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June 06 , 2009

Our Navy in the War


Gently rolling and heaving on the surge of a summer sea lay a mighty fleet of war-vessels. There were the capital ships of the Atlantic Fleet, grim dreadnoughts with their superimposed turrets, their bristling broadsides, their basket-masts—veritable islands of steel. There were colliers, hospital-ships, destroyers, patrol-vessels—in all, a tremendous demonstration of our sea power. Launches were dashing hither and thither across the restless blue waters, signal-flags were flashing from mast and stay and the wind, catching the sepia reek from many a funnel, whipped it across a league of sea. On the deck of the largest battleship were gathered the officers of the fleet not only, but nearly every officer on active duty in home waters. All eyes were turned shoreward and presently as a sharp succession of shots rang out a sleek, narrow craft with gracefully turned bow came out from the horizon and advanced swiftly toward the flag-ship. It was the President's yacht, the Mayflower, with the President of the United States on board. As the yacht swung to a launch was dropped overside, the gangway lowered and Woodrow Wilson stepped down to the little craft, bobbing on the waves. There was no salute, no pomp, no official circumstance, nor anything in the way of ceremony. The President did not want that. What he did want was to meet the officers of our navy and give them a heart-to-heart talk. He did just that. At the time it was early