THE ENLISTMENT, TRAINING, AND ORGANIZATION OF CREWS FOR OUR NEW SHIPS.
By Ensign A. P. Niblack, U. S. Navy.
The Navy offers at present a respectable and inviting career to only a few enlisted men, and to those only in such special ratings as ship’s writer, yeoman, printer, master-at-arms, and machinist. Petty officer’s billets of the seaman class are thoroughly unattractive, and are filled throughout the service to-day by men who, however efficient they may be as seamen, have had very little modern training in the theory and practice of gunnery, have seldom been entrusted with the handling or drilling of a squad of men, and have very little idea of their duties and responsibilities as petty officers in a military sense. This is more the fault, however, of imperfect enlistment laws and defective methods of organization and training, than of any lack of intelligence or capability on the part of the petty officers themselves.
A modern ship, being a complicated machine, requires the most intelligent kind of men to handle and fight her effectively. On account of the cramped living space, the number of men on each new ship must be reduced to the lowest margin. Each man being thus a most valuable unit, we must proceed on the theory of picking our men and building up a trained nucleus of American men-of-wars men, capable of meeting the demands that will necessarily be made upon each individual in our organization in case the service is suddenly expanded to meet the exigencies of war. With the improved type of enlisted men now demanded by modern conditions, we need new Watch, Quarter, and Station bills, adapted to modern and improved types of cruisers and battle-ships. To man and fight these ships effectively, we need better methods of recruiting and training.
The holding out of a more attractive career to enlisted men is not so much a question of increased pay and emoluments as we would like to believe, nor are their shortcomings due as much to want of intelligence on their part as to the lack of military purpose in their training. Aside from this and from the evils in the system of rating, promotion and rewards, there are positive faults in the internal arrangements of our newer ships which will neutralize the allurements of any pay-table that can reasonably be devised, and in the end drive out of the service the very class of men and boys that we are now so earnestly endeavoring to attract into it. The more modern the ship and the greater the need for intelligence in her crew, the more and more objectionable she seems to become in point of quarters for the men, until we have about reached the point where it is well to call a halt on certain disastrous tendencies in the direction of the utter disregard of what intelligent men are capable of putting up with. In the smaller cruisers, flesh and blood will not stand any further sacrifice to illusive offensive power, particularly in the craze for phenomenal speed and great battery power on small displacement. Before taking up the consideration of the problems of recruiting, training, and organization, it will be best to point out some changes which are needed in the internal arrangements and discipline of our ships, in order to secure the creature comforts to the men under all conditions of service, and thus render the ships habitable and attractive.
New Ships and Old Methods
There is not a new steel ship built or designed for the navy since 1884 that can carry her full complement of men as intended, or that has berthing arrangements and general accommodations which intelligent men have a right to expect. Fortunately we give much more attention to such matters than they do in foreign services, but that is no reason why we should stop half-way. In the Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and Dolphin, designed before 1884, the berthing accommodations are not so bad. On the Chicago, which seems to be the only gun-deck ship we are to have, the hammock-hooks are 14 inches apart, and the men swing “high and low.” The rows of hammocks dovetail in with those forward and abaft them, and this, the usual arrangement, represents luxury compared to the newer ships. The Boston and Atlanta have fair quarters in the superstructure, but, commencing with the Yorktown, we find nothing but evil in the living accommodations of the men. In the last named, below the spar-deck, there are billets for twenty men in the bow compartments, for forty-four on the berth-deck, for twenty two in the passageways, and for five in the alcoves and workshop. At sea, in any weather, the heat is almost intolerable, and on long passages the berth-deck is barely habitable. The men who sleep under the forecastle are not so badly off. On the Philadelphia and Baltimore it was found necessary at the Navy Yard, New York, to put up hammock-hooks in every available compartment on the protective decks, to accommodate even the reduced complement which each carries. The Charleston is admitted to be a failure in her original berthing arrangements, but it is only fair to state that the last four ships mentioned are built more or less on English models. The tendency of our own constructors and their attitude is shown by the following extract from the report of the Chief Constructor for 1889, relative to the two 3000-ton cruisers, Cincinnati and Raleigh, building at New York and Norfolk respectively:
A starboard battery at night, with crewmen asleep in their hammocks.
“The forward berth-deck, with the exception of the paymaster’s office, dispensary and prison, is given up to the crew. There are also roomy quarters for the men under the forecastle.”
It is a good thing that the forward berth-deck is surrendered to the men, for in the roomy space under the forecastle are located the galley, crew’s water-closets, the distiller, ice-machine, refrigerators, the steam capstan, vegetable lockers, scuttle-butt, bitts, harness cask, and hawser reels. This type of ship, begun in the Yorktown, is the general style of all the newer ones with uncovered gun-deck. On the Philadelphia, with an unusually “roomy” forecastle as far as dimensions go, only eighteen men can billet under the forecastle. What can we look for in cruisers Nos. 9, 10 and 11, of 2000 tons displacement, where the design calls for water-closets, crew’s wash-room, the brig, capstan, galley, ice-machine, refrigerators, engineer’s workshop, hawser reels, bitts, etc., under the forecastle? This, of course, means that the crew-berths are entirely below the spar-deck. In port in a cool climate, with an inspection board pronouncing on the fitness of such ships for distant and prolonged service as cruisers, the air-ports are not closed, the ice-machine is not rattling away, the blower engines are not humming, the ash-hoists are not buzzing, the dynamos are interesting, and the distiller is temporarily out of use. Put all these in the living spaces, add the phenomenal heat of modern fire-rooms, and the noise, oily smell, cramped berthing space, bad air, and consequent loss of sleep, and the picture is that of ordinary cruising at sea. Prolong this for months and it means sickness, discomfort, and inefficiency of the crew. The remedies for all this are simple enough.
1st. Group as far as practicable all heat-producing objects and auxiliary engines, such as blowers, dynamos, galley, ice-machine, distillers, etc., in one compartment, or in adjacent compartments, as remote as possible from living spaces, with carefully arranged separate ventilation.
2d. Substitute electric motors for all auxiliary engines doing constant work in or about living spaces and that cannot be grouped as above.This is only, in a measure, forestalling the inevitable substitution of electric for auxiliary steam power. Aside from saving miles of piping, with the inevitable leaks and the expensive water-tight joints at each bulkhead that is pierced, there are the additional advantages in the less danger of having the supply cut off in action, and of compartments flooded with steam; in the reduction in heating and oily smell all over the ship; in being able to use motors for ammunition-hoists, thereby reducing the need for so many men in the powder division; in economy of power over present arrangements; in ability to splice a break readily; in the ease with which the wires at vital points can be protected with steel tubing; and finally, in the reduction of the engineer’s force by the number of men now required to look out for auxiliary engines, and the substitution of seaman-gunners to run the motors, thereby increasing the number of trained combatants on board by that many.
3d. Reduce the ship’s complement of men and officers to a minimum, especially in small ships.
The necessity for a certain amount of entertainment by the officers in time of peace calls for a considerable table space in a mess-room, which should be, where practicable, separate from the living space, and it should be made a regulation that all commissioned officers, below the commanding officer, shall constitute one mess. In the smaller ships of 2000 tons and under, junior and warrant officers’ quarters should be abolished, and if the exigencies of the service really require the assignment of one or more cadets, they also should mess in the ward-room. In larger ships the necessities for reduction in officers’ quarters are not so great, but still the tendency must be towards “surrendering” to the men more living room, even in the best of them.
4th. In smaller ships already built or designed, add a light spar-deck, worked over the space between the poop and forecastle, to give additional berthing space.
If the weights do not admit of adding the covered deck, then do away with the auxiliary sail-power, which is of less importance than the comfort and efficiency of the crew. The best plan is to stop designing, and sending people to sea in small vessels of enormous horse-power. It is a delusion and a snare to attempt to get high speed on small displacement in cruising vessels, and expect to beguile intelligent Americans into accepting, as a profession, life in such sweat-boxes, with no place to stow clothes, and with every unsanitary condition carefully observed. There is almost a criminal side to the case in the sacrifice of safety to speed in these so-called cruisers. In the Yorktown, which has not phenomenal speed, a double bottom was not possible. In the extremes of the type, like the Serpent, we have a lesson that we should not be slow to learn. The tendency is too much towards sheet-iron shells, light steel frames, and linoleum bulkheads as they have abroad in such so-called cruisers as the French Forbin, where only conscription can keep a crew in her. The physical condition of the men, when it comes to action or to conditions of war, is of greater moment than the one or two knots extra about the twenties for which we are asked to sacrifice so much. Great speed is all right on great displacement, and is all wrong in small vessels really intended as cruisers.
Aired bedding aboard the USS Dixie during the Spanish-American War.
More stowage room should be provided on board ship for the men’s clothing and outfit. Each man is required to have the following, valued at a total of $56.35:
|2||suits of blue||$12.36||1||white hat||$ .33|
|2||white mustering suits||5.32||1||neckerchief||1.06|
|3||white working suits||3.18||1||pair leggings||.60|
|2||blue undershirts||2.58||1||pair blankets||4.36|
|2||pairs drawers||2.30||1||mattress with covers||4.32|
|2||pairs socks||.66||1||suit oil-skins||2.20|
|1||pea-coat||10.00||1||pair rubber boots||2.50|
|2||caps (one mustering)||1.80|
This simply represents what a man requires to be presentable under the conditions of service. Many men have four or five working suits, white hats, etc., and they certainly ought to be encouraged to dress well; but, for instance, on the Chicago the average capacity of the forty-four wire lockers in which the same number of apprentices are required to stow all their belongings is 1.8 cubic feet. The other men have lockers of about 2.2 cubic feet average capacity, but the engineer’s force are allowed an extra locker each for soiled clothes. Considering that this ship is the roomiest and most comfortable of the new ships, the first-class petty officers, who usually wear white shirts, collars, cuffs, etc., should have more than 3.7 cubic feet for their clothing. The result is that rain-clothes are stored where they deteriorate rapidly, pea-jackets are lashed in the hammocks, the clothing all shows the result of tight packing, the locker doors are sprung, and a premium is placed on shiftlessness. In the newer ships the lockers are larger, but from four to six cubic feet is reasonable. Separate lockers should be provided for rain-clothes, with pigeon-hole subdivisions capable of holding a pair of boots, southwester and oil-skins, to be stored by gun’s crews, with a separate locker or two for those watch petty officers who require them.
Ropeyarn Sunday in the USS Olympia, 1898.
Oil-skins of the prescribed pattern should be kept in the paymaster’s stores for issue, for it is useless to attempt to have a boat’s crew in uniform, a thing which is desirable and easily enough accomplished if properly looked out for. Living out in all kinds of weather, oil-skins are certainly an essential part of a man’s outfit; and, as they are prescribed as a uniform, some official attempt should be made to protect the men from the harassing unreasonableness of requiring them to have everything of a uniform pattern and then providing no place to stow the things they are required to have. It is such policy as this that drives more men out of the service than questions of life career, more pay, or seamen’s savings banks, etc. Ditty boxes are part of men’s outfit, yet few ships go into commission with any racks provided for their stowage. The holds of ships are now so small that a great deal of the gear formerly stored there, such as deck-buckets, stages, washdeck gear, boat-gripes, sea-painters, stage-ropes, etc., are crowded out. Places must be provided for these, as well as for cleaning-gear for brightwork; gun, hatch, canopy, steering wheel, binnacle, search light, and other covers; boat cushions and cloths; watch-tackles, straps, heaving-lines, lashings, old canvas, steaming-covers, etc., which are required to be handy for routine purposes. Top-chests and channel-chests cannot be carried now, yet there is no allowance to take their place. The regular allowance for ships should include deck-chests, boatswain’s mates’ chests, and spar-deck lockers for the stowage of gear that is in more or less constant use. Neglect to provide proper stowage-room leads to tendencies on the part of the men to surreptitiously stow gear in ventilators, guns, field carriage boxes, air ducts, capstan barrels, hammock nettings, wash-rooms, and all the nooks which supply the lucky bag with its daily haul. There is nothing so time-honored as a lucky bag, and yet few ships have any place provided for its stowage.
Clothing and small stores issue in the USS Olympia, 1898.
The ordinary conditions of cruising bring out, of course, many defects which cannot be foreseen, but there are many things which an inspection board should be charged with ascertaining, which are considered trivial, but which make the difference between a happy and an unhappy ship. Proper drying-rooms for clothing should be provided, particularly for the engineer’s force. Standing, as they do, in three watches, there is no such thing at sea as a chance to wash clothes in the morning watch, and opportunities should be given them at other times. With practically mastless ships, the facilities for drying clothes for all hands are not what they should be, and it would be of immense advantage to have a large drying-room to be used in bad weather, care being taken to locate it apart from the living space of the men, on account of the heat it gives out.
Scrubbed hammocks aboard the USS Kansas during a training cruise in 1910.
