THE BRIDGE TO FRANCE
Edward N. Hurley
ALLIED SHIPPING PROBLEMS
EVEN Great Britain did not realize at first to what extent it would be necessary to ration her population and to utilize shipping exclusively for military ends. She moved slowly toward a more or less despotic regulation---altogether too slowly, as we now look back upon the years of the war. Indeed, it was not until the last year of the war, when all the allied and associated governments realized the futility of the past independent control of shipping, that substantial progress was made in supplying their armies and their populations with what was needed. Perhaps this delayed realization may be attributed to the lack of any military precedent that could have served as a guide in the difficult undertaking to organize the shipping of the world so as to serve military rather than economic purposes; and also possibly to the fear at that time that any sacrifice of shipping to serve an interallied purpose might, after the war, lead to the loss of some previously long-enjoyed national economic advantages. Nearly four years were consumed in breaking down nationally-vested interests in sea-borne trade and proceeding from national regulation of charters and rates to an interallied policy of handling the ships of the world as one great fleet that steamed hither and thither in accordance with the plans and commands of one single set of brains---The Allied Maritime Transport Council.
REGULATION BY CHARTERING COMMITTEES
In 1916 Great Britain created a chartering committee which fixed the rates at which neutral ships were to be employed as soon as they came within British jurisdiction. Profiteers were curbed. Economic pressure was exerted on the neutral countries contiguous to Germany and Austria, and concessions were made in relaxing the blockade to obtain large assignments of neutral tonnage.
Organized primarily to cope with neutral shipping, the British Chartering Committee could not deal internationally with ships; that is, in the sense of employing them solely for the purpose of supplying food and other necessities to the allied populations, and munitions and military requirements to the allied armies. This committee was composed of shipping men; and shipping men are not deemed competent to determine, without expert assistance, what supplies are more necessary than others in time of war. A body of international authorities was needed to survey the world supply of essentials and to determine the local needs of each country and of its army, in order that the shipping of all allied countries could be operated as a unit on a unified basis and thereby avoid waste and competition. Thus only was it possible to decide how much tonnage or how much food and supplies, as a whole, should absorb tonnage as compared with the essential military commodities.
While lacking an authoritative international body of this kind, the Allies not only were playing into the enemy's hands but were competing for supplies even with one another! Such competition had been unavoidable, because each country had acted more or less independently in importing food and raw materials. Instead of cooperating to the utmost, we found the Allies jealous of one another, other countries suspecting that Great Britain was withholding vitally-needed support, and that one Ally had over-reached another. This was particularly true of shipping.
"Ships were therefore of ten allocated not in accordance with a plan, but by panic, and sometimes by a competition between panics, with all the attendant dislocation and waste to be expected."(37)
ALLIED MARITIME TRANSPORT COUNCIL
In the year that the United States entered the war, the Allies had reached the conclusion that it was suicidal to permit each country individually to borrow tonnage from Great Britain and then to use it as each pleased. An important conference was held in Paris, on November 3, 1917, a getting together of ministers to draft a program of international cooperation. At this conference Great Britain and her Allies concluded that all available tonnage must be employed for common purposes, mainly for the allocation of food, irrespective of whether or not the United States joined in this agreement.
The Paris War Conference occurred shortly afterward. Colonel House headed the American delegation, known as the House Mission. Vance C. McCormick was selected to represent the War Trade Board. Bainbridge Colby was named to represent the Shipping Board. He was to explain our progress in acquiring floating tonnage, as well as our ship-building program. General Tasker H. Bliss, later a member of the Peace Commission, accompanied the delegation as its military adviser. His well-seasoned judgment was of great aid to the Mission in reaching its decisions. Salter, in his "Allied Shipping Control," describes the Paris Conference as "The most impressive expression the war has seen of both the range and unity of the allied effort." One of the outcomes of this conference was the enunciation, in December, 1917, of certain principles upon the subject of tonnage, summarized as follows:
(a) To make the most economical use of tonnage under the control of all the Allies;
(b) To allot that tonnage as to the different needs of the Allies in such a way as to add most to the general war effort;
(c) To adjust the program of requirements of the different Allies in such a way as to bring them within the scope of the possible carrying power of the tonnage available.
In setting up these principles, the British had urged the formation in London of an Inter-Allied Maritime Transport Council for the purpose of controlling world shipping.
Several weeks later, and after our delegation had returned home from the Paris War Conference, the Allied Maritime Transport Council was brought into being, based upon the principles proclaimed at the conference. For any one in authority, in the United States, it was difficult to realize the potentialities that lay in the Council. The President had been opposed to having our Government maintain representatives permanently on any of the prominent war councils in Europe. He felt that it would be only a question of time before the American member, being out of touch with the American situation, would be unduly influenced by the atmosphere in which he was working and would become more or less pro-European---or at least pro-British, in his views. I urged, however, the great importance of having a member on this body, and the President finally agreed that we should have a representation on the Council, but that such representation should be limited to one member.
We selected Commissioner Stevens, Vice-chairman of the Shipping Board, as our representative. He was thoroughly familiar with our shipping situation and our building program and ably represented the Board on the Council. He had the practical knowledge and also an international viewpoint that were essential.
With characteristic energy, Stevens immediately proceeded to organize a staff of about thirty experts, which included George Rublee, Dwight W. Morrow, L. H. Shearman, J. R. Gordon, Professor J. A. Field of the University of Chicago, Professor Davis of Harvard University, J. D. Greene, L. H. Dow, C. D. Dutton, J. P. Cotton, L. P. Sheldon, G. S. Jackson, A. M. Patterson, F. K. Nixon, H. W. Boyd, Lucius P. Ordway, A. D. Whiteside, L. I. Thomas, Commander Paul Foley, U.S.N., and Major M. B. Dunning, U.S.A. These experts served as the American representatives on the various program committees, appointed to make careful economic studies of national resources and needs, and to report their findings. Soon after this body had begun its work in Europe, it became apparent that another delegate would have to be appointed, to sit on the Council with Stevens, in accordance with the original plan.. George Rublee was selected by the President, in July, 1918. Stevens and Rublee sat with the ministers of Great Britain (Lord Robert Cecil and Sir Joseph Maclay); of France (M. Clementel and M. Loucheur); and of Italy (Sig. Villa and Sig. Crespi). In addition to serving on the Council, Rublee also served on what was known as the Allied Maritime Council Executive, a body authorized to carry out recommendations of the Council if no national opposition were encountered.
Provision had been made for two main sections of the Allied Maritime Transport Council, the first section military and the second one economic. The second section was to deal through about twenty program committees. Of these the "Special Committee for Maritime Transport and General Imports" was of most concern to the Shipping Board. There were other councils also, to survey, the respective needs of the various countries involved. The program committees and the councils reported to the Allied Maritime Transport Council, the higher and dominating body. Members of the Allied Maritime Transport Council secured the cooperation of their respective governments in carrying out the recommendations made. Each country retained control over its own ships, and the Allied Maritime Transport Council had no power to direct how tonnage should be employed. Therefore we realized that the Allied Maritime Transport Council was purely an advisory body, formed for international cooperation.
The features to be particularly noted in the agreement whereby the Allied Maritime Transport Council was created, where: (1) The planning of the employment of ships (and not the pooling of ships under a single direction) ; (2) the independence permitted to each participating nation to follow the recommendations of the Council; (3) the utilization of tonnage solely upon the basis of the statistical studies and decisions made by the program committees of experts representing the several countries concerned.
The Allied Maritime Transport Council convened only four times prior to the signing of the armistice, so that the bulk of the work to be performed became the duty of the program committees and of the executive. The program committees made the requisite studies of economic resources of each of the four European Allies, their imports and exports, their productive capacity, their food requirements, ships at their disposal, their financial condition and the relative urgencies of their needs. The programs thus formulated were necessarily always estimated as the minimum, owing to the lack of ships. Sometimes this estimate was further reduced by the Allied Maritime Transport Council, but always after full discussion with the program committees concerned. "Decision depended so largely on fact, that the finding of the fact almost inevitably made the decision."(38)
Not all of the program committees were formed at once. The shipping and economic problem to be envisaged was too vast for that. However, the Wheat Executive and some of the food committees were in full operation during the summer of 1918; and all the committees had been organized by the autumn of that year, so when the armistice was signed twenty of them were dealing with as many essentials.
Everyone appreciated as the end of the war was approaching that the economic affairs of the world would be in a chaotic condition when fighting ceased. We considered ways and means to help stabilize the distribution of shipping and materials, as well as finished products, recognizing that unless there were full cooperation along those lines the unemployment of labor resulting from repatriation of soldiers might prolong the unsettled condition of the world. This matter was discussed with representatives of foreign governments. Early in September of 1918, Lord Reading had mentioned to me the subject of pooling American and British ships after the war. The idea did not impress me as a good one for the United States to adopt, and I did not believe it would get a favorable reaction from the President. I wrote to him, however, communicating Lord Reading's suggestion and found that his position was quite what I had anticipated it would be.
