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Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The United States Navy

Thomas P. Magruder
[Rear Admiral, U. S. N.]

published by
Dorrance and Company

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 4
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p57  III


That the United States Navy is urgently in need of more light cruisers is obvious. Great Britain has built, building and appropriated for, fifty-nine of these very useful warships, totaling 350,000 tons, while the United States has only 18, totaling 155,000 tons — a difference of 195,000 tons. Of the cruisers built, building and appropriated for, for the United States, only ten are completed; the remaining eight will probably not be completed for another three years. It would not be reasonable to propose that we build immediately thirty or more 10,000‑ton cruisers to offset this disparity in tonnage. Building programs necessarily have to be distributed over a period of years for economic as well as political reasons. Great Britain finds a need for many small cruisers of a type not suited to our strategic requirements. Since these small cruisers have limited cruising radius and are not sufficiently useful to us in defensive operations, we are compelled to build larger cruisers of great cruising radius and maximum power for defense. The interrelation of these two policies makes it obvious that the United States would not need as  p58 many of the larger type of cruiser as Great Britain does of the large and small types combined. Each country will naturally build cruisers of the type suited to meet its particular strategic requirements, and will desire to build in numbers to provide reasonable security.

The United States Navy has today 276 first-class destroyers, ranging from 1000 to 1500 tons each, and totaling 330,000 tons. Great Britain has 153 destroyers of 1000 to 1500 tons and eighteen flotilla leaders — larger destroyers — of from 1610 to 1800 tons. This superiority of the United States Navy in destroyer was not premeditated. It came as a sequence of the World War. In that conflict the great menace to the Allies was the German submarine. As the destroyer was the best reply to the menace, the United States, by prodigious effort, built in a few years no less than 260 modern and effective vessels of that type and thus gained the outstanding superiority that now exists.

Although the cruiser and the destroyer differ in size and in power, they have certain characteristics in common. The destroyer has gradually increased in size due to the demands for longer radius of action and greater offensive power until in the destroyer leader it approaches the light cruiser. But their characteristics have this essential difference — that the primary weapon of the destroyer is the torpedo, whereas that of the light  p59 cruiser is the gun. Destroyers may, however, in wartime perform many of the duties usually assigned to light cruisers. They may act to a limited extent as scouts, or effective anti-submarine screens around capital ships. In tactical maneuvers they may be used, as are light cruisers, in torpedo attacks against enemy ships or in countering a similar offensive by a foe. Under favorable conditions they may lay a smoke screen to hide from the enemy all knowledge of the fleet maneuvers. Their effectiveness in such tactics was demonstrated in the Battle of Jutland, when the German destroyers' torpedo attacks and smoke screen enabled Vice Admiral Scheer to avoid decisive battle against a superior British fleet after inflicting damage to the British fleet far greater than that received by the German fleet.

Yet it must never be forgotten that the light cruiser has certain strategical and tactical advantages which the destroyer lacks. The cruiser can, with its great speed and heavier guns, overhaul and easily sink a destroyer. Of these 10,000‑ton cruisers, Great Britain has eighteen built and appropriated for and the United States eight, the other forty‑one British and ten American vessels being of lesser tonnage.

To equal Great Britain numerically in light cruisers of latest, or 10,000‑ton type, it would be necessary, therefore, for the United States to build at once ten more cruisers of the 10,000‑ton  p60 class, armed with eight-inch guns. Then, counting the ten smaller cruisers already built, we would have in numbers only twenty-eight light cruisers against fifty-four of Great Britain. That is, I believe, not sufficiently close in light-cruiser parity and does not meet adequately the requirements of a well-rounded fleet as regards that element of naval strength. Particularly will this be so, provided the United States does not build very-much-needed destroyer leaders. In other elements a difference will remain. There never were and there never will be two nations having absolutely equal power on the sea.

