Our New Navy


By ADOLPHUS ANDREWS, Rear Admiral, U. S. Navy

Delivered at the 173rd Annual Meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of New York, May 1, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, p. 618-620.

GENTLEMEN: Today I have a double pride in this pleasant occasion. I am proud to have the privilege of addressing this splendid organization and equally proud to be here as the Navy's representative. Perhaps you gentlemen are wondering if, in these times, it would not be more appropriate for me to be at sea with the fleet. Although I have just finished almost three years at sea, I will admit to you that I would like to return to the fleet, for a sailor's home happens to be on the sea. However, I am here because the task of creating a new Navy, of building ships today is not only essential, but also one of primary importance.

My present job is the command of the Third Naval District, which takes in every naval activity in New York, Connecticut and northern New Jersey. In addition to this, I also command the newly created North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, which entails the defense of the coastal sea area from Cape Hatteras to Newfoundland. These two jobs require every ounce of energy on the part of myself and every officer and man serving under me. I might add

that it requires also the full and loyal cooperation of every patriotic American.

As much as I might wish to dwell upon the outstanding accomplishments of your organization, I must, of necessity, speak today upon what we are doing in the Navy and the serious task which lies ahead.

This is the 173rd Annual Meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of New York. It is interesting, and yet logical, to note that the United States Navy is a younger organization. With the birth of American commerce was born the necessity for its protection.

No one can impugn the high ideals of freedom in which this nation was conceived. Nor can their importance be slighted in the development of this country, and now—in its defense. It has been truly said: "Man can not live by bread alone." The American way of life denounces with all its moral vigor the mere existence of a man as a slave to an all-important totalitarian state. It will defend with every ounce of its blood the basic belief in the nobility of all men—the right to the four freedoms—of speech, worship, press and assembly.

This is the skeleton of our national life, the framework, without which we are so much jelly. But around this frame must be built the muscle and sinews of industry, through which must flow the vital life blood of commerce, to achieve a vibrant, healthy, progressive nation.

At the risk of being accused of crass materialism, I submit that the vital factor in America's greatness is her world commerce. The United States comprises the greatest free trade area in the world. This interstate commerce was the foundation on which we built our greatness. But today it represents only the basic minimum on which our world commerce has flourished to give us our present high American standards of living.

Today that foreign trade is being suffocated. Should it wilt and die in a Nazi-dominated world economy, so wilts American democracy. We cannot pretend to compete with slaves. But we shall not be supine before this mechanized monster. We won't suffer the miserable existence of slaved, but we will endure hardships as free men fighting for the right to live in a democratic society! It is not the mere worship of material prosperity—there is no inspiration in that alone—it is the love of the free American life that we are working so urgently to defend.

World commerce is not the end in itself, but it is the barometer which indicates the state of health of our democracy. Following this thought, our concern today is with the many trade routes that are now blocked. To reopen and protect these paths of commerce is the Navy's job.

In broad general terms, the Navy's mission is to execute national policy. The size of an "adequate Navy" therefore depends on that policy. Our Government's position in this present world crisis is now crystallized. It demands the active support of democracy wherever in the world it is threatened by aggression. The Navy must be expanded to meet these enlarged requirements.

The United States Navy has recently been revamped into three fleets—Atlantic, Pacific and the Asiatic. With the reorganization into these three fleets, the outlines of our new Navy was created. That super-Navy will not be entirely completed until 1946.

This new Navy of ours might be compared with a baby-it's easy to conceive but difficult to deliver. We can't legislate a fleet into being. We have got to build it with the sweat of our brows and with the intelligent cooperation of every patriotic American. In order to execute a plan for one hundred per cent expansion of our Navy, every phaseof its activity must be increased simultaneously. For our new Navy we need four essentials, three are new and one is old. To my mind all are equally important.

