Barr and Stroud range-finder.

Right away I began to see what a difference there could be in the methods of higher education. In most of the classes at Annapolis, the instruction was by recitations only. Here it was all instruction and no recitations. In naval architecture we had four lectures a week from Professor Biles, these in the forenoon. Afternoons we had three hours daily at a drawing board, with instruction from competent assistant professors in design and calculations. At the end of the term there were comprehensive written examinations, and one's standing was based entirely on the results of the examinations.

Lord Kelvin and Dr. Barr worked a little differently. They frequently gave us problems to work out and hand in, and these papers were considered together with the examination in fixing one's standing.

In the naval architecture course there were no frills. It was practical training given by men who had designed and built ships and stood at the top of the profession. One had only to look at the students to realize the character of the instruction. I was now 24 years old, and Laurence Adams was only two years my junior, yet we were the youngest men taking the course. The great majority were men of mature age who had come up in the shipyards of England and Scotland from apprentice to draftsman or even to assistant chief draftsman. Scholarships were enabling them to take the course at the university.

Professor Biles' teaching attracted men from all over the world. We had students from Argentine, Denmark, Japan. During my two years, the United States was represented by several civilian students besides us two ensigns — three graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one from Harvard,  p92 and two non‑college men from American shipyards. One of the Japanese students, Engineer Lieutenant Fujii, later rose to the rank of vice admiral.

At once I fell into the habit of close application that I had followed in the Naval Academy and was rewarded by standing first in naval architecture and gaining the prize list in both my other courses.

The university term ended on March 31. Under orders from our naval attaché in London, Adams and I then spent six weeks visiting shipbuilding plants, engineering works, and government dockyards of the British Isles. After that we might have taken a vacation, but we didn't.

Just before the term ended, Professor Biles had offered to take any of his students who cared to accept into his private engineering office for the summer. There was to be no pay, and the student had to take care of himself, but it gave anyone the opportunity to continue his practical training until the start of the next university term.

Six of us — all Americans — jumped at the chance to keep up our association with this great man. Professor Biles had a country estate near Southampton, and his offices were on the grounds. We found accommodations in the vicinity and went to work as draftsmen.

One interesting job we worked on that summer makes a tale to tell here. The United States had decided to build some torpedo boats. The Navy Department had requested shipbuilders in the United States to submit designs and bids. The Bath Iron Works decided to bid and engaged Professor Biles as a consultant. Under his advice, the company purchased from Normand, the French designer and builder, the plans of the latest torpedo boats built in France.

With these French plans as a basis, Professor Biles developed a number of designs of varying dimensions. Under the direction  p93 of the professor's assistant, we students made the plans from the dimensions and other general data. I was working on one design, Adams on another. The work was well under way, when Ensign Adams' sister arrived. Adams decided to take a holiday and tour the Continent with her.

With many apologies and explanations, he told Professor Biles of his decision, suggesting that someone else could finish his plans.

The professor replied, "It's really of no importance, Adams. The design you are working on is impracticable. I don't intend to submit it."

We completed the other designs somewhere ahead of schedule. Professor examined the plans carefully and approved them.

Then he said, "There is Adams' unfinished design. Just as well to finish it up, too, and send it in."

Time was short, and four of us — two on each side of the drawing board — rushed the plans to completion. The American Line ship was held at the dock thirty minutes after sailing time to take the belated drawings. We draftsmen had many a joke about that design. Later, to our surprise, we learned that it had been selected from all the designs submitted!

Naval officers who served on the U. S. torpedo boats Dahlgren and Craven were, I venture to suggest, entirely in agreement later with Professor Biles. The Navy does not talk about its mistakes, but I never heard of the design of those boats being repeated.

This story, however, anticipates a little. On July 1 I was commissioned an assistant naval constructor. I had achieved my ambition. I was a member of the Construction Corps. However, I was not expecting any immediate call upon my technical services.

A few days later the naval attaché in London wired me to come up and see him. I found the officer in something of a tight  p94 corner. The Navy, he told me, was finding itself unable to get armor plate. Congress had placed a cost limit of $300 a ton. Our steelmakers would not supply it at that price. The Navy turned to the idea of building a Government armor plant. Several months earlier the department had written the London naval attaché for an estimate of the cost of the tools and equipment for such a plant.

