ALWAYS ON GUARD – BY CAPTAIN L. M. OVERSTREET, U. S. N.
THE Navy is a constructive and a humanitarian as well as a fighting organization. The general impression that the men of the Navy are idle in time of peace, save for necessary war drills, and that money appropriated for the Navy is expended entirely in preparing for future battles, is incorrect. The men of the Navy are so active in time of peace governing certain of our island possessions; protecting our citizens abroad; promoting and safeguarding our foreign trade; assisting all merchantmen in approaching our coasts; and in developing shipbuilding and engineering industries, that money appropriated for the Navy is well invested.
NAVY GOVERNS OUR ISLAND POSSESSIONS
These islands, which we obtained from the Danes in 1917, are governed by an American Admiral, assisted by a staff of some twenty other naval officers, of whom fourteen are doctors. In the early days St. Thomas was a pirate stronghold. Here exists the famous “Bluebeard’s Castle,” built in 1700. The native guides point out the many black crosses on the inner walls of the Castle, which indicate the number of wives the old pirate killed. At one time St. Thomas was the most important transshipping port in the West Indies, where slaves and cargoes were redistributed and where steamers were coaled. In the good old days our men-of-war were prone to drop in at St. Thomas to fill up their wine lockers.
The islands have an area of 142 square miles, a population of 26,000 (largely Negroes), and a trade valued at $4,000,000 annually. The largest island, St. Croix, exported nearly $2,000,000 worth of sugar in 1921, with small amounts of molasses, cotton, and cattle. Two other islands, St. John and St. Thomas, used to make valuable exports of bay rum, but prohibition has now crippled this as well as the real rum industry.
The Naval Governor has given education an impetus by revising the school laws; by raising from thirteen to fifteen years the age limit for compulsory education; by requiring parents and guardians to keep the children in school; by increasing the number, salary, and quality of the teachers; by introducing nurses and dentists into the schools; by increasing night school facilities; by establishing libraries; and by organizing schools for nurses. In February, 1921, the first native girl graduates in the history of the islands were given diplomas as nurses. Baby shows are held monthly, at which a Navy band plays, pink lemonade is served, and the Governor awards prizes to the proud mothers of the islands’ finest infants. Infant mortality has been reduced from 325 to 207 per thousand in the Virgin Islands as a whole, while in the capital the rate has been reduced to 86 per thousand. Improved sanitation has eliminated typhoid and reduced the evil effects of other diseases.
The Navy allots $340,000 of its money outright to govern the Virgin Islands. Many additional thousands are expended maintaining the naval force, improving sanitation, and furnishing medical treatment to the natives.
A naval captain, assisted by some twelve other naval officers, governs American Samoa. We took over this group of South Sea Islands from the natives in 1899 by an agreement with England and Germany. The rest of the Samoan group went to Germany, but it is now governed by New Zealand. The group has an area of 77 square miles, and a population of 8,000 people. These natives belong to a fine type of the Polynesian race. These islands have a great strategic value to the Navy. Pago Pago is the best harbor in this region of the South Seas, is en route from San Francisco to Australia, about 4,200 miles from the former and 2,400 from the latter, and 2,300 miles to the southward of Honolulu.
The laws have been revised and issued in both English and Samoan. For the first time in history the natives have laws in their own language. Fifteen school districts have been established, and schools increased from two to six. Nine more will be started when capable teachers can be obtained.
Public health has been improved by issuing sanitary regulations in Samoan to each family and by using copies in English in the schools. Navy doctors and nurses are training native girls for nursing, while Navy pharmacists have been put in charge of dispensaries which have been established on two outlying islands and in a distant part of the main island of Tutuila. A free dental clinic is run for the natives. An excellent native female nurse, a graduate of a naval hospital in America, delivers lectures continually in the native villages. A sanitary inspector travels from village to village to lecture and give instruction.
The chief export is copra. The crop is valued at about $175,000 annually. The natives used to pay their taxes in copra. This method required the collection of an excess amount in order to allow for shrinkage and to realize a definite sum of money. Excess cash was returned to the chiefs of districts, and trouble followed. The Governor has therefore changed this to an exact cash taxation, based on the annual budget, with satisfactory results. Good roads are being cheaply built by sending out prisoners daily to work on them.
A naval captain, assisted by some twenty naval officers and a force of marines, governs Guam. This island is a small one (area 225 square miles, population 1,500, mostly Chamorros of the Malay type), which we obtained in 1898 from Spain. Guam has great strategic value. Guam is en route from San Francisco to the Philippines. It is 5,000 miles from the former, 1,500 miles from Manila, and some 2,300 miles to the westward of Honolulu.