The first element is the production of material—ships, planes and equipment. The primary mission of the shore establishments of the Navy is to serve the fleet, to keep that fleet fully equipped, supplied and fit to fight. One of my very important tasks here as commandant of the Third Naval District is to build ships and to expedite to the maximum repairs and routine overhaul of the existing units, so that they may speedily rejoin the fleet. This vast project entails not only the actual building of a ship on the ways but also the procurement of the vast number and variety of materials and items that comprise our modern men-of-war. The flow of raw materials must be maintained. Highly skilled labor is necessary for the fabrication of this specialized technical equipment that goes into a modern ship. Bottlenecks must be eliminated.

Facilities are being expanded. The Navy has just taken over the Wallabout Basin and Market adjacent to the Navy Yard in Brooklyn to provide more docks and shops. Production schedules are being ever bettered. Three weeks ago the U.S.S. North Carolina was commissioned. Our first battleship in eighteen years. I am happy to report that her completion was four months ahead of schedule—thanks to the cooperation of workmen, supervisors and supplying manufacturers—gratifying but not sufficiently satisfying—we must do better. We are not putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today; we are desperately doing today what should have been done several years ago.

Time is essential. It is not necessary for me to mention the effect of strikes on this gigantic effort. Even as the operation of a modern fighting force is a vastly intricate and complex task, likewise is the creation of this force. The myriads of diverse materials and manufactured products that must be skillfully blended into a ship require the smooth flow of every production line and teamwork from all hands.

In order to distribute the work load more efficiently and speed up delivery of vital processed materials, the Federal machinery for "farming out" work has been created and we are now rapidly increasing the use of this system to save vital time.

The servicing of this fleet when completed is the second logical essential. Supply bases from which the fleet can secure provisions, ammunition, fuel and replacement equipment must be increased in proportion to the size of the fleet they serve. For example, the Bayonne terminal has just been acquired by the Navy, and construction is in progress there on the largest drydock in the world, and the necessary shops and barracks, storehouses, fuel and ammunition depots. Ships like the North Carolina consume thousands of gallons of oil an hour and expend ammunition at the rate of over ten tons of steel every fifteen seconds in battle.

The existence of readily accessible and conveniently located bases insure a fleet's mobility. The acquisition from England of the string of bases from Greenland to Trinidad serves three purposes: First, it lessens the possibility of attack on our coast; second, it provides outposts with magnificent advantages of position from which to challenge such attack, if and when it should come; and third, it extends the effective range of our fleet and increases its striking power through mobility achieved by supply bases located near the scene of operations. Work on these bases proceeds apace with our ever-expanding facilities along our mainland. A major factor of the effectiveness of the German army today is the mobility achieved through the mechanized or panzer units. The same principle applies to sea power. The rightbases increase the fleet's effectiveness through increased mobility.

The projected fleet will comprise over 730 ships, and, gentlemen, that requires trained men. This is the third new essential for the new fleet. Already we have more than doubled the officer and enlisted personnel in the last eighteen months. This accomplishment is evidence of the excellence of our present organization. I ask you to consider the implications of a 100% expansion of personnel in any organization—from a family to a large industrial corporation. But we must now face the task of doubling our size again. New training stations have been created. We are now enlisting men at the rate of 5,000 a month. The Naval Academy cannot turn out officers sufficiently fast, so officer schools such as the U.S.S. Prairie State, at 136th Street and the Hudson River, have been created. By September of this year we will be delivering new junior officers to the fleet at a rate of 5,000 per year. We now have 6,000 reserve officers on active duty. I am proud to say that from the lowest apprentice seaman to the highest ranking officer, both regulars and reserves, the Navy is a volunteer organization. Not only have we never resorted to a draft in the history of the United States Navy, but also, three men apply for every one that meets the standards and is enlisted.

Naval operations, like all other forms of modern warfare, is no longer a simple task. Gone are the rough-and-ready sailors of yesterday. Mind you, those sailor men proved their salt in the hardest, toughest life imaginable. They served well in those trying days, and with their brother patriots on shore helped to establish this free land of ours. But today, specialization requires a superior type of man. The average sailor today is a high school graduate many have had one year or so of college. They are intelligent, enthusiastic, loyal, hard-working—full-blooded Americans. My hat is off to them. I have just come from the command of the scouting force of the fleet. I have seen these men and worked with them. I know how full is their measure of devotion and how great is their contribution to our national safety. No navy in the world today has superior officers and men. It is these men who form the very backbone of our fleet.