Under date of September 9, 1918, he started his letter of reply by saying "You are certainly a brick.(39) It is delightful to have dealings with a man who understands perfectly the spirit of everything you say, and just the right answer to give." He thanked me very warmly for my letters, regarding the alarm of the British about the use of our shipping after the war. He expressed his deep interest in Lord Reading's proposal to have a conference with me about pooling our shipping with the British after the war, saying he thought the proposition extraordinary. He suggested that I tell Reading we were sure it would not be possible for us to make special arrangements with any one nation inasmuch as it was our fixed policy and principle to deal upon the same terms with all.
This question was constantly before us. During the first three months following the signing of the armistice, the British and our Board felt that there would be an enormous surplus of tonnage. The issue again arose as to whether or not something could be done to regulate world shipping. However, early in 1919 the demands for vessels became so great that there was a shortage of ships, and the matter of the pooling of them was thus automatically regulated by the great demand.
The question of forming a combination to control the distribution of the raw materials of the world never reached the point of discussion by a sufficient number of nations to become a matter of international importance.
FORCED TO BORROW BRITISH SHIPS
BRITISH members of the Allied Maritime Transport Council were so alarmed at our apparent unwillingness or inability to lend much needed aid, that in May, 1918, at the height of the shipping crisis Stevens sent Rublee back to Washington. Morrow returned at the same time. Upon their return Rublee and Morrow urged that the Shipping Control Committee withdraw more ships from non-essential trades and place additional American-controlled vessels into the common cause. I supported Rublee's argument.
While Rublee's visit was most helpful, it was not until September, 1918, that the United States definitely entered into complete association with the Allied Maritime Transport Council. Our own ships had not been forthcoming with the rapidity required by the change from the sixty- to the eighty-division military program. It was decided that we must borrow cargo-carriers from the Allies.
The first step necessary was to convince the British Government (from which alone we could hope to borrow tonnage) and the Allied Maritime Transport Council, that if the eighty-division program was to be carried out we would require Allied ships.(40) A further study had to be made of General Pershing's requirements, something much more nearly accurate and trustworthy than previously had been made. Fortunately, the representatives of the Shipping Board, Dwight Morrow and L. H. Shearman were present to compile the necessary evidence. I had sent abroad Mr. Charles Day, a most competent and dependable engineer who was associated with me as a liaison between the Shipping Board and the War Department, to gather similar information so that we could have the facts at first hand. He collaborated with Morrow and Shearman. General Pershing assigned Colonel J. A. Logan Of his personal staff to give them such aid as they needed.
Morrow, Shearman and Day made careful estimates of the number of trucks, horses and supplies required by a given number of men, and also the daily poundage necessary to maintain a soldier at the front. They reduced military demands to terms of ship tonnage, and thus performed one of the most valuable pieces of statistical work of the war. Until that time, even the authorities in Washington had not been clearly informed as to our army requirements. With their experience and knowledge of large problems these men performed a real service for the Shipping Board, the War Department and the cause for which we were fighting.
Secretary of War Baker was then abroad, accompanied by a staff of well-informed experts and army officers. Among them was Brigadier-General Frank T. Hines, who as head of the War Department's Embarkation Service had charge of the shipment of troops and munitions. Baker presented to the Allied Maritime Transport Council the question of the additional tonnage necessary to maintain the eighty divisions during the latter half of 1918. His effective showing of the tonnage required to carry out this scheduled program proved most convincing.
It was definitely known at that time that there were 'not available enough American cargo-ships to maintain eighty divisions in France, and that it was difficult to maintain even the sixty divisions then on French soil or enroute to Europe.(41) With Hog Island and other fabricated-ship yards in full blast, we had every reason to believe that we would be able to meet our supply obligations towards our troops for an eighty-division program during the latter half of 1919. But these great yards were not yet in a position to fulfill that which was expected of them, and until such time we would have to borrow tonnage from the Allies.
Secretary Baker and General Hines produced their own estimates and also tables prepared by Morrow, Shearman and Day showing that the United States had to supplement its own cargo fleet by 1,200,000 tons from August, 1918, which amount could be reduced 200,000 tons each month until February, when it could all be returned. This loan of tonnage would involve a reduction of 2,000,000 Allied imports in tons, even though the Allies already had cut their essential imports to what seemed to be the last pound. The Council was confronted with an immediate American deficit and also an Allied deficit for the whole cereal year which would reach its crucial point when the autumn harvests were to be moved. To meet our demands, the Allies would have to reduce their food imports from America and throw the burden of their deficit on the latter part of the cereal year. The Allied Maritime Transport Council---especially its British members whose government alone had any large number of ships---arose to the occasion with a generosity that should be emblazoned on the pages of every history dealing with the war. Of the 16,000,000 tons that the Council provisionally had allocated for arrival from September to December (seven million tons for food, including military oats, and nine million tons for munitions and raw materials) it was directed that 500,000 tons be diverted for the needs of the American army program during October, November and December---including the 200,000 tons previously arranged for directly with the British Government .(42)
The lending of this tonnage was made possible partly because the Allies then were nearing the end of a cereal year, when food stocks were at their highest. But I must emphasize that the largest quantities of munitions and raw materials for making them were imported by the Allies at this very season, so that the sacrifice entailed may appear in its true light. More self-denial was demanded on the part of Allied populations. To appreciate the import of this, it must be understood that at one time the British were forced, for lack of fodder, to consider seriously the necessity of slaughtering their farm animals. Yet there was no bargaining as to the exact amount of tonnage we were to supply later when our yards were turning out ships ---merely an adequate assurance of closer cooperation with the Allied Maritime Transport Council. Following this arrangement there prevailed the fullest cooperation on our part with the Allied Maritime Transport Council.
Stevens and Rublee were handicapped in their work, as they had to keep us informed by cable, and in that cumbrous way to obtain consent of the Shipping Board to, carry out the proposals of the Council. This doubled the hardship of their task. The great distance between us and our delegates made it difficult for us to grasp the underlying reason for the policies advocated. Moreover, never before had the United States entered into such a close military and economic relationship with Europe. Viewing European entanglements with traditional misgiving, America did not at first see eye to eye with the Allied Maritime Transport Council. Under most trying conditions Stevens and Rublee rendered great service to the cause.
The Allied Maritime Transport Council passed out of existence as the result of A decision of the Supreme Economic Council on March 24, 1919, at which time the question of the Allied organization for dealing with shipping problems came up for discussion. An Allied shipping committee was delegated to convene in Paris to advise the Supreme Economic Council on matters of general policy and to serve as the medium of communication for all shipping questions. The "Executive" of the old Allied Maritime Transport Council was reconstituted to sit in London to deal with the administration of enemy tonnage and with the provision of tonnage for liberated countries. Mr. E. C. Tobey represented the Shipping Board on this London "Executive." What occurred was a merging of the Allied Maritime Transport Council with the Supreme Economic Council.
MAKING SEAMEN OUT OF LANDLUBBERS
ONE of the most difficult matters involved in the operation of the growing fleet was that of finding officers and crews. We had few ship-builders before we began to build the emergency fleet, and because we had few ships we had few sailors. Outside of New England, where sea-faring was deep-rooted in many generations, the sea never has appealed strongly to American youth. For many years, a majority of the mariners sailing under our flag have been foreigners. To Americanize our merchant marine, such as it was, the Seamen's Act of 1915 was passed. Although a sailor's life on shipboard was made more attractive by the assurance of better wages and working conditions, the Act did not greatly augment the number of American seamen. Since men can not be legislated on board ship, we had to recruit them and then train them by methods evolved by ourselves.
A distinction must be drawn between the crews of merchantmen taken over by the Navy and those that operated Shipping Board vessels. Cargo-ships taken over by the Navy lost their status as merchantmen, even though they were engaged solely in carrying supplies. Transports and most of the other vessels traversing the war zone were Navy-manned, and operated by the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, though a large number of ships were taken, through the war zone by merchant crews. Of the seven million deadweight tons constituting the United States deep-sea fleet at the close of the war, about four and one-half million tons were manned by civilian crews, and the rest by the Navy.
Just as we had to create shipyards on waste ground and new ships from the keel up, so also we had not only to recruit officers and crews but were obliged to train them for sea duty. Mr. Henry Howard, of Boston, was appointed Director of Recruiting Service. Howard had considerable sea experience and knew what was expected of deck officers and crews. He proceeded to, set up an organization that consisted of six divisions: (1) a Field Agent who had charge of recruiting; (2) Navigation and Engineering schools for training deck officers and engineers; (3) an Accounting and Systematizing Bureau; (4) a Sea-training Bureau, for the training of sailors and men who were not officers; (5) a Selective Service Law Bureau; and (6) a Sea Service Bureau, which was a registration and placement division. Captain I. N. Hibberd, a former shipmaster, who had given. an excellent account of himself as Supervisor of the Sea Training Service in California, subsequently succeeded Howard.
HOW SEAMEN BECAME DECK OFFICERS
The first work undertaken was the training of deck officers. The schoolship method was abandoned at the outset, because in the emergency that faced us we could not send recruits to sea for many months. To gain time, we took men who already had been to sea in subordinate capacities and were ambitious to become officers. We gave these men a short intensive period of training in special navigation schools along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, under the best teachers available, including experienced sea-captains as well as members of the scientific faculties of the leading technical schools and universities. Dean Alfred E. Burton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who once had been connected with the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey and was an experienced navigator, organized the teachers of navigation and mapped out the course of instruction.