In a sanitary way men have very little idea of the question of the proper ventilation of a ship. Improved appliances are useless unless properly looked out for. So much depends on it now-a-days that it seems worth while to provide blowers that will work either way, so as to force or exhaust as required. The direction of the wind in steaming forms draughts through a ship independent of the currents set up mechanically, and differences of temperature come somewhat into play. It thus happens that a certain compartment of the ship may, under certain circumstances, require both a force and an exhaust draught to clear it of foul air, while, under others, it would have to have the forced or exhaust system only. If it is worth the expense of putting in the elaborate appliances now provided, it is certainly worth the while of some one to look after the subject carefully. This will be spoken of later.
In thus calling attention to the necessity for providing increased comforts for the men and for improving the sanitary condition of ships in the matter of berthing and ventilation, it is aimed to lay down the proposition that it is the small annoyances in life which make the difference between happy and unhappy ships; but there is one other thing which is more important than even this, or than the question of increased pay and emoluments for faithful service, and that is the administration of firm and even-handed justice. An idea is prevalent that the discipline in our navy is very harsh, and, like most popular ideas, is founded on the glaring exceptions which prove the other rule. Fact is that, through one cause or another, the general system of punishment has been so relaxed that for certain offenses there is now no adequate punishment, which, coupled with the entire lack of uniformity throughout the service, earnestly calls for an inquiry into the subject by a board of officers with a view to tautening up the whole system. Plenty of work, many privileges and comforts, and rigid adherence to fixed, swift and well-graded punishments, means good discipline and hence general contentment. In each new ship designed the brig is given a more and more choice location, until in cruisers 9, 10 and 11 it is under the forecastle in the 6-inch gun support. The fundamental principles of confinement in a brig are restraint and removal from intercourse with others, and solitary confinement becomes a farce when the prisoner can constantly see his messmates passing to and fro, and where the noise and bustle of the ship’s routine work is interesting and diverting to the prisoner. The light is generally good, the ventilation is excellent, and the confinement admits of rest and recreation. If the brigs were put below, where they were intended to go, and were kept dark and isolated from all noise and intercourse with the crew, then five days’ solitary confinement would mean something. Nonintercourse, restraint, and silence are the very elements of solitary confinement, and its purpose is defeated in the new ships. In the Philadelphia and Baltimore there are small brigs–one on each side of the berth-deck in the 6-inch gun supports. To properly enforce a sentence of bread and water there should be a sentry on each brig, as they are separated by a fire-room trunk. This means eight sentries to properly enforce the sentence of two men. The Yorktown’s brig is under the forecastle. That of the Chicago is on the berth-deck forward, where people are constantly passing to and fro. The punishment of double irons is now no punishment at all. Not only do the hand and leg irons now furnished ships admit of the greatest freedom of motion, but such confinement becomes a rather welcome opportunity for the idle, lazy and shiftless to escape work for five days or so. The messmates of the prisoner do his work for him while he eats the bread of idleness, and dozes away his time. To be a punishment, confinement in irons should primarily imply retirement from the public gaze, and should be made as irksome and uninviting as possible. What is needed is the old-fashioned leg-iron with sliding-rod through staples in the deck, and lilly-irons for the wrists. In the interests of good discipline and in economy of sentries, the brig should be located below the berth-deck, away from the temptation and opportunities of the men to pass in food; it should be as remote from the noise and bustle of active life as possible; it should be well ventilated but not lighted; and, in the passageway outside of it, leg-irons should be fitted to the deck as described above for prisoners confined in irons as a punishment. The present style of irons is admirable for the confinement of men for safe-keeping, but it is manifestly unfair to treat a man awaiting trial or sentence of a court-martial to the same punishment as a man confined in irons for an offense of which he has been adjudged guilty. The man awaiting trial may be acquitted as innocent, yet he is punished the same as the man adjudged guilty of some minor offense. There should be a wide distinction. With proper fittings in a ship for punishing men, and with certain and unvarying punishment for specific offenses, with additional penalties for repeated infractions of the same regulation, it is possible to carry out the purpose and spirit of the navy regulations. The whole subject needs investigation and revision by proper authority, and it is just as important as questions of increased pay and rewards.
In nothing so much as in the messing arrangements on board ship is there more pressing necessity for a radical change. The interests of the service demand the establishment of a general commissary system, in place of the antiquated, uneconomical, and cumbersome mess organization which we now have. Under any other arrangement than that which now obtains on board sea-going ships the ration of thirty cents a day would be ample, and the usual assessment of from $1.50 to $3 per month in addition, which the caterers of messes exact from each member, represents the correct measure of the wastefulness, poor economy, and failure of the present system. To exact such sums of money from apprentices getting $9 or $11 per month, or from landsmen getting $16, is nothing short of outrageous. Nor is this in any way the fault of the men themselves, but simply demonstrates that the separate mess system is fundamentally wrong. To illustrate its workings let us examine into details. Each mess consists of from eighteen to twenty-three members, some more, some less. Each has its separate cook, caterer, vegetable-locker, mess-locker and mess outfit. In the mess outfit the government furnishes a coffee, tea and sugar-tin, molasses and vinegar-breaker, a scouse-kettle, bread-kid and a mess-cloth. Each mess buys in addition a coffee-kettle, knife, salt and pepper-boxes, carving-knife and fork, knives, forks, spoons, coffee-tins, plates, butter-dish, oil tablecloth, meat-dishes, frying pan, and three baking-pans. The rations are issued and the fresh provisions, not perishable, are stored in tins, boxes, etc., in the mess-lockers. Each mess has its slop-buckets, dish-pans, swabs, etc., for cleaning gear. Multiply each outfit by the number of messes; crowd the cooks around a galley; see the lack of economy in space, the wastefulness in food, and the character of the cooking; see the liability to confusion, difficulties and conflicting interests that must bring constant trouble, and then try and find one good reason for continuing a system that stamps itself on its own face as a monumental failure. There are always difficulties in getting men who are willing to serve as cooks; they must be paid extra money by the messes; confusion reigns when a cook is absent on liberty, or sick, or confined as a punishment; caterers abscond now and then with the mess funds; and finally, the berth-deck cook is an unmitigated nuisance in the ship’s organization that causes more difficulties than any other class of men in the ship’s company. The remedy for all this is simple enough.
Berth Deck Cooks of the USS Ossipee in 1887.
Abolish separate messes; cook the issued rations as for one large mess; with the commuted ration-money purchase such extras as with the fresh provisions issued by the pay department in port will insure good living, reserving, however, some of the money as a sea-store fund; set aside a separate compartment or enclosed space as a pantry, containing lockers and racks for storing the general mess-gear, the stores for immediate use, and the various appliances and gear needed in the preparation of food for cooking; locate, here, also, sinks with hot and cold fresh and salt water, with band steam-pump connections for washing mess-gear; merge all the vegetable lockers into one general system of lockers; and finally, set aside a store-room and a space in the hold for the men’s provisions and stores. The rate of baker, abolished in 1883; should be revived, and those of ship’s steward, pantryman, messman and ship’s cook’s assistant created. The pay of steward should depend on the class or rate of the ship, but should be, at least, from $75 to $100 per month. He should be a man of experience as a caterer and the very best man that can be gotten for the money. He should select and order mess supplies, and render bills to be paid in such way as will insure the safety of mess money, or the protection of the mess against loss by any method of fraud or dishonesty. The whole messing arrangements should, however, be under the supervision of an officer whose function will hereafter be described. The ship’s cook should be required to qualify as such at a naval rendezvous before transfer to a sea-going ship, and for thus qualifying should receive increased pay. The number of messmen could be reduced to the lowest limit by having a certain number of men detailed for a week at a time to go below when mess-gear is piped, to help set and serve tables from the galley or pantry. After meals they could help clear off the tables and sling them overhead. Such services would not be required for more than from fifteen to twenty minutes altogether, and need not in any way interfere with their duties on deck. The ship’s company should mess by gun’s-crews or divisions as now, excepting that apprentices should be organized into separate messes presided over by first or second class petty officers. Men going on watch should all be served at the same table, thereby saving over the present arrangement of having half a dozen tables or mess-cloths going for half an hour before each meal. Petty officers’ messes could very easily be furnished with extra dishes through extra money paid into the mess fund, provided they wished to live better than the regular mess.
In the latest types of ships, cold storage and refrigerating rooms are provided. These add very much to the efficiency of the ships in the ability it gives them to carry fresh provisions for long periods of time at sea, thereby reducing the necessity for such large store-rooms below, and adding to the healthfulness and comfort of the crew. It would certainly add to the efficiency of all ships now in commission, to put in cold storage rooms as a compensation for the reduction in store-room and hold space for the stowage of provisions. Cruisers 9, 10 and 11 will be fitted with Allen’s dense air ice and refrigerating machine, capable of making 200 pounds of ice a day, and of cooling a 60-gallon scuttle-butt, besides keeping a meatroom of 350 cubic feet at a temperature below 34° F. It is a sufficient commentary on our present system of having numerous messes, to point out that with twelve to eighteen different cooks running to a cold storage room to get out from twelve to eighteen different pieces of meat, with the consequent confusion and the admission of hot air to the room, the cold storage would be apt to prove a failure. With a general mess and a large cold storage room there is no reason why fresh provisions should not be carried for thirty days as in ocean steamers.
The liberality of the present ration, the extra dishes prepared, the provisions purchased with commuted ration-money and by extra assessments, the issue of fresh provisions in the pay department, all lead to overcrowding the galleys now furnished ships, and bring failure upon any type of range that can be adopted. There are many pertinent reasons for abolishing the present type of galley. The work required of one can best be performed by steam heat. In all modern ships it is required that steam be kept up constantly on an auxiliary boiler for the various purposes of electric lighting, distilling, heating, pumping, etc. All roasting and boiling in large quantities is best and most economically accomplished by using steam heat. The steam roasting ovens and boilers are perfect in their operation, convenient for shipboard, and possess every advantage over a range. As for the self-feeding copper urns for making coffee and tea, nothing can more highly commend itself to our consideration. The present method of making coffee is for the berth-deck cook to drop an uncertain amount of ground coffee into a big tin bucket and pour a still more uncertain amount of hot water in with it. The water may or may not be boiling, but that is hardly material. The coffee steeps for ten or twenty minutes, and the result is an insipid drink in which a great amount of excellent coffee has literally gone to pot. In the steam self-feeding urns, on the contrary, the coffee is made on the drip principle, and the water feeds in automatically. Unless the coffee water is actually boiling, it will not feed over into the urn.
This system of messing should be supplemented by a co-operative bumboat system on the canteen principle. The profits of bumboating are enormous, and should properly accrue to the men themselves. The economy of buying fruit, beer, etc., by wholesale instead of by retail is a sufficient argument for undertaking such a system, at least in large ships.
Mess on board USS Olympia.
The general commissary and canteen system here briefly outlined is perfectly feasible and certainly desirable. The more minute details will in a measure work themselves out in practice if the idea is once adopted in the service.
In thus looking out for the physical comforts and welfare of the men there need be no fear of coddling them. There is too much routine work for everyone aboard a modern ship to admit of men being spoiled, in the ever-recurring necessity of overhauling, cleaning, painting, scraping, and caring for the hull and armament of a cruiser or battle-ship. The chief difficulty is to find sufficient time to devote to drills and exercises without neglecting too much of that attention to smart appearance which has always characterized the vessels of the American Navy.
Having called attention to several needed improvements in the internal organization, arrangements, and discipline of our new ships as affecting the comfort and best interests of the men, it is well to now inquire into what special inducements we should offer, in the shape of rewards and emoluments, as will not only attract into the service more of the better class of Americans, but retain them in the navy for life. This we can only accomplish by excluding aliens from the service, and by offering to the men advantages and rewards as substantial relatively as those which officers now receive, and equal to those offered by corresponding occupations in civil life. We have in the service now, (1) a practically working continuous service system, providing a small longevity increase of pay for each three years of service; (2) a system of conduct grades with corresponding monthly money allowance; (3) improved rations far better than issued in any other service in the world; (4) a good quality of clothing of more or less uniform pattern, and small stores in variety and at the lowest market prices; (5) a government savings system paying 4 per cent interest on money deposited; (6) two pension laws, one providing help from the Naval Pension Fund for disability after ten years’ service, on recommendation and finding of a board of officers, and the other providing a regular pension, or, in lieu of it, maintenance at the Naval Home, for disability after twenty-years’ service; (7) a fairly good apprentice system; (8) an allowance of $45 to apprentices on enlistment for clothing; and (9) a system of instruction for seaman-gunners which is not yet, but soon will be, in thorough working order. These represent, outside of the pay tables, the principal inducements now held out to enlisted men to make a career in the navy. The results are not encouraging. It is not that we do not get many good, bright, excellent men, but that we do not seem to be able to retain them in the service longer than one or two enlistments. To endeavor to remedy this, and to supplement what has already been done towards making a life career for men in the service, the following provisions should be enacted by law:
- No alien should be accepted for either special or continuous service, excepting to fill vacancies in special service billets for the remainder of a cruise or a foreign station.
- Unless having had previous naval experience, no men other than effective, able-bodied men, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, shall be enlisted.
