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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Sea Duty

Yates Stirling

published by
G. P. Putnam's Sons
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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Chapter 9
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p104  Chapter VIII

Around the World

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When I arrived in the Philippines with my father in 1903, I was thirty‑one years old and a bachelor. Of course, I had had in the past fifteen‑odd years many mild heart attacks in all parts of the world, but so far I had managed to avoid permanent ensnarement. I also retained fond recollections of girls at home, and my first boyhood sweetheart still remained mistily enshrined as a romantic memory.

While in the Philippines on my father's staff, I went on a yachting cruise and returned engaged to an Army girl, the daughter of General H. C. Egbert, who a few years before had been killed in action in the Philippines. Propinquity during an eighteen days' cruise in the tropical seas of the Philippines overcame my apparent desire not to become a benedict. I was married in Manila. When we returned to the United States in April of 1905, our son, Yates, the third of the name, was six months old.

My father retired for age in May, and it was necessary that he arrive home before the date of retirement. In consequence we had left the Far East when the battle of Tsushima was fought between the Japanese Fleet under Togo and the Russian Baltic Fleet. The result of the battle was no surprise. The Tsar's navy had greatly deteriorated through bad administration, while the Japanese navy had made itself modern in every particular. It had adopted the new gunnery training instituted by Captain Percy  p105 Scott and Sims, and its shooting in the battle was far ahead of the Russians. The battle was a one‑sided affair, almost similar to our sea fights with the Spaniards. A new sea power had appeared on the world's stage that was destined in the future to cause all nations the greatest concern.

After my return from the Asiatic station, I was ordered to the battle­ship Massachusetts of the Atlantic Fleet. First I commanded a 13‑inch turret; then I was promoted to ordnance officer of the vessel. Sims's new methods of gunnery were being universally used, and captains of big ships were most unhappy. They deplored the fact that their beautiful, spotlessly clean ships had become nothing better than training stables.

Although Sampson's fleet destroyed Cervera's at Santiago, the actual percentage of hits to shots fired was ridiculously low as compared to our present shooting. During the pre‑Sims period, gun sight mechanism was very crude and inaccurate, while the loading of the guns was painfully and needlessly slow. During the Spanish War five minutes were used up in loading a 13‑inch turret gun in a battle­ship. The score of hits in the battle with the Spanish ships was under one hit in fifteen shots. The Navy at large, especially the ranking officers, with exceptions of course, had seemed content with the result of past working with the gun gear and with the old methods of gunnery training. There appeared to exist among the higher officers little urge to do better. They argued that our fleets at Manila and at Santiago had sunk the enemy by their superior gunfire while receiving no damage from the guns of the enemy. The Navy high command was satisfied to let things go on as they were. At least the target practices were reasonably safe under the old procedure. Routine target practices did interfere sometimes with other more interesting and enjoyable things; but after all warships were supposed to fight, and it was necessary of course that some time be given to preparation, even though that time was begrudged by both captains and executive officers. Target practices never were very agreeable to executive officers because the final result in their eyes was a dirty ship. Spotless decks and snowy paintwork were soiled. Oftentimes also target practices interfered with social pleasures ashore.

There is a navy classic, for the accuracy of which I cannot vouch, concerning a flagship in pre‑Sims days that had gone out to sea to conduct its annual target practice in the morning and was expecting to finish and return to port in time so that the  p106 admiral might attend a big dinner that evening ashore. The practice was seriously delayed by merchant ships crossing the firing range, destruction of the target by a lucky shot, requiring time for another target to be rigged, etc. Now at these practices a definite allowance of special ammunition was made by the Bureau of Ordnance. But when the time for returning to port for the admiral's dinner came around, all the ammunition had not been fired. The captain was nervous. He had assured the admiral that he would get the ship back to port in plenty of time. The target was down again and a new one had to be rigged.

The captain could look down from the bridge and see the remaining ammunition. It was special for target practice and could not just be put back into magazines for general use. If not used at this target practice, a report would have to be made out when turned in to a magazine on shore, explaining why it was not fired. The admiral was becoming anxious. The captain was on the spot. He ordered "cease firing." The practice was declared finished.

The gunnery officer protested.

"The practice is finished," the captain exclaimed. "If you are not finished, it's your fault. I've given you plenty of time."