The balance of trade is against Guam, as the copra exported annually is valued at some $40,000, while the imports, mostly foodstuffs and cotton goods, are valued at over $400,000. The island revenues amounted to over $112,000 in 1921.
As in the Virgin Islands and Samoa, great attention is given to education, sanitation, and health. In addition to regular academic schools, there is an industrial school and an experimental farm. Two new schools are being built, while two native students are kept in the United States in agricultural schools. Improved sanitation has reduced disease. The birth rate now is more than double the death rate. There were no cases of leprosy last year. There are no local doctors or dentists, so the Navy medical force, consisting of nine doctors, two dentists, forty hospital corps men, and eleven female nurses, assisted by a few native nurses and midwives (whom our doctors have trained), must care for the health of the entire island population. There are numerous outlying medical stations, with additional dressing stations, while all school teachers and patrolmen are given first-aid training. Due to the native habit of betel-nut chewing, a Navy dentist spends two afternoons a week in schools; toothbrush drills have been introduced in the schools in order to combat the betel-nut chewing evil. All schoolboys are given physical training for four hours a week, including Swedish setting-up exercises to music. The boys join the militia from the age of sixteen to twenty-three, are then transferred to the first reserve with monthly drills, and finally to the second reserve, with semi-annual drills. The result of this training has been very satisfactory and has improved the health and strength of the male population. The Navy allots $20,000 outright to the care of lepers, who are sent from Guam to the leper colony at Culion in the Philippines. In addition, many thousands of dollars are expended in maintaining the naval force and in improving education, sanitation, and health throughout the island.
The Navy is proud of the results of its work in these island possessions. Some stress has been laid upon these naval activities since they are not generally known. Naval officers, during their forty years of active service, are constantly caring for the education, health, and recreation of their men in order to provide happy, healthy, and efficient crews for their men-of-war. They are, therefore, well qualified to govern these islands, where questions of health and sanitation are of the greatest importance.
NAVY PROTECTS COMMERCE
In order to protect our citizens abroad and our foreign interests, the whole world is divided into sea areas. An admiral is held responsible for the area allotted to him. In the Asiatic area the admiral must keep a force of gunboats on constant patrol on the Yangtze River. This patrol extends nearly 2,000 miles up the river into the very heart of China. At least one gunboat is kept in the river between Hongkong and Canton. The present war at Canton has made it necessary to reinforce this gunboat by a destroyer. A cruiser is kept in Vladivostok. The rest of the Asiatic fleet, consisting largely of destroyers and submarines, is generally in the Philippines.
These small cruisers and gunboats doing patrol duty have little value in time of war, but they protect American interests and even save the lives of Chinese merchants from their own brigands.
Our exports to China in 1920 were valued at over 1,145,000,000, and this trade, together with the Americans handling it and our missionaries, needs protection. This patrol work, costs the Navy some $3,000,000 annually. During the recent crisis in the vicinity of Peking cruisers and gunboats were rushed to North China and extra Navy men landed to reinforce the Marine Guard which the Navy keeps at all times on duty in the Chinese capital. By international agreement, we are pledged, during internal Chinese wars, to co-operate with the other Powers in keeping the railway lines open from Peking to the sea.
The Navy also keeps a patrol force on duty throughout the Caribbean Sea to protect our interests. The fruit alone we import annually from this region is valued at over $50,000,000. This trade, as well as our citizens, must be protected throughout these troublesome West Indian countries. It costs the Navy some $3,000,000 annually to maintain this patrol. This amount does not include the cost of maintaining the force of sailors and marines who are temporarily on duty in Haiti, San Domingo, and Nicaragua.
The Navy maintains a considerable force of ships throughout the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Americans have important oil and tobacco interests in the Near East: in fact, the annual shipments of tobacco from the single port of Saimsun in the Black Sea to America are valued at over $15,000,000. Due to the present Greco-Turkish war, a destroyer is constantly on duty at Samsun to protect our interests. After the collapse of General Wrangel’s Russian army our destroyers helped to bring the remnants out of Sebastopol. One destroyer, in fact, picked up in the Black Sea a broken-down merchant ship which was crowded with Russian refugees and towed it into Constantinople.
An American admiral is our High Commissioner in Constantinople, as we have no ambassador there. With a force of eight destroyers he has been able to protect our trade in the Near East to the extent that it has increased over 1,000 per cent in the past two years. It costs the Navy about $4,000,000 annually to do this work in the Near East.