- The term of enlistment shall be for a period of four years.Section 1418 of the Revised Statutes, enacted as far back as 1837, provides that men “may be enlisted to serve for a period of not exceeding five years, unless sooner discharged by direction of the President.” Three years has come to be the customary service, and the laws relating to continuous service (Rev. Stat. 1426 and 1573) have been enacted on a three years’ basis. This change to four years will require corresponding changes in the laws relating to honorable discharges, allowances for re-enlistment, and increase of pay for each re-enlistment. A four years’ enlistment will enable ships to make full three-year cruises without having to pay so much extra compensation to men held over after expiration of enlistments, and, best of all, will permit of recruits being put through some preliminary training at recruiting stations before they are drafted off to cruising ships.
- Every person re-enlisting for a period of four years within a period of four months after having been honorably discharged, shall, on presenting his honorable discharge, or on accounting in a satisfactory manner for its loss, be entitled to pay during the said four months, equal to that to which he would have been entitled had he been employed in actual service.
- Continuous service men shall be entitled to one month’s leave for each year of service, to be granted at the convenience of the Navy Department, and to be cumulative up to four months, which may, however, be commuted in whole or in part on re-enlistment, if leave is not desired, to cash payment of four months’ pay, or in accordance with amount of leave surrendered. A continuous-service man thus entitled to leave may, if he so elect, report on board any convenient receiving-ship or any recruiting station, and, under such rules as may hereafter be prescribed by the Navy Department, may enjoy his leave of absence, with privilege of residence on board such ship, or at such recruiting station, in the quarters provided for enlisted men.
- Boys between the ages of fourteen and eighteen· shall hereafter be enlisted to serve until they shall arrive at the age of twenty-four, instead of twenty-one as now provided.
- In the appointment of warrant officers, preference shall hereafter be given to graduated apprentices who, after having reached majority, shall have served at least two years as a seaman, petty officer, or special class petty officer on a sea-going ship, and shall have subsequently qualified as a seaman-gunner.
- All enlisted men serving in the Coast Survey and Fish Commission shall be called in by executive order, and authority granted these services to enlist their own men for their own purposes.Under section 4397 of the Revised Statutes, “The heads of the several executive departments shall cause to be rendered all necessary and practicable aid to the Commissioner (of Fish and Fisheries) in the prosecution of his investigation and inquiries.” The navy practically furnishes the steamers of the Fish Commission with their men and officers. That it is not “practicable” now to longer spare this force from the naval service is sufficient grounds for the withdrawal of it. That such service is of no military benefit to the enlisted men is certain. That the men in it are a dead loss to the navy as men-of-wars-men is of necessity a good reason for calling them into active military service. Under section 4685 of the Revised Statutes, “The President is authorized …. to employ all persons in the land or naval service of the United States” to carry out the provisions of the acts establishing the Coast Survey service; and under section 4687, “Officers of the Army and Navy shall, as far as practicable, be employed in the work of surveying the coast of the United States, whenever and in the manner required by the Department having charge thereof.” This is subserving the military to the civil branch of the government with a vengeance. The fact that the army has dropped out of any share of the work under the Coast Survey, and that the navy bears most of the drudgery and a large share of the annual expense of the hydrographic work, is not in itself a hardship, but from a military point of view it represents a grave mistake. Untrained merchant and coasting sailors are the class of men from which the crews of Coast Survey vessels are recruited, and they are well adapted to such service. That so many man-of-war petty officers and seamen are diverted from a military service where they are absolutely needed, into a nonmilitary service to furnish it with the means of doing the only work for which it was originally created and now has any nautical claims for existence (viz., surveying the coast) is, to say the least, a queer state of affairs. The annual appropriation for the support of the Coast and Geodetic Survey is over a half-million dollars, of which sum about $50,000 is for the expenses of hydrographic work carried on by some ten or more vessels manned and officered from the navy, and about $25,000 for the maintenance and repairs of these vessels. The annual appropriation for the publication of charts representing this hydrographic work, of so much value to mariners, is less than $20,000. In other words, less than one-fifth of the total appropriation goes to do the work for which this branch of the government was organized, and for which it gets the credit with the country at large. The merchant marine is benefitted by all this superb work, and the annual appropriations for the support of the Coast and Geodetic Survey are cheerfully granted. How many people in the United States know that the navy with its officers and men do the work, and that it pays annually some $200,000 for the salaries of the sixty officers and the men diverted from military service to do this work for a civil branch of the government? This service undoubtedly enables the naval officers in it to become familiar with our coast and harbors, and a moderate amount of duty in the Coast Survey service may possibly be of great value, but for enlisted men, drawn from an already depleted allowance, such diversion is unjust to the navy, uneconomical, unmilitary, and unnecessary. The sooner the enlisted men are called in, the sooner a grave mistake will be rectified.
- The total number of persons who may at one time be enlisted in the navy shall not exceed 10,000, of whom 1500 shall be apprentices and boys.
- When an enlisted man absents himself from his ship on the eve of her sailing for a foreign port, and then gives himself up as a “straggler” on board some receiving or other ship, he shall forfeit three months’ pay, and be further required to serve three months beyond the regular expiration of his enlistment, before he can acquire the right of discharge and the benefits of continuous service in case of re-enlistment.
- Whenever it is discovered that a person who has been dishonorably discharged from the navy has eluded detection and re-enlisted, he shall be immediately discharged in the nearest available port, at home or abroad, and forfeit all pay that may be due him on the books, excepting $10 for immediate expenses.
- The Navy Yard, New York, shall be designated as the Central Recruiting Station for the Atlantic Coast, and the Navy Yard, Mare Island, on the Pacific Coast. All recruits enlisted on either coast at the various other recruiting stations now or hereafter established shall be concentrated, as hereafter provided for, at these two central stations, for instruction and preliminary training before drafting them off for service.The ordinary receiving ships at different points should serve merely as conveniently distributed posts for recruiting under special conditions. At stated intervals a transport should make the rounds and gather in recruits, concentrating them at New York for inspection and training, leaving, however, the continuous-service men on the various receiving-ships, for such disposition as the bureau may see fit. This system of inspecting recruits at the central stations would lead to the detection of deserters and dishonorably discharged men who might try to enlist. There shall be attached to the stations at New York and Mare Island a corps of experienced and trained petty officers, rated in such billets as master-at-arms, yeomen, and gun-captains, constituting a body of what may be termed recruiting and drill sergeants, and composed of men who had made excellent records in the service on sea-going ships as petty officers. While gaining valuable experience in drilling and handling men, they would aid in examining and keeping records of recruits and would become personally acquainted with them. By this means and by a good system of descriptive lists, in the course of a short period of years, it would be almost impossible for a deserter or dishonorably discharged man to escape detection on presenting himself at or on being transferred to New York or Mare Island. By changing a few commissioned and petty officers occasionally between New York and Mare Island, it would not only contribute to uniformity in duties and methods at the two stations, but would lessen the possibility of such men as described changing their base of operations from one coast to the other. It is notorious that men now desert and re-enlist, or are dishonorably discharged and come right back into the service by re-shipping at remote stations, and this evil should be put down at once. Let men once understand that dishonorable discharge and desertion mean severance with the service for good, and that deserters will be followed up and brought to justice wherever possible, and there will be a great falling off in both. By going even further and requiring men to bring certificates of good character when they present themselves for enlistment, and by raising the physical and mental standard in the requirements for enlistment, the good effect would be shown in fewer desertions. Make it harder to get in and recruits will not be so anxious to get out.
- Any seaman or seaman-apprentice who shall hereafter qualify as a seaman-gunner, or any seaman who, having heretofore qualified as a seaman-gunner, shall re-qualify by attaining excellence in small-arm and great-gun target practice, and shall be able, as a leading man aboard ship, to drill a squad of men in the usual routine drills, shall receive in any rating as a petty officer of the seaman class an increase of pay of 30 per cent over that provided in the regular pay tables, as authorized by the President from time to time for such rating, and in any rating of either the special or artificer class he shall receive an increase of 10 per cent.This will have the double effect of encouraging men to become seaman-gunners, and of adding dignity and importance to billets of the seaman class. To further improve the status of the seaman class of petty officers, a considerable increase in their pay is both wise and desirable. This class of petty officers bear the brunt of the routine work about decks, of the military duties, and of the fighting in action, and on their efficiency largely depends the character of the discipline of the ship. It is through them that we must accomplish some needed reforms in the organization and general discipline of the service, yet these billets are now doubly unattractive through the drudgery of their work and the small pay and great responsibility of their position. This is so much the case that seaman-gunners and graduated apprentices generally try to get the billets of ship’s writer, painter, oiler; or yeoman – anything, in fact, to keep out of a rating of the seaman class or as a watch petty officer. This is admittedly all wrong and a great misfortune to the service.
- After thirty years’ continuous service as an enlisted man or as an appointed petty officer in the navy, any person shall be entitled to retirement on three-fourths pay of the rank or rating held by him at the date of retirement, by making application to the President; or, after having served thirty years, but not continuously, any person shall be entitled to retirement on half-pay. Provided also, as in case of enlisted men in the army and Marine Corps, under Act of September 30, 1890, active service, either as a volunteer or regular during the War of the Rebellion, shall be computed as double time in computing the thirty years necessary to entitle him to be retired.
- Dishonorable discharge in any case shall work forfeiture of all subsequent benefits of pay, pension, or retirement due to previous honorable service.
- Officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps shall be withdrawn from service afloat, and serve as a garrison for naval stations and in the sea-coast defenses of the United States.Section 1616 of the Revised Statutes reads: “Marines may be detached for service on board the armed vessels of the United States, and the President may detach and appoint for service on such vessels such of the officers of said corps as he may deem necessary.” This would seem to imply that when no longer necessary they should be withdrawn. Section 1619 says: “The Marine Corps shall be liable to do duty in the forts and garrisons of the United States, on the sea-coast, or any other duty on shore as the President, at his discretion, may direct.” It is certainly in keeping with the march of progress abroad to follow the example of foreign powers and place our sea-coast defenses in the hands of a semi-naval branch of the government. The record of the Marine Corps certainly merits the confidence of the country, and in taking this step we are but following out the dictates of wisdom in officering our sea-coast garrisons ultimately with graduates of the Naval Academy, and for the present with officers whose sea experience would be of the utmost value in the defense of our coast.
Marine Guard in the USS Galena, photographed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, 1883.
- As to the wisdom of withdrawing the marines from service afloat, the subject has so recently been discussed that little argument is here necessary. If, however, no other arguments were forthcoming, it would be sufficient to show that it is demanded by the reduced complements of our recent ships. The newer vessels exact such care for their hull, armament, and machinery; the coaling of them is such a task, and the routine work required of the men is such that the marine “who toils not” takes up too much valuable room. The Yorktown has a guard of 18, the Baltimore and Philadelphia each 36, the Boston and Atlanta 40, and the Chicago 56. Of course some one has to do the police duty of a ship, and the marine does the work acceptably enough, but he is not sufficiently versatile. In a modern ship a man must be something more than a soldier; he must be a sailor besides, and a man with only one talent is out of place on a man-of-war. Aside from the desirability of having the police work done by the men themselves, it makes a ship’s company more homogeneous, and is more in keeping with the system which requires our officers to perform a wider range of duties than any similar body of men in the world. Primarily this demands intelligence on the part of the individual, and, secondarily, thorough training in all the qualifications which make a modern man-of-wars-man. In adopting this system for the men we are simply taking a step necessary to place our naval service at least theoretically ahead of any other in the world. There are other immediate reasons for the withdrawal of the marines from service afloat. The infusion into our men of a proper military spirit, now believed to be so necessary in modern training, is an impossibility as long as the marine guard exists on board ship. It is idle to say that we cannot trust the men themselves with police duty. If we cannot, then we have the strongest argument that can be advanced for beginning at once to remedy a defect that stamps any organization a failure in which the fighting force is untrustworthy. If we are to make any progress in increasing the respectability and sense of responsibility of enlisted men, we must take this step as a fundamental one. Such police duty is essentially military, and a proper spirit can never be cultivated in the men as long as the marine guard, by its mere presence on board ship, is a notice to the men that they are not trusted and respected; that they are incompetent to perform military duties, and that they do not possess the confidence of the officers. The military spirit is not difficult to acquire, particularly if exacted of men by the officers themselves. Most of the average marine guard sent on board a ship are raw recruits. One sees very few continuous-service stripes amongst them, and in the annual report for 1890 the number of re-enlistments is given as 85, while there were a total of 948 enlistments and 520 desertions, and this in a total force of 1950, with five years as a period of enlistment and with 918 of the total force serving on board ship.A full marine guard of the newer ships will never in the future, even for a flagship, consist of more than forty men, of which one will be orderly sergeant, two or three sergeants, four corporals, two music, and about thirty men. The detail in port consists usually of four admiral’s and four cabin orderlies, and some three to five posts, each taking some four men, or about twenty in all. Then there are two cooks and a mail orderly. On gun-deck ships and the larger battleships there would be needed four corporals for the gun or battery deck, besides. In case the marine guard is withdrawn from service afloat, it is here proposed to perform their present duties in the ship as follows: We have now on board each ship a master-at-arms, a ship’s bugler, and a ship’s corporal, with an additional ship’s corporal for a gun-deck ship. Add one more ship’s bugler and four to six ship’s corporals to the ship’s complement. On flagships have in the commander-in-chief’s complement an allowance of four men for flag orderlies. On flagships and other than flagships, select four men for cabin orderlies; these and the flag orderlies to serve for three months as such. Assign one man also to act as a mail orderly in port and as a sentry at sea. Select from four to six men as compartment men for the protective deck and lower compartments, to keep them clean, to preserve order, and to be responsible for them in every way, serving practically as sentries in the compartments to which they are assigned. They should have important duties in connection with closing water-tight doors, rigging hand-pumps, and opening or closing proper valves for fire or other purposes; regulating the ventilation under the general direction of an officer, whose functions will hereafter be described; and above all, in being held strictly responsible for the police of the compartments to which they are assigned. They should sleep there, and only leave it for “all hands.” Assign the master-at-arms, corporals, orderlies, and compartment men to the Powder Division, and the two buglers to the Navigator’s Division. Detail from the deck force each day a sufficient number of men to act as sentries for the three, four, or five posts which may be necessary, just as they do in the army, where sentry duty is legitimate military service. Aboard ship it might be well to make a detail last for a week at a time, but not longer. The master-at-arms and two corporals should make the rounds, and be on duty continuously from “all hands” in the morning, or from daylight, to 10 P. M., alternating in inspecting below, to suppress or report all infractions of the regulations. The master-at-arms should occupy the same relation to the entire force that the orderly sergeant does to the marine guard, excepting that his duties should be more active in policing the ship and less in drilling the men under him. He would of course have also to do what constitutes his important duties at present as master-at-arms, excepting that with a general mess system he would have no berth-deck cooks to look after. The other three or four corporals should be on the spar-deck in port, to assist the officer of the deck, somewhat as a corporal or sergeant at the gangway does now, in overhauling boats and looking out for details of discipline, etc. For a quarterdeck guard in port where necessary, use as now certain men off post, with the addition of one or more machine-gun’s crews from deck as needed, or detail a boat’s crew from one of the boats that are hoisted, with the coxswain as sergeant or corporal of the guard.
