‘Here take us; you have won the game only too brilliantly.’ German Naval Surrender November 20, 1918 Reply

The day the German High Seas fleet was surrendered – November 20, 1918

From the diary of a German Naval Officer “Monday, Nov. 19 – The undefeated German fleet is going out to meet the enemy who anxiously avoided it for four years and says to him, ‘ Here take us; you have won the game only too brilliantly.’ … I wept and I am not ashamed of it.”

It has been a hundred years since the guns fell silent on that cold and bitter November day in Europe. The sound of silence had to have been deafening to the men who survived the last desperate bombardments that churned up the French countryside for the last time. The War to End All Wars was coming to a close but only on the land.

What about the powerful forces of the German Navy?

This story captures the end of the naval war and the end of the submarine campaign. Up until this day, German submarines had wreaked havoc in the Atlantic. The German fleet was largely intact even though it was affected by the same suffering of the people at home.  The submarine force was still a potent threat.

U- Boat is the abbreviation of ‘unterseeboot’, which when translated into English means ‘undersea boat’.

When the First World War began the German Navy possessed 29 U-Boats. The Imperial Navy had rejected submarines as a distraction in 1900 and were more inclined to follow the traditional growth patterns of the navy’s of their day. The main focus was on large gun bearing ships that would be able to slug it out with their English counterpart in dramatic open ocean battles. In fact, one of the most dramatic surface engagements of all time was a fulfillment of that vision.

But the little U boats would have a profound impact on the conduct of the war and were the main weapon that nearly brought England to her knees. England is highly dependent on other sources for food, fuel and raw materials and the German U-Boats were responsible for destroying around half of all the food and supplies transported by the British Merchant Navy.

  • In the first 10 weeks of the war they sank five British cruisers.
  • Between October 1916 and January 1917 a grand total of 1.4 million tons of allied shipping was lost to the U-Boats.
  • These losses were eventually curtailed when the allies introduced escorted convoys with merchant ships surrounded by military vessels.
  • During WW1 Germany built 360 U-Boat submarines, 178 of which were lost. In total they were responsible for the loss of more than 11 million tons of allied shipping.

The German Navy’s U-boats were also instrumental in the sinking of the passenger liner and auxiliary cruiser, the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915, which was one of the main events that led to the United States joining the war two years later in 1917.

As the war drew to a close, the German Naval High Command wanted one more chance to change the outcome. They developed in top secrecy Naval order of 24 October 1918

This operation resulted from the exchange of diplomatic notes, beginning on 5 October 1918, between the new German government under Prince Max of Baden and President Woodrow Wilson, in which Germany asked the President to mediate an armistice. One of Wilson’s preconditions was the cessation of Germany’s submarine war. Despite the objections of Admiral Scheer, the Chief of the German Admiralty Staff, the German Government made this concession on 20 October. The U-boats at sea were recalled on 21 October. In response, on 22 October Scheer ordered Admiral Hipper, commander of the High Seas Fleet, to prepare for an attack on the British fleet, utilizing the main battle fleet, reinforced by the newly available U-boats. Hipper’s order was promulgated on 24 October; Scheer approved it on 27 October. The Fleet then began to concentrate at Schillig Roads off Wilhelmshaven to prepare for the battle.

The German fleet still possessed a large capacity to inflict damage. The new availability of the U boats to support the operation was of great value to the commanders of the fleet. The boats would be able to penetrate English territory, broadcast their movement and create havoc by sinking the deploying fleets as they came into the channel.

The plan called for 25 U-boats to be deployed in six lines in the southern North Sea, in the hope of ambushing British ships sailing to counter-attack the German Fleet raiding forces. Other U-boats were to undertake special operations involving British Naval Bases. On 23 October seven U-boats at large in the North Sea (U-108, UB-86, UB-121, UB-125, UB-96, UC-58 and U-60) were diverted by wireless signals to take up positions off Rosyth, in order to give the alarm when the British Fleet sailed, and hopefully launch attacks. In addition, U-43, also at sea, was directed to take up a watching position near the Tyne. Starting on 24 October, the other U-boats began departing from their base at Heligoland to their patrol areas.

Two of these U-boats were lost. The first, U-78 (Oblt. Johann Vollbrecht), sailed on 27 October from Heligoland for a minelaying mission off the Scottish East Coast, but she was torpedoed and sunk the same day by the British submarine G2 in the central North Sea, roughly 280 nautical miles (520 km; 320 mi) east of the Firth of Forth. All 40 crewmen were lost.

The other submarine to be sunk was UB-116, which sailed from Heligoland on 25 October with special orders to attack the British fleet anchorage at Scapa Flow. She was commanded by the 26-year-old Oberleutnant zur See Hans Joachim Emsmann who, since first becoming a U-boat captain in February 1918, had sunk a total of 26 ships. She attempted to enter Scapa Flow submerged by the southern passage, Hoxa Sound, on the evening of 28 October. Hydrophones mounted ashore at Stanger Head, Flotta, alerted the British defenses, and the sea-bed magnetometer loops, designed to detect the magnetic signatures of incoming vessels and thus trigger remote-controlled mines, were activated. Emsmann raised his periscope at 11:30 pm, presumably to check his position, and was spotted by look-outs on shore; the mines detonated shortly thereafter, leaving the submarine disabled on the sea bed. She was finished off by depth charges from defense trawlers shortly thereafter; all 37 crew members were lost.

Two other submarines, UB-98 and UB-118 were damaged in collision with each other on 28 October, and had to return to port. Two others, UB-87 and UB-130 also aborted their missions due to breakdowns.

The remaining fleet faced difficulties of its own. Sailors on most of the German ships were in a rebellious mood. The news of the defeats on land and the entry of America into the war had made their plight untenable. Families at home relayed stories of mass starvation and privation and the thought of this desperate attack this late in the war was madness. There were mutinies on many of the ships and in the end the plan was cancelled.

Less than two weeks later, the war came to an end with the signing of the armistice;

From the book Bluejackets of 1918; being the story of the work of the American … Navy in the world war (Abbot, Willis John, 1863-1934.)

“It was on the 11th of November, 1918, at 11 o’clock A.M. — eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour the newspapers pointed out — that the World War was brought to an end by the signing of the armistice at General Foch’s headquarters at La Capelle.

German delegates had been brought, blindfolded, through the Allied lines the night before, for requests from Germany for a cessation of hostilities during the peace negotiations had been sternly refused. Foch had the enemy on the run and was in no mood to yield any shred of his advantage. It was an army peace, of course, and in the negotiations the navy had no share, although Vice Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, First Lord of the British Admiralty, and Vice Admiral William S. Sims were present.

Briefly summarized the conditions of the armistice affecting naval conditions were as follows:

The immediate surrender to the Allies and the United States of all German submarines, including mine-layers. The internment and disarmament of practically all the German surface men-of-war to await the action of the peace conference and their final disposition by treaty.

All German aircraft to be concentrated and demobilized at specified places.

Indication to the Allies and the United States of the location of all mines that the seas might be cleared of mine-fields.

Opening of the Baltic to all nations.

Evacuation of all Belgian ports and surrender of all vessels of every class therein.

The announcement by the Germans to the world of the abandonment of submarine warfare, and the conclusion of the war upon the sea.

In accordance with these terms of the armistice the chill and desolate harbor of Scapa Flow in the Orkneys was fixed as the place of internment for the German surface fleet.

The surrender was ordered for November 20, 1918.

Before the main fleet was turned over to the combined naval forces of England, France and the United States the first twenty submarines were delivered to Rear Admiral Tyrwhitt off Harwich at sunrise on that day. The British force that received the surrender of these sinister underwater boats consisted of five light cruisers and twenty destroyers. A big observation balloon hung over the fleet and as the ceremony took place at early dawn the picturesqueness of the occasion was added to by the sun rising in the east, while a great white moon still shone in the west.

No chances were taken on the British vessels. The paravanes were rigged outboard to divert any mines that might be drifting in the neighborhood. Officers and men put on their life-belts, and as the enemy appeared in the offing the gun crews went to their stations as though it were a battle, not an abject surrender, for which preparations were making. No flags flew over the enemy vessels as they steamed sullenly out from their coast, but strips of bunting flying from the British flagship gave them the peremptory order to fall in line and follow the British lead. They obeyed. From every vessel of the victorious squadron sharp eyes watched the defeated foe. Once two carrier pigeons were seen to rise from the tower of a submarine, and instantly a signal was flashed forbidding any repetition of this effort to communicate with the land they had left. Off Harwich the whole fleet came to anchor.

Two German light cruisers had accompanied the enemy fleet and to them the German sailors from each submarine were transferred. As the boats were thus abandoned white flags were run up on each with the German ensign below, and they were towed into the tidal basin at Harwich. The whole ceremony was conducted without any manifestation of triumph, and indeed in almost complete silence.

So ended the German effort to enforce the will of the Kaiser by undersea war.”

THE SURRENDER OF THE GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET, NOVEMBER 1918 (Q 19319) German submarine crews transferring to a motor launch to await repatriation, Harwich. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193797

The German submarines that were surrendered were meant for destruction but not before the victors in turn took a chance to see the technology that had wreaked so much havoc. Five of the boats ended up in American hands for a while. Improvements based on those discoveries were blended into American submarine technology. Despite the intent of the British to ban all submarine warfare in the naval treaties that were about to be written, submarine warfare survived. The technology, operations, and innovation would lead to a leap forward for the American Navy that prepared it for a surprising role in the Second World War.

 

Mister Mac

Tigers of the Sea – Nerves of Iron and Steel Reply

I’ve heard submarines called many things in my life but this was the first time I have ever heard the term “Tigers of the Sea”. It’s been over a hundred years since “THE MARVEL BOOK OF AMERICAN SHIPS”, by Captain Orton P. Jackson, U.S.N., and Major Frank E. Evans, U.S.M.C. was published. The term is one that they included in their writing.

There is no preface in the book that explains the purpose for which it was written. Since it was published in 1917, it is almost assured that most of the material was written before the Americans entered the First World War. The book is broken into types of chapters one would expect from a contemporary book about the US Navy. In over 380 pages, the authors cram in a lot of information about the American Navy past and present. But surprising to me was the placement of the submarine section.

Up until 1914, the giant battleships were considered the most powerful weapon afloat. Indeed, even in 1917 when this book was published, that had not changed. Pearl Harbor and the annihilation of the British Battleships by Japanese airplanes was a faraway series of events. So it was surprising that the authors chose to place submarine warfare in the second chapter rather than at the end as an afterthought. Maybe the sinking of the Lusitania and many other ships by the Huns was fresh on their minds and maybe the authors were just enthusiastic about the new weapons and their potential.

For whatever the reason, the story of the American submarine occupies a very significant place in the book they ended up publishing.

Who manned the “Tigers of the Sea?

The character of the men who pioneered the use of submarines has always been described in heroic terms. The sea is a dangerous place to begin with. The testimony is how many ships throughout man’s history have been damaged or lost even in times of peace. The sea is unpredictable, ever changing and possesses more power in its bosom than nearly anything else on earth.

The sea can also be relentless when it is in the wrong mood. I have ridden her waves on everything to a submarine that was nearly as old as I was at the time to the largest carrier of its day (USS Nimitz). Both offered little comfort when the waves were on the rise and we were far from land.

But operating a submarine in the early days was particularly challenging. The construction of the boats limited their ability to dive in very deep waters and the modern safety devices that are taken for granted in this age simply did not exist. The men who sailed on the fledgling “subs” were simply audacious in their courage. The authors called the boats “The Tigers of the Seas” and simply stated that the men who operated them required nerves of Iron and steel.

