The One Way To Win
Only by Building Ships Can the Allies Score a Victory
Agnes C. Laut
Who wrote "The Canadian Commonwealth," "Lords of the North."
EDITOR’S NOTE. — Is France warweary and suffering from the same undermining influences that have weakened Russia and ItalyI There are facts which seem to point that way and Miss Laut draws from them the conclusion that Britain and America must carry the burden now. That there is only one way to win— by building ships—and that Uncle Sam is undertaking this part of it with characteristic vigor is the message that this article contains.
LET US acknowledge that, with the practical defection of Russia from the Allies and the reverses to Italy, all hope of peace has gone from the mind of the United States Government and the United States people. Up to the middle of September—yes, up to the end of October—it was impossible to persuade the average United States citizen, or the average United States Government official, that, with the offers of the King of Spain and the Emperor of Austria to abdicate, Germany could go on. Russia was the first shock to shatter false hopes; Italy was the second; and preparations are going apace here now for a five-year war and an army of one milion men in the field by 1918. The realization has come home with terribly poignant force that, if the war is to be won, it is to be won by the armies of Great Britain and the United States; and it is characteristic of the American people’s sanguine, emotional, practical temperament that they have swung clean to the other extreme; from lethargy fat with profits to lank, eager, grim stop-at-nothing determination to put the last ounce of the nation’s strength into the fight.
It is the tragedy of the stupid censorship that details of the present pace are not given to the public. Northcliffe drew aside the veil for a moment when he penned his famous letter to Lloyd George full of confidence in America’s part in the war. Roughly, and as openly as I am permitted to speak, the general understanding here is that what Italy has done in the last few weeks—France may do in the next few weeks. In fact, what Italy has done France will do with absolute certainty, unless she can clear her official circles of incompetency and graft. The undoing of Russia and Italy came from subterranean German propaganda in the guise of socialism. The same poison is at work in France. The same poison is at work in the United States. I had lunch last week with a group of American artists who have lived in Paris for twenty years. They were back in America but three days. They have travelled over all sections of France by first class, second class, third; and they were removing their studios permanently from Paris to New York. Why? Because outside official circles they found France being per-
meated with the same poison that has undone Russia and Italy. Because they fear the same debacle in France as in Russia and Italy; and because if their fears are realized, it means a prolonged and terrible war in which two powers must bear the brunt—the United States and Great Britain.
Patriots inoculated with pacificism and socialism lose the ardor and the edge of their fighting zeal if they suspect corruption and mismanagement in their rulers; and, unfortunately, the suspicion has the strongest possible grounding on facts. I could give details of this, especially regarding repudiated American railroad accounts in France; but it would lead away from the main theme—how American knowledge of the truth has speeded up the pace here.
The United States and France are very close—much closer in sympathy than England and the United States; and as colony after colony of Parisian Americans have come back to the United States to live, the truth has percolated through to the public, in spite of the censorship.
THE first reaction was in this country girding up her loins to work to feed the world. The second was in a universal demand that “blood and treasure,” as Wilson put it, should not be wasted on the battlefield—in a word, that an army of aeroplanes should protect the advancing army of men. And then, as the disasters of Russia and Italy came home to the American mind with a growing knowledge of France’s war-weariness, sprang up a demand for an army; not of one million men, but, if need be, of five or ten million. And lastly and most insistently of all—
because food, army, aeroplanes are useless without them—plans for such fleets of merchant carriers as this nation has never dreamed of; and that brings us to the work of the Emergency Fleet Corporation.
And, to quiet apprehensions, I want to put on record here that the work of the Emergency Fleet Corporation has gone past the stage of paper plans. Before these words appear in print 300,000 skilled steel and bridge structural workers will be riveting the ship plates together for the merchant fleet that is to carry Uncle Sam’s five million fighters and their food and munitions overseas. Before these words are printed seven different yards within a radius of seven miles from New York, and as many again in Philadelphia, will be launching each one freighter every three days throughout the year 1918. And this takes no account of the big plants up at Fore River, Boston, down at Newport News, at Mobile, along the waterfront of Texas, and up the Pacific Coast. On the Pacific Coast alone there are 75,000 shipbuilders employed to-day, where there were not 700 before the war.
