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THE PENSACOLA JOURNAL, SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 26, 1919.
I'M H IGTQRY -A- SEA By Admiral William Sowden Sims Ambassador Psfle Plead. . It isn't strong enough." he said. think I can do better than this roy He immediately sat down and wrote cablegram to Washington which" is Bat Mr. Page and I thought that we ad not completely done our duty even We were determined v that, Utever might happen, we could nev- be charged with not haying present ee Allied situation in its absolute- true liKh't. It seemed likely that an .thoritatlye statement f rorn the Brlt- : government would give added as junee that our statements were not e result of panic, and with this idea .-. mind. Mr. Page and I called upon - Balfour, Foreign Secretary, who, response to our request, sent a- de- .a:ch to Washington describing the k-r'.ousness oi me siiuauwu. All these messages made the same Int: that the United States should -.mediately assemble all its destroyers nl other light craft, and send them the vital spot in the ', submarine impaign Queenstown. ... . ... VJ this time that we were seeking solution for the submarine' problem e real'.y had the solution in our iids. The seas presented two im essive spectacles in those terrible :nths of April, May, and June, 19 IT. -e was the comparative ease with uch the German submarines were :.king: merchant vessels: the other 'j their failure materially to weaken filled fleets. "If we wish a counter ture of that ' presented Ty the Irish i and the English Channel, where rvhant shipping was constantly go ; down, we should look to the North ii, where the British Grand -Fleet, olutely intact,' was defiantly riding e waves. The uninrormea puduc plained this apparent security in a y or its own: It Deuevea tnai xne itish dreadnaughts were anchored :ind booms, nets, and mine fields. ough which the submarines could penetrate. Yet the tact of tne .ter was that the Grand Fleet was quently cruising in the open sea in ; waters which were known to be st infested with submarines. The man submarines had been attempt s' to destroy this fleet for two and half years. It had been the Ger- plan to weaken this great battle : by "attrition, mat is, to smic ugh battleships to make possible a '.eral engagement with some chances success; yet the submarines had not droved a single dreadnaught. In s situation.' merchant ships con .nr.y being torpedoed and battleships '.stantly, repelling such attacks, re was' certainly much food for mght. iy the Grand Fleet Was Immune. let there was no mystery about the nunity which these great fighting 'sela enjoyed, for the submarine oblem. so far as It affected the tie-fleet, had already been solved. e explanation was that wnenever dreadnaughts put to sea they re preceded by a screen of cruisers i destroyers. , These surface craft arently served as a kind of im- "etrable wall, against which the man U-boats were . beating them es unavallingly. To' the casual 'rver. however, there seemed to be reason why the destroyers should any particular . terror for sub lines. Externally they are the least eslve war . vessels afloat. Sall- ahead of the battle squadrons, the foyers were little, ungraceful ob- "-s upon the surface of the water; 1 suggested fragility rather than g:h, and the idea that they were ' guardians of the mighty battle- 4 behind them at first seemed al- grotesque. Yet these little ves- doming the submarine. The war not progressed far when t be apparent that the U-boat could iinger long any where near this little ' surface vessel without hd.v nr Berinna cl.v inn v !:. until the reDOrts of submarine "tag began to find their way Into pers. tt was probably the one 1 warship in which the public lh smallest interest. It had be- instead. & IrlnA . -1 ..Irllnr. a N'avy. Our ConrrM haf '"y neclM-tai . . 'aval niurii v, . " 'OUr l!itnv.u v.- m . . --".'ia Lna uuiti iur every ":P. and anntlallv r'vno.-aa V I riatej for one or twK out r alSO found Great Britain y a sufficient number of des for the purpose of anti-sub- m l. nou8l for screening the but It was called upon to divert so many for the protection of troop trans portation, supply ships and commerce generally that the efficiency of the fleet was greatly undermined. Thus Britain found - herself without enough destroyers . to meet the submarine campaign ."this situation was not due to any lack of. foresight, but to a failure to. foresee that any civilized nation ' could" ever employ the torpedo in unrestricted warfare against mer chant ships and their crews. The one time that this type of ves sel had come prominently into notice was - in -1904,- - when it attacked the Russian fleet at Port Arthur, damag ing several powerful vessels and prac tically ending Russian sea. power in the far east. The history of the destroyer, however, goes back: much lurtner. it .was created to fulfill a duty . not . unlike . that . which At has played so gloriously in the "World War. In . the late seventies and early eigh ties a new type of war vessel, the torpedo boat, caused almost as, much perturbation as has the submarine in recent years. This speedy little fight er was - Invented to serve as a medium for the? discharge of a newly perfected engine of naval warfare, the automo bile torpedo. It was ' Its function to creep up to a battleship, preferably under cover of darkness or in thick weather, and let loose the weapon against its unsuspecting hulk. ." , The appearance "of the torpedo boat led to the same prediction as that which was more recently