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Chapter 26

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A Short History of the United States Navy

by
George R. Clark et al.

published by
J. B. Lippincott Company,
Philadelphia & London 1939

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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Chapter 28
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

p462 XXVII
Emergence of the United States as a World Power

The Philippine Insurrection

Spain's defeat and humiliation was so unexpected as to startle the more conservative European peoples; but America's new responsibilities, together with the sudden access of power, also came without warning and bewildered the people of the western hemisphere. The question, what should be done with the colonies wrested from Spain, was indeed a formidable one. It was not for territory that the United States had gone to war, and many leading citizens expressed the fear that we were departing from our early traditions and inclining towards "imperialism." Especially over the Philippines there were antagonistic views. Though far from satisfying all, the President and Congress decided that, since the islands could not be returned or sold or left to shift for themselves, they must be held at least for a period, and that the first step was to establish law and order.

Immediately after the destruction of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, the great powers had displayed a lively interest in the islands, as evidenced by the German, English, and French warships dispatched to Manila. Japan was also represented. Had Dewey not been firm in upholding the rights of the victorious belligerent, as recognized by international law, he might have been embarrassed by the German force, which was steadily increased until it was stronger than his own. It was not merely the presence of their ships; the German officers, p463disregarding the blockade Dewey had established, even went so far as to land provisions for the Spaniards. Finally Dewey sent his flag lieutenant, Thomas M. Brumby, to inform Rear-Admiral von Diederich of this "extraordinary disregard of the usual courtesies of naval intercourse" and to tell him that "if he wants a fight he can have it right now."1

It was afterwards related that the German admiral sought out Captain Chichester, the senior English officer there, to induce him to join in opposing Dewey; but he obtained in reply a sharp refusal because "this American admiral is so deadly right in all that he has done."

On the 26th of May, that is, three to four weeks after the battle, Secretary Long cabled Dewey, warning him not to enter into any "political alliances with the insurgents;" and when General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Merritt sailed from San Francisco with an army to complete the work of the navy, he carried with him instructions not to recognize Aguinaldo but to set up a provisional government. Already the army of insurgents were strongly intrenched about Manila, and it remained only for a slight collision (February 4, 1899) between the two forces to supply the match that ignited the conflagration.

The population of the Philippines was about twice that of the American colonies at the time of the Revolution. But it was but a slight resistance that they could offer in open conflict to the American Army, which grew to more than 54,000 in number.2

The difficulty lay rather in the character of the country. The Philippine Islands have a land area equal to that of the New England states and New York combined. From north to south, if superimposed upon the eastern United States, they would extend from Narragansett p464Bay to Key West, and their coast line, 11,000 miles, is greater than that of continental United States, excluding Alaska. Thus, even if the difficulties of the terrain, the mountains, the marshes, and the dense tropical forests, are passed over, the army had a hard problem to face and could not put down a general insurrection without the coöperation of the navy. This was given with the same decision and promptness that had brought the initial success.

When fighting began between the two armies in and about Manila, the ships steamed in close to the shore and shelled the insurgents' trenches north and south of the city. A week later the navy landed a force at Iloilo, Pana, and occupied that important seaport until the army took it over.3

Sailors and marines landing at Olongapo, Subig Bay, destroyed a heavy rifled gun, mounted there by insurgents. Captain B. H. McCalla, commanding the Newark, in December, 1899, compelled the surrender of the northern provinces of Luzon, Cagayan, and Isabela, turning them over to the army. In February, 1901, when General Funston set out on the expedition to Isabela that resulted in the capture of Aguinaldo, the gunboat Vicksburg, Commander E. B. Barry, rendered important assistance. Meanwhile there was constant patrolling of islands that were the especial sources of trouble, thus cutting off war supplies that came from Hong Kong and Chinese ports. Also the ships were engaged in making surveys and correcting charts, which were needed for merchant vessels just as much as for war ships. The cruiser Charleston showed the need and the danger, for she struck on an uncharted reef and was lost. As the rivers and inlets were often too shallow to permit sea going ships to enter, a mosquito fleet of seventeen gunboats, four taken by p465Dewey at Manila Bay and thirteen acquired by purchase from the Spaniards, was organized. They were commanded for the most part by ensigns or naval cadets, and rendered efficient service.