The Secretary was soon to be in London to discuss the estimates and the attaché desired to have the information ready for him on his arrival.

We decided that if I could get a list of the machines and appliances required for an armor plant and the names of their makers, it would do. The naval attaché could then obtain prices from the builders, since they would have hopes of selling the tools. It was also desirable for me to secure, if I could, a list of necessary buildings, with approximate dimensions.

I left London and within two weeks was back with the information. Where I went or how I got it, I can not divulge. The attaché and I went to work with the data and completed the estimate a few days before the Secretary was expected in London. I was anticipating his arrival with pleasure, when the attaché ordered me to return to Southampton.

"I would very much like to remain and pay my respects to Secretary Herbert," I said. "He is not only an old friend of my father but by his many kindnesses he has put me under heavy obligations to him."

"Then you must under no circumstances see him," said the attaché. "You might inadvertently let it out how my estimate was made. Go back to Southampton, and I'll make the necessary excuses for you. Adams can take him around London."

Perhaps the naval attaché was right. In my desire to show the Secretary that I was making good and justify his action in waiving the report of the Naval Academy Medical Board for me, I  p95 might have told him of this work. I did not see him, and I fear he considered me an ungrateful young man.

After that we gave the attaché quite a lot of information. We worked an exchange with the Japanese; and, since they were better at that sort of thing than we were, the arrangement was to our advantage. Among other things, at a time when our Navy was still using above-water torpedo tubes, we secured plans of submerged tubes. I still wonder if, when our very active, efficient, and conscientious naval attaché in London sent in these reports, Adams' and my names ever appeared under the heading, "Source."

This seems as good a place as any for me to make some observations on the great myth, Navy "secrets." The Navy puts on a big show of secrecy regarding its ships and latest developments, but it's all bunk. The officers may fool themselves on the point, and they do fool the public. The fact remains that foreign powers can at any time easily get any information they desire regarding American naval development.

Sometimes we can get information about them. I have an illustration in point. When I was still a young naval constructor, Congress voted money for several large armored cruisers. The American system, which is also the British system, is to take an existing successful ship as a base and build up and develop a new design from it.

We then had no large armored cruisers of our own on which to build. The construction bureau could not make a start with plans. It asked Intelligence to get data on the new British ships of this class. Our naval attaché in London sent back word that it was impossible to obtain anything, because of utter secrecy surrounding this new type of war vessel.

At that time I was on duty at the Newport News Shipbuilding Company. Hearing of the Navy's quandary, I volunteered to obtain the information myself. Without leaving  p96 Newport News, I had in my possession within six weeks a large box containing complete blueprints of the Good Hope classes — plans signed by Sir William White, Chief Constructor of the British navy. These I delivered to the construction bureau, and from them we developed the designs of our large armored cruisers.

How I accomplished this is another story that I can not tell.

The Navy goes to ridiculous lengths in the comedy of secrecy. Recently the American Society of Naval Architects held an international meeting and numerous naval architects from abroad, prominent men, attended it. The foreign visitors naturally desired to see some of our large shipyards. The Society arranged a tour. Then the Navy Department dramatically stepped in and forbade the visits, and the invitations had to be recalled.

One well-known American shipbuilder remarked sarcastically, "I suppose the Navy Department was afraid the foreign naval architects might walk through the yard and find out how to shear and punch a plate."

Democracies can't keep anything secret. Dictators are more successful at it, but even from under their rigid rule some so‑called secrets escape. During the War, when I was an independent shipbuilder, it was often to my advantage to know what projects the U. S. Shipping Board was planning in its inner conferences. I never had the slightest difficulty in finding out, and finding out promptly, too.

So far as military "secrets" are concerned, one has only to consider the number of people who have access to them. The Navy's working plans are made in an office in which many draftsmen are employed. The plans then go to a yard, which employs many thousands. If it is a private yard, many of these employees will be foreigners. Even the navy yards employ some aliens, though these people carry citizenship papers. There are  p97 those among them, I fear, who are United States citizens for profit, but aliens at heart. Yet do not pin it all on the foreigners. There are native-born Americans not averse to making easy money on the side.