By the latter part of 1918 we had twenty of these schools, in seven sections of the country, corresponding with the geographical divisions of the United States Steamboat Inspection Service. Admission to the schools was made as easy as possible. If a man were not younger than eighteen nor older than fifty-six years, and if he had at least two years I sea experience, he was admitted almost automatically. But granting him a license was another matter. Before he could become an officer, he had to pass an examination of the United States Steamboat Inspection Service. A total of 5784 graduates from the navigation schools received licenses as masters, and as first, second or third mates, between June, 1917, and June, 1920.
Astonishing as it may seem to those who have read sea novels in which officers are evolved out of cabin boys only after years of service, by this system we produced acceptable officers in six weeks. For those who needed it, we gave an additional two months at sea under the instruction of regular officers. We charged no tuition fee, nor did we allow a subsistence fee. Had we adopted the schoolship method of training, it would have cost us not only months of time but also about one thousand dollars per man. The system adopted reduced the training period to six weeks and the cost to about $55 per deck officer. In fairness to the schoolship method, I must point out again that all deck-officer graduates had two years' previous sea service.
OILERS AND TENDERS BECOME ENGINEER OFFICERS
As soon as the navigation schools were in a fair way of turning out deck officers, we planned to train men who could take charge of boiler- and engine-room forces. Professor Edward F. Miller, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, organized the necessary engineering courses, with the aid of such able engineering instructors as Professor E. O. Eastwood, of the University of Wisconsin; Professor F. H. Vose, of the Case School of Applied Science; Professor William J. Dana, of Johns Hopkins University; Professor C. E. Shaw, of Philadelphia; Professor James Roberts, of Tulane University, and Professor F. L. Pryor, of Stevens Institute of Technology.
Marine oilers and tenders, engineers on Great Lakes steamers, and stationary and locomotive engineers were admitted to the engineer schools for a course of four weeks. Those who needed additional practical experience received their licenses only after they had spent six months at sea. From June, 1917, when the first engineers' school was established, to June, 1920, 3858 men were graduated; and of these, 185 were licensed as chief engineers, 519 as first assistants, 1478 as second assistants and 1676 as third assistants. It cost us Only $65 per man to train these licensed engineers.
Many of the new ships were driven by turbines, with which such recruits as locomotive engineers and others were not familiar. Chief engineers were chosen from those who had registered with the Recruiting Service, and were sent immediately to plants where the turbines were being manufactured. There they watched the progress of an engine, from the beginning of construction on through its installation and operation. The turbine course lasted six weeks. A similar plan was adopted to familiarize assistant engineers with boiler construction.
TRAINING THE SEAMEN WHO MANNED OUR SHIPS
By the autumn of 1917, ship construction had advanced so that we had to think of training men before the mast. Plans were drawn up and approved. On December 12, 1917, the Sea Training Bureau of the Recruiting Service published its readiness to receive applications from American citizens---mere "landlubbers "---willing to take a course which would fit them for sea service as sailors, firemen, coal passers, oilers, water tenders, cooks and stewards. The applicants were trained on seven ships in Atlantic waters, four in Pacific waters, one at New Orleans and one at Cleveland.
The thousands of men that we needed could be obtained only with the aid of recruiting offices located in every important community. Mr. Louis K. Liggett, President of the United Drug Company, patriotically came to our assistance by placing at our disposal the 6854 stores of his far-flung selling organization. His store managers were sworn in as recruiting agents at the usual $1.00 a year. The country must have saved literally millions through Liggett's generosity, both in office rent and in salaries. A well-planned publicity campaign brought thousands of applicants to these stores. The newspapers generously devoted much space to the opportunities held out by the merchant marine service. During the first three months, 7500 applications were received. The peak of the enrolment was reached in September, 1918, when 11,000 students were registered! By November 8, 1918, three days before the signing of the armistice, the total reached 32,014.
The men enrolled were given a preliminary training on schoolships for about six weeks, after which they were placed on ships with regular crews, in the proportion of four recruits to six able seamen. Thus our graduates acquired their sea-legs. It is an interesting fact that 75 per cent. of these sailors came from the North Atlantic section, and the remainder equally from the Pacific and Great Lakes regions. Only a negligible portion came from the strictly inland states.
It was apparent that the Sea Service Bureau, by which sailors, firemen and messmen were trained, should be developed as a national shipping agency.
Hence the bureau was authorized to take over the shipping offices of the Division of Operations, which during the war had charge of enlisting crews for all Shipping Board vessels. This consolidation avoided duplication of effort, gave the Recruiting Service control of the outlet for its graduates, and created what then promised to become a national shipping agency.
Before the war, about 70 per cent. of the crews on American vessels were foreign-born. There can be no question that the Recruiting Service did more than any other agency since the Civil War, more even than the Seamen's Act, to Americanize the merchant marine.
The late Mr. A. H. Smith, president of the New York Central Railroad, often was quoted to the effect that it cost more to handle a barrel of flour in New York City than to bring it from Chicago.
The congestion in New York was such that in the winter of 1918 the lines of vehicles at the piers, waiting for a chance to load, were so long that the teamsters would unharness their horses, stable them overnight and resume their vigil the next day, in order not to lose their places. It happened time and time again that at some New York terminals eleven and twelve hours were consumed in loading one truck. No wonder the condition at New York amounted almost to a blockade. The system of priority that had been worked out by the railroads did not help these matters. Coordination in loading and unloading of steamers was practically non-existent.
We found that the enormous fleet could not be operated with maximum efficiency unless harbor facilities and their relations to ship and railroads were studied and improved. While the mechanical equipment at a few ports (New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle, for example) was admirable, the conditions that existed along the Atlantic seaboard, and particularly at New York, were appalling. It was clear that while we could not build and equip new terminals in less than a decade, at least we could coordinate more intelligently the movement of freight by railways and ships (for those two must always be considered together). Therefore, on May 23, 1918, a resolution was passed by the Shipping Board creating the Port and Harbor Facilities Commission.
The Chairman of the original Commission was Mr. Edward F. Carry, who as Director of Operations of the Shipping Board appreciated the necessity of better port and harbor facilities. His associates on the Commission were Mr. S. M. Felton, Vice-chairman; Rear Admiral H. H. Rousseau, U.S.N.; Captain A. C. Hodgson, U.S.N.; Mr. B. L. Winchell; Mr. George S. Dearborn and Mr. John H. Rosseter. Mr. T. C. Powell succeeded Winchell. Among others who served upon the Commission were Major-General William M. Black (subsequently chairman); Mr. R. A. C. Smith, shipping expert; Captain F. T. Chambers, U.S.N.; Mr. Bion J. Arnold, consulting engineer; and Mr. M. J . Sanders. Under Carry's chairmanship, the Commission proceeded at once to provide new dry docks and better repairing and bunkering facilities which relieved the situation materially.
The distribution of supplies to American forces in France primarily of course was a problem of ships. After ships, it was one of ports, railroads, motor and animal transportation, and storage. The ports and railroads in France were crowded with war traffic. The railways were in rather dilapidated condition. In the summer of 1918, the long delays in discharging cargos in France caused serious concern to both the Shipping Board and the War Department. We began to doubt if the port and rail facilities of France would be able to distribute the tremendous cargos that our ships were ready to carry over for the increased army Pershing was demanding. The Shipping Control Committee was reluctant to put more ships into service if more delay would be the only tangible result.
While American engineers added at French ports eighty-three new berths, together with warehouses and dock equipment, it was necessary to increase their carrying capacity of the railroads by building nearly a thousand miles of new trackage, and by providing additional switching facilities and new rolling stock.
Those problems were not completely solved. There never were enough piers to prevent loss of time by vessels waiting to dock. But the capacity for handling American cargo was increased from 10,000 tons daily, in the spring of 1918, to 30,000 tons daily by November 11th, the day of the armistice; and the waiting-time of ships was made shorter than that in commercial practice. The railway facilities never were wholly adequate; but with the help of Felton's locomotives and freight cars, shipments from this side were delivered to the interior about as rapidly as they were landed.
The actual engineering conditions that prevailed at the principal English ports were surveyed by Chief Engineer Captain Chambers for the Commission. Associated with him were Governor Oswald West of Oregon and Mr. Arthur J. Sinnott, now editor of the Newark News. Captain Chambers' study of the British ports is considered the most authoritative ever prepared.
NATIONAL ADJUSTMENT COMMISSION
In June, 1917, the Shipping Board entered into negotiations with representatives of the longshoremen and of the steamship companies, and worked out what came to be called the "longshoremen's agreement." This agreement, signed early in August, 1917, fixed wages, hours and labor conditions in loading and unloading vessels. The basis of the agreement was voluntary arbitration of all disputes during the period of the war, an ideal that was not fully realized. But employers, employees and governmental officers so ardently strove to attain it that it never dropped below the horizon.
