The New York Times/1925/12/14/Navy Morale High, Declares Wilbur
Navy Secretary In Annual Report Upholds Keeping of Separate Air Service.
TOUCHES ON SHENANDOAH
And Insists That Commander Landsdowne Had Complete Liberty of Action.
HOLDS ECONOMY AS AN AID
He Says Extravagance and Waste Have Been Eliminated in Department.
Special to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON, D. C., Dec. 13.—Forced economy, Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur said in his annual report to the President, made public today, has benefited his branch of the national defense by eliminating extravagance and waste, by developing thrift and thoroughness, and in particular by developing the skill, zeal character of the navy personnel. The Secretary indicated, however, that it would be possible to carry economy too far and said that when ships became obsolete they should be replaced.
Secretary Wilbur, who declared that the morale of the navy was never higher, devoted much attention to air activities, including the tragic voyage of the Shenandoah, the attempted airplane flight to Honolulu and the activities of the naval airmen with the MacMillan Arctic expedition. He gave the highest praise to those who were concerned in these adventures.
In referring to the loss of the Shenandoah and the controversy which followed the disaster, Mr. Wilbur asserted that Lieut. Commander Zachary Lansdowne, the ship's commander, had complete liberty of action concerning the flight. With respect to aviation policies in general, Mr. Wilbur reiterated his belief that aeronautics should continue as an arm of the fleet.
"On Aug. 18, 1925," said the Secretary, "the chief of Naval Operations held his final conference with Lieut. Commander Lansdowne concerning the flight, at which time Lieutenant Lansdowne expressed himself as satisfied with the date and arrangements for the flight and expressed entire confidence in the ability of the ship and crew successfully to complete the proposed flight.
"At this conference Lieut. Commander Lansdowne was again reminded that in accordance with the established policy of the department he was authorized to defer the trip, change the itinerary, or abandon it altogether if, in his judgment, such changes were rendered necessary by weather conditions."
Valuable information, not only from the viewpoint of science and discovery, but in the interest of air operations under new and difficult conditions, would be furnished by the naval aviation participation in the MacMillan Arctic expedition, Mr. Wilbur said. He described the attempted flight to Hawaii as "another step in advance in the development of material and equipment for naval planes in long distance work over water." The PN-9 No. 1, he said, failed to reach her goal because the favorable winds were of a less intensity than had been expected, a fact which, together with rain squalls, accounted for the plane having insufficient fuel. "Great credit," he said, was due Commander John Rogers and his crew for their fortitude and resourcefulness.
Upholds Aviation at Annapolis.
Mr. Wilbur described the course in aviation instituted at the Naval Academy and explained that it was proposed to give more extensive courses to classes after their graduation. Discussing in detail the subject of naval aviation, he said:
"Aircraft operating with the other coordinate arms of the fleet are vitally essential to modern naval operations. The development of naval aviation has progressed during the past year with satisfactory results, in spite of the many difficulties inherent in the refinement of a new art.
"Naval aviation is a specialized problem. It involves not only the relatively simple problem of flight operations with aircraft, but also combined with this are the more complex problems of utilizing aircraft under the practical conditions of naval warfare. Planes must be used offensively and defensively in naval manoeuvres a thousand or more miles from a land base. They must operate from surface ships and must be closely coordinated with the plane and manoeuvres of the fleet organization.
"The provision for offensive and defensive use of aircraft along these lines involves problems of stowage, servicing and repair on surface ships—mechanical details of performance and reliability in operations over water; and above all, thorough training of personnel, both in the air and on the surface, to the end that the fleet may function as a cohesive unit.
"The navy has made every effort to standardize on types of aircraft which are best suited to the needs of the naval service. Planes have been developed and are now in service with the fleet which combine the functions of scouting, bombing and torpedo launching. Other types have been developed and are in use for observation and spotting service to the battleships and cruisers. Fighting planes will be provided with special reference to the equipment of airplane carriers.
"The combined operations of aircraft, submarines and surface vessels again proved the value of each type and demonstrated the interdependence of these three arms of the navy. The operations of the carrier Langley in the fleet manoeuvres demonstrated the value of this type and served to emphasize the needs of first line aircraft carriers in major fleet operations.
"In spite of the lack of carrier tonnage, the number of aircraft participating in fleet manoeuvres has increased each year since the close of the war."
Electric Submarine Demonstrates Value.
"The remarkable success demonstrated with the electric drive on the battleships," says Mr. Wilbur, "has led to its adoption in the submarine, the first of which vessels has completed a series of exhaustive tests, and its operation has been successful."
The report declares that, save for a "serious shortage" of line officers, the number of commissioned officers now in the navy is adequate to meet the peacetime requirements of the fleet and the shore establishment. He goes on:
"Intensive training of all officers is being conducted in the fleet with the purpose of preparing them to assume the duties of positions of higher responsibility which they must immediately occupy in the event of the fleet being mobilized, and some progress has been made on plans to train in peace time the abundant and excellent naval officer material to be found in the colleges and elsewhere throughout the country."
Except that the authorized enlisted strength of 86,000 men could not be maintained in the last few months because of overexpenditures would have been the result, and the number was therefore reduced to 82,000. Secretary Wilbur reported that the personnel situation during the year had been "uniformly excellent." He continued:
Aviation Hazards Increase Deaths.
"With the development of aviation activities new hazards have been introduced. In 1924 there were 78 admissions to the sick list, 1,578 sick days and 32 deaths resulting from injuries incurred in flying. There were 19 deaths in 1923 and 20 in 1922. These figures do not mean that flying is less safe than it was a year or two ago. On the contrary, * the risks of injury and death have been progressively reduced, but exposure to aviation hazards has increased. The figures are mentioned to illustrate the point that injury hazards for naval personnel are greater than they were a decade or two ago."