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COMMUNICATION FROM CAPT. DUDLEY W. Knox, UNITED STATES Navy, SUBMITTED
BY Hon. C. F. CURRY, REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE THIRD CALIFORNIA · DISTRICT.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, UNITED STATES,
Washington, D. C., December 17, 1920. JOINT SENATE AND HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NAVAL BASES ON THE PACIFIC COAST.
GENTLEMEN: Inclosed I am presenting for your information and to be printed as a part of the hearings at Mare Island on naval base sites on San Francisco Bay and Carquinez Straits a copy of a telegram giving the opinion of Capt. Dudley W. Knox, United States Navy.
Capt. Knox is at present commanding officer of the U. S. S. Brooklyn, and has studied San Francisco Bay and its contiguous waters thoroughly. He was a member of Admiral Sims's staff during the recent war, holds a Naval War College diploma, was a member of the staff of the Naval War College, and was three times awarded the Naval Institute medal. He is considered one of the great strategists in the United States Navy. Sincerely, yours,
C. F. CURRY, Member Congress, Third California District.
(Copy, Western Union telegram.]
December 14, 1929. Congressman C. F. CURRY, House of Representatives,
Washington, D. C. Following military study just received from eminent authority; believe it excellent and extremely important to place before commission at once. Original going forward by mail to-day.
Comparison between Alameda, Hunters Point, and Carquinez sites for a naval docking and repair station from the (1) military, and (2) seaman's viewpoint. Preliminary to any detailed consideration it is desirable to formulate a conception of the functions of a San Francisco Bay naval base, and the scope of its activities in a war in the Pacific. Such a war will assume one of two general characters: (1) A strategic offensive, requiring our fleet to undertake a mid-Pacific or a trans-Pacific campaign, and (2) a strategic defensive necessitating the retention of our fleet in home waters to combat a superior enemy on our own coast. In either case San Francisco Bay will necessarily become the main assembly and mobilization point-owing to its location, railroad connections, and the size of protected anchorage afforded. Other Pacific coast ports may be utilized for fleet detachments, but the fleet as a whole must be served primarily by San Francisco Bay considered as a whole. A great number of vessels must be assembled including fuel ships and other auxiliaries; probably the entire anchorage ground in the bay will be occupied. The function of the base will be to serve this armada primarily in regard to (1) furnishing fuel and supplies; (2) fitting out; (3) docking and major repairs. (Minor repairs will be done by repair shops and ships' own crews.) During the progress of an offensive campaign carried into mid-Pacific or beyond, San Francisco Bay will continue to be a primary supply terminal, at which great numbers of supply ships will call constantly for cargoes and a small percentage of both supply ships and fighting ships will require the services of the docking and repair station at all times. During the continuance of a defensive campaign the fleet as a whole is likely to spend much time at anchor within San Francisco, ready to sail on a few hours' notice.
“Under the latter conditions the demand for large quantities of fuel and other supplies will be constant, but the percentage of ships requiring docking and major repair service at any one time will be small. It is further desirable to examine the relationship between the above primary functions of the base and the precise location of the docking and repair station. A glance at the map will indicate the impracticability of supplying efficiently from one point a fleet extending from off Benicia to
the vicinity of Palo Alto--an anchorage ground 50 miles in length. Necessarily the Government will utilize nearly all the commercial distributing facilities in the bay to supply fuel and other stores to such a fleet. Obviously such a supply system will have no vitally direct connection with the docking and repair station, and need not be located at such station. In so far as meeting this fleet need is concerned, the precise location of the docking and repair station is not affected vitally. As a matter of fact confusion of thought will be avoided by regarding the docking and repair station not as the base but in its true rôle as merely one unit of the base. For fitting out, docking, and major repairs only a small portion of the fleet will require service at any one time for which purposes they will take up temporary berths alongside or near the docking and repair station.
“Considering that the Grand Fleet at its principal operating base during the war (Scapa Flow) was 200 miles from its principal docking and repair base (Rosyth) it should be apparent that the precise location within San Francisco Bay of the docking and repair base is inconsequential in so far as serving the fleet in these capacities is concerned. Hence it is apparent that the precise location of the main docking and repair station on San Francisco Bay bears no close relationship to the ability of such a station to fulfill its primary functions of (1) fitting out, (2) docking and major repairs and the location of the docking and repair station is still further unrelated to the function of supplying the active fleet. It is only necessary that the site chosen shall satisfy (1) engineering, (2) industrial, (3) military, and (4) seamanship requirements. The two former are outside the scope of this paper. Since the sites at Alameda and Hunters Point possess virtually the same advantages and disadvantages from the military and seamanship aspects, they will be considered herein jointly as Lower Bay sites.