The original membership of the National Adjustment Commission, provided for in the agreement, was as follows: Commissioner Stevens, representing the Shipping Board, Chairman; Mr. Walter Lippmann, representing the War Department; Mr. P. A. S. Franklin and Mr. H. H. Raymond, representing deep-sea and coastwise shipping interests, respectively; and Mr. T. V. O'Connor (now Chairman of the Shipping Board), President of the International Longshoremen's Union, representing that organization. Stevens resigned and Mr. Robert P. Bass succeeded him as chairman. He remained head of the Commission until January 1, 1919, when Professor William Z. Ripley was named to serve as representative of the Shipping Board.
Originally formed to negotiate with longshore labor, the Commission soon handled matters involving all classes of labor employed in ship operation. It had jurisdiction on the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. Occasionally it also arbitrated disputes on the Pacific Coast. Expansion in operation of ships not being as rapid as in construction, the Commission could better handle the question of operation wages and could keep them in line with living costs.
The National Adjustment Commission well served the country, and the Shipping Board. While disputes developed from time to time, and a few of the men did "walk out," there were no concerted strikes and the operation of ships suffered no serious interruption. General industrial conditions in longshore labor at the time the armistice was signed were healthier than those in most industries, and wages were reasonable. In this work, we could count upon the fairness, loyalty and patriotism of men like T. V. O'Connor, a keen, forceful man who commanded the whole-hearted respect of the Longshoremen's Union.
PROTECTING SHIPS FROM SUBMARINES
AT THE height of its terrible destructiveness, the German. submarine was a far more formidable weapon than it had been at the beginning. Just as the airplane of 1917 and 1918 was a very much more efficient flying machine than that of 1914, so the submarine of 1917 and 1918 developed a size and a cruising range that were unforeseen at the outbreak of the war. The early German submarines, similar to those of other nations, were comparatively feeble instruments. More ships were sunk by mines than by torpedoes in the early months of the war. But when the blockade that the Allies declared against German and neutral ports tightened, when it became more difficult to obtain the essentials of life and of war through the aid of merchants in neutral countries, Germany realized that the submarine was her trump card. She proceeded to play it with disregard of all the rules of humanity. What was little more than a navy toy in 1914 became a fearful weapon of destruction in 1917.
The Fleet Corporation officials found it necessary to institute a system for replying to the many suggestions received on ship protection. After consultation with Mr. W. L. Saunders, Chairman of the Naval Consulting Board, a special committee was appointed consisting of Rear Admiral Rousseau (chairman), Mr. A. M., Hunt and Mr. William T. Donnelly. This committee opened offices, in Washington and gave the most courteous and painstaking attention to letters and visits of inventors.
The Ship Protection Committee, as it subsequently was known, held regular meetings and patiently studied the hundreds of proposals that were submitted in writing or presented in person by patriots who burned with indignation at the outrages committed on the high seas, and who conceived it to be their duty to sink the submarine in ways usually more ingenious than practical. I have reason to believe that the Committee considered every tried and untried scheme of combating submersibles. I know that I frequently turned to it for advice.
PROTECTIVE METHODS FINALLY ADOPTED
The Committee finally boiled down protective measures to the following:
1. Arming Merchantmen.---This proved to be, on the whole, the most effective method. Since it was purely military in character, it became the duty of the Navy to supply guns and gun crews.
2. Smoke Screens.---Smoke screens enabled a ship to conceal herself and thus to steam in a direction which for a time could not be observed. This method was one that had been highly developed before the war by the Navy in evolving effective destroyer tactics, but it was, not easily applied by a single ship.
3. Camouflage.---It was the popular impression, during the war, that dazzle-painting or camouflaging made a ship invisible. No system of painting manifestly could accomplish any such miracle. Camouflaging had for its object the deception of a submarine commander; it was supposed to make it difficult for him to determine in which direction a ship was steaming. The British had made elaborate studies of what was variously called "low-visibility," "dazzle" and "camouflage" painting, and the Committee advised us to protect our ships by various colored patterns. This decision. was put in effect by both the Shipping Board and the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, of the Treasury Department. So important was camouflaging that it gave employment to a large number of camoufleurs in the Construction Division of the Fleet Corporation. Each of eleven geographical districts in which the Fleet Corporation had offices had its staff of camouflage experts.
Camouflaging was started under the direction of Mr. Henry C. Grover. Soon he had 150 men at work under his direction, classed as district camoufleurs, camoufleurs and assistant camoufleurs. There were also resident camoufleurs in sub-districts. Most of these men were graduates of a training course which we started in New York in 1918. An extraordinary amount of ingenuity was manifested both in experimenting and in testing the efficiency of designs. Camouflage theatres were used to study painted models under conditions which approximated those that prevailed at sea.
4. Smokeless Coal.---Since a vessel revealed her position on the horizon by the smoke that poured from her funnels, it was recommended that she burn smokeless coal in the war zone. The practice was only precautionary. Smokeless coal would not save her if she were sighted and if a submarine pursuer were swift enough to overhaul her. Burning smokeless coal was so good a precaution, however, that both the Shipping Board and the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, of the Treasury Department, insisted upon it.
5. Depth Bombs.---Attacking submarines with depth bombs became more and more the vogue as the war progressed. But the ship that dropped the bombs had to be armed to fight off her attacker and compel him to submerge before she could proceed to destroy him under water. There was every reason to believe that not a few submarine crews met a ghastly death under water when thus attacked, but it was impossible to determine at what depth a bomb should be exploded. Although the method had its limitations it was adopted so far as practicable, the Navy assuming responsibility for the depth-bomb equipment. Depth bombs and their effect were carefully studied by the Committee, and also by the Navy at Annapolis and at New London.
6. Reserve Buoyancy.---Experience in the British Navy with the so-called "blister" ships had shown. that reserve buoyancy might save a hull after a torpedo attack. The Shipping Board immediately adopted the Committee's recommendations on this score and authorized the construction of the steamship Lucia, in accordance with the designs of Mr. Donnelly.
We gave particular attention to the proposals of such distinguished inventors as Thomas A. Edison and Hudson Maxim, both of whom had made special studies of the submarine problem. Some of Edison's plans were tested by the Navy but without results leading to anything of immediate and definite value. Maxim's plans never were carried out in actual practice, so they could not be subjected to a test. Maxim is known all over the world as an authority on high explosives and their action. He was the first man to succeed in devising an explosive (Maximite) which could be driven, in a shell, through armor plate and exploded within a battleship. The government thought so well of his formula as to purchase it for the use of the Navy.
Maxim engaged Mr. Morgan Barney, a naval architect of New York, to make the drawings and frame the specifications of his torpedo-resisting ship. In carrying out this particular plan, he intended to surround the cargo with buffer-cylinders containing pulverized coal which could be drawn upon to fire the boilers. To keep the ship on an even keel, water was pumped in to take the place of the coal withdrawn. As occasion required, water or fuel oil was to be pumped into the spaces between the buffer-cylinders and the outer hull of the ship. If a torpedo struck the ship, the resulting blast would be absorbed, according to Maxim's theory, by the pulverized coal within the buffer-cylinders, by the water or oil between the cylinders and the hull, or by both, thus protecting the cargo itself. The cylinders also could be filled with a suitable bulk cargo, such as would absorb the violently expanding gases of an exploded torpedo,. I have regretted that we never put Maxim's theory to the test. He devoted to this problem of ship-protection all his tremendous zeal and energy and his vast knowledge of explosives. That his theory probably was correct, I have no doubt. It was but an elaboration of the principle long employed by the Navy in protecting battleships against torpedoes by multicellular bottoms and oil-filled spaces running up the sides of a battleship.
Toward the end of the war we introduced what we called the "otter gear," from its fancied resemblance, when in use, to a swimming otter. It was a British invention, known as a "Paravane" in the country of its origin. The "otter gear," which earned for its inventor a knighthood and much money , was a kind of mine sweep, and therefore hardly an anti-submarine device. It had been observed that a ship rarely struck a mine head-on, but that mines usually exploded at the sides of the ships. The "otter gear" was a device connected by means of cables with either side of the ship at the stem, and pushed along by means of "brooms." Its nose projecting above the water resembled that of a swimming animal. The cables would catch the mine and sweep it to, the nose, where it would be cut loose from its moorings. Thus released, it could be exploded at a safe distance from the ship by means of gun fire.
As I look back at our efforts to thwart the submarine I must confess that our most effective protective aid was gun-fire. After the convoy was introduced for the protection of troop-ships, the submarine was not so formidable a menace as it previously had been. It could not cope with fast destroyers.
During the entire period of the European war the losses by enemy action in the American Merchant Marine amounted to 115 ships of 322,000 gross tons, while for the period of our participation in the war the losses from this source amounted to 94 vessels of 243,000 gross tons. These figures exclude losses by shipwreck and the like, and do not include Dutch ships or those seized from the enemy.
It was a long time before we were able to carry out all the recommendations of the Ship Protection Committee with anything like systematic care. Many of the unarmed ships had to sail boldly through submarine-infested waters; and even vessels armed and supplied with naval gun crews were at a disadvantage when pursued by the later, fast submarine cruisers. Vessels struck by torpedoes sank rapidly. In one case a ship went down in fifty-five seconds. Sailing ships fell ready victims to the U-boats, and for this reason we took them off the Atlantic lanes and employed them in the safe South American trade and in waters nearer home.
