Primary Documents - Josephus Daniels on the Role of the U.S. Navy During World War I, November 1918

Josephus Daniels Reproduced below is the text of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels' official report detailing the build-up and role of the U.S. Navy during World War I.

Click here to read Charles C. Gills' report of the role of the transport service during the war.

U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels' Official Report on the U.S. Navy During Wartime

The operations of our navy during the world war have covered the widest scope in its history.

Our naval forces have operated in European waters from the Mediterranean to the White Sea.  At Corfu, Gibraltar, along the French Bay of Biscay ports, at the English Channel ports, on the Irish Coast, in the North Sea, at Murmansk and Archangel our naval forces have been stationed and have done creditable work.

Their performance will probably form the most interesting and exciting portion of the naval history of this war, and it is the duty which has been most eagerly sought by all of the personnel, but owing to the character of the operations which our Navy has been called upon to take part in, it has not been possible for all of our naval forces, much as they desired it, to engage in operations at the front, and a large part of our work has been conducted quietly, but none the less effectively, in other areas.

This service, while not so brilliant, has still been necessary, and without it our forces at the front could not have carried on the successful campaign that they did.

Naval men have served on nearly 2,000 craft that plied the waters, on submarines, and in aviation, where men of vision and courage prevent surprise attacks and fight with new-found weapons.  On the land, marines and sailors have helped to hold strategic points, regiments of marines have shared with the army their part of the hard-won victory, and a wonderfully trained gun crew of sailors has manned the monster 14-inch guns which marked a new departure in land warfare.

In diplomacy, in investigation at home and in all parts of the world by naval officers and civilian agents, in protecting plants and labour from spies and enemies, in promoting new industrial organizations and enlarging older ones to meet war needs, in stimulating production of needed naval craft - these are some of the outstanding operations which mark the heroic year of accomplishment.

The employment of the fighting craft of the navy may be summed up as follows:

1. Escorting troop and cargo convoys and other special vessels.
2. Carrying out offensive and defensive measures against enemy submarines in the Western Atlantic.
3. Assignment to duty and the dispatch abroad of naval vessels for operations in the war zone in conjunction with the naval forces of our allies.
4. Assignment to duty and operation of naval vessels to increase the force in home waters. Dispatch abroad of miscellaneous craft for the army.
5. Protection of these craft en route.
6. Protection of vessels engaged in coastwise trade.
7. Salvaging and assisting vessels in distress, whether from maritime causes or from the operations of the enemy.
8. Protection of oil supplies from the Gulf.

In order to carry out successfully and speedily all these duties large increases in personnel, in ships of all classes and in the instrumentalities needed for their production and service were demanded.

Briefly, then, it may be stated that on the day war was declared the enlistment and enrolment of the navy numbered 65,777 men.  On the day Germany signed the armistice it had increased to 497,030 men and women, for it became necessary to enrol capable and patriotic women as yeomen to meet the sudden expansion and enlarged duties imposed by war conditions.

This expansion has been progressive.  In 1912 there were 3,094 officers and 47515 enlisted men; by July 1, 1916, the number had grown to 4,293 officers and 54,234 enlisted men, and again in that year to 68,700 in all.

In granting the increase Congress authorized the President in his discretion to augment that force to 87,800.  Immediately on the outbreak of the war the navy was recruited to that strength, but it was found that under the provisions of our laws there were not sufficient officers in the upper grades of the navy to do the war work.

At the same time the lessons of the war showed it was impossible to have the combatant ships of the navy ready for instant war service unless the ships had their full personnel on board and that personnel was highly trained.

In addition to this permanent strength recourse was had to the development of the existing reserves and to the creation of a new force.

Up to 1913 the only organization that made any pretence of training men for the navy was the Naval Militia, and that was under State control, with practically no Federal supervision.  As the militia seemed to offer the only means of producing a trained reserve, steps were at once taken to put it on a sound basis, and on February 16, 1914, a real Naval Militia under Federal control was created, provision being made for its organization and training in peace, as well as its utilization in war.

As with all organized militia, the Naval Militia, even with the law of 1914, could not, under the Constitution, be called into service as such except for limited duties, such as to repel invasion.  It could not be used outside the territorial limits of the United States.  It is evident then that with such restrictions militia could hardly meet the requirements of the navy in a foreign war, and to overcome this difficulty the "National Naval Volunteers" were created in August, 1916.

Under this act members of Naval Militia organizations were authorized to volunteer for "any emergency," of which emergency the President was to be the judge.  Other laws included the same measure, provided for a reserve force, for the automatic increase of officer personnel in each corps to correspond with increases in enlisted men, and for the Naval Flying Corps, special engineering officers, and the Naval Dental and Dental Reserve Corps.

It also provided for taking over the lighthouse and other departmental divisions by the navy in time of war.  Briefly, then, on July 1, 1917, three months after the declaration of war, the number of officers had increased to 8,038 - 4,694 regulars, 3,344 reserves - and the number of enlisted men to 171,133 - 128,666 regulars, 32,379 reserves, 10,088 National Naval Volunteers.