The US Navy was still focused on the power of its battleships for future influence. But it is interesting to see how some were impressed enough to capture the life of these sub sailors and their craft. It’s also interesting to note that some of the same challenges they face then are still challenges today.

From: The marvel book of American ships, by Captain Orton P. Jackson, U.S.N., and Major Frank E. Evans, U.S.M.C. With twelve colored plates and over four hundred illustrations from photographs. (1917)

OUR UNDERSEA FIGHTERS

OF all the craft that make up the Fleet, from the grim dreadnought and its powerful fourteen-inch monsters to the fussy steam-launch and its one-pounder gun in the bow, there is none that should have the same interest for the American boy as the submarine. Of all the units of the Fleet it is the one distinctively American product of inventive genius. It was an American, Robert Fulton, then living in France, in 1800, who designed the first submarine. It was another American citizen, John P. Holland, who built the first submarine that met its tests successfully, and which carried within its steel skin practically all of the principles of the modern submarine.

As far back as the sixteenth century men dreamed of a boat that could travel beneath the seas, just as men dreamed of a craft that could sail through the skies with the freedom of a great bird. Not until the two Americans, Fulton and Holland, made their practical contributions to this end did the submarine of to-day emerge from the realms of visions to its grim power. Jules Verne, in his remarkable romance, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, only sketched the wonderful possibilities of the craft that he dreamed of.

Of all ships, the submarine is the only one that can maneuver beneath the waves as well as on the surface, and the dreadnought of 27,000 tons is an easy victim to the submarine of one-fiftieth her tonnage when the submarine takes her unawares.

It remained for the European War, more than a century after Fulton’s design, to vindicate the prophecies that the submarine would play a great part in the struggle for the control of the seas. The war stripped the submarine of much of its mystery, for every American boy now knows something of the part it plays in naval warfare, of how it fights and how, in turn, it is hunted to be either captured or sunk.

It must be a matter of national pride that Americans gave to that war one of its mightiest engines. American-built submarines, too, showed to the world that the tiny undersea craft, assembled in this country, were heard from in the fighting at the Dardanelles, having, traveled five thousand sea leagues away.

SECTIONAL VIEW OF A SUBMARINE

Ever since the United States Government accepted the first successful submarine, the Holland, in 1898, all navies of the world have built, and are building, fleets of submarines. They have increased in size, power, and seagoing abilities until Germany produced the super- submarine, the Deutschland, with its displacement of 2,300 tons submerged, in the summer of 1916. The Deutschland was the first demonstration of the part that the big undersea craft are destined to play in the development of commerce as well as its destruction. Unarmed, she ran the formidable British blockade from Bremen to Baltimore and back, her hull loaded with priceless contraband, and returned, making Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the second trip.

The ordinary type of submarine used by the United States Navy has about 500 tons of submerged displacement, much smaller than the seagoing submarines used by the European nations in their raids on commerce and in their blockades. It was left to them to prove that the submarine was even a more formidable weapon, in some respects, than those who knew it best under peace conditions had claimed. There had been practically no chance to test out its efficiency except under peace conditions. Naval officers not only had had no practical opportunity to prove out their theories of attack, but there had been no practical chance to build up a defense against the untried weapon.

Like the torpedo, without the use of which the undersea boat would have remained little better than a toy, the submarine is so shaped. In reality it is a submerging or diving torpedo-boat, driven on the surface by oil engines, below the sea by electric power, and discharges torpedoes at its enemy.

The torpedo tubes of a submarine vary in number according to the size of the boat. Some types carry their tubes aft, some on the broadside, but the majority carry them forward. The torpedoes used are the same as those fired from destroyers and from battleships.

The torpedo itself is astonishingly accurate because of the gyroscopic mechanism which, acting on a vertical rudder, holds it true to its course. The difficulty in aiming the torpedo in submarine work is great and this alone has saved many ships from destruction.

Because the submarine does the greater part of its deadly work while partially or totally submerged, and because its only protection against an enemy ship lies in diving, it is built to meet the great pressure on its hull. Unlike other craft it is therefore usually built in circular sections, because this form gives it the strength needed.

When the submarine runs on the surface it is driven by oil engines with a speed which ranges around 15 knots. When the “sub,” as its crew calls it, dives and runs submerged, it is propelled by electric motors which are fed by storage batteries. At target practice they run submerged at about 8 knots, and one improvement for which all navies are striving is to increase this speed below water.

The new submarines that are now building for our Navy will average about 800 tons displacement when submerged, be about 250 feet long and will have a speed on the surface of about 19 knots, and a maximum speed below of nearly 14 knots. The “subs” of this type will cost $1,200,000 without figuring on the armor and the armament. To build them longer would increase the danger in diving, but they will be as seaworthy, speedy, powerful, and comfortable as any submarine afloat.

At one stage of the submarine’s development carbonic acid gas was a danger to which running awash the crew was exposed and it was customary to carry white mice as pets on the “subs,” for they quickly collapsed at the first trace of it. Now mechanical devices show the formation of any gas, such as hydrogen, which is odorless. As the current developed while running submerged is quickly used up at high speed, the undersea fighter usually runs at slow speed, using the high speed only for short spurts. The current can only be replaced by coming to the surface, operating the oil engines, and recharging the batteries; so that the maximum speed can only be made while on the surface.

Like the torpedoes that have made the submarine the most dreaded of all sea fighters, the modern submarine is divided into watertight compartments. These are the torpedo, crew, battery, diving, and engine compartments; spare torpedoes are carried in the crew quarters.

Life on a submarine is no bed of roses, but the Navy never lacks for volunteers for the flotilla. It carries extra pay to make up in part for its discomforts, but more than all the lure of danger attracts the American bluejacket.

The living quarters, built for crews ranging from ten to thirty men, are damp, cramped, and the air is usually foul with oily vapors and stale air. At best the amount of fresh air in a submarine is one- third that which a man enjoys on a surface-operating ship. In rough weather, whether running above or below water, the percentage of seasickness is high even with men who never have felt its pangs on board a battleship in the worst of storms. On the surface, in nasty weather, everything is closed but the conning tower hatch and then conditions within the “sub” are almost as bad as when running submerged.

In the regular channels it is hard to sink to a depth that will bring any relief, but out in the open sea, when a gale rages, she can sink to a depth of one hundred feet. Even then there is an up and down motion, which the crew calls “pumping,” that cannot be escaped. It is only on cruises of a fortnight or so, however, that a submarine crew gets no relief from these conditions. Between runs, and while in port or at the submarine base, the crews live in airy barracks or sling their hammocks in tenders that are detailed with each flotilla as a mother ship.

Little shows above the deck of the submarine on the surface but the conning tower, which stands about six feet above deck. The surface navigation is done exactly as with other vessels, the captain and helmsman using the conning tower for their station. Below the water the periscope takes the place of the conning tower. A rapid-fire gun, running in caliber up to one that fires a fourteen-pound shell, and the radio for signaling purposes, are housed in the superstructure or recessed in the hull when the submarine makes its dive. The gun is used both for halting merchantmen that try to escape and in blockade duties. A submarine bell for use while submerged has been added to the modern submarine’s signal equipment; and another great improvement ite the use of electric stoves for cooking, the current being taken from the storage batteries.

When the submarine finds it necessary to submerge preparatory to an attack, to escape an enemy ship, or for practice, all openings in the hull are closed by watertight hatches. The Holland type has diving rudders, and the Lake boat—our two leading types—flat projecting fins forward and aft, called hydroplanes, and both sink nearly on an even keel. Water is then admitted to destroy the natural buoyancy of the craft, by way of the ballast tanks. The diving rudders, forward at the bow, and aft at the stern, are deflected, and the water closes over the sea tiger, leaving but a few bubbles to mark its going.

A gauge registers the depth to which she sinks. The greatest depth at which she operates is ordinarily one hundred feet, but submarines have operated as far down as from two hundred to two hundred and fifty feet. Here the pressure of the water is so powerful that there is danger of crushing the sides and being unable to rise to safety. To test the strength of a new submarine’s hull they must submerge to one hundred and fifty feet, if they are of the large type, as this has been found to leave the right margin of safety.

When running submerged the swish of a ship’s propellers in the vicinity can be heard inside the submarine; and when the captain is thus warned of the enemy’s presence he can rest in peace on a clean bed of sand while the submarine hunters cruise vainly above.

Without the periscope the submarine would be a blinded fighter. It’s most deadly work is done at a submerged distance which shows but a foot or two of the periscope’s tip. The periscope is a long vertical tube of small diameter, with prisms at either end and the necessary lenses. Eighteen feet above the deck it runs; and below, where the other end pierces the hull, is the eyepiece for the observer.

It can be turned in any direction, and when an enemy ship, or a merchantman trying to run the blockade, comes within its field, the submarine is suddenly transformed into a formidable and stealthy sea tiger. The periscope becomes its eyes, and the dials, compasses, and other instruments of the fire-control its brain. The engines that carry it to effective range are its swift, tireless legs, and the destructive charge of 250 pounds of gun-cotton in the unleashed torpedo the death- dealing jaws and rending claws of the great cat that has seen its prey and steals up on it with the skill of a tiger stalking a buffalo.

The submarine chooses to fight at as close quarters as can be had with safety, to cut down the chance of missing its big quarry, and because an unlimited supply of the $8,000 torpedoes cannot be carried. As soon as its target is discovered—it may be miles distant—the captain takes his bearings and down goes the “sub” and with it the telltale periscope that, once seen, draws a shower of shells which would crush its skin as though it were but an eggshell. Then he dives and steers by his bearings to a range as close as is wise. Up goes the periscope for a final aim, just high enough to make it certain, and the submarine swings about to bring its torpedo tubes in line with the target. In the time that the torpedo covers a thousand yards a dreadnought will steam twice her length; and this, and the conditions of the weather, must be quickly and accurately considered by the “sub’s” skipper. The war has shown that when a submarine is discovered the only safety for a vessel is to steer a zigzag course and crowd on enough steam to let the torpedo go tearing by. The slightest error in aim is fatal to a submarine’s chances of a telling hit.

When the exact position is determined comes the word: “Stand by to fire a torpedo! . . . Fire!” Straight as an arrow speeds the cigar-shaped missile and its deadly gun-cotton, traveling ten to fifteen feet below water to make its hit beneath the vulnerable waterline of its target. The compressed air that is its motive power shows in the torpedo’s wake in a sinister track of light air-bubbles. The impact of the torpedo’s head on the hull of the luckless ship explodes the shattering charge of gun-cotton and this first explosion is felt slightly within the hull of the waiting submarine. Often there is a second explosion if the torpedo finds the ship’s boilers or her powder magazines.

Then the diving rudders are reversed, the ballast tanks pumped out by compressed air, and the long, shark-like body creeps warily to the surface for a “look see,” as the sailors have it. The critical moment, whenever a “sub” rises, begins when the periscope has climbed to a point where it reaches the depth of a ship’s keel. It ends only after the periscope’s tip shakes off the water and the captain can sweep the surface with its aid.

All this time his craft is like a great, blinded fish, helpless against attack. As the tip clears the surface the dark shade of the sea fades to the grass green of the undersurface, and then white air-bubbles can be seen as the silver touch of daylight signals the return to the surface. With the nerves of the crew at high tension, iron men though they are, comes the search for the enemy. A seething white cloud of steam pouring from the open hatches and ports of the crippled vessel tells its tale. A few minutes later there is nothing but a huddle of wreckage to show where the submarine has added another to its grewsome toll.