EDISON, FORD AND OTHERS
THOMAS A. EDISON was desirous of having Henry Ford join the Shipping Board. So were the members of the Board. In furtherance of that desire, Mr. Edison and Mr. Ford called on me and discussed some of our problems. In addition to the Liberty motors Mr. Ford was building for aeroplanes, he had a plan to construct a number of small ships for the Navy and run them down to the water on sloping elevated ways. All the boats were to be alike, with standard parts.
Quantity production was his objective. He began building the Eagle boats, but before he had advanced into real production the war was over. No man wanted to do his bit during the war more than did Ford. Officials of the Government, from the President down, felt that Ford was keen to be helpful. I knew that if I needed a friend or an adviser in connection with my official work I could call on him and always find him ready to help. But he declined to join our staff.
Mr. Edison had a trying experience with the Navy Department. He was much discouraged because it did not follow out his many suggestions. He had invented a smoke bomb that he thought could be used effectively on cargo-ships. It was to be fired from a gun, and when striking the water it would produce a smoke screen that would prevent a submarine from aiming its torpedo accurately and sinking the ship.
Mr. W. L. Saunders, Chairman of the Protection Committee of the Council of National Defense, made an appointment with the President for Edison. The President listened very attentively to Edison's explanation nation of the bomb and was so enthusiastic about it that he said, "Well, Mr. Edison, I shall speak to Daniels and have him go into this, right away." Edison asked, "What's that?" "I shall speak to Daniels," the President repeated, in a louder voice. "No, Mr. President," responded Edison, "I do not want to have anything to do with the Navy Department." The President was a bit embarrassed and replied, "Well, what do you suggest?" "Why," answered Edison, "if you will take it up with Hurley, I know that it will be started and finished."
The President sent for me. Of course it was out of my line; but I would do anything in reason, to be of service to Edison. I told the President I would be glad to do everything I could, but that the Navy Department would have to help work it out. I saw Secretary Daniels and Captain Pratt and asked them to join with us in making some tests. I regret that the tests did not prove as satisfactory as we would have liked. I saw Edison many times during the war, and each time profited by our contact. He was very anxious to produce something worth while, to prevent the sinking of ships by torpedoes. He devoted more time to this subject than to any other. If the war had lasted another year I feel that Edison would have invented a device that would have been helpful.
Shortly after Mr. Ford declined to join us on the Shipping Board, because he wanted to build Liberty motors and Eagle boats, I was invited by Mr. Edison to join him with Mr. John Burroughs, Mr. Ford and Mr. Harvey Firestone on one of their summer camping trips. I met them in Pittsburgh one Sunday morning in August, 1918. We left about noontime and started to motor through southern Pennsylvania.
Fig. 20. Hurley, Burroughs, Edison, Ford, Firestone, Hasbach (?)
About six o 'clock in the evening everyone was anxious to locate a camp for the night. I was in the front automobile with Edison, the other cars following; but the equipment cars were slow and did not make very good time. As we came to a beautiful woods, Edison suggested that we find the farmhouse and ask permission to camp there for the night. When we arrived at the farmhouse, I jumped out of the car and entered the farmyard. The farmer, an elderly man, greeted me pleasantly. When I told him who we were and what we wanted, he said "Why certainly, I will be glad to let you camp there." I continued to talk to him about the land and the crops in the vicinity, in order to pass the time while we were waiting for the equipment cars to arrive. When they came, we went about a half mile into the woods where a camp site was selected, which the others graciously named "Camp Hurley." Burroughs, Edison, Ford and Firestone immediately started to build a large camp fire. Each did his bit picking up dry limbs while the staff erected tents for the dining room and kitchen as well as an individual tent for each person. These were equipped with Edison batteries to supply electric light.
We had a wonderful evening. After dinner we sat around the camp fire and swapped stories. The others asked me many questions about President Wilson and the Shipping Board, about our progress and what we hoped to do. I replied by giving them the facts as I knew them. We then discussed the administrations of Presidents Taft, Roosevelt and Wilson, making comparisons of the different men and their individual traits. Burroughs was an ardent admirer of Roosevelt who, he said, was a great naturalist. He and Roosevelt had gone "birding" in Virginia two years before, and after spending a few weeks in the woods had found that among a large number of birds they had caught there were only two birds that Roosevelt could not name. Burroughs indicated, however, that he was not as enthusiastic about Roosevelt as he had formerly been, and he told this story:
After their trip, Burroughs promised Roosevelt that he would write a book about it. Five months later Burroughs met Roosevelt, who greeted him by saying, "Hello, Burroughs, glad to see you. What of that book you were going to write about our 'birding' trip in Virginia?" "Well," responded Burroughs, " I have not had time to write it." They met again in a few months, when about the same conversation took place, and also later during that year, Roosevelt again asked, "How about the book, Burroughs?" Burroughs felt that Roosevelt was more interested in having the book written than he was in Burroughs' health. "Just because he was insistent, I am not going to write the book," was the way Burroughs wound up his story.
Of course, at that time Burroughs was over eighty years of age and probably was unduly sensitive regarding his health. Edison and Ford each told me that Roosevelt was very fond of Burroughs, and we all considered it merely an oversight on the part of Roosevelt that he omitted to inquire about Burroughs' health.
The liveliest man in the party was Ford, who indulged in a variety of stunts, including his jumping over the camp fire as it burned low. He was as nimble and lively as a boy of eighteen. All of his cares had been left behind. He was with his "Buddies," Firestone, Edison and Burroughs and he was having a mighty good time.
Edison asked me, "Hurley, why did that farmer hesitate so long to allow us to go into his woods?"
As a joke, I replied "Why, he had some difficulty with campers a short time ago. Some of his cattle were killed, and he, naturally hesitated to allow more campers in." "Well," said Edison, "didn't you tell him who we are." "Yes, " I said, "that is the strange part of it. When he hesitated about allowing us to go into the woods, I said to him 'Well, you know Thomas A. Edison, the great inventor, don't you? He is in this party. "No," he replied, "I never heard of him." I was rather startled, and I continued, "Well, you certainly know Henry Ford, the manufacturer of Ford automobiles?" "Ford?" he queried, "What city?" "Detroit," said I, and he replied "No, I never heard of him." "Surely you must have heard of Harvey Firestone, the tire manufacturer," but he answered, "Firestone? never heard of him." I then said, "Well, my name is Hurley: I am Chairman of the Shipping Board in Washington. You certainly have been reading about me." "Hurley! No, I never heard of you!" I was about to give up in despair, but chanced the inquiry, "Have you ever heard of John. Burroughs, the naturalist?" His eyes brightened and he exclaimed, "Is John Burroughs in your party? Well, you go right ahead! I have just finished reading his last book!"
When I ended the yarn, Burroughs chuckled all over, pumping his shoulders up around his ears. He laughed and said, "Huh, never heard of Edison, never heard of Ford! They had to have me with them to get them into the woods!" It was a standing joke from then on that Burroughs was the man whose name had to be mentioned to get what we wanted, because the rest of us were so little known throughout the country.
In his "A Strenuous Holiday," from which I excerpt with the kindly permission of the Houghton Mifflin Company, Burroughs describes what he calls "My Famous Camping Trip with Edison, Ford, Firestone and Hurley" as follows:
"At Pittsburgh our party was finally made up by the accession of Mr. Ford, Mr. Firestone, and his son Harvey, and Commissioner Hurley of the Shipping Board. Mr. Hurley was to be with us only a few days, to taste for himself the sweet and the bitter of roughing it---the promise which had lured his friends, Edison and Ford, into such an expedition. I hope he got a good mouthful of the sweet, at least that first night in our Camp at Greensborough, thirty or more miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The camp was in an ideal place---a large, open oak grove on, a gentle eminence well carpeted with grass.
"Not much of the talk that night around the campfire can be repeated, but it gave us an inside view of many things we were curious about. The only question was the acute question of the hour, and we had with us the man who could give us first-hand information, which he did to our great comfort.
"How could we help freeing our minds about the Huns?
" 'We must win,' Mr. Ford said, 'and to do it we shall have to use up a lot of our resources. It is all waste, but it seems necessary; and we are ready to pay the price.'
"The next day one of the big cars---a Packard---had an accident---the fan broke and the iron punctured the radiator. It looked for the moment as if we should be delayed till a now radiator could be forwarded from Pittsburgh. We made our way slowly to Connellsville, where there is a good garage, but the best workmen there shook their heads; they said a new radiator was the only remedy. All four arms of the fan were broken off and there was no way to mend them. This verdict put Mr. Ford on his mettle.
" 'Give me a chance,' he said. Pulling off his coat and rolling up his sleeves, he fell to work. In two hours we were ready to go ahead. By the aid of drills, and copper wire the master mechanic had stitched the several arms on their stubs, soldered. up the hole in the radiator, and the disabled car was again in running order.
"At Connellsville Mr. Hurley felt compelled to leave us to attend a Cabinet meeting in Washington on Tuesday. A keen and competent Government Official, we all agreed; whether Republicans or Democrats, who cared? In such times as these, party lines do not count. We are only loyal and patriotic American citizens."