During a revolution in South America, some years ago, a rebel gunboat fired on an American merchant ship while it was proceeding to land a cargo of our products. An American cruiser at once fired a single shot, and our merchant ship was not again molested. There have been many special instances of commerce protection similar to this one. In 1920 our oversea imports were valued at nearly five billion and our oversea exports at over seven billion of dollars. When we have abolished our city police, our State constabularies, and our National Guard, and are living peacefully among ourselves: when we are safely shipping our own mail and freight across the United States without protection; then (if other nations have done the same) we can consider eliminating the men-of-war now needed to protect our twelve-billion-dollar sea-borne trade. Our very first men-of-war were built in 1794 in order to protect our commerce. When the pirates on the Barbary Coast seized the wheat we were sending into the Mediterranean, we paid tribute until these ships were completed. Payment of tribute stopped as soon as our newly built men-of-war reached the Mediterranean. Two of these first famous ships, the Constellation and the Constitution, still exist.
Some may exclaim: “But we do not have pirates to-day.” Is not China forced to pay huge sums in futile efforts to buy back her own territory? This huge nation of 400,000,000 peace-loving people does not have an efficient navy, and it cannot drive off its aggressors. The State Department is constantly calling upon the Navy as a strong right arm to assist in carrying out its foreign policies and to protect our citizens and our commercial interests. One of our ablest Secretaries of State, John Hay, said in 1902, after some troublesome revolutionary events in the Caribbean:
“I have always felt relieved when a naval officer had arrived on the scene, because lie always kept within the situation.” Later, in 1904, John Hay said: “We have had a number of difficult international situations in the West Indies in the last two years, and they have all been handled by naval officers very well. They have not made one single mistake.”
NAVY OPENS PORTS TO TRADE
Commodore Perry opened Japan to the trade of the world in 1854. This is so generally known that it seems superfluous to give the details.
In 1811 the Navy took steps to open Turkey to our trade. At that time we were sending exports valued at $1,000,000 annually to Turkey, but as it was not generally open, our products had to be landed in Smyrna. The commanders of our squadrons worked with the Turkish Government until a treaty was consummated which opened Turkey fully to our trade, and an ex-Naval officer was made our first Minister to Constantinople.
After the opium war in China in 1842 the British forced the Chinese to make the “Treaty of Nanking,” whereby the five Chinese ports of Canton, Amoy, Fuchau, Ningpo, and Shanghai were opened to British merchants. The alert naval commander of our Chinese squadron at once secured a copy of this treaty, and arranged with the Chinese Viceroy at Canton to give our merchants all the privileges accorded to the British.
NAVY BUILDS UP INDUSTRY
The late Andrew Carnegie said that the great steel industry of America was built up by the United States Navy, whose contracts, specifications, and inspection work made steel what it is today. In the Act of August 5, 1882, Congress wisely provided for the construction of two men-of-war to be built of steel of domestic manufacture. There was no steel industry in our country at this time, and the shipbuilders opposed this project vigorously. However, the Navy insisted, and experiments were made, with the result that the great American steel industry was founded. The price of steel ship plates dropped from 81/2 to 41/2 cents a pound.
On board ship it is necessary to save weight as much as possible, and with this end in view, the Navy has constantly drawn up specifications substituting lighter materials for heavier. Large Navy orders have put the Monel metal industry on its feet. The manufacture of armor plate has caused exhaustive research in treating and alloying steel. A large order for light-weight Navy pumps to be made of naval brass, of tensile strength of 30,000 pounds, resulted in tests which produced a high-grade material having a tensile strength of 50,000 pounds. The Navy has been able to increase steam pressures, to produce turbine engines, internal combustion engines, reduction gear drives, and even electric drives for our ships. The merchant marine, many shore industries, and the people at large have had the benefit of the Navy’s engineering work.
The Navy operates two ships for the Bureau of Fisheries to enable scientists to carry out research work. This has resulted in the location of fishing banks, oyster beds, etc., and has been a great benefit to our fishermen and to our consumers. It costs the Navy some $175,000 annually to maintain these ships. Three gunboats have been loaned to the three States (Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania) having marine schools for the training of officers for the merchant marine. In addition to the loan of the ships, the Navy contributes some $75,000 annually to help maintain them.
Many Naval Academy graduates resign and enter civil life. These men, such as Homer Ferguson, President of the Newport News Shipyards, use their nautical and engineering education to advantage by managing our shipyards and our engineering plants. Hundreds of sailors, who have been taught trades on our battleships, are returned to civil life annually as trained mechanics.
