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Secretary MEYER. I do not think so; but the conditions were very different from what they are to-day. The ships are three times as large.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. Any ship can go up to New Orleans?
Secretary MEYER. For commercial purposes. There is always nervousness when any captain takes a ship up there. When you take a unit up there worth $16,000,000, with the risk of running aground with the slightest turn of the helm, that is a very dangerous and unnecessary risk.
Mr. EstoPINAL. There have been very few cases where ships have run ashore in the last 10 years.
Secretary MEYER. I took the responsibility, but it was a risk, of sending a battleship up the Mississippi River. I have done it each year; but when we have sent ships up that river they were the smallest and shortest ships. Any captain will tell you that it is a great risk to take a ship worth $10,000,000 or $15,000,000, with a fair chance of running it aground because the channel in the Mississippi River is changing all the time. It is naturally so and necessarily so.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. Not up to New Orleans ?
Secretary MEYER. The engineers of the Army will tell you that the jetties are changing and that there is great risk in taking a big battleship up there. It would also be easy to bottle them up.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. If they were bottled up there, our fleet would have to be defeated first?
Secretary MEYER. Any ships bottled up are as powerless as if defeated.
Mr. GREGG. You said that it was generally conceded that the future war will be in the Caribbean or Gulf?
Secretary MEYER. The Caribbean or the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.
Mr. GREGG. What provision is made for repairs? Secretary MEYER. We have developed Guantanamo for repairs of a limited character, and I will give you a statement of what has been done there.
Mr. GREGG. For such repairs as would be necessary in case of war?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; not yet. We are building shops-power plant, oil tanks, etc.—which will be completed in six months, but these are not sufficient in case of war.
Mr. GREGG. Can you make all the repairs that would likely arise by reason of a fight?
Secretary MEYER. The present repair facilities at Guantanamo are so limited as to make it an almost negligible quantity so far as repairs to the fleet are concerned, in fact many of the battleships have better facilities than Guantanamo. Minor repairs can, however, be made to barges and small craft.
When the improvements contemplated to be made with the $378,500 appropriated for the purpose of an emergency repair station by the act of March 4, 1911, have been completed, this will still be only an emergency repair station and only minor repairs can be undertaken.
With these improvements and a dry dock of sufficient size to receive any battleship the facilities for repairs would not be materially increased, and would not be those necessary for repairs to a fleet in case an engagement took place in the Caribbean Sea.
To answer the specific question, we could not make the repairs likely to arise by reason of a fight.
If a dry dock is constructed at Guantanamo, provision should also be made for the proper repair facilities which would naturally go with such a dock.
On the basis of cost for the repair facilities at the Pearl Harbor station, it is roughly estimated that these necessary facilities would cost about $2,500,000.
Mr. GREGG. Suppose we lose control of the sea, what base of refuge have we?
Secretary MEYER. If we lose control of the sea we will not need any. Mr. GREGG. Temporarily!
Secretary MEYER. We have also stations which are being completed on the Panama Canal.
Mr. Gregg. Is that a base of refuge?
Secretary MEYER. No, sir; that is a place where there will be a dry dock 1,000 feet long.
Mr. ESTOPINAL. On the Atlantic side?
Mr. GREGG. Suppose it should be necessary for the fleet to temporarily seek a harbor of refuge awaiting reinforcements ?
Secretary MEYER. Guantanamo is the only harbor where we could put the whole fleet. We have just signed a treaty with Cuba by which we secure control of the hills around Guantanamo. We have made arrangements for a water supply. We are spending the money appropriated, and we have made it absolutely of a character which will bring the greatest return. It is important to have a dry dock or a floating dock there.
I am recommending an expenditure of $30,000 for a recreation building for the enlisted men at Guantanamo. During the winter months there are present on board vessels of the fleet at Guantanamo about 16,000 men, whose health and contentment require that they get out of their ships from time to time for recreation on shore. There being no city or settlement at Guantanamo for their recreation the men are dependent in this important item of the fleet's efficiency entirely upon the facilities furnished by the Navy. It is therefore most important that an appropriation be made for this recreation building.
