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Victory without Peace: The United States Navy in European Waters, 1919-1924

Victory without Peace: The United States Navy in European Waters, 1919-1924

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Victory without Peace: The United States Navy in European Waters, 1919-1924

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866 pagine
12 ore
Pubblicato:
Feb 20, 2017
ISBN:
9781682470152
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Libro

Descrizione

Victory Without Peace is about the US Navy in European and Near Eastern waters in the post World War I era. It is the third book in the author’s study of the US Navy in European waters. The author discusses the Navy’s participation in the peace negotiations at Versailles. The Navy was involved carrying out the naval terms of the Armistice and peace negotiations and in efforts to preserve stability and peace created by the war, revolutions, civil wars, famine and general unrest. US warships were deployed in the Near East, the Baltic, northern Europe, and the Adriatic at the same time that demobilization was withdrawing these forces from European waters. The United States Navy for the first time contributed to these peacetime efforts. It set a precedence that the Navy still carried out today. This deployment was handicapped by demobilization, general naval policy and the postwar reduction of personnel and operating funds as a result of Congressional appropriations. The Navy was reluctant to allocate forces to European and Near Eastern waters considered after the war to be of little importance to the United States. Nonetheless, under pressure from the State Department and Herbert Hoover, as head of the American Relief Administration, forces were deployed and played significant roles in carrying out their responsibilities. Most of them were withdrawn by 1924 and the European Station assumed the traditional policy of showing the flag.
Pubblicato:
Feb 20, 2017
ISBN:
9781682470152
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

William Still (1821-1902) was an abolitionist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Known as the “father of the Underground Railroad,” Still gave hundreds of escaped slaves refuge. He was a historian, writer, civil rights activist, and businessman. Still also worked for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society as a clerk. In 1847, Still married Letitia George, and together they had four children, one of which went on to become a notable doctor. Still published his book The Underground Railroad in 1872, detailing the experiences he witnessed while serving as a conductor of the Underground Railroad.

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Victory without Peace - William Still

Victory

Without Peace

Titles in the series:

Progressives in Navy Blue: Maritime Strategy, American Empire, and the Transformation of U.S. Naval Identity, 1873–1898

Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945

Studies in Naval History and Sea Power

Christopher M. Bell and James C. Bradford, editors

Studies in Naval History and Sea Power advances our understanding of sea power and its role in global security by publishing significant new scholarship on navies and naval affairs. The series presents specialists in naval history, as well as students of sea power, with works that cover the role of the world’s naval powers, from the ancient world to the navies and coast guards of today. The works in Studies in Naval History and Sea Power examine all aspects of navies and conflict at sea, including naval operations, strategy, and tactics, as well as the intersections of sea power and diplomacy, navies and technology, sea services and civilian societies, and the financing and administration of seagoing military forces.

Victory

Without Peace

The United States Navy in European Waters, 1919–1924

William N. Still Jr.

Naval Institute Press

Annapolis, Maryland

Naval Institute Press

291 Wood Road

Annapolis, MD 21402

© 2018 by William N. Still

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

978-1-68247-014-5 (hardcover)

978-1-68247-015-2 (eBook)

All photos are from the U.S. Naval Institute photo archive.

Print editions meet the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.48-1992

(Permanence of Paper).

Printed in the United States of America.

26  25  24  23  22  21  20  19  18 9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1

First printing

CONTENTS

PREFACE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INTRODUCTION

  1.  THE NAVY AND THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE

  2.  DEMOBILIZATION

  3.  REMOVAL OF THE PILLS OF PERDITION

  4.  GERMANY AND THE BALTIC

  5.  COALITION PEACEKEEPING: THE ADRIATIC

  6.  THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND NORTHERN EUROPE

  7.  THE BLACK SEA EXPRESS

  8.  REFUGEES AND RELIEF

  9.  THE SMYRNA CRISIS

10.  CHANAK AND CONSTANTINOPLE

CONCLUSION

NOTES

BIBLIOGRAPHY

INDEX

PREFACE

After World War I the Navy considered Europe to be a backwater and overwhelmingly emphasized the Pacific instead. The Battle Fleet would be transferred to the Pacific in 1919, but even with the Armistice the year before, Admiral William Benson, the Chief of Naval Operations, was determined to get the naval vessels deployed in European waters home as quickly as possible. Doing so, however, proved to be impossible. The United States assumed responsibilities that kept American warships in European waters and the Near East for several more years.

The deliberations and decisions of the peace conference in Paris were key factors in U.S. naval operations in European waters in postwar Europe and the Near East. The United States would withdraw from the conference in December 1919, but the Navy’s commitment to the distant missions it had undertaken would continue. James Cable in his book Gunboat Diplomacy points out that coercive diplomacy, an alternate to war, is intended to acquire objectives from another state. Showing the flag, as another writer points out, is nothing more than a gentle reminder of the presence of the naval force in question.¹ The U.S. Navy between 1919 and 1924 did occasionally engage in coercive, or gunboat, diplomacy. Generally, however, foreign policy in peacetime prefers traditional diplomacy to achieve its ends, and the Navy was governed accordingly. Between the Armistice in 1918 and the complete withdrawal in 1919, the Navy in European waters emphasized peacekeeping and commerce protection, usually characterized as showing the flag. Until 1924, humanitarian operations constituted a third major mission. During the Russian Revolution and the Turkish-Greek war and the like, these tasks were difficult to accomplish. Nationalistic and ideological movements, compounded by foreign intervention, created a most confusing and complex situation for the United States and its navy.² This volume ends in 1924 with the withdrawal of U.S. naval vessels from Near Eastern waters and in general the return to the normal peacetime activities of showing the flag.

Books have histories too. This is the third volume of a study of the U.S. Navy in European waters from the end of the American Civil War until the station was abandoned in 1929. The first volume, American Sea Power in the Old World, covered the period from 1865 to 1917; the second, Crisis at Sea, concerned the Navy’s involvement in World War I. This volume addresses the operations of U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters from 1919 to 1924. Like the first volume, Victory without Peace concentrates on naval and diplomatic activities and the protection of American citizens and property. It also, however, emphasizes the important role that the Navy played in large-scale humanitarian missions, a kind of activity new to the service. The years 1919–24 were marked by revolution, civil war, international conflict, and other upheavals caused by the just-ended world war, and the U.S. Navy found itself intimately involved in this turmoil. The Navy was especially caught up in the Near East (or Middle East, as it is often called), and at one time I planned to write a study of the Navy’s operations in that region. Fortunately, Bob Shenk has now covered that ground in his excellent America’s Black Sea Fleet (2017). I have included the Navy’s involvement in the Near East in my study, avoiding duplicating with Bob’s work where possible. I have agreed with some of his conclusions and disagreed with others. Inevitably we used many of the same sources, but surprisingly he had sources of which I was not aware and I had some that he did not cite. Considering the topic, I suspect that there are sources known to neither of us.

