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in the short war with Spain, which was decided with such rapidity because of the infinitely greater preparedness of our Navy than of the Spanish Navy.
While awarding the fullest honor to the men who actually commanded and manned the ships which destroyed the Spanish sea forces in the Philippines and in Cuba, we must not forget that an equal meed of praise belongs to those without whom neither blow could have been struck. The Congressmen who voted years in advance the money to lay down the ships, to build the guns, to buy the armor-plate; the Department officials and the business men and wage-workers who furnished what the Congress had authorized; the Secretaries of the Navy who asked for and expended the appropriations; and finally the officers who, in fair weather and foul, on actual sea service, trained and disciplined the crews of the ships when there was no war in sight-all are entitled to a full share in the glory of Manila and Santiago, and the respect accorded by every true American to those who wrought such signal triumph for our country. It was forethought and preparation which secured us the overwhelming triumph of 1898. If we fail to show forethought and preparation now, there may come a time when disaster will befall us instead of triumph; and should this time come, the fault will rest primarily, not upon those whom the accident of events puts in supreme command at the moment, but upon those who have failed to prepare in advance.
There should be no cessation in the work of completing our Navy. So far ingenuity has been wholly unable to devise a substitute for the great war craft whose hammering guns beat out the mastery of the high seas. It is unsafe and unwise not to provide this year for several additional battle ships and heavy armored cruisers, with auxiliary and lighter craft in proportion; for the exact numbers and character I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Navy. But there is something we need even more than additional ships, and this is additional officers and men. To provide battle ships and cruisers and then lay them up, with the expectation of leaving them unmanned until they are needed in actual war, would be worse than folly; it would be a crime against the Nation.
To send any war ship against a competent enemy unless those aboard it have been trained by years of actual sea service, including incessant gunnery practice, would be to invite not merely disaster, but the bitterest shame and humiliation. Four thousand additional seamen and one thousand additional marines should be provided; and an increase in the officers should be provided by making a large addition to the classes at Annapolis. There is one small matter which should be mentioned in connection with Annapolis. The pretentious and unmeaning title of “naval cadet" should be abolished; the title of " midshipman,” full of historic association, should “
, be restored.
Even in time of peace a war ship should be used until it wears out, for only so can it be kept fit to respond to any emergency. The officers and men alike should be kept as much as possible on blue water, for it is there only they can learn their duties as they should be learned. The big vessels should be manoeuvred in squadrons containing not merely battle ships, but the necessary proportion of cruisers and scouts. The torpedo boats should be handled by the younger officers in such manner as will best fit the latter to take responsibility and meet the emergencies of actual warfare.
Every detail ashore which can be performed by a civilian should be so performed, the officer being kept for his special duty in the sea service.
Above all, gunnery practice should be unceasing. It is important to have our Navy of adequate size, but it is even more important that ship for ship it should equal in efficiency any navy in the world. This is possible only with highly drilled crews and officers, and this in turn imperatively demands continuous and progressive instruction in target practice, ship handling, squadron tactics, and general discipline. Our ships must be assembled in squadrons actively cruising away from harbors and never long at anchor. The resulting wear upon engines and hulls must be endured; a battle ship worn out in long training of officers and men is well paid for by the results, while, on the other hand, no matter in how excellent condition, it is useless if the crew be not expert.
We now have seventeen battle ships appropriated for, of which nine are completed and have been commissioned for actual service. The remaining eight will be ready in from two to four years, but it will take at least that time to recruit and train the men to fight them. It is of vast concern that we have trained crews ready for the vessels by the time they are commissioned. Good ships and good guns are simply good weapons, and the best weapons are useless save in the hands of men who know how to fight with them. The men must be trained and drilled under a thorough and well-planned system of progressive instruction, while the recruiting must be carried on with still greater vigor. Every effort must be made to
exalt the main function of the officer—the command of men. The leading graduates of the Naval Academy should be assigned to the combatant branches, the line and marines.
Many of the essentials of success are already recognized by the General Board, which, as the central office of a growing staff, is moving steadily toward a proper war efficiency and a proper efficiency of the whole Navy, under the Secretary. This General Board, by fostering the creation of a general staff, is providing for the official and then the general recognition of our altered conditions as a Nation and of the true meaning of a great war fleet, which meaning is, first, the best men, and, second, the best ships.
The Naval Militia forces are State organizations, and are trained for coast service, and in event of war they will constitute the inner line of defense. They should receive hearty encouragement from the General Government.
