Saturday, March 06, 2010

FDR Knox and the Navy

Per the Official Navy History - Administration of the Navy Department In WW II:

FDR Ignores Knox except in PR and Dealing with Congress

"During the short-of-war period before Pearl Harbor the President usually consulted the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. Stark, directly on such matters as the building program, the employment and disposition of the fleet, naval personnel, and similar matters. However, in things involving the reaction of Congress and the public to new measures he dealt directly with Secretary Edison and later Secretary Knox. Knox was, for example, very helpful in getting Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941."

"Often the President used Knox to ascertain public reaction to proposed measures by having him make trial-balloon speeches on the subjects. Knox, a forceful and persuasive speaker, was well suited to bringing out press comment on matters that were new to the public."

FDR Supports Motorboats over DE's against Navy Objections

"Franklin Roosevelt was more given than his cousin to making technical decisions himself, particularly when it came to questions of the characteristics of naval ships. For one thing, he had a strong predilection for waging antisubmarine warfare with small craft. This partiality went back to World War I when, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he advocated building large numbers of 50-foot motorboats to meet the U-boat menace of that war. It took all the arguments of the technical Bureaus and the General Board, supported by the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels,to build the 110-foot subchasers instead. The professional Navy took the position that for antisubmarine work vessels must be at least large enough to go to sea and to stay at sea in bad weather, and that one element of sea keeping was sufficient size to provide accommodations for a crew large enough to permit watch-standing. Such accommodations could not be provided in 50-foot motorboats. In World War II Franklin Roosevelt again favored small craft of the motorboat type for coastal protection against U-boats. It was only gradually that programs for the construction of more seaworthy vessels such as the PCs, SCs, and DEs received his unqualified support."

FDR Responsible for the Alaska Battlecruisers

"Again, the Alaska class of ships, consisting of three 27,000-ton cruisers mounting 12" guns, was built largely because of the President's insistence on such a design, although there was no enthusiasm in the professional Navy for the type. The ships never had an opportunity to demonstrate their usefulness, for they were completed too late to get into action during the war. Franklin Roosevelt's interest in technical naval matters extended beyond ships. For example, he took an active part in planning the overall features of the new naval hospital to be built at Bethesda, Maryland, later known as the National Naval Medical Center."

FDR Selects Naval Officers

"President Roosevelt himself took an active part in selecting naval officers for key positions. He felt himself qualified to do this because of his wide acquaintance with naval officers, stemming from his eight years of service as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Woodrow Wilson administration. He know personally a good many officers in his own age group. These officers reached flag rank during the 30's and became eligible for filling the more important positions in the Navy at the outbreak of World War II."

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