Skip to main content

Herbert C. Hoover, Head, United States Food Administration, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

C. O. P. Y.


Washington D.C.         

November 25, 1917.

Dear Mr: Secretary:-

                    You will recall that I addressed you some time since on the commandeering of the fish trawlers by the Navy. Since then considerable discussion has taken place between Mr. Fowler who has charge of our fish division and officers of the Navy, and, at the last conference with Captain Belknap, the Navy accom<m>odated us to theextent of defining its attitude as far as possible.1

          A new situation has not arisen by which, owing to the seasonal decrease in the capture of littoral fish through the winter months we are actually short of fish for the country and the main hope of supplying them to the population, until the shore fisheries open up in the spring, lies in the deep-sea fishing for which the trawlers are absolutely necessary. The price of fish is rising throughout the United States and our efforts to secure conservation in the use of meat are being stifled by the inability of the people to use fish in substitution.

          I would like to suggest therefore that you might re-consider the whole matter as it has become one of the most serious import. I am already having to limit the animal products to be shipped to Europe to 75% of the requirements necessary for giving the minimum ration required for the Allied populations and the only hope is for use [i.e., us] to have an ample supply of fish here upon which we can base our operations. I cannot emphasise too strongly the vital necessity of our increasing our shipment of animal products abroad, more particularly to Italy where the whole food situation is in the most critical condition and one that bears every parallel to the Russian situation just prior to the collapse.2 I am totally unable to send them the amount theyrequire and one of the causes which is very materially contributing to this situation is our shortage of fish.

          I have no desire to trespass upon the methods of the Navy but might I suggest that the men and the trawlers have now been trained in naval work and in case of an emergency they could quickly be called to service. The Navy now controls seven of the original trawler fleet, three having been actually purchased and four taken over under charger. Inaddition to this you have under construction some thirty-five mine sweeping vessels to be available early in the Spring. The seven trawlers if returned to fishing operation in the New England district should add to our food supplies approximately 1,400,000 pounds of fish per week. If the mine sweepers now building are so constructed that they could be adapted to trawling operations and arrangements could be made to turn over some of these vessels to the fishing industry, each of the vessels so contributed could add an addition average catch of 200,000 pounds per week to the total fish production.

          Any material increase in our winter catch of fish will mean to a large degree the displacement of animal products in the same proportion. Aside from the food value the winter production is now under the demands and it makes the control of prices practically impossible, all of which adds to discontent in the country.3

Yours faithfully,

Signed Herbert Hoover.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Addressed below close: “To the Honorable/The Secretaryof the Navy,/Navy Department, Washington,D. C.”

Footnote 1: Lt. Cmdr. Charles Belknap, Jr., and Kenneth Fowler.

Footnote 2: Presumably, Hoover is referring to the Bolshevik Revolution of 8 November 1917.

Footnote 3: Daniels’ reply has not been found.