Should the United States attempt to build as many light cruisers as Great Britain now has and determine that replacements of capital ships should be made as provided for by the Washington treaties it would mean the expenditure in the next decade of billions of dollars. Of course, this expenditure could be spread over a number of years and, in view of the enormous wealth of the country, there would be no financial strain in so doing. Yet, after careful consideration of all the elements of sea power, I am of the opinion that the interests of the United States may be conserved and expenditures lessened, provided each element of sea power is considered individually and an attempt is made to evaluate the various elements to the end that the United States may have a sea power adequate to its needs without attempting to build in competition with any  p61 other power. It is for that reason that I believe an adequate sea power for the United States may be attained by taking into consideration every element that goes to make sea power, with no effort for competitive building, and by a moderate program for building additional light cruisers, submarines and ten or fifteen destroyer leaders, and — this is of the greatest importance — by building up the merchant marine.

There is, for the taxpayers of the United States, a certain economical advantage in this situation. The cost of a 10,000‑ton, 34‑knot light cruiser, including armament and equipage, is about $16,000,000. Assuming for the vessel a life of twenty years, the annual cost of operation, deterioration and interest on the investment, will total about $3,000,000. Since the merchant marine of the United States is much in need of fast modern up‑to‑date freight and passenger steamers, it is the part of national economy to provide such numbers of these as are needed and insure that they are fast enough and so constructed as in time of national emergency to be quickly and easily converted into light cruisers. The savings effected by such a policy will be very, very large.

It must be clearly understood that when I suggest building for the Navy I consider that as the minimum requirement as a beginning to attain such cruiser strength as is needed by the Navy of the United States.

 p62  There is no more interesting class of warship than the destroyers with which America now finds herself so generously supplied. They developed in response to a comparatively recent need. Thus, briefly, runs their history:

About forty years ago the automobile torpedo was perfected. This torpedo, with a large charge of high explosive, was at first carried on very small fast boats, appropriately called torpedo boats. The size of the boats increased gradually as competition arose between the naval powers, until they were built to displace several hundred tons. Then, to combat them, larger vessels, also armed with torpedoes, were constructed. These were called torpedo-boat destroyers, or, as they are more familiarly known today, destroyers.

The modern destroyer is a vessel of from 1000 to 1,500 tons, carrying torpedo tubes, four to five-inch guns, depth charges and from two to four triple-torpedo tubes. Its speed is from thirty to thirty-five knots, which may mean a maximum of forty statute miles an hour. The torpedoes it carries are charged with several hundred pounds of high explosive and have a range of about 12,000 yards at a mean speed of about thirty knots. The accuracy of these torpedoes is remarkable. A barrage by an attack squadron, driven home, cannot be dodged. In war the armament includes the destructive depth bomb. Such bombs are carried in runways sloping to the stern. When a submarine  p63 is attacked the bombs are released one at a time, with fuses so set that the detonation shall take place as near to the estimated depth and position of the submarine as possible. During the war a short gun was developed to throw depth bombs to a distance of from 80 to 100 yards in encounters where it was not possible to maneuver the destroyer over the position of the U‑boat. There is no armor on the destroyer for protection against superiority in gunfire. To escape destruction it must rely on speed and ability to maneuver quickly. In its design virtually everything is sacrificed to attain great speed.

The fuel‑oil tanks of a destroyer hold about 100,000 gallons. With this they can steam at full power, approximately at a thirty-knot speed, for about 1000 miles. This is, of course, a very small radius of action, for destroyers employed in scouting must always have enough fuel to return to a base or to a source of supply. When destroyers are employed strategically it may at any time become necessary to concentrate them for tactical use in an engagement between capital ships, and to be useful in battle they must have fuel sufficient to steam at maximum speed for ten or twelve hours. A destroyer can be employed strategically using one‑half of her fuel supply. Steaming at different speeds a destroyer may be used strategically for varying lengths of time. For example, if the speed is fifteen knots a destroyer may scout  p64 five days; at twenty knots three and a half days; at twenty-five knots one and three-quarters days. These figures are, of course, approximate; they vary for every destroyer. This, of course, is not endurance sufficient for any extended movements either overseas or for scouting. However, it is possible to refuel destroyers at sea from tankers. Fine seamanship is required to place a destroyer almost alongside a tanker without a collision. When the hose from the tanker is on the destroyer, they can both steam, weather permitting, in any desired direction at a slow speed — about eight knots. The only obstacle to refueling destroyers at sea is rough weather. Tersely put, a destroyer with tanks full of oil can cruise twenty-four hours at ten knots, but only about twenty-four hours at maximum speed.