NAVY ASSISTS MERCHANT MARINE
Hydrographic Office. The Navy began making ocean surveys off Cape Cod in 1837. The Hydrographic Office was established so the United States, through the Navy, could supply charts, sailing directions, navigation manuals, and other navigation data to the ships of our Navy and to the merchant marine. The Hydrographic Office, therefore, issues the following publications: “Sailing Directions” (fifty-eight volumes) which contain data needed by mariners to enable them to cruise along foreign coasts or enter foreign straits, seas, rivers, or harbors throughout the world; “Light Lists” (six volumes) which contain lists of lightships, lighthouses, and other navigational lights along all foreign coasts; “Azimuth Tables,” a book which gives the true bearings of the sun needed for correcting ship’s compasses; “Bowditch,” a book containing logarithmic tables with full instructions for working navigation at sea; “Notices to Mariners,” which are pamphlets issued weekly giving changes in lighthouses or buoys throughout the world; monthly “Pilot Charts” which give the best ocean routes for the month, the probable cyclone and other storm areas, probable location of icebergs and derelicts, percentage of fog to be expected, location of Navy radio compass stations, and other important information; and charts of foreign waters. The Navy issues some 2,600 foreign nautical charts and has plans to issue 1,150 more in order that American ships may get all the foreign charts of the world, at cost price, at home. The few charts, some 650, for our own coasts with sailing directions and light lists are issued by the Commerce Department.
The Navy sells all these charts and publications mentioned at cost prices in all our seaports through the local dealers in ship supplies. To further assist the merchant marine, hydrographic offices are maintained in all our principal seaports where sea captains can get latest information, bulletins, pilot charts, notices, etc., free. They are required, however, to send in weather reports and other observations made at sea. Some 6,000 sea captains co-operate with the Hydrographic Office in the exchange of valuable hydrographic information.
The Naval Observatory was established in Washington, in 1842, in order that astronomical observations needed to determine the exact time and the position of certain heavenly bodies used by mariners might be made in America. From astronomical observations made here, the exact time and the position of certain heavenly bodies are determined. Time signals are sent out twice daily through the naval radio service to ships at sea, which enable navigators to correct their chronometers. Chronometers are high-grade clocks, which must show the exact time required in working navigation problems. Time signals are also sent out daily over land wires to enable the people on shore in the United States to set their clocks. The positions of the heavenly bodies used by mariners are issued in an annual publication called the “Nautical Almanac.”
In order to ascertain his position at sea, the mariner must take the following steps. Measure the angular altitude from the horizon to some heavenly body (sun, moon, planet, or star) with a sextant; note the exact chronometer time of the observation; pick out from the “Nautical Almanac” the exact position of the observed body in the heavens at the instant of observation-that is, the declination (angular distance from the equator) and the right ascension (angular distance round the world from the first point of Aries); and. by means of logarithmic tables, solve the problem to find the position of the ship at sea-that is, the latitude and longitude. These tables, with a full explanation as to the proper method of working out all kinds of observations, are found in a book called “Bowditch,” a publication of the Hydrographic Office.
The mariner now plots this position on a chart, draws a line to his port of destination, and picks off the compass course along this line. To check the correctness of the compass he now looks over the compass and reads off the bearing (direction) of the sun. He notes the chronometer time, turns to the “Azimuth Tables” (a Hydrographic Office publication) and calculates the true bearing of the sun from the ship. The difference between the compass bearing and the true bearing shows the error of the compass which must be allowed for in steering the ship on a compass course. If the ship is heading for New York, the mariner now turns to the “Monthly Pilot Chart” (issued by Hydrographic Office). He finds that while crossing the Gulf stream the ship may be set ten miles to the northward, or far enough to cause the ship to run ashore in a fog on Long Island, so allowance is made for this current. If, on approaching New York, the weather is foggy, the captain has merely to ask the Navy radio compass stations to guide him safely into port, as will be described later.
The Observatory also issues chronometers, compasses, sextants, and other navigational instruments to ships of the Navy. Its publications, however, are on sale for the benefit of all mariners. Some feel that we should have a noted astronomer at the head of the Naval Observatory instead of a naval officer in order to do scientific astronomical research work. Such a change would be a blow to mariners. The mission of the Naval Observatory is to supply mariners with the exact time and with the animal “Nautical Almanac.” This requires constant routine astronomical observations. There are some thirty-two private observatories in the United States. Several of these have better equipment for special research work than the Naval Observatory. The largest of the private astronomical observatories are those of Harvard, of the Chicago University (Yerkes), of the University of California (Lick), and the astrophysical observatory at Mount Wilson, California, which is supported by the Carnegie Institute. The Mount Wilson Observatory cost nearly a million and a half dollars, or twice as much as the Naval Observatory. Harvard has a branch observatory in Peru, South America.