"1. Military aspects. The military questions regarding the precise location of a docking and repair station upon San Francisco Bay pertain exclusively to security against enemy action; such action may take the form of
“(a) Bombardment from seaward.—The Lower Bay sites are within easy bombardment ranges of the largest naval calibers from positions off a long stretch of coast.
“The Carquinez site is considerably better protected both on account of its greater distance from the coast and of the shelter of higher land. The general question of the feasi of effective bombardment of fortified shore positions from seaward has been debatable for many years. The problem is affected materially by such questions as (1) the relative range and power of the shore and ships batteries; (2) the relative strength of the opposing aerial forces; (3) protection given the port by mines and submarines; and (4) conditions of visibility. These are all variable and hence cause variable results. Extensive bombardment operations were conducted over a long period of time by the British during the late war against the Dardanelles and also against the very strongly fortified Belgium coast, with varying degrees of success depending upon the above-mentioned conditions. Considering the experiences of the late war, together with mechanical and other improvements likely to be developed in the future, the danger to the 'Lower Bay sites' from enemy bombardment, especially during the absence from port of our fleet is a material disadvantage as compared with the Carquinez Straits site.
“(b) Attack by land or air forces:-Such operations presuppose the enemy to be established ashore in the eastern Pacific. Unless our fleet is considerably inferior to the enemy fleet they are negligible possibilities. The contingency is so remote as wardly to warrant taking into account. If there is any advantage in these particulars it rests with the Carquinez Straits site.
“1. Seamanship aspects.-The severe southerly gales which are frequent about San Francisco during the fall and winter are a positive drawback to the 'Lower Bay sites,' which are much exposed to wind and sea from that quarter. Docking, the operation of small craft, and other ordinary processes will necessarily be interrupted seriously during such gales.
“The Carquinez Strait site, on the other hand, is advantageously situated in this respect, being well sheltered by the close proximity of high land in the dangerous quarter. The frequency of fog in San Francisco Bay renders navigation somewhat difficult. There is less fog in the upper bay, which offers some advantage to the Carquinez site for the handling of vessels in the immediate vicinity of the station. On the other hand this is counterbalanced by the longer average distance which ships must travel to reach Carquinez than would be necessary to reach a lower bay site. The tidal currents are inconveniently great, but virtually appear to disclose an important advantage of the lower bay sites in the greater width of the harbor in their vicinity, thus permitting large ships to be maneuvered more safely. Undoubtedly this is of some advantage. But whether or not this condition should be a decisive consideration in eliminating Carquinez Strait must depend upon the degree of incon
venience and the danger involved in maneuvering large ships in Carquinez Strait and whether such danger and inconvenience can be reduced to a reasonable minimum by ordinary means, such as wharves, tugs, buoys, etc. Perhaps the best way to determine this essential fact is by comparison with other places at which large vessels are maneuvered under circumstances similar to those which would obtain at Carquinez Strait, including similarity of tidal conditions. The space immediately adjacent to the Carquinez Strait site that would be available for the maneuvering of large ships incident to dock-yard purposes corresponds almost exactly in width to similar space at Rosyth, Scotland, the great British dock yard which served the larger units of the grand fleet during the late war. Maneuvering widths are considerably smaller still at all other big British dock yards, including those at Cromarty, Sheerness, Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport. The principal anchorage adjacent to the New York Navy Yard is in the Hudson River off Manhattan Island, where the deep-water maneuvering width is less than that off the proposed Carquinez Strait site. The largest vessels in the world are handled habitually in the Hudson River.
“In the great fleet anchorage off Hampton Roads the average width of the channel deep enough for battleship maneuvering (35 feet) is virtually the same as the deepwater maneuvering space off the Carquinez site. In places Hampton Roads is slightly wider and elsewhere slightly narrower. Hence it appears that the channel width off Carquinez site is ample to meet the ordinary demands of convenience and safety, considering the liberal number of berths alongside wharves provided in the Carquinez Straits project, the ease and safety with which large vessels may be handled there under adverse circumstances of tide by means of tugs, warping lines, etc., and that fact that the Carquinez site maneuvering, space is capable of large expansion at small expense in the event of a considerable increase in the number of vessels to be handled (by extension of the western scour bulkhead). The moderate width of tủe maneuvering space is adequate and is not a serious disadvantage. The superiority of the Lower Bay sites in respect to maneuvering appears to be more than counterbalanced by their inferiority in respect to exposure to gales for which there is no reasonable remedy.
“Conclusion.-(1) From a military standpoint the only important difference between the Carquinez site and the Lower Bay locations is a considerable superiority possessed by the Carquinez site on account of its being more secure against enemy bombardment from seaward. (2) From a seamanship standpoint there is no important defect in the Carquinez site. In balancing the several advantages and disadvantages of the two general localities (Carquinez and Lower Bay) the superiority is in favor of the Carquinez Straits project.
“DUDLEY W. Knox,
E. L. BEACH,