Just as the European War brought the possibilities of the submarine to a skill never dreamed of, so has it brought to the front the methods of hunting down and destroying or capturing it. On blockade duty trawlers, towing between them grappling lines, sweep suspected areas for them. To protect the clumsy trawlers torpedo craft patrol outside with unceasing vigil and tow explosive-laden sweeps behind them. At other points where submarines have been reported are stretched stationary nets with mines above. The explosive sweeps and the mines, when detonated by the touch of the submarine, explode with deadly effect.

Many submarines in the course of the war were caught in nets of wire. Their propellers fouled in the meshes, and as the submarines were closed tight against the water, it was impossible for them to cut the net away. When trapped in this manner their fate was sealed. The initial air carried inside a submarine lasts but little more than half a day. Then air had to be used from the air flasks or “banks” and the foul air could not be pumped out, as then would come a vacuum in which the crew could not live. Three days or possibly four and the trapped sea tiger held only a dead crew.

Seaplanes, when the sea is calm, the bottom light in color, and the air conditions good, can spot and follow submarines when they are within fifty feet of the surface.

It calls for men of iron nerves and quick decision to man our submarines either in peace or in war. Submarine experts look upon the factor of nerves as the most important of all, and they have given to it the title of calculation. Within the cramped walls that are the home of the crew are housed the most intricate mechanisms that man has invented for warfare. Outside its steel walls are mines, great nets of wire, explosives, shells, and seaplanes, all devised for its destruction, and the sharp keels of ships that slice through a submarine as a knife cuts cheese. The smallest shell can penetrate the steel skin, and nets can hold the submarine as helpless as a child in the grasp of a giant.

Danger lies everywhere for the tiger of the seas. The ocean in which it lives is a powder tank that needs but a spark. Only nerves of iron can cope against such an array of enemies. The slightest hesitation of its captain in the face of any one of them means the end of his ship and his crew. As one expert has put it, the whole A B C of submarine warfare is the ability to meet any situation at an instant’s warning and then to act with nerves of steel.

I have often wondered how long ago someone came up with the term “Steel Boats and Iron Men”.

Seems pretty close.

Mister Mac

A Prophesy From Nearly a Hundred Years Ago is Just as True Today 8

Everywhere you look these days, people are reacting to the senseless deaths of innocent people and wondering how we can stop the killing.

I think its a fair question. But I think we are not examining the root causes of what seems to be an increase in evil actions. Society has become very sophisticated since the days when the Europeans and others came to the shores of America. The vast country that lay before them was already inhabited, albeit with people who were not as organized and ready to repel the invaders. The resulting turmoil between natives and invaders was exacerbated by the conflict between the “Old Countries” that sought to take advantage of the new lands for their own purposes.

At one point, the invaders became the nation we are today.

The old ways of kings and queens were rejected and a representative form of government emerged. Laws were struck and revised and slowly the nation evolved as a new entity with a purpose and a culture of its own. Along the way, a man or a woman no longer had the day to day fear of attack from the forces of nature, other warring parties, or just people with bad purposes. Communities sprung up and men no longer had to carry their weapons openly to provide for individual liberties and security. Gunfights in the street diminished and new laws were created to govern behavior. The police would be the new protectors and ordinary people could just go about their business building the new country.

See the source image

But all of those circumstances were surrounded by one constant. We had moral codes. We had religion as a backbone to society and a family structure that held people and particularly children accountable. Schools had structure, business had rules, the police were respected if not feared, and the government was something that was there to help manage it all.

Well, that is the illusion anyway. Things always seem to look better in the rear view mirror.

I have been researching the early 1900’s for a book I am writing. Some of the articles I have been finding come from the Library of Congress’s Project called Chronicling America. The project entails digitally recording newspapers in their entirety from all over the country. This storehouse of information is free (so far) and shines a light on what the world was really like back in the day. Some of the stories about what really did happen back in the day. Killings by shooting, stabbing, poisoning and so on fill many of the pages. Violence all over the world is recorded in nearly every decade. Bank robbing’s, stickups, home invasions, and on and on. Frankly, the idea that violence is a new thing is as ludicrous as thinking that man has ever really had a peaceful period.

The main difference now is the way we are all connected electronically through the internet and cable.

Unless you live in a cave and have no connection (which means you aren’t able to read this) you are being influenced by someone’s opinion or interpretation of the facts as they occur. Somewhere today, large groups of young people who were disturbed enough to put down their video games, are gathering to protest something. Some believe that taking away everyone’s guns will make it a safer world. The less idealized may think that just regulating the guns is a good solution. Mind you, none of them is old enough to own a gun, but they somehow have the wisdom to know how to fix what has been an almost non stop problem since the day Cain picked up the first rock.

See the source image

The question of guns and weapons is not a new one.

In 1919, the first World War had just ended and the countries were still counting the cost of the carnage. New and powerful weapons had reached an industrial strength that no one could have imagined. Mass bombardments, gas, machine guns, airplane and even the deadly creature from the sea called a submarine. In the months and years that followed Armistice Day, nations began the struggle to contain the beasts they had unleashed. The British had been particularly hard hit by the submarine menace and determined to eradicate the foul little beast no matter the cost. Other nations who saw the boats as a great equalizer fought hard to prevent the Brits from having their way. The American’s saw the fledgling weapon as a tool of the future. Its a good thing they did. When the Japanese left the battleship fleet lying on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, it was American Submarines that helped to carry the war back to the enemy almost immediately. Imagine if the Brits had been successful in their quest.

This is an article from the time that was pretty prophetic

From “The Washington times. (Washington [D.C.]), 17 Jan. 1919”

I would suggest that we pay heed to those words of nearly a hundred years ago.

For all those willing to surrender the second amendment, how do you propose protecting the remaining amendments?

Or are you just going to rely on the good will of others?

#notme

Mister Mac

Sinking of the F-1 on December 17, 1917 1

Robert Bradshaw  is one of my oldest shipmates (and by old I mean we have known and stayed in contact longer than any of my other Navy colleagues).

On the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the submarine F-1 he sent me a clipping from the San Diego Union Archives.   

Thanks for the idea Bob.

By the way, you might have seen the link to his web site on the right hand side of the blog. I don’t normally do a lot of advertising but his art work is definitely worth looking at and makes a great gift for a family member or something nice for your own walls.

http://www.inpleinsight.com/home

The F-1 Started out as the Carp (SS-20)

The submarine torpedo boat Carp (SS-20), the latest and most efficient type of underwater fighter, was launched on September 6, 1911 at the Union Iron Works. Miss Josephine Tynan, little daughter of Joseph. J. Tynan, general manager of the Iron Works, christened the fish-like craft, and the launching was accomplished on time and without a hitch. On the launching platform were officers of the army and navy, members of the national legislature, representatives of foreign governments – and ” men and women prominent in society. Before the launching, W. R. Sands, representing the Electric – Boat Company, pinned a dainty gold watch on little’ Miss Tynan’s breast, and President McGregor of the Union Iron Works “decorated the girl with a jeweled locket.


There was a crash of breaking glass, and the Carp, its green snout dripping with champagne, went scooting down the ways and into the water, which welcomed the latest addition to the navy with a great splash.” 

Submarine technology was still in its infant stage in 1911 but the Carp represented the latest in underwater technology.

Gone were the days of gasoline powered boats. Instead, she was fitted out with diesels and improved batteries. She had four eighteen inch torpedo tubes and could dive to a depth of 200 feet. Her seed was also an improvement over earlier classes since she could make 13.5 knots on the surface and 11.5 knots submerged.

Less than a year later, the submarine force was reminded just how perilous the job could be. In 1912, she had two incidents which seemed to foretell a challenging future. In the first, she was doing a test dive and exceeded her design by going to 283 feet. While performing that evolution, the unthinkable happened.

She would have another incident that year. F-1 (SS-20), ran aground off Watsonville, Ca, 11 October 1912. Two men were killed in the accident.

 

But the real tragedy was still in the boat’s future

One hundred years ago, on Dec. 17, 1917, Submarine F-1 sank about 15 miles west of the San Diego Harbor entrance after colliding with a sister submarine. Nineteen sailors lost their lives; the commander and four men on the bridge escaped. Details of the tragedy remained secret for almost 50 years. From the Union, Aug. 30, 1970:

Navy Lifts 50 Year Silence On Point Loma Sub Sinking

By JOHN BUNKER

On Dec. 18, 1917, the Navy Department issued a brief, cryptic press release to the effect that an American submarine had been lost “along the American coast.” There were no details. Not until many hours later did it become know that the submarine was the F-1 and that it had sunk within sight of San Diego. The tragedy had occurred on Dec. 17 but not until Dec. 19 was The San Diego Union able to print the barest facts about the accident and give the names of five survivors and the 19 who went down with the ship.

 

“The Navy has withheld details,” the story said.

Because of wartime censorship, no details were ever released and as the years passed, the sinking of the F-1 became an almost unknown and virtually forgotten incident in American naval history.

Now that the 50-year period of military “restricted classification” has passed on the reports of this sinking, full details are available from government records in Washington. They show that the tragedy was caused, as are so many sea accidents, by a simple failure in communications.

F-1 built by the Union Iron Works at San Francisco, was launched Sept. 6, 1911. During construction she was known as the USS Carp and on the naval list was Submarine Torpedo Boat 20.

The designation was changed to F-1 in November 1911, after the secretary of the Navy had ordered letters and numerals for submarines instead of names. The 142-foot. 330-ton F-1 was commissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard June 19, 1912, with Lt. (j.g.) J. B. Howell in command.

The new boat operated between San Diego and San Francisco for several months after her commissioning, then was assigned to Honolulu, being towed to her new station behind the battleship South Dakota. In Honolulu, she became part of the First Submarine Division, Torpedo Flotilla, Pacific Fleet, her companions being the other boats of this class; F-2, F-3 and F-4, all mothered by the, submarine tender Alert.

It was on the morning of March 25, 1915, that F-1, F-3, and F-4 left Honolulu for local operations. F-4 did not return and the eventual detection and recovery was a classic of naval salvage.

She was later “interned” at the bottom of Pearl Harbor after it was discovered that she had suffered a leak in the. battery compartment and the crew had been killed by chlorine gas. This was the Navy’s first submarine disaster.

The loss of F-1 so soon after this dealt the fledgling, submarine service a heavy blow

In partial layup during 1916, the F-1 returned to full commission in 1917 and was assigned. to, Patrol. Force, Pacific, taking part in the development of submarine tactics, spending. much of her time maneuvering with her sister subs and making practice attacks on surface ships based at San Pedro.

On a day of generally good visibility, F-1, F-2 and F-3 were making a surface run from San Pedro to San Diego. competing for semi-annual efficiency and performance ratings. All boats were making about nine, knots, running abreast. Point Lorna was just ahead. ‘

What happened then is told in this terse report from the log of F-3.

“Stood on course 142 degrees true until 6:50 p.m. when course was changed to ,322, degrees true to avoid a very thick fog bank. At about 5:55p.m. heard fog whistle and sighted mast­head ,light and port side light of approaching vessel. Ship was then swung with 10 degrees right, rudder. Gave hard right rudder and stopped both engines. Closed bulkhead doors. Struck F-1 abaft of conning tower with bow of , ship. Backed -both ,motors.;F-1 listed and sank almost immediately. Stood by survivors of F-1 and brought .five on board.”

F-1 had sunk in 10 seconds at the most, giving the 19 men below no chance to escape.

One of the survivors was Lt. A. E. Montgomery, the commanding officer.

He told a board of inquiry how the lookout, Machinist J. J. Schmissrauter, had called him from the chart room, reporting a light on the Port bow.

“Almost immediately,” said Montgomery, “it grew brighter. I gave the order ‘hard right’ as it was too late to stop and it seemed but· an instant. when F-3 came out of the fog and rammed us.