"But there's a lot of target practice stuff left to shoot. What'll we do with it?" asked the gunnery officer.

"Throw it overboard," replied the captain.

Sims had appeared at a time when our gunnery was at a very low ebb. There were telescope sights for our guns, an innovation, but the mountings and construction of the sights, sight scales, and other parts were built most inexpertly and with apparently little idea in mind of the necessary ruggedness to keep sights in adjustment when the guns were fired rapidly. The loading of a gun had been a slow process. Ammunition cars in turrets were not designed for high speeds, and they frequently got out of line and jammed. The loading of the shell and powder was performed by power rammers that ran at a snail's pace. At first these power rammers were discarded, and the ammunition was loaded by hand power, which was much faster.

The training of the men who sighted and fired the guns had been neglected, and no tangible improvement in the shooting was the result. Sims and his followers contrived methods to train these men in both accuracy and speed. Very soon guns were being fired almost the instant they were loaded without the usual long wait to  p107 find the target in the sight. The old method was not a scientific one at all. The guns would be loaded deliberately, and then the pointers would laboriously elevate and train their gun with no consideration for time consumed. More often the shot was wide of the target.

The principles underlying Sims's methods were simple enough. They had for their objective fast loading and firing and accurate gun pointing, accomplished by speeding up every motion performed by the gun crews. Accurate sight was accomplished by the use of scientific machines of different sorts designed to give training in sighting the gun by using miniature targets and simulating both the sighting and the firing. Records were kept of the individual's accuracy. Thus, gun pointers could be given daily training in manipulating their guns and sighting them without waiting until target practices were held to give the men their experience. In fact, the whole thing amounted to just this: by old methods there had been no training to speak of before a practice, and target practice gave men an opportunity for the first time to handle the guns, load them, and fire them. By Sims's methods all this was rehearsed daily in miniature and everyone made expert, so that when target practice came around all were experts.

Sims was a born promoter. If he had not been, it is doubtful that he could have achieved results in shot short a time, for he had much opposition. Sims claimed at the outset that he would increase the fighting efficiency of the fleet one thousand percent. His optimism attracted the attention of the President, Theodore Roosevelt. Even "Teddy" sometimes doubted the possibility, but he gave Sims the chance to prove his plan. Improvement was rapid and continuous in the Fleet, and one after another the ships went through the new type of target practice, after weeks and months of hard but intelligent training, supervised by Sims or his assistants, returning from target practice areas with records of scores on visible upstanding targets that were almost unbelievable.

These new methods of gunnery decreased the loading and firing interval from once in five minutes (300 seconds), which it had been during the Spanish War for the big turrets, to once in 30 seconds. Instead of one hit in fifteen shots, made at Santiago on the Spanish ships, fifteen hits in as many shots were being made on vertical canvas targets where the actual holes could be seen. The big shells were being rammed home with lightning-like speed; powder packed in silk bags followed the shell, and then  p108 the great breech plugs were being slammed shut almost quicker than the eye could detect and the guns fired without a second's delay because the gun pointer had been taught to keep the turret always on the target.

After we had started on this method of preparation for battle, an efficiency expert went on board one of the battle­ships to witness a turret drill. He was astounded and said: "You are far ahead of us. We save minutes; you are saving seconds."

Sims was forcing the Bureaus of the Navy Department to rapid improvements in gun sights, turret gear, and fire-control material. He had awakened the sleeping ordnance designers, and they were busy devising gun gear that could stand up to the wear and tear of almost constant use and to the speed of firing attained under the new methods.

Admirals, captains, and other ranking officers, afloat and ashore, were open in their resentment. The way things were going in their ships worried them greatly, for they did not actually grasp the basic principles of Sims's training. Most of these officers had spent the better part of their lives in spotlessly clean sailing ships, where the guns were kept polished to the highest possible degree for beauty's sake. Utility did not matter. Target practices were then a nuisance.

