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Captain Samuel S. Robison, Commander, Atlantic Submarine Force, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels



New London, Conn.

September 1, 1917.

From:         Special Board on Submarine Devices.

To:                Secretary of the Navy

Subject:         Group Working at New London: Personnel.

References: (a) Navy Departments Letter #3277-132-N-31/W

                        of July 26, 1917.1

                    (b) Navy Departments Letter #27219-495-Mat. 

                        2P-JL of June 19, 1917.


     1.        This Board has a group of scientists working at the Submarine Base, New London, on experimental and development work in accordance with the instruction to this Board in references (a) and (b). The three principal men in this group are Professor Ernest Merritt of Cornell University, Professor Max Mason, of the University of Wisconsin, and Professor G. W. Pierce of Harvard University.

     2.        These men have been on this work at New London for about three months and have become familiar with the problems before this Board and have developed some principles for detection of submarines which offer considerable promise. The colleges will soon open and these men will return to their universities unless some steps are taken at once to retain them. This Board has given this subject considerable thought and has come to the conclusion that the work of the Board would be seriously handicapped if these men leave the work on which they are now engaged. Even if men of equal scientific attainments could be obtained to replace them, much time would be required to indoctrinate a new personnel for New London. The three men mentioned in the above paragraph all have international reputations as scientists and are especially qualified for the work on which they are engaged.

     3.        It is understood that all three of these professors can obtain leave from their universities so as to continue on this work, but some provision will have to be made for their salaries. At present they are devoting their vacations to this work and serving without pay from the Government. This Board has a number of other scientists at Nahant and elsewhere, who are reserve officers in the Army. It is understood that the three men wanted here at New London, could be commissioned in the Reserves of the Army and assigned for this duty with the Navy. This Board feels however, that this work should be kept in the Navy, as it is strictly a Naval Problem, and it is believed that the direction of the work should be entirely under the Navy and that the personnel should be Naval. It is understood that the Secretary can commission officers in the Reserve Force with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and it is further understood that these three professors would accept Commissions as Lieutenant Commander in the Reserve Force of the Navy. It is expected, in this case, to make arrangements with their respective universities, or with scientific societies, to pay them the difference between their pay from the Navy and their present salaries.

     4.        It is felt that by commissioning these scientists in the Navy that their work can be better directed by the Navy and, in addition, that this will be a means of recognizing, to a certain extent, the very excellent work which these men have been doing.

     5.        It is recommended that these three professors, namely Ernest Merritt, Max Mason, and G. W. Pierce, be commissioned as Lieutenant Commanders in the Reserve Force of the Navy and that this Board be notified as soon as possible of the action taken, so that necessary arrangements can be made with the universities concerned.

(Signed) S. S. Robison.

Source Note: TL, DNA, RG 45. Entry 520. Despite Robsion’s request, the commissioning of these three professors as officers in the Navy Reserve did not take place, although they did continue to advise the Submarine Board on technological developments for hunting submarines.

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