Military terminology has changed with the ages—as relating to weapons, weapon systems and technology, tactics, and even strategy. Strategic bombing, ground zero, and more recently embedded are examples. The terms mobilization and demobilization were introduced in the American military in World War I. This book examines naval demobilization in Europe extensively—material that is, admittedly, boring but has not been studied before and is, I think, important. This is not only the first conflict in which the U.S. military experienced coalition warfare but also the first in which it deployed hundreds of thousands of men abroad to fight and then brought them home. Demobilization of the U.S. Army, particularly the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which went to Europe during the war, has received considerable attention. Industrial demobilization and its effect on the American economy have also attracted historians. Naval demobilization not as complex as that of the AEF, but it too—with hundreds of vessels, bases, and air stations in the war zone—was extensive. Even without precedents to draw upon, it was successfully accomplished. Nonetheless, it has generally been ignored.

It is hard to believe that I began research for these three volumes on the U.S. Navy in European waters more than forty years ago. Much of it was done when I was the Secretary of the Navy’s Scholar in Residence at the Navy Yard, 1989–90. I continued research for the present volume afterward. In those decades historical research and writing have changed dramatically. My earliest writing was on a typewriter, a fact that at times I find hard to believe. Note taking was primarily by hand; copying was expensive. Progress came in time, of course, with microfilm and other copying processes; the National Archives and other repositories microfilmed thousands of documents and manuscripts. There were few personal computers until the 1980s, but eventually computers would revolutionize research and writing. Repositories have digitized their collections, making them accessible without having actually to visit them.

Despite these changes and others taking place as I worked, I decided to cite documents and manuscripts archivally, in the media in which I examined them, not as they might be cited today. When writing Crisis at Sea and to some degree this volume, collections (and record groups in the National Archives) that I was using were reorganized. For example, National Archives Record Group 45 was reboxed while I was working on Crisis at Sea, and unfortunately I had used box numbers to identify documents. I had to devise letter designations, no easy matter. Also, over the years a great many personal papers and official documents have been published, some in bound volumes, such as the Woodrow Wilson Papers, and some on microfilm, such as documents in various National Archives record groups and The National Archives (TNA) of the United Kingdom. I used published editions in some cases but again have cited them as I researched them. Even repositories have changed their names—the Naval Historical Center, in Washington, D.C., became the Naval History and Heritage Command; in Britain the Public Records Office combined with three other institutions to become The National Archives, in Kew, London.

When I started my research, many veterans of World War I and the post–World War I years were still alive. In 1971 and even later I was able to get in touch with a number of them. I received from them personal reminiscences, correspondence, a few photos, and other memorabilia, much of it quite helpful. I regret that over the years I neglected to identify every person who helped with this study. The ones that I do remember are named in the acknowledgments.

In the course of writing this study, Mildred, my wife of fifty-six years, passed away. For some time after her death I did not have the heart to resume writing, but in time I did so, realizing that she would have expected me to finish it. She helped me in my writing in more ways than I can say. This book is dedicated to her, my life.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First and foremost I would like to acknowledge the support of the Naval Institute Press, particularly that of Richard Russell, director; Susan Todd Brook, senior acquisitions editor; Emily Bakely, senior production editor; and Pelham Boyer, copy editor. I also want to thank Dane Hargrove for translating Russian for me; Tom Adams, for translating French; the late Raimondo Luraghi, for Italian; and Mike Kovacevic, Serbo-Croatian. Geoffrey Rossano provided a great deal of information relating to demobilization of naval air stations, and Candace Clifford, who sent me pertinent documents from the U.S. National Archives, was most helpful.

Others helped me in a variety of ways. To those individuals, in various institutions, whose names I have forgotten, my sincere apologies. Though the list is incomplete, my thanks to Charles Brodine, Pete Capeletti, Candace Clifford, Dennis Conrad, Michael Crawford, Jonathan Dembo, William Dudley, Paul Halpern, J. Dane Hartgrove, Susan Holland, Don Lennon, Beverly Lowe, Raimondo Luraghi, Geoffrey Rossano, Michael Simpson, David White, Ed Wiser, Gina C. Woodward, and Todd Woodfenden.

INTRODUCTION

The war is over! Victory! Although the Armistice agreed to on November 11, 1918, did not officially end the war, for Americans from President Woodrow Wilson to the lowest seaman the war was over, period. Nearly twenty months earlier, on April 6, 1917, the president had signed the war resolution bringing on conflict with Germany and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The United States had joined the Allies (Great Britain and its Commonwealth nations, France, and Italy) as an Associated Power, not an Ally as in World War II. Though America was a latecomer to the war, its participation was crucial. The American Expeditionary Force (AEF), under the command of General John J. Pershing, reached the theater of war far quicker than the German high command had expected and with far more soldiers than it had believed possible. These invaluable reinforcements allowed the Allied armies to turn the tide on the western front. In warships, the Allies had a distinct advantage in numbers but were committed to a blockade, to guarding the North Sea and English Channel against a still-respectable German High Seas Fleet, protecting the sea-lanes against U-boats and raiders, and holding in check the Austro-Hungarian fleet. During the war the U.S. Navy deployed nearly four hundred ships in European waters. A large percentage comprised destroyers or other units engaged primarily in antisubmarine operations and convoying. Without these vessels, it is conceivable that the Allies might have lost the war.¹

The Navy Department created a command, U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters, to cooperate with the Allies in the war zone. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels appointed Rear Admiral William S. Sims to take charge of this force. A brilliant but iconoclastic officer, he irritated and at times angered his superiors with a frankness bordering on intolerance with any who disagreed with him. Nevertheless, he created a highly effective staff.² Under Sims’ direction this organization now assumed responsibility for demobilizing and sending home the American naval forces.