The board of inquiry found that the three vessels had all decided ,to change course to clear the fog bank and had signaled their intent by radio, but none of the ships had received the others messages. F·3’s change of course was deemed excessive under the circumstances. The board pointed out. in holding. F-3 responsible, that radio failure was partly to blame, all boats of this class suffering from poor radio communication because of weak transmitters and excessive engine noise while underway.

Because of the depth of water and the lack of submarine rescue equipment, no attempt was made to locate the ship.

Postscript: Naval oceanographers located the wreck of the F-1 in 1976.

Rest in Peace Shipmates

“The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster” The Story of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz 2

The sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster.

This was the early childhood lesson taught to the boy who would later become one of the most influential leaders in the United States Navy. He was significantly influenced by his German-born paternal grandfather, Charles Henry Nimitz, a former seaman in the German Merchant Marine, who taught him, “the sea – like life itself – is a stern taskmaster. The best way to get along with either is to learn all you can, then do your best and don’t worry – especially about things over which you have no control.”

Few men in modern American Naval history have had as much influence on its success as Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. This article comes from the official Navy Records and shows his progression from a Texas boy to one of the most brilliant minds in Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century.

Nimitz’s work in submarines not only ensured that the Navy had a powerful answer to the attack the left a smoking mess in the Pearl Harbor but helped to deliver a crushing blow to the Japanese.

At the end of his biography, there is a short section about what he predicted in March of 1948 about the future of warfare. There are some critical lessons from the previous war and some stern warnings about what we whould do do be prepared for in the future.

The future is now.

Mister Mac

The boy from Texas

Chester William Nimitz was born on 24 February 1885, near a quaint hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas built by his grandfather, Charles Nimitz, a retired sea captain. Young Chester, however, had his sights set on an Army career and while a student at Tivy High School, Kerrville, Texas, he tried for an appointment to West Point. When none was available, he took a competitive examination for Annapolis and was selected and appointed from the Twelfth Congressional District of Texas in 1901.

He left high school to enter the Naval Academy Class of 1905. It was many years later, after he had become a Fleet Admiral that he actually was awarded his high school diploma. At the Academy Nimitz was an excellent student, especially in mathematics and graduated with distinction — seventh in a class of 114. He was an athlete and stroked the crew in his first class year. The Naval Academy’s yearbook, “Lucky Bag”, described him as a man “of cheerful yesterdays and confident tomorrows.”

After graduation he joined USS Ohio in San Francisco and cruised in her to the Far East.

On 31 January 1907, after the two years’ sea duty then required by law, he was commissioned Ensign, and took command of the gunboat USS Panay. He then commanded USS Decatur and was court martialed for grounding her, an obstacle in his career which he overcame.

He returned to the U. S. in 1907 and was ordered to duty under instruction in submarines, the branch of the service in which he spent a large part of his sea duty. His first submarine was USS Plunger (A- 1). He successively commanded USS Snapper, USS Narwal and USS Skipjack until 1912. On 20 March of that year, Nimitz, then a Lieutenant, and commanding officer of the submarine E-1 (formerly Skipjack), was awarded the Silver Lifesaving Medal by the Treasury Department for his heroic action in saving W.J. Walsh, Fireman second class, USN, from drowning. A strong tide was running and Walsh, who could not swim, was rapidly being swept away from his ship. Lieutenant Nimitz dove in the water and kept Walsh afloat until both were picked up by a small boat.

He had one year in command of the Atlantic Submarine Flotilla before coming ashore in 1913 for duty in connection with building the diesel engines for the tanker USS Maumee at Groton, Conn. In that same year, he was sent to Germany and Belgium to study engines at their Diesel Plants. With that experience he subsequently served as Executive Officer and Engineering Officer of the Maumee until 1917 when he was assigned as Aide and Chief of Staff to COMSUBLANT. He served in that billet during World War I.

In September 1918 he came ashore to duty in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations and was a member of the Board of Submarine Design. His first sea duty in big ships came in 1919 when he had one year’s duty as Executive Officer of the battleship USS South Carolina. In 1920 he went to Pearl Harbor to build the submarine base there. Next assigned to the Naval War College, his studies of a possible Pacific Ocean war’s logistics would become extremely relevant two decades later.

In 1922 he was assigned as a student at the Naval War College, and upon graduation went as Chief of Staff to Commander Battle Forces and later Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet (Admiral S. S. Robinson) .

In 1923, Commander Nimitz became aide to Commander Battle Force and later to Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. Later in the decade, he established the NROTC unit at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1929, now holding the rank of Captain, he began two years as Commander, Submarine Division 20, followed by two more years in charge of reserve destroyers at San Diego, California. He then took the heavy cruiser Augusta (CA-31) to the Orient, where, under his command, she was flagship of the Asiatic Fleet in 1933-35. Three years’ duty at the Bureau of Navigation in Washington, D.C., ended in 1938 with his promotion to Rear Admiral.

His next sea command was in flag rank as Commander Cruiser Division Two and then as Commander Battle Division One until 1939, when he was appointed as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation for four years. In December 1941, however, he was designated as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, where he served throughout the war.

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he was promoted by Roosevelt to commander-in-chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), with the rank of admiral, effective December 31. He immediately departed Washington for Hawaii and took command in a ceremony on the top deck of the submarine Grayling. The change of command ceremony would normally have taken place aboard a battleship, but every battleship in Pearl Harbor had been either sunk or damaged during the attack.

Assuming command at the most critical period of the war in the Pacific, Admiral Nimitz successfully organized his forces to halt the Japanese advance despite the losses from the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shortage of ships, planes, and supplies.

On 19 December 1944, he was advanced to the newly created rank of Fleet Admiral, and on 2 September 1945, was the United States signatory to the surrender terms aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

He hauled down his flag at Pearl Harbor on 26 Nov. 1945, and on 15 December relieved Fleet Admiral E.J. King as Chief of Naval Operations for a term of two years. On 01 January 1948, he reported as special Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy in the Western Sea Frontier. In March of 1949, he was nominated as Plebiscite Administrator for Kashmir under the United Nations. When that did not materialize he asked to be relieved and accepted an assignment as a roving goodwill ambassador of the United nations, to explain to the public the major issues confronting the U.N. In 1951, President Truman appointed him as Chairman of the nine-man commission on International Security and Industrial Rights. This commission never got underway because Congress never passed appropriate legislation.

Thereafter, he took an active interest in San Francisco community affairs, in addition to his continued active participation in affairs of concern to the Navy and the country. he was an honorary vice president and later honorary president of the Naval Historical Foundation. He served for eight years as a regent of the University of California and did much to restore goodwill with Japan by raising funds to restore the battleship Mikasa, Admiral Togo’s flagship at Tsushima in 1905.

He died on 20 February 1966.

 

PROMOTIONS

Graduated from the Naval Academy – Class of 1905

Ensign – 07 Jan. 1907

Lieutenant (junior grade) – 31 Jan. 1910

Lieutenant – 31 Jan. 1910

Lieutenant Commander – 29 Aug. 1916

Commander – 8 March 1918

Captain – 02 June 1927

Rear Admiral – 23 June 1938

Vice Admiral – Not held – promoted directly to Admiral

Admiral – 31 Dec. 1941

Fleet Admiral – 19 Dec. 1944

 

DECORATIONS and AWARDS

Distinguished Service Medal with two gold stars

Army Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Lifesaving Medal

Victory Medal with Escort Clasp

American Defense Service Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal

National Defense Service Medal

 

Excerpt from Nimitz’s Essay on employment of naval forces,” Who Commands Sea – Commands Trade”

 

Employment of Naval Forces

By Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

“Who Commands Sea – Commands Trade”

 

Former CNO Discusses Use of Navy in Maintaining Security of United States on day of departure from Navy Department as CNO

 

From the Monthly NEWSLETTER – March 1948

 

EMPLOYMENT OF NAVAL FORCES IN THE FUTURE

 

In addition to the weapons of World War II the Navy of the future will be capable of launching missiles from surface vessels and submarines, and of delivering atomic bombs from carrier-based planes. Vigilant naval administration and research is constantly developing and adding to these means. In the event of war within the foreseeable future it is probable that there will be little need to destroy combatant ships other than submarines. Consequently, in the fulfillment of long accepted naval functions and in conformity with the well known principles of warfare, the Navy should be used in the initial stages of such a war to project its weapons against vital enemy targets on land, the reduction of which is the basic objective of warfare.

For any future war to be a sufficient magnitude to affect us seriously, it must be compounded of two primary ingredients: vast manpower and tremendous industrial capacity. These conditions exist today in the great land mass of Central Asia, in East Asia, and in Western Europe. The two latter areas will not be in a position to endanger us for decades to come unless they pass under unified totalitarian control. In the event of war with any of the three we would be relatively deficient in manpower. We should, therefore, direct our thinking toward realistic and highly specialized operations. We should plan to inflict unacceptable damage through maximum use of our technological weapons and our ability to produce them in great quantities.

 

WHAT ABOUT FUTURE AIR ATTACKS?

Initial devastating air attack in the future may come across our bordering oceans from points on the continents of Europe and Asia as well as from across the polar region. Consequently our plans must include the development of specialized forces of fighter and interceptor planes for pure defense, as well as the continued development of long range bombers.

Offensively our initial plans should provide for the coordinated employment of military and naval air power launched from land and carrier bases, and of guided missiles against important enemy targets. For the present, until long range bombers are developed capable of spanning our bordering oceans and returning to our North American bases, naval air power launched from carriers may be the only practicable means of bombing vital enemy centers in the early stages of a war.

In summary it is visualized that our early combat operations in the event of war within the next decade would consist of:

DEFENSIVELY

  • Protection of our vital centers from devastating attacks by air and from missile-launching submarines.
  • Protection of areas of vital strategic importance, such as sources of raw materials, our advanced bases, etc.
  • Protection of our essential lines of communications and those of our allies.
  • Protection of our occupation forces during re-enforcement or evacuation.

OFFENSIVELY

  • Devastating bombing attacks from land and carrier bases on vital enemy installations.
  • Destruction of enemy lines of communication accessible to our naval and air forces.
  • Occupation of selected advanced bases on enemy territory and the denial of advance bases to the enemy through the coordinated employment of naval, air and amphibious forces.

Of the above activities or functions there are certain ones which can be performed best by the Air Force, and certain others which can be performed best by the Navy – it is these two services which will play major roles in the initial stages of a future war. The 80th Congress took cognizance of this fact when, in the National Security Act of 1947, it specifically prescribed certain functions to the Navy, its naval aviation and its Marine Corps. In so doing the Congress gave emphasis to the fact that the organizational framework of the military services should be built around the functions assigned to each service. This is a principle which the Navy has consistently followed and is now organized and trained to implement.

Defensively, the Navy is still the first line the enemy must hurdle either in the air or on the sea in approaching our coasts across any ocean. The earliest warning of enemy air attack against our vital centers should be provided by naval air, surface and submarine radar pickets deployed in the vast ocean spaces which surround the continent. This is part of the radar screen which should surround the continental United States and its possessions. The first attrition enemy air power might be by short range naval fighter planes carried by task forces. Protection of our cities against missile launching submarines can best be effected by naval hunter-killer groups composed of small aircraft carriers and modern destroyers operating as a team with naval land-based aircraft.

The safety of our essential trade routes and ocean lines of communication and those of our allies, the protection of areas of vital strategic importance such as the sources of raw material, advanced base locations, etc., are but matters of course if we control the seas. Only naval air-sea power can ensure this.

Offensively, it is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on United States soil. The Navy can at present best fulfill the vital functions of devastating enemy vital areas by the projection of bombs and missiles. It is improbable that bomber fleets will be capable, for several years to come of making two-way trips between continents, even over the polar routes, with heavy loads of bombs.