A chain of Navy radio stations encircles the globe. These stations broadcast to ships at sea daily weather reports, special reports of storms, location of ships in distress, location of icebergs and wrecks, and Naval Observatory time signals.
During the Boxer outbreak in China the Legations in Peking were cut off from the world. However, while the recent battles were raging around Peking, there was little danger that our Legation would be cut off. Since the Boxer outbreak our Navy has installed the most powerful wireless now existing in that city. Our admiral can keep in constant communication with our Legation from his flagship.
The Navy Department in Washington can communicate with Peking by flashing a message from the Navy radio station at Arlington through the chain of Navy radio stations at San Diego, Honolulu, Guam, Cavite, and to Peking, or by another route from San Diego to Alaska, to Vladivostok, and thence to Peking. Recently, when it was thought that General Wood might be in a shipwreck in the southern Philippines, it took little over four hours for the Navy to send a wireless from San Diego through Honolulu and Guam to the Philippines, and to get back the report that he was safe.
The Radio Compass.
Within the last few years the Navy has installed a number of radio compass stations along the coast. These stations would, in time of war, be able to locate and trace the course of enemy ships. In time of peace they guide our men-of-war and merchant ships safely into port in spite of fogs and storms. A ship approaching New York in a fog, for instance, has merely to call up the Navy radio station and ask for bearings. The radio compass stations listen to the radio signals made by the ship and determine the direction of the ship from each particular station. For instance, the Fire Island station may find that the ship bears 194°, while Mantoloking on the Jersey coast may find that the ship bears 82°. These bearings are sent by radio to the captain of the ship, who merely has to draw two lines on his chart showing these bearings. The intersection of these lines gives the position of the ship. If the captain sees from this plot on the chart that the ship is about to run ashore on the Jersey coast, he heads to the northward and soon asks for another “fix.” Fire Island and Sandy Hook may now give him new bearings. Radio compass stations are located in the vicinity of all our great seaports both in the Atlantic and Pacific, and are rendering valuable service in guiding ships in through fog. During the recent month of May the Navy radio compass stations at New York gave bearings to 37 men-of-war and 298 merchant ships, or over ten ships a day, entering that port. The saving of one ship will save enough property to pay the cost of the radio service for the year, not to mention the saving of the lives on board. Only recently the operator at the Otter Cliffs compass station found a ship that was in danger, so he sent a radio “Stop! danger ahead.” The captain stopped the ship, and, when the fog lifted, saw rocks just ahead.
The Navy has recently laid a cable along the bottom of the channel leading into New York. A destroyer, through the use of a listening device on each side of the ship’s bottom, was able to follow this cable (through which there was an alternating electrical current) up the channel, although the man steering was blinded from looking ahead.
New Sounding Devices.
Our destroyers are now making extensive tests endeavoring to get the depth of water as they cruise along by using certain war-time devices, such as were used in listening for submarines. A sound signal sent from the bottom of the boat strikes the bottom of the ocean. A man at a submarine listening device catches the echo as it comes back. By getting the interval of time for this return echo, as sound travels slowly through the water, the depth of water can be calculated. This apparatus will enable captains of ships approaching the coast to get the depth of water at all times. Few ships would go ashore if the captain could know the depth of water at all times.
The Navy has eleven high power radio transoceanic stations, ninety smaller shore stations, forty-six stations on light vessels, and fifty-four radio compass stations. It costs the Navy over $2,500,000 annually to maintain this splendid radio service. This is money well invested, for thousands of dollars and many lives are safeguarded as the radio guides merchant ships safely through the fog into port.
NAVY A CONSTRUCTIVE FORCE
There are some 3,000 naval officers (men specially trained in navigation and in radio engineering) cruising on 300 naval vessels (battleships, cruisers, gunboats, destroyers, submarines, mine layers and sweepers, colliers, tankers, supply ships, and hospital ships) in all parts of the world, from Halifax to Hongkong and from Alaska to the Straits of Magellan. These officers do the work outlined in this article as a part of their regular duties. No other department of our Government could maintain ships and technical men all over the world to do the essential work done by the Navy.
The Navy is proud of its constructive work in shipbuilding and engineering. In opening foreign ports to our commerce, in protecting our trade and the lives of American citizens throughout the world, and in improving sanitary, health, and educational conditions in our insular possessions the Navy has been eminently successful. By its astronomical, hydrographic, and radio work lives and property on the high seas are regularly safeguarded. The men of the Navy are glad to feel that, in addition to a constant readiness to defend the flag, they are useful citizens in times of peace.
Source: The Outlook, 18 October 1922