Inspired by the submarine in the eyes of many it simply ' meant the end of the great surface battleship.' ' But naval archi tects," looking about for the "answer to this dangerous craft, designed an other and appropriately called it the "torpedo boat destroyer. This vessel was not only larger and speedier than its appointed antagonist but its radius of action, and its sea-worthiness en ables it to accompany the battle fleet. Its draft was so light that a torpedo could - pass harmlessly under the keel and it carried an armament of suffi cient power to end the career of any torpedo boat that came Its way. Few types have ever justified their name so successfully as the torpedo boat destroyer. So completely did it elim inate that little vessel as a danger to the fighting ships that practically all navies lang since ceased to build .tor pedo boats. Yet the destroyers prompt ly succeeded to the chief function of the discarded vessel, that of attacking capital ships with torpedoes, and, in addition to this It assumed the duty of protecting battleships from similar attack by enemy vessels of the same type. It surprises many people to learn that the destroyer is not a little boat but a warship of considerable size. It appears small only because all ships, those used for commerce and those for war, have increased so greatly in four powerful four or five-inch guns, displacement. The latest type carries and twelve torpedo tubes, each launch ing a torpedo which weighs more than a ton, and which runs as straight as an arrow for more than six miles. The Santa Maria, the largest vessel of the squadron with which Columbus made his first voyage to America, had a displacement of about five hundred large as a destroyer, and at the be ginning of the clipper ship era few tons, and thus was about half as vessels were much larger. , . Submarine vs. Destroyer. Previous to. 1914 it was generally believed that torpedo attacks would play "a large part In, any great naval engagement, and this was the reason why all naval advisers insisted that a larger number of these vessels should be constructed as essential units of the fleet. Yet the war had had not gone far when it became ap parent that this versatile craft - had another great part to play, and that It would ence more justify Its name In really .heroic fashion. In the same way that it had proved Its worth in driving the surface torpedo boat from the seas, so now it developed Into a, very dangerous foe for the torpedo boat that sailed beneath the waves. Events soon demonstrated that, in all open engagements between . sub marine and destroyer, the submarine stood very little chance. The reason for this was simply that the subma rine had " no weapon with which It could successfully resist the attack of the destroyer, whereas the ' destroyer had several with which It could at tack the submarine.' The ' submarine had three or; four" torpedo tubes, and only one or two guns, and with neither could afford to risk attacking ; the more powerfully armed destroyer. The submarine was of a such a fragile engage In a combat In which it stood much chance of getting hit. A des troyer could . stand a comparatively severe pounding and still remain fair ly intact, but a single ' shell striking a submarine was a very serious mat ter; even though the vessel did not sink as a result, it was almost inevi table that certain parts of its ma chinery would ' be so Injured that it would have difficulty in- getting . into port. - It therefore became necessary for the submarine always to play safe, to fight only under conditions in which it had the enemy at' such a disadvan tage than it ran little risk Itself; and this was the reason why -ft preferred to attack merchant and ' passenger ships rather than vessels, such as the destroyer, that could energetically de fend themselves. - Destroyers Hard to Hit.' The comparatively light draft of the destroyer, which Is about nine or ten feet pretty effectually protects it from the submarine's . tornedo, for this tor pedo," to function with its greatest ef ficiency, "must take a . course' about fifteen ". feet... under water; ' if it runs nearer the surface than this it comes under the influence of the waves and does not make a straight course. More important still, the speed of the des- precious .weapons,' to Cuse them only when the chances most factored suc cess,' and -the U-'bbat commander who wasted them In attempts to sink des troyers ; would probably have , been court-martialed. ;;': . But while the submarine had prac tically no means, of successfully fight ing the destroyer, the latter ; had sev submarine. The . advantage which really makes thedestroyer so danger ous, as already intimated was its ex cessive speed. On the , surface the eral ways of putting -an end to the 1 U-boat makes little.more than fifteen ' in cruising and In battle, nature . that it could never afford to i j,j',r 'f - sJ-T LZf s ' , "l y ' ' I I : .". .. it i' i 4 ' V Hill I ? i - -t it-Pat' "tf1'?''