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OFFICE OF PRESIDENT, NAVAL GENERAL COURT MARTIAL,
Navy Yard, Mare Island, Calif., November 23, 1920. Hon. CHARLES F. CURRY,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. MY DEAR MR. CURRY: Noting that in the final meetings of the congressional committee on the San Francisco naval base the point was raised that the Carquinez Straits site offered insufficient anchorage room and that there was not room at that site for maneuvering vessels of the fleet, I would like to amplify my previous remarks upon that subject in the fourth paragraph of my letter of November 19, 1920. As to anchorage room, I think some confusion of thought must have arisen between a naval base and a fleet rendezvous. A commander in chief, even in time of peacè, endeavors to keep his fleet away from a naval base as much as possible, sending only such vessels to the base as must necessarily go for docking, repair, revictualing, or refueling, and endeavors to get them away from there again as quickly as possible. In time of war, his effort in this direction would be still greater, so it is scarcely conceivable that more than 25 per cent of his fighting force would be at a base at one time. The Carquinez Straits anchorage is about 8 miles long and almost uniformly one-half mile wide, excepting abreast the proposed dock sites, where it is three-quarters of a mile. It would thus accommodate, in single column, at single anchors, with from 45 to 60 fathoms of chain, at lea 24 first-line battleships or dreadnaughts, and if permanent moorings were placed, it would accommodate double this number. Fourteen more could be accommodated in the proposed slips at the docking site. Riding at a single anchor alone, therefore, there is room in Carquinez Straits for all the first-line battleships or dreadnaughts we have in the Navy or building to-day. In addition to this anchorage area, there extends from Benicia northward, along the Solano County shore, a further anchorage area, three-quarters of a mile wide and four miles long, which would accommodate, at a single anchor, at least 50 war vessels drawing 20 feet or less, such as destroyers, or twice that number at fixed moorings, in the most sheltered position to be found anywhere around San Francisco Bay. This, together with the berthing space in Mare Island Straits, gives the Carquinež site an anchorage berthing capacity for at least one-quarter of a war fleet of 700 vessels. Both the Carquinez Straits anchorage and the Hunters Point-Alameda anchorage are sufficient for all possible contingencies which could arise now or in the future, and, for fleet rendezvous purposes, the large anchorage areas from the commercial fairways between San Francisco and Oakland to the entrance to San Pablo Channel would be auxiliary to either the Carquinez Straits site or the Hunters Point-Alameda site, according to which is ultimately chosen for the naval base. So far, then, as anchorage room is concerned, honors are absolutely even between the three main sites under consideration in San Francisco Bay.
The point raised that there is not maneuvering room is rather hard for me to understand. * No maneuvers are ever attempted or contemplated, or in any way necessary, at a naval base, excepting those of entering and anchoring, or of getting under way and leaving, or of entering docks or slips. At least five divisions of dreadnaughts could enter Carquinez Straits and anchor in column in less than the same number could enter the anchorage area between Hunters Point and Alameda and anchor in double column, which would be necessary because that area south of the commercial fairway between San Francisco and Oakland is broader and shorter than the Carquinez Straits area. Entering and leaving docks and slips would be just as easy in either locality. Getting under way and leaving during a flood tide, which would naturally be chosen, excepting in emergency, would be equally easy in both localities. If an emergency arose requiring the departure of vessels during an ebb tide, the Hunters Point anchorage would be just as much congested with its five divisions in double column as the Carquinez Straits locality with its five divisions in single column, and the time necessary to get all the ships under way and in formation, headed out, would be practically the same. Assuming only a single column of dreadnaughts anchored off Hunters Point, it is probable that they would back and fill once in order to turn around during ebb tide just as vessels in Carquinez Straits would have to do. Even if they did not, there could scarcely be a difference of more than 20 minutes in getting turned and pointed out. Moreover, turning in Carquinez Straits, where the deep water lies close to high land or unmistakable landmarks on either side, could be done with much less chance of getting aground than turning between Hunters PointAlameda where the deep water is flanked by a mile or more of shoals under water, and this would be especially true in a fog.
In paragraph 2 of my letter of November 19, concerning mobile batteries for driving a hostile fleet away from the vicinity of Half Moon Bay, I failed to mention that the railway for transporting such batteries could not run along the seashore, because it would be exposed to destruction by enemy gun fire, but would have to take the more
difficult engineering routes through the hills, back of the seashore, and also that such batteries would be impotent in a fog where the hostile fleet could approach the coast on soundings, unseen, and take up their bombardment.