The Sixth Battle Squadron had been the most powerful American force in European waters during the war. Consisting of six battleships under the command of Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, it had operated as a unit of the British Grand Fleet. Its crews now anxiously awaited orders home, but Admiral Sims dashed their hopes, intimating that the battleships would not be sent home immediately.³ Two events delayed them: the surrender of the High Seas Fleet and President Wilson’s arrival in Europe. The president had decided to lead the American delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference. The conference would open in Paris in January, but Wilson left for France early in December, the first American president to leave the nation’s shores while still in office.

Operation ZZ, the surrender and internment of the German surface vessels, took place on November 21, 1918. Units of the Grand Fleet, including the American battleships, met the humbled fleet off the Scottish coast and escorted it to the internment site at Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands. Admiral David Beatty, commander in chief of the Grand Fleet, suspected that the Germans might not surrender without a last fight; the more than three hundred Allied vessels, formed in a double line some twenty miles in length, were at battle stations. No incident occurred, and the Allied fleet, led by the American battleships, escorted the German warships to their anchorage. An American Marine who witnessed the day’s events wrote, It was a wonderful, almost terrible sight, and it gave one a feeling of embarrassment at looking on at another’s shame. The USS Florida’s commanding officer wrote his sister afterward that it was a disgraceful sight. It was a disgrace to the profession…. [P]ersonally I had a bad taste in my mouth when we stood back to the anchorage.

A few days after the surrender, the American battleships departed for Isle of Portland, on the western entrance to the English Channel, to await the arrival of the president.⁵ On December 5, American minelayers that had been maintaining the North Sea mine barrage from the Orkneys to Norway got under way from bases in Scotland, also bound for Portland. As they passed anchored Royal Navy warships, the British crews lined the rails and cheered. Upon clearing the British vessels, silence was maintained while passing the German ships.

On December 13, 1918, the USS George Washington (a passenger liner, formerly German, interned at the outbreak of war and commissioned as a troopship) steamed into the misty foggy harbor of Brest, France, and anchored. President Woodrow Wilson was on board, accompanied by his new wife, Edith, staff, selected advisers, correspondents, and others who had been allowed to accompany him. The George Washington had departed from Hoboken, New Jersey, nine days before, escorted by the battleship Pennsylvania and a squadron of destroyers. Some eighty miles out from Brest, thirty destroyers of the United States Naval Force in European Waters joined the escort. As the armada approached the French coast, an airship and aircraft flew overhead.

Additional vessels, American and French, attached themselves to the escort. These included the battleships Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Nevada, New York, Wyoming, Texas, Arkansas, and Florida, as well as U.S. vessels based in Brest and in Queenstown, Ireland. The Nevada was under orders to replace the Florida with the Sixth Battle Squadron, but the Florida was permitted to remain with the squadron for the transit back to the United States.⁷ The battleships, destroyers, and other units of the European force had assembled at Portland, within a day’s sailing of Brest: the Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma from Bantry Bay and the Sixth Battle Squadron from Scapa Flow, by way of the Firth of Forth.

Rear Admiral Sims had designated the Wyoming as his flagship, but his desire to lead the combined naval force and the liner into Brest was denied by Admiral Henry Mayo, in command of the Atlantic Fleet (and of course senior to Sims), who was present on the Pennsylvania. As the George Washington entered the harbor, the battleships fired twenty-one-gun salutes, after which the band of Mayo’s flagship played the Star-Spangled Banner. Brest-based American armed yachts and small French vessels marked the channel into the harbor. This naval assemblage constituted the largest force of U.S. warships ever assembled, up to that time, outside the continental United States. A rather martial display for a democratic President, a reporter for the London Times commented.

The force dispersed as quickly as possible, many on board the American ships anxious to get to the States in time for Christmas. Some of the battleships took on fuel (i.e., coal) overnight and got under way early the following morning for New York, flying their homeward-bound pennants, their lengths proportional (in British practice) to their time deployed; one was 750 feet long. (The battleships had originally been ordered to Hampton Roads, in Virginia, but the Secretary of the Navy agreed to allow them to go first to New York for liberty.)⁹ The three oil-burning battleships, along with many of the destroyers, returned by way of the island of Portland, in the English Channel. The short-leggers—that is, the ships unable to cross the Atlantic without refueling—went by way of the Azores and Bermuda. The same was true of the yachts, known as the suicide fleet. Those based in France left on December 5, in two divisions. The armed yacht Venetia, along with warships that had been operating in the Mediterranean and out of Gibraltar, also returned home, fueling in Gibraltar and Ponta Delgada, Azores, and some in Bermuda.¹⁰ Not all would immediately go home, however.

The Navy presence in Europe was being shut down with the end of the war, but soon that was more complicated a matter than sending the ships and men home. Admiral Sims pointed out the problem to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO): he was beginning to be assigned tasks in what would become known as the European Station, tasks that required ships and men, the exact number as yet undetermined. In the weeks and months that followed the Armistice, Sims and his staff juggled demobilization versus these commitments. Ships and men that expected to be homeward bound found their deployments extended. Warships would be needed for years to come; the station would not be disestablished until 1929.

The postwar period was one of significant change for the Navy. New weapons and types of ships—especially aircraft and aircraft carriers—came to the fore, and the fleets were reorganized, with increasing emphasis on the Pacific. Another dynamic arose from the tension between the demands for, on one hand, a fleet second to none and, on the other, disarmament.¹¹ Domestically, the country went through both economic prosperity and recession. Diplomatically, it was marked by what historian Henry Steele Commager called withdrawal from the responsibilities of World order, or as most historians have preferred, isolationism, or at least selective isolationism.¹² The Navy’s policies, of course, were determined by national policies, which in turn were a result of public attitudes, as well as of economic, political, or international affairs.¹³

The 1920s, so far as the Navy was concerned, saw what the contemporary historians Margaret and Harold Sprout termed a popular revolt against navalism. They argued (1940) that after World War I, with the obvious exception of naval officers and those few civilians dedicated to a powerful fleet, the country abandoned its interest in the Navy, allowing it to be reduced in ships and personnel.¹⁴ Of course, American military forces have been reduced at the end of most of the nation’s conflict. In this case, however, isolationism—perhaps better, neutrality—and even pacifism, along with economic and domestic concerns, contributed to this attitude. Public opinion embraced that feeling, and congressional hearings and the expressed sentiments of most presidential administrations of the period reflected it.