I had begun to write at this time for magazines, and there was a small magazine called The Navy. I wrote a lampoon on the new gunnery, and it was published in that magazine. I called the lampoon, "The Executive Officer's Day." It was in dialogue. My characters were Captain Bluewater, Lieutenant Beanshooter, etc. There were ten or more of them. It created a considerable furor in naval circles, for I spared no one and held up to mild ridicule the high officers who were stupidly standing in the way of progress. Taussig, my captain at the time, asked me if he was Captain Bluewater. I will say now that although Taussig was my inspiration for Captain Bluewater, he was the best in the lot of captains, as far as I could learn, and was both tolerant and understanding. From the viewpoint of the old Navy, the ships then were madhouses and the young gunnery enthusiasts, they believed, should be put in strait jackets before they blew the ships sky high. I attributed Captain Taussig's attitude of tolerance toward such abnormal conditions partly to the influence of his son Joe, who was a lieutenant in the Navy and a stanch supporter of Sims.

 p109  Unknown and unrecognized at this time by both Sims and his critics, there was an insidious enemy. It was a cruel foe lying in wait to confound Sims's remarkable achievements and give his opponents the chance to heap calumny upon his head.

The turret crews in ramming the great shells had observed a white, oily smoke in the bores of the guns after firing. When the wind happened to be strong into the gun muzzles, this smoke occasionally had drifted from the open breech back into the turret chamber. No one in the ships considered there was any danger in this. On one fatal day an incandescent bit of unconsumed powder bag clung to the inside of the powder chamber during a target practice.

Then suddenly the oily white smoke revealed its character. Uniting with the oxygen of the air and ignited by the hot particle of the powder bag, this gas burst into flame. It set fire to two powder bags, over a hundred pounds, at the breech of the gun ready to be pushed home after the shell had been seated. The inside of the turret became a roaring furnace. Two more powder bags burning the gun breech ignited, and the flaming grains of powder, falling down the open turret into the handling room below, further added to the horror by setting off the powder that was being held ready to be sent aloft in the ammunition cars to the guns for the next load.

In all two score or more of the officers and men of the turret and handling-room crews lost their lives. The reaction probably was to be expected against this so‑called fanatical innovation in gunnery. Sims himself had drastically criticized the open turrets and even had prophesied what might happen.

The reaction against Sims was both immediate and violent. The universally recognized fact that Sims had given us by his gunnery methods of training ten fleets where before we had only one was quite lost sight of in the attack upon him.

"Mr. President, will you throw away nine fleets before exhausting all possible means of defeating this mysterious enemy to fast shooting?" Sims was reported to have asked Teddy Roosevelt when he was summoned to defend his methods.

Sims was confident the enemy could be overcome. It was by compressed air, which was delivered by a flexible hose from the torpedo air banks and used to blow the oily smoke out through the gun muzzles after the breeches were opened. The powder was  p110 kept at a distance until all the smoke had disappeared. Of course the loading interval was slowed down by many seconds.

A more scientific and quicker means was sought and found. As finally carried out, the general idea was to form a helix of air at pressure just in front of the mushroom head of the breech plug of every gun using powder in bags. (It is not necessary in guns using cartridge cases.) While the plug is opening, air at pressure, anywhere between 100 and 250 pounds, enters the bore through several small holes drilled through the gun at a point where the air will be behind the oily smoke and will expel it towards the muzzle at considerable speed. The valve admitting the air is opened automatically by a cam on the face of the plug and closed by hand after it is observed that all trace of the gas has disappeared from the bore of the gun.

Admiral Bob Evans, in command of the Atlantic Fleet during the Spring of 1905, was most strenuous in his maneuvers. There were the battle­ships: Maine, Missouri, Kearsarge, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana. The ships did not maneuver well together because of different turning circles, and there were many near collisions on that account. I was now in the Indiana, having decommissioned the Massachusetts, whose personnel had put the Indiana in commission.

During maneuvers I spent all my time on the bridge and was given the deck frequently by the captain. I was anxious to learn to handle a big ship. It was most exciting but often nerve-racking. The Indiana was the last vessel in column, and in consequence all the errors in distance of the ships ahead of us accumulated to throw us out of our proper position. We were either steaming at emergency speed or stopped most of the time. Apparently no one else seemed to appreciate our difficulty but ourselves, and we were often sent signals of reprimand by the flagship. One day, when I had the deck and thought that we had performed an evolution creditably, I was horrified to see a signal on the flagship reading: "Badly done." That was followed by the signal: "Who is the officer of the deck?"