In rebuttal of Capt. Potts' statement that Hunters Point was within reach of the 14-inch guns of an enemy fleet, a member of the committee remarked, “So was Heligoland." This would be an incorrect comparison, for Heligoland was not a naval base, but an outlying fortress screening a naval rendezvous and naval bases in its rear, precisely as the forts at our Golden Gate would screen a naval base in Carquinez Straits. Yours, very truly,
J. M. ELLICOTT,
Captain, U. S. Navy, retired. P.S. I am forwarding a chart, under separate cover, to illustrate the anchorage conditions in Carquinez Straits.
Washington, November 30, 1920. Hon. C. F. CURRY,
House of Representatives, United States. MY DEAR MR. CURRY: I am forwarding herewith Col. O'Hern’s reply to your telegram dated November 20, 1920. I am forwarding this to you as an expression of Col. O'Hern's personal opinions. Sincerely,
C. C. WILLIAMS, Major Gencral, Chief of Ordnance, United States Army.
Benicia, Calif., November 22, 1920. From: Col. E. P. O'Hern, Ordnance Department, U. S. Army. To: The Chief of Ordnance, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C. Subject: Correspondence with Hon. C. F. Curry, M. C., re merits proposed naval
base sites San Francisco Bay.
1. There is forwarded herewith copy of telegram dated November 20, 1920, from the Hon. C. F. Curry, Member of Congress from the third California district, asking my professional opinion regarding the comparative merits of three naval-base sites under consideration on San Francisco Bay, together with a proposed reply thereto dated November 21, 1920.
2. This reply is being submitted for your consideration or for the consideration of the War Department with a view to its transmission to Mr. Curry, provided there is no military objection to the contents being made public. It is presumed that the information requested is intended for presentation to a committee of the Senate and House of Representatives which recently held hearings in San Francisco and at Mare Island regarding the proposed naval-base sites.
E. P. O'HERN,
Benicia, Calif., November 21, 1920. Hon. CHARLES F. CURRY, Member of Congress, Third California District,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: 1. In reply to the questions asked in your telegram dated November 20, 1920, there are specified below my qualifications as an expert and my professional opinion regarding the comparative merits, as viewed from a military standpoint, of the three naval base sites under consideration in the San Francisco Bay.
2. The following experience indicates my qualifications as an expert: (a) Graduate United States Military Academy, West Point, N. Y., class of 1894.
(6) Six years service in the Artillery Corps, three of these in the Coast Artillery and three in the Field Artillery. During a part of my service in the Artillery, I was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco.
(c) Approximately 21 years service as an officer in the Ordnance Department of the United Scates Army. During approximately seven years of my service in the Ordnance Department I was on duty in the War Department, holding important assignments having to do with the designing and manufacture of coast defense and field artillery guns and ammunition.
(d) I had active service in the World War on the staff of Gen. Pershing as Chief Ordnance Officer, First Army, American Expeditionary Forces, throughout prartically all of the activities of the American forces in France.
(e) From my former service at the Presidio of San Francisco and my service for the past 20 months as commanding officer of the Benicia Arsenal, located on the Carquinez Straits, approximately 10 miles from the Mare Island Navy Yard, I am thoroughly familiar with the geography of San Francisco Bay, the location and character of the fortifications at the entrance to San Francisco Harbor, together with the character of the coast line and waters adjaceut thereto.
3. The three proposed naval base sites to be given consideration are Hunters Point, Alameda, and Carquinez Straits (Mare Island) respectively. As regards the possibility of bombardment, an examination of the Coast and Geodetic Survey chart No. 5530 covering San Francisco Bay shows that the proposed sites at Hunters Point and at Alameda are well within the range of the large caliber guns of modern battleships lying offshore over approximately a 25 mile stretch from Half Moon Bay on the south to Bolinas Bay on the north of the entrance to San Francisco Harbor. In view of the local fog conditions which sometimes cause the forts at the entrance to San Francisco Harbor to be enveloped in fog while the coast to the north or south is comparatively clear, it seems possible for an emeny fleet, to bombard the vicinity of San Francisco without the coast defense guns being fully effective in reply: Such an attack would of course be practicable only in the case of a naval raid or in case the enemy should have a temporary supremacy at that place.
4. I consider the probability of such a bombardment as not great but the location of a navy yard close to the large cities of San Francisco and Oakland would, in my opinion, bě objectionable in that it would increase the incentive to an attack as well as the area of the target for long range fire. An examination of the chart previously referred to shows that the Carquinez Straits site (Mare Island) is so far inland as to be beyond the range of the most powerful ships' guns from any point on the coast. Before its being brought within range it would be necessary for warships to pass from the lower bay up the channel beyond Angel Island.
