Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to President Woodrow Wilson


               WASHINGTON, March 23, 1917

My dear Mr. President :

               The appropriation for the Naval Emergency Fund, provided by the act of August 29, 1916,1 contained the following provision :

“To enable the President to secure the more economical and expeditious delivery of materials, equipment, and munitions and secure the more expeditious construction of ships authorized and for the purchase of construction of such additional torpedo destroyers, submarine chasers and such other naval small craft,. . . . . . and for each and every purpose connected therewith as the President may direct to be expended at the direction and in the discretion of the President, $115,000,000 or so much thereof as may be necessary, and to be immediately available.”2

               The submarine chasers and other small craft provided for by this act will be comparatively small vessels, and it will be necessary that they be at all times in signal or radio communication with the shore. In order to provide for this, and to insure proper protection for these vessels, it is important that a system of telegraphic and telephonic communication be established under the general direction of the Coast Guard, in accordance with the recommendation of the Interdepartmental Board on Communications,which recommendation has received your approval.3 The Naval Emergency Fund is the only one in which money is available for this work; and it is therefore requested that you authorize the expenditure from it of $250,000 for the purpose indicated.

I have the honor to be, Mr. President,      

Your obedient servant,       

Josephus Daniels        

Secretary of the Navy   

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Special Correspondence, Roll 65. This letter is printed on official Navy Department stationary. At the top of the letter is a handwritten note, “This letter referred to in President’s letter of 3 April 1917”; see, Wilson to Daniels, 3 April 1917, DLC-MSS, Woodrow Wilson Papers. At the end of the letter following the signature is typed “The President of the/United States of America.”

Footnote 1: Written beneath this date is “March 4, 1917.” This refers to the fact that the quoted paragraph that follows also appeared in H.R. 20632 (the Naval Appropriations Act of 1917), granting the same discretionary funds to the Secretary of Navy; The Statutes At Large of the United States of America from December, 1915, to March, 1917, Volume 39, Part I-Public Acts and Resolutions (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1917), 1192.

Footnote 2: With the Naval Expansion Act of 1916, Congress approved the “most dramatic fleet expansion in American history to that time.” The administration supported this dramatic increase in the size of the Navy. In one speech, Wilson argued that the United States must have “incomparably the greatest navy in the world.” The emphasis in this bill was on building large capital ships—battleships and cruisers—therefore the expansion also called for a modest increase in the size of the enlisted force (from 74,700 to 87,000). See, Kirschbaum, “The 1916 Naval Expansion Act,” 1: 138-39; and Henry T. Mayo to Atlantic Fleet, 27 March 1917, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 3: At the outbreak of war, the navy commanded fifty-five ship-shore and radio compass stations along the Atlantic, Gulf, Pacific, and Alaskan coasts. Per the recommendation of the Interdepartmental Board of Communications, the navy built sixty-nine more stations, fifteen of which were radio compass stations. The U.S. Navy thus operated seventy-eight radio stations in total. Fifty stations were located along the coastline of the contiguous states or the Great Lakes. The ship-shore network included seven stations in Alaska, eight in the Pacific, and seven in the Caribbean. Jonathan Reed Winkler, Nexus: Strategic Communications and American Security in World War I (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), 112-13. For the plan of the Interdepartmental Board of Communications, see, Daniels to Wilson, 6 April 1917, RG 80, Entry 119. Also, see: Daniels to Wilson, 30 March 1917.

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