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Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


NOVEMBER                 FRIDAY 2               1917

Sperry1 said he and another man had a plan by which ships in convoy could communicate with other ships without danger of detection, very important now that wireless cannot be used by our ships going into danger zone and therefore can have no communication at night. This discovery would be of highest value –2


Alfred Lucking3 same about Eidsel Ford, who had applied for exemption which had been denied by local board. I saw Baker who said it showed he passed on on its merits by this board organized for that purpose. Mr. Ford says he is greatly needed to carry on big work of factory.4


Cabinet- WW5 criticism is that this is rich man’s war, & it was reported that sons of rich men were being given places in W[ashington] & others away from firing line and this ought to be prevented. Mostly in new organizations[.] Lane6 said he thought this mistake & that rich men’s sons were going quicker than others. Cannot be too careful said W.W.


Asked Baker7 to commandeer guns & hundred million rounds of ammunition belonging to Scandanavian country|8| & then send to Italy. He said he could not approve Ordnance recomm to let explosives go by express.9


Council of National Defense.10 Too many organizations asking money to help soldiers – Some pay big salaries & there ought to be some way to prevent any except those approved to appeal &c

Source Note: D, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diaries, Roll 1.

Footnote 1: Inventor, engineer, and member of the Naval Consulting Board Elmer A. Sperry.

Footnote 2: During convoying radio communication was ceased and lights extinguished to prevent interception of instructions so communication relied on daylight signal flags and coordination. See: Albert Gleaves Order for Ships in Convoy, 1 November 1917.

Footnote 3: Detroit attorney and former Democratic congressman from Michigan. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries: 230n.

Footnote 4: Edsel Ford, the twenty-four-year-old son of automobile producer Henry Ford, whose company did extensive work for the Navy during World War I. Edsel Ford did eventually get a deferment based on the fact that he was a key executive in the firm. Ibid.

Footnote 5: President Woodrow Wilson.

Footnote 6: Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane.

Footnote 7: Secretary of War Newton D. Baker.

Footnote 8: Presumably Norway.

Footnote 9: “Ordnance” was the Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance; “by express” meant on a fast ship without escort.

Footnote 10: Daniels was a member of the Council of National Defense along with the Secretaries of War, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce and Labor and advisors from various professions and industries. Charities and fund raising was a recurring issue for the Council. For example, see, Daniels’ diary entry of 2 August 1918, ibid., 326.