The experiences I had on this trip gave me an insight into the characters of Edison, Ford, Burroughs and Firestone. I can understand why they enjoy each other's society at any time, but particularly on these trips. They were so carefree they enjoyed everything---the country, the farm, the people and especially the food. Every meal was a picnic. At times they planned how they might improve their equipment for the following year and where they would go. The picture of the group with their signatures hangs in my office. It is a reminder of one of the most delightful outings I ever have had. My only regret is that I was called back to Washington suddenly and obliged to bid these great leaders good-bye.
CONVOYING MERCHANT SHIPS ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
IN CONVOYING our munition-laden ships across the submarine-infested Atlantic our Navy won new laurels. The whole-hearted cooperation which the Navy Department's officials gave to the Shipping Board and the Fleet Corporation is deserving of special commendation . Admiral W. S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to whom was assigned the task of solving many convoy problems, was a genius in providing systems against the danger that always threatened our vessels.
Had it net been for the success of the Navy in affording safe passage across the Atlantic to our cargo-laden, ships, the disaster which might readily have befallen our soldiers in the field would have been incalculable. All the great effort we were expending in seizing and building ships to help win the war would have been in vain. Because of the indecision of the British as to the advisability of a convoy, cautious action on the part of our Navy was necessary in putting into effect the most thorough plan ever devised to protect trans-oceanic cargo-vessels in time of war.
In the first stages of the war, convoy was not adopted because the German fleet was practically "contained," and the seas were reasonably free. Later the operations of German submarines made such protection necessary. The most effective method was the use of destroyers. As it obviously was impossible for destroyers to protect each vessel separately, the most economical way was to bring the protected ships together into convoy formation.
Despite its advantages, shipmasters and shipowners objected, at first, to the convoy system. Vessels huddled in a convoy were more easily fired upon or torpedoed than when steaming alone. Coal was poor. Telegraph apparatus between bridge and engine room was not good enough. The better officers and seamen had been drafted in the Navy. Such were the Allies' arguments against the system. A reply, unheeded for a time, was found in the protected sailings organized as early as the end of 1916, between Norway and the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and in the French coal trade, where the convoy was successful.
In the spring of 1917, shipowners, charterers, insurance companies and governments were thrown almost into panic. Ship protection of some kind was necessary. But what form was this protection to assume? Various suggestions were considered---counter-mines, nets, listening devices, patrols. Some were adopted as palliatives; others were rejected summarily because they were untried and needed long and intensive development before they could be introduced with any hope of success. Naval patrols, in the more dangerous zones, were of little avail. The submarines avoided them; the prey sought was merchant ships.
From the dates given, it will be seen that the convoy question was being considered by the British Admiralty simultaneously with the occurrence of those critical events that finally forced us into the war against Germany. We were drawn into the discussion of the convoy system before the advisability of adopting it in overseas transportation had been definitely settled. The British Admiralty had opposed convoys on the ground that there were not enough destroyers and other escorts.(#43) But the arrival of our destroyers at Queenstown, and the promise of more to come, did away with this objection. So early in May, 1917, it was decided to test the possibilities of the system by running two experimental convoys from Gibraltar and Hampton Roads respectively. The Gibraltar convoy, of seventeen vessels, sailed on May 10, 1917, and arrived without loss. The Hampton Roads convoy, also of seventeen ships, sailed on May 24 and kept station so well that the Commodore, Captain Whitehead, was confident that the number of vessels safely could be increased. Four other convoys sailed from Hampton Roads with like success during June, and on July 2d a regular four-day series was inaugurated from that point. Still the British Admiralty had serious misgivings, and rightfully so, about the value of the convoy system until such time as an adequate force of escort vessels had become available.
During the early months of 1917, when the policies of our Government with regard to our future participation in the war still were under consideration (no specific plans having been previously devised) Admiral W. S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, and General Tasker H. Bliss, Chief of Staff of the Army, spent many hours in informal conferences discussing ways and means to meet the various major problems of each of the two services as they developed. Their chief desire was to bring about orderly and harmonious cooperation between the great war organizations developing under their guidance. The big problem was whether the Navy could transport army men, army equipment and army supplies to France without seriously handicapping the similar movement of navy men, navy ships and equipment and navy supplies to France.
As a result there was prepared by Benson and Bliss, and approved by President Wilson, an order assigning certain vessels to be commissioned in the Navy as transports; and directing in effect that the additional vessels necessary to be taken over for employment as transports be commissioned in the Navy. A division was created in the office of Naval Operations to handle special duties pertaining to the fleet of large merchant vessels for which the Navy was to be responsible.
CRUISER AND TRANSPORT FORCES
In addition to manning and equipping its new fleet, the Navy began preparations to organize all transports and their escorting vessels under a single command. Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, U. S. N., was designated as Commander of the Cruiser and Transport Force. All vessels then available for escort duty were ordered to report to him. As each transport was commissioned it became a part of Admiral Gleaves' command.
Troop convoys were routed from the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. First, the Convoy Commander proceeded to Washington, where in most cases he reported in person to the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations, Captain (now Rear Admiral) W. V. Pratt. Together they studied the latest reports on submarine operations and other enemy information. They studied also the movement of other convoys. When a convoy officer's information was complete, his orders usually were prepared by Captain Pratt without leaving the room, and presented to Admiral Benson for signature. Before such orders left Admiral Benson's room they were sealed, and safe in the custody of the man selected to see the job to a successful conclusion. Cipher advices then were sent to Admiral Sims in London, giving him the rendezvous, expected time of arrival and names of vessels in the convoy.
ESCORT BASIS ESTABLISHED IN EUROPE
The commanding officer of our naval forces in Europe was Vice-admiral William S. Sims, who had made a name for himself in raising the standards of American gunnery. He probably did as much as any man in overcoming objections of the British Admiralty to the convoy system. He refused to accept the poor opinion that British masters held of their own ability to keep station in a convoy; and pointed out that the United States could be depended upon to render so much aid in escorting fleets of cargo-carriers that there would be no lack of destroyers and cruisers. In conjunction with the British Admiralty, Sims set about the task of directing escorts from the European end. Queenstown was selected as the base of the American naval forces because it formed a halfway point between the western ports of England and the rendezvous at sea. Another base selected was Brest, which had geographical advantages similar to those of Queenstown. When the movement of men and material to Europe began, Brest was of doubtful value because of its limited port facilities. Its natural advantages, however, were so great that before the end of 1917 it became the headquarters of Admiral Henry G. Wilson, Commanding U. S. Naval Forces in France, who developed it rapidly into the most important troop, destroyer and repair terminal operated by our Navy in Europe.
NAVAL OVERSEAS TRANSPORTATION SERVICE
In the operating of cargo-carriers by the Navy, a more coherent organization was needed, with a responsible officer at its head. In January, 1918, Commander Charles Belknap was appointed Director of the Naval Overseas Transportation Service. District Supervisors of Naval Overseas Transportation Service were appointed in each Naval district, to handle all matters pertaining to manning, fueling, repairing and operating all vessels assigned to this service. When the service grew to tremendous proportions, with the increase of the forces in France, Lieutenant Commander W. V. N. Powelson was appointed General Inspector of Naval Overseas Transportation Service, to effect economies in operating ships. Although the staff thus created was distinctly a Navy staff, most of its members had been drawn from. the civilian ranks.
Ships and their equipment had to be studied before suitable trains(44) could be formed, captains instructed and their routes indicated. Three or four days before a ship sailed, whether it was a cargo-carrier or a transport, the port convoy officer would obtain from her captain all the technical facts needed. That included her tonnage, speed, signalling apparatus and the character of human cargo or freight that she was to carry. Thus informed, he placed the heavier ships ahead of the lighter ones, because big ships could hold their way the longer when slowed down. Vessels carrying particularly valuable cargos or troops were given the most protected positions. The best armed ships were stationed in the wing columns. Ships carrying horses were placed at the rear, so they would not need to follow the zigzagging exactly, and in heavy weather could take the easier courses. The Commodore's flagship invariably had the best signal equipment. The Commodore always was a Naval Reserve Officer thoroughly familiar with convoy routine. Vessels routed to certain destinations were grouped so that upon nearing or passing scheduled ports of destination they could be detached from the train and handled as units, thus avoiding the danger of forming them anew in the submarine area. The position, in the train in which a ship was to sail, was indicated on a standard diagram of which each master received a copy. Both the route
to be followed and the ultimate destination of each ship were known only to the responsible officers in the office of Naval Operations, the London office, and the Brest office in the case of vessels bound to French ports. Orders for all troop convoys were so carefully guarded that they were handed in person to the Commodore of the train, or to the Escort Commander, as the case might be.
CONVOYS AT SEA
Twenty, thirty, even forty ships would meet off the American coast and proceed eastward. Escorting the train resolved itself into two phases. The train had first to be escorted to the submarine zone. Then came the second phase, escorting the train through the zone with naval vessels based on Queenstown or Brest.