The influence of this zeitgeist began almost with the signing of the Armistice and gathered steam during the months that followed. In December 1921 the CNO, Admiral Robert E. Coontz, testified before the House Appropriations Committee concerning the new commitments of the naval forces in European waters, connected particularly with the Russian Revolution, humanitarian relief efforts, and Greek-Turkish conflict. Although the force in the Adriatic Sea had been withdrawn, U.S. warships in European waters were steaming more than those of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets—because of the international situation[,] which demanded [their] presence. Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby was obliged to detail for the president how the Navy was planning to reduce fuel consumption, including vessels in European waters.¹⁵

Long-standing British-American naval rivalries continued throughout the twenties, particularly in preparations for conferences. Both British and American naval officers were to be rather hostile to the Washington Naval Conference of 1922 and its results. However, at the Geneva Naval Conference in 1927, Admiral Beatty, no friend of the American navy, would complain, The Geneva Conference is not going too well. Those d——d Yanks are very tiresome and ridiculous and very sensitive. American naval leaders and their political supporters warned of possible conflict with Great Britain or Japan and of the impossibility of protecting commerce without adequate naval protection—all to no avail. Money was scarce, due not to economic factors but to policy.¹⁶

President Warren G. Harding, who had entered office in March 1921, favored a strong navy, as did Denby—the navy second to none that the Navy’s General Board, an influential senior advisory body, advocated. Prominent members of Congress, led by Senator William E. Borah, however, were inclined to seek naval equality with Great Britain through not shipbuilding but disarmament. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes—who had been the Republican presidential nominee in 1916—agreed and called for a conference in Washington to discuss limitations of naval armaments. The ensuing Washington Naval Conference of 1922 concentrated on capital ships—battleships and battle cruisers—agreeing to a fixed ratio among the major sea powers. A holiday in the construction of new capital ships for ten years was proposed and accepted. The final Treaty of Washington also called for scrapping obsolete warships: in 1921 a total of 321 ships had already been placed out of commission. The naval appropriation act of 1922 resulted in further reductions; during the 1922–23 fiscal year the Navy decommissioned 112 more vessels. As a result of the treaty some twenty-one battleships and battle cruisers were sold or scrapped.¹⁷ Very few new warships were to be constructed until 1933.

Congress and the naval leadership disputed everything from repair costs to shore facilities and personnel. Admiral Coontz, who had replaced William S. Benson, the Navy’s first CNO, got into a squabble with Representative Patrick H. Kelly of the House Appropriations Committee about fuel consumption. Coontz, in his autobiography, was to recall that he was so adamant in his defense of naval funds that members of the Appropriations Committee went to President Harding to have him fired as CNO—without success. The admiral even declined to meet with representatives who came to the Navy Department.¹⁸ Coontz also refused to agree to any reduction in enlisted personnel; Mr. Kelly, thereupon, became my enemy for life. Congressmen such as Fiorello H. LaGuardia (an army officer during the war) were well aware that naval officers were past masters at using publicity and propaganda to influence legislation in the Navy’s favor.¹⁹

Indeed, the personnel issue in the Navy, particularly enlisted, was most troublesome issue. Throughout the period naval vessels were poorly manned, certainly not up to wartime strength, even with the fleet’s reduction. The scarcity of enlisted personnel started, of course, with the end of the war and the discharge of thousands of sailors who had enlisted for the emergency. In November 1919 a Washington Post headline declared, Navy Decay a Peril. Secretary Daniels stressed to a congressional committee that warships were lying in Navy yards, undermanned or unmanned. A gunnery officer wrote later, The year was a discouraging one … no money with which to steam and shoot, discharging large numbers of officers and men back to civil life, and retrenching all along the line. A future admiral, J. O. Richardson, wrote, The Navy Department is fully alive to the demand of the country for economy…. There were no combined maneuvers on account of lack of appropriation.²⁰

During 1922 hearings Navy officials first requested some 143,000 enlisted men, then 106,000; obvious congressional hostility finally led Denby to reduce the figure to 96,000. Much to his chagrin and that of other naval officials, Congressman Kelly proposed a force of 65,000 men. The Secretary of the Navy responded that this number was impossible, that the small forces in Asian and European waters would have to be withdrawn, since they no longer protected American interests. In time a compromise was worked out permitting the Navy an enlisted force of 86,000. In order to man the fleet Coontz closed a number of naval stations and other facilities, including sixteen radio stations, and reduced personnel at others. Nevertheless, and despite dire predictions in testimony to Congress, the number of sailors was adequate in the years after 1921.²¹

The size of the officer corps was also a problem. In November 1918 there were 3,222 temporary regular officers and 14,807 reserve officers on active duty. With the Armistice the overwhelmingly majority of both categories wished to be released. The Navy would be seriously handicapped if all were demobilized, particularly temporary officers, for whom the Navy’s authorization would expire on the last day of December 1921. The Navy sought to have the temporary officers transferred to permanent status. Congress refused. All were granted their release, reducing at a stroke active officer strength by 11 percent. By June 1924 there were only fourteen reserve officers on active duty. A chronic shortage of naval officers continued throughout the twenties despite the annual commissioning of Naval Academy graduates.²²

Calvin Coolidge, who had become president in August 1923 when Harding died suddenly of illness, was at first lukewarm toward the Navy but in time agreed, on the urging of Curtis Dwight Wilbur, his Secretary of the Navy, to sponsor a program to build the Navy up to treaty strength. Congress refused to go along. When Herbert Hoover was elected president, Wilbur remained secretary, but the new president’s hostility to the Navy led Wilbur to offer his resignation. His replacement, Charles Francis Adams, disagreed with many of Hoover’s economic policies toward the Navy but loyally supported him. It is perhaps ironic that Hoover, who had depended heavily on the Navy when he was in charge of relief efforts in Europe, became one of its harshest critics as president—doing, in fact, as Gerald Wheeler has written, severe damage to the Navy.²³

The Navy went through various reorganizations during the decade after the war. In January 1919, the Secretary of the Navy (then Daniels) renamed the Atlantic Fleet the U.S. Fleet. The Panama Canal having been completed just before the war, he now began shifting units of the fleet to the Pacific—Germany being clearly no longer a threat. Six months later, in acknowledgment of this move, he dropped U.S. Fleet in favor of Atlantic and Pacific Fleets. On December 8, 1922, the new Secretary of the Navy, Denby, reestablished the U.S. Fleet, which would remain until 1941. The new organization comprised permanent forces based on type and, as one writer noted, was stationed in both oceans but anchored in neither. Although various units would be concentrated on the East Coast, the bulk of the battle force (battleships) would be on the West Coast. Ships on foreign stations were, whenever possible, to be relieved by vessels of the same type or class. The secretary of state, Hughes, had some reservations about the change but did not object to its implementation.²⁴