I was about to have the signal quartermaster bend on the flags representing my number on the Navy List, when Captain Taussig stopped me, saying: "I'm on the bridge; bend on my number." It was a most generous gesture. I always emulated his example later when I was in command of a battle­ship. After all, the captain  p111 when on the bridge of his ship must accept all responsibility and cannot transfer any of it to others, at least ethically.

At the expiration of my tour of sea duty I was detached from the Indiana and, after a short leave of absence, ordered to report to the Superintendent of Naval Academy. Before reporting there, I took my examination for promotion to the grade of Lieutenant Commander. I was proud indeed when I received the new rank. I really felt I was getting somewhere at last.

Many naval men feel they must have at least one tour of duty at the Naval Academy as their personal contribution to the education of our future officers. Some, once having gone there, get the Naval Academy in the blood and go back again when their time for shore duty comes around once more. There are a number of what might be called Naval Academy "cruisers," who willingly spend most of their shore duty teaching midshipmen. It is to the majority a very pleasant detail; and, if one is fortunate in having the knack of patiently imparting his acquired naval knowledge and experience to others, no one begrudges him the detail. In my case, I believe I accepted the assignment when offered me because it was the most attractive available one when my time for shore duty came around. I had been at sea almost steadily since graduation, fourteen years before, except for the short tours of duty at Newport News and at the Navy Yard, Puget Sound. Also, Annapolis was near Baltimore, where my father, now retired, lived with the remainder of the family.

I was assigned to the Department of Seamanship. Captain A. W. Grant was the head of the department, and between us a friendship began which continued until his death many years later. Grant was a tireless worker and most progressive. He injected many new courses of study into the curriculum to make it more realistic to the students. He elevated the prestige of the department considerably; it had become old‑fashioned in its methods. The students had become supercilious about this ancient and obsolete art, boasting that they knew as much as the instructors, since the latter knew nothing themselves. But the midshipmen soon learned that to obtain even passing marks under Grant they had to know their lessons thoroughly, and in the examinations, all conceived by Grant himself, few students succeeded in getting a 2.5 unless they could show they knew what they were talking about. His questions were fair enough, but to answer them correctly a midshipman had to use his thinking power and not just  p112 his parrot-like memory of what the book said. If the questions could be answered at all, they could be answered in a few lines.

While at the Naval Academy then, I was persuaded by a Philadelphia publishing company to write a series of boys' books on naval life at sea. I began the first in 1906 and completed two while there. They were called A United States Midshipman series and five were published in the next few years. I probably have to answer for influencing many youths to join the Navy in order to experience the exciting life I pictured in my books, taking the young reader all over the world.

I found the Naval Academy a gay community. There was a lot of entertainment; in fact, too much for comfort. Amusement was plentiful, both cultural and athletic. Following as a fan the midshipmen teams in baseball, football, soccer, and lacrosse, I found most exciting.

The first summer I was there the midshipmen took their practice cruise in the Olympia and three monitors. I was the executive officer of the monitor Arkansas on this cruise with Commander Bradley Fiske as my captain. I enjoyed the cruise and did not resent the midshipmen. I found them much more to my liking at sea than ashore.

From Bath, Maine, Commander Fiske went to Washington for examination for promotion, and I was left in command of the ship. I was a lieutenant commander, thirty-five years old; yet, during my fifteen years since graduation, I had never commanded anything larger than a 250‑ton gunboat. Now, suddenly, I found myself with the responsibility of taking command of a 3500‑ton monitor on a cruise down the coast.

When we emerged from the Kennebec River, bound for Newport, we encountered the usual Maine fog and carried it with us for several days. I was anxious to navigate the ship through the channels north of Nantucket, called the Slough; but the fog was too thick to attempt to find the entrance safely. We took the longer route around the Nantucket Light Ship. I managed to find the Brenton Reef Light Ship and, encouraged by this, decided to keep on for the harbor, fog or no fog. I could not show cold feet before the midshipmen by anchoring outside and waiting for the fog to lift.

We stood on at seven knots, a speed that a destroyer would consider a snail's pace. As we approached the narrowing part of the entrance channel, I listened for the fog bell. I was anxious,  p113 as sounds are often most deceptive in a thick fog, and ships have been known to run ashore almost alongside of lighthouses, never having heard the siren. Suddenly I had a hunch and ordered the rudder full right. A moment later the fog thinned; and in the direction we had been heading, not far off, appeared the high land of the Jamestown shore. The fog bell also came booming in. If we had held our course a minute longer, we should have been stranded.