To escort the train to the submarine zone (the first phase) required the employment of one cruiser and a fast, armed merchantman, which served as protection against a surface raider rather than a submarine. When the submarine zone was reached, about two hundred miles off Ireland or France, the cruiser was relieved by destroyers that met the convoy at a designated position, date and hour. Further responsibility for the train's safety then lay with the British Admiralty, Admiral Sims of our Navy, or with Admiral Wilson's forces operating out of Brest. The cruiser either returned to the United States or received orders to escort a westward-bound convoy.
Zigzagging usually began at dawn and continued throughout the day, unless the weather was foggy or stormy. It was not ordinarily resorted to at night, because darkness made it unnecessary, though such troop-carrying ships as the Leviathan, the Aquitania, and the Olympic, whose enormous hulls loomed up visibly in the dark, usually continued their zigzag courses at all times.
The destroyers three or four miles ahead of the main body of the convoy steamed back and forth across the course to be followed and searched for evidence of submarines. Other destroyers similarly scoured the waters to starboard, port and astern. At the slightest sign of a suspicious disturbance in the water, up would go the submarine warning-signal; the train would turn sharply to the left or right, as ordered, and the destroyers would drop depth charges in the vicinity of the disturbance. If a ship was torpedoed, the convoy had strict orders to proceed as if nothing had happened. The destroyers rendered such aid as was required. To stop would be to invite another attack. If a submarine was sighted, no ship of the train was permitted to use its guns. Fighting was the escort's job.
Ships had to steam, at maximum speed through the danger zone. Trained lookouts constantly were on watch, aided by an efficient system of communication between deck officers of the escort and the fire-control watch. Radio was used as little as possible. Smoke was reduced to a minimum. At night every ship was darkened, not even the smoking of a cigarette being permitted. On every ship of the train, an experienced officer always was on duty, ready to use the helm in avoiding torpedoes. Special day and night signals were pre-arranged, so that ships of a train could be ordered to execute the proper maneuvers when submarines were sighted. All transports and escorts carried guns and depth bombs. Trawlers with mine-nets swept the lanes ahead of the convoys, and swept also the entrances to harbors.
THE SUBMARINE BEATEN AT LAST
The convoy system fully realized expectations. It sounded the death knell of the submarine! German submarines found it enormously difficult to sink escorted ships with torpedoes, and the torpedo was the only weapon they could use. Gun-fire was out of the question.. It would have necessitated attack from the surface, and was impossible in, the face of armed, swift destroyers. The submarine was driven to seek its quarry in narrow channels where it became subject to attack by both anti-submarine and aircraft.
Perhaps in the popular mind, a naval hero must shed his blood at sea, under shell fire. But, it required real heroes for the performance of the irksome and almost inglorious duty so faithfully performed by the Naval Officers and men of the Cruiser and Transport Force and of the escort forces based in European ports.
Officers and crews of our cargo-vessels also are deserving of special commendation for the patriotic service they performed. The savage German practice of sinking without warning, and of leaving crews to their fate in open lifeboats when not actually fired upon, made the service of these men extremely hazardous. Some of their vessels were torpedoed, and not a few of them laid their lives on the altar of patriotism. Those rescued were taken to Brest or other French ports. After being provided with fresh equipment, they boarded ship, often within a few hours, enroute to America.
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe of the British Navy said of British sailors what might equally well be said of American sailors, that: "The officers and seamen of the Merchant Marine have founded during this war a new and glorious tradition in the teeth of undreamed-of peril. They have faced the piratical submarine and torpedo, not once but again and again, as the regular part of their duty; and stuck to the job until they were crippled, killed, drowned, or frozen to death. In many cases their names and achievements have not been given publicity for military reasons."
The fate of the William P. Frye, a four-masted bark loaded with grain from Seattle to Queenstown, and in command of Captain H. H. Kiehne, is an example of some of the hardships with which courageous skippers had to contend. In January, 1915, near Cape Horn, the German. cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich, under command of Commander Thierichens, ordered the bark to stop. The Frye was boarded by sixteen man-o'-wars-men. Upon examination of the ship's papers it was found that her cargo was destined for British ports. Consequently it was held to be contraband of war. The German Commander then ordered the Captain and his crew to throw the wheat overboard. After fifty-two tons had been dumped over the ship's side, the German Commander became impatient, for he saw that it would require four days to destroy the wheat by dumping. Captain Kiehne and his crew then were ordered to board the cruiser at daylight. After the Germans had taken aboard all the provisions of the sailing vessel, they placed a dynamite bomb in her hold and sank her. The American Captain and his crew remained aboard the German cruiser for more than five weeks.
On the morning of August 6, 1917, the Standard Oil Company's tanker Campana, in command of Captain Alfred Oliver, and bound for New York from France, was fired at three times in rapid succession by a German submarine. The Campana was armed with two three-inch guns manned by a United States Navy gun crew of thirteen men in charge of Chief Gunners' Mate James Delaney, U.S.N. Almost immediately it returned the submarine's fire. The submarine at that time was about 7500 yards astern and the Campana was proceeding ahead at her full speed of about ten knots. A running fight was kept up until the Campana's supply of projectiles was exhausted. All told, she fired 170 shots, of which four hit the submarine though they glanced off without exploding or doing any material damage. The submarine, from two guns fired 400 shots, of which four took effect, setting fire to the Campana's upper engine room and store house. After four hours of fighting, the Campana being within range of the submarine's guns, she was compelled to surrender. When the submarine came alongside the Campana, the latter's captain and chief officers were taken aboard. The members of the crew were placed in small boats equipped with only emergency rations, and were directed towards shore, the nearest point of which was 108 miles away. Fortunately, a few hours later the entire crew was picked up by the French gunboat Audacieuse and brought in safety to La Pallice, France. Before sinking her, the Germans went aboard the Campana and removed everything of value that was practicable for them to take away.
I recall some of the experiences narrated to me by Sir Bertram Hayes, Commander of the S. S. Olympic. He told me the voyage that had caused him the greatest anxiety was one on which he had carried some 300 women and children from Southampton to Canada. In numerous instances, officers and privates of Canadian regiments had married girls in England; and when the food supply there became short the British Government decided to send these women and their children to relatives of the soldiers in the Dominion.
Captain Hayes remarked that carrying soldiers had been regarded as a part of the routine work, and that he had felt that if his ship were struck by a torpedo from a submarine those aboard would take the soldier's chances with the life-boats and rafts; but that a picture of these mothers with their kiddies struggling in the water constantly was arising before him and causing him the deepest concern. Therefore he had a feeling of great relief when his ship had passed through the submarine zone, and later docked safely with her human cargo.
One of the most thrilling experiences Captain Hayes encountered during the war was the ramming and sinking of the U-103 by the Olympic on the morning of May 12, 1918. I doubt if it had its equal in the experiences of any other ship commander.
The Olympic, under escort of four American destroyers and having on board several regiments of our soldiers, was approaching the rendezvous in the English Channel where the escorting destroyers were to be relieved by four British destroyers. In telling the story in his book "Hull Down," Captain Hayes relates:
"The sky was as black as ink, with the exception of a low streak of light, looking like silver, in the northeast, as day was breaking, and we were keeping a good look-out for the British destroyers; when a submarine came to the surface about one and one-half points on our starboard bow, against the light, and about half a mile or so away. I happened to be on the bridge at the time, standing on the starboard side, and saw it just as our look-outs reported it. There was only one thing to do and that was to try to ram it, so I altered course to bring it ahead, and as I steadied the ship, our forward gun fired at it, but the shot went over, as the gun could not be sufficiently depressed. This seemed to wake him up, for until then he had apparently not seen us against the black background of the sky. He went full speed ahead on his engines---we could see the wash from his propellers---and tried to escape by turning inside our circle. We put out helm hard-a-port again, and at 3:55 A.m., hit a swinging blow with our stern, which put an end to his career.
"We could hear the paravane chains being torn away as he passed along, and when the wreck got abreast of our bridge it was almost standing on end. I kept the helm hard-a-port until it was clear of our propellors, and then resumed our course.
"It was a thrilling moment, in a way---we had got what we had been looking for ever since the submarine warfare commenced---but I don't remember being unduly excited . . . As the wreck passed astern, our after guns fired at it . . . and made several hits, so I was told by some American military officers who happened to be on deck aft and saw what was going on.
"The shock of the impact was much greater than I expected; somehow I had always thought of submarines as being frail things, but it bumped us off our feet on the bridge. I began to wonder whether it was not something heavier than a submarine we had rammed, and an uneasy feeling regarding the destroyers we were expecting to meet began to creep into my mind. I was absolutely certain that it was a submarine before we altered our course---we could see the conning tower and the hull swash, with a fair-sized gun placed forward and aft of the tower. Still the uneasy feeling remained until sometime later when we intercepted a message sent from the U.S.T.B.D. Davis, reading: 'Have picked up seventeen survivors of the German Submarine U-103 sunk by gun-fire from the Olympic.' Later it transpired that four officers and twenty-seven men were picked up from her."
In recognition of this successful exploit, Captain Hayes was awarded the D.S.C., which was presented to him by the King. The look-out aboard the Olympic, who first reported the submarine, received the D.C.M. Special monetary prizes also were given by the White Star Line to Captain Hayes and the look-out. The Admiralty and the Committee of Lloyd's each gave a thousand pounds to be distributed among the members of the ship's company for their part in helping to sink the submarine.
