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Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

MAY                    TUESDAY 8                 1917

Conference with McAdoo and Baker about Commissioner to buy everything.1 McAdoo wanted Baruch[,]2 Baker liked him, but said country regarded him as daring speculator on Wall Street- No conclusion. McAdoo’s plan would centre everything, including food, in one hand, Baker thought Council of National Defense could do it very well.3


Council of National Defense. Geo[r]ge Wharton Pepper wished to Enroll for Service – Only one more of the plans that sound very well, but get no service – Wait till after selective draft-4

Newspaper men all hot at Lansings order that nobody should talk.5


Cabinet — President brought up resolution giving him power to fix priority in shipments upon RR & by water & to let RR violate letter of law against preference. If only lawyers would let us alone. They are so technical6

Shall we bring German prisoners from England to this country?7



Prof Abbot of Yale wished to know if boys should leave college to enlist in the Navy?8 No. Should doubt[les]s be getting ready, but best preparation is for young boy to stay at school


Sperry9 and others of Naval Consulting Board, with us at dinner – After discussed practical plans to meet sub marine menace. Aerial torpedo, carrys T.N.T. could be sent 50 miles & create Lane. Also Elia mine10 – when sub marine struck the net, it would turn on a light & a bouy would whistle 1½ hour & patrol boats could arrive

Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1. At the top of the page Daniels has written “Lane 254.” This is a reference to a page in Franklin K. Lane, The Letters of Franklin K. Lane Personal and Political, ed. By Anne W. Lane and Louise H. Wall (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1922). On the page referred to in Lane’s diary entry for 8 May, he detailed a discussion in the Council of National Defense concerning how to use Herbert Hoover. On that same page is a discussion attributed to Lane on how Charles M. Schwab of Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding should be given essentially a blank check and carte blanche and be set to work building ships for the nation. Daniels added this notation some years after the diary entry.

Footnote 1: Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker.

Footnote 2: Bernard Baruch, a New York financier, was born in the South and was a strong supporter of Wilson. He was active in the preparedness movement and worked to establish a relationship between the military services and American industry. Despite that, advisors of Wilson, including his close friend Edward House, expressed similar concerns. Cuff, The War Industries Board: 30-34; Kennedy, Over Here: 129.

Footnote 3: This was the first of a series of discussions in May and June, concerning a centralized purchasing system. The impetus behind the discussions was a decision by the J. P. Morgan Company to stop Allied purchases when it learned that it was to be replaced as financial agent. McAdoo argued that the Wilson administration decided to establish a central agency to handle Allied purchases, it made sense to extend its scope to all purchases. Under relentless pressure from McAdoo, President Woodrow Wilson initiated a series of conferences concerning purchasing, priorities, and price policy, but with no practical results. Baker continued to argue against such consolidation. The end result was the creation of the War Industries Board at the end of July, 1917. This board, made up of five members from business and industry and one each from the Army and Navy, initially floundered. After Wilson elevated Baruch to the chairmanship, and concentrated power in Baruch’s hands, the board began to operate efficiently. Cuff, The War Industries Board: 1-3, 99-105.

Footnote 4: Pepper was chairman of the Pennsylvania Council of Defense. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 141n. June 2, 1917, was the date scheduled for nationwide selective service registration.

Footnote 5: On 7 May, Secretary of State Frank Lansing issued an order that only he or the new Division of Foreign Intelligence should give information to the Press. Wilson Papers, 43: 54, 245, 247n.

Footnote 6: Wilson asked for such a resolution in a letter to Senator Charles A. Culberson of 14 May 1917. Wilson Papers, 43: 489-90. After much debate, a version passed on 10 August 1917. Wilson Papers, 43: 504.

Footnote 7: While the War Department issued a general order on 17 May 1917, establishing prison barracks at three forts within the continental United States, only a small number of German prisoners were ever held there and most of those were sailors from interned German vessels. No German prisoners were brought to the United States from England. Mitchel Yockelson, "The War Department: Keeper of Our Nation's Enemy Aliens During World War I," Presentation to the Society for Military History Annual Meeting, April 1998.

Footnote 8: Wilbur C. Abbott, professor of history, Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 149n.

Footnote 9: Elmer A. Sperry, electrical engineer, inventor of the gyroscopic compass and gyroscopic stabilizer for ships and aircraft, and a member of the Naval Consulting Board. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 149n, 211.

Footnote 10: The Elia mine, made by the Vickers Company, was widely used by the British. Friedman, Naval Weapons: 363-71.

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