-"'- J . rf-'l - . .7- miles an hour, and under the surface it makes little more than seven or ' eight. If the . destroyer once discov ered its presence, therefore, it could -reach its prey in an Incredibly short - time. . It could attack with gun, and, if conditions were favorable,, it could ram -and a destroyer going at thirty or forty miles could cut a submarine nearly in two with its strong razor like bow. In the early days of the war, these were the main methods of attack, but by the time I had" reached London, another and much more . frightful weapon had ' been ' devised. This was the depth charge," a large can containing about three hundred .... i-... - -. ' troyer, and zigzags, . makes it all but Impossible .for a torpedo to be .'aimed with much chance of hitting her. More, over the discharge of this missile is a far more .complicated undertaking than is generally "supposed. The submarine commander-cannot take position any where and discharge his weapon more or less wildly, running his chances of hitting; he must , get his boat in place, calculate . range, course, ;. and speed, and take? careful aim.. Clearly it is difficult for him to do this successful ly if his intended victim ; Is sourrying along at the rate of thirty -yr forty miles an hour.; Moreover," the destroy er is . constantly, changing its course, making great circles and , other , dis concerting movements. So . well did the Germans understand .the difficulty of torpedoing .a destroyer that they practically never attempted so hazard ous an enterprise.! Torpedoes are complicated : and ex pensive . mechanisms; .each one - costs $8,000 and the average U-boat carried only from eight to twelve; it was therefore necessary to husband .these f' - - IH I ' I ' " " " " lr. XJ"i . 7 w-tv . -mlV;-, wSScrr'' V V'.-'v ' .,.'""-.. '' ' T. .'." ISP?:-- A' -rf J 0 vog.A'gfym pounds of TNT, which, exploded any where within one hundred feet of the submarine, either destroyed it entirely or so injured it that it usually had to come to the surface and surrender. The story of the Invention of the depth charge makes 'clear the part which it was intended to play in anti submarine warfare. Admiral Jellicoe told him the story when asked him who really invented this annihilating missile. 'No man in particular," he said. 'It came into existence almost ' spontan eously, in response to a pressing need. Gunfire can destroy submarines when they are on the surface, but it can ac complish nothing against them when submerged. This fact made it ex tremely difficult to sink them In the early days of the war. One day when the Grand Fleet was cruising in the North Sea. a submarine fired a tor pedo at one of the cruisers. The cruiser saw the periscope and the wake of the torpedo, and had little difficulty in so manoeuvering as to avoid being struck. She then went full speed to the spot from which the submarine had fired its torpedo, in the hope of ramming it. But. by the time she arrived, the submarine had submerged so deeply that the cruiser passed 1 over her without doing harm. Yet the officers and crew could see the submerged hull; there the enemy lay in full view of her pursuers, yet perfectly safe! The of fleers : reported the incident to me in the presence of Admiral .Madden,- second In command. "Wouldn't it have been fine," said Madden, "if they had had on board a mine so designed that, when dropped overboard, it would have exploded when it reached the depth at which the submarine was lying." "That remark." continued Admiral Jelficoe, "gave us the germinal dea of the depth charge. I asked the Admir alty to get to work and produce a mine that would act In the way that Admiral Madden had ' suggested. It proved to be very simple to construct an ordinary steel cylinder filled with TNT; this was fitted with a simple firing appliance which was set off by the pressure of the water, and could be so adjusted that it would explode the charge at any depth de sired. This apparatus was so simple and so necessary that we at once be gan to manufacture It." The depth charge looked like the innocent domestic ash can, and that was the name by which it became popularly known. Each destroyer eventually carried twenty or thirty at the .stern; a mere pull on a lever would make one drop into the water. Many destroyers also carried strange looking howitzers, made in the shape" of a Y, from which two ash cans could be hurled fifty yards or more from each side of the vessel. The exDlosion when it ensued w!tHn m hundred feet I have mentioned was usually fatal to the submarine, would drive the plates Inward, sometimes making a leak so large that the ves sel would sink almost instantaneously. At a somewhat greater distance it sometimes causes a leak of such seri ous, proportions that the submarine would be forced to blow her ballast tanks, come to the surface and sur render. Even when the depth charge exploded considerably more than a hundred feet away, the result might be equally disastrous, for the con cussion might distort the hull and damage the horizontal rudders, mak ing It impossible to steer, or it might so Injure the essential machinery that the submarine would be rendered help less. Sometimes the lights went out, leaving a crew groping In blackness necessary parts were shaken from their fastenings; . and in such a case the commander had his choice of two alternatives, one to be crushed by the pressure of the water, and the other to blow his tanks, come to the sur face and surrender. It is no reflection upon the courage of the submarine commanders to say that, in this em barrassing situation, they usually pre ferred to throw themselves upon the mercy of the enemy rather than to be smashed or die a lingering and agonizing death under the water. Even wnen tne explosion took place at a distance so- great that the submarine was not seriously damaged, the ex perience was a highly discomforting one for the crew. Next week Admlra! Sims will tell how the destroyers hunted the sub marines, and will give descriptions as told , to him by survivors, of life on German submarines. "Depth charge nerves," the Germans - called their