Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XXXIX Naval Reform

ON May 25, 1908, President Roosevelt ordered Mahan to Washington on temporary special duty, for the purpose of consulting him on some technical naval questions. Controversy over the speed, armor, and armament of battleships had increased. In the early summer of 1908 political opponents attacked the administration for alleged defects in American battleships, particularly the location of the armor belt. Roosevelt promptly referred the question to a joint conference of the General Board and the Naval War College. Mahan was at Newport during part of the Conference, revising his lectures on naval strategy.

The fact was soon established that the armor belts of our battleships were sometimes entirely submerged and often dangerously near the waterline. It also developed that under the existing organization of the Navy Department responsibility for these defects could not be placed on any one person or bureau. This condition confirmed Mahan's previous criticism. Nothing could be done about the ships already constructed, but the President ordered corrective measures taken for those under construction. Further, he determined to improve the defective departmental organization, and entrusted the task to Secretary Newberry.

The naval issue between Great Britain and Germany became acute during the autumn. Asquith had succeeded Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister. As Mahan had predicted, the Liberal party had been less generous to their Navy than the Conservatives. The German Navy was steadily catching up with the British. During the summer the Kaiser had refused to accept Hardinge's suggestion that the Germans slow or stop their shipbuilding, and by

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