A very large part of the destroyer's area is filled with vital and vulnerable machinery. The firerooms and engine rooms cover a space of more than one‑half the vessel's length. Any shell exploding within this area will at once reduce the speed 50 per cent, if it does not put the ship out of action. During the Battle of Jutland a British destroyer was struck by a salvo of three eleven-inch shells, but the only result was to put one fireroom out of commission and reduce the speed from thirty knots to about twenty knots. The destroyer is not what sailors call a good "sea boat." In a rough sea it rolls deeply, and is  p65 most uncomfortable for the personnel. On one destroyer, after a forty-eight-hour gale in the Bay of Biscay, which is notorious for its rough seas, a young officer came down to dinner for the first time in several days and tried to eat. The effort was unsuccessful. The officer started up the ladder, then turned to address his commander.

"Captain," he said with great earnestness, "I am beginning to feel that I don't much care whether the world is safe for democracy or not." Then he fled.

Because of lightness of structure the destroyer cannot be driven into head seas at high speed without danger of buckling the plates or even bending the bow. It is, however, entirely seaworthy and when properly handled can weather any gale. It can steam into a moderate sea at a speed of about twenty knots, which is approximately battle speed; destroyers can therefore accompany a battle fleet in almost any weather.

A typical destroyer of the United States Navy is the Conyngham, a vessel 310 feet long, 30 feet beam, with a mean draft of about 10 feet. The ship has turbine engines with four water-tube boilers developing about 20,000 horse power. The machinery also includes two electric turbo-generator sets, with an output of twenty-five kilowatts each. The machinery accounts for almost one‑third the total weight of the ship and fuel oil for about one‑fourth. In order to man the  p66 Conyngham, 8 officers and 114 enlisted men are required. The officer in command has usually the rank of commander. He has an executive officer, two engineers, a navigating and gunnery officer and three watch officers. For each division of six destroyers a medical officer and a supply officer are detailed.

Formerly in the United States service the senior captain led and commanded a division. Now, however, an officer is especially detailed as division commander. He has nothing to do with the handling or internal administration of any individual ship. Should the destroyers now out of commission be reconditioned again and recommissioned, there doubtless will be a reversion to the former system.

A squadron of destroyers is composed of three divisions of six destroyers each, with a squadron leader and a tender for each squadron. The squadron commander, a staff of two or three officers, personnel for communications and administration must be provided quarters on the squadron leader. The squadron tender can be used for some of this work. Yet the squadron commander and his staff must now be quartered on a destroyer. Because this crowds the average ship, naval powers, other than the United States, have built very large destroyers to act as destroyer leaders. These are vessels of from 1800 to 2000 tons; they have a speed of about thirty-four knots  p67 and carry a battery of four to six five-inch guns. There is great need for leaders for the United States squadrons. With 276 first-class destroyers, we require about twelve squadron leaders. These should be constructed as soon as is practicable. They are much needed if the United States is to have a well-balanced fleet. It should never be forgotten that when new ships are built personnel must be provided to man them.

Experience gained in the World War showed the great value of destroyers in naval campaigns. It was demonstrated, for example, that when at sea each division of battleships must have a division of destroyers for an anti-submarine screen. These two divisions form, in a way, a tactical unit. The commander of each battleship division should command and train the division and screen as a unit.

In a battle between fleets, divisions of destroyers are deployed ahead of the battle line of capital ships to attack the enemy when opportunity offers, or to frustrate enemy destroyer attacks. It is essential for light cruisers to co‑operate with destroyers in supporting their attacks by defending them from enemy light cruisers or by preventing interference with the attack by enemy destroyers. The light cruisers and destroyers thus working together are called light forces.

 p68  Action in battle, however, is only one method of employing destroyers. During the war they served many purposes — scouting, patrolling against submarines and against one another, convoying transports, and the like. Probably the greatest value of the American destroyers to the Allies during the war lay in their escort service. Many an American soldier gave a sigh of relief when he awakened one fine morning near the coast of France to find his ship escorted by friendly destroyers, while the cruisers which had crossed the wide ocean with it dashed back to a home port. A submarine would have difficulty sinking a troopship thus protected. Of course destroyers protect a convoy from only submarines and enemy destroyers. They are no protection against light cruisers.