In the winter of 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt sent the Battleship Fleet, under Admiral Bob Evans, on a cruise around the world. Diplomatic relations with Japan had become rather alarming; and the move to concentrate our fleet in the Pacific seemed a wise one, even if it went no further. To reach the Pacific, a long cruise was obligatory around South America and through the Straits of Magellan. The Panama Canal had been started only the year before, and it would be a number of years before it would be completed.

At the end of the Naval Academy academic year, June 1908, the battle­ships had reached San Francisco. Admiral Evans was a sick man and could no longer continue in command. Admiral C. S. Sperry relieved him. I had an opportunity to be gunnery officer of the flagship Connecticut, and was greatly pleased when the Superintendent of the Naval Academy gave his approval of the transfer.

I joined the Connecticut about a month before the fleet sailed from the West Coast. The cruise was a strenuous one. The ships at that time were all painted white with buff upperworks. This peacetime color might be considered, on our part at least, to demonstrate to the world that our mission was a purely peaceful one. However, a few days would have been sufficient time to cover the white with several coats of war paint, which we carried along in the paint locker, already mixed, in case of any unpleasantness.

Our first port after leaving San Francisco was Honolulu, where we spent a week or so. The Connecticut entered the harbor, but most of the ships anchored outside. There I renewed many friendships of my cadet days. Pearl Harbor as a naval base was as yet only on paper, and there were few if any fortifications. The Army had some troops on the island. Many of the men were still under canvas, but barracks were being constructed.

Our next port of call was Auckland, New Zealand, and from there we went on to Sydney, Australia. Both the New Zealanders  p114 and the Australians made much of us. They felt that our visit was a demonstration on our part to assure these isolated colonies of Great Britain that in the event of serious difficulties they could count upon the great American Republic to stand by them. Sending our fleet there seemed to be telling the world that these cousins of ours in the South Pacific were considered still within our family circle, and that sixteen battle­ships could be depended upon to be on hand to help them ward off aggression.

We met the premiers and cabinet officers of these dominions, and also many ranking military and naval men who had fought for Great Britain in the Boer War. At frequent dinners and banquets we were told in no uncertain terms that to them Americans were even more like kin than the British. I remember that many of the colonial officers complained very bitterly of the patronizing attitude of the British military during the Boer War. They felt they could unburden their hearts to us and that we would understand. That was just about seven years before the World War, when both commonwealths furnished ungrudgingly their youth and their resources to fight for the British Empire. After that test of the unity of the empire, I feel sure that there exists today a much kindlier feeling between these far‑away colonies and their British relations living on that tight little island in the North Sea. The patronizing attitude so much resented by the colonials at that time is no more. The British Empire is now one.

Through her present policy and attitude of isolation, America no longer is looked upon by those far‑distant countries as a certain ally in case of urgent need. Yet, I am convinced that should there be a great war in the Pacific, it would find America solidly behind our distant cousins, and we would not leave them to fight an aggressor alone.

George III forced us to sever our lands from British domination, but he did not drain the blood from our veins. We shall find again, as we did when Tattnall manned a defeated British gunboat's guns against the Chinese Taku forts, and as we did in 1917, when we joined our war power to that of the allies at a time Britain's back was to the wall, that blood is thicker than water.

At Albany, Australia, Major Dion Williams, of the Marine Corps, and I met and were entertained by some officials of the government, and naturally we returned their courtesy by inviting  p115 them to dinner on board the Connecticut. On leaving the ship after dinner, they said they were going to send some specimens of Australia for us to take back to the United States. The next day a launch came alongside the Connecticut with a fair-sized zoo, all carefully crated and addressed to me. Before unloading our present, I went to see Commander Grant, the Admiral's chief of staff. He hastened on deck with me and looked down at the queer collection. Grant's vocabulary was most picturesque when he saw what the launch contained. He seemed at first inclined to send the cargo back. He was still uncertain, even after the crates were hoisted on deck and a curious crowd of sailors collected to see the rare animals. There were several small kangaroos or wallabies, a kangaroo rat the size of a rabbit, a half-dozen emus, a crate of savage dingos or wild dogs; but what took everyone's eye was the large assortment of birds, mostly parrots and cockatoos.