The European Station was affected by changes as well. The 1922 reorganization, driven principally by the Washington Naval Treaty, saw the U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters renamed Naval Force, Europe, commanded by a vice admiral, under U.S. Fleet.²⁵ This designation would remain in place until the station was abandoned in 1929. Probably due to its commitments, this force was not seriously affected by reductions during the first two years after the war. Substantial resources were available to its commander, including replacements for ships rotated home; there is little evidence of personnel problems.²⁶ This favorable situation changed in May 1921, when the General Board recommended that the force in European waters, including the Turkish Detachment, be substantially reduced. It recommended further that the Turkish Detachment’s commander, Rear Admiral Mark Bristol (later a chairman of the General Board), assume the European Station command as well, leaving only one flag officer in the region. Admiral Albert Niblack, at that time the Naval Force, Europe commander, strongly disagreed, arguing for maintaining a strong fleet in European waters. Coontz, the CNO, replied that because of congressional cuts in number of enlisted personnel there was no choice.

In June Niblack was informed that he would lose two cruisers and a number of destroyers. Secretary Denby told Secretary Hughes that the European Station would be substantially reduced, leaving a total of ten destroyers, two cruisers, two subchasers, and the patrol craft Scorpion. In August the secretary of state was informed that as a result of greatly curtailed naval appropriations, additional ships would have to be withdrawn from Europe immediately and that it is hoped to be able to reduce this force still further at an early date. In September Denby advised Hughes that a third cruiser would be ordered home, along with further reductions that left on station only six destroyers and a tender. Admiral Niblack gloomily predicted the elimination of the European Station by the summer of 1922. Secretary Denby sent a long memo to the president that emphasized that the absence of modern scout cruisers obliged destroyers—such as those in Turkish waters—to perform a variety of duties that properly required cruisers.

Notwithstanding the financial pressure, however, the continuing threat to Americans and American interests in Europe and, particularly, the Near East, forced the administration to maintain ships on the station. The Navy Department continued playing hard nose with the allocation of vessels, trying to reduce the number in European waters.²⁷ From the Armistice until 1924, indeed, the Navy’s responsibilities in European and Near Eastern waters were extensive, involving everything from participating in the Paris Peace Conference’s decisions and actions, often as quasi diplomats, to removing the North Sea mine barrage and demobilizing wartime infrastructure. Also, naval vessels carried out missions in Russia, in the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Seas, and in the Near East. Occasionally, as in northern Russia, they saw some combat. After 1924, with rare exceptions, the European Station’s missions were primarily the traditional one of showing the flag and representing the United States at formal occasions and diplomatic events, often at the request of local American officials. Naval officers rarely made policy but, as they had long done, carried them out.

A warship is a physical symbol of a nation’s power in peace as well as in war. The deployment of warships on distant stations in peacetime is an accepted tool of national policy. The fundamental mission of these warships on distant stations has remained constant: to carry out the policies of their government. How U.S. warships in Europe did so in this period is the subject of this volume. In decisions affecting distant stations, the State Department often played as important a role as that of the Navy Department. Yet, as Admiral Chester Colby wrote, American [naval] officers may be advised by the regular diplomatic agents abroad, but such agents cannot direct them what course to take…. They are responsible for their acts directly to the Commander-in-Chief, the President. What applies to State Department officials at home is true even for the secretary of state: naval movements are not directly subject to State Department orders. Nonetheless, as noted historian William A. Williams has written, in the 1920s the Navy was the most powerful military voice in the formation of foreign policy. Unsurprisingly, in 1920 Admiral Benson argued that the CNO should have direct access to the president and cabinet members in matters relating to foreign policy.²⁸

In May 1919 Admiral W. B. Caperton, who had just reported to the CNO’s staff after commanding the Pacific Fleet, outlined at length for the CNO his ideas concerning the diplomatic mission of the Navy. If the primary mission was preparation for war, he argued, naval presence in various parts of the world was at least a secondary one. In fact, during most of the past century, he wrote, the accomplishment of this diplomatic mission was the primary mission of the Navy. To that end he recommended the establishment of permanent foreign stations.

The Navy’s Planning Committee reviewed his recommendations and generally disagreed with them as tending to weaken the battle fleet, in which vessels of military value are to be concentrated. It opposed reestablishing distant stations (some of them dating from the previous century), even, over the long term, the European one. It recognized the necessity for a sizeable naval force in European waters at the moment, but present requirements [are] regulated by [the] international situation. Upon resumption of normal conditions, the station should be covered by occasional visits of divisions or units of the Fleet.²⁹

The committee’s reservations, however, were ignored, at least for then. More than likely it was the State Department that made clear the importance of naval vessels on foreign stations. Dudley Knox, a contemporary naval officer and historian, wrote that along with promoting overseas commerce, the primary role for the Navy in peacetime was diplomatic peacemaking. In fact, he held, the Navy was the greatest peacemaker in government. Naval officials emphasized this role in public quite often.³⁰

At times, however, the State and Navy Departments disagreed. In 1921–22 there was a running controversy over whether or not diplomatic officials in foreign ports should be notified in advance of visits by American warships. In those years the Navy in European waters was deeply involved in relief efforts that sent its vessels in and out of various ports frequently and often without previous notification. The Secretary of the Navy insisted that the commanding officer of the ship or the force’s commander should decide on particular port calls on their own authority: emergencies did arise (riots, repairs, fuel, etc.) requiring prompt visits. The State Department continued to insist on prior notice notification regardless of circumstances. Neither department gave in, but eventually Secretary Denby agreed that local diplomats would be notified if at all possible.³¹

Americans have traditionally responded to other people’s sufferings with food, medical services, and clothing. This was certainly true in the post–World War I years; there were large-scale relief projects in the Near East and Europe. Near Eastern countries, particularly Turkey, had long been the scene of American missionary and philanthropic activities—schools, hospitals, and religious institutions. On the outbreak of World War I more than a thousand Americans were involved in these endeavors, and there were still large numbers in the region after the war.³²

If humanitarianism was the major driver of the Navy’s missions in the Near East, support to commercial interests was also important.³³ President Coolidge is quoted as saying that the business of the United States was business—and commerce is business. The United States emerged from World War I the world’s leader in international finance. The other powers simply could not compete with American business interests, and few could compete with the American banks, which had loaned so much money to the Allied cause during the war. As early as Wilson’s final years as president, the country was expanding its economic interests abroad. During the war a significant share of German and Allied commerce was taken over by the United States, and after the war foreign commerce increased.

