Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Press Conference
P R E S S.
Saturday P.M., - - - May 18, 1918.
Good evening, gentlemen. I haven’t a thing at all, gentlemen.
Q. Did you notice the story (unfinished)--
A. The facts are these. General Goethals wanted to see me to know if we could release some of the facilities tha<t> the Navy had procured in the matter of destroyers in order to expedite the work on the transports and other craft that they need very much. I explained to him that the Navy Department and the Shipping Board had worked together in these matters, each one doing what they could to facilitate these matters, but that we had spent two or three million dollars to provide these facilities and that if we should turn them over to the Shipping Board we would have to delay completing the destroyers, and that in my judgment it would be a great mistake.
I could not agree to delay the completion of the destroyers even though I desired to assist in that work. Every other facility in the country that we would not have, of course, they could secure, but the need for destroyers was the paramount thing. I could not consent to delaying the completion of the destroyers a single minute. You can see the idea.
While getting ships over to France in safe condition is the supreme duty of the Navy, it is a very big job, and they are getting merchant ships more and more all the time and we will need more and more ships to convoy them, and I think it would be a mistake in the long run to transfer any of this to any other work, important as that is. I understand their position. It is a very serious thing with them. Of course, we are delaying our battleship construction. I don’t want that printed abroad. We are all trying to help each other, but this was a question we could not even consider.
Q. Could you direct General Goethals to any other facilities?
A. There are some other facilities that would do for merchant work that would not do for destroyers, and of course he knows what they are. These facilities we have are in addition to those we created. The whole thing is destroyers.
Q. Has England offered to help out in the proposition?
A. I suppose they are doing everything they can do.
Q. Any indication that the other side is still making efforts to have you change your opinion?
A. I haven’t heard of it.
General Goethals and I had a talk about it but I think he appreciated that each one felt the supreme need and I told him we were doing it as much for the War Department as for the Navy. I think this is a matter of national interest and we have given destroyers first in everything and now to let that go by I think it would be a very serious mistake.
You see they have increased their number more and more. They can use, of course, facilities that we could not use. Their program is expending, and we have a program for a certain number of ships and we are building that number, and when we get them off the ways I think perhaps the wisest thing would be to turn them over to the Shipping Board.
Q. Are you getting machinery fast enough for the hulls?
A. That is the hardest thing to get. It is a serious delay but we are getting nothing as fast as we would like to have.