Indeed, for one desiring information there are so many avenues of approach that the embarrassment is only which one to take. Yet we see our Navy Department making the grand gesture of forbidding some distinguished foreign ship-designers from walking through our yards. I wonder if this wasn't supposed to be just good publicity — the efficient Navy guarding its secrets from the potential foe.

The Biles family — the Professor, Mrs. Biles, their two charming daughters and young son — were very kind to us at Southampton. They frequently entertained us in their home, and it became my custom to join them at tea in the garden after the day's work. Numerous Americans visited them. I met there the Griscoms and Alan Woods, of Philadelphia, and Mr. and Miss Paulding, nephew and niece of Chauncey M. Depew.

Never did I spend a more enjoyable summer. In fact, I so to speak fell in love with the County of Hampshire that I promised myself to come back some day. And here I am now, in a lovely, small, Seventeenth Century Tudor house, eighteen miles from Southampton, writing these notes.

We had with us a private student named Malcolm McGann. He was a wild Irishman, full of fun and the devil and always ready for anything. The two pretty Biles daughters were associating daily with us American students; and Mrs. Biles, as a good mother should, made some discreet inquiries about us. McGann learned that she had been asking about him, and he resolved to answer her questions in his own way.

One evening when several of us were going to dine at the Biles home, McGann said to us, "Look here, fellows. For a few minutes after dinner I want the center of the stage. I'm going  p98 to tell a story, and I don't want any interruption — nor any smiles from you when I finish. Will you promise?"

We promised and waited to see what new mischief McGann would uncork. After dinner there was a lull in the conversation. McGann, who was seated near Mrs. Biles, spoke up.

"You know," he said, "my father is quite a distinguished man at home. He made a record there that has never been equaled."

"Ah, indeed?" said Mrs. Biles, taking the bait. Do tell us about your father, Mr. McGann."

McGann said, "Well, Mrs. Biles, you see ordinarily it takes an Irishman anywhere from a week to ten days to get on the New York police force after he lands in America. My father was a wonder. He made the police force the day after he arrived, and that record has never been equaled."

We never smiled. Mrs. Biles was silent. She believed the story.

Our delightful, instructive summer at Southampton had to end, and on October 1, I made my way to gloomy, wet, dirty Glasgow. Adams' sister was staying over, and I joined forces with R. H. M. Robinson, Class of '96, who has just been assigned to the Construction Corps. After a weary search, we found really nice quarters in the St. James Terrace, on the hill just past the River Kelvin, not far from the university.

This year I took no outside lectures but devoted myself to the course in Naval Architecture, Marine Engineering, and Shipbuilding. With but one lecture a day to attend, I could now spend two hours every morning at the drawing board, making five hours each day in practical work. With only one lecture to work up evenings, I could take it easy and even find time for amusements.

Dick Robinson, my diggings partner, had a brilliant mind. While I had to dig hard for everything I learned, Dick acquired learning easily and could carry the regular course and the two  p99 outside courses with time to spare. Thus it was not all work for us two that year. We attended the Royal Pantomime and other traditional amusements of Glasgow.

It was no surprise when Dick Robinson took the honors in his class in the regular course of Naval Architecture; but he was not expected to romp away also, as he did, with the honors in Engineering IV, Professor Barr's class — applied mechanics and hydraulics.

He would have made an outstanding naval designer. After his return to the United States, his colleagues soon recognized him as a most promising man. He had much to do with the design of our first dreadnoughts. Later he was in charge of the construction of one of them, the Connecticut, at the New York Navy Yard. Then the Navy lost his services. He resigned. Why?

I have never asked him that question. I believe I know the answer without asking. When the reader has finished with what I have to say, I sincerely hope he, too, will know the reason for the resignation from the Navy of so many qualified men.

The usual answer, that they can make more money in civil life, is not the whole truth and is resented by many who do resign. A few professional men have the ambition for wealth alone. Another minority is satisfied with recognition and honor and cares nothing for money. But the great majority desires both — recognition and a competence on which they can live comfortably. To this class belong most naval constructors who leave the Service. In the Navy they get neither recognition nor adequate compensation.