- The following table gives the present monthly pay and ratings in the navy, and also the new ratings and new rates of pay here proposed. The new ratings are in italics, and the new rates of pay in the second columns. The old ratings to which stars are prefixed should be abolished. Any man holding a certificate as a seaman-gunner (having qualified in target firing or gunnery) shall be entitled to receive 30 per cent increase over any rate of pay shown in the proposed table for a petty officer’s billet of the seaman class, and 10 per cent in a petty officer’s billet of the special or artificer class.
Enlisted men of the USS Galena equipped for landing, 1890.
- With regard to certain new rates here proposed it may be well to make some explanation.The rate of gun-captain should be established, and to qualify in it a man should be able to drill a squad of men at any regular routine drill, such as infantry, artillery, great guns, machine guns, etc.; should be required to pass an examination in the “duties of a gun-captain” as laid down in the hand-book hereafter mentioned; and should have made at four successive quarterly target practices a prescribed percentage hereafter fixed upon by the Navy Department. Gun-captains should rank as second-class petty officers of the seaman class. In case a man is rated as gun-captain without qualifying, he shall receive $35 a month. A gun-captain, qualified, shall receive $45 per month. The same explanation applies to ship’s cooks and machinists. To qualify in those rates requires that the candidate shall have passed through the prescribed training at the central recruiting station as hereafter described.The rates of electrician and dynamo-tenders seem to be demanded, as distinguishing them from the engineer’s force in official designation.Our signal corps on board ship is inferior to what it should be. Something must be done to bring it up to a proper standard. It is proposed to
SEAMAN CLASS. SPECIAL CLASS. ARTIFICER CLASS. 1st Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. 1st Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. 1st Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. Chief Boatswain’s Mate $35 $35 Master-at-Arms $65 $65 Machinist $70 $70 Chief Quartermaster 35 50 Equipment Yeoman 60 60 Machinist, Qualified 80 Chief Gunner’s Mate 35 50 Apothecaries 60 60 Electrician 70 Paymaster’s Yeoman 60 60 Engineer’s Yeoman 60 60 Ship’s Writer 45 45 Schoolmaster 45 45 Bandmaster 52 52 Ship’s Steward 100 2d Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. 2d Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. 2d Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. Boatswain’s Mates $30 $35 Ship’s Corporals $28 $35 Boilermaker $60 $60 Quartermasters 30 35 Ship’s Cooks 35 35 Armorer 45 45 Gunner’s Mates 30 35 Ship’s Cooks, Qualified 45 Carpenter’s Mate 40 40 Gun Captains 35 Chief Musicians 36 Blacksmith 60 60 Gun Captains, Qualified 45 Sailmaker’s Mate 40 40 Coxswain to Comm’d’r-in-Chief 35 35 Water Tender 38 Dynamo Tender 38 3d Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. 3d Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. 3d Class Petty Officers. Present. Proposed. *Captains of Forecastle $30 Captains of Hold $30 $30 Printers $40 $40 *Captains of Maintop 30 Painters 36 36 *Captains of Fors[e]top 30 Oilers 36 36 *Captains of Mizzentop 30 *Captains of Afterguard 27 Coxswains 30 30 Quarter Gunners 27 27 Signalmen 27 SEAMAN CLASS. SPECIAL CLASS. ARTIFICER CLASS. Seamen, 1st Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen, 1st Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen, 1st Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen Gunners $26 $26 *Lamplighters $25 Firemen, 1st Class $35 $35 Seamen 24 24 Ship’s Cook Assistant 25 $25 *Carpenters 25 Seaman Apprentice, 1st Class 24 24 Jack of Dust 22 22 *Caulkers 25 Buglers 33 33 Carpenters and Caulkers 30 1st Class Musicians 32 32 Tailors 30 30 Barbers 30 30 Bakers 38 Seamen, 2d Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen, 2d Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen, 2d Class. Present. Proposed. Ordinary Seaman $19 $19 Baymen $18 $18 Firemen, 2d Class $30 $30 Seaman Apprentices, 2d Class 19 19 2d Class Musicians 30 30 Seamen, 3d Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen, 3d Class. Present. Proposed. Seamen, 3d Class. Present. Proposed. Landsmen $16 $16 Messmen $19 Coal Heavers $22 $22 Apprentices, 1st Class 16 16 Apprentices, 2d Class 11 11 Apprentices, 3d Class 9 9 Boys 10 10
establish the rate of signalman, with the pay of $27 per month; any ordinary seaman, seaman, or apprentice of corresponding rates being eligible, where specially fitted for the position. A hand-book for quartermasters and signalmen should be officially gotten up for their instruction and to prescribe the duties of quartermasters and signalmen, and the rating of quartermaster should be held out as an inducement to signalmen to become thoroughly proficient.By the system of messing here proposed it is hoped to restore to the deck force at least 50 per cent of the berth-deck cooks now allowed. By having all commissioned officers (other than the commanding officers) in one mess, and by not assigning warrant officers and naval cadets to small ships, we can do away with warrant and junior officers’ stewards, cooks and servants. By transferring the marine guard to a higher sphere of usefulness on shore we can largely increase the available working force on deck. The need of doing this in new ships with their crowded living spaces is sufficient warrant for hoping that sentiment will not stand in the way of common sense.
With increased pay, comforts and respectability, and with a fairly attractive career offered to enlisted men, we can hope to attract intelligent Americans into the navy. With more intelligent men we can secure a wider range of duties from each individual. With good raw material everything depends on training. The handling and fighting of a ship’s armament is the true modern basis of the education and training of our men. We give too much importance to the paint-pot, holy-stone, active-topman type of man on the one hand, and leave all the military training to the marines. The modern effective unit, the seaman artillerist, must be somewhat of both types, and very much more than either, not only in military spirit and exactness, but in professional attainments to a degree not as yet fully realized. The improvement in the status of our men can and should end only in placing our service in harmony with the spirit and purposes of our republican institutions. This we can never do as long as we widen the gap between the officers and men by exacting the highest standard in the former and the very lowest in the latter. The new types of ships have done much to emphasize this, but we must train the men to the ship, not strive by conservatism to check the development of the materiel simply because it involves radical changes in methods of training.
- There is neither sufficient time nor room aboard the new ships, in the exigencies of cruising, to conduct the drilling of recruits systematically and thoroughly, particularly in the first few months of a commission when there are so many other things to be looked after. It would tend, moreover, to secure uniformity, continuity, and thoroughness in the preliminary training of men, and would result in the greater economy in time and labor, if certain drills, up to fixed standards of efficiency, were given recruits at the central recruiting stations at New York and Mare Island before drafting them off to cruising ships. The most serious faults to be contended with in our service to-day are: first, lack of homogeneity in the crews of ships; second, lack of uniformity in drills, routines, etc.; and third, the absence of a strictly military purpose in the training of men. The duties of commissioned and petty officers, and the routine and details of drills should be thoroughly systematized. What we need are hand-books on different drills, accessible to officers and men alike, and a series of short and condensed text-books outlining the duties of petty officers and what they should be required to know to qualify in the ratings they hold. In the French service such books are prepared under government supervision, and sold for a nominal sum to the men. One gives, for instance, instruction to quartermasters and signalmen and all that they ought to know to qualify in such ratings; another, instruction to quarter-gunners and gunners’ mates, etc. The application of these books to the practical examination of candidates for ratings, or to men or boys advanced from one rating to another, would tend to secure uniformity in the qualifications for ratings throughout the service. At present it is largely a matter of the individual ship, and the qualifications demanded are un-uniform, vague, and not at all thorough, except in special cases.At the central recruiting stations the preliminary training of recruits should include setting-up exercise, gymnastics, swimming, school of the soldier and company, pistol and cutlass drill, single-sticks, boxing, bayonet exercise, field artillery, machine-gun drill, aiming and pointing, knowledge of accounts with paymaster, sewing, care of clothing, and familiarity with routine naval and police duties. Enclosed pistol-ranges for target practice should be erected at New York and Mare Island, and in the preliminary drill in aiming and pointing of small arms, air guns or parlor rifles should be used to illustrate the principles of aiming and firing. At Sandy Hook, near New York, and at the Mare Island Navy Yard, rifle ranges should be erected, embodying the latest ideas and suited to the requirements of individual, skirmish and company firings. Systematic firing over the ranges should be carried on until the men attain a fair ability to hit a target at various distances. Every endeavor should be made to familiarize the men with the care, preservation, and use of the arms they are called upon to handle aboard ship. The course of instruction at the station should last some three months or more, and should embrace from four to six hours a day.Attached to the New York Station should be four vessels to be used in the training of recruits. One should be a transport, to make the rounds of the recruiting stations at stated intervals, to gather in the recruits and to take drafts of men to ships along the North Atlantic coast. The second should be a small steamer of some sort, mounting a six-inch rifle, and having a small secondary battery consisting of a three- or six-pounder Hotchkiss, a revolving cannon, and a Gatling, to be used as a gunnery training ship for target practice for recruits at the station, to cruise out to sea or in Long Island Sound for a day or so at a time. The third should be either a sailing vessel, like the Saratoga, or a steamer with practically full sail power
Howitzer drill In the USS Trenton, 1881.
like the Yantic, to serve as a training ship for recruits. From time to time recruits should be transferred to her for a cruise of from three to four months, for instruction in seamanship, alacrity, heaving the lead, signals, compass, log, knotting and splicing, handling boats, and the usual duties of a seaman as distinct from the military and gunnery duties of a man-of-wars-man. The incidental routine gunnery drills on board should be some-what the same as at the station on shore, such as school of the soldier, small arms, machine-gun drill, single-sticks, field artillery, etc. to familiarize the men with the drills in service afloat. Great attention should be paid to boat drill as a most valuable professional exercise and a most necessary training for seafaring men. They should be taught to handle and bring boats alongside in all weather under oars or sail, and to expose themselves in bad weather in order to give them that confidence which only comes with a great deal of experience, and with a real knowledge of how to handle a boat under all conditions. They should be exercised in righting a capsized boat, in jumping overboard to pick up other persons in the water, and in every way encouraged to that fearlessness which comes with trained courage rather than heedless daring. It is easy to exaggerate the virtues of the old system of training men aloft as compared with the really thorough, athletic and professional training which men can be given in ordinary ships’ boats under intelligent guidance. It should be as important to train men to handle a boat as to train a cavalryman to ride a horse.
The fourth ship, more or less attached to the central training station at New York, should be some modern ship like the Miantonoma[o]h or Terror, for the training of the recruits for the engineer’s force. A vessel of this kind, to have routine target practice, must needs put to sea each quarter anyway, and it is certainly of sufficient importance in the training of the engineer’s recruits to justify frequent short trips to familiarize men with their duties. As all coal-heavers for the coast are enlisted at New York, and all second-class firemen should also be so enlisted, it follows that a regular course of training in steam engineering and preliminary military training should be established for such recruits. It should go even further. A school for machinists should be added, and all who qualify in it should receive the increased pay provided for qualified petty officers. There is quite as much, if not more call for improvement in the character and training of men in the engineer’s force than in the deck force, and if we are wise we will wake up to an acknowledgment of the fact.
