Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/842

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The Wasps of a Modern Fleet

Torpedo boat destroyers sweep upon a warship and torpedo it before it has a chance to retaliate. As scouts, they have proved indispensable

��A TORPEDO boat destroyer is no longer, as its name seems to indicate, primarily a destroyer of torpedo boats. It is a fast torpedo boat of large size and capable of making prolonged cruises on the seas. Its preeminent purpose is to bag big game, such as dreadnoughts, by torpe- doing them. Its most important armament is torpedo tubes which it carries on an aft deck on both sides of the ship. A number of rapid-fire guns of small caliber are also mounted on the destroyer. These are for fighting with swift, powerful destroyers like itself and for attacking submarines. Such performances, however, are incidental. The sinking of a huge warship during a battle is of greater importance than separate quar- rels amongst small vessels like itself.

The Destroyers Lead the Way

A number of torpedo boat destroyers accompany a fleet into battle. They are always foremost in the fray. Led generally by a fast light cruiser, the torpedo de- stroyers sweep down upon the enemy's war- ships at a speed of forty miles an hour. The cruiser endeavors to ward ofi the counter-attacks of the enemy's lighter craft and strives to break a way for the destroyers that follow her, so that they can maneuver into firing position. The destroyers' work, however, is hazardous, for just one well- aimed shot will send one of them to the bottom. But, on the other hand, they are able to dash about here and there rapidly enough to bafifle the enemy's fire.

This initial attack happens before the real battle begins. The slower battleships of the main fleet steam up and open fire upon the big ships of the enemy. Now the destroyers swarm about the battleships, "stinging" whenever they can. Their tor- pedoes can be launched with facility as the firing tubes, after being once loaded and aimed, operate automatically. The torpedo tubes are swung into firing position around their circular track which is mounted on the deck. Each torpedo tube is aimed by sights which are somewhat similar to those on any naval gun. An electric control is thrown in, then com- pressed air enters the rear of the tube and sweeps the torpedo out automatically.

The usefulness of these wasps goes even

��further than this. A destroyer continually tries to get to leeward of the enemy fleet, where she turns off the draft of her boilers. Clouds of smoke are immediately emitted, which the wind blows towards the enemy, and which soon envelope the enemy's ships. The enemy is temporarily blinded by the screen of smoke produced by the de- stroyer though the tops of his masts can be faintly seen. In an instant, the de- stroyer takes advantage of this fact and sends a torpedo, guided by the masts.

Smoke Screens Turned the Tide of Battle

It was this style of tactics of the German destroyers which served the Germans so well in the battle of Jutland. At the time their battleships were being hard hit, the German destroyers formed a veritable wall of smoke and enabled their countrymen to gain a temporary advantage.

The torpedo boat destroyers have still another duty equally as important — that of scouting." Their lightness makes them swift and gives them a very large cruising radius. They can therefore scout far ahead of a squadron and can report their observations of the enemy by wireless. The advancing line of bigger ships by this means is made well aware of what it is up against long before the enemy ranges into sight. Forewarned is forearmed, and the squadron can prepare itself for the im- pending fight as a consequence.

Methods of the Scout

This competency of the destroyer as a scout will undoubtedly make her of great importance in our coast defense. She is capable of discovering the approach of any hostile fleet days ahead of the time that fleet will near our coast. She would immediately make her wireless report, and would continue to follow at a safe distance from the fleet and report its every movement. The destroyer will continually use her long-distance tactics of firing torpedoes in the general direction of the fleet, and there are two chances out of seven that she will hit the ships of the line. Meanwhile she can give information to our submarines to facilitate their surprise attacks also.

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