The public knows the Commander-in‑Chief of the fleet. It can name a full Admiral, the Commander of the Battleships, a Vice Admiral, or even some Rear Admiral member of the General Board who goes around the country making boring propaganda speeches. These men are celebrated in the press and in the news reels, also in the Navy's publicity.

 p100  Does anyone ever hear the names of the men who design the ships?a

David W. Taylor was the classic example. Great Britain and the Continent were honoring him as the foremost naval architect of the world, while he was unknown to his own countrymen. At Glasgow I found his Resistance of Ships a standard textbook, as it was standard also in all foreign schools of naval architecture.

What recognition did this genius get from the Navy? Notwithstanding his pre‑eminent ability he saw his juniors go over his head to the position of Chief Constructor.

Had David Taylor been an Englishman, not only would a grateful country have given him financial rewards but the Sovereign would have conferred upon him the highest honors.

No wonder the American naval designer does not stand very high abroad. The competent designers usually get out of the service. What is the effect upon our Navy and therefore upon the security of the country itself? Anyone who reads the newspapers can pick up hints.

Recently the papers announced that the completion of two great aircraft carriers would be delayed a year on account of defects in the reduction gears. Not long ago the press informed us that the steel sternposts of the new large cruisers were defective and would have to be replaced. One who should know told me that the fault lay not with the foundry but on the doorstep of poor design.

The press told us that the first cruisers were "quick rollers" and therefore very poor gun platforms. This is a serious fault of design and one most difficult to remedy. Has it ever been remedied, I wonder? And now the press is telling us that the latest destroyers nearly broke in two in heavy weather and that all vessels of the class will have to be strengthened.

This is not pleasant reading, when one considers that our  p101 Navy may some day, perhaps in no distant future, be standing between us and national extinction. These, too, are defects that came to the light of day, for the Navy is not fond of parading its mistakes. One wonders how many other defects there may be, how many other faults of design, that have been covered up and kept from the reporters.

Nor need the American people expect much improvement in the design of its ships as long as the reigning coterie picks this chief constructor; as long as the chief of the Bureau of Engineering is a line officer and not a practical marine engineer; as long as the Navy practice continues of shifting officers from one job to another every three years — in brief, as long as the Sea Lords dominate the technical bureaus and keep the rewards and honors out of the reach of the men who design and build our ships.

I once said to a high-ranking line officer, "You line officers are the ones who will have to fight our ships. You are the ones who may have to make the final sacrifice in battle."

He was greatly pleased and replied, "I'm glad to hear you say so, for it's the truth. I hope you'll tell that to those naval constructors in the bureau. I see you've learned something since you left the Navy."

"I learned it in the navy," I said. "Do you want to make that fight, that sacrifice, with poor tools? Aren't you entitled to the very best tools?

Of course he was, he said.

"Then," I said, "develop the talent available. Take those constructors and engineers who have a bent for design and keep them on design. Let them develop, and you may find a David Taylor among them.

"Then take those constructors and engineers who show ability in practical shipbuilding and the management of men and  p102 keep them on the job of building ships and machinery. From them draw the managers of your navy yards. When you have done this and arranged to reward those able to produce the goods, you fighting officers will have the proper tools with which to fight."

This thought struck him favorably at first, then he began to pick holes in it.

"Oh, I know," he said; "you want a lot of rear admirals among the constructors. Bogus admirals are among the things the Navy has no need of."

"No, we don't want admirals," I replied. "We want competent designers and builders and managers. A constructor or engineer worth his salt cares nothing for a line title, he wishes recognition in his profession and reasonable compensation for the work he does. In the line you have admirals and vice admirals drawing the pay and allowances of those positions only so long as they hold them. Apply a similar system to the technical corps, omitting the rank but giving adequate pay for position.

"For example, there will be a designer and an assistant designer in the Construction Bureau and the same in the Bureau of Engineering. These positions should carry certain definite responsibilities and adequate salaries. In the large navy yards the engineer officer and the construction officers should be recognized with more adequate salaries. Managers of the yards should be drawn from the experienced construction and engineer officers, and each manager would have a salary at least equal to that of an assistant designer. On this general basis a satisfactory solution can be worked out."