No one was more actively involved in the expansion of American commerce than Wilson’s head of the American Relief Administration, Herbert Hoover, and the chairman of the U.S. Shipping Board, Edward Hurley. Hurley worked to expand American foreign trade through his influence over a merchant marine that was rapidly catching up and surpassing that of Great Britain. Hurley was well aware of the trade rivalries that developed after the war. So were Edward M. House, known as Colonel House, a diplomat and close adviser to Wilson; Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt; and Admiral Benson, as CNO. Benson pointed out to the president that commercial interest is underlying every factor under consideration by the various nations, except ourselves, a statement that obviously was not entirely correct.³⁴ Hoover, who had directed relief throughout Europe and the Near East after the war, recognized that these efforts would undoubtedly open doors for American trade.

By no means were these the only figures in Wilson’s administration to take advantage of the economic situation after the war to strengthen American commerce. In March 1920 the president wrote to Under Secretary of State Frank Polk that he foresaw heated commercial competition with Great Britain in the postwar years. He recommended, however, restraint and cooperation with the British, recognizing that nation’s dependence on ships and trade.³⁵ All realized that they were stepping on Britain’s economic toes. The British had dominated the world’s carrying trade before the war, only to see it seriously decline with U-boat sinkings.

Indeed, long-standing Anglo-American commercial rivalry resurfaced during the war. Eric Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty, journeyed to Washington in September 1918 to negotiate a deal whereby the British would repair American ships in exchange for a number of tankers. The Wilson administration refused the exchange. What started out as a problem concerning repairs evolved into a serious political disagreement primarily concerning postwar economic trade rivalries.³⁶ Major-power meetings and discussions at the peace conference and afterward made it clear that economic rivalries, particularly between the United States and Great Britain, would continue in the postwar years.

There was considerable wrangling over the distribution of the German merchant marine. Also, the naval battle of Paris concerning the size of the American navy vis-à-vis that of Great Britain was partly a result of developing commercial rivalries. There was also contention over cable censorship, American representatives claiming that the British delayed or censored cables concerning American commercial interests. It was a common belief in the U.S. naval officers corps that, as Admiral Niblack expressed it, Great Britain and the United States should be rivals in foreign markets.³⁷ It should be pointed out that recent work has shown that there was far more cooperation between the United States and Great Britain in economic matters than previously recognized.³⁸

Nevertheless, for their part, the British, including the Admiralty, were concerned about the growth of American commercial interests and its effect on their own economic power. An Admiralty memo about U.S. policy bore a note that the American trade policy is the thing that concerns us. Their naval and military programs need not be taken seriously at present. Lord Chief Justice Rufus Isaacs wrote in his diary that [Eric] Geddes and I both [told the prime minister] that Americans were doing their best to appropriate the trade of the world, and that while Wilson was doing the big pow-wow, American commercial men were busily preparing their plans and putting them into execution.³⁹ Commander John Godfrey (later an admiral) agreed: Take Turkey as an example. Instead of troops, America sent commercial travelers. It is true that most of them were in uniform and that their more apparent object was relief or Red Cross work, but to all intents and purposes they were members of commercial missions working hand in hand with, and to some extent under the guise of charity, and meanwhile their trade rivals, the British, granted them transport and other facilities and kept order for them.⁴⁰ This was not true but a case of mirror-imaging by the British, who were aggressively pursuing trade privileges in South America, the Near East, and elsewhere.⁴¹

Raw materials were the most contentious issue between the United States and Great Britain. Oil was the key raw material. During the war, the U.S. and Royal Navies, as well as the two nations’ merchant marines, rapidly transitioned their ships to oil fuel, for which the war soon demonstrated the crucial need. Shortage of oil during the conflict—the Admiralty stressed how close it had come to running out—undoubtedly was a major reason why the British government now prioritized making sure such shortages would not happen again. In fact, the British worked toward gaining a monopoly of oil. In 1920 an agreement between Great Britain and France divided the petroleum resources of former German and Turkish colonies, as well as similar resources in Russia and Rumania. American demands for access to these resources under the open door policy were ignored by the former allies. British policy was to block American oil interests, including exploration, in the Near East.⁴²

In 1919 the United States too was concerned about its oil reserves. It had provided 80 percent of the oil to the Allies during the war, but now the active fields were drying up. The Navy Department in 1919 restricted ship and fleet operations not only because of the economy and manpower but also because of the limited fuel supplies. Secretary of the Navy Daniels was greatly concerned about the oil situation. The financier and presidential adviser Barnard Baruch, at the Paris Peace Conference (to which he was a delegate), told Daniels not to worry: There will be no difficulty in American interests assuming their fair share of the oil development of the world for protection of the world, for America, and in particular of the United States Navy. His optimism was based on the concept of the open door.

Unfortunately, he was wrong. The wartime allies, particularly the British, had no intention of opening the door for American oil development. In an undated memo someone, probably a naval officer, emphasized to Daniels the necessity of persuading the British to accept U.S. oil development in the Middle East: Our National safety, the maintenance and expansion of our foreign and domestic trade, must depend in part measure upon the assurance to the U.S. of continued supplies of petroleum.⁴³ American officials strongly resented British determination to control foreign oil supplies and limit the access of U.S. petroleum companies to them. These constraints were especially true for the Near East. Because the United States had not declared war on Turkey and was not one of the occupying powers there, the Allies generally ignored its demands, including for oil rights. Congress’s refusal to accept a mandate for Armenia made things worse. In May 1920 the State Department accused the British of violating the peace conference’s guarantee of equal opportunity by awarding to British companies advantages not permitted to Americans.⁴⁴