The expansion of aviation in the navy has been of gratifying proportions and effectiveness.  On July 1, 1917, naval aviation was still in its infancy.  At that time there were only 45 naval aviators.  There were officers of the navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard who had been given special training in and were attached to aviation.  There were approximately 200 student officers under training, and about 1,250 enlisted men attached to the Aviation Service.

These enlisted men were assigned to the three naval air stations in this country then in commission.  Pensacola, Fla., had about 1,000 men, Bay Shore, Long Island, N. Y., had about 100, and Squantum, Mass., which was abandoned in the fall of 1917, had about 150 men.

On July 1, 1918, there were 823 naval aviators, approximately 2,052 student officers, and 400 ground officers attached to naval aviation.  In addition, there were more than 7,300 trained mechanics, and more than 5,400 mechanics in training.  The total enlisted and commissioned personnel at this time was about 30,000.

On the day war was declared 197 ships were in commission.  Today there are 2,003.  In addition to furnishing all these ships with trained officers and men, the duty of supplying crews and officers of the growing merchant marine was undertaken by the navy.  There has not been a day when the demand for men for these ships has not been supplied - how fit they were all the world attests - and after manning the merchant ships there has not been a time when provision was not made for the constantly increasing number of ships taken over by the navy.

During the year the energy available for new construction was concentrated mainly upon vessels to deal with the submarine menace.  Three hundred and fifty-five of the 110-foot wooden submarine chasers were completed during the year.  Fifty of these were taken over by France and fifty more for France were ordered during the year and have been completed since July 1, 1918.  Forty-two more were ordered about the end of the fiscal year, delivery to begin in November and be completed in January.

Extraordinary measures were taken with reference to destroyers.  By the summer of 1917 destroyer orders had been placed which not only absorbed all available capacity for more than a year, but required a material expansion of existing facilities.  There were under construction, or on order, in round figures, 100 of the thirty-five-knot type.

During the year, including orders placed at navy yards, the following have been contracted for: Four battleships, 1 battle cruiser, 2 fuel ships, 1 transport, 1 gunboat, 1 ammunition ship, 223 destroyers, 58 submarines, 112 fabricated patrol vessels (including 12 for the Italian Government), 92 submarine chasers (including 50 for the French Government), 51 mine sweepers, 25 seagoing tugs and 46 harbour tugs, besides a large number of lighters, barges, and other auxiliary harbour craft.

In addition to this, contracts have been placed for twelve large fuel ships in conjunction with the Emergency Fleet Corporation.

Ships launched during the year and up to October 1, 1918, include 1 gunboat, 93 destroyers, 29 submarines, 26 mine sweepers, 4 fabricated patrol vessels, and 2 seagoing tugs.  It is noteworthy that in the first nine months of 1918 there were launched no less than 83 destroyers of 98,281 tons aggregate normal displacement, as compared with 62 destroyers of 58,285 tons during the entire nine years next preceding January 1, 1918.

There have been added to the navy during the fiscal year and including the three months up to October 1, 1918, 2 battleships, 36 destroyers, 28 submarines, 355 submarine chasers, 13 mine sweepers and two seagoing tugs.  There have also been added to the operating naval forces by purchase, charter, etc., many hundred vessels of commercial type, including all classes from former German transatlantic liners to harbour tugboats and motor boats for auxiliary purposes.

Last year the construction of capital ships and large vessels generally had been to some extent suspended.  Work continued upon vessels which had already made material progress toward completion, but was practically suspended upon those which had just been begun, or whose keels had not yet been laid.

The act of July 1, 1918, required work to be actually begun upon the remaining vessels of the three-year program within a year.  This has all been planned and no difficulty in complying with the requirements of the act and pushing rapidly the construction of the vessels in question is anticipated.  Advantage has been taken of the delay to introduce into the designs of the vessels which had not been laid down numerous improvements based upon war experience.

War was declared on April 6, 1917.  On the 4th of May a division of destroyers was in European waters.  By January 1, 1918, there were 113 United States naval ships across, and in October, 1918, the total had reached 338 ships of all classes.

At the present time there are 5,000 officers and 70,000 enlisted men of the navy serving in Europe, this total being greater than the full strength of the navy when the United States entered the war.  The destroyers upon their first arrival were based on Queenstown, which has been the base of the operations of these best fighters of the submarines during the war.  Every facility possible was provided for the comfort and recreation of the officers and men engaged in this most rigorous service.

During July and August, 1918, 3,444,012 tons of shipping were escorted to and from France by American escort vessels; of the above amount 1,577,735 tons were escorted in and 1,864,677 tons were escorted out of French ports.  Of the tonnage escorted into French ports during this time, only 16,988 tons, or .009 per cent., were lost through enemy action, and of the tonnage escorted out from French ports only 27,858, or .013 per cent., were lost through the same cause.

During the same period, July and August of this year, 259,604 American troops were escorted to France by United States escort vessels without the loss of a single man through enemy action.  The particulars in the above paragraph refer to United States naval forces operating in the war zone from French ports.