It is apparent then that in the event of war within this period, if we are to project our power against the vital areas of any enemy across the ocean before beachheads on enemy territory are captured, it must be by air-sea power; by aircraft launched from carriers; and by heavy surface ships and submarines projecting guided missiles and rockets. If present promise is developed by research, test and production, these three types of air-sea power operating in concert will be able within the next ten years critically to damage enemy vital areas many hundreds of miles inland.

Naval task forces including these types are capable of remaining at sea for months. This capability has raised to a high point the art of concentrating air power within effective range of enemy objectives. It is achieved by refueling and rearming task forces at sea. Not only may the necessary supplies, ammunition and fuel be replenished in this way but the air groups themselves may be changed.

The net result is that naval forces are able, without resorting to diplomatic channels, to establish offshore anywhere in the world, air fields completely equipped with machine shops, ammunition dumps, tank farms, warehouses, together with quarters and all types of accommodations for personnel. Such task forces are virtually as complete as any air base ever established. They constitute the only air bases that can be made available near enemy territory without assault and conquest; and furthermore, they are mobile offensive bases, that can be employed with the unique attributes of secrecy and surprise — which attributes contribute equally to their defensive as well as offensive effectiveness.

Regarding the pure defense of these mobile air bases the same power projected destructively from them against the enemy is being applied to their defense in the form of propulsion, armament, and new aircraft weapons whose development is well abreast the supersonic weapons reputed to threaten their existence.

It is clear, therefore, that the Navy and the Air Force will play the leading roles in the initial stages of a future war. Eventually, reduction and occupation of certain strategic areas will require the utmost from our Army, Navy and Air Force. Each should be assigned broad functions compatible with its capabilities and limitations and should develop the weapons it needs to fulfill these functions, and no potentiality of any of the three services of the Military Establishment should be neglected in our scheme of National Defense. At the same time each service must vigorously develop, in that area where their functions meet, that flexibility and teamwork essential to operational success. It should also be clear that the Navy’s ability to exert from its floating bases its unique pressure against the enemy wherever he can be reached in the air, on sea or land is now, as it has been, compatible with the fundamental principles of warfare. That our naval forces can be equipped defensively as well as offensively to project pressure against enemy objectives in the future is as incontrovertible as the principle that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In measuring capabilities against a potential enemy, due appreciation must be taken of the factors of relative strength and weakness. We may find ourselves comparatively weak in manpower and in certain elements of aircraft strength. On the other hand we are superior in our naval air-sea strength. It is an axiom that in preparing for any contest, it is wisest to exploit – not neglect – the element of strength. Hence a policy which provides for balanced development and coordinated use of strong naval forces should be vigorously prosecuted in order to meet and successfully counter a sudden war in the foreseeable future.

[END]

In the Waters of Pearl – Building the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base 1918-1945 3

 

I spent a number of years in my youth living and sailing out of Pearl Harbor. The last time we were there was in 2003 and the changes even then were astonishing. Many of the old buildings were still there but a modern bridge attached Ford Island to the mainland. The Chapel at Sub base was closed at that time and the Enlisted Men’s club was on limited hours as well.

But no matter how long you are away, some memories come back and overwhelm you. The smell of the many flowers as you arrive at the airport. The breeze of the trade winds that mask the heat of the bright sun. And the feeling of an unstated collection of long ago spirits that traveled through these islands on their war to long ago wars. As you stand by the finger piers looking across at the shipyards, you can hear the hammering and welding of broken warships being readied for another battle. The sound of the liberty boat fills your imagination of so many trips across the harbor, stopping only for the raising of the flag each morning and the lowering each night.

 

The day you get orders to Pearl Harbor for the first time, your life is changed forever. You are about to become part of a legend. No matter where you travel in life, you will always carry that memory inside of you.

Pearl Harbor was originally an extensive shallow embayment called Wai Momi (meaning, “Waters of Pearl”) or Puʻuloa (meaning, “long hill”) by the Hawaiians. Puʻuloa was regarded as the home of the shark goddess, Kaʻahupahau, and her brother (or son), Kahiʻuka, in Hawaiian legends. According to tradition, Keaunui, the head of the powerful Ewa chiefs, is credited with cutting a navigable channel near the present Puʻuloa saltworks, by which he made the estuary, known as “Pearl River,” accessible to navigation. Making due allowance for legendary amplification, the estuary already had an outlet for its waters where the present gap is; but Keaunui is typically given the credit for widening and deepening it.

Naval Station, Honolulu” was established on 17 November 1899. On 2 February 1900, this title was changed to “Naval Station, Hawaii”. In the years that followed, dredging and building continued and eventually the idea of stationing submarines in Pearl Harbor was broached.

This is the story of the submarine base up until 1945.

 

Pearl Harbor Submarine Base: 1918-1945

From the Official US Navy Records:

 

Shortly after the Armistice of World War I in 1918, the submarines R-15 to R-20 were ordered to the Hawaiian Area, arriving early in 1919 to establish the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor. Previous to this, there had been other submarines operating in the Hawaiian Area, for in 1912 four “F” class submarines operated from the site of the old Naval Station, Pier 5, Honolulu.

Their activities, however, were concluded when the F-4 sank off Honolulu. After this tragedy in 1915, the remaining “F” boats were towed back to the mainland. Shortly after these submarines left, four “K” type submarines and the Alert arrived, staying until after World War I started.

The R-11 to R-20 were ordered to Pearl Harbor in 1920 and the R-1 to R-10 followed in 1923. When the “R” boats, under the Divisional Command of Lieutenant Commander F.X. Gygax, arrived at Pearl Harbor, he found only one finger pier at the present site of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, and to this the R-18 was secured. This was the first submarine to moor at todays most modern and most complete Pacific submarine home activity.

 

The area chosen in 1919 for a submarine base was covered with cactus plants and algaroba trees, which had to be cut down before any buildings could be erected. When the land along the waterfront had been cleared, concrete slabs were poured into the region to support portable structures which had been obtained by Commander Chester W. Nimitz (now Fleet Admiral Nimitz), who was the first Commanding Officer of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base. These structures consisted of old aviation cantonment buildings that had seen service in France. Meanwhile, tents had been pitched, and the base personnel used these meager furnishings for their living and messing needs. Two months after the arrival of the first submarine division, the base had a temporary mess hall; administration building; machine, carpenter, electric, gyro-compass, optical and battery overhaul shops. For general stores, a floating barge was procured from the Navy Yard, housed over and pressed into service.

In 1923, the first permanent building, still in use as a battery overhaul shop, was constructed with approximately 85% of the work being done by submarine base personnel. Living quarters for submarine personnel were improvised by utilizing the cruiser Chicago, later renamed the Alton, which was brought in and moored where the present day base’s largest pier, S1, now stands. A causeway was built out to her, and the cruiser’s topside was housed over to provide bunk rooms for submarine officers, while the lower deck was given to the officers and men attached to the base. Also, in 1920, another finger pier was constructed.

In the years that followed, peace time years, the temporary buildings were gradually torn down and replaced by larger and more commodious structures, some of which provided excellent usage during World War II. In 1925, the base had approximately 25 buildings erected and the Navy had already begun to reclaim marsh and swamp land in order that further expansion could be possible. During the same period, two more finger piers were built. In 1928, the largest building on the present day site, the main “U” shaped barracks building, was spacious enough to accommodate all submarine and base personnel and, as late as 1940, was still utilized for this purpose, other barracks not being necessary until shortly before hostilities began in 1941. By 1933, berths 10 to 14 on a long quay wall had been completed and a thirty ton crane had been constructed on the outboard end of finger pier number four. Also by this year, the submarine rescue and training tank, the enlisted men’s pool, the theater (built entirely by submarine base personnel), and the main repair buildings had been completed.

The Administration Building, housing the base torpedo shop in the main deck of one wing and the Supply Department on both decks of the other wing had been completed. Above the torpedo shop, was located the Base Commanding Officer’s and Executive officer’s offices. Shortly after the completion of this building, an officer’s quarters was built close to the Administration Building. Since there was now housing and messing facilities for both officers and enlisted men, the Alton was no longer needed.

From 1935 until the outbreak of hostilities, many other buildings were added to the base proper, the majority of them small in size and nature. In addition, with the planting of coconut trees, palms and other shrubberies, the Submarine Base became not only a place military in nature, but also pleasant in appearance.

December 7th, 1941

Fortunately for America, and conversely, unfortunately for Japan, the enemy neglected to strike at Pearl Harbor Submarine Base on 7 December 1941. Quite possibly this could have been by design since the Japs conceivably paid little attention to the comparatively small submarine force the United States had operating in the Pacific, the majority of which, incidentally, was operating in the Far East.

For whatever reason, no damage was done to the base and for this oversight the Japs were to pay dearly since it was the submarine force in the Pacific that, almost alone, carried the war into the enemy’s waters in the first two years of the war, a feat that would have been improbable, if not impossible, had it not been for the excellent repair and supply facilities afforded by the Pearl harbor Submarine Base before other advanced bases could be established.

On 30 June 1940, there were 359 enlisted men stationed at the Submarine Base with this number slowly increasing to 700 on 15 August 1941 and to 1,081 in July 1942. Rapid expansion of the base reached its peak in July 1944, when there were 6,633 enlisted men serving on the Submarine Base proper. These were the men for whom there was no glory but who, nevertheless, worked excessive hours no matter what their job in order that our submersibles might roam the Pacific in excellent fighting condition.

As an indication of the tremendous amount of work accomplished by the Pearl Harbor base, four hundred submarines were overhauled, refitted, or repaired during the period from May 1944 until July 1945. (This should not be construed as 400 individual submarines, but rather as a certain number of subs overhauled numerous times). This meant four hundred submarines prowling the seas, destroying Japanese shipping relentlessly through the sole medium of repair and supply furnished by one base. Truly, the enemy missed a military objective by blindly overlooking the Submarine Base on the day of the “blitz”.

It is not a debatable question as to which departmental function was the most important at the Submarine Base, since without one the other would have been negligible. To all go the credit for the tremendous successes achieved as the result of basing submarines at Pearl.

Under the Supply Department during a three month period ending 1 September 1944, the Commissary Department furnished $410,000 worth of provisions aboard roving submarines; and for the entire war, the value of provision stowed aboard operating subs totaled the tremendous sum of $3,680,296, a good reason as to why submarine personnel are the best fed men in the world. The Disbursing officer paid $33,363,305.23 in salaries to submarine personnel in the last two and a half years of the war in 1,144 individual pay days to submarine crews. Clothing and Small Stores, another function of the Supply Department, issued $916,519 worth of clothing to submarine personnel in the last year and a half of the war. Supply was, without a doubt, a major issue of the war.

The Ordnance Department, from the outbreak of war until the cessation of hostilities, overhauled 15,644 torpedoes of which 5,185 were fired by combat submarines with 1,860 torpedoes resulting in successful hits. A remarkable record and one which can well be shared by the shore based personnel of the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base.

The Engineering and Repair Department consisting of technicians and specialists of every description commenced their work on submarines days before the boat ever berthed at the Base. For as much as a week prior to each submarine’s arrival, plans were drawn up for the work to be accomplished on the boat. On the day of arrival, the submarine furnished the E&R department a complete list of “ailments” and on the following day an arrival conference between Base officers and Ships’ officers was held. At this time, a detailed plan of repair action was made while, even at that moment, work crews from the various shops were ripping apart faulty equipment for overhaul and repair. In the short two week period that the submarine remained at the Base, every department observed every derangement, large or small, and made corrections and repairs as necessary or else replaced faulty equipment. Engineering was a factor of no small importance in the winning of the war because submarines, returning from patrol, ofttimes had almost unrepairable damage. In the month of September 1944 alone, the Engineering and Repair Department refitted twelve submarines and made voyage repairs to twenty-five others, a feat not only never before performed but not even dreamed of in the past.

