Rear Admiral Montgomery Sicard, President, Naval War Board, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long
Office of Naval War Board.
Washington, D. C., May 20th, 1898.
If it is the intention to hold the Phillipineislands, or the port and neighborhood of Manilla, the Board is deeply impressed with the necessity of immediately taking measures looking to a permanent defence at that place. Admiral Dewey’s1 squadron is composed entirely of unarmored ships, and should the enemy send armored vessels against them, or should he2 be enabled to make an alliance whereby the armored vessels of his allies would be sent against the Admiral, the latter3 would be at a hopeless disadvantage and would be obliged to leave the port of Manilla in order to prevent his being blockaded and eventually captured.
Furthermore, should we have no strong place on the Islands in our possession, and should we have landed a large military force there, after our loss of Manilla we should be without certain means of communication with our army, and would be simply cruising about from place to place to avoid the enemy’s superior fleet or to give the army what little assistance might be possible, which course4 would be virtually valueless.
In the opinion of the Board, the army should at once place in transports an adequate armament of modern guns for the port and position of Manilla. These should be accompanied by the necessary accessories for building emplacements for the armament, and also the necessary adjuncts, such as cement, nails, screws, iron of all sort, that might be essential to the proper construction of land batteries, together with all the ammunition that could be spared up to one hundred rounds per gun.5
As time is a matter of much importance, it is suggested that when the armament and artificers reach Manilla, they should proceed to construct the batteries in a temporary way only, if much time would be saved in that way, as it is extremely important to get into a position of defence there as soon as possible; it being understood that the men of the fleet would be valuable for assisting in the work so far as they might be able to do so consistently with their purely naval duties.
It is further recommended, that the coast defence monitor Monterey be sent without delay to reinforce Adml. Dewey,6 as the Board understands that the harbor of San Francisco is unusually well fortified and armed, and we need therefore be under no apprehension of the enemy entering that port.
It is needless to add that a full outfit of submarine mines should be taken out to Manilla and installed by the army engineers.7
Rear Adml. Pres. of Board.
Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 372. Addressed below close: “To the Honorable,/The Secretary of the Navy.” Reference no.: “233.”
Footnote 1: RAdm. George Dewey, Commander, Asiatic Squadron.
Footnote 2: The word “he” refers to the enemy, i.e., Spain.
Footnote 3: The word “latter” is a handwritten interlineation.
Footnote 4: The word “course” is a handwritten interlineation.
Footnote 5: In a cable received at Cavite on 2 June, Long informed Dewey that 2,500 officers, men, and materiel on three transports convoyed by Charleston had been dispatched. DLC-MSS, PGD.
Footnote 7: Dewey did not believe that Manila Bay was conducive to the effective deployment of submarine mines and discouraged Long from sending them. See: Dewey to Long, 20 May 1898.