Another advantage of having thoroughly equipped recruiting stations at New York and Mare Island is in the ability to provide for drilling the naval reserve forces at stated periods.
With a large total allowance of 10,000 men in the service, there will be difficulty in carrying out this scheme. With a small allowance it will be impossible, as unexpected demands will be made on the central station, and men drafted off with little or no training to meet emergencies that are always arising. There must be a wide margin to enable men to receive proper training. With regard to whether or not recruits in service on shore should live in barracks or on receiving-ships depends entirely on the efficiency of the ships, and whether or not they can accommodate as many men as may be necessary. The ships possess many advantages in respect to training, but in the course of time barracks will have to be built. In that case, the life of the recruit in barracks should be assimilated as nearly as possible to service conditions. This whole scheme of preliminary training is nothing more nor less than the application of the Apprentice Training System to general service recruits.
As regards the apprentice training system itself, special effort must be made to enlarge and develop it. With the total allowance of apprentices increased to 1500, and an earnest effort made to retain the best products of the system in the service, it would become a most important factor in Americanizing the navy. Modern guns and appliances, and increased accommodations and facilities for training are very much needed. The attachment of the Richmond to the station is a great step in the right direction. The enlargement of the course for apprentices to qualify in special and artificer class ratings is demanded by new service conditions.
The seaman-gunners of to-day are the poorest paid, most seriously discouraged, and yet the most important class of men in the navy. Right here must begin a new departure, as this class of men must form the keystone of our organization. Not only should as many men as possible be thoroughly trained as seaman-gunners, but the course of training should be constantly enlarged and improved, until our petty officers shall be, as far as possible, recruited from men who have first qualified in the rating of seaman-gunner.
The present custom is to send continuous-service men just after reenlistment to the Navy Yard, Washington, to qualify in ordnance and gunnery, and to Newport to qualify in torpedoes and electricity. The applicant must be a seaman or petty officer of the line, under 32 years of age, and be able to read, write and cipher. He is also required to take out naturalization papers if not already a citizen of the United States. The course at Newport is very far from what it ought to be, and is irregular and unsystematic. The working force at the station is so small that the men are too often utilized for routine work for it to be profitable to the men in the way of general training. Certain men make a specialty of learning printing, others make torpedo fuzes and detonators, and still others run the electric plant. All this is valuable in its way, but the course, to be a course, must be uniform, thorough and systematic. More officers are needed at the station, or else a good deal of the training now given can be better accomplished at Washington in connection with the advance and gunnery course. Men frequently qualify at Newport who have had only a few hours’ lecture on electricity and a most theoretical course in torpedos. After the men are transferred to sea-going ships the present pay tables begin to cause mischief. One man gets the rating of machinist at $70 a month; three others become oilers and get $36; while others become gunners’ mates at $30, armorers at $45, printers at $40, yeoman at $60, and writers at $45. The pay of petty officers of the seaman class, from which these men are selected or recruited, is so much smaller than that of the special and artificer classes
- Machine gun drill in USS Trenton, 1880.that the deck force receives little or no benefit from the seaman-gunner course. The past training has had the effect of fitting the men best for civil life, and the discouragement of the outlook in the service has operated to the effect of driving most of them out of the service at the expiration of their enlistments.At the Washington Navy Yard great strides have been made towards the establishment of a proper school for seaman-gunners. With the target practice on board the Alarm with machine-guns and six-inch rifle, and the establishment of a rifle range on the Bellvue magazine reservation, we will soon have in the service a class of seaman-gunners who are, as they should be, expert artillerists. The standard should be high, and when a man qualifies he should receive largely increased pay, especially in ratings of the seaman class. The shops at the navy yard afford every facility for the mechanical and technical training needed, and the system of drills carried on by the seaman-gunners themselves, under supervision of commissioned officers, gives them the training they need as petty officers. The discipline is excellent and the results are very promising. The facilities should, however, be increased and the classes enlarged. The whole course of instruction of seaman-gunners needs thorough systematizing, and hand-books should be gotten out as soon as possible, to aid in the instruction not only of those at Washington and Newport, but those out in the service who need to freshen up from time to time and to keep up with the improvements and changes that are constantly being made. The circulars of the Bureau of Navigation in relation to target practice, money prizes, etc., leave nothing to be desired in that respect excepting that they may be rigidly carried out in the service. The principal extension of this practical training in prize firing should now be in the application of the whole system to the apprentice training squadron and station, the central recruiting stations for recruits, and the seaman-gunner course at Washington. Special preliminary training both of recruits and petty officers, with a view of securing uniformity in the service and of freeing ship’s routine of the elementary drills, is earnestly demanded by modern conditions.
Receiving ship Pensacola at the Naval Training Station San Francicso, 1901.
- A consideration of the recent tendencies in naval construction leads inevitably to the conclusion that sail-power cannot play an important part in the navy of the future. With twin screws which do not uncouple and cannot trice up, the most we can look for is auxiliary sail for storm purposes. The Newark is the only square-rigged vessel of the more recent ships, and every tendency, as shown by the report of the Policy Board and the plans of vessels contracted for, is in the direction of restricting sail to a very limited area. The Squadron of Evolution, in its recent cruise of 16,000 miles, had every opportunity of testing the utility or futility of square sails, and a study of the logs of the ships will furnish no grounds for a return to the Brooklyn or Pensacola types of cruisers. It is not that sails are obsolete, or that the training of officers and men with spars and sails must be given up, but it is sacrificing too much to handicap swift cruisers with sail-power that is only an incumbrance. Officers and men should be trained aboard sailing ships or auxiliary steamers at the Naval Academy, Newport, and at the central training stations, but it is going backwards to put useless sails on swift cruisers for doubtful advantages in training that can be infinitely better accomplished on regular training ships. Strong, reliable and not too complicated engines, good accommodations for the men, strong hulls with double bottoms, handy and roomy coalbunkers, increased ammunition capacity, and improved methods of handling the same – these are questions alongside of which the importance of the question of sail-power in a modern swift cruiser dwindles into insignificance. Indeed, in the matter of coaling ship we have a long way to go. The demand for water-tight compartments and the continuity of the armored deck lead not only to most unhandy coal-bunker arrangements, but to difficulties in getting out coal fast enough to maintain high speeds for considerable runs, and, most important of all, to utter inability to coal ships in anything like reasonable time. The spectacle of a swift cruiser like the Philadelphia or Baltimore taking some three or four days to coal, or even one day, is in itself startling. If those last quarters of knots of speed which are added for cases of emergency are worth to the country $50,000 each, at what are we to value the hours wasted through absurd coaling arrangements at a critical juncture, when each hour means a loss of 18 knots or so underway? Fact is, in any new organization we must frankly come to it that the coal-bunkers and the means of filling them demand a place in our new station bills under the heading “Coaling Ship,” just as “Making Sail” or “Reefing” were of importance in the past. The coal-shovel, the ammunition-whip, and the lock-string must all have live men on the ends of them, and alacrity is just as great a factor as it ever was in naval discipline and efficiency – some think greater.In the revised organization here proposed for our new ships of from 1200 to 10,000 tons displacement, the principal change is in basing the organization on the gun instead of on the sail power. The parts of ship are abolished and gun divisions substituted. The gun’s crew is preserved intact in the entire watch, quarter and station bill, and constitutes, with the machine-guns’ crews of the division, a section of artillery, a platoon at infantry, a running boat’s crew, and going in the same boat at “arm and away” and “abandon ship.” No special-duty men or excused men should come out of the gun divisions, which last comprise the entire deck force. All special-duty men are in the powder or navigator’s division, and there are as few such men allowed as possible, every effort being made to have a large working deck force. In case the marines are not withdrawn from service afloat, they should be reduced in numbers and regarded as special-duty men, which means that they would constitute a division of the powder division in the quarter bill, but otherwise be under the command of their own officer. However, it is assumed that the marines are to be withdrawn. The important factor to be first dealt with in adapting our organization to modern conditions is the powder division. The character and distribution of the chains of ammunition supply make it obvious that a large number of men are required to deliver the same to the numerous guns now constituting a modern ship’s battery. Men at the guns are more or less protected by shields; men in the ammunition supply are mostly on or above the protective deck and entirely exposed, as the coal protection is only furnished the boilers and engines, hence the principal casualties will be in the powder division. On them will devolve also largely the care of the wounded passed below in action, yet at all times the rapid supply of ammunition is of vital importance. This fact, coupled with the necessity for closing water-tight doors when about to ram or in any danger of being rammed, just when ammunition is also most needed with rapidity, leads to the necessity for drawing on the engineer’s force for the reserve for the powder division in action. Under ordinary circumstances the powder division must be organized without counting in any of the engineer’s force, which should constitute the reserve, but of all things this division must not be short-handed. The automobile torpedoes are mostly handled in the region of the ammunition supply, and the torpedo division is here included as a division in the powder division. This brings us to a very important and very necessary change in the assignment of commissioned officers to divisions.A consideration of the burden imposed upon an executive officer of a modern cruiser of large displacement, by the care of the hull and below decks, and the ever-increasing duties of looking out for the complicated needs of such a ship, leads inevitably to the conclusion that he should in a measure be indirectly relieved by a competent assistant from some of the duties which now bear so hard upon him. The senior watch officers, from their age and experience in the service, are entitled to share in these duties, and it is here proposed that, on first and second rates, the officer now corresponding to senior watch officer hereafter be designated as first lieutenant, and the executive officer as executive officer only. The first lieutenant shall have charge of the powder division, but shall not keep a watch. He shall, under the executive officer, be charged with the discipline of the lower decks, and of the special-duty and other men who clean, paint, and police the compartments and inside hull of the ship. He shall have charge of the general messing system and its inspection, shall regulate the ventilation of the ship below decks; shall have charge of the water-tight doors, traps, valves, pumps, and drainage system of the ship; and shall have charge of the police and sentries of the ship in the preservation of discipline and in the faithful and efficient discharge of their duties. He shall serve as senior member of boards of survey and inspection, summary courts-martial, board for the examination of seamen and petty officers for ratings to higher ratings than those held by them; and shall have personal and direct supervision of the instruction of landsmen, ordinary seamen, and apprentices to fit them for higher ratings. The executive officer shall continue to discharge the same duties as at present. The first lieutenant is simply to be a well-qualified assistant on whose knowledge and judgment, founded on experience in the service, the executive officer can rely. The work put on a modern executive officer simply means that he does as much as flesh and blood can accomplish and the rest must be more or less neglected. In most cases nothing is neglected, but the physical strain is too great and should be shared by a competent assistant. This is the custom in other services that might be named, and it is founded on reason and common sense.With a modern powder division twice the size of a gun division, with the care and manipulation of automobile torpedoes added, and with the various chains of ammunition supply cut off from one another by water-tight subdivisions, not to mention the exposed position of most of the powder division in even armored ships, it is not too much to say that the first lieutenant should have the assistance of one or more of the junior watch officers, or ensigns not standing watch, to properly carry out the complicated duties of the officer in charge. There being no marine officer in the ship, the duties of such could be incidentally performed by the first lieutenant as far as supervision and inspection of sentries, etc., is concerned. Any officer specially qualified in torpedoes should be assigned to the powder division as assistant in charge of the torpedo division. The more this scheme of having an officer of rank in charge below decks is considered, the more it will commend itself to the service at large. It is not a new idea in any sense, but we need to adopt it. In view of the enormous amount of clerical work required at present in the executive and navigation departments of a ship, two writers should be allowed, one for the executive officer as now, and the other for the navigator and first lieutenant, between them.One boat bill should answer for “Running boats,” “Arm and away,” and “Abandon ship.” The same crew should go in each boat under all three circumstances, but in other than running boats the additional men should be indicated by watch numbers under the sub-headings “Arm and away” and “Abandon ship.” A boat’s crew should be picked from each watch of a gun division, which is practically the same thing as assigning a gun’s crew to a boat. The steam launch and sailing launch should be manned from the powder division. The gig’s, barge’s and dinghy’s crews should come from the gun divisions equally, preferably from the machine-guns’ crews. Ships should be furnished with small boats pulling double sculls for purposes where they readily take the place of larger boats during drill hours and after dark. The life-rafts, etc., for abandoning ship should belong to the navigator’s, powder, and torpedo divisions.
In the organization of the battalion, the powder division should constitute the artillery and the ammunition supply; the navigator’s, the color guard; and the pioneer’s should be taken from the mechanics and engineer’s force. Each gun division should constitute a company of infantry.
In the station bill such changes in the watch numbers should be made as to make it correspond with the new watch bill. To what are already given in the station bill as evolutions, should be added “Closing watertight doors” and “Coaling ship.” In coaling ship with the ship’s company, as few should be excused from work as possible.
In summarizing what has been here proposed, it may be stated in a general way that the object sought is to secure for our ships (1) homogeneous crews composed of men who are Americans, or who have declared their intention of becoming citizens of the United States; (2) uniformity in the organization and drills of ships, in the training of men, and in the requirements for advancing men from one rate to another; (3) such improved comforts and consideration as will increase the real efficiency of the crews, and render the service more attractive than at present; (4) the retention of men in the service for life by making a career for them as men-of-warsmen.