The Medical Department achieved miracles in the treatment and prevention of ills and diseases. Upon the completion of a war patrol, each submarine crew was thoroughly examined by especially trained and unusually competent Medical, Dental and Psychiatric Officers. Should it develop that a man had an ailment, no matter how trivial, he was replaced, treated and, in most cases, restored to duty on board operating submarines. Many a story has been told of medical corpsmen on submarines who have performed such feats as appendectomies and the diagnosis of diseases like spinal meningitis while on a combat war patrol. Many of these men were trained and gathered experience at a well-equipped and efficient Dispensary of the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor. In addition, it was the Base Medical Department’s responsibility that all medicinal supplies and drugs were furnished each submarine prior to its departure on war patrol.

And there were other departments, the First Lieutenant’s men worked day and night loading or unloading submarines, maintaining buildings and equipment, patrolling the base during the war’s most security conscious moments, and furnishing transportation for men and equipment.

There was the Rest and Recuperation Annex to the Submarine Base, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel with its 425 rooms and housing capacity of 935 guests. When this entire space was not required by the Submarine Force, it was made available to aviation activities, small craft returning from advance bases, forward advance Marine units, and in some isolated cases, to battleships and cruisers.

Then there was the Chaplain and his assistants who offered counsel and guidance to war-weary and nerve-torn veterans of the war patrols. There was the Ship’s Service Department which offered everything necessary to life and comfort from phonograph records to the latest books and novelties.

 

The Pearl Harbor Submarine Base was not a base erected during the heat of battle. Its permanent foundations were laid down in 1919 and through the years of peace it became stronger and healthier. At the outbreak of hostilities, it was incapable of accommodating the ultimate number of submarines that were to operate in the Pacific, but never once did this Base lag in its accomplishments of sundry duties. At times, the output of work far exceeded that expected or thought of, but always the submarines based temporarily at Pearl Harbor between moments of combat had their slightest needs fulfilled.

Upon the establishment of the Submarine Base at Pearl Harbor, Commander C.W. Nimitz was the Commanding Officer, a duty he held until 1922. He was succeeded in command by the following officers:

 

Commander L.F. Welch 1922-1925

Commander F.C. Martin 1925-1928

Captain A. Bronson 1928-1929

Captain W.K. Wortman 1929-1930

 

In 1930, Submarine Squadron FOUR commenced operating in the Hawaiian Area, and the two commands were united with the following officers pursuing duties as Commander, Submarine Squadron FOUR and Commanding Officer, U.S. Submarine Base, Pearl Harbor, T.H.:

 

Captain W.K. Wortman 1930-1932

Captain H.W. Osterhas 1932-1934

Captain R.A. Kock 1934-1936

Captain R.S. Culp 1936-1938

Captain F.W. Scanland 1938-1940

Captain W.R. Carter 1940-1941

Captain F.A. Daubin 1941-1942

Captain R.H. English March 1942-May 1942

Captain J.H. Brown, Jr. May 1942-January 1943

On 13 January 1943, the two commands were separated, due to the tremendous work load required of each command by war time operations. As a result, Captain C.D. Edmunds relieved Captain J.H. Brown, Jr., as Commanding Officer of the Submarine Base, with Captain Brown retaining the command of SubRon FOUR. In turn, Captain Edmunds was relieved by Captain C.E. Aldrich, who served in that capacity from September 1943 until October 1944, when he was relieved by Captain E.R. Swinburne, who remained in command of the base until after the cessation of hostilities. However, the Commanding Officer of the Submarine Base continued to come under the Squadron Commander until, in October 1945, with the reorganization of the submarine force, he was placed directly under ComSubPac.

 

The story of Submarine Base Pearl Harbor will continue in the near future…

Mister Mac

Memorandum Number 68: FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE – 1923 (How America almost lost World War II before it even started) 2

In the final days of the Great War, Naval planners had seen first hand the devastation and destruction caused by the modern machines of war.

The submarine was an example of one of the most destructive. As plans were being made for the peace, decisions about the methods for maintaining that peace would have to be made. One of the grand ideas at the time was to limit the offensive powers of the world’s navies. In this rarely discussed report from 1923, the future of the American submarine force hung in the balance. One can only imagine how the world would look today if the planners had their way. The plucky little submarine fleet that survived the devastation at Pearl Harbor on December 7th may not have been available to punish the Japanese while the nation rebuilt.

These records are held in the Naval History and Heritage Command. I am grateful for their work in preserving these valuable lessons from the past.

Mister Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAVY DEPARTMENT OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE HISTORICAL SECTION

Publication Number 7

THE AMERICAN NAVAL PLANNING SECTION LONDON

Published under the direction of The Hon. EDWIN DENBY, Secretary of the Navy

WASHINGTON GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE| 1923

 

PREFACE.

____________

This monograph is virtually a reproduction of the formal records of the American Planning Section in London during the Great War, presented in numbered memoranda from 1 to 71, inclusive. Memoranda Nos. 21 and 67 have been omitted as being inappropriate for publication at this time.

Before December, 1917, all strategic planning for the American Navy was done by a section of the Office of Naval Operations in Washington. Admiral Suns urged the need of a Planning Section at his headquarters in London, where comprehensive and timely information was more available; not only of the activities of American Forces, but of the Allied Navies and of the enemy.

A visit to England during November, 1917, by Admiral Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, coincided with a reorganization of the British Admiralty, which included, as a result of war experience, magnification of the function of strategic planning by their War Staff. Decision was then reached to form an American Planning Section at the London headquarters of the Commander, U. S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, with the idea of cooperating more closely with the British and other Allied plan makers. Up to that time the naval strategy of the Allies often appeared to lack coordination and to be formulated primarily by men so burdened with pressing administrative details as to prevent them from giving due attention to broad plans. It was intended that the new arrangements should correct these defects.

The function of the Planning Section corresponded closely to that of similar units of organization in large businesses and in armies. Its work was removed from current administration, yet necessarily required constant information of the progress of events. It comprehended a broad survey of the course of the war as a whole, as well as a more detailed consideration of the important lesser aspects.

From an examination of these records of the American London Planning Section, together with its history contained in Memorandum No. 71, prepared soon after the conclusion of the war, it is evident that the influence of the Section upon the general naval campaign was constructive, comprehensive, and important.

  1. W. Knox, Captain (Retired), U. S. Navy, Officer in Charge, Office of Naval Records and Library; and Historical Section

 

 

Memorandum Number 68:

FUTURE SUBMARINE WARFARE.

(Undated.)

_____________

General situation: International naval situation as at present.

Required: Estimate of the situation as to future submarine warfare with relation to—

(a) National interests.

(b) World interests.

Solution.

As a result of the manner in which the Central Empires have conducted submarine operations, there exists throughout the world a public sentiment favorable to the abolition of submarine warfare and the destruction of all existing vessels of this type.

It is our purpose to examine the question of a future policy in regard to submarines, both from the point of view of world interest and national interest, and to determine the attitude which the United States should adopt toward the abolition of submarine warfare.

Theoretically the submarine is a valuable weapon of war with a large field of legitimate activity. There appears no cause for its condemnation on the ground that it has been the most powerful weapon of our adversaries, or that it has been used in violation of existing international law. The same reasons might be adduced for discarding the use of guns because they have been used to project poison-gas shells and other projectiles that cause unnecessary suffering.

It is necessary then to examine the actual methods employed by the Central Empires in submarine warfare to discover how far the successful use of submarines is dependent inherently on their employment in a manner inconsistent with the conduct of civilized warfare. If it appears that their efficiency is largely dependent on their illegitimate use in disregard of the laws of humanity, in violation of neutral rights, or in derogation of a sound policy for the world at large, it is safe to assume that in any war the temptation to employ submarines in their most efficient manner may prove too strong for a belligerent threatened with defeat, and that therefore the moral and material interests of humanity would be improved by the elimination altogether of the subsurface vessel.

CONDITIONS GOVERNING SUBMARINE ATTACK.

The weapons of the submarine are the torpedo and the gun. In order to maintain the water-tight integrity of its hull, it is essential that the submarine be protected as far as possible from gunfire. There is thus imposed upon the vessel the necessity of submerged attack against all craft possessing guns of equal or superior range. To make a successful submerged attack it is considered essential to get within ranges of 1,000 yards—preferably 300 yards. To approach within such ranges demands the utmost secrecy. Furthermore, the safety of the submarine precludes the possibility of demanding surrender at anything but a distance that would permit the most valuable prizes to escape by utilizing their superior speed. Owing to the impossibility of always determining the hostile or neutral character of a vessel by its flag or general appearance, there will frequently exist a doubt in the mind of the submarine commander, with a strong tendency to resolve the doubt in favor of aggression. Having torpedoed a vessel, there remains no means under the average conditions of providing for the surrender of the crew or its removal to a place of safety. The security of the submarine at such close quarters requires its continued submergence until the menace to its safety is removed by the sinking of the attacked vessel. Such has been the practical operation of submarine warfare.

LEGITIMATE USE OF SUBMARINES.

The legitimate use of submarines may be considered to be confined to the following:

(1) Independent attack on unsupported combatant vessels of the enemy.

Comment: The submarine has an undoubted right to attack without warning an enemy man-of-war or any vessel engaged in military operations and not entitled to immunity as a hospital ship, cartel ship, etc.

It is repugnant to the standards of civilized humanity to deliberately plan warfare with the intention of giving no quarter in battle. Hence if such an attack is made and the enemy vessel surrendered, provision should be made for the safety of the lives of the prisoners either on their own vessel or in the ship’s boats if in safe waters.

A torpedo attack usually results in the sinking of a vessel. If we imagine this vessel to be a transport loaded with troops, it would be obviously impossible for the submarine to take them on board or to insure any degree of safety to those who might be successfully embarked on the high seas in the ship’s boats.

It may be argued that a similar result might follow an action between surface ships, but it is desired to point out that the rescue of the surrendered or drowning should be the normal procedure and not the exception, as would be the case in unrestricted submarine warfare.

While submarines might be built of sufficient size and equipped in a manner that would permit their operations to conform to the rules adopted for surface craft, it is certain that such vessels would be seriously handicapped by such requirements, and it is not reasonable to suppose that they would be adopted.

(2) Independent attack on combatant enemy vessels capable of rendering mutual support.

Comment: In this case attack without warning would be justifiable. Destructions might be continued until the enemy surrendered, when humanity would require that a vessel be spared to care for the surviving crews. Unless we imagine a submarine large enough to carry prize crews to take possession of surrendered vessels, it is not reasonable to suppose that any combatant vessel would be spared.

(3) Attack, in support of surface vessels, on enemy combatant forces.

Comment: This is a purely legitimate use of the submarine which, however, has had no exemplification in the present war. Great Britain has fast submarines designed to operate with the fleet, but there is no reason to suppose that they might not be diverted to other uses not so legitimate.

(4) Capture or destruction of enemy merchant vessels.

Comment: It must be expected that the merchant vessels of belligerents will arm for defense. This is an ancient right, founded on that of self-preservation and as sound in principle as the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. Such vessels are nevertheless noncombatants and must be regarded as such, since they are denied the right of taking the offensive.

Since, however, it would be too late for a vessel to defend herself after being torpedoed by a submarine, it is necessary for her to forestall attack as soon as the intention of the submarine can be determined. Under such conditions (which must obtain in unrestricted submarine warfare) a submarine appearing in any quarter from which an attack was possible must expect resistance from the threatened vessel.