It was in the great naval Battle of Jutland that destroyers proved their value from every tactical point of view. The battle opened with a running fight between six British and five German battle cruisers. In less than forty minutes two British battle cruisers were sunk by gunfire and a third severely damaged. To aid the distressed British battle cruisers, twelve destroyers advanced in an attack on the German battle cruisers. Then, to counter this attack, a German light cruiser and fifteen destroyers dashed through the German column and a battle took place at close range. The torpedo attacks were frustrated and two  p69 destroyers on each side were sunk. A noteworthy feature was the demonstrated ability of destroyers to remain in action after suffering great damage from gunfire. During the many activities in which seventy‑two German and eighty British destroyers were engaged, the British lost seven and the German only five destroyers. On both sides the destroyers were maneuvered with skill, dash and the utmost courage.

The adventures that may befall destroyers in battle — particularly in a night action — may be visualized by a brief description of the British Fleet one night in that battle. This flotilla was composed of the Tipperary, a flotilla leader, and eighteen destroyers. Of the seven destroyers sunk in the battle, five belonged to this flotilla.

On the afternoon of May 31st four destroyers of the flotilla, including the Shark and the Acasta, were detailed to screen the Third Cruiser Squadron. The weather was misty and it was quite difficult to see the enemy's ships. However, at about six o'clock in the evening, part of the enemy's fleet was sighted, and Commander Loftus Jones of the Shark proceeded at once to attack. At the same time several German light cruisers and destroyers started a torpedo attack on the British Third Battle Cruiser Squadron and as a result the English destroyers were soon battling with German light cruisers and destroyers. How  p70 bitter that fighting may be illustrated by the experience of the Shark. In the attack this destroyer was damaged by gunfire. The British boats, seeing the enemy offensive broken up, turned to rejoin the battle cruisers while the crippled Shark remained behind. As newcomers among the German vessels appointed they opened a heavy fire on the Shark, causing many casualties and wounding Commander Jones.

The destroyer Acasta came to assist, but Commander Jones ordered it away. One gun and one torpedo were left on the Shark. While the torpedo was being loaded it was exploded by a shell and many of the crew were killed. The surviving officers and men heroically continued to fight with the one gun in action. Again the captain was wounded, his left leg being blown off by a shell. Despite this, he continued to direct the fire until the condition of the Shark and the approach of enemy destroyers made it impossible for the ship to escape falling into enemy hands. Commander Jones then gave the order to sink the ship, only to countermand it when he learned the single gun could be used. A moment later two torpedoes struck the Shark and the gallant ship went down with colors flying.

Six survivors were picked up next day by a Danish steamer. Commander Jones was awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross, the most prized of all British decorations. Well had he earned it!

 p71  Later in the engagement the Acasta was struck in the engine room by two large shells and the ship was disabled just in the path of the British main fleet. It succeeded in making repairs which allowed it to steam at three or four knots and finally reach port.

After the day battle the remaining ships of the Fourth Flotilla were stationed about five miles astern of the British battleships and were steaming south in column at seventeen knots speed. At about 11:30 o'clock in the evening three vessels were sighted. It was impossible to determine whether they were friends or enemies. They passed the destroyers slowly, and when the leading ship was abeam of the Tipperary, that vessel issued a challenge. Immediately the three ships switched on searchlights and opened a deadly fire on the leading destroyer. Every salvo found its target. The first salvo killed the captain and everyone on the Tipperary's bridge. Three more salvos struck the ship and she lay helpless and was doomed. For two hours the Tipperary burned fiercely; then she sank. Eleven officers and 176 men were lost. When the ship went down about thirty men and one officer were on a light raft. Eight other men were picked up by a German vessel and made prisoners of war.

