Skip to main content

Lieutenant Commander Edward C.S. Parker to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations



c/o Postmaster,New York,N.Y.

15 May 1917.

From:     Commanding Officer.

To:       Navy Department (Operations).

SUBJECT:  Plan for co-operation of Cuban forces with United States Navy.

Reference: (a)  Operations’ dispatch to PADUCAH 16081.

Inclosure: 1.1

1.  It is assumed that the Cuban Government is sincere in its expressed desire to assist as far as possible in the service of information, security, and patrol of Cuban coasts and waters.2

2.  There already exists in Cuba adequate personnel for the following divisions of this service. Adequate material is likewise available with the exceptions noted, which additional material can readily be obtained through the United States Navy Department.





Six 2 KW shore wireless plants.

Ten ½ KW shore wireless plants.

About 500 miles field telephone wire.


Motor boat motor yacht,

and small gunboat patrol

of all coast and waters

navigable by submarines.


Undetermined number of 1-Pdr.,

3 Pdr., and 6-Pdr. guns.

Improvised submarine-net

Service for Habana, Cien-

fuegos and Santiago, and

harbor defense patrol of other important ports.


1-Pdr., 3-Pdr., and 6-Pdr. guns. Adequate steel nets (when available).

Two seagoing gunboats for duty off the coast.



     The contemplated arming of patrol boats is intended to enable their controlling other small craft where necessary, destroying mines and for self-defense.

     3.  If seven or more hydroplanes could be obtained by the end of the period required for the instruction of pilots and mechanics, an apt personnel is available among the younger Americanized Cubans of the upper class; but this service would not be a success unless the training of all hands was carried out from the beginning at an American aviation school.

     4.  Submarine chasers manned by Cubans would not be a success unless absolutely green personnel were selected from the same class as that referred to in the preceding paragraph and likewise given their entire training in the United States. Furthermore, the regular personnel of the Cuban Navy is scarcely adequate to its present needs. I consider it preferable in any case that all submarine chasers operating in Cuban waters be of the U. S. Naval Coast Defense Reserve.

     5.  It therefore follows that the Cuban Government is in a position immediately to proceed with the preparation of the following personnel and material which will constitute a valuable co-operation with our naval forces:

   (a) Information service.

       Amplification and organization of communications.

       Patrol of coasts and jurisdictional waters.

   (b) Defense of important ports against submarine attack.  

   (c) Two seagoing gunboats for co-operation with ourforces off the coast, or for special service.

   (d) Aerial patrol (in case material is available).

     6.  Two years of close contact with the President,3 the civil authorities and the Navy of Cuba, together with three weeks association with them since their declaration of war against Germany, have thoroughly convinced me that the above enumeration indicates the maximum possible co-operation on their part. I am furthermore convinced that this co-operation will be entirely ineffective unless it is carried on from beginning to end under the direction of United States Navy Officers and subject to their inspection.

     The gravity of the subject impels me to state very frankly my conviction that even the simplest naval measure independently undertaken by the Cuban authorities would be utterly futile, both in their conception and execution. Their enthusiastic declarations and expressed intentions are far from being a true index either to their understanding of the subject or to their subsequent constancy and thoroughness. Their most glaring deficiency consists in the detail of thoroughly incompetent and sometimes dishonest officers to important duties, and this inherent nepotism has become even more noticeable in time of war than it was in time of peace. It will be sufficient to point out as an example that, in recently appointing officers for a newly created naval militia, commissions as ensigns were given to two persons of no military or nautical experience, and only, with the relative rank of junior lieutenant, were given to five lawyers of Habana. It may further be pointed out that there are but three officers in the Cuban Navy who can even think in naval terms. One is a former lieutenant of the Spanish Navy and the remaining two are officers who have passed through a period of instruction in the American Navy. Through weakness on the part of the President, however, and through jealousy on the part of their naval superiors, these officers have been kept in positions where their knowledge and experience would be of no avail.

     The above conditions make it imperative that the necessary direction to be exercised by American officers include as far as possible the s[e]lection and detail of personnel. Without this American direction and inspection, no useful result can ever be attained. Even the authority to direct operations, without the authority to remove unsatisfactory officers, would result in failure, owing to an inherent defect in the Cuban character --- a cparicious [i.e., capricious] satisfaction that, in dealing with a superior of doubtful authority, they derive from feigning loyalty and ardent support while they are in truth opposing him as far as they can without committing any overt act of insubordination.

     I am aware that these statements sound uncharitable, but I believe it my duty frankly to state the result of my observations, rather than to wait for my recommendations to be justified through some disaster in the future.

     7. With the exception of harbor defense and the employment of the two seagoing gunboats referred to, the contemplated co-operation on the part of the Cuban Government will be concerned entirely with the information service on shore and afloat4. . . .

E. C. S. Parker.

Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 1: The enclosure was a “2nd Endorsement” dated 6 June 1917, from Capt. Edward A. Anderson, commander of “Squadron Three, Patrol Force,” who wrote that because of Cuba’s geographical position, he believed it “very likely” that the Germans would establish submarine bases there. He added that the present unsettled political situation in Cuba, the many isolated harbors, and the role played by the United States in supporting the “Federals” left many Cuban “Liberals, who were active in the revolution” now “strongly pro-german in their sympathies.” He then agreed with Parker’s assessment of the “Cuban character” and echoed Parker’s contention that the United States must play a leading role. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 2: Cuba declared war on Germany on 10 April 1917.

Footnote 3: Mario Garcia Menocal(1913-1921).

Footnote 4: In a letter to Capt. Henry B. Wilson of 2 June 1917, Anderson spelled out the steps taken to put Parker’s recommendations into action. As seen in Anderson’s report, naval activities in Cuba were placed under the control of American naval officers. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Related Content