Ships and bases are building, men are in training, but one more essential ingredient is necessary to mold this material into a living, vital, fighting force. That, gentlemen, is morale. The intangible essence, the spark of heart and soul which will produce the performance we may so sorely need so soon. This is the old essential. The tradition of our Navy is a glorious one. These new men must be imbued with it and it must permeate every drill, every preparation, every operation of the fleet's activities. Without it, John Paul Jones would never have shouted: "We have not yet begun to fight." and then stepped from his own sinking ship to sail away as victor in his opponent's ship.

This, then, is our new two-ocean Navy. Actually, it is our new three-fleet Navy. Our present fleet is capable of operations in either ocean, but our new fleet will be able to conduct major operations in both simultaneously. It will be superior to any combination of fleets extant or contemplated in the world today.

But do not discount our present fleet in being—this first line of defense of ours represents the finest, the most efficient fighting force afloat today! Our naval aviation arm is superior in both numbers and performance to that of any other navy in the world. In tactics, gunnery, morale—in every operation—our fleet is ready—stripped for action. I am proud to say that when I relinquished command of the scouting force of the United States fleet, that advance unitof our Navy had undergone twenty-four months of the mostextensive training exercises ever performed, and was and remains ready to get under way from fleet anchorage prepared for battle on short notice!

Unfortunately, we can't wish this new Navy into being. As the Secretary of the Navy recently testified before the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, "We need time to build ships and to train their crews. We need time to build up our outlying bases so that we can operate our fleets as a screen for our continent." The officers and men of our fleet today are working twelve and fourteen hours a day to achieve the necessary training in the shortest time. This part of our program cannot be speeded up further. The ships, bases, and all other equipment must be produced at a maximum pace. As Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek said "A little more perspiring now will save a great deal of blood later on." There is no such thing as production being ahead of schedule—rather we should only think of some phases being further behind than others—for we are several years late. The effort to retrieve that mistake must be magnificently superhuman. Remember that the Navy stands or falls by its strength at the time war comes. The ships we planned in 1916—our last battleships—were not completed until 1921-1923. The war was then over! Our projected new fleet will not be completed until the end of 1946. Do you need more proof of the frightful urgency and the vital necessity for speed?

This United States Navy of ours, present and building, constitutes, in my mind, our greatest bulwark for national security. It has been called our first line of defense. This is, in a way, a half statement, for if a navy be worth its salt, it must be capable of proceeding to any place on the high seas, to take the offensive and defeat the enemy, thus denying his approach to our waters. The best defense is still an active offense.

When international morality breaks down, as at present, a policeman is needed, just as when a disturbance occurs in our neighborhood block a policeman is called—and when he is needed he must be able to cross the street; likewise, now that Great Britain needs our help, we must be able to deliver that aid, not sit by and watch our materials rotting on docks for lack of ships, or sent to the bottom of the sea. Unless we supply ships, planes and material to Great Britain sufficiently fast and in sufficient quantity, her cause may be lost. Every single activity under my command in this area is working day and night, not only in building ships for our fleet, but also in repairing British ships and in supplying material aid to England. We have been criticized for wanting to keep our "business as usual" signs out. We must be able to get out a new sign, "business booming," in order to supply beleaguered England.

That's only half the job. We must make this potential aid an aid in fact by insuring its delivery. Gentlemen, if that means convoys, then we must convoy. Otherwise, we might as well resign ourselves to England's defeat and start preparing for a life struggle for America itself—alone.

Should England fall, where are your ships of commerce? One need only to look at the Normandie laid up in the North River to have the answer. We would have to surrender our world trade, if only temporarily, and start fighting the most difficult uphill comeback in history. But as Colonel Knox said last week: "We won't surrender, and we will fight."

Do not for a moment, gentlemen, underestimate the seriousness or urgency of the present critical situation. There can be no peace for us until the present chaos is eliminated. We must fight for our way of life. Whether that fight be economic war, or a flesh and blood struggle—racing world events will soon disclose. We must prepare now for any eventuality.