Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral of the Navy George Dewey, President of the General Board, to President Woodrow Wilson, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker

 

[Addendum to Memorandum on Transport Service Operations]

 

JOINT BOARD.1

   Washington,

     November 14, 1916.

Sir:-

The joint board has considered a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, No. 4789-210 of May 9, 1916, on the subject of Transport Service Operations and memoranda submitted therewith by the various naval and military and attaches on duty in London and Paris and has adopted the following report:2

 

"2. The memorandum referred to states in substance that it seems 'probable that in case of war the Navy will be come held to take over the sea transport business from the Army. There are many reasons for thinking this possible, but the most cogent reason is that the Army will be unable to spare officers for the work and the whole matter will probably be turned over to the Navy at a time when the Navy will be busily engaged in the purely naval aspects of the war. Any system adopted at the moment and operated without previous study and experience is more than apt to bring discredit on the Navy, and useless danger to the Army and the Nation.

 

#3. 'An unseemly rivalry of the Army and Navy competing for the use of the same merchant vessels in time of war might be a fruitful source of confusion, delay, and inefficiency, and any investigation is bound to demonstrate that all nautical affairs should be handled by the nautical branch of the Government, and that the governing authorities of the Army and Navy should adjust this question in time of peace in the best possible way for successful operation under war conditions'.

 

#4. It is further suggested 'that this matter being considered by a joint board of officers of the Army and Navy, specially appointed to decide definitely where the authority should rest. And if this board should recommend that all the transportation by water should be under the Navy, a special department should be immediately established in the Navy to study the question and to make plans for mobilisation of the mercantile fleet, and the purchase of ships and facilities for operating the transportation likely to be demanded by the Army in time of war.3

 

#5. The placing of the transport service of the Army under the control of the Navy Department would be a radical departure from the present plans which are laid down in Field Service Regulations, U.S. Army, 1914, Articles 121 and 257. The details of the Army Transport Service, now organized as a special branch of the Quartermaster Corps, are prescribed in Army Transport Service Regulations, 1914. In these are contain certain 'Rules for Naval Convoy of Military Expeditions.' These were prepared by the Joint Board and approved by the President, and published in General Orders, No. 18, War Department, January 28, 1911. One argument advanced in favor of the change is that 'the Army will be unable to spare officers for the work and the whole matter will probably be turned over to the Navy at a time when the Navy will be busily engaged in the proper naval aspects of the war. Any system adopted at the moment and operated without previous study and experience is more than apt to bring discredit on the Navy, and useless danger to the Army and the Nation.'

 

#6. Nothing in our experiments in ferrets out this argument of the attaches. As a result of the Spanish war, our transport service under charge of the Quartermaster Department of the Army has developed until it is now most efficient.4 As an illustration of this, the recent successful withdrawal of the Vera Cruz expedition may be instanced.5 The regulations for its control have been carefully framed so as to preserve unity of command and authority. All the plans of the details of an oversea[s] operation of the Army remain in charge and under the authority of the War Department. It is believed that it would be a mistake to divide responsibility by giving the control of the transports to the Navy Department. This question was gone into very thoroughly by the Joint Board and its findings were published in General Orders, No. 18, War Department, January 28, 1911.

 

"7. The argument that the Regular Army could not spare enough officers for the operation of oversea[s] transportation in time of war can be met by applying the same line of reasoning to the Navy which will also have full use in all probability for its trained personnel. Therefore, in either case, competent civilians would necessarily be drafted into the transport service, just as they were during the Spanish war.6 As a rule, such men, commissioned in the Quartermaster Corps, perform their duties in a satisfactory manner and the needs of the Army engaged on foreign duty were met in a competent manner.

 

#8. Another argument advanced is that there would be unseemly rivalry of the Army and Navy in competing for the use of the same merchant vessels in time of war. The likelihood of this occurring has been prevented by the appointment of a Joint Committee to make inspections of merchant vessels adapted for transports and render specific recommendations to the Joint Board as to the ships which could be used as transports for troops, and the yards in which necessary changes could be made when the boats were delivered by the owners to the Government.7

 

#9. This whole question was considered in a previous memorandum of the War College Division to the Chief of Staff, dated April 15, 1916 (WCD 7450-2). It quotes from the present regulations and orders regarding transports. A recapitulation in this paper is not considered necessary.

 

#10. There are not sufficient reasons, in our opinion, to make it advisable to change in the ‘Rules for Naval Convoy of Military Expeditions' prepared by the Joint Board and approved by the President, as published in General Orders, No. 18, War Department, January 28, 1911. In fact, the experiences of the English during the present war indicate that our regulations, founded on the idea of unity of command and authority, are correct in principle. The details provided by these regulations proved most satisfactory during the late Vera Cruz expedition.

 

“11. It is believed:

(a) That the control of the transport service should be the same in war as in peace.

(b) That the true function of the Navy in connection with oversea[s] transportation of troops is to furnish protection from the enemy.

(c) That the provisions of the joint board, published in General Orders, No. 18, War Department, 1911, made adequate arrangements for the division of authority between the Army and the Navy in such matters.

(d) That the Board of Inspection and Survey for merchant vessels should be composed of Navy and Army officers, charged with the inspection of merchant vessels to determine their suitability for use in the Navy and Army in time of war, to recommend ships that might be used for transports, the yards where necessary changes might be made and such other matters as seem advisable.”

Very respectfully,

George Dewey   

Admiral of the Navy,

   Senior Member.  

The President.

 

        War Department                 Navy Department,

        November   , 1916.             December 5, 1916.

 

APPROVED:                          APPROVED:

        Newton D. Baker                Josephus Daniels

 

        Secretary of War.          Secretary of the Navy.

 

The White House,

November, 1916.

            APPROVED:

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 225, M1421, Roll 9. In upper left corner of the first page is the identification number: “J. B. No. 320./(Serial No. 45).” and in the upper right corner the initials of the typist: “ELB.”

Footnote 1: That is, Joint Army-Navy Board.

Footnote 2: For the report of the attachés, see, Cmdr. Powers Symington, et. al., to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, 4 April 1916, DNA, RG 225, M1421. However, the main points of that memorandum are quoted in this Joint Board report.

Footnote 3: See section 11 (d) in this document.

Footnote 4: During the Spanish-American War there was confusion between the U.S. Navy and Army regarding troop convoying and particularly the landing at Daiquiri, Cuba. See: Convoy and Landings at Daiquiri.

Footnote 5: President Wilson in 1914 ordered a joint U.S. Navy and Army expedition to go to Vera Cruz to protect American interests in Mexico.

Footnote 6: Volunteers were mustered in the U.S. Navy and Army during the Spanish-American War. See: Naval Militia.

Footnote 7: See section 11 (d) in this document.

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