American naval officers of the twenties overwhelmingly recognized the transcendent importance of protecting and stimulating U.S. commerce. This recognition had been popularized by Alfred Thayer Mahan in his Influence of Sea Power upon History, linking a strong merchant marine to a strong navy. In the twenties Mahan’s philosophy was officially accepted by the Navy and incorporated in a policy document. Admiral Coontz, when CNO, wrote, The Navy is an investment in the nation in a way other than that of protecting trade. The Navy is a developer of trade. In that same year the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) published a booklet, The United States Navy as an Industrial Asset. Admittedly a piece meant to enhance the service’s importance among members of Congress and the general public, it nonetheless expressed the Navy’s policy toward business. The General Board on more than one occasion stressed the Navy’s contribution to commerce. Secretary Daniels appealed to that link to get the 1920 naval budget approved. The influential Army and Navy Journal, in an editorial praising the Navy and its support of business interests in the Near East, quoted the Chicago Association of Commerce: [The region] will remain open to us as long as we back up our diplomatic and commercial efforts by the influence of a strong naval force.⁴⁵

The U.S. Navy in European waters in the immediate postwar years could not only protect American interests but actively further their expansion, including those of business. It did so as it carried out the missions it was given by the American delegates at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Commerce, however, was not the American peace commissioners’ primary concern. Their true concern was a treaty enforcing the Armistice terms by establishing and preserving peace and stability throughout Europe and the Near East—missions that would intimately involve the U.S. Navy.

CHAPTER 1

THE NAVY AND THE PARIS PEACE CONFERENCE

The war to end all wars had an unusual effect on American military personnel. A member of Admiral Sims’ wartime staff wrote that instead of bringing relief it seemed to create anxiety, engendered as much as anything else by confusion over the world’s future. The same unease was felt by many diplomats. Christian A. Herter, later secretary of state and a member of the American delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, wrote his wife, We are sitting on top of a volcano and sooner or later it is going to erupt, scattering Europe pretty profusely with general anarchy.¹ It did not take long for Herter’s prediction to become a reality: revolutions, civil wars, famine, unrest, and strife confronted representatives of various nations as they met in Paris to deliberate peace. The convening of the peace conference in Paris excited some hope, but as the meeting got under way it became apparent that bickering and national ambitions were also present.² It did not help that while the leaders were deliberating in Paris, many of them were under attack at home, particularly the Big Four—Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Vittorio Orlando—who represented the most powerful nations.

The peace conference lasted more than a year, although American official participation virtually ended earlier. Hundreds of delegates and experts descended upon Paris, crowding hotels already overwhelmed by Allied and American military personnel. Thirty-four nations were officially represented, although representatives from other nations, mostly newly proclaimed, showed up. Representatives from the defeated nations were not allowed to participate in the deliberations despite President Wilson’s declaration of A Peace among Equals, based on his Fourteen Points. Participants began arriving in December, and the conference officially opened on January 12, 1919. There were five American commissioners to the peace conference. Headed by President Wilson, they included Secretary of State Robert Lansing, Henry White, Colonel Edward M. House, and General Tasker H. Bliss. The president sometimes met with the leaders of other important nations; when he was absent one of the other commissioners represented the United States in the conference proceedings. The commissioners, usually someone other than Wilson, routinely met with advisers and technical staff. It was apparent almost from the beginning that other than the plenary sessions, the most important deliberations and decisions were being made by a Council of Ten and the Big Four. The latter became five when the Japanese participated. The Council of Ten also decided on the memberships of the numerous commissions and committees. In mid-February the president briefly went to the United States. When he returned to the conference he generally ignored the Council of Ten in favor of the Big Four and, unlike before the trip home, rarely met with his advisers and technical staffs. This put him at a distinct disadvantage; other leaders nearly always brought advisers to meetings with them.

The conference dealt not only with terms of peace for the defeated nations but also with civil wars, revolutions, and other crises in many countries. Although the delegates frequently disagreed vehemently, in time they accomplished a great deal. They remade the map of Europe, with the creation and recognition of Poland, Yugoslavia, and other states. They dismembered Austria, so too the Ottoman Empire. The defeated countries were occupied, forced to disarm, lost their colonies, and obliged to pay, through reparations, the cost of the war. But despite military and diplomatic efforts, the peace commissioners were unable to save the remnants of czarist Russia or prevent Kemal Ataturk from seizing power in Turkey after defeating Greece in war.

Wilson, the idealist, had little success with the more experienced national leaders. To him the creation of a League of Nations was a panacea that would solve most international problems, and he reluctantly sacrificed his ideals of peace among equals, self-determination of peoples, and freedom of the seas to create it. As is well known, unfortunately, it made little difference—the U.S. Senate rebuffed him and voted down the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. The vote had ramifications far beyond what the peacemakers or senators envisioned: a Lost Peace, in the words of historian Thomas Bailey. Today, the thousands of documents generated by the conferees, particularly the Americans, leave an impression of the futility of it all.

Nevertheless, the conference, the treaty, and their aftermath have produced a substantial body of literature and will continue to do so. Little of it addresses the rather deep involvement of the U.S. Navy in the all three (except the naval battle of Paris.)

When the president first arrived at Brest in December, he was greeted by an impressive crowd of dignitaries, both American (among them Admiral William S. Benson, the CNO) and foreign, and later he was cheered by thousands of enthusiastic French citizens and American soldiers, doughboys. All recognized the historical importance of the occasion—the first travel abroad of a president of the United States while in office. With a host of advisers and experts, Wilson saw himself as attending the conference to lead the world into everlasting peace and shape a world, safe for democracy, in which war would no longer be a means to an end. His Fourteen Points of Peace, announced months before the end of the conflict, were regarded by millions as the cornerstone on which the treaty might be built. But what he encountered in Paris was not peacemaking among equals but the pursuit of agendas that clearly had little to do with the Fourteen Points but more with imposition by the victors of a treaty on the vanquished.

From the beginning the delegates had to deal with a host of problems not directly related to peace terms. What Wilson and the others encountered was a world, particularly Europe and the Near East, beset by unrest, chaos, famine, and revolution. The conference had not only to agree on a peace treaty but confront these problems and restore stability. Although Wilson sincerely believed that a league of nations would be crucial to the desired peace and stability, the president had convictions about other matters relating to peace and the conference; in general he left these up to his advisers.

Personal convictions and outlooks—of commissioners, experts and, advisers—played a role in the Paris negotiations, as they do in all deliberations. Allied leaders considered the United States a Johnny come lately in the conflict, and their feelings about an American leadership role as envisioned by Wilson must be emphasized. Impressions of individuals also influenced opinions and decisions. Inevitably President Wilson attracted a great deal of attention and assessment, as everything from arrogance to quaintness. Clemenceau, the elderly French statesman, told Colonel Edward House, the president’s special envoy (as well as confidant and adviser in foreign affairs), that talking to Wilson was something like talking to Jesus Christ.