I want to transgress a moment and then I will take up the general question again. I want to strongly recommend to the committee this recreation building for the sake of the men. It is a very small amount, but they are down there for three or four months. We have a splendid range for firing, we have a great big harbor where 50 or 100 ships can lie, it is tropical in character, and there should be a recreation building where they can be out of the heat and have their exercise and their recreation. It would be a very useful thing as well as a humanitarian thing.
The CHAIRMAN. We have before us some copies of the blue prints with reference to the designs.
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir. I hope the members of the committee will unanimously grant that request.
The policy of the navies of the world is to keep their fleets intact, to use the largest harbors which can contain the fleet in time of perce
or in time of war, harbors where those fleets can run into ports with ease and without risk. There are very few habors where that can be done. The fleet can be maintained at Narragansett Bay, Norfolk, which is known as Hampton Roads, and Guantanamo. Even at New York, with the great deep Hudson above the harbor, it is a detriment to commerce for the fleet to run in there, but for a mobilization there is no place where so many people can see the Navy and get an object lesson; there is no place where so many people congregate in a given space as around New York Harbor, and with the banks of the North River and the roadway on each side it enables the greatest number of people to have an opportunity of seeing the fleet. Even to do this I have to get all the harbor regulations of commerce assigned to the Secretary of the Navy for three or four days, in order that we can accomplish it with the least detriment to commerce. It has been demonstrated in England that the old harbors are no longer going to be suitable for the navy, and they are building, at an expenditure of 10,000,000 pounds ($50,000,000), a great naval base in the north of England, near the boundary line of Scotland, and for us to consider now taking small harbors or rivers for naval bases is verging on the ridiculous.
We have to face the question as it exists, and therefore we have to realize that the places where the fleet can base are those three great bays-Narragansett Bay, Hampton Roads, and Guantanamo, and on the Pacific side San Francisco, Puget Sound, and Pearl Harborwhere the fleet can rest without detriment to commerce and with the minimum amount of risk. I want to bring that to the attention of the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. Speaking of Guantanamo and the dock, a year ago you stated to the committee that, while we would need docking facilities, you were not prepared to say whether it should be a graving dock or a floating dock.
Secretary MEYER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you given any further consideration to that matter, and have you any definite conclusion as to the character of dock?
Secretary MEYER. I think at Guantanamo a graving dock is practicable, right in the locality where we are making the repair station, and taking all things into consideration, I think one should be built there, but a floating dock also for the Atlantic coast would be of the greatest service to the Navy as a whole. At Guantanamo there is a great deal of water--about 45 feet of water--where we are putting the shops, and, if desired, the floating dock could be put there. At the same time we should have a graving dock.
The CHAIRMAN. A floating dock would need more than 45 feet of water?
Secretary MEYER. Fifteen feet more.
The CHAIRMAN. Has the matter been taken up officially with the experts?
Secretary MEYER. I asked the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks to look into that matter, as far as the proposed site is concerned.
Mr. GREGG. If that is to be the seat of war, should not more attention be paid to that station !
Secretary MEYER. Decidedly. Others besides military and naval experts are realizing its importance as the canal nears completion. The experts agree with you, Mr. Gregg.
Mr. GREGG. Has it ever been urged on the committee?
Secretary MEYER. Yes.; they started to build a dry dock. I have no fault to find with the committee.
The CHAIRMAN. The committee appropriated $350,000?
Mr. GREGG. Should not the docking facilities be settled as quickly as possible?
Secretary MEYER. Yes. As I stated to the committee, I was not prepared at that time until we got our repair facilities nearer to completion to state definitely whether it should be a graving dock or a floating dock. The floating dock would be of great benefit to the Navy at large, but, on the whole, a graving dock at Guantanamo is the most important, and I wish to urge its construction at the earliest date practicable.
Mr. GREGG. A floating dock would necessitate dredging 15 feet deeper?
Secretary MEYER. Just where the dock would be placed, there are 45 feet there. It is not necessary to have a channel, but simply where the dock is located.
