Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Diary of the Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

[Extract]

March               TUESDAY 6                1917

President called at Navy Dept. to talk over arming ships1 & danger of sub-marines in American waters2 & about bringing the fleet North3 - He thought, in addition to arming, we ought to have 3 motor boats on each ship to be lowered in Smooth seas & hunt submarines - When in England he saw the annual occasion where a shepherd would stand in a circle & by calls & whistles herd three sheep distant from him in a pen - It wasnt hard to manage 2, but very difficult with 3. They would expect a boat on each side of ship but the third boat would confuse them4

Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1. The diary was kept in a printed engagement calendar so the date is printed at the top of the page.

Footnote 1: For the fruits of these talks, see: Daniels to Woodrow Wilson, 9 March 1917.

Footnote 2: In ibid., Daniels discussed the need for American naval vessels to protect shipping in American waters against possible German submarine attack.

Footnote 3: The American North Atlantic fleet was then on fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean.

Footnote 4: Daniels discussed Wilson’s idea with several of the senior officers in the Navy Department: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William S. Benson; Head of the General Board Adm. Charles J. Badger; and Adm. David W. Taylor, Chief Constructor of the Navy and Chief of the Bureau of Construction of Repair. All three advised against it and Taylor drafted a memorandum summarizing these objections: boats large enough to fulfill this mission, which could carry sufficient-sized armament, would be too large for merchant vessels to carry them; it would be very difficult to get these boats in and out of the water; their “racing type of engines” would make them vulnerable to breaking down and operations in anything but ideal weather conditions would be greatly hampered, and given the zone they would need to operate in—the North Atlantic off the coast of Great Britain and France—ideal weather conditions would be a rare occurrence. Taylor, Memorandum Relative to Method of Protecting Merchant Vessels from Attacks by Submarines, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Paper. This memorandum, Daniels noted in a later diary entry, “seemed to convince the President his idea was not practi[cal].” Diary Entry of 9 March, Ibid.

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