Do a little figuring if you have any fear that these ship plans may be more hot air than tonnage! In one ship plant off Newark across from Manhattan one freighter of 6,000 tons will be launched every three days for two years. This company’s lease was for only four years. The American Government requested that it extend its lease for fourteen years, and advanced the money to secure the lease; and this plant is only’ one of seven round New York. This plant alone will launch 200 ships in two years. Multiply this plant’s output by seven for New York, by one for Boston, by seven for Philadelphia, by one for Mobile, by three for Texas, by six for the Pacific Coast; and the rivets are hammering in every ship yard. Add your total ! The smallest cargo carrier building for the Government is 5,000 tons, the largest, about 9,600, with two intermediate sizes. How many ships do you get? When the war broke out, Uncle Sam had less than six cargo carriers plying across the Atlantic. He had a large coast fleet, and he had a large lake fleet, and he had a growing navy; but he had only six cargo and passenger carriers
across the Atlantic under the American flag.
And all this building takes absolutely no account of navy construction, of men of war, of dreadnoughts, of fast destroyers, of cruisers, of submarine chasers, of submarines. The Emergency Fleet plans touch only the merchant marine. And get it clearly in your mind! The rivets are being driven. This isn’t a blue-pencil, lead-pencil fleet. In one plant, 12,000 men are at work, and the Government has advanced the money to build the model city to house and care for the workers. This plant needs 25,000 men. In another plant,
6,000 men are at work. Here 15,000 are needed. At time of writing, 300,000 shipbuilders are at work; but 500,000 are needed and will yet be conscripted for the
FOR forty years patriots in the United States dinned into the unheeding ears of a happy-go-lucky public the need of a merchant fleet; and Congress used to let the patriots spout to empty benches; and Uncle Sam had less than six carriers on the Atlantic. But at one scratch of the pen the German Emperor has created such a merchant fleet as patriots never dreamed of. The scratch of the pen was the Kaiser’s signature for orders to resume submarine warfare. Praise be to Bill ! He will have transformed this shamble-jointed people into a united nation before he finishes his job.
Take the necessity for a merchant fleet as a war measui'e first, altogether apart from the fact that wheat dropped to 67 cents a bushel and cotton to 4 cents a pound when the declaration of war shut off the sea lanes in 1914. Soon as the sea lanes opened, cotton went to 30 cents and wheat to $3—which was about as effective a way of awakening the Middle Inland West to interest in a merchant marine as could have been devised.
As a war measure—though this country will probably and is, in fact, now counting on putting five million men in the field—base your estimates on the million men who are to be put across by the spring of 1918! It takes four tons of cargo space to care for one soldier abroad for a year. That is, altogether apart from transporting the man himself, it requires four tons of cargo space to care for the man’s guns, wagons, food, ammunition, tenting, medical supplies, clothes. So the one million men to be on the field by April of 1918 will require four millions tonnage of ships. They will require more tonnage than the seven plants round New York could supply at the rate of a ship of 5,000 tons off the ways every three days; but fortunately, there are the additional yards on Delaware Bay,
Mobile, in Texas and on the Pacific Coast. Also there are the seized German vessels that were interned. Also there are the fleets of carriers brought down from the Great Lakes and 800 ships commandeered from the coastwise trade. It is quite useless to attempt to set down what this additional cargo space totals for the war; for any possible estimate would be utterly wrong. Take the seized German ships! While some of them are floating palaces and good for 10,000 to 20,000 tons, they are built as pleasure craft for
times of peace. They have great speed and humanly speaking, can weather any sea, but, struck by a torpedo, they stand so high out of the water, there is danger of their turning turtle and proving death traps. Also on repairing them, engineers found defects in construction; so that the Government has hesitated to use some of them for troop transports. As to the lake carriers, there was a time when it was estimated that as many as 500 could be used for Atlantic traffic; but on trial many of these had defects similar to the seized German ships. Some of the lake carriers—especially for grain and ore—have the biggest cargo capacity in the world; and, while a huge cargo carrier is a great temptation for quick work in time of war, it is also a great temptation to a $5,000 torpedo. At time of writing I do not think more than 200 lake carriers have proved suitable for war work on the Atlantic. Of the coastwise fleet, while everything over 2,000 tons has been commandeered and several lines have been taken over wholly, to pull all the ships fit for ocean service off the coast would delay shipments of food, lumber, coal and ore needed for the war; so the most of Uncle Sam’s dependence for war work is placed on the cargo carriers being built by the Emergency Fleet.
