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Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels




U.S.S. NEW YORK, Flagship.

                     19 May 1918.   

From:          Commander BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.

To:            Secretary of the Navy (OPERATIONS)

Via:           Force Commander.

Subject:       General Report – week ending 18 May 1918.

     1.        VISITING OFFICERS.

               Naval Constructor Lew<i>s B. McBride, U. S. Navy, attached to the London Office, and Chief Constructor E. L. Attwood, R.N., whose duties at the Admiralty are principally in connection with battleship design, made a joint official visit to this division during the past week, and spent several days in inspecting our own and some of the British ships in the Grand Fleet.

               Constructor McBride’s visit was at my request in order that I might discuss with him a number of items in relation to construction matters before making recommendations.


          One of the principle differences noticed by Chief Constructor Attwood, R.N., between our ships and the British is that they carry the watertight construction to a much higher level than we do. Cases may be cited where their ships have been able to reach port for this reason, after having been severely damaged in action, when ours would have been submerged too deeply to have remained afloat.


          Constructor McBride made a survey of the TEXAS’ masts and recommended that the holding down bolts be replaced by rivets, which will be done and thus add to their security.


          It is not deemed necessary nor advisable to enter into specific details concerning each and every installation for ship and fire control here-in-after discussed, but rather to generalize and later to prepare plans in accordance with approved changes or alterations.1


               Recommendation:- That there be but one mast, cage construction, base being tied to, or extending through at least two decks.

               Reason:- Cage mast weighs about 20 tons (approximately) against 90 tons (approximately) for tripod mast. It has been demonstrated that cage masts will stand a great deal of punishment by shell fire without collapsing. (NOTE: Shots fired by a monitor through special cage mast erected on SAN MARCOS). Tripod and other masts will also stand injury, but cage masts are not only lighter, but more adapted for desirable bridge, lookout and other necessary installations. One mast is all sufficient for radio installation.

               Two masts are unnecessary; originally designed for radio aerial, when distance was considered primary requisite  (see my weekly reports dated March 23, paragraph 3 and March 16, paragraph 9); and for secondary or duplicate control and spotter’s stations.

               Objections to two masts are:- Show changes in courses to enemy, unnecessary, cost,, selection of site in reference to other installation, and danger of fouling battery and screws in case of destruction.

          Under any conditions the following general plans are pro-posed for ship and fire control in reference to allotments and arrangements of space in and around foremast:

PRIMARY CONTROL STATION. Fire control and conning tower to remain unchanged, except that slits be altered as formerly proposed and now installed in these ships; to be designated as Primary Control Station.

AUXILIARY CONTROL STATION. Auxiliary Control Station outside of conning tower, with good visibility, is very necessary in entering and leaving port, in thick weather and at night, and preliminary to the time when the approach is started for action; should be installed on bridge or in foremast, and designated as the Auxiliary Ship Control Station.

SIGNAL BRIDGE and deck to remain unaltered; as in NEW YORK for example, but with better weather protection.


          Space in foremast to be utilized as follows (As in NEW YORK, for example):-

EMERGENCY CABIN. Remove chart room fixtures on lower part, on signal bridge deck, and install small emergency cabins for flag and commanding officers.

          NOTE:  There is no occasion for navigator to have office and all charts, sailing directionsinstruments, etc. in present location. One big drawer and shelf will hold all that are necessary at any one time, others to be sent for as required from storeroom below, anticipating change of locality.


          A gallery to be built on the outside around the mast, from forward to 90° on each side, above and clear of periscopes, in Conning Tower Control Station; housed in for thorough weather protection, using plate glass to insure unobstructed visibility.


          Steering wheel; helm, engine room, and revolution indicators; steering and bearing gyro repeaters; and voice tube to auxiliary Control Station (Note: Possibly the present Main Control Station can be used for both).

          On the same level with Control Bridge, the space inside of mast to be housed in for navigator’s and flag Officer’s plotting room with communication and connection to Auxiliary and Main Control Station, and pneumatic tube to radio room.


          Next space higher up in foremast; to be housed in and protected against weather; necessary connections, etc.


          Space at top of foremast; housed in, necessary connection, etc.


          Very generally speaking for officer of the deck through one voice tube to Auxiliary or Main Control Station for execution of orders or further transmission (if necessary). Appliances and communications to be regulated and controlled from these stations, and all instruments and appliances possible now installed here, there and everywhere, on and around the bridge and vicinity, to be centralized in one place as far as possible, and operated by a regular detail..

          Note: Roughly speaking, half the instruments and appliances now installed in and around bridge and foremast are seldom if ever used, and we could easily dispense with many of the others throughout the ship.