Much remains to be done in raising the tone of first-class and other petty officers, by weeding out and getting rid of untrustworthy and dissolute men, and by granting to those deserving it, every privilege consistent with the maintenance of efficiency and discipline. In the case of second-class petty officers, their mustering uniform should be the same as for first-class petty officers, excepting, of course, the devices or rank marks. Men on sentry duty should wear a belt and cutlass. This applies equally to ship’s corporals at all times, and to coxswains and quartermasters on watch. Men in the gun divisions should wear on the sleeve, corresponding to their watch, the figures 1, 2, 3, or 4, in white, according to the number of the division they are in, and this in place of the present white tape watch-mark. Men on the sick list should be required to wear the white band with red cross as prescribed.
In any discussion of the needs of the service, due regard must be had to the quiet revolution that is going on in our profession. Whether we close our eyes or not to the inevitable, we will never have an efficient navy until we infuse more of a military spirit into it, and until we recognize that we must provide a career for the men, with rewards and pensions for service as substantial relatively as those provided for officers.
DISCUSSION OF PRIZE ESSAY, 1891
The Enlistment, Training, and Organization of Crews for our New Ships
Commander G. H. Wadleigh, U. S. Navy. – That the more complicated the fighting machine called a ship, the more intelligent and skillful should be the men to handle and fight it, is an evident fact, and in order to obtain such men the inducements must be equal to those offered in other occupations.
If time of war patriotism and prize-money will bring us all the men we need; at other times the pay and opportunities for advancement will be the motives of most of the men who enter the service, as they are of those who enter the employ of corporations and individuals. That the pay of the seaman class is too small is shown by the fact that many of the best seamen, those who have been trained in the service, leave it and obtain better pay in civil life. The pay in the navy should be more than is given in the merchant service, and I would suggest $30 a month for seamen, and $22 for ordinary seamen; at present many desirable landsmen work for the rate of coalheaver instead of ordinary seaman, because of the greater pay of $3 a month which the former receives.
The point that I consider of the highest importance, however, is that the young American who enters the navy should feel like Napoleon’s soldier, “who carried a marshal’s baton in his knapsack,” that the highest rank in the navy is within his reach if he has the ability to obtain it. It is believed that the navy is the only service in the United States, public or private, where the boy who commences at the foot of the ladder cannot climb to the top if he has it in him so to do. It is admitted that he may do so in case of war, but with war growing less and less frequent as weapons and explosives are made more deadly, the chance for an admiral’s commission looks very slight to the recruit of 1891. Give every American boy or man of good character who has qualified as seaman-gunner, has five years’ service and is under the age of 28, the right to apply for examination for the grade of ensign, with the knowledge that it is the same examination given the Naval Academy graduate, and that if he passes a commission as ensign will be the reward, and a great step will have been taken to improve the character and skill of the men in the service. Should all those that apply and fail to pass leave the service they will not leave the country, and will be available in war-time. In the opinion of the writer, every man or boy who has served creditably for three years is worth to the country ten times what he may have cost it. The apprentice system is good as far as it goes, but it should be extended, and enlistments be made up to the age of 20, all to serve to the age of 24, with the privilege of discharge at 21, if so desired, and upon refunding a certain part of the pay, which should be reserved for that purpose. Under present conditions few boys would care to enlist to serve until the age of 24, but with the knowledge that they could obtain a discharge at 21 it is thought they would enlist, and that not many would take advantage of the privilege.
There are a large number of boys or young men in the country, over 18 years of age, who have been at work for a few years, and who would make good seamen, but who do not enlist because their chances of promotion are even less than those of the apprentices. They are not like many of the boys, seeking an opportunity to get out of school and away from home, but having done so, and been obliged to work, can appreciate steady employment and a good home. It is not to be expected that all who enter the service will remain, nor is it desirable that they should, as in that case the service would soon be clogged with old men, and we want a constant reinforcement of young blood. As a matter of fact, very few boys stick to the occupation first selected; most of them, from choice or necessity, drift from one to another, and we cannot expect the contrary from our recruits. Although believing in all the comforts possible for the men, it is thought that the essayist places too much stress upon them. The old saying might be slightly changed to read, “He who goes to sea for comfort ought to go to – for pastime”; given good pay and prospects for advancement, and young men will cheerfully give up comfort.
Recruiting should be continuous and consistent; desirable boys and men always enlisted when possible to obtain them, others never, no matter what the emergency, except in case of war, when everything must give way to “food for powder,” and an increase to 12,000 men and boys should be allowed, not that so many are needed at all times, but in order that good men may not be rejected because the quota is full.
The recommendation to send all recruits to one or two central stations for examination should be adopted, and they might be retained at such station three months, not longer, since new men will shake down much faster on board ship among old hands than by themselves. If the navy had a large training squadron and enough men, I should advocate passing all recruits through such a squadron; as we have not, and probably never shall have such advantages, all cruisers should be bark-rigged, with light spars, for training purposes, as well as to be able to make long passages under sail and for use in emergencies; recruits should be put on board such cruisers and sent to foreign stations in order to obtain a “sea-stomach,” and no recruit should make his first cruise on the home station.
Recruits’ military drill at a naval training station.
Stewards and cooks should receive more pay, and they and the attendants should be given the benefits of continuous service and honorable discharge under proper restrictions; desirable men for such positions are hard to find and harder to keep, and the necessity for good men in the powder division is evident.
The board to recommend ratings should be abolished. The commanding officer is the responsible person, and the executive is all the board that is desirable or necessary.
I regret that the essayist, while recognising the master-at-arms as the chief petty officer, continues in the proposed pay-table to give him less pay than some others, a practice that obtains nowhere else that I am aware of; the chief petty officer should receive more pay than any other petty officer. The name petty officer should be abolished and some such name as subordinate officer or rated officer substituted. The word petty is generally understood as meaning small or trivial, and it is submitted that petty officers of a vessel should be neither.
The remarks in regard to punishments, brig and irons, are most appropriate, and if the whole power of the Government could be exerted “to arrest and bring to punishment all offenders,” the percentage of desertions would be very small. At present, it may be said that a premium is almost offered for desertion. A man is dissatisfied with his ship, or belongs to one ordered to the tropics in hot weather; he has two years or more to serve, and being out of debt is allowed liberty; he thinks the matter over somewhat in this way: If I stay in this vessel I shall have an uncomfortable time, or perhaps get the yellow fever; I will go on liberty and keep out of the way for three months, after that time I shall not be arrested on account of Circular No.9 of March 28, 1878, and if I should be caught within three months I shall only get one year at the Boston Navy Yard prison, where I shall live better than on board ship, have nothing to do but lie on my back and read, and at the end of a year, if not sooner, get my discharge with $25 to start with. I’ll take the chances. If the man knew he would be caught sooner or later and would then spend the remainder of his enlistment and a year or two more in prison, at hard labor, he would not be so likely to run.
That the executive of the large modern vessels needs an assistant is conceded, but it is thought that the proper officer to fill the billet is the next in rank, the present navigator. The latter often falls heir to the position of executive with less knowledge of the men and routine of the ship than the youngest watch-officer possesses. The navigator is no longer needed on deck to look after the steering and sails; he is the ordnance officer, and is supposed to be on board when the executive goes out of the ship. It seems apparent that, as assistant to the executive, he would be more in the line of succession and much better qualified to take charge in case of necessity; he should have the charge of the powder division, and should have a junior officer to do the greater part of the clerical and mathematical work which now takes up so much of his time.
In this connection it is suggested that if many of the reports and returns now required were abolished, officers would have more time for study and practical work. When the general storekeeper system was revived it was supposed that returns would be condensed and reduced in number; the practical working has been that, on board ship, most heads of departments who formerly made one return now make two, one exception being the general storekeeper himself. If the unnecessary returns were abolished and all money values on board ship, outside the pay office, done away with, several of the yeomen and writers who are now “in everybody’s mess and nobody’s watch” could be dispensed with and room gained for working men.
A similar system of messing to the one proposed in the essay has been tried for two years on board the Michigan with excellent results, more and better food and better cooking; how it would work away from markets is at least doubtful, and still more doubtful the working of a canteen bumboat except for receiving-ships. Cooking by steam was in use on board the Boston receiving-ship in 1874 and may be now; it worked exceedingly well at that time.
In regard to the much-discussed marine question, I am compelled to the conclusion that the marine must be available for all work on board ship or else remain on shore, if only to gain the space required to stow his helmet and full-dress hat. Next to drilling, the principal work is now coaling, from which the marine is by regulation exempt; therefore, as excepting the noncommissioned officers, the guard is mainly composed of recruits and men that for some reason are not wanted in barracks, it would seem that the same number of desirable landsmen would be more useful, always supposing that the number of men to be allowed the navy is enough without the marines; until that time comes a guard must be retained to help fill up the complement. It is, however, suggestive that very recently, at a meeting of the Royal United Service Institution of Great Britain, a paper was read and well supported advocating a large increase in the number of marines on board ship. It is believed, however, that the British marine is available for all kinds of work. The non-commissioned officers of the guard are now promoted from headquarters and can only be reduced by sentence of court-martial. This authority should rest with commanding officers until after two terms of service as non-commissioned officer. A man may make a fairly good non-commissioned officer in barracks and be of little use on board ship, and still not come within reach of a court-martial.
A modified form of the old system of ordinary men at navy-yards should be adopted, by which the continuous-service man, after two cruises, could be entitled to a year or more at a yard, and after a certain number of years’ service could be permanently attached to such yard as he might elect, to live on board the receiving-ship, and to be available for such work in the yard as he was able to perform; he would also be a first reserve in case of war. This system, in part, has been often tried and as often has failed; but, with the proposed reform in the yards, by which politics are to give place to efficiency, may we not hope that the day is near when the old “blue-jacket” will not be the first to be dropped from the pay-roll of a yard in order that the emigrant of yesterday, who will vote to-morrow, may be taken on; for which good time coming all who have served at a navy yard, and have the good of the service at heart, will ever pray.
Lieutenant C. B. T. Moore, U. S. Navy. – I think the first step towards securing the uniformity of training, which must come before the new navy reaches its highest efficiency, is for all officers to conform strictly to the authorized standards, confining their activity in reform to respectful suggestions to those in authority, or to discussion such as that in Mr. Niblack’s very able essay. When this reform at the top shall have been effected, one of the troubles of the service, and that one a source of considerable inconvenience to both officers and men, will be entirely removed.
Lieutenant R. C. Smith, U. S. Navy. – Having competed this year for the Institute prize, I feel a hesitancy in offering comments on the excellent paper of the winner. The fact that our subjects were different will be my justification. Following the order of the essay, I should like first to make one other recommendation looking to the surrender of more living space to the crews in small ships. It is usually the custom to consider that ship-duty requires just so many officers – a captain, an executive officer, a navigator, four or five watch officers, and a quota of staff officers. Some concession has been made to lack of space in small ships by omitting junior and warrant officers, and by reducing to a certain extent the number of staff officers. In making assignments to the different ships, would it not be policy to fix at once in each corps a certain ratio of officers to number of crew? This would reduce materially the complement of officers in small ships, but it ought to leave enough for the duty. Then, by following the essayist’s suggestion of one officers’ mess – other than that of the captain – it would be possible, in single-deck ships, to quarter all the officers under the poop and surrender the whole of the lower deck to the men.
There is absolutely no criticism to make on the essayist’s treatment of the questions of discipline and messing. Give the men wholesome, well-served meals, and do it economically, and the question of discipline is already half solved. Good meals, plenty of exercise, all the privileges admissable, and certain punishment for offenses, make a happy ship. They are all possible. The failure of the present messing system has been periodically pointed out for years. Several better plans have been proposed; one of them should be adopted.
Scrub and wash cloths,USS Schley (DD-103) in 1919.
I do not think Mr. Niblack makes enough revision of the pay-table. There is no one thing that causes more heartburnings than the present scheme of pay. There are no plums for the bone and sinew of the fighting force, the seaman class of petty officers. The present rates are a survival, with slight improvements, of a condition of affairs now absolutely passed. Seamen were numerous. Any merchant sailor who enlisted in a man-of-war was in three months entirely familiar with the new surroundings. The gunnery drills were simple and easily learned. The qualifications which made him valuable were those of the seaman pure and simple, a knowledge of ships and the sea, of sails, masts and spars. He was not a man of education; he was fortunate to be able to write. The supply of such men was large; the wages offered were sufficient to attract them. With steam came the machinist and the fire-room force. The old rates could not secure the class of men required. Similarly with the writers and yeomen found necessary to keep the system of accounts, continually growing in complication. Education was at a premium, and all these men demanded and received higher wages. The change still going on has not yet forced a complete recognition. It is the change from the wooden to the steel ship, from the smooth-bore to the high-power rifle, from the howitzer to the Hotchkiss, from the musket to the magazine rifle, from the spar-torpedo and the Harvey to the Whitehead and the Howell. Will the same intelligence suffice for the attendant duties, and are the necessary men to be picked up in every seaport, as easily as the stage-driver becomes the engine-driver? No; the requirements and intelligence of the seaman class aboard ship are higher now than ever before. It is all right to keep the accounts straight and to see that the engines are equal to the task of bringing the ship into action; but once in, there is something else to be done, and the men who are to do it need a little encouragement. They need a good deal more than they now get, if we are to have the men we want. Where do the apprentices go, who are the best element we have in the service? Most of them into civil life after their training is finished. This can easily be corrected at small total expense. It is the question of a few more dollars added to the many already spent which is to make the difference between failure and brilliant success.