In order to make certain that a prize shall not escape attack, the submarine, if inferior in speed and gun power, must make a submerged attack with torpedoes. He is thereby precluded from—

(a) Visit and search to determine identity as well us origin and ownership of cargo.

(b) Summoning the vessel to surrender.

(c) Taking possession of the vessel.

(d) Providing for the safety of passengers or crew.

The inhuman character of this form of warfare has led to forms of reprisals on submarines, such as the use of mystery ships, that react to make the crews of submarines still more brutal, so that no attempt is made to save life, but the submarine continues its submerged attack until the merchant vessel is sunk. Instances of submarines firing on boats filled with passengers are cited and of crews deliberately drowned after being placed on the deck of the submarine.

(5) Capture or destruction of neutral merchant vessels.

Comment: Capture of neutral merchant vessels under conditions

and restrictions imposed by international law is justifiable. Destruction after capture is contrary to international law and can not be justified in any circumstances.

The right of neutral vessels to arm for self-defense dates from the days of piracy, and it can not be denied that the same right still exists to take measures for self-preservation against a belligerent who chooses to operate in defiance of international law against friend and foe alike.

If we admit the right of neutral merchant ships to arm for self-defense, the same set of conditions arise that makes it impossible for the submarine to efficiently wage war on commerce within the bounds of international law. Nor is it apparent that any change in international law could be made that would satisfy the just claims of neutrals to the free use of the high seas for their persons or their goods that would not at the same time seriously hamper the success of the submarine. The difficulty lies in the necessity of secrecy and suddenness of attack to prevent the escape of fast merchant vessels. This is obviously inconsistent with any attempt at visit and search, which in all cases would be necessary if only to establish identity.

(6) All operations of war permitted to surface vessels.

Comment: The necessity of preserving hull integrity and the limited number of guns that can be carried by a submarine restrict sharply its employment in surface operations. Such operations, while legitimate, offer but a small field of activity; illegitimate use of submarines.

The illegitimate employment of submarines by the Central Empires in the present war consisted of—

(1) Attack without warning on enemy merchant vessels.

(2) Attack without warning on neutral merchant vessels.

(3) Attack without warning on enemy hospital ships.

(4) Sinking of enemy merchant ships without visit or search.

(5) Sinking of neutral merchant vessels without visit or search.

(6) The abandonment, without regard to safety, of passengers and crews of vessels sunk.

(7) The planting of unproclaimed mine fields outside of enemy territorial waters.

Submarine operations in the present war may be considered as typical of what may be expected in future wars, when success is dependent on the result of a war on commerce.

There is high authority for the statement that prominent naval officials of at least one of the Allies are of the opinion that the unrestricted submarine warfare conducted by Germany was justifiable, and that with the exception of its more barbarous features its adoption by this ally might be expected under similar circumstances.

It is of interest to note the several phases of submarine operations in the present war as illustrating the tendency to develop maximum efficiency regardless of legal restrictions.

The first phase consisted of submarine attacks on combatant vessels. With the abandonment of the Declaration of London and the inauguration of a general blockade, there entered a second phase, a measure of retaliation, which was distinguished by the destruction without warning of enemy merchant vessels. The protests of neutrals and the fear of drawing the United States into the war induced for a time the exception of enemy passenger vessels; but, on the other hand, destruction without warning was gradually extended to apply to enemy and neutral cargo vessels alike.

It became apparent at last that the only hope of ending the war was by a food blockade of Great Britain. In this situation the Central Empires declared for unrestricted warfare and established prescribed zones that pretended to exclude all vessels from the high seas within certain areas contiguous to the territory of the Allied Powers. Any vessel whatever entering these areas was liable to destruction without warning.

NATIONAL INTEREST AS AFFECTED BY SUBMARINES.

Considering submarine warfare from the standpoint of national interest, let us examine the advantages and disadvantages to be derived from its use by each of the Great Powers.

Great Britain is the greatest naval power as well as the greatest mercantile power in the world. Her existence depends on control of her sea communications. In a naval war conducted by surface craft alone she can by maintaining a large margin of strength above her probable adversaries hope to maintain her position indefinitely. In a naval war involving subsurface craft no amount of naval superiority in any class of vessel can prevent the destruction of her shipping, or, as in the present war, relieve her from the menace of starvation by blockade.

The submarines of Germany almost accomplished their purpose, although the German surface fleet was but a fraction of the united strength of the United States and the Allies, and this in the face of over 4,000 special craft, as well as mines, aircraft, and every device known to science, employed against them.

In spite of the fact that Great Britain has a large flotilla of submarines and has developed a special type for use in fleet action, her naval strength would be greatly increased by the abolition of submarine warfare, and it can be confidently expected that she would favor such a policy.

France is a continental nation ranking fourth in naval strength and merchant marine. She is directly dependent on neither for existence. Except in a world war she might expect to be supplied through her neighbors. In a war with Great Britain, submarine warfare would seem to be to her advantage. She would have little to lose and much to gain. The present war has shown, however, that submarines have little success against combatant vessels, so that, as considered heretofore, important results could be gained only by unrestricted operations against merchant shipping. Aside from any question of legality or morality involved, there is in the destruction of merchant shipping an economic loss to the world that affects all nations, whether belligerent or neutral. This phase of the subject will be discussed later. In a naval war against powers other than Great Britain, there is little that France could accomplish with submarines that could not be done with surface craft.

Italy, while not an insular nation, is dependent largely on sea-borne commerce. Her Navy and merchant marine occupy fifth place among the Great Powers. Her commerce would be largely at the mercy of any enemy in the Mediterranean. During the present war her commerce was driven from the Adriatic, and in spite of the assistance of the Allies she had great difficulty in maintaining herself. With naval operations confined to surface craft she would have been much better off. In addition to the objections to submarine warfare it should be remembered that it is a highly organized and specialized form of warfare requiring technical labor for construction, and for operation expert training, great skill, and considerable endurance to insure success. These requirements are to be found in but few countries. The Germans have set a standard of efficiency for the submarine weapon that we can expect to see but rarely attained. Italy’s strength would not be relatively improved by the continuation of submarine warfare.

Germany and Austria can not expect to be in a financial condition that will permit for at least a generation to come any attempt to revive their naval strength. Considering the fate of their existing submarines, it is safe to exclude the Central Empires from present consideration. They would probably gladly agree to abolish any form of warfare in the future. Should they eventually regain their military strength there is every reason why they should never again be trusted with the submarine weapon.

Japan is an insular nation that occupies in the Pacific a position similar to that of Great Britain in the Atlantic. She stands third in naval and mercantile strength. She has a growing fleet and a rapidly increasing merchant marine. Her only potential enemy is the United States, from whom she can expect no aggression. If, unfortunately, war should come, her position would be very favorable for submarine operations against our communications with the Philippines.

On the other hand, our submarines based on the Philippines and Guam would be within striking distance of her coasts and would be a grave threat to the commerce on which her existence depends. With submarine abolished, her surface craft could probably accomplish lawfully all and more than could submarines.

Japan has but few submarines, and these of but little efficiency, which would seem to indicate that she is in agreement with this view.

Like other nations with ambitions to be powerful commercially on the sea, she has much to lose and little to gain by submarine warfare.

Small nations, with relatively large merchant fleets, such as Holland, Norway, and Sweden, have neither the military strength to withstand the invasion of a great power, nor the means to conduct an aggressive war against a small power. In either case they could expect heavy uncompensated loss from submarines.

Small nations with little or no merchant shipping of their own might selfishly benefit by submarines in a war against a maritime power. If their submarine warfare was confined to legitimate operations against combatant vessels they would be of value in repelling invasion, but it cannot be expected that they would bring about victory against a powerful nation, and in addition to the danger of their submarines being used illegally there could be no equitable means provided of granting their use to one nation and not to another.

The United States is the second naval and mercantile power in the world. Our continental coasts lie across the ocean from any formidable enemy. No foreign invasion of our continental territory is possible, nor do we contemplate aggression against any power. Nevertheless the large merchant marine that we are building may be exposed to submarine attack in any part of the world. Such an aggression by any small or irresponsible power might cause us losses both in property and national prestige out of all proportion to the size of the offending power.

In a war with Great Britain submarines would serve a purpose in preventing the blockade and bombardment of our coasts, but the same results could be accomplished by surface craft and mobile coast-defense guns.

The chief reason why the United States should not build submarines is that public opinion would never permit their use in the same manner as that of our adversaries. Their chief use would be in the destruction of enemy merchant shipping. This the national conscience would not permit, certainly not after the German manner, while our probable adversaries would likely not be controlled by any such restrictions.

With a surface fleet second to none, the United States is in a position to vindicate its policies in every part of the world. With submarines in existence no strength in surface craft can ever insure a like security.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON NAVAL STRENGTH.

If we reckon naval strength in terms of dreadnoughts and battle cruisers, and exclude Russia and the Central Powers, we observe that the naval strength of the Great Powers follows closely the strength of their merchant marine and is not dependent on submarines.

Naval strength. Capital ships. Merchant tonnage (approximate). Submarines.
1. Great Britain 43 15,000,000 168
2. United States 17 5,000,000 108
3. Japan 9 1,700,000 19
4. France 7 1,500,000 55
5. Italy 5 1,000,000 6

Small powers with negligible navies are—

Merchant tonnage.
Norway 1,300,000
Holland 800,000
Sweden 700,000

We conclude that the abolition of submarines would not practically alter the standing in relative remaining naval strength of any of the Great Powers.

DESTRUCTION OF MERCHANT SHIPPING AN ECONOMIC LOSS TO THE WORLD.

It is to the interest of the world at large that the evils of war be confined to the nations participating in it.

The economic interdependence of every part of the modem world makes it impossible for one country to suffer loss without in a measure affecting all. But the vital indispensable necessity to the welfare of the world is merchant shipping, the common carrier of the world that provides the sole means of interchange of products on which civilized existence has come to depend.

International law for the present has not progressed sufficiently far to forbid the destruction of belligerent merchant vessels under certain prescribed circumstances. It does forbid the sinking of neutrals.

We believe that the destruction of any merchant ships employed as common carriers is contrary to a sound world policy and should be forbidden.

As a result of the present war the world at large has been subjected to a loss of 13,000,000 tons of merchant shipping; 2,000,000 tons of this was the property of neutrals.

The loss of cargoes has impoverished the world and subjected many of the neutrals to hardships greater than those endured by some of the belligerents.

The tonnage sunk represents a direct economic loss falling upon the people of the world, whether belligerent or neutral.

EFFECT OF ABOLITION OF SUBMARINES ON REDUCTION OF ARMAMENTS.

The abolition of submarine warfare would be a great step in the reduction of armaments. In addition such a reduction would carry with it the elimination of all special types of craft that are necessary only in antisubmarine warfare.

If all distinctly antisubmarine craft were dispensed with and torpedo vessels reduced to a proportion of six destroyers for each dreadnought or battle cruiser, the following reduction could be accomplished in vessels already built:

Great Britain:
Submarines 168
Destroyers 167
Torpedo boats 96
Patrol boats 63
Sloops 12
Patrol gunboats 26
Armed whalers 19
Motor launches 540
Submarine depot ships 13
United States:
Submarines 108
Destroyers 70
Torpedo boats 17
Submarine depot ships 3
Converted yachts (?) 53
Submarine chasers 300

 

Japan:
Submarines 19
Destroyers 13
Torpedo boats 24
Submarine depot ships 4
France:
Submarines 62
Destroyers 50
Torpedo boats 121
Special gunboats (?) 10
Sloops 9
Dispatch vessels 10
Submarine chasers 50
Italy:
Submarines 56
Destroyers 22
Torpedo boats 65
Submarine depot ships 1
Motor launches 147

 

In addition to the foregoing there could be a reduction in minesweeping vessels, aircraft, repairs, and supply vessels, as well as elimination of special nets, mines, and devices used against submarines.