          There is no protection whatever to instruments and communication as they are now installed, except to those in the conning tower behind armor; leads to them radiate in every direction, and ramify all over the whole forward part of the ship in vicinity of mast and bridge; their installation is purely a peace one, and most unsuitable for war.

          Recommendation:- That there be an armored splinter-proof tube installed in the foremast leading from the Auxiliary Central Station, for the accommodation of the above mentioned leads and communications. Said auxiliary stations need not be behind armor, though it would be advantageous if it were.

          Note:  Recent inspection of these ships show that a shell exploding almost anywhere in vicinity of bridge, outside of conning tower, would put most of the auxiliary installations and communications out of commission.


          Those from the lookout, spotters, and directorscope tops to be carried in the splinter-proof tube from tops to a lower level, then radiate to destination.

          Note:  Many of the present improvised leads and necessary installations should be made permanent and better protected.


          To be mounted on forward side of foremast; other searchlights on mainmast platform.


          To be installed clear of conning tower, convenient to bridge.


          Recommend that it be cut off below level of top of smoke stack; decked over and housed in to accommodate secondary battery-control and lookouts; four searchlights to be mounted on top, two in fore and aft line, two on beam with shelter-proof roof against cinders, and rain. This will give three to a side.

          Note: Star shells may eventually replace searchlights; reference,- my previous correspondence, weekly report dated 30 March 1918, paragraph 4, and Commander Battleship Division Nine File 26 of 7 March 1918; Subject – Ammunition.2

          Mainmast in the NEW YORK is tied down only to the deck over galley; a shot in base could demolish it, in which case there is serious danger of fouling battery or propellers.


          In conclusion special attention is invited to the mass of instruments, appliances, installations, electric wiring, communication tubes, etc. centered in and around the forward bridge and mast, and the urgent necessity and advisability of abolishing all that are unnecessary, and centralizing the remainder so that they may be protected and less liable to injury or destruction from shell fire. Cost and maintenance would also be reduced to a minimum. . . .

     6.   INFLUENZA.

          The WYOMING has been in quarantine for several days with an epidemic of influenza; it is very prevalent in the fleet. . . .

     8.   CREW’S QUARTERS.

          A careful inspection of these ships demonstrates the utter disregard and lack of consideration which has been shown for the comfort and convenience of the enlisted personnel in the allotment of living space. In general, without particularizing, the crews have been crowded down into close, poorly ventilated dark compartments of the berth and lower decks, when that which is light and airy on the gun and upper decks, has been set apart for offices, in particular, and for other purposes in general. In some of the living spaces on the berth decks, the only fresh air and natural light that enters the compartment is through the hatch; in some of these the men are packed two deep, in hammock tiers, with others sleeping on cots; while in the upper decks there are offices galore with space to spare in which no one is supposed to sleep. Just the moment any new utility is to be inaugurated or installed, the most desirable of the crew’s space is taken, irregardless of how much closer the men may be crowded or their few comforts be curtailed. No stronger example can be cited than that of the DELAWARE, wherein little or no bright and airy space is left for the men on the gun deck, and they are packed like sardines in a tin on the berth deck compartments.

          I am very strongly of the opinion that all offices on board ship should be consolidated in the same space, provision being made for the safekeeping and filing of confidential and special papers. That desks be assigned to officers in one part of the allotted space and the enlisted personnel be assigned to the remainder. In this connection, I am very much of the opinion that officers would not be so keen for separate offices if the inordinate amount of paper work were cut down, and they could devote more attention to their more important duties.

          I am aware of the discussion which has so often taken place along these lines, wherein officers interpose all sorts of objections to such a consolidation and lessening of the office space; yet, nevertheless, I am firmly convinced that it can be done, and would relish the authority to put it into effect and demonstrate it.

Hugh Rodman        

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 381. Distribution list at end of document: “To: OPNAV (2)/Copies to:/ F. Comdr. [VAdm. William S. Sims]/CinC Atl.Fleet [Adm. Henry T. Mayo],/ Chief Naval/Intelligence [Capt. Roger Welles, Jr.],/Adm. Badger [Adm. Charles J. Badger, President, General Board of the Navy],/File.” Document identifier at top of first page: “File 7”; “1/Sc.” There is also a running head at the top of pages two through five: “C.B.C. [Commander Battleship Division] 9 file 7 of 5/19/18. Subject: General Report for/week ending 18 May 1918.”

Footnote 1: For photos of American battleships showing many of the design features that Rodman discusses in this report, see: Illustrations for May 1918.

Footnote 2: This document has not been found.

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