Officers of one of the American regiments aboard raised a sum of money for the purpose of placing a tablet in the ship to commemorate the event. Later, when the Olympic was being reconditioned at Belfast, after the war, such a tablet was placed in position on one of the landings of the main companion way. The inscription on it reads:
"This tablet, presented by the 59th Regiment, U. S. Infantry, commemorates the sinking of the German submarine U-103 by the Olympic on 12th May, 1918, in lat. 49' 16' N. long. 40' 51' on the voyage from New York to Southampton with American troops."
WAR RISK INSURANCE AT A PROFIT
THERE were a thousand and one aspects of shipping which were not and could not have been considered when the Shipping Act of 1916 was framed and approved. It never was foreseen that we would have to build our own ships by the hundreds, as a matter of military self-protection, or that we would have to take steps to reimburse ourselves if they and their cargos were lost.
During the conflict, we had to consider marine insurance from two aspects---first the extraordinary perils of war, second the ordinary perils of the sea. The Bureau of War Risk Insurance, of the Treasury Department, considered only war perils. The Shipping Board concerned itself both with those and with what may be called the natural hazards of voyages.
The Bureau of War Risk Insurance came into existence as a branch of the Treasury Department when. by act of Congress in September, 1914, the Treasury Department was authorized to insure American merchant vessels and their cargos against the hazards of war. From a small force, located in one room in the basement of the Treasury in Washington, grew a marine insurance business for war risks alone amounting to more than two billion dollars. Later the scope of the Bureau's work was greatly broadened, so that policies could be issued on vessels and cargos not actually owned by Americans; and so that masters, officers and crews could be indemnified against loss of life, injury sustained in our service or detention following capture. All told, insurance claims amounting to $29,407,000 were paid; but when the last branch of the Bureau closed its doors in 1924, there was a net profit of more than $17,000,000 on the books. It had not been necessary to touch the $50,000,000 appropriated by Congress to, pay for losses.
According to the records of the War Risk Bureau, the largest amount raised was $8,274,023 on the Kermanshaw, for a voyage from New Orleans to Havre. The largest loss was that of the Argonaut, the hull of which was insured for $516,500 and the cargo for $3,950,836. The largest single payment made by Treasury warrant was $2,200,000 for total loss of the John D. Archbold, a Standard Oil tanker.
It was not the business of the Bureau of War Risk Insurance to issue marine insurance contracts, a form of insurance concerned chiefly with losses caused by perils of the seas, barratry, theft and jettison; but rather to indemnify owners of vessels and cargos against losses brought about by enemy action, and to insure lives of officers and crews against the same hazards. Hence, its experience could be no true guide to us, nor any one engaged in peace-time insurance of shipping.
We could not insure with a private insurance company the ships that we owned, chartered or otherwise controlled, for the simple reason that the United States Government did not thus protect its property. On the other hand, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance dealt only with war perils. Therefore, we had to go into the insurance business on our own account. Mr. Hendon Chubb, Mr. W. N. Davey, and Mr. W. R. Hedge were asked to form a committee to advise the Shipping Board and the Fleet Corporation on all insurance matters, particularly with reference to marine, war risk, and protection and indemnity insurance. It was deemed necessary to protect both the steamers themselves and their legal liability, and to provide a means of prompt handling of claims arising through damage .to cargo or injury to members of the crews. This Insurance Advisory Committee began its work in the summer of 1917.
Unlike the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, this committee had to deal not only with war risks (excepting insurance on seamen's lives) but also with ordinary risks of voyages. We cooperated very closely with the Bureau. It relinquished its whole interest in all steamers requisitioned by the Government, though it continued to protect hulls and cargos owned by American citizens, for which the Government was not otherwise responsible.
The Shipping Board set aside the sum of $10,000,000 as an insurance fund, for this Advisory Committee to administer, in November, 1917. In the autumn of 1918, by which time the major war perils of the sea had been mitigated, we found that we had not paid enough attention to such matters as salvage, collisions and the like; and that we would have to broaden our insurance activities. Hence, in October, 1918, the Advisory Committee gave way to a larger and more important Division of Insurance, which eventually formed part of the Division of Operations of the Fleet Corporation. Chubb became the director of the Division, Herbert S. Eggert assistant director and John W. Griffin assistant admiralty counsel. When Chubb and Eggert resigned, February 1, 1919, Ogden was appointed director.
We drew a distinction, from the very first, between the risks assumed by the Fleet Corporation and those assumed by the Shipping Board itself. Thus, the Fleet Corporation carried only the usual builder's risks, whereas the Shipping Board carried risks incurred after a vessel and its cargo were on the water. Chubb fixed the rates, both for war risks and for ordinary marine risks. The, latter were placed at a level from 25 to 30 per cent. below the prevailing market rate. Up to the middle of 1919, we showed $3,000,000 profit on our war risk insurance, and a 3 per cent. profit totalling $21,000,000 on marine-risk premiums. It will be seen that while the Shipping Board and the Fleet Corporation were expending hundreds of millions of dollars in building shipyards and ships, not all of their activities represented outgo, but that there was this amount of income as profit to the enterprise, even during the war period.
During the summer of 1918, new steamers were delivered by the builders at the rate of one hundred a month. These soon were manned, equipped and placed in commission. By the end of the year, we owned, chartered or controlled about fourteen hundred vessels, and so handled a very substantial amount of insurance. We never were obliged to use a cent of the $10,000,000 that we had set aside to cover losses. Premiums not only covered losses, but left us a profit. As a result, our insurance business reduced itself to a matter of bookkeeping, the losses being paid out of the premiums received. Of course, the various insurance companies and brokers did not like to have this very large volume of business kept out of the open market, and they submitted a proposal whereby all the risks could be carried by private companies. This proposal was considered carefully. But it was not accepted, for various reasons. One reason was that we deemed our system to be more flexible and that it would better facilitate the handling of the steamers. Our insurance, business was all the more profitable because we did not have to pay taxes, brokers' commissions, etc., and also because government accounting favored elimination of certain charges which private companies would have had to include. We were in the shipping business not to make money (although we did make money out of insurance), but to convey essentials between America and Europe.
OUR LEGAL STATUS
BECAUSE of our peculiar organization, very perplexing legal problems confronted us. The Shipping Board was a governmental department or agency; the Emergency Fleet Corporation, as its name indicates, was a corporation in which the only stockholder was the United States Government. The legal status of the Shipping Board was quite different from that of the Fleet Corporation. As a stock concern, the Fleet Corporation was amenable to many federal and state laws that had been enacted to limit the powers of corporate enterprises. The Shipping Board, as a branch of the sovereign government, was immune from statutory restraint, except that it could not exceed the powers with which it was endowed by the Shipping Act of 1916, creating it. So far as the Fleet Corporation was concerned, the Government found itself in the paradoxical situation of being a shareholder in a corporation controlled by existing federal and state laws; and therefore in many respects in a position no better legally than the shareholders of any other corporation. As a governmental agency, the Shipping Board had far broader authority than the Fleet Corporation. It could appropriate property if it saw fit to do so, as a sovereign act under congressional authority.
SHIPPING BOARD'S LAW DIVISION
I appointed Mr. Edward S. Burling as chief counsel of the U. S. Shipping Board, which post he filled with credit throughout the period of the war. Mr. Alfred Huger of South Carolina was appointed admiralty counsel. He served us well until April, 1918, when at the request of the Shipping Control Committee he was commissioned a major and sent abroad to head a Division of the Service of Supply of the General Staff. He was succeeded by Mr. Ira A. Campbell, a distinguished admiralty lawyer of San Francisco, and a man of extraordinary industry and ability.
Huger was responsible for the requisition charter which covered practically all American tonnage used by us in war service. That charter was a document of the greatest importance, and exceedingly difficult to frame. It set forth the relations of the Shipping Board to substantially the whole American merchant fleet of ships of 2500 deadweight tons and over. The shipping interests generously appointed a committee composed of the leading shipping men and admiralty lawyers of the country, to negotiate the charter in Washington. Huger worked out the details, with the competent assistance of Mr. B. V. Cohen.
To solve the many difficulties involved in taking over the Netherlands tonnage, the Shipping Board appointed a Dutch Cargo Claims Committee. Mr. Gerard C. Henderson, a scholarly lawyer and a member of the Law Division was chairman. The other members were Mr. W. N. Davey and Mr. H. H. Little.
LEGAL DIVISION OF THE FLEET CORPORATION
At its inception, the Fleet Corporation had a group of five lawyers organized into a Legal Division by a very distinguished lawyer, Mr. Joseph P. Cotton, who had been engaged by General Goethals as special counsel. The first official head of the Legal Division of the Fleet Corporation was Mr. Robert J. Bulkley, who was followed by Judge John Barton Payne and later by Sherman L. Whipple. Upon Mr. Chester W. Cuthell, general counsel of the Fleet Corporation, devolved much of the arduous legal work of the Corporation. Although a young man, he was a master of detail and a competent organizer. He surrounded himself with an able staff of assistants and skilfully handled our many intricate legal problems.
Chapter Thirty: Cancellation of ship contracts
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