If four tons of ship space are needed for the equipment and maintenance of every soldier placed on the field, four million tons will be needed in 1918 and twenty million tons before the war is over. But there is besides the necessity for ships to transport the men themselves; and to estimate this is equally impossible, for all the men will flbt go at once; but, estimating
1.000 men to a ship, a million men means
1.000 trips across the Atlantic.
Lloyd George declared that the first
requisite to win the war was ships. Northcliffe declared in Chicago that, without ships, army, aeroplanes and food would be as nothing. Ships, then, the Emergency Fleet is providing at a rate to set the rythm of the rivet hammers resounding round the world. But get out of your head the idea that nothing is doing.
It was the misfortune of the Emergency Fleet that it started wrong. It first came into being as a board to carry out McAdoo’s idea of a $50,000,000 corporation for a United States merchant marine. Then war was declared; and the Emergency Fleet Corporation was formed to provide a merchant fleet to win the war. Denman and Goethals went in. One was for wood; the other was for steel. One was a politician quarrelling out loud and in public; the other was an army engineer hating hot air and politics. Though 353 wooden ships are under way, wood fell down as the final form of merchant fleet for a lot of reasons. First, it was found that to escape the pursuit of a submarine a ship must run at over 14 knots up to 16 knots; and wood could not be depended on to do this. Next, wood could not be standardized. Standardizing is the key to high speed in building. That is, one model ship is built; this model is tested and approved as perfect; it is then taken apart and its parts sent to forty or fifty different factories, capable of building multiple parts conforming to the standard model part in hand. Now all the old model wooden ship yards were in a state of dismantlement; they had not the ways ready for this kind of quick standardized work, and there were no subordinate subsidiary fabricating shops to rush in the supply of multiple parts in thousands. Also—most fatal of all to a wooden ship programme — the old time wood shipbuilders had passed away. The cunning craftsman of whom Longfellow sang had gone. It was advertised that 15,000 “wood” builders would begin work at a certain plant on a certain day. Less than 1,500 could be found. So, while Denman and Goethals signed contracts for 353 wooden vessels, 58 of wood and steel, and 225 steel, and also commandeered some 400 other vessels, or secured in all a tonnage good for five millions displacement, both their resignations were accepted. Hurley and Capps were put in charge of the Government’s Emergency Fleet; and they were fortunate to come in office just when the collapse of Russia and reverse to Italy had stiffened the whole situation. Hurley was a trade expert. Capps was a careful navy man; and Goethals’ steel programme was followed to the letter and expanded. Instead of $50,000,000, the Emergency Fleet Corporation is likely to expend a billion and a half. Now that a programme is under way which will add six million tons to the United States merchant marine in a year, Capps will be permitted to go back to strictly navy work, and the Emergency Fleet will be joined by two of the greatest building geniuses in the world—Henry Ford, noted for a system of standardizing that speeds construction, and Homer Ferguson, the general manager of Newport News, who has turned out some of the finest battleships
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The One Way To Win
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and cargo carriers in America. With Hurley and Ford and Ferguson at the head of the Government Fleet Corporation, you can wager on the ships being ready as soon as the army.