I should give the chief boatswain’s-mate, the chief quartermaster, and the chief gunner’s-mate the same pay as first-class petty officers of the artificer class. They are men of fully as much value aboard ship, and require long training added to rare natural gifts. I should give them $70. Boatswain’s mates, quartermaster’s and gunner’s mates are also valuable men, and should get as much pay as, for instance, a ship’s writer – $45. Quarter-gunners have to-day much more difficult duties than formerly, and should be expert, capable men. Their pay is at present only $27, and might be raised to that of fireman, for instance, $35. It is needless to say that all these men should be subject to a very strict qualifying examination. The material is at hand, and only needs encouragement to come to the front.
The suggestion for a special rate of signalman is well-timed. The practice now in vogue is to detail apprentice-boys for the purpose. However intelligent and capable, they are only boys after all, and are often trifling and inattentive. Signaling has become with the present fast ships a matter of the utmost importance and should be in the hands of responsible men. A special rate seems a necessity.
Signal gang on the bridge of the USS St. Louis, 1905.
Coming to the artificer class, I should call the electrical machinist, who is a first-class petty officer, chief electrician, and establish a rate of electrician, second class, at $50, to replace the present dynamo-oiler. These men would come from the same source, but the chief electrician would be a man of longer experience and would be in charge, having as many of the others as assistants as the size of the plant demanded. Next I would increase the pay of armorer. To care for modern ordnance he should have the highest possible mechanical training. He now gets less than either a blacksmith or a boiler-maker. I would make him a first-class petty officer, and raise his pay from $45 to $70. These petty officers of the artificer class are most important men at present. Having given them adequate pay, they must be subject to rigid qualification. They will probably have to be specially trained in government schools. There are already courses for the seaman class, and there is talk of special training for the fire-room force. The machinists should have regular courses in the government shops.
If the increase of pay I have proposed seems too extensive, it is only necessary to reflect that it does not concern many persons in the total complement, but that those few set the tone of the whole system. The increase is mainly in the seaman class, but it is only just that men of the intelligence now demanded, and from whom we shall expect so much in the next war, should have some encouragement. To take a single ship, the Boston, the total increase of pay would amount to $298 a month, a sum which dwindles into insignificance in comparison with the gain in efficiency to be expected.
This brings us to the training and status of seaman-gunners. Mr. Niblack strikes the keynote of a great deal of their present discontent in his analysis of their troubles. Their highest prize is the rating of machinist at $70, but in each ship there is only one who gets it. There is so great a difference between this pay and the average of the other available rates, that it is only natural for the rest to be discouraged and seek higher wages in civil life. It seems to me a mistake to make these men machinists at all. They have not had the necessary training, nor anything like it. It is spoiling a very good seaman-gunner to make an indifferent machinist. The present course comprises all that is necessary in electricity and the handling of tools to secure good ordnance and torpedo work, but it does not make the men expert electricians or expert mechanics. The increased pay that I have recommended for petty officers of the seaman class, leaving out of consideration of the ratings in the special and artificer classes, would offer inducements to retain all of these men in the service, and in rates for which they are specially fitted by their previous training.
To secure good electrical machinists, or electricians as we propose to call them, and armorers who are to be expert mechanics, will require other means. The following plan seems feasible. In each class of seaman-gunners, as it qualifies, select some few who have shown marked aptitude for electricity or mechanics, and take them through a further extended course in these branches until they shall have attained an excellence that will admit of no doubt when they begin their duties on board ship. This will be no injustice to the remainder of the class, who, it has been seen, will have equally desirable positions opened to them in the seaman class. The ordnance factory at Washington will naturally be the place to perfect the armorers. I do not think two years would be too long to keep them there. They would be rendering useful services all the time, and the delay and expense would be fully justified by their increased value aboard ship.
Next as to electricians. The government has at present no school where they can be trained in practical electrical machinery and dynamo construction.
- I think, however, the navy might eventually find it advantageous to manufacture its own electrical machinery of standard pattern for all ships. This would avoid a great deal of inconvenience from diversity of types, would facilitate repairs, and would in the end be cheaper. Such a plan could not have been adopted in the earlier days of the science; but now that types are becoming standardized, and the needs of the service are more apparent, it would be entirely practicable. Indeed, I will venture to say that the officers of the navy at present employed on electrical duty are far more competent to design machinery adapted to ship’s use and superintend its construction than persons who are familiar with shore installations only. Instance the Washington gun factory, if a precedent is needed. The plan proposed, in addition to vastly simplifying the present tedious method of equipping ships, would provide a school in which officers and men could receive all the practical training needed in handling any sort of electrical machinery.As it would be desirable to have the armorers and electricians finish their training at as early an age as convenient, it would be policy to begin the training of seaman-gunners at the age of 19, selecting for the purpose such of the apprentices as showed marked aptitude for the higher duties of the different classes. They could then be graduated at 21 as seaman-gunners, and those selected for the artificer class begin their special training at once.Lieutenant-Commander E. H. C. Leutze. – I think it will be almost impossible to find men possessing all the attributes for a gun-captain required by the author of the prize essay. My experience is and has been that the best marksmen are generally found amongst men who have very little or no qualification for the position of petty officer. I would establish the rate of “marksman,” and the men holding such rate would not necessarily be the captain of the gun; the latter might handle the elevating gear and see that the orders of the marksman are instantly obeyed. I would free the marksmen from all duties at the gun excepting aiming and firing it.In conclusion I would say that to my mind the proper organization of a modern man-of-war is that of the ancient galley; we have the sailors in the navigator’s division, the sea-soldiers in the gun divisions, and the engineer’s division takes the place of the oarsmen.Commander J. B. Coghlan, U.S. Navy. – I must congratulate Ensign Niblack upon his very able essay, published in the Proceedings of the Institute; it shows study and a knowledge of the needs of a good service. He, however, has one very grave fault, which, in my opinion, is altogether too common even among line officers, and that fault is, he exalts the noncombatant to the detriment of the combatant class. I cannot understand why it is that the primary object of a man-of-war’s existence is so lost sight of, at the present time, and by the people whom one would naturally suppose would be the very ones to uphold it. We all know that the whole aim and object of a man-of-war is to carry guns and to use them well.Of late years the navy and its friends have seemed to run away with the idea that the object of a man-of-war was to steam away from a fight; and every energy and every inducement has been directed towards that end. Since the very object of a man-of-war is to carry guns and to use them effectively, and the greatest aid to that effect is perfect discipline, why should not the principal petty officers charged with that very necessary discipline, and those charged with the use of the guns, be as well or even better paid than those petty officers whose duties are merely secondary in comparison? Suppose a vessel could be gotten to a certain place in extraordinary time, what purpose would it subserve unless her gunnery and discipline were good?
I have always maintained that the master-at-arms, the chief petty officer of the ship, should be paid more than any other petty officer. No matter how small the amount in excess might be, still it should be more. And, as his assistants rank in authority everyone but himself, and sometimes act in his stead, they should be paid at least as much as the other appointed petty officers. The duty of a gun-captain being much more important than that of a water-tender, he should be paid a much higher rate of pay. We must come back to the proper idea, that the battery is the important part of a man-of-war, to which all others are subservient, and that the important men at the battery deserve the greatest care in their selection, and a rate of pay which will keep good men in those places. Until we do so, the best men will continue to gravitate to the engine department, where they get better pay and easier times. In times of peace our men do not have the incentive of patriotism, nor the esprit of command which actuates the officers, to keep them in a particular branch of the service; and consequently, to keep the best men in the responsible deck positions, we must make up in pay for the extra hazard and extra hard work. For the deck work is the hardest of all on board a man-of-war.
I would, therefore, change Mr. Niblack’s proposed rates of pay about as follows, viz:
Master-at-arms, first class, $75; second class, $70.
Machinists, first class, $70; second class, $65.
Ship’s corporals, first class, $65; second class, $60.
Yeomen, apothecaries, ship’s writers, schoolmasters, first class, $60; second class, $55.
- All the above to be enlisted or appointed in the second class; first-class rates to serve in the first and second-rate ships, and second-class rates to serve in the third and fourth-rate ships, and all of them should be enlisted or appointed in the same way. At present we see the yeomen and apothecaries holding their positions by a much better tenure than do the masters-at-arms. This, of course, tends to the latter’s degradation, more or less. So I say all sack-coat petty officers should be enlisted or appointed in the same way, and should hold office by the same tenure. If they were enlisted in the second class, they could then, under the present law, be disrated below that grade only by a sentence of a court-martial.Give the ship’s corporals a uniform corresponding to that of the masters-at-arms, and the ship’s writer and schoolmaster one similar to those of yeomen. Every executive officer knows how important it is to have a good writer, and how very difficult it is to get such a one under the present conditions. With proper pay and a proper uniform there would no longer be any such trouble to contend with. Why should not the masters-at-arms have the same privilege of becoming qualified as Mr. Niblack would hold out to the machinists? Their duties and responsibilities are by far more important than that of machinists, who are at all times under the eye and control of an engineer officer. Gun-captains should be paid at least $50 per month; those of the second class to get $45 per month; half the number allowed a vessel to be of the first class, the others of the second class. But ship’s corporals are the most neglected of the deck force, and should be brought to a higher plane, by means of better pay and a proper uniform. And since it seems to be settled that the days for marines afloat have about gone by, and their retention on shore merely a matter of time, ships should be allowed more ship’s corporals, so there could be one on duty, actively so I mean, at all times. At present these officers are simply an aggravation to the men, as their poor pay and lack of uniform seem to imply a poor-caste employee, and everyone knows how the men resent their control. Call them as now, or “assistant master-at-arms,” or any other proper title, only give them proper support by pay and uniform commensurate with their duties.I was struck with the force with which the idea of the utter uselessness of sail-power was advanced, and then by the idea that the third vessel attached to a recruiting station should be a sailing vessel upon which the recruits could be taught “seamanship, alacrity, signals, etc.” Why should they be taught seamanship when it is so utterly useless? Why take up such valuable time from boats, guns, etc., to give it to obsolete training? Oh, no! Do away with that expense, as signals, lead, knotting, splicing and every other thing except useless seamanship can as readily be taught on board a monitor. If the days of seamanship have gone by, drop it and at once take up some useful exercise, for we have no time to spare. As the essay says, alacrity can as easily be taught in the boats.
U.S. Training Ship Chesapeake in 1904.In my opinion, Mr. Niblack has advanced that only really sensible ideas and arguments in favor of keeping the marines ashore that I have ever seen in print or heard uttered. We no longer have room for extra men, and if we cannot trust the sailor-men now, the sooner we train them so they can be so trusted the sooner we will be better off. Of course I only refer to such trust as implies that they can do all the duties required on board ship, for when it comes to trusting them not to desert or not to get drunk, the records show that it is a case of “pull Dick, pull devil” between the two classes of men.The argument of degraded feelings, etc., I look upon as very puerile, and I cannot believe there are a half-dozen good men in the service who have ever felt that way. Of course we all know
- “No thief e’er felt the halter draw With good opinion of the law.”