All open resistance to American forces was ended nine months after the beginning of the insurrection. But guerilla warfare following, two years more were required to stamp this out. Finally, determined efforts began to tell, and insurgent leaders having been for the most part captured, the islands one by one gave up the struggle. Then ensued an era of unprecedented progress.

The Samoan Trouble

Dewey's victory in the Far East had at once given us a new interest in the Pacific. Hawaii, occupying a position of the greatest strategic importance at the "cross roads of the Pacific," had five years before asked to be joined to the United States, and on July 7, 1898, she was annexed by a joint resolution of Congress. Guam, and the tiny Wake and Midway Islands were occupied during the war, and became American territory.

In 1898, Samoa, which had been governed for nine years by the natives, under the control of England, Germany, and the United States, was the scene of factional strife over the choice of a new king. The law said that when the natives could not agree on such a question they should refer it to the chief justice of the island court. Mr. W. L. Chambers, an American citizen, who held that office, on being appealed to, gave a decision that was impartial and fair. The trouble would probably then had ended, had not the German consul secretly encouraged the losing faction. Guards became necessary to protect the English and American consulates in Apia, the chief city of Samoa.

An act of heroism occurred when an expedition was p466organized with sixty‑one Americans under Lieutenant P. V. Lansdale, U. S. N., and sixty-three British under Lieutenant A. H. Freeman, R. N. They marched against Vailele, near Apia, where ammunition and supplies had been stored. Not encountering any opposition, they destroyed the camp; but on the return march they were ambushed by an overwhelming force of natives. Lansdale was shot below the knee so that he could not walk, and Ordinary Seaman N. E. Edsall, who came to his assistance, was mortally wounded. The American and British forces happened to be so scattered that they were unable to make an effective resistance, and slowly gave way. But Ensign Monaghan, after doing his utmost to remove Lieutenant Lansdale to a place of safety, seized a rifle from a disabled man, and "stood steadfast by his wounded superior and friend — one brave man against a score of savages. . . . He died in a heroic performance of duty."4 Lieutenants Lansdale and freeman were both among the killed.

To settle the trouble a commission, with representatives from England, Germany, and the United States, visited the islands in one of our warships. As a result of their negotiations, the tripartite control of the islands ended. Germany was granted the largest of the islands to the west, England having ceded her claims in exchange for concessions elsewhere, and the United States was granted Tutuila and five other small islands to the east. This arrangement lasted till the World War, when New Zealand seized the German islands, her retention of them as a mandate being later established by the Treaty of Versailles.

The advantage to the United States in these small islands (the total area of her share is about fifty-eight p468square miles) lies in the possession of a coaling station at Pago Pago, Tutuila, one of the finest harbors in all the Pacific, and of great strategic importance. It is about 4200 miles from San Francisco, 2275 from Hawaii, 1600 from Auckland, and 2350 from Sydney.
(p467) 
[image ALT: A map of the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii, Guam and Samoa prominently marked, and somewhat less so, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Auckland and Sydney. Distances are marked from Hawaii to most points on the map, including the W coast of the United States and Panama, and between several other places as well.]

America's Strategic Position in the Pacific

When our country assumed sovereignty over the islands in 1900, with the written consent of the native chiefs the Government appointed a naval officer as governor. This method of administration, as at Guam, is the system that still is in operation.

The Boxer Rebellion

(facing p462) 
[image ALT: A photo of a small low boat with two thin smokestacks and a pair of very thin auxiliary sailless masts, at a rudimentary dock. Two standing sailors have been added, most unconvincingly, in the foreground. It is an early‑20c recruiting poster for the United States Navy.]