Mr. ROBERTS. I want to call Mr. Gregg's attention to the fact that the act of April 27, 1904, appropriated $200,000 for a dry dock at Guantanamo.
Mr. GREGG. That was abandoned ?
Secretary MEYER. Until three years ago, and then this committee acted on my suggestion.
Mr. ROBERTS. There was $385,000 appropriated that year.
Secretary MEYER. We have something to show for all the money appropriated, not, however, in the way of a dock which they did not continue. We have a coaling station and a splendid rifle range. We have a camp there for the marines, and one or two houses for the officers who are stationed there. We have a partial water plant.
Mr. BATES. In the event of war, if the demonstration should be in the Atlantic Ocean, the fleet would not strike for the great cities, but strike for the mouth of the canal!
Secretary MEYER. The experts have not any doubt in their minds that there would be nothing to be gained by making an attack on a great city. The fleet is coming from a long distance. It can not waste its powder throwing shells en shore. It has to keep it for the great event, and that is meeting the fleet of its opponent. It has to econcmize for that.
Mr. BATES. Would that be at Guantanamo?
Secretary MEYER. The Caribbean will probably be the theater of operations, because the Panama Canal is the strategic point.
Mr. Bates. Along the same line, in case a hostile fleet should sail from the other side of the ocean, would not they in all probability be intercepted at Pearl Harbor ?
Secretary MEYER. Their objective would probably be the same, the Panama Canal, the Isthmus. The safety of the Pacific coast is in the naval base we are establishing at Pearl Harbor. The Army and Navy are working in conjunction one with the other to make that a great Gibraltar, impregnable eventually.
Mr. BATES. With land fortifications? ?
Secretary MEYER. With thorough land fortifications, a complete naval base. Those have been worked out in great detail and with great care. The channel has been completed. The dock has been lengthened, with the consent of Congress last year, to 1,000 feet. That dock will be completed probably the 1st of January, 1915. There have been some delays, due to the character of the bottom of the dock there, which has been remedied by the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks.
Those problems have now been solved, and we expect rapid progress from now on. The Army and Navy have worked out plans together. The Pacific coast is not in danger as long as that remains free, because a foreign fleet would not attack the Pacific coast leaving Pearl Harbor as a base fully protected behind them.
Mr. GREGG. Going back to Guantanamo, what facilities have we there now, repairing facilities, either completed or in the process of construction?
Secretary MEYER. We have planned out a repair station and we have put up buildings. I told you that I wanted buildings that were of the simplest character and not expensive construction, on account of the climate.
The present repair facilities of the hull division of the Guantanamo Naval Station are limited. There is a small marine railway suitable for making emergency repairs to coal barges and similar small craft; the shop buildings consist of a few small shedlike structures; the machine tool equipment consists of one 3 feet 2 inches by 5 feet Gould & Eberhardt lathe, one 3 feet 2 inches by 4 feet Star wood lathe, and one 6 feet by 19 inches Niles-Bement-Pond Co. drill. In addition to these machine tools there is a small outfit of miscellaneous shop equipment, such as vise bench, grindstone, a forge, etc.
The equipment of Guantanamo for the repair of machinery is so limited as to make it almost a negligible quantity so far as repairs to the fleet are concerned. The tools are few in number and of capacity to handle only the repairs of the small craft attached to the station and those of the launches attached to the Cape Cruz-Casilda survey. They could not be of any use in handling such repairs of the fleet as are beyond the facilities that the battleships themselves possess.
The fill over the site of the station is practically completed, together with a timber wharf 550 feet long, 35 feet of water on one side and 6 to 10 feet on the other.
All the steel buildings provided for, namely, woodworking shop, storehouse, and machine shop, have been completed, except for the placing of the window sash, which has just arrived. A small paint shop and a building for storing docking gear to be used on the marine railway have yet to be built.
Structural steelwork 50 per cent completed; foundations of the building are entirely completed. Foundations for the machinery are under way. With the exception of the ice plant and the distilling