Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
MAY FRIDAY 4 1917
Representative of Flint & Co. called about buying destroyers from Argentina.1 I told them they must guarantee they are in good condition. They cabled to Argentina.2
Spear came to see about submarines & wished to build on their plans rather than Gov. plan.3 Taylor rather recommended & Benson assented.4 Hard question to decide.
Meeting of cabinet. President talked about the sub-marine task. He returns to his original idea that merchant ships should be convoyed by naval ships, but expressed his view, as he said, without confidence as he is no expert.5 He also outlined his views as to changing course & ports on trip to England of our ships. Discussed sub-marines. Redfield thought a net could be stretched across the North Sea—250 miles—a net 5 mi. long had been used in Alaska and will take to Admiral De Chair about it.6
Stop enlisting. Editor Fort Worth (Texas)7 wrote that his son enlisted, went to Chicago to Training Station, very cold & change in climate made him ill, & he died. Not a harsh word in letter or paper, but protested against Southern boys being sent to Chicago. He thought they ought to be sent to stations on the Gulf. I directed Palmer to prepare places at Charleston & Pensocola.8
Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1.
Footnote 1: A ship brokerage firm specializing in supplying warships to belligerents. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 146n.
Footnote 2: In his diary entry of 2 May, Daniels wrote of a scheme by which Argentina would sell destroyers to China, who would in turn sell them to the United States. However, there was a question to the quality of the ships and Daniels had been told that the ships were “not strong enough to cross the ocean.” DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1.
Footnote 3: A representative of Electric Boat Co., the nation’s largest maker of submarines. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 146n.
Footnote 4: RAdm. David W. Taylor, head of the Bureau of Construction and Repair; and Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.
Footnote 5: Benson informed the British Admiralty that the United States Navy rejected a British plan to use American destroyers to convoy a merchant convoys to Britain. See: Benson to Guy R. Gaunt, 4 May 1917.
Footnote 6: Secretary of Commerce William C. Redfield contacted VAdm. Dudley R. S. De Chair, British Naval Attaché at Washington, concerning his idea, originally proposed by Capt. N. H. Heck, a hydrographic engineer. Also, see, E. Lester Jones to Redfield, 15 May 1917, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1436. This proposal seems to have evolved into the North Sea Mine barrage plan that the Navy later executed.
Footnote 7: Probably an editor with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Footnote 8: RAdm. Leigh C. Palmer, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Camp Bagley was established at Charleston soon thereafter and grew to be one of the largest bases in the country. Michael D. Besch, “A Navy Second to None: The History of U.S. Navy Training in World War I,” (Ph.D. diss., Marquette University, 1999), 47. Pensacola, the home of the Naval Aeronautical Station, also grew exponentially. Breckinridge Long, “What the Navy Has Done Since the War Began,” DLC-MSS, Breckinridge Long Papers, Box 178.