But in addition we should at once provide for a National Naval Reserve, organized and trained under the direction of the Navy Department, and subject to the call of the Chief Executive whenever war becomes imminent. It should be a real auxiliary to the naval seagoing peace establishment, and offer material to be drawn on at once for manning our ships in time of war. It should be composed of graduates of the Naval Academy, graduates of the Naval Militia, officers and crews of coast-line steamers, longshore schooners, fishing vessels, and steam yachts, together with the coast population about such centers as life-saving stations and light-houses.
The American people must either build and maintain an adequate navy or else make up their minds definitely to accept a secondary position in international affairs, not merely in political, but in commercial, matters. It has been well said that there is no surer way of courting national disaster than to be “opulent, aggressive, and unarmed.”
It is not necessary to increase our Army beyond its present size at this time. But it is necessary to keep it at the highest point of efficiency. The individual units who as officers and enlisted men compose this Army, are, we have good reason to believe, at least as efficient as those of any other army in the entire world. It is our duty to see that their training is of a kind to insure the highest possible expression of power to these units when acting in combination.
The conditions of modern war are such as to make an infinitely heavier demand than ever before upon the individual character and capacity of the officer and the enlisted man, and to make it far more difficult for men to act together with effect. At present the fighting must be done in extended order, which means that each man must act for himself and at the same time act in combination with others with whom he is no longer in the old-fashioned elbow-to-elbow touch. Under such conditions a few men of the highest excellence are worth more than many men without the special skill which is only found as the result of special training applied to men of exceptional physique and morale. But nowadays the most valuable fighting man and the most difficult to perfect is the rifleman who is also a skillful and daring rider.
The proportion of our cavalry regiments has wisely been increased. The American cavalryman, trained to manœuvre and fight with equal facility on foot and on horseback, is the best type of soldier for general purposes now to be found in the world. The ideal cavalryman of the present day is a man who can fight on foot as effectively as the best infantryman, and who is in addition unsurpassed in the care and management of his horse and in his ability to fight on horseback.
A general staff should be created. As for the present staff and supply departments, they should be filled by details from the line, the men so detailed returning after a while to their line duties. It is very undesirable to have the senior grades of the Army composed of men who have come to fill the positions by the mere fact of seniority. A system should be adopted by which there shall be an elimination grade by grade of those who seem unfit to render the best service in the next grade. Justice to the veterans of the Civil War who are still in the Army would seem to require that in the matter of retirements they be given by law the same privileges accorded to their comrades in the Navy.
The process of elimination of the least fit should be conducted in a manner that would render it practically impossible to apply political or social pressure on behalf of any candidate, so that each man may be judged purely on his own merits. Pressure for the promotion of civil officials for political reasons is bad enough, but it is tenfold worse where applied on behalf of officers of the Army or Navy. Every promotion and every detail under the War Department must be made solely with regard to the good of the service and to the capacity and merit of the man himself. No pressure, political, social, or personal, of any kind, will be permitted to exercise the least effect in any question of promotion or detail; and if
there is reason to believe that such pressure is exercised at the instigation of the officer concerned, it will be held to militate against him. In our Army we cannot afford to have rewards or duties distributed save on the simple ground that those who by their own merits are entitled to the rewards get them, and that those who are peculiarly fit to do the duties are chosen to perform them.
Every effort should be made to bring the Army to a constantly increasing state of efficiency. When on actual service no work save that directly in the line of such service should be required. The paper work in the Army, as in the Navy, should be greatly reduced. What is needed is proved power of command and capacity to work well in the field. Constant care is necessary to prevent dry rot in the transportation and commissary departments.
Our Army is so small and so much scattered that it is very difficult to give the higher officers (as well as the lower officers and the enlisted men) a chance to practice manæuvres in mass and on a comparatively large scale. In time of need no amount of individual excellence would avail against the paralysis which would follow inability to work as a coherent whole, under skillful and daring leadership. The Congress should provide means whereby it will be possible to have field exercises by at least a division of regulars, and if possible also a division of national guardsmen, once a year. These exercises might take the form of field manœuvres; or, if on the Gulf Coast or the Pacific or Atlantic Seaboard, or in the region of the Great Lakes, the army corps when assembled could be marched from some inland point to some point on the water, there embarked, disembarked after a couple of days' journey at some other point, and again marched inland. Only by actual handling and providing for men in masses while they are marching, camping, embarking, and disembarking, will it be possible to train the higher officers to perform their duties well and smoothly.
A great debt is owing from the public to the men of the Army and Navy. They should be so treated as to enable them to reach the highest point of efficiency, so that they may be able to respond instantly to any demand made upon them to sustain the interests of the Nation and the honor of the flag. The individual American enlisted man is probably on the whole a more formidable fighting man than the regular of any other army. Every consideration should be shown him, and in return the highest standard of usefulness should be exacted from him. It is well worth while for the Congress to consider whether the pay of enlisted men upon second