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Diary of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

1917               Tuesday 16           October



Spoke in Senate office room on insurance for soldiers and sailors in bill passed by Congress and predicted that after the war the Government would continue the insurance feature and would enlarge it to reach all citizens so that saving would be encouraged and there would be end of high prices charged for insurance –1


. . . Cabinet _ Houston2 brought up the fact that members of missions went about saying that if this or that were not done, the allies would be defeated, & thought they ought to be told not to talk – President said Senator Hitchcock asked “Is there anything hopeful?” having become blue by pessimistic talk.3 The President said he dissipated his pessimism to some extent – Trying to unload on us burdens they should bear, particularly the enmity of small neutral nations adjoining Germany, wish us to press embargo without their help & shoulder all the odium -4


Picture taken with Mayo & Benson –5


At night went with Benson to see Edison.6 He had charts showing submarines sunk [ships sunk by submarines?] in seven months, making an awful showing, worse than I thought. He insists sailing is not made with reference to location of submarines and that if ships would not sail when they could be seen the number would be greatly reduced. Less than 6% of sinkings at night – Edison full of subject & working hard7

Son of State Sup. Ct. Judge asked to resign from Annapolis because he had hereditary syphilis –

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

Footnote 1: In April 1917, Congress approved a plan whereby all active military personnel received a $4,500 insurance policy payable by the federal government in case of death or disability. In October, the government began selling low-cost term life and disability insurance, without medical examination, to all active members of the military. Congress did so because commercial life insurance companies either excluded protection against the hazards of war or charged premiums that were much higher than normal rates. This War Risk Insurance program proved very popular and over 4 million policies were issued.  However, Daniels’ prediction of a greatly expanded public insurance program after the war did not occur. Sharon Ann Murphy, “Life Insurance in the United States through World War I,” Accessed on 3 October 1917,

Footnote 2: Secretary of Agriculture David F. Houston.

Footnote 3: President Woodrow Wilson; Gilbert M. Hitchcock, Democratic Senator from Nebraska. By “blue,” Daniels meant discouraged.

Footnote 4: Neutral nations adjoining Germany in World War I were: Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Footnote 5: Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet Adm. Henry T. Mayo, who had just returned from a naval mission to England and France, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William S. Benson.

Footnote 6: Thomas A. Edison, head of the Naval Consulting Board.

Footnote 7: Edison was compiling an elaborate statistical analysis of submarine victories in order to determine the location, time, weather, and other conditions most favorable for submarine attacks. Daniels and Woodrow Wilson considered Edison’s report and recommendations so valuable that they immediately ordered it sent to Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the British Admiralty. Daniels, Cabinet Diaries, 222n.

Footnote 8: Hereditary syphilis is syphilis acquired in utero.