Courtesy of Navy Recruiting Bureau, New York

U. S. S. Palos in the Yangtze at Ichang, China

While the uprisings just described were being met, trouble was brewing in China. This great country had been suffering from the rapacity of the western powers and there was much ground for believing that her dismemberment was near. Thus when Secretary Hay in 1899 addressed a note to Great Britain asking her to join in maintaining the "open door" policy so that all nations might carry on their commerce on equal terms even within the "spheres of influence or interest," it was timely. Great Britain assented, provided that the other powers concerned would agree. Like answers were obtained from Germany and Russia, and in time from Japan, France, and Italy. Hay then followed these notes by one addressed to the several nations, giving a résumé of the negotiations and concluding that, since each nation had "accepted the declaration suggested by the United States concerning foreign trade in China," he considered the assent as no longer provisional, but "as final and definitive."

The Chinese, however, already alarmed, were fostering a movement, secretly favored by the reactionary Empress Dowager, to drive out all foreigners. To accomplish this they organized the society of the "I‑Ho Ch'uan," p469or "Fist of Righteous Harmony," popularly known as the "Boxers."

Disorder and acts of violence in 1900 were widespread. Mission stations in various places were attacked and destroyed. Toward the last of May, our minister in Peking, E. H. Conger, believing that the Boxer movement was threatening to become an open rebellion, telegraphed Admiral Kempff, then at Taku in his flagship Newark, that the American legation needed a strong guard. Marines were dispatched and reached the capital just in time, for only a few days later all railroad communications were cut off, and the foreign legations were in a state of siege. The situation soon was so serious that, when the consuls and naval officers of the several nations at Tientsin could agree on no plan for relieving the legations at Peking, Captain B. H. McCalla, U. S. N., in command of 112 officers and men, proposed to set out at once for Peking, even if his force should have to act alone. This decisive utterance had a good effect, and the British, Japanese, Austrian, and Italian officers joined with McCalla. Eventually the Germans, French, and Russians added their detachments. The whole force, amount to 2066 officers and men, was commanded by Vice-Admiral Seymour of the British Navy. They succeeded in reaching Langfang, forty miles from Peking, on June 13, without great difficulty. Meanwhile the Imperial forces had joined with the Boxers and had cut the railroad communications in their rear. The railroad to Peking had been destroyed. Lacking food supplies and ammunition, and threatened by an enormous host of Boxers and Imperial troops, the council of senior officers decided to fall back to Tientsin. On the return march, which was made not without considerable fighting, the most dangerous position, that of advance guard, was given to the American sailors. Captain McCalla was wounded p470three times, but he held to his post till the force reached Tientsin. Seven hundred allied troops remained here and were soon besieged by several thousand Boxers.

It then became imperative to hurry forward men and supplies from Taku to Tientsin. The railway between these points, on being abandoned, had been plundered by Boxers and roving bands, and in places had been destroyed. To an American naval officer, with a force of bluejackets, was given the task of putting the miserably equipped single-track system into commission, and of operating it. It was new work for our sailors, but in a few weeks they transported 13,000 troops, besides horses, ammunition, provisions, and water.

Grave anxiety had in the meantime prevailed throughout the western nations for the safety of their people in China. It was commonly believed that all the ministers in Peking had perished. Large reinforcements of men and ships had been sent to China or were on their way, and the threat of dismemberment of the Empire was more grave than ever before. But Secretary Hay met the crisis; writing to the European Powers, he stated "the purpose of the United States to be the relief and protection of American interests," and "reiterated the principles of Chinese territorial and administrative entity, protection of treaty rights, and preservation of the 'open door.' " The stand taken by the United States influencing the other nations, the dissolution of China did not take place.

On the arrival of adequate reinforcements, another international expedition was organized, and on August 14 it entered Peking. It was none too soon, for, since June 19, when Baron von Ketteler, the German minister, was killed, the besieged had been subjected to many fierce attacks. Our marines had intrenched themselves on the ancient city wall near the American legation, and there p471made a brave defense. Twice they were driven from their position, but both times they succeeded in retaking it.

