Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

 

AUGUST                      TUESDAY 14                     1917

At Cabinet discussed building destroyers – Shall we build merchant ships or destroyers? McAdoo1 rather thought the first. W.2 said much would depend upon how long the war would last, we are building 117 & the proposed 150 could not be secured until 1919 & later. Then it would be a top-heavy Navy whereas the merchant ships would get in trade & that was the chief need— Decided to confer with Taylor & report3

Benson indignant at NL statemt4

Went to see W about the charge of the Naval League & showed the statement and letter – Time for silence has ended – speak out.5 He would, if necessary, demand investigation & examination

Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diaries, Roll 1. Daniels kept his diary in a daybook so the date is printed along the top.

Footnote 1: Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo.

Footnote 2: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 3: RAdm. David W. Taylor, Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair. In October 197 the Navy decided to build 150 destroyers for use in the war effort; Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 217.

Footnote 4: “NL” was the Navy League. In July, a powder magazine had exploded at the Mare Island Navy Yard. Daniels immediately ordered an investigation but on 14 August the Navy League publicly accused the Navy Department of blocking a full investigation because of pressure from labor leaders, something that, as Daniels notes here, Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, took great umbrage to.

Footnote 5: Following the Navy League's statement, Daniels released one of his own, denouncing the Navy League’s charge and demanding a full retraction or the resignation of the League's officers’, claiming that the organization had become an unpatriotic one. Col. Robert M. Thompson, the League’s president and a long-standing critic of Daniels, offered to resign only if Daniels did so as well. Daniels, in turn, issued an order banning all officers and representatives of the Navy League  from Navy ships and stations; Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 191n. In the end, it was decided that the explosion was the work of a criminal and the controversy with the Navy League faded; See, Josephus Daniels Diary, 27 August 1917, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Roll 1.

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