CONCLUSIONS.

We recommend—

1. That an international agreement be concluded to abolish submarine warfare.

2. That to insure against violations of this agreement all sub-surface vessels of every class whatsoever now built or building be destroyed, and that none hereafter be constructed.

3. That no merchant vessel shall hereafter be destroyed by belligerent action.

4. That merchant vessels which under present rules would be subject to destruction may be sent into a neutral port and interned in the same manner as combatant vessels.

 

 

 

How the US Navy almost missed “The Boat” 1

Holland and Amphitrite

Prior to World War 1, the General Board of the United States Navy was the primary instrument used for directing the strategic future of the U. S. Navy. This General Board had been instituted in 1900 as a way to provide expert advice to the Secretary of the Navy and was made up of nine admirals nearing the end of their time in service. The Navy leadership had already discounted, “by doctrine and experience” the need or importance of building submarines. Even the emphasis on the future use of submarines was questioned. In a report to Secretary Josephus Daniels in 1915, the General Board stated:

“The deeds of submarines have been so spectacular that in default of engagements between the main fleets undue weight has been attached to them… To hastily formed public opinion, it seemed that the submarines were accomplishing great military results because little else of importance occurred in the maritime war to attract public attention. Yet at the present time, when the allies have learned in great measure to protect their commerce, as they learned a few months earlier to protect their cruisers from the submarine menace, it is apparent that the submarine is not an instrument fitted to dominate naval warfare…

The submarine is a most useful auxiliary whose importance will no doubt increase, but at the present there is no evidence that it will become supreme.”

In 1915, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations was created and the General Board’s influence started a slow but steady decline in influence. It was eventually dissolved in 1951. Coincidently, the USS Nautilus was first authorized in August of 1951.

Mister Mac

Fringes of the Fleet 2

Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves

When your country is an island, it is only natural that you would come to rely on the ocean for commerce with others. When that island is vulnerable to attacks form others, it is even more natural that the ocean would serve as a means for your defense. To achieve both, you need ships and men who sail on them. England is such an island and from the 16th century through the 20th century, she relied primarily on the Royal Navy to make sure that her freedom was protected. As the world careened out of control towards World War 1 in 1914, the Royal Navy was second to none in the world.

http://www.worldwar-1.co.uk/the%20royal%20navy.html

As the storm clouds gathered, the warring nations took stock of the weapons in their arsenal. On the naval side, huge dreadnaughts (the precursors to battleships), armored cruisers, destroyers and auxiliaries of every type filled the anchorages surrounding the tiny island nation. Guns as large as 15 inches bristled on the monster ships and threatened to send everything in front of them to the bottom of the ocean.

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The Germans had spent much of their time leading up to the war trying to build a fleet that would allow them to join the big gun club. They also saw England as a natural threat to their desire for dominance and growth. Empires around the world were the goal and growing your empire required freedom of the seas to prosecute your goals and maintain the trade that would add money and power to the nation’s interests. The Germans had less effective weapons for their main guns but relied heavily on technology and innovation to overcome their perceived weakness. Their surface vessels had better optical and range finding capability and were easier to handle than Royal Navy fleets. But their secret weapon was their submarine fleet. Even with the exaggerations of the German Fleet Commanders, the technological differences in their submarine fleet made it a potent weapon that could interdict trade in all of the main sea lanes.

On both sides of the conflict, submarine technology advanced quickly leading up to the War and all through it. Diesel and electrical systems adapted and changed to meet the realities of the type of warfare that evolved. At the beginning of the war, the Germans followed the rule of “Prize Rules” which allowed the crews of their target ships to escape before the ships would be sunk by either torpedoes or gunfire. The later introduction of unrestricted submarine warfare destroyed any illusion of chivalry however and cast a dark shadow on submarine warfare in an age that had not quite adjusted to war on such a scale.

You fight the war with the weapons you have at hand.

The Royal Navy soon discovered that its assumptions about naval warfare were suitable for a war from the last century but limited in response to the new threats. If you really think about it, the first successful submarines had been developed in 1900 and it did not include the technology to help a submersible sustain itself for long ocean voyages. But the engineers on all continents were quick to develop the systems and weapons to build this new type of weapon. Improvements came one on top of another and all of this despite the prevailing attitude everywhere: submarines were just a fringe element of naval warfare. Gentlemen would fight in long lines of battle cruisers in the prescribed manner and the enemy would obligingly respond by doing the same.

In the first ten weeks of the war, the vaunted Royal fleet lost five cruisers to the German U boats. This despite the fact that the Germans only had 48 submarines total of which about 30 were functional after the war erupted in August of 1914. Admiral Tirpitz’s vision came quickly to bear fruit even as he sat in disgrace on the sidelines of the war.

The Fringes

The admiralty on the British side was completely invested in traditional naval warfare and weapons. For century’s larger and larger surface forces dominated naval thinking which meant that resources and support went to the surface fleet. The leadership and strategies were all built on the rock solid foundation of how to win a war and dominate the trade routes. Every officer in high command had waited his turn in line to reinforce the notions and concepts that would ensure that Britannia rules the waves forever.

The sad reality of modern warfare is that an enemy that can’t beat you on your own course will figure out technology to even the playing fields. The Germans have always managed to do the unexpected and they developed both the simple and the sublime to balance the scorecard. Mines laid from submarines were only one of those surprises and the combination of regular submarines and these special boats meant the Royal Navy would have to spend an inordinate amount of time protecting its fleets. The air ships that flew over London also created an entirely new threat that the 1914 fleet was woefully unprepared for.

U boat picture

The Zeppelin fleet and limited use of coastal air aero planes introduced a whole new element which would require a rethinking of the arms a ship would need to carry to protect itself. More importantly, the Zeppelins also increased the ability of their Navy to discover where ships were located and mine fields existed. This expansion of technology could not have been imagined no less planned for by traditionalists. While the bombing attacks on Britain were of limited value, their fear added to the concerns of the British public about the weapons of this horrible new war.

E1U3D00Z Zeppelin

The prejudice against alternative views hampered the British in two ways. First, the public’s view of the superiority of the battleships needed to be maintained so that the public would feel safe and secure. Reports from the front rapidly erased the illusions of a quick war. The death reports alone shook the nation to its core. Secondly, service in a professional fleet meant opportunity on the large vessels where glory and promotion reigned supreme.

It was against this background that another type of weapon was employed to gain support from both the public at large and the young men of the Navy who would be called to fill the ranks on both auxiliary ships and the fledgling submarine fleet. That weapon was propaganda from an unexpected source.

Changing Course

Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was an author who had been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature just a few short years before the war.

His books and short stories had gained him a special place in literary circles that extended from commoner to royalty. I remember reading The Jungle Book and Gunga Din as a young man and of course have practically memorized his poem about Tommy Adkins. His work appealed to people of all backgrounds and it was only natural that he would be called upon to help and extend the words and feelings needed to motivate a people to war.

TheFringesOfTheFleet

In 1916, he used his skills to pen a series of articles about the outliers of the fleet that he called the Fringes of the Fleet. These articles were about the auxiliary units that searched for the mines and hunted the dreaded U boats. They also covered the newest weapon of the Navy and the men who sailed them: submarines.

Kipling decided that the only way he could write about the tiny craft was to actually ride them and get to know the men involved. His writing is remarkable in that he captured the very essence of a submariner. What is remarkable is how little the genre has changed in the hundred years since the words were written.

From the chapter on submarines:

Kipling: “THE CHIEF business of the Trawler fleet is to attend to the traffic. The submarine in her sphere attends to the enemy. Like the destroyer, the submarine has created its own type of officer and man—with a language and traditions apart from the rest of the Service, and yet at heart unchangingly of the Service. Their business is to run monstrous risks from earth, air, and water, in what, to be of any use, must be the coldest of cold blood.

The commander’s is more a one-man job, as the crew’s is more team work, than any other employment afloat. That is why the relations between submarine officers and men are what they are. They play hourly for each other’s lives with Death the Umpire always at their elbow on tiptoe to give them “Out.””

My favorite part of the submarine stories comes from part 2.

Kipling: “I WAS honoured by a glimpse into this veiled life in a boat which was merely practising between trips. Submarines are like cats. They never tell “who they were with last night,” and they sleep as much as they can, If you board a submarine off duty you generally see a perspective of fore-shortened fattish men laid all along. The men say that except at certain times it is rather an easy life, with relaxed regulations about smoking, calculated to make a man put on flesh. One requires well-padded nerves. Many of the men do not appear on deck throughout the whole trip. After all, why should they if they don’t want to? They know that they are responsible in their department for their comrades” lives as their comrades are responsible for theirs. What’s the use of flapping about? Better lay in some magazines and cigarettes.”

I had the feeling that Kipling could see into the future and watch a submarine crew in a more modern era.

If you have time for a really good read, here is a link to all of his stories. It is remarkable how little some things have changed and yet how far we have come in the years since the First World War.

http://www.telelib.com/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/prose/FringeFleet/index.html

I hope and pray that a new world war never comes to mankind again. I am sure that feeling is shared by many. But as I see nations all over the word continuing to build “defensive” fleets, I can’t help but feel we are marching once again to the next last Great War.

Mister Mac

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Alpha “and” Omega 5

Alpha “and” Omega

The beginning and the end. I looked at those words for a while to think about where I am in my life at this point. I will turn 60 years old this year and if things continue to progress as they should, I am much nearer the second than the first.

Not a complaint of course. The fact that I am sitting upright while typing this means that I still have energy to do the things I am supposed to. As I signed the page in my New Year’s log book, I count myself to be very fortunate indeed. I started the log book in 1979. I was about to go back on active duty in the Navy after a series of changes in my life. Someone had given me a World Atlas book for a Christmas gift and I used the blank pages in the back of the book to record all of the places I had been in my journey up to that point and ever since. In the front, I list each year and where I have lived. Both lists are pretty long.

“and”

The distance between Alpha and Omega is the interesting part of anyone’s journey. I call it the “and”

Most of us are born basically the same. Two arms, two legs, a torso and a head with limited capacity to think or imagine. It’s what happens to us during the “and” part that determines who we will be and where we will end up before we hit the Omega part. I am sure that society plays their roll but extraordinary people have come from very ordinary places.

Carnegie

I have been reading about Andrew Carnegie recently and he is a perfect example of someone who overcame very ordinary circumstances. His comparative wealth today would place him head and shoulders above the richest person alive.

For all of his worth though, Andrew feared the Omega most of all. He had no belief in any power higher than his own which must have been a frightful way to approach the end of your life. A little known chapter in his life was that he was interested in Peace as much as any other endeavor in his life. He had seen the suffering of many nations in the US and Europe in his life and he tried to use his wealth and influence later in his life to stop the violence of wars. In 1914, he even presented Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany with a special award for maintaining peace in his realm of influence for over 25 years. It broke his heart when August of 1914 ushered in the most catastrophic war up to that point with the Kaiser leading the charge into madness.

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For all his wealth and power, Andrew Carnegie was unable to stop the forces of evil that live in men’s hearts. He came to his Omega as a broken man. In the end, there is an end.

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Or is there?

Those of us who follow the Christian faith have a belief in a new beginning. I start this New Year with the firm belief that there is still a lot of “and” left in my life. More log entries in the book, maybe a few more ways of helping others, and some discoveries yet to be. But as I come closer to the place that will mark my Omega, I become more and more convinced that the next phase will be “and, then”. That will be when the greatest discoveries of all will be revealed.

God Bless you all and have a very great “and” in 2014!

Mister Mac