- Every time we take a walk ashore in a large city we meet policemen, city marshals, constables or other officers of the law who are placed there for the purpose of arresting offenders, and yet I am very positive none of us ever felt the least degradation from having to see these men ready to arrest us should we commit a breach of the peace. Of course this only tends to show that it is those who fear them who feel any degradation from the presence of marines on board ship.But the matter of quarters is becoming a very serious question indeed. With our extra large engine force – and it seems as though we are always to have more than any other nation or service to do the same amount of work – we must, with the reduced space, do away with some one, and of course the regular man-of-warsman must stay. For here again comes in the object of a war-vessel’s existence. It is guns, guns! GUNS! ! Let us continually beat this fact into every one’s head. Let everyone understand that in these days of reduced crews every other department can stand a reduction, but that the guns must be manned. As Mr. Niblack says, what is there of Coast Survey now to be done which can for a moment compare in importance with training men for the new navy? What honor or gain is there or the new navy in the Fish Commission business? And yet the legitimate duty of the navy is suffering for men while both these useless services have many vessels fully manned from naval allowances.Lack of comforts is also much to be deplored. The new ships do not compare at all with old ones in that respect. An electric light is better than a candle, and a constant steam of water is better than the old hand-pump and draw-bucket style of flushing the heads; but surely life on board ship is not by any means made up of those two objects alone. The old black bag had about twice the capacity and fifty times the cleanliness and convenience of the present square bag and wire-locker. As far back as 1876 the Congress had far better bag racks, more roomy, more secure, cleaner, and in every way better than any now supplied to the new ships. These racks, as I remember, were put up under the direction of the executive officer with the ship’s force, and of course were torn down as soon as the ship went out of commission at a navy-yard. That seems to be the fate of all improvements put on board a ship when in commission. And right here it is proper to say that in all the discussions on the needs of a new navy, I have never seen what I consider the very greatest need properly referred to. It is this: “Naval constructors should be forced to go to sea to master the necessities of the service.” It is there alone that a full education on matters pertaining to ships can be obtained. One hour’s experience on a trial ship has been known to do more towards putting up weather-cloths breast-high for the protection of the officer-of-the-deck, than three months’ argument by officers of thirty years’ experience. Every squadron should have one or more constructors attached to it, who should serve at least six months on board of each class of ships of which the squadron is composed. They should be given the worst living rooms provided for officers, so they may the better appreciate what life on board ship means. No one can fully comprehend this until he has spent three years in a room next the pantry in a hot climate. Never a ship fits out but what the officers and the constructor are at loggerheads, and the reason is that lack of experience at sea keeps the latter from seeing the importance of the thousand and one seemingly little things which experience at sea has taught the officers are all-important for future comfort and efficiency. Can it be supposed that a constructor with experience at sea would ever have condemned anyone to live in such a place as the Yorktown’s wardroom?Too much cannot be said in praise of the idea advanced of having but one mess for the men. As stated, that system was adopted on board the Independence under Captain Rodgers, and the details worked out by Lieutenant Delehanty in such a way as to leave nothing to desire. Successive captains have but kept it up, and the system is so well grafted there that I doubt if their people would ever be contented with any other plan. A seagoing ship would require an officer to supervise it, and the pay department might have a few more figures to make in regard to the ration money, but even with that serious drawback, I think it should be adopted everywhere. In self-defense I will say that I had fully intended putting the plan in force on board the Mohican when ordered to command that vessel, but that about that time Lieutenant Delehanty received a letter from the then Chief of the Bureau of E. and R., which stated that that Bureau had under advisement or consideration a plan of messing something similar to that of the Independence, which was expected to be soon put in force. I awaited this bureau plan, and the crew lived the old way all the cruise.As Mr. Niblack says, it is the little things which add to or take from comfort, and therefore, among other little things, I would never agree to put numbers instead of watch-marks on the sleeves of the men’s shirts. It savors too much of the generally accepted idea of the man with the striped clothes. “Surely the sentimental man of this day would feel degraded by it.” And what good would such a change do? It would only be for the convenience of the officers, who, by the exercise of the slightest bit of memory, could as readily place the men by their faces.But above all I wish to take issue with the general tone of the essay, which carries with it the idea that the navy of the present and the immediate past carries in view none of the laudable objects advanced by the essayist. The essay says: “The handling and fighting of a ship’s armament is the true modern basis of the education and training of our men.” What is there modern about this? Has not this very same thing always been the basis of the education and training of our men? Most assuredly it has. Any one who thinks otherwise can certainly never have read either the Navy Regulations or the Ordnance Manual. Any seeming deficiency has not arisen from the absence of a proper object; it has not been that that the navy has had to contend against, but the unwillingness of those in charge to carry out the excellent system of drills laid down, for the reason that “energy should not be wasted on obsolete things.”
It is the spirit of “laisser aller” (which being liberally interpreted means “let her rip”), or anything you may choose to call it, which has of late years crept into the service, which is accountable for any lack of efficiency. It is the 10 A.M. boat, with morning quarters at 9:30 A. M., which has killed all military ideas. It is the constant clamor that the drills of the ship should suit the convenience of some extraneous object, which even goes to hurt the new navy, by distracting attention from military duties.
The military spirit should be fostered, for we need it; but, at the same time, teach that it is no part of a military spirit to expect the petty officers to do all the drudgery and drilling. Teach that the old adage, “If you wish a thing done, go do it, if not, send,” applies to military matters also; and that it is only that officer who takes an interest in his division and drills it properly, who is imbued with the military spirit which will be an honor to his ship, his service and his country. By all means teach the fundamental doctrine that “any duty which is given, or fails, to any person, is of sufficient importance to be well done”; and that so soon as anyone looks upon his plain duty as beneath him, so soon will that duty be neglected, and so soon will the general body suffer. Teach, above all things, that every person on board a man-of-war is put there for the convenience of the ship. That the ship is in no way for the convenience of the individual, and that by constant endeavor alone can any and everyone do the duty required of him by his country.
Lieutenant WM. F. Fullam, U. S. Navy. – The complication, extravagance, and general failure of the present messing arrangements are made laughably apparent. Imagine a hotel dining-room with a different caterer and a different bill of fare for each table – the naval plan! In this, as in
Machine gun drill in the USS Newark.other instances, the essayist, after a telling criticism, offers a sure and simple remedy. In the proposed galley plant and messing system no detail is forgotten. That a messing system so inherently bad should have survived so long is reason enough why officers should leave their cabins, wardrooms and staterooms more frequently and look about the decks for new ideas. There are important details of modern ship organization, ship discipline, and naval training as yet unconsidered and neglected by those whose duty it is to attend to such matters.”The navy offers at present a respectable and inviting career to only a few enlisted men, and to those only in such special ratings as ship’s writer, yeoman, printer, master-at-arms, and machinist.” This is a simple fact. That so many desirable men – a large percentage of the apprentices and most of the seaman-gunners – refuse to remain long in the service, is evidence enough that the navy is not “inviting.” We hear glowing accounts of what has been done for the blue-jacket in recent years – clothing allowance for apprentices, seamen’s savings banks, a “home” on receiving-ships, etc., – but, nevertheless, the best men, as a rule, do not stay. Our men, we are told, get better pay, better food, and more comfort than foreign sailors – but, nevertheless, the best men, as a rule, do not stay. And if they do not stay, may it not be well to find out why it is; and may it not be well to increase the inducements, if possible?The essayist has referred to many of the harassing conditions of life on board the modern cruiser. The American is not usually willing to submit to these conditions for three years, in order to secure a “home” for three months on board a receiving-ship, nor for the inestimable privilege of placing his tremendous earnings in a naval savings bank. And so an apprentice school is maintained and nine out of ten of the boys leave the navy before, or soon after, they are trained. A school for seaman-gunners exists – but “the seaman-gunners of to-day are the poorest paid, most seriously discouraged, and yet the most important class of men in the navy.” In other words, the men who satisfy the requirements of modern seamen, citizens of the United States, refuse to remain in the navy – simply because the systems of rating, promotion, rewards, and discipline ignore national institutions and defy human nature. These systems, judged by results – the true test – are miserable failures.It appears to be a matter of indifference to many whether the service shall contain citizens of the United States or not. The fact that about a dozen nationalities may be represented in the powder division gives them no concern. The essayist has referred to the increased importance and the manifold duties of the powder division. Guns will be powerless without ammunition. A rapid supply should be assured, and a heterogeneous crowd of foreigners, speaking many languages, should not be trusted with such important duty.The question of men is not considered as carefully as are matters relating to material and armament. And yet it is the most important of all questions affecting the efficiency of the navy. The man is the most important part of the mechanism of every weapon. If the man is lost as soon as he becomes efficient, if he does not remain a reasonable time in the service, the result of naval routine and drill is nil. Weapons and ships are worn out in drills, show and sham, if men remain undeveloped, or if they are lost to the service as soon as they become proficient. There must be a career for men, as well as for officers, if the navy is to be efficient in time of war.
The only promotion open to a blue-jacket is to the grades of petty officer. One in a hundred may secure a warrant, but this is a slim chance. The fact that petty officers have few honors and little authority in the navy is the secret of the trouble. If the only position to which a blue-jacket may aspire amounts to nothing, why should he remain in the navy? The Navy Regulations fix the status of petty officers as follows:
(1) “Petty Officers are not to exercise authority except in the department to which they belong, and over those placed immediately under their control. … ” This provision limits a petty officer’s authority within narrow lines.
(2) “Orderly Sergeants of Marines shall rank next after Master-at-Arms; all other Sergeants with Gunners’ Mates, and all Corporals with Captain of Afterguard.” A boatswain’s-mate outranks a sergeant, but the latter, not the former, is trusted in ship discipline. The gun-captains usually outrank marine corporals, but the former are not considered worthy of responsibility in ship discipline. Of what use is their rank?
(3) “Non-commissioned officers of marines are not to exercise military authority or command over those not of their corps, unless on guard or police duty …. ” But they are always on guard or police duty, and therefore they do exercise military authority over blue-jackets and petty officers, while the latter can never exercise authority over the marines, even on board ship – at last they are never permitted to do so. Here again rank is of no use to the petty officer. It is a sham.
(4) “When serving afloat, Petty Officers of the Navy shall take precedence of non-commissioned officers of marines holding the same relative rank …. ” But of what earthly use is this “precedence” to the petty officer? It is another sham. The petty officer “takes precedence,” to be sure, but the non-commissioned officer takes everything else – all the honors, the responsibility in ship discipline, the position next to the officers.
Marine Guard in the USS Essex.
It is plain, therefore, that petty officers – petty officers of the line – have little or no military authority. Why? Because the marine guard is present. There is no other reason. Petty officers cannot and never will be permitted to be efficient in a military sense until marines are withdrawn from ships. It is simply a question of choice – shall we have marines, or shall we have good petty officers? It is impossible to have both. Which is most valuable? This question has not been considered calmly nor logically by those who oppose the withdrawal of marines. They regard it is a corps question, a matter of small importance, and as an attack upon the marines. It is nothing of the sort. It is essentially a broad service question – the most practical of all service questions – a foundation upon which to build the proper system of naval training and discipline. No reason has ever been given to prove that petty officers should have the same position afloat that the noncommissioned officers have in an army. No reason has ever been given to prove that the men who must be trusted in battle cannot be trusted in time of peace. Every attempt to establish such an absurdity, every argument as yet published against giving the petty officer his proper place afloat, has been pitifully, pathetically and poetically weak. And it is remarkable that line-officers can advocate the perpetuation of this condition of things – the condition of all others that prevents the most desirable class of men from remaining in the service.
The duty ordinarily performed by the marines being now in the hands of petty officers and six enlisted men, replace the 36 marines by 36 bluejackets, and 30 of the latter may assist with the work. Mr. Niblack’s messing system would save five more working men, and assigning tailors, printers, barbers, painters and buglers to duty passing empty baskets saves five more, making forty men who can be added to the working force of the Philadelphia – a gain of over 30 per cent. Is this a corps question? Practical(?) officers would do well to think about it.
When there are fewer passengers on board ship, the service will be more “inviting” to those who do the work. When every man does his proper share of the work there will be contentment. When petty officers and bluejackets are not deprived of the best swinging billets, the choice duty and the posts of honor and responsibility, when they are permitted to stand next to their officers at all times and are rewarded for efficiency, the proper men will remain in the service.
A type of petty officer is needed who can control and drill the men to the same extent as non-commissioned officers of an army, and who can look out entirely for discipline when all enlisted men are needed for work.
A type of man is needed who can be a sentry when sentries are wanted, and who can work when sentries are not wanted. But a blue-jacket cannot be a sentry! This is funny – “funny” is the only term to apply to such a statement. It requires less intelligence to be a sentry than to do any of the hundred duties required of a sailor. No technical training whatever is needed. A raw recruit who doesn’t know the muzzle from the breech of a gun may be a good sentry. Obedience and attention are needed to be a sentry; that is all. If the sailor lacks these qualities, he should lack them no longer.
Petty officers and blue-jackets in the navy are the victims of tradition, sentiment, and conservatism – these three; and the greatest of these is conservatism. Conservatism denies to the man-of-warsman the chance to develop, and drives from the service the men who should be retained at all costs.
- Ensign A. P. Niblack U. S. Navy. – The sea-going corps of officers of the navy owe it to themselves to protest forcibly and vigorously against the proposed quarters and accommodations for the men they are to have under their charge, to do the work expected of them in some of the ships now building, particularly in the cruisers of moderate displacement and excessive horse-power. Such officers must have more to say and do with questions affecting the health, comfort, and efficiency of the men. Now that we are so short of men, the issue should be forced with the Coast Survey and Fish Commission. The seaman-gunner is the type of man we are after; yet no class of people in the service have one-half the grounds for complaint that they have had until recently, and have now to a great extent. If a circular-letter were addressed to each man who has, up to recently, qualified as a seaman-gunner, whether now in the service or in civil life, asking him what the grievances of this class are or were, I believe the invariable answer would be: Inequalities and injustices in pay and ratings, and vagueness and lack of system in training, particularly at Newport. More of the preliminary training of men must be done on shore and in training-ships where the process of weeding out should be facilitated, and only good men sent to sea-going ships. These should be well paid and well looked out for. As regards the question of marines, the marine corps will, no doubt, be able to work out its own salvation as well as it has in past emergencies. We must secure for our ships homogeneous crews, and uniformity in drill, routine, training and organization. We must secure for our men improved comforts and rewards for faithful service, and provide a career that will attract the best possible class of men into the service. Are we doing all we can?.