My line officer listened attentively until I came to the point about drawing navy yard managers from the constructors and engineers. Then he showed signs of impatience.

"It won't do," he said, when I finished. "The Navy will  p103 never stand for it. You're making a permanent organization in the navy yards and taking a lot of desirable jobs away from our sea‑going officers."

And there, my dear reader, is the milk in the coconut — desirable shore jobs for this supposedly sea‑going officers. This fictitious need blocks any attempt to work out an efficient peace-time shore organization which will also work well in time of war. The Sea Lords, now joined by the paymasters, who hold many jobs in the navy yards which should be filled by civilians, will surely prevent any efficient organization of the shore stations, unless Congress forces it on them.

A small coterie of line officers — not more than fifteen in number — is the real government of the Navy at present. The Secretary of the Navy, a political appointee, enters office with no background of practical experience in the Navy and, surrounded by charming gentlemen of high rank who are so very plausible, it is only natural that he should become the victim of their undue influence.

This clique determines the appointments — the admiral, the vice admirals, chief of operations, and the chiefs of all the important bureaus. Rarely does the Secretary or the President make appointments contrary to the desires of the reigning coterie. Its influence even extends to selections for promotion by the examining boards. Let any line officer show some independence or act contrary to the wishes of the Sea Lords, and he is doomed.

Recently, during the Czecho-Slovak crisis, the world was treated to the spectacle of the British Fleet steaming out into the North Sea on twenty-four hours' notice, ready for battle. I was in England at the time. About a year ago I was at dinner with several navy officers, all of the rank of Captain. I could not help contrasting aloud our own Navy today and the British Navy, organized afloat and ashore on the basis that it may  p104 have to fight within twenty-four hours.

"In our country," I said, "the Navy seems to believe that it will never have to fight — or at least that it will have a year's notice in which to make ready."

I expected emphatic dissent but was surprised when, instead, I got only agreement.

"You are absolutely right," one captain said. "A number of captains in command of American battleships today will not be promoted to rear admiral. Everybody knows it, the Navy Department knows it, yet it places such men in command of those important ships."

This was all news to me. I knew about the entire lack of war organization in the navy yards and shore stations, but I had assumed that the Navy afloat was all that it should be. That officers known to be unfit for promotion should be put in command and then shelved as soon as their tour of duty was ended, seemed incomprehensible. Surely such commands should be given to those fitted for promotion, so that they might have the benefit of the experience. It just didn't make sense.

I did a little quiet investigating and discovered a most peculiar state of affairs. It hinges on the present law that promotion to the grade of rear admiral is by selection, the selection being made by a board of admirals.

Now there is Captain X–––, we'll say, on duty in Washington. For one reason or another, his own unfitness perhaps, he is not in line for promotion to rear admiral, and everybody knows it. Yet he is due for sea duty, and there is nothing against him in his record to prevent it.

Suppose the department refuses him a command afloat. Unless he has had such a command, the board of admirals will not even consider him for promotion. Captain X––– has a good case to take to his Senator. By refusing him a command, the department in effect takes over a function specifically given to the  p105 promotion board by law. The department has to give him a command.

A captain of this sort who had just been ordered to command a capital ship, said to me, "I know I shall not be promoted. I haven't a chance. But I would like to see someone try to keep me out of my two years' tour in command. I'd raise hell, and they know it."

Our whole system of promotion in the Navy needs a thorough overhauling. Every year we take in at the bottom from 450 to 500 young officers, and we bring officers to the rank of rear admirals at the approximate age of 55. The British Navy, a larger navy than ours, takes in only 180 to 200 officers at the bottom each year and brings them to the rank of rear admiral at age 50.

Our wastage of navy men is enormous. The surplus officers — men educated and trained at terrific public expense — go on the retired list, which every year grows larger and larger. What is the matter? Is the instruction at the Naval Academy poor? Are we taking a low grade of human raw material into the academy as plebes? Or is it that officers fully qualified to serve in high commands are being put on the retired list to provide a flow of promotion?