5. As regards the defense by land fortifications, these would give a reasonably satisfactory defense but not a complete one. The primary purpose of the land fortifications is to prevent an enemy fleet from entering San Francisco Harbor. A secondary but important purpose is to prevent the bombardment of the city of San Francisco. But this can not be guaranteed under adverse weather conditions, especially in view of the very long range guns that are being mounted on the latest battleships.
6. As regards the use of railroad guns and their effectiveness against capital ships, it may be stated that the primary purpose of railroad guns is to prevent the landing of troops and their advance inland. As compared with guns in permanent fortifications this type of artillery is especially vulnerable to fire from high power guns on warships and could not, in our opinion, be expected to successfully cope with such fire. It is a generally accepted principle of attack by fleets on shore defenses that the fleet will bring to bear a great superiority of gun power. Some ships would thus be alloted to keep down the fire of railroad artislery while others would be alloted for bombardment purposes."
7. The effect of the presence of a naval base as an attraction inviting bombardment of the bay cities has already been referred to. The presence of an important navy yard would, in my opinion, invite bombardment both from warships and from aeroplanes with consequent increased danger to the adjacent cities.
8. From a military viewpoint one of the most serious dangers to which a navy yard at Hunters Point would be subjected is possible capture by a landing force which had been put ashore on the coast south of San Francisco and had marched overland. The Alameda site is subject to a similar danger but to a somewhat less extent. The purposed Carquinez Straits site (Mare Island) is located far enough inland to be given materially better protection against a land attack. The Army General Staff some years ago laid down the principle that for defensive reasons, no future arsenal for the manufacture or storage of Army ordnance supplies, should be located on or near a coast line. A similar principle would seem applicable to naval activities in so far as is consistent with limitations governing the character of channels of approach or other purely naval considerations.
E. P. O'HERN, Colonel Ordnance Department, U. S. Army.
1 There are no railroads running along the coast on the ocean shores north or south of the Golden Gate. The construction of such railroads would be for defense purposes only and would be ineffective, difficult of construction, and expensi e. The cost of such roads and their military equipment with railroad guns etc., should be added to the estimateed cost of the construction of a naval base on the lower bay.-C. F. Curry, M. C. Third California Districi.
NOVEMBER 30, 1920. From: Wm. J. Mitchell, Labor Council, Vallejo, Calif. To: Capt. T. M. Potts, U. S. Navy, retired. Subject: Stability, of labor in the vicinity of Mare Island Navy Yard for the informa
tion of the naval base commission.
In placing the confidence of the labor organizations into the question of continual production I take the position of being able to do so for the reason of my past and present qualifications in relation to organized labor activities in the city of Vallejo.
(a) Having been president and acting secretary of the central labor council.
(6) Past president, secretary, and treasurer of the metal trades council (wholly composed of navy yard employees).
(c) Delegate to the State labor convention from Vallejo.
(d) At present representing the central labor council in the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce.
(e) Being a sheet metal worker by trade, my craft affiliation is known as Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 221 of which I am president.
(f) The California District Council of Sheet Metal Workers is an organization embracing all members of the craft throughout California, and it is my pleasure also of being president of this State organization.
(g) I might also state the question of the arrangement of wage data by the metal trades workers of this vicinity has been one of my usual activities when the presentation of cases have been necessary either for direct argument or appeal to the Navy Department at Washington.
(h) Labor editor of the Mare Island Employee.
ii) During the war period the State Council of Defense ordered my appointment in the matter of regulating the housing conditions in the surrounding communities, which gave me a very close insight as to the qualities of people who make up our “labor market” and their resourcefulness in facilitating production.
Letter marked Exhibit A attached.
Inasmuch that comparisons of this report cover period of four years, the labor situation during that length of time is herewith analyzed.
The shipbuilding industry of the San Francisco Bay district assumed its activity of renewed effort early in 1916, when foreign concerns awarded contracts to Pacific coast shipyards.
The labor market at that time was in a normal condition and readily filled the wants of the builders until a period in 1917 when affairs in the World War called for certain withdrawals of types of work, thereby practically eliminating the building industry and creating a general turnover of labor from a field of high wages to one of a kind that created a lower schedule of daily earnings. With the precipitation of these evolutions of industry, and the intermingling of strange men in strange methods of earning a livelihood, the unforeseen occurred
in the form of labor strife in the bay district, which finally came to a head in September, 1917, when a gigantic strike, involving 45,000 men, became effective, thereby tieing up production of both naval and Shipping Board work that called for early completion. But work of any early emergency needed in our war was immediately transferred to Mare Island Navy Yard and delivered ready for service at the earliest possible moment, thereby demonstrating the stability of Vallejo workmen in standing by the Government through periods of disturbance.