President McKinley during the time of hostilities had made it very clear to Minister Wu in Washington and to the viceroys of southern China (who throughout were helpful) that the United States was fighting not the Imperial Government, but a large group of excited and rebellious fanatics. Thus it was not strange that Prince Ch'ing should at the conclusion have written to our minister in Peking, "I was profoundly impressed with the justice and great friendliness of the American Government, and wish to express our sincere thanks."

The western nations affected required China to pay large indemnities. The United States, however, in May, 1908, decided to remit to the Imperial Government the balance still due, which was about $12,000,000, or one‑half. Whereupon China announced, in accordance with a suggestion made by the United States, that she would use the money to send selected students to American schools and universities. It is to be hoped that China will ever have reason to look on America as her best friend.

Influence in Foreign Affairs

Roosevelt, during his second term, showed himself much interested in foreign affairs. The first occasion was the Russo-Japanese War (1904‑1905). In the encroachments upon Chinese territory Russia had been the worst offender, and Roosevelt had let Japan know, previous to the war, on which side his sympathies lay. When hostilities began, he used his influence, by addressing notes to the powers, (1) to keep Germany and France out of the conflict, that is, to keep it from becoming a world war, and (2) to localize the theater of operations, that is, to keep the war from spreading over China. When Japan p472had won her decisive victory at Tsushima, it was Roosevelt that she asked to mediate, as the head of a great neutral power, in offering peace. The treaty conference, which was held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, seemed unable to agree on satisfactory terms. In fact it was about to break up when Roosevelt came forward and outlined what he thought would be a just settlement. This led to further deliberation, and the terms which he had proposed were what the two nations accepted. Undoubtedly Roosevelt had saved the situation and had spared belligerent countries the heavy sacrifices incident to many months of further warfare. For his service he was much lauded throughout Europe.

Roosevelt added to American prestige also in quite another affair. At the time of the war just mentioned, Germany taking advantage of Russian preoccupation, acted towards France, the ally of Russia, in an arbitrary manner that was bitterly resented. This occurred as the Kaiser actively interested himself in the affairs of Morocco, which France by agreement with certain countries had assumed a protectorate over, a year or more previous. The Kaiser now intervened with "terrible brusqueness." In the negotiations that followed Roosevelt took a leading part and, working in conjunction with others, induced the Kaiser to modify his demands. Thus a conflict which might have approximated almost the magnitude of that of 1914 was averted.

Although these two achievements of President Roosevelt belong primarily to diplomatic history, they also bear a relation to the development of our navy. It was not a matter of accident nor merely because of his superabundant vigor that Roosevelt should have been the first president to take such an important part in world affairs. The United States had become a world power, p473and she had a navy. Roosevelt was known as one who believed in a strong navy and who would not hesitate to use it, if necessity arose.

Cruise of the Battle Fleet

The issue of the Russo-Japanese War was still undecided when certain newspapers tending towards sensationalism began talking of the "yellow peril." There admittedly was commercial rivalry between Japan and the United States, and later something of sensitiveness on the part of Japan that her subjects should not be placed on a parity with other aliens. This to most people seemed an insufficient cause for war, but there was something ominous in the air, perhaps a lack of confidence on both sides. Even the conservative admitted that there was a growing dread, which though it might be foolish and unreasonable, constituted a menace.

In December, 1907, President Roosevelt reviewed at Hampton Roads the "Battle Fleet" consisting of sixteen battleships, all commissioned since the Spanish-American War, and six destroyers. They were starting for San Francisco, going around the Horn, setting out on a voyage which because of its length many regarded as impracticable and ill advised. Scarcely had Roosevelt returned to Washington when he announced that the trip to San Francisco was only a part of their cruise, for from California they would go to our insular possessions and return home by the Suez Canal. Though on a gigantic scale, this was to be a practice cruise. As Roosevelt wrote in his Autobiography, "It seemed to me evident that such a voyage would greatly benefit the navy itself; would arouse popular interest in and enthusiasm for the navy; and would make foreign nations accept as a matter of course that our fleet should from time to time be gathered in the p474Pacific, just as from time to time it was gathered in the Atlantic."5

There were additional reasons, not given to the public, revealed in a letter Roosevelt wrote to Secretary Root:

"I am more concerned over the Japanese situation than almost any other. Thank Heaven we have the navy in good shape. It is high time that there is should go on a cruise around the world. In the first place I think it will have a pacific effect to show it can be done; and in the next place, after talking thoroughly over the situation with the naval board, I became convinced that it was absolutely necessary for us to try in time of peace to see just what we could do in the way of putting a big battle fleet in the Pacific and not make the experiment in time of war."