It might be expected, with the drastic weeding out year after year, that those who gain the top would be supermen. Alas! I fear such expectations will not be realized. For myself, when the test comes I shall be satisfied if our men prove the equal of the high-ranking British naval officer, obtained under a system that costs but a fraction of ours.

The foregoing remarks constitute a sort of thesis or theory under which I am writing this book. They conclusions drawn from my professional experiences in the Navy and as a civilian shipbuilder afterwards — experiences which I am now about to start relating. When I have finished, I shall be willing  p106 to leave it with the unbiased reader whether those experiences support my criticism.

Of my last year at Glasgow University little more need be said. I made good progress and in the final examinations again took first honors. My certificate read, "With great distinction."

I can not resist, though, telling about one exciting and amusing incident that occurred during my last term. Graduate students at the university were usually too mature and serious to indulge in the ordinary undergraduate pranks, but they adhered to one ancient custom. Whenever there was a university parade to celebrate anything, afterwards the students "raided" some music hall or theater, and the raided place was expected to open its doors and allow the students to occupy the galleries free.

An election for Lord Rector came on. Birrell was the Liberal candidate, Joseph Chamberlain the Conservative. The Liberal politicians assumed that the American students would vote for Birrell. When they heard we were going to vote for Chamberlain, they rushed to see us.

"But Americans always vote Liberal," they argued. "Surely you'll vote for Birrell?"

"No, we're voting for Chamberlain," we answered. "He has an American wife."

Chamberlain was elected. Then came a torch-light parade of students. They made some transparencies. One read, "Hurrah for Chamberlain and McKinley!" The other said, "To hell with Birrell and Bryan!"

The Scotch students were appalled. One did not show disrespect to a defeated candidate in Great Britain. The offending transparency was edited to read only, "To hell with Bryan!"

It had been decided after the parade to raid The Skating Palace, a popular music hall. The management heard of this and decided to break precedent and refuse the students admission.  p107 When the merrymakers arrived, they found the gates locked in the high iron fence surrounding the building. Nothing daunted, they started to climb the fence. The front ranks were met at the top with streams from a battery of fire hoses and tumbled back into the street.

This defeat enraged them. They obtained a supply of potatoes from a greengrocer opposite and started throwing them at the building and firemen. Hoodlums joined the students, and the missiles now were not potatoes but rocks. All the front windows were smashed. A mob packed the streets, and it became a riot. All the police reserves were called out.

Meanwhile three or four of the merrymakers had gone to the back of the theater, entered through a window, and had taken seats inside. They were discovered, arrested, taken to jail, and charged with rioting and trespassing. Dick Robinson and I, either from laziness or good sense, were among those who had taken no part in the parade and only knew of the riot when someone arrived out of breath to ask for money to bail out one of our friends. We gave all we had, but it was not enough. The poor fellow had to work until after midnight to get enough together to release our friend from jail.

This was a serious position for an American naval officer to be in. Next morning all the leading papers of England had full accounts of the riot. Also there were editorials not, as you might expect, blaming the students, but blaming the theater for not abiding by a custom of years.

The trial attracted much attention. Leading attorneys defended them. Some of the London newspapers sent up correspondents to cover the proceedings. Luckily for the students, Great Britain honors and observes old customs. The result of the trial was the well-known Scotch verdict Not Proven.

Having finished the course at the university, I was ordered home. There, after I had taken a short leave, I received orders  p108 to duty as an assistant to the superintending constructor at the plant of the Newport News Shipbuilding Company, where three battleships — Kearsarge, Kentucky, and Illinois — were under construction.

Thayer's Note:

a By way of confirmation: as I transcribe this — January 2015 — I find, as a gauge, Wikipedia articles on many other American admirals and lesser naval officers: but no article on Holden Evans himself, a reforming figure widely respected in the Navy (see for example O'Gara, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of the Modern Navy, pp18, 35‑39, 43‑45, 52, 106‑107; Wheeler, Admiral William Veazie Pratt, Bibliography) and whose book, the one you are now reading, is considered an important witness to American naval history and is widely cited by naval authors: that's what brought me to put him online, in fact.

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