I noticed Grant was looking with admiring eyes at a beautiful white cockatoo. "That's your bird, I see, Commander," I said laughing. Grant took out his glasses and for the first time read the markings on the crates.

"Jumping Christmas," he exclaimed, "have you been robbing a zoo?"

Finally he relented, and the animals were parceled out to the ships.

From Albany, we cruised up through the Dutch East Indies to Manila. Then to Yokohama, Japan. The Japanese let themselves out to entertain us. They could not have been more hospitable, and it was spontaneous and not ordered. I went to Tokyo as aide to our captain, Hugo Osterhaus. The admirals, captains, and aides were put up at one of the palaces and were chaperoned everywhere by young Japanese naval aides. Of course our admiral and his captains were given an audience by the Emperor.

Leaving out the wonderful Geisha dance at the biggest theater in Tokyo, the highlights of the visit to me were a luncheon given by the Army and a dinner at the Naval Club. At both of these we rubbed elbows with the famous Japanese heroes of the war with Russia. At the Naval Club we fraternized with all ranks of the Japanese Navy and developed the closest communion over bottles of good wine and whiskey. I was surprised to learn that the Japanese have a great partiality for our whiskey. I introduced myself to Admiral Kamamura, who had commanded their armored cruiser squadron in the war with Russia. Just a short  p116 time before the war began, Kamamura had visited Manila with the Japanese Naval Academy Practice Squadron, and he and my father had struck up a friendship. They had entertained each other and had exchanged presents, a custom of the Orient. Now Kamamura insisted on drinking many toasts to my father and sent him his most cordial greetings, written on his visiting card. We both drank whiskey, and, although it did not seem to bother the Admiral, I was soon ready to call it a day.

The Fleet had started on this cruise ready for "a fight or a frolic." It turned out to be only a frolic. The Japanese Navy and people could not have been more cordial. I am confident the whole Japanese nation was impressed by the sight of our beautiful warships. However, in spite of the evident friendliness, neither navy was willing to divulge secrets, and everything in any way considered secret on board the ships was covered over to conceal them from prying eyes. I know we covered up lots of things that had no spy value, merely to make it appear that we had many new and important gadgets which we were unwilling to show. The Japanese, I feel sure, even went us one better, for almost everything was covered up. I recall that we covered a new potato peeler in a compartment just outside the galley that caused the greatest curiosity to the inquisitive Japanese.

In return for all the courtesy shown us, the Connecticut was used by the fleet to stage a very large afternoon reception the day before our departure. I had charge of arranging for the reception of the thousands of guests who almost swamped us. I had a detail of active young officers to help in the task of preventing too much congestion. I had typed instructions for each assistant, reading as I now remember:

"Be at the ––––– gangway. Select a number of guests. Escort them to receiving stand and then to ––––– food station. After that return to the same gangway for another dose."

That fatal word "dose" almost involved me in serious difficulty, and I feared for a time it might cause a diplomatic incident of considerable magnitude. One of those typed papers somehow got into the hands of a civilian Japanese guest. Possibly he was a diplomat of importance. I never knew. However, he was thorough, and determined to get to the very bottom of it; a strong characteristic of the race. As my name and rank were signed to the paper, he looked me up personally.

 p117  He bowed low, hissing through his teeth, then said in good English:

"What mean this word 'dose'?"

I suspected trouble, though as yet he was most polite. I began rather haltingly, for I was taken completely by surprise, to explain to him that there was no harm meant, that the word was only a simple colloquialism in America and used much in conversation.

"Ah, dose, that mean medicine, bitter medicine, yes," he insisted. I was worried. How was I to convince him that the word was harmless?

In his eyes my crime was one of insulting not only the Japanese Navy, who were prominently in evidence in their gold lace and war medals, but the whole Japanese nation from the Mikado down. It was a cool day but I felt my collar begin to wilt and my face flush in mortification at the inquisitorial air of this miniature man in a long frock coat and a top hat held in his hand. He might even decide to use his hara kiri knife to avenge the dishonor, but on me and not on himself. I certainly was on the spot with a vengeance.

