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Naval Cadet Albert H. McCarthy to Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet


Blockading off Santiago de Cuba,

June 5, 1898.


     I respectfully request permission to submit, for your consideration, the following method for attacking one of the Spanish vessels in the harbor with a torpedo.

     A torpedo, weighing about one pound more than the water it displaces, can be made to float by attaching a small life preserver to it; this being secured amidships so that it could easily be cast off. The torpedo, thus fitted and painted a dark green, with all the adjustments made and the air chamber fully charged, could be towed by a small boat in close along the western bank to the channel entrance, or as near as possible without endangering detection. The time of starting being so planned that the entrance would be reached at the time of the strongest flood tide.

     On thus gaining the entrance or a point near to it, one man, provided with a good life preserver and wearing a dark suit, could then leave the boat and float along with the torpedo by the tide and enter the harbor. The distance from the entrance to the nearest ship probably not being over fifteen hundred yards, the tide would carry them into it in less than an hour. If it should be found necessary, the starting lever could be thrown slightly back and a directive force thus obtained to keep the torpedo in the mid-channel; the man floating along and guiding it by a line made fast around the war-head and air-flask.

     Thus equipped, on a dark night or during a rainfall, a range of a hundred yards could probably be secured without being discovered;and on gaining such a range,or a suitable one, the torpedo could then be pointed fairly for the ship, and the life-preserver removed so that the torpedo would sink. With the lines from the war-head in one hand and the other on the tail it could be kept pointed fairly, so that, when it had reached a depth of five or seven feet as desired, the lever could be thrown back by a small line and the torpedo thus sent at a good speed for the ship. The war nose not being unlocked until just before firing.

     Immediately after starting the engines,the swimmer could make for the shore and secure cover until the tide shifted.

     Fully realizing the difficulties and dangers of such an undertaking,I,never-the-less,have thought it perhaps worthy of consideration,and thinking myself sufficiently strong for the work,Ihope that the opportunity may be given to me to prove its efficiency. In case the plan is deemed at all feasible by you, I respectfully request that I be allowed the necessary equipment for accomplishing the work.

     In case it be thought inadvisable to use one of our own torpedo(of which we have six) for this work,the enemy’s torpedo, recovered by the U.S.”Porter,”might serve the purpose.

     Trusting that this project will meet your approval, and that I may soon have the privilege of carrying it out,1

                   I am, Sir,

                        Very respectfully,

                             Albert H. McCarthy,

                                  Cadet, U.S.Navy.

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 313, Entry 48, Box 4. Addressed below close: “William T. Sampson,/Rear Admiral,/Commander-in-Chief,U.S.Naval Forces,/North Atlantic Station.” Stamp: “RECEIVED/FLAG-SHIP N. A. STATION/JUN 6 1898.” Docketed: “U.S.S. MASSACHUSETTS, 1stRate,/Blockading off Santiago de Cuba,/June 5,1898./McCarthy, A.H.,/Cadet, U.S.Navy./Plan for torpedo attack,/and request for torpedo./U.S.S.MASSACHUSETTS, (1st rate),/Off Santiago de Cuba,/June 5, 1898./1. Approved and respectfully forwarded/2. if the plan is thought pract-/icable, I think Mr. McCarthy is/a capable person for the work./Very respectfully,/Francis J Higginson/Captain, U.S.Navy,/Commanding.”

Footnote 1: Despite being endorsed by his commander, Capt. Francis J. Higginson, McCarthy’s operation was never attempted.

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