O TANDARDIZING sizes and types is the key to speed. To date, 4 sizes have been chosen, 5,000 tons for the Submarine Boat Company’s 28 ways, 9,000 tons for the U.S. Steel’s two plants, one at Newark, the other at Mobile, ten ways at each plant; 7,500 and 7,600 for the Internationa! Corporation’s plant at Hog Island and young Harriman’s two plants at Philadelphia. The fuel will be oil, permitting a radius of 20,000 miles cruise without refilling. At first, the speed was specified at 14 knots. This has been raised to 16 in order to outdistance the submarine.
The entire output of 40 fabricating plants between the Atlantic and the Mississippi is being taken for this merchant fleet. Please look at the names behind each plant! They comprise the strongest financiers in the world, not including the power behind the other big plants doing work for the navy, like Schwab and Newport News. Before sizes were standardized every ship required 400 inspections, $400 of notarial fees. All this wasted time is cut out by standardizing sizes. Only 18% of the actual work is done in the assembling plants, while 82% is done in the fabricating plants. This is essentially Ford’s system. Money is advanced by the Government for leases, plants, rail connections, housing, hotels, and the ships are taken over at 10% profit to the companies above cost.
I don’t know how this reads to you ; but it does not read to me as though Uncle Sam expected a short and easy war. Neither does it read as though he were stalling. And, remember, all this shipbuilding does not include navy work, nor such private contracts as $370,000,000 worth of ships now being built in Baltimore, Galveston, Newport News, Texas and on the Pacific coast.
THE work accomplished in six months is almost incredible; it is catching up on a century’s neglect. But having let the contracts and financed the cash does not end the Emergency Fleet’s work; its two biggest difficulties are still ahead. A moment’s thought suggests what the two difficulties are. Except for coastal traffic, Uncle Sam has been off the sea for forty years. Where is he to get his seamen to man the fleet? And his shipbuilders to build it? The first question is more easily answered than the second. Before the war, foreign labor reduced the wages of seamen to a level which Americans would not accept and they quit the sea. Since the war, wages for seamen have so increased that a merchant marine job offers as good wages as munition factory or office. Modern steel ships run with oil fuel require the same qualifications in a seaman as a chauffeur—mechanics and a steady head rather than seamanship. The long apprenticeship needed for a boy to man a sailing vessel is not needed on a modern oil burner. A month’s training will prove an applicant fit or unfit, just as a month’s trial will usually demonstrate whether a man can run a furnace or a motor car; so 27 free nautical schools have been opened in every section of the countrv to train boys for merchant marine work. Here courses are given in mathematics, in steering, in mechanics. in wireless. The boy fit has a job waitin'» for him at the end of the course. Until there are enough seamen so trained, the navy will man the merchant fleet. As to wages, before the war they ran from $25 to $10 a month and keep. To-day, thev run $60 a month for sailors, $50 for coal passers. $65 for oil stokers, $70 for bo’sun.$75 for mechanics.50 cents an hour for overtime, and 50% over wages while in the war zone, with $100 compensation if clothes are lost.
The matter of builders is a more difficult one for the shin plants. Ship building has been a dead craft here for forty years. But shipbuilding is no longer the work of a cunning wood craftsman. A steel ship is a bridge afloat. Steel shipbuilding is the work for chauffeurs» for gas fitters, for plumbers, for garage men, for metal mechanics, who are over the draft age. The ship niants now have 300.000 men at work. Thev need 500,000. Whore are thev to get, them? Ships are as essential to win the war as a bomb in the trenches; so the suggestion has been made that men drafted who prefer metal work to trench fighting should he given the option to elect for service in the ship plants; and that here they should be given the same rank and chance for promotion as in the army, with title and medal for distinguished service. Ideal living conditions will be provided for the workmen. Theatres, moving pictures, sanitary houses will be provided; and the pay will be easily double the army pay. When the draft call increases from one million to five million men, there is not the slightest doubt that many a young fellow will elect for service in the ship building army.