Next astern of the Tipperary was the destroyer Spitfire. This vessel opened fire and fired a torpedo before turning away from the enemy. At  p72 this moment the Spitfire was struck by a salvo of eight-inch shells. The vessel was soon clear of the action, but seeing the Tipperary on fire, decided to return to render assistance, and as the Tipperary was neared, a German cruiser was seen suddenly bearing down on the Spitfire, apparently with the intention to ram. The two ships met end‑on, the destroyer steaming at twenty-seven knots and the cruiser probably about twenty knots. They came together port bow to port bow with a terrific crash. The German cruiser opened fire, but could not depress the guns to get a hit. The blast of the guns, however, was so terrific that it cleared the destroyer's decks. The foremast and the forwarded funnel were blown down by the blast and fires were started in the forward part of the ship. Two shells had struck the ship just before the collision, wrecking the bridge and killing everyone on it except the coxswain and two men. The ships soon cleared each other and the cruiser disappeared in the darkness. A shell had passed close to the captain's head, cutting open the scalp, and the blast of it had hurled him from the bridge to the upper deck, a distance of twenty-four feet.

Soon afterward there appeared, a few hundred yards away, a large cruiser on fire, fore and aft, steering straight for the Spitfire. A collision seemed inevitable, but fortunately it was avoided by a few feet. Shortly after, the cruiser disappeared  p73 and a terrific explosion was heard in the direction in which it had gone. It was the unfortunate Black Prince. As a result of this action the flotilla was dispersed in confusion. The Broke, the second leader, collected six of the ships and started to regain station when, at about 12:15 o'clock, the flotilla sighted an enemy battleship close by. Both the Broke and the stranger challenged. Immediately the Broke was in a blaze of searchlights and the enemy opened a rapid fire. One officer and forty‑six men of the Broke were killed and three officers and thirty-three men wounded. The engine-room telegraphs had been shot away, but the machinery was intact.

Soon the enemy searchlights were out and the Broke left in darkness. Suddenly another ship loomed up dead ahead, and then, with a terrific crash, the Broke struck the destroyer Sparrowhawk just forward of the bridge and made such a cut in the ship that bow broke off and floated away. The shock of the collision threw a lieutenant and some men of the Sparrowhawk over on board the Broke. As the Broke steamed astern to get clear of the Sparrowhawk, another destroyer, the Contest, suddenly appeared out of the darkness and crashed into and cut of about fifteen feet of the Sparrowhawk's stern. An attempt was made later to tow the Sparrowhawk to port, but owing to increasing wind and sea, it became necessary to sink the Sparrowhawk the following morning.

 p74  The Broke and accompanying destroyers had run into four German battleships, one after another. The battleships picked up the destroyers with their searchlights and opened fire. The fourth ship in the column, the Fortune, was blown almost to pieces. There was not a single survivor from this ship. The third ship in the column was the Ardent, of whose crew there were only two survivors, one the captain. The narrative of the captain is a thrilling story of adventure. After his vessel sank he was picked up the following day floating, unconscious, in a life buoy.

The record made by United States destroyers in the World War is one of which the Navy is justly proud. In the war zone they steamed from 5000 to 7000 miles a month. At the end of the war there were about seventy-five destroyers in European waters. Only one or two had to be sent to the United States for extensive repairs, and among these destroyers were some of the smallest and oldest on the Navy list.

As everyone knows, the destroyers constituted one of our greatest contributions to victory, and were an important factor in frustrating the German submarine menace, which had assumed serious proportions. In May of 1917, only a few weeks after America had entered the war, six American destroyers under Commander J. K. Taussig dropped anchor off Queenstown. Their  p75 arrival did much to encourage the Allies, who referred to it as "the return of the Mayflower." In the Proceedings of the Naval Institute for December, 1922, is an interesting description of the meeting between Commander Taussig and Admiral Bayly of the Royal Navy.

They exchanged the usual formalities and then Admiral Bayly asked: "Commander Taussig, at what time will your vessels be ready for sea?"

"I shall be ready when fueled," was the reply.

"Do you need any repairs?" asked the admiral.

"No, sir," said Taussig.

"Do you need any stores?"

"No, sir. Each vessel now has on stores sufficient to last seventy days."

The admiral was greatly pleased by this evidence of preparedness and effectiveness on the part of the light ships that had just crossed the wide Atlantic.

"You will take four days' rest," he said. "Good morning."