From the first Wilson seemed to alienate other Allied leaders, particularly British. Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty, considered Wilson uniformed. Other senior British officers, particularly the First Sea Lord, disliked him. He even irritated King George V, informing the monarch that Americans were not to be considered cousins or brothers, even Anglo-Saxons. The king later told his private secretary that the American president was an odious man. Sir Henry Wilson, the Army Chief of Staff, wrote, I believe Wilson an unscrupulous knave and a hater of England and House to be a poor miserable fool. David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, was totally disillusioned with Wilson, whom he once called a cold creature. The prime minister was profoundly distrustful of him, irritated that the president dealt secretly with the Germans. After Wilson became ill, back in the United States, and the Republicans turned viciously on him, Lloyd George’s attitude changed. There is another thing I like about Wilson. He has a conscience. He tried to live up to his principles. In February 1920 he told Lord Riddell, I am sorry about Wilson [who had been incapacitated by a stroke in October 1919]. I got to like him.³

The concern of this study, however, is the involvement of conference participants in naval affairs. The president also played a role in naval matters, and so did Colonel House. House was a moderate who often favored compromise to avoid problems.⁴ In time House was to lose Wilson’s confidence and that of most of the American technical staff as well; on one occasion the president advised House to leave military and naval affairs to his experts, and House ignored him.⁵ Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels was not impressed with House and was gratified when he lost favor.⁶ Until then, however, the president made little use of anyone except House. He often ignored the other American plenipotentiaries.⁷

House also served as a member of the Supreme War Council (SWC), as did General Tasker Bliss in the capacity of technical adviser.⁸ No American naval officer was appointed to the council, though its responsibilities were partly naval. An Allied Naval Council (ANC) was created to consider naval matters and advise the SWC. (Both councils originated during the war and continued afterward. However, the ANC was discontinued in December, only to be replaced later with a similar organization.)⁹

Among those Wilson ignored was General Bliss. Bliss was something of a contradiction. He was a prominent Army officer, serving as chief of staff, the pinnacle of a military career, despite being a staff general rather than a field commander. He had likely missed his true profession as a scholar, perhaps an academician.¹⁰ Bliss was fluent in several foreign languages and widely read in the classics. Undoubtedly the best educated and probably the most qualified of the American plenipotentiaries, he was close to being a pacifist. He strongly argued for disarmament of the defeated powers and opposed naval expansion, as advocated by Admiral Benson and Secretary Daniels. Nor was he in favor of the deployment of American military forces, including naval, in parts of Europe and the Near East that were not vital interests of the United States. At the peace conference Bliss took little interest in naval affairs unless they involved the Adriatic crisis. Admiral Benson, the CNO, was supposed to report to Bliss, but there is little evidence that he did so generally. Bliss had worked with well with House before the Armistice but became disillusioned with him afterward, complaining of his secretiveness.¹¹

Robert Lansing and Henry White were the other American plenipotentiaries. Both were surprise appointees—even to White himself, the token Republican. Lansing, however, was secretary of state and as such should not only have been appointed but have led the delegation had Wilson decided not to attend the conference. Yet the president did not like him and replaced him with Frank Polk while the conference was in session. There is no evidence that White was at all involved in naval affairs, but Lansing and Polk were. Historian Robert Ferrell considers the American peace commissioners a weak group, whose contributions to Wilson’s goals were at best minimum. This assessment, of course, includes House, who was not, according to Inga Floto, a good diplomat: He was a trimmer and compromiser … incapable of working through complex problems.¹²

Secretary of the Navy Daniels arrived in France in March 1919. He was not a delegate, official or unofficial, to the peace conference. Admiral Sims sarcastically called him a tourist. There was a good bit of truth to this, as Daniels and his wife spent most of their time visiting Great Britain, Italy, and the battlefields in Belgium and France. Everywhere as visiting VIPs they were dined but not wined, because of the secretary’s strong aversion to alcoholic beverages. Daniels did not, however, avoid the peace conference; he attended sessions of the political leaders and, according to his memoir, played a crucial role in smoothing over differences between Admiral Benson and Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss, First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. The secretary, originally a pacifist, had become a believer in a big navy and strongly advocated a navy second to none. Walter Millis writes that Daniels seemed to manifest emotional division between his pride in the great panoply of war over which he presided and his loyalty to his pacifist principles.¹³ He was Anglophobic, as were the president above him and many of the officers below him. For various reasons, however, Daniels was not popular among the officer corps, nor was he, for different reasons, with many of the nation’s political leaders. By the time of the Paris Peace Conference Daniels had turned over to the CNO most of the operational control of the Navy, dealing himself primarily with other cabinet members, the press, and, perhaps most important, Congress.¹⁴

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt spent several weeks in Europe during the peace conference. In Paris he and his wife socialized with various participants at the conference, but officially the assistant secretary confined himself to naval demobilization (see chapter 2), Both Admiral Benson and Admiral Sims had as little to do with him as they could. The CNO was quite critical of him for upholding the arguments of British and French military forces that they, not the American army and navy, had borne the brunt of the war against Germany. Sims considered him an opportunist.¹⁵

Admiral Benson, as CNO and naval adviser to House and later the president, shouldered most of the day-to-day naval deliberations until he returned to Washington in June 1919. Shortly before the Armistice the CNO had arrived in Paris as an adviser to Colonel House in pre-Armistice negotiations. House had great confidence in him; the admiral had accompanied him to England earlier in the war. Benson remained loyal to House although the colonel at times ignored his advice, even after his own break with the president. Benson, in a somewhat patronizing letter written after he returned from the peace conference, credited the colonel with his selection to the permanent rank of vice admiral. After all is said and done, he wrote, I feel that what I am getting is largely, if not entirely, due to my friend, Colonel House. That I have tried to do my duty well and that the Navy has succeeded … is a fact, but had it not been for the kind interest which you have taken I doubt if the recognition that is being given me would have ever been thought of.¹⁶ House, in fact, preferred that his entire staff be naval and not army. He apparently believed that members of the AEF would be used by most of the commissioners and staffs, and to retain his independence, he depended on naval personnel instead.¹⁷

Benson, the first CNO, had been appointed by Daniels before the war. It was considered a surprising appointment, Daniels having passed over a great many senior to him.¹⁸ Benson’s contemporaries generally respected

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