High naval authorities in Germany and Italy told Roosevelt later that they had expected hostilities with Japan to begin when the ships passed the Straits of Magellan. Instead, invitations came, not only from New Zealand and Australia, but also from Japan and China that the fleet should make them a friendly visit. These countries then all began to make plans for elaborate entertainment.

The voyage of the Battle Fleet, covering 46,000 sea miles, proved most uneventful so far as martial adventure is considered. But when the ships returned after an absence of fourteen months the benefits resulting from the cruise at once became apparent to those who had taken part in it. The fleet had found itself, the men had got the "sea habit," and the vast aggregation had become a unit in a sense such as had not been realized before. The fleet had been self-sustaining in the matter of repairs, and despite its long absence from navy yards, had come back in the best of condition. New standards in steam engineering had been established, with economy p475in coal consumption and increased radius of action. Officers and men had obtained daily practice in technical work of all kinds; they had profited from the unusual opportunities of maneuvering, and had improved in gunnery.6 The cruise also brought home some needs of the navy, especially the lack of colliers.

The relations with Japan, as well as with all the countries visited, were improved. Roosevelt in his enthusiasm wrote: "The most noteworthy incident of the cruise was the reception given to our fleet in Japan. In courtesy and good breeding, the Japanese can certainly teach much to the nations of the Western world."7

Cuba and the Caribbean

The second sphere of influence which the Spanish-American War pointed the way to, though marked by no international affair comparable with that of maintaining the integrity of China, still has been of wide significance. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, England had commonly kept a squadron at her West Indian Station. But when the threat of her German rival required concentration in the Home Fleet, she seemed very ready to turn over to the United States the responsibility of patrolling the Caribbean.

The first duty of the United States when Spain had left Cuba was to put that country firmly on her feet. That she might be saved from foreign exploitation there was an agreement made with her commonly known as the Platt Amendment, which was passed by both houses of Congress (March 2, 1901), and was incorporated by Cuba into her constitution. This contained among others the following provisions:

p476 "I. That the government of Cuba shall never enter into any treaty or other compact with any foreign power which will impair or tend to impair the independence of Cuba . . . .

"III. That the government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the treaty of Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the government of Cuba."

An election having been held in December, 1901, all United States troops were withdrawn the following May. But when an insurrection occurred after an election in 1906, and the Cuban Congress could not or would not handle the difficulty, the United States intervened to save the island from anarchy. It was not, however, for annexation, which many feared would be the outcome; and in January, 1909, our forces were again withdrawn. Two years later opposing factions were raising a storm, and intervention three times seemed imminent. In 1916 an election once more caused trouble and United States marines were landed in Santiago to protect American life and property. But the Cuban president then succeeded in restoring order without our assistance. Thus the army and navy, working with the State Department, have been instrumental in maintaining peace and order in the new republic.

What has been done for Cuba differs only in degree from the assistance rendered to other states in the Caribbean. This work was practically a necessity after the United States in 1903 decided to build an Isthmian canal. From that time on the United States was an interested party. An uprising in countries neighboring upon the p477canal meant a loss possibly of life, certainly of property, to the citizens of foreign nations concerned, for which the latter would be likely to demand substantial reparation. To secure this reparation they might resort to force and temporarily or permanently obtain a foothold in the unruly country. Such a procedure would make additional protection necessary for the Isthmian canal and might rob the United States of her unique position in the Western Hemisphere.

