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Press Conference of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


August 29, 1918 - -A.M.

     PRESS---Have you been asked about the matter of manufacturers taking up the question of draft exemptions for industrial men?

     SEC---How do you mean?

     PRESS---We understand that some men have been to see you and other Cabinet members about the matter of the Government taking men from the plants.

     SEC---We have been exempting men all the time. We write to the War Department a list of men in certain factories making war munitions, asking for exemption---for instance at Midvale1 and Newport News.2 Where very important war work is being done it would be a very great mistake to take those fellows who are skilled men. They have been exempted. Those men who are doing this skilled work on war munitions and ships are more important there than in the Navy or Army. This is being worked out by the War Department. We forward them a list of men we say are indispensable to certain war industries.

     PRESS---Is there some plan to check it over every month or so?

     SEC---Yes. In the Navy we require our inspectors to report. If John W. Jones is doing important work at Fall River on making a Destroyer and John W. Jones quits working on the destroyer, we are notified that John W. Jones is not doing this work, and he automatically goes back into the draft. We have not yet made the regulations about the Navy

     PRESS---Have you made the regulations about the Navy yet?

     SEC---We ought to have as many men as we need for the Navy. The plans are yet to be worked out, but no one will come into the Navy until after he is registered. That will be under the direction of General Crowder.3 I will not say who comes into the Navy.

     PRESS---There have been some suggestions that you will not get the same type of men you have been getting?

     SEC---I have an understanding about that and we are trying to work out a feasible plan. I would rather not say anything. There will be no volunteer enlistments in either the Army or Navy or Marine Corps, but the men registered in the draft can apply to be inducted in the service he chooses.4 We are working out the plan, however, and hope to get the men best fitted for the Navy. You might say this: that when the order was issued no more enlistments will be made, but the President will make such regulations necessary so that the Navy will get the men it needs and as many as needed in the Marine Corps.


August 29, 1918 - -P.M.

     SEC---I haven’t any news today, gentlemen. Not a thing.

     PRESS---Mr. Secretary, does the change in air service in the War Department affect the Navy?5

     SEC---Not at all. There have been some conferences going on about securing more aeroplanes for the Navy, and we are trying every day to get more working. We are getting allwe can.

     PRESS---Do you feel that the War Department is making excess aeroplane production?

     SeC---Oh, no. Their demands are so much larger than ours. We have completed our factory in Philadelphia now,6 costing six million dollars, and we are now going to put out contracts to everyone who can make any parts of machines. Instead of depending on a man to make a whole aeroplane, we ask him if he can make any part of a machine. We can assemble our machines without having them all made by one factory. We are doing it independently, and yet Admiral Taylor7 and Captain Irwin8 are in touch every week or so with officers of the War Department. We are trying to have no conflict. It has been a difficult matter to get as many as we wish.

     PRESS---What is the capacity of the Navy plant?

     SEC---I do not know. The Navy build it in Philadelphia Navy Yard.

     PRESS---Do you have any difficulty about getting types?

     SEC---No. I would not say anything about aircraft or submarines, that we have difficulties. We are getting on better all the time and by December I think the question withus will be one of tonnage.

     PRESS---Are those regular planes?  Sec---All types.

     PRESS—Haven’t you sent some aeroplanes over already?

     SEC---Oh, yes.

     PRESS---All naval planes?

     SEC---Not all. We have gotten various motors. The Liberty motor is by far the best motor. There is nothing comparable except the Rolls Royce. The outstanding thing of this war is the Liberty motor. That will be one of the big things done. The British and Italians are all wanting them. We have quantity production coming. Mr. Ryan9 knows more than I do about that, but they are coming. We are trying to make the most delicate thing in the world in a hurry.

     PRESS---Do we have planes that drop or any pursuit planes?

     SEC---No. Naval aeroplanes.

     PRESS—Have you anything but sea planes in the Navy?

     SEC---Yes,we use most all types.

     PRESS---Is it all right to say that aeroplanes have been sent over?

     SEC---Say we have just sent aircraft over and will send constantly increasing numbers. On the aircraft I want to be very conservative, and say we are trying very hard and doing everything we can.10

     PRESS---Are you sending aircraft wholly for naval work abroad?

     SEC---We have stations all along the different coasts. Our aircraft is for watching submarines. The naval aircraft most be managed by the man who is guiding the ships. It is as much a part of fighting as ordnance or guns or submarines or destroyers----it is a part of the fleet. When we send aircraft over the ships, it is just like another ship because it is convoying them.

     PRESS---You know the Committtee(British) takesthe view that there ought to be three division?11

     SEC---I know they do, and I do not agree with them. They might have one source of production, but Pershing12 must control the aircraft of the Army and the Admiral most control the aircraft of the Navy.

     PRESS---How do the British get along?

     SEC---There is not a naval officer in Great Britain today who does not thing [i.e., think] it a fatal mistake when they voted to make the change.13

          You know this General Brinker who landed here for an interview did not represent any naval force of Great Britain.14 The thing might be well of course, to have one source of production. Of course, we are working together trying to do everything xx xxx that can be done. Our theory is that there are two arms to the service, and we must have both arms strong.

Source Note: Typescript, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Roll 68.

Footnote 1: Daniels is referring to Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company, located near Philadelphia, which produced armaments for the U.S. Navy.

Footnote 2: There was a shipbuilding operation in Newport News, VA, that built a number of destroyers for the U.S. Navy.

Footnote 3: Provost General Enoch H. Crowder oversaw the Selective Service.

Footnote 4: Under the Selective Service Act did not allow men to volunteer in the new national army but only in the regular Army and Navy. The question may be referring to the new Selective Service act passed by Congress in August 1918 extending the eligible age limits of draftees to ages 18 and 45. Kennedy, Over Here: 149, 166-67.

Footnote 5: On the reorganization of the Army air service, see, Newton D. Baker to President Woodrow Wilson, 24 August 1918, Wilson Papers, 49: 349.

Footnote 6: In August 1918, the second major assembly building was opened at the Naval Aircraft Factory. It was three months late and $268,000 over budget. While work was still going on at the forty-one acre complex, it had greatly expanded its capacity. William F. Trimble, Wings for the Navy: A History of the Naval Aircraft Factory, 1917-1956 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990), 24-25.

Footnote 7: Adm. David W. Taylor, Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair and the “master mind” behind the Naval Aircraft Factory built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Daniels, Years of War and After: 122.

Footnote 8: Capt. Noble E. Irwin, Director of Naval Aviation.

Footnote 9: John D. Ryan, Second Assistant Secretary of War and Director of Aircraft Production.

Footnote 10: Daniels was reticent to speak of the sending of complete airplanes to Europe because of the supply issues that meant that American forces were not well supplied with aircraft. See: William S. Sims to Daniels, 21 August 1918; and Franklin D. Roosevelt to Daniels, 18 August 1918.

Footnote 11: That is, an army, navy, and air force that was separate and distinct from the other two services. The air service of the United States, by contrast, was attached to either the Army or the Navy.

Footnote 12: Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 13: Here Daniels is repeating a report that he had received from VAdm. William S. Sims, Force Commander in European Waters. See: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 23 August 1918.

Footnote 14: For more on Gen. William S. Brancker, the Controller-General of Equipment and Master-General of Personnel, Royal Air Force, and his statement, see: Sims to Hutchinson I. Cone, 18 August 1918.

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