Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain David W. Todd, Director, Naval Communications to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

NAVY DEPARTMENT

In reply refer       OFFICE OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

to initials                WASHINGTON

and No. DNC

July 15, 18.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.

SUBJECT: Operation of commercial cables.

     1. Should it be decided that the operation of submarine cables landing on United States territory is necessary,they should unquestionably be operated by the Navy Department.

     2. The Cable Censorship has put the Navy Department into direct and constant touch with all the cable companies, and has given the Department an insight into the business operations and influenced the mechanical operation of the cables.

     3. The Navy Department has already place in New York a representative to “police”,as it were,cable officers,to see that cablegrams are submitted for censorship,and that Naval and other United States Government cablegrams and promptly and properly handled.

     4. The control of cables in the hands of another executive department1 could not result in any smoother running or more direct relations between the Cable Censorship and the mechanical operation of cables. The Censorship would have to deal through another Government office in order to accomplish measures which are of primary and vital importance to it. The close coordination of Censorship with the operation of cables were both to be Government functions would undoubtedly facilitate the work of both,add to the efficiency,and allow the work to be done with minimum personnel.

     5. The cable companies have,from the beginning of  the war,shown a strong desire to cooperate with the Navy Department in particular, and they have requested that as much of the Government’s correspondence with the companies as possible be handled through the Navy Department.

     6. This Department has more experience in and has made a closer study of transmission of Government business in Code than any other Department,and is thus better able to insure secrecy.

     7. The coordination of the operation of cables with the transatlantic and transpacific radio circuits would permit of great flexibility in handling traffic in case of failure of certain lines of cable communication of radio and cables of the first importance,and it would be uneconomical and cumbersome to have two departments handling sister enterprises whose work is already intermingled and at any moment might become indistinguishable.

     8. The Navy’s direct method of procedure in case of radiotraffic would help in settling differences with other governments as regards cable procedure.

     9. The handling of commercial radio work has necessitated a commercial division in this office,which undoubtedly insures a familiarity with accounting and auditing of commercial traffic (both land line and radio) more thorough than that of any other Government Department.2

D. W. Todd,        

Source Note: DTS, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Roll 52. This memorandum is written on printed stationary and the heading is to be found on each of the three pages of the document. Typed on pages two and three is “Secnav” with an hashtag and the page number, and “7-15-18.”

Footnote 1: Todd is presumably referring to the Committee for Public Information.

Footnote 2: At the end of the war, Daniels unsuccessfully advocated for government ownership of the emerging radio industry. Hugh G.J. Aitken, The Continuous Wave: Technology and American Radio, 1900-1932 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 254.

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