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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part 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!


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Part I
Chapter 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p. vii  Preface

All autobiographies have their purpose, even if that purpose be only the gratification of the vanity of an active man who looks back over his life and finds in it lessons which he thinks may interest and instruct the oncoming generations.

Mine, perhaps, is that kind of life, too. But I would be presumptuous to think that that story alone could find interest outside of the circle of my family and close friends.

It happened, however, that the best and most vigorous years of my life were devoted to a fight for economy and greater efficiency in our navy yards. It was something of a single-handed war I waged, but one which attracted much attention and drew to my support some of the leading industrial engineers of the nation. During much of the time I was the Naval Constructor at the Mare Island Navy Yard in San Francisco Bay, and although my rank was never above Lieutenant Commander, I was among the best-known naval officers on the Pacific Coast. Throughout the United States all those who followed naval affairs knew of my crusade.

Do you suppose that my battle had to be directed against waste and inefficiency themselves? No, for they might have been easily banished. The fight had to be against that element which thinks primarily of ease and luxury and only secondarily, if at all, of the welfare of the Navy and the safety of the country.

For these gentlemen in gold braid, journalists have invented the opprobrious names of "rocking-chair admirals" and "swivel-chair admirals," but who really understands how sinister the institution of the "swivel-chair admiral" is or what a threat to the national security? Thousands of naval officers know the  p. viii truth of the statements I make in this book. Hundreds secretly sympathize with my attitude. But nobody ever speaks out. So far as naval officers are concerned, my voice was raised alone in protest, and it still has to utter a monologue.

The general reader would do well to heed what I have to say. The Navy has changed but little since I resigned from it. The same indifference, the same contempt for economy and for those who supply the public funds, still prevail. Even in normal times this attitude ought to rouse national indignation. Now, in the face of dark threats from abroad and when we are going into an unprecedented naval expansion to meet them, Navy inefficiency becomes of vital national concern.

Nor is it entirely the question of the excess millions and billions the new navy expansion will cost us, if left to the present petrified theory of organization and management. If we are to have a navy on which we can successfully depend to meet any foreign threat, it must reform; and reform must start in its shore industrial establishments.

My fight against the entrenched selfishness of the Navy Line failed, as it was bound to fail. Any single-handed fight must fail. Any minority movement would fail. The Secretary of the Navy can not prevail over the existing system. The President of the United States himself can not.

There is just one opponent which can make the Navy conduct itself on an efficient and common-sense basis, and that opponent is the American people.

H. E.

New York, January, 1939.

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Page updated: 6 Feb 15