Upon the conclusion of the great strike in 1917, the Macy wage board arrived in San Francisco and set a schedule of wages for shipyard employees, and after several weeks of uncertain conditions the “Macy award," as it was called, had to be amended in Washington, D. C., and upon the conclusion of these negotiations the Mare Island employees accepted such award from the Navy Department without interruption of work.
During the years of 1918 and 1919 strikes of various kinds were everlastingly in evidence, a total of 26 all told, in which the California Metal Trades Association in a recent weekly letter marked “Exhibit B” informed its membership that the most reasonable time they could figure the stability of their labor market at was 7 months out of 12 during the year.
What appears to be the final disruption of the shipbuilding market on the Pacific coast occurred on October 1, 1919, when the ship workers of the entire coast struck with the exception of Todd's yards at Tacoma, bringing about one of the most chaotic conditions of all involved in the history of this great industry; through all of this no navy yard district was affected, thereby demonstrating again that navy yard organizations are for peaceful methods in disputes of any kind,
Labor conditions to-day in the bay district have made it such that mechanics of ability are seeking employment elsewhere than Oakland and San Francisco, and at the present time Mare Ísland is one of the establishments where men of a marine trade prefer employment; the board of labor records at Mare Island will bear this out.
Efficiency of production at Mare Island by the workers employed thereon could be no better demonstrated in the cost of construction of the battleship California; destroyers Ward, Shaw, and Caldwell; the conversion to war craft of private yachts; tugs; the reconstruction of damaged German craft; the rebuilding of liners from passenger vessels to hospital ships; the construction of facilities for the successful operation of the yard, and many other items that stand out as a foremost record in the achievements when they are necessary during an emergency situation.
The records thus established are now jealously guarded by the men who made them.
WORKMEN OWNING THEIR OWN HOMES.
Vallejo in 1916 had close to 1,200 home owners who were employed upon Mare Island Navy Yard since 1916. Employees of Mare Island Navy Yard have increased in home ownership to 3,600, or practically 200 per cent increase. A visit to the outskirts of Vallejo will demonstrate the thrift of some employees.
The combined banks of Vallejo are now carrying upon their books aggregate loans of $2,510,551.70 which is only 60 per cent of the full value to home builders of this community.
Bank deposits in the past four years have shown a gain of $5,009,073.11 which consist mainly of naval employees, providing for their future welfare. Note Exhibit “C.”
General civic improvements and figures as to their cost are herewith attached and marked Exhibits “C,” “D," "E," "F.”
Assuming conditions are reported favorably by the naval commission. The majority of the workers of Mare Island will at once proceed to acquire their own homes, a number of the local investors will extend their holdings. Commercial institutions will provide to meet the general community needs, thereby facilitating, a general betterment of the rudiments that go to make up a contented "labor city” which in the end creates harmony and efficiency of production. Respectfully submitted.
WM. J. MITCHELL.
(Vallejo News, Dec. 1, 1920.]
HAD DIFFICULT TASK TO DOCK CALIFORNIA AT HUNTERS POINT-EXAMINER SAYE
SEVERE TIDAL CURRENTS COMPLICATED WORK.
Hauled along by eight powerful tugs and presenting a majestic sight to persons assembled along the water front, the huge United States superdreadnaught California safely completed her maiden journey down the bay yesterday and at 1.30 o'clock gracefully slipped into the Hunters Point Dry Dock.
It was a most difficult task. The maneuvering of the propellerless 30,000-ton vessel and severe tidal currents complicated the work. But the eight tugs under direction of Capt. W. H. Randall, well-known river pilot, accomplished the undertaking successfully.
When the big water gates of the dry dock slammed in on the California, the duty of the tugs was over. The authorities of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation then assumed the difficult work of pinning the great vessel into the dock preparatory to emptying the basin of water.
The California started on her journey Monday afternoon from Mare Island Navy Yard, where she was built and launched. She was taken to a point opposite the Union Iron Works, where she anchored overnight and awaited the daytime high tide.
Amid a tooting of whistles and a waving of handkerchiefs and hats by ferry passengers, two tugs operated by the Rolph Navigation Co., under direction of Capt. Clem Randall, took the big war craft in tow. The other tugs had lines attached to the sides and stern to swing the vessel when needed.