By May seventeenth a second division of six destroyers had arrived, and before the middle of July thirty-four of these American ships were operating out of Queenstown. They followed a rigorous routine consisting of six days of patrol, then two days in port, with five days off for boiler cleaning and overhauling once a month.

Only men who have served on destroyers can know the hardships of the work. The ships  p76 answered calls for help from victims of the submarine, picked up survivors, met the transports in dangerous areas close to their ports and escorted them in, and hunted constantly for submarines, which they attacked by ramming, by gunfire, or with depth bombs.

Their most effective service was the escorting of convoys of troopships and merchant ships. In all kinds of weather, rough seas and smooth, in rain and fog, destroyer escorts met the convoys, formed an anti-submarine screen, and zigzagging ahead of the convoys, effectually protected out transports and cargo ships. That not a single troopship escorted by our destroyers was sunk is the greatest tribute that can be paid to the naval officers commanding destroyers in the war zone.a

There are, among the records of these wartime destroyers, stirring examples of both courage and extraordinary seamanship. The story of the destroyer Shaw is one of them. This vessel was escorting transports through a submarine-infested area when, early one morning, the steering wheel jammed. When this occurred she was heading directly for the Aquitania, laden with troops. Had she rammed the liner it might have been sunk. Commander Glassford of the Shaw realized this. Quickly he ordered, "Full speed astern." With terrific strain the engines were reversed, swinging the Shaw off her course. She avoided ramming the Aquitania, but in so doing, ran directly under the huge steamer's stern and  p77 her bow but away. Two officers and ten men were killed. The bow of the destroyer drifted away. What was left caught fire as the oil tanks were ignited. But officers and crew quenched the flames, refused assistance and backed the damaged vessel, saved from sinking by her water-tight compartments, safely into port.

The engagement between the destroyer Fanning, commanded by Lieutenant A. S. Carpender, and the U‑58 in November of 1917 is another thrilling tale. With the Nicholson, the Fanning was guarding a convoy of eight British merchant ships near Queenstown when a submarine was sighted. Immediately the Fanning charged in an attempt to ram it, but the submarine submerged in time. The Fanning dropped a depth charge and turned just as the submarine emerged again. A second depth charge and some shots from the stern gun brought the submarine crew on deck to surrender.

While the Nicholson stood by, prepared to fire in case of treachery, the Fanning picked up the four officers and thirty-five men of the crew just before the submarine sank. Two of the American enlisted men actually leaped into the cold water to save a German sailor who was drowning. The depth bomb had put the U‑58 out of commission and it had been necessary for the crew to blow the tanks and come to the surface to be saved from perishing under the sea.b

 p78  The Nicholson figured in another interesting and typical adventure. One morning in October, 1917, she answered a call for help from the American merchantman J. L. Luckenbach, which had been attacked by gunfire from a submarine. The Luckenbach was defending herself with guns on deck.

"Do not surrender," radioed the Nicholson as it steamed to the rescue.

"Never," was the courageous reply carried back through the air. The Nicholson arrived in time to save the merchantman and convoyed her safely into port.

Apart from their extraordinary service in convoy work, the American destroyers and their crews participated in many heroic exploits. One of the most daring of these occurred on April 17, 1918, in Quiberon Bay. That night shortly after eleven o'clock the Florence H., a vessel of a convoy there, burst into flames. The ship was loaded with tons of smokeless powder, which burned fiercely. An explosion followed, throwing cases of powder into the sea, and soon the surrounding water was covered with burning boxes of powder. To save themselves, members of the crew of the Florence H. were forced to jump overboard. Sister vessels sent boats to rescue the survivors, but could not pass the burning powder to reach them. All would have been lost but for the destroyer Stewart, commanded by Lieutenant Commander H. S. Haislip, which steamed into the sea of flame, rescued many at great risk that the ship would be set afire and destroyed. Despite  p79 the danger of fire and destruction which it faced, the Stewart escaped with but little damage.c

The name of Destroyer 255 — the Osmond Ingram — commemorates another example of heroism on the part of a member of a destroyer crew during the war. It honors Osmond Kelley Ingram, first-class gunner's mate, who was killed when his ship, the destroyer Cassin, was torpedoed in European waters on October 15, 1917. Ingram saw the torpedo coming from a German submarine toward the stern of the Cassin. He realized that if the torpedo struck the ship near the place where the high explosives were stored the vessel would be blown up. Instead of seeking safety, he rushed aft to throw the depth charges overboard before the torpedo reached the ship. While doing this the torpedo struck the ship and Ingram was blown overboard himself. His body was never recovered. He sacrificed his life to save his ship and shipmates. Truly a heroic action.d Although the Cassin was struck by the torpedo, she kept afloat and drove off the submarine when it came to the surface to attack her with guns. Then, despite stormy weather, and with the assistance of other vessels, she reached port.

