Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

                        JULY                      SUNDAY 15                       1917

Mayo1 came in – meeting of Board of Selection.2

Council of National Defense3 – Resolution asking Embargo Council4 to bear in mind that Army and Navy would need most of the iron and steel products of our mills, and to give great consideration to any license to export steel. Japan has been buying & there is report that other country would buy to hold.

Wrote letter to Tillman5 in re Creel6 story.

Sprague7 called at night. Pollen8 had made statement, or would to-morrow, that the way to defeat submarines was to make a lane & to have boats to patrol it & use small torpedoes for 150 foot boats that could send torpedoes under water to hit submarines 2,000 yards off-He believed it was the antidote. He had been looking into and experimenting with Leavitt & Bliss & believed he had found the real way to defeat submarines.9

Mr. Bo Sweeney10 died suddenly.

Wrote a letter to Speaker Clark11 for $45,000,000 for air craft 

Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers. Daniels kept his diary in a daybook, so the date is printed along the top.

Footnote 1: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 2: The Selection Board consisted of nine ear admirals and was designated to appoint all lieutenant commanders, commanders, and captains. Congress created this board in 1916 to replace a system of promotion based solely on seniority. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 177.

Footnote 3:The Council of National Defense was organized in August 1916 to coordinate resources and industry in support of the war effort. It consisted of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, Daniels, Secretary of Labor William B. Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture David F. Houston, Secretary of Commerce William C. Redfield, and Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane.

Footnote 4: Another of the numerous executive agencies created by the Wilson Administration to oversee the war effort. For centralized direction of the war and its domestic impact, see, Kennedy, Over Here: 93-143.

Footnote 5: Sen. Benjamin R. Tillman, D-South Carolina, Chair of the Naval Affairs Committee.

Footnote 6: George Creel, Chairman of the Committee of Public Information (CPI). Prior to his government service, Creel was a “muckraker” – a journalist who exposed social and industrial evils, often with substantial exaggeration. As head of the CPI, he oversaw the production and distribution of government propaganda. Kennedy, Over Here: 59-63.

Footnote 7: . Frank J. Sprague, an electrical engineer, was a member of the Naval Consulting Board. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 151.

Footnote 8: Arthur H. Pollen, a lawyer, journalist, and inventor, pitched several inventions to the Admiralty during the war, including a fire-control system. He and First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe developed a strong dislike of one another, with the admiral rejecting several of his proposed innovations. Massie, Castles of Steel: 677, 741-742.

Footnote 9: Frank McDowell Leavitt was an engineer with the E. W. Bliss Company of Brooklyn, New York, who, in 1904, designed the Bliss-Leavitt Mark I torpedo. The torpedo, the first non-Whitehead design after the Howell torpedo, contained a single-stage (later variants had two stages) turbine engine powered by compressed air preheated by alcohol. The 1912 design-the Bliss-Leavitt Mark VII-was so cutting edge that it changed the face of naval warfare. This torpedo had a range of 6,000 yards, traveling at speeds close to 35 knots, a design so resilient and forward thinking that it remained in use through World War II; Edwyn Gray, Nineteenth Century Torpedoes and Their Inventors (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004).

Footnote 10: Assistant Secretary of the Interior Bo Sweeney.

Footnote 11: Speaker of the House Champ Clark, D-Missouri.

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