For these and like reasons the United States has established what amounts to a political or financial protectorate over several of the Caribbean countries, as will be discussed later. To make unnecessary the use of force, periodic visits from our warships to the countries concerned have been deemed advisable.

After every great war there has always been a cry to do away with armaments, and beginning with the Revolution, the rule has been on the termination of hostilities to decrease the naval establishment both in men and ships. The Spanish-American war stands out as the conspicuous exception. Instead of there being a decline, the new navy went forward with leaps and bounds. There were two reasons why the American people turned from their traditional policy of keeping the naval establishment at a minimum: (1) we had acquired extensive insular possessions, some far removed, and there was need of a navy to look after them; (2) President Roosevelt, a student of naval affairs, was a warm supporter of the navy, and in keeping with his policies required an adequate force to make the United States a power among the nations. During his second administration, there was a spirit of uneasiness, of dread, felt round the world. p478All the countries were preparing — for what, they did not know — and the spirit was contagious.

It was the battleship that showed the most marked development during the period between the Spanish-American and the World War. Mahan had taught that capital ships are the strength of a fighting force, and it was to them that United States devoted her attention. The strongest units of the United States Navy of 1898, the Indiana, Oregon, and Massachusetts (authorized in 1890 and launched in 1893), were of 10,250 tons displacement, with moderate speed (designed speed, 16 knots), low freeboard, small normal coal supply (400 tons), heavy armament, and armor giving strong protection. They were built when the idea prevailed that the chief duty of the navy was to defend our coasts. Their seagoing qualities were unsatisfactory, their low freeboard in heavy weather causing general wetness and impairing the efficiency of the forward heavy and intermediate batteries. The territorial expansion that followed as a result of the Spanish-American War required our ships to render their chief service commonly in waters far from home ports. Thus a navy for coast defense was no longer adequate, and soon the naval policy of the United States had to conform largely to that of the leading European nations. Accordingly the Virginia class, authorized in 1899 and launched in 1904, possessed greater speed, increased length, and a high freeboard. They carried four submerged torpedo tubes, and showed a rapid development in the application of electricity.

In 1906 the British launched the Dreadnought, and she so plainly outclassed all previous battleships as to make them virtually obsolete.8

p479 This type has, as its characteristics, simplicity and concentration of power. There are batteries of heaviest guns available (all of one size) and light torpedo defense guns, but nothing between. The speed, which is considerably higher, permits strategical and tactical concentration of gun power. The unusually heavy guns enable them to penetrate heavy armor and reach the vitals of the enemy. Their effectiveness was greatly increased at the time of the first Dreadnought by improvement in ballistics and in the accuracy of gun fire — due in the English Navy to Captain Percy Scott. "Spotting" at this time was in its early infancy.9

The United States quickly followed, and the Michigan and South Carolina were built with no intermediate batteries. Then came the Utah and Florida (21,800 tons displacement, speed 21 knots), and we had some of the units of our present navy. The Nevada (1914) showed the advantage of the exclusive use of fuel oil. The New Mexico (1916 — 32,000 tons, 21 knots, twelve 14‑inch guns) had as her new feature, tried for the first time on a warship, the electric drive for the main propulsion; and this, proving successful, was adopted as standard in American battleships.

The cast iron shot of Civil War days had long ago p480given way to forged-steel, elongated pointed shells, capable of piercing armor, and carrying a charge of high explosive. Black powder had been replaced by smokeless powder, because the energy of the latter was four or five times as great as that of old‑time gunpowder, and the more gradual production of gas gave more uniform pressure in the bore and a higher velocity to the projectile; and withal, it produced much less smoke, always confusing to gun pointers and those controlling gun fire.

In only one other type of warship did the United States keep pace with her rivals, and that was the destroyer. Our navy of 1898 included eighteen torpedo boats, but though suggesting great possibilities for harbor defense they had never demonstrated their value.10 Already there had been evolved the effectual enemy of the torpedo boat, the torpedo boat destroyer, which was superior in seaworthiness, speed, and armament. Because of greater size, its cruising radius (dependent on fuel capacity) was enormously increased, and it could accompany the fleet and take part in maneuvers. At the beginning of the Great War (1914) we had about fifty destroyers, which though less than half of those in either the British or the German Navy, were a strong force, one that with the addition of those building was to bring great credit to our navy.