After the German High Seas Fleet surrendered in November, 1918, American destroyers continued to give much valuable service. In the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Baltic they worked with cruisers in the distribution of food  p80 supplies and clothing to starving Russians. It was there that the crew of the destroyer Childs adopted and arranged for the maintenance of forty Russian children. In September of 1922, when fire destroyed the Greek and Armenian sections of Smyrna, an American destroyer picked up no less than 670 persons from the waterside and from the water itself. Our destroyers then took the lead in helping 260,000 refugees and arranging for their evacuation to Greece under naval protection. In December of that same year the destroyer Bainbridge made a notable rescue in the Sea of Marmora. When the French transport Vinh-Long caught fire, the Bainbridge went alongside, and, despite a panic and a series of explosions, rescued 482 persons and carried them to Constantinople. In September of 1923, when seven United States destroyers were wrecked on the coast of California during a fog at night, the crews gave a remarkable demonstration of the quality of naval discipline, as a result of which only twenty‑two men were lost.e

In diplomacy as well as in war, the destroyer has figured prominently. At the Washington Conference for the Limitation of Armaments the French refused to have any ratio applied to submarines. At once the British refused to have a ratio applied to destroyers, because the destroyer is the most efficient weapon to use against the U‑boats. During the Tripartite Geneva Conference of last year, the naval experts of the powers  p81 party to the conference had a tentative discussion and agreement fixing the size of destroyers. This was to have been 1500 standard tons for destroyers and 1850 standard tons for destroyer leaders.

At the time of the Geneva Conference much misinformation disseminated. I read, for example, one account which stated that 176 destroyers were built in a month's time ten years ago when America entered the World War. It added that the destroyers now out of commission are without funnels, torpedo tubes, guns and parts of engines, and going to rust. This is, of course, quite inaccurate. It is true destroyers deteriorate when not in active service. The only way to have them ready for war is to keep them in active commission. Nevertheless, the United States destroyers out of commission are preserved as much as limited funds permit. Much of the material becomes obsolescent. There is no doubt, however, that, if the necessary funds are made available, the destroyers can be put in a condition for many years more service. The life of a destroyer has been variously estimated as being from twelve to twenty-four years. At the Geneva Conference it was suggested and approved that replacement could take place after sixteen years. This is probably as good an estimate as any for the life of a destroyer. The life of any vessel depends upon the care that is bestowed upon it. Apart from many other advantages, here is an excellent reason for keeping  p82 all our destroyers in active service. Their years of service are thereby prolonged. But this requires a large increase in the enlisted personnel.

In the wars of the past the destroyer has played an important and spectacular part. In the next war, due to limitation of the numbers of capital ships, the destroyer may have even a greater influence in the final decision of a war.

Thayer's Notes:

a As always in war, there was more than met the eye, and in this case especially the eye of the German enemy: the twenty-four cruisers were helped by two very secret little rooms, one in Brest, the other in London: the interesting details are in [Adm.] G. R. Clark, A Short History of the United States Navy, pp492‑496.

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b For details — and a dramatic U. S. Navy photo taken during this rescue — see A Short History of the United States Navy, pp489‑490; a few additional details in Alden and Earle, Makers of Naval Tradition, p304.

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c The names of other ships involved in the rescue, and of their commanding officers, is given in Makers of Naval Tradition, p303.

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d For his sacrifice Osmond Ingram was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor; the citation is given on his page at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

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e The entirely avoidable disaster at Point Honda. Details are given in Gerald E. Wheeler, Admiral William Veazie Pratt, U. S. Navy, pp224‑228.

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