"But no," I pleaded as eloquently as I could in my perturbation. "Medicine is for the purpose of making well. One takes a dose of medicine to cure. Can't you see that dose is good, not bad. It makes well."

The little Japanese was none too satisfied. He was still eyeing me suspiciously. I feel sure he thought I was inwardly laughing at him, although I was far from seeing any humor in the situation. Finally he bowed and left me standing, feeling I had gone through a third degree, not so much from his words as from the accusing look in his eyes and my own conscience. As he went, I heard him mumbling to himself aloud: "dose, dose."

The Japanese are a super-sensitive race. An awkward situation, I hoped, had been averted. I would know better next time.

After visiting Japan, Admiral Bill Emory took eight battle­ships to China, and the rest of us went to Manila, where Emory's squadron joined us later. There we held our new form of battle practice at a longer range than had been fired heretofore.

The sixteen battle­ships on this long cruise habitually steamed in formation, generally in two columns. Almost every day the two squadrons would open distance to give practice at sighting drill. The fleet was preparing for the advanced battle practice, prescribed  p118 by the Target Practice Office in Washington now under Sims, and to be held in Manila Bay. The first part of our gunnery work was to hold what is called calibration practice. The object was to discover the dispersion of the several calibers of guns at long ranges using the same sight bar range. The expected dispersion of the guns is a most important thing to know. Shots from big guns on board ship cannot be expected to fall in the same spot even if the same sight bar range is used. Too great dispersion is a very serious fault. After the calibration, each of the ships fired battle practice, I think at about eight thousand yards. The Connecticut made an excellent score.

There was an epidemic of cholera in the Philippines when the Fleet was there, but in spite of it, we gave liberty and were well entertained. Our next stop was Singapore. I visited Jahore and lunched at the Raja's palace on gold plate. There was a very charming German couple on their honeymoon at the luncheon, and she admired very much a captive tiger in a cage at the back of the building. The Raja had it poisoned, skinned, and salted, and sent it to her on board her ship.

From here we went to Colombo, Island of Ceylon, where Sir Thomas Lipton's tea comes from. Then Suez, Port Said. At Port Said we learned of the disastrous earthquake at Messina, Sicily. The Connecticut then sailed for Messina. As we steamed along the coast of Sicily, we could see through glasses the devastation wrought by the violent convulsion of nature; but even we were hardly prepared for the sight that met our eyes in the city of Messina. It was truly a city of the dead. A party of us went through the city with Italian army guides. There was hardly a house intact. Some had lost their entire fronts and looked like doll houses, all the furniture in place and pictures on the walls. Others were just a pile of rubble. At that time the estimate was that from 50 to 100 thousand lives had been wiped out, all in just a few minutes. We unloaded all our dry provisions and anything else that the Italian Relief asked from us. We remained only a day, then sailed for Naples. The Fleet was divided up between Algiers, Villefranche, and Gibraltar. After a fair stay we set sail on the last lap of our journey, for Hampton Roads.

President Theodore Roosevelt came down from Washington in the yacht Mayflower to welcome us. He made a speech on board the Connecticut, where all the high-ranking officers were assembled. He told us of the good effects of the cruise and congratulated  p119 the Navy upon its efficiency. I remember Sims, then a commander, was with him as his aide.

While the sixteen battle­ships were making this cruise around the world, there were many jealous critics, both in and out of the country, as to its value as a test of efficiency. The adverse remarks had been to the effect that there was nothing remarkable in it, for the speed was slow, only from ten to twelve knots, which any engine could stand, day in and day out; that the Fleet was not accompanied by destroyers and therefore was not prepared to fight a battle. The only destroyers in our Navy at that time were old and obsolete, and therefore that criticism was deserved. There were others that were true. The Fleet had to take coal from foreign colliers almost everywhere. If foreign merchant vessels had not been available to supply the Fleet, such a cruise could not have been made. It demonstrated the inadequacy of our merchant marine.

Roosevelt dismissed all criticism and hit the keynote of the Fleet's accomplishment by saying in his talk: "Other nations may be able to do it, but you have done it first." That was the point to make. It might be easy enough to fly the Atlantic, but Lindbergh did it first, and for that he won the plaudits of the world. Our battle­ships circumnavigated the globe in formation. Other nations may repeat that achievement but the American Fleet did it first. All others will be "also rans."