The two entirely new types of warship developed during this period were the submarine and the aeroplane.

The pioneer in the development of the modern submarine, in the United States, was Mr. John P. Holland. Engineers in England and France were making progress, but they owed much to him. His first submarine, built in 1877, was a crude one‑man boat with a petroleum motor. p481Later ones were also unsatisfactory, but each embodied some improvement, until in 1899 he built the first to be accepted by the navy. This was propelled by a gasoline engine on the surface and an electric motor when submerged. Holland was the first to use an internal combustion engine in conjunction with a storage battery and electric motor, and this feature was the chief cause of his success. But even at the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904‑1905), the submarine had not reached the point of development that rendered either belligerent willing to try it in actual service. Its real usefulness began with 1907‑1912, when the Diesel engine, burning heavy oil, was introduced. In the later developments the United States Navy for some time did much less than either England or Germany, and was considerably behind those countries as we entered the World War.

The aeroplane and its development has almost the same story. The Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio, were the first of any country to make a successful flight with a heavy-than‑air machine, which they accomplished in December, 1903, when they flew for fifty-nine seconds going very nearly a mile. Two years later, by incessant labor, they had improved their machine so that in a flight of eighteen minutes they covered ten miles. However, it was the French, who had for years been studying the possibilities of balloons and dirigibles, that were the first to take up aviation for military purposes on a large scale.

The first practicable seaplane (1911) was the invention of another American, Glenn H. Curtiss. In 1914 he produced a flying boat double the size of those previously made, named the America. She flew thirteen hours at a speed of about fifty knots, which was equal to that made by the best land aeroplanes of that time. Though she never was tried for a trans-Atlantic flight p482(for which she had been designed), it was the America type that was used by the British for patrol service over the North Sea.

The Great War began the last of July, 1914. At once the submarine, aeroplane, and every type of ships that could be quickly built was so rapidly developed both in structural features and in operation that the United States within a few months seemed hopelessly out of the race. Actual use in war is so stimulating to naval progress that our officers, observing from far and near, felt that we had almost everything to learn. Very soon, however, the prospect of being drawn into the maelstrom quickened our naval service and preparations were begun on an extended scale.

[image ALT: A photograph of four twentieth-century battleships firing their guns, with much smoke.]

Courtesy of Navy Recruiting Bureau, New York

Division of Battleships at Force Battle Practice


The Authors' Notes:

1 The New American Navy, II, 111, 112.

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2 Secretary of War, Annual Report, 1900, I, part IV, 560.

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3 Long, The New American Navy, II, 115.

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4 Report of Captain Edwin White, quoted by Long, The New American Navy, II, 125.

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5 P548.

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6 Based on the statement of Admiral Sperry, quoted in Brassey's Naval Annual, 1909, p35.

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7 Autobiography, p553.

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8 "While the Dreadnought affected injuriously the value of seven British vessels then under construction, it relegated to the background forty‑one ships then building for the seven other great Powers of the world." Hurd, Our Navy, p191.

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9 Japan, Germany, and Italy had been working on the same problem, and, though the Dreadnought was the first of its type, each nation claimed credit for originating the idea. The British writer Jane remarks, however, that the claims of the United States Navy "rest on a stronger basis," for the South Carolina type with "all big guns in the center line, all bearing on either broadside, was a distinct advance and novelty." He says, further, that, since the actual date of laying down goes for nothing, inasmuch as ships are designed and authorized long before work on them commences, "a strong body of opinion will always credit the United States with being the first navy that adopted the 'all big‑gun idea.' " Jane, The British Battle Fleet, pp326, 327.

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10 "In the war with Spain torpedoes were much more dangerous to those who attempted to use them than to their enemy." Brassey, Naval Annual, 1899, p112.


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