During the same time - July and August - destroyers based on British ports supplied 75 per cent of the escorts for 318 ships, totalling 2,752,908 tons, and including the escort of vessels carrying 137,283 United States troops.  The destroyers on this duty were at sea an average of 67 per cent of the time, and were under way for a period of about 16,000 hours, steaming approximately an aggregate of 260,000 miles.  There were no losses due to enemy action.

The history of the convoy operations in which our naval forces have taken part, due to which we have been able so successfully to transport such a large number of our military forces abroad, and so many supplies for the army, is a chapter in itself.  It is probably our major operation in this war, and will in the future stand as a monument to both the army and the navy as the greatest and most difficult troop transporting effort which has ever been conducted across seas.

This entire force, under command of Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, whose ability and resource have been tested and established in this great service in cooperation with the destroyer flotilla operating abroad, has developed an antisubmarine convoy and escort system the results of which have surpassed even the most sanguine expectations.

American and British ships have carried over two million American troops overseas.  The United States did not possess enough ships to carry over our troops as rapidly as they were ready to sail or as quickly as they were needed in France.  Great Britain furnished, under contract with the War Department, many ships and safely transported many American troops, the numbers having increased greatly in the spring and summer.  A few troops were carried over by other allied ships.  The actual number transported in British ships was more than a million.

Up to November 1, 1918, of the total number of United States troops in Europe, 924,578 made passage in United States naval convoys under escort of United States cruisers and destroyers.  Since November 1, 1917, there have been 289 sailings of naval transports from American ports.  In these operations of the cruiser and transport force of the Atlantic fleet not one eastbound American transport has been torpedoed or damaged by the enemy and only three were sunk on the return voyage.

Our destroyers and patrol vessels, in addition to convoy duty, have waged an unceasing offensive warfare against the submarines.  In spite of all this, our naval losses have been gratifyingly small.  Only three American troopships - the Antilles, the President Lincoln, and the Covington - were sunk on the return voyage.

Only three fighting ships have been lost as a result of enemy action - the patrol ship Alcedo, a converted yacht, sunk off the coast of France November 5, 1917; the torpedo boat destroyer Jacob Jones, sunk off the British coast December 6, 1917, and the cruiser San Diego, sunk near Fire Island, off the New York coast, on July 19, 1918, by striking a mine supposedly set adrift by a German submarine.

The transport Finland and the destroyer Cassin, which were torpedoed, reached port and were soon repaired and placed back in service.  The transport Mount Vernon, struck by a torpedo on September 5th, proceeded to port under its own steam and was repaired.

The most serious loss of life due to enemy activity was the loss of the Coast Guard cutter Tampa, with all on board, in Bristol Channel, England, on the night of September 26, 1918.  The Tampa, which was doing escort duty, had gone ahead of the convoy.  Vessels following heard an explosion, but when they reached the vicinity there were only bits of floating wreckage to show where the ship had gone down.  Not one of the 111 officers and men of her crew was rescued, and, though it is believed she was sunk by a torpedo from an enemy submarine, the exact manner in which the vessel met its fate may never be known.

Secretary Daniels' Report as to the First Destroyers

The first actual war service undertaken by the navy was the sending of our destroyers over to the other side for actual participation in the hostilities at sea.

This was done in spite of the theory that the place of the destroyers was with the battleship, that every dreadnought should have at least four destroyers to act as her eyes and scouts, and screen her with their smoke.  But a great many former theories have had to be revised in this war; so we sent the type of craft that, under normal conditions, would have been the last to go, and our allies were greatly elated by our decision.

Both the English and French Commissions told us that the smaller vessels of our navy would be the most useful to them, and they expressed the hope that we might be able to send destroyers, although they did not expect it.  But after consultation with Admiral Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, and later with Admiral Mayo, Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, I ordered the destroyers to go, even though it seemed a somewhat risky thing to do.

They were all manned by picked officers and men.  Nobody was allowed to go on this expedition who had not had experience on destroyers, which is in these days the hardest and most exacting service in the navy.  But it develops a wonderful breed of men.  They are young, alert, ambitious.

The Captain of a destroyer is generally a Lieutenant Commander, and it is a great thing for a youngster of that rank to be in command of his own ship.  The best of them strive for it, and the other officers of the destroyer are of the same stamp, and the personnel of the crew is a good match for them.

It was because of the quality of these officers and men and because of the splendid construction and equipment of the ships themselves that they were able to surprise the English with the statement that they were ready to go to work immediately upon their arrival on the other side.

The spirit of the men in this part of the navy had been greatly improved by the organizing of the destroyers into a flotilla of their own, and they had had the great inspiration of serving under Admiral Sims when he was in command of that flotilla, and later under Admiral Gleaves.

It was Sims who declared at a dinner in London about fifteen years ago that blood was thicker than water and that if war ever came England could count upon America as an ally.  Germany resented that officially through diplomatic channels, and Sims was reprimanded.

Of course, he should have been reprimanded.  I told him so myself not so very long ago, and then selected him to go to England and France before America entered the war.  Even then I thought I could see the clouds and felt the need of getting in touch with the British and French Admiralties.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

The Russian war ace Alexander Kozakov claimed 20 victories during the war; his nearest compatriot, Vasili Yanchenko, claimed 16.

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