After the Fleet returned from the cruise, all ships were sent to their home navy yards for overhauling. The new basket masts and many other improvements were installed that experienced had taught would improve the Fleet's fighting efficiency. Then the white and buff paint was changed to battle­ship gray.

A rather typical story of how to obtain co‑operation between the seagoing and the shoregoing personnel of the Navy occurred when we were at the New York Navy Yard, just before our basket masts were installed in the Connecticut. I went up to the young naval constructor's office, Lieutenant Commander T. G. Roberts, one day to talk about work being done on the ship in which the gunnery officer was interested. There had been erected on the old battle­ship Indiana a new basket mast for test. Roberts suggested I go with him to examine it. He told me it had been decided to put the same installation in the Connecticut and that the ladders leading to the top, 122 feet in the air, would be iron ladders running on the outside of the mast, one on each side. He  p120 declared there was no reason to go to the extra expense of installing inside ladders, which I was advocating.

I explained that the modern sailor was not the old sailor type who could run up the masts of the old sailing ships without missing a heart beat. Those men were agile and immune from dizziness. The modern sailor cannot take it. I said: "We should have inside ladders and nettings for safety under each stage. There should be stages every twenty-five feet." He laughed and said that would be coddling the young men and that they would soon get accustomed to it just as we did in the old Constellation. I saw I could not change him, so I suggested we go over and make of ourselves a practical example. I said: "Let's climb your vertical ladder on the outside and see what our sensations are. You and I as cadets did it long ago, but now we are just like these young landsmen of ours, soft and flabby compared to the old time sailors."

We started up the mast. I must say I did not feel any too happy. When I got to the top, I looked down and Roberts was holding on for dear life, as white as a sheet of paper. I was not feeling any too good myself. I held out my hand and helped him up the last few feet. The first thing he said when he had reached a position of security and had got his breath was: "You shall have the inside ladders."

After several months a new Fleet, most formidable in appearance, emerged from the navy yards and assembled at Hampton Roads under a new commander in chief, Admiral Seaton Schroeder. I had become navigator of the Connecticut, relieving a classmate, Lieutenant Commander George Day, who navigated the flagship on the world cruise. Captain A. W. Grant was the captain of the ship. I was delighted to have him as my captain, and he taught me a lot I did not know about taking star sights.

The Fleet was beginning to become conscious of itself as a fighting force. We had still been thinking too much in single ships; it was time we gave more thought to how we were going to use our Fleet in battle with a well-prepared enemy. The Fleet lacked many types of essential ships. There were practically no destroyers to protect the battle­ships from torpedo attack. Tests had proved that a battle­ship at night could not guard itself from destroyer attack. Searchlights and guns were not sufficiently effective. Destroyers on a dark night could reach positions for attack with torpedoes before discovery. Also the anti-torpedo guns in  p121 battle­ships then could not sink the destroyers before they reached torpedo range at night, therefore it was urgently necessary to advance the guns to where they could sink the enemy torpedo vessels. That meant but one thing: a guarding screen of destroyers around the Fleet at about two miles' distance, armed with guns to sink the attacking enemy destroyers, which the battle­ships could neither discover with their searchlights nor be certain of sinking with their guns when discovered.

In other words we needed many destroyers for defense. We owned now woefully few. At this time, I wrote several articles on this subject for the Naval Institute. In them I advocated four destroyers for each battle­ship. We owned or were building twenty-five battle­ships. All more or less modern. Therefore we needed one hundred destroyers at once. At that time, if we omit the obsolete ones, there were just five modern destroyers in commission and five building. The beginning of the World War in 1914 found us with only half the number needed.

There were ten armored cruisers, but at that time they never cruised or maneuvered with the battle­ships. My opinion is that the Navy Department was playing politics with the high commands. Rivalries made it inconvenient to bring these two forces together. Personalities interfered with the Navy's fighting efficiency. It was the same old trouble: one man or a clique in control of the Navy. As for light cruisers, there were none worthy of the name. Three had been built, but it was not until 1916 that a real type of very fast light cruiser was authorized. Submarines were painfully slowly developing. Up to 1909, twenty-eight had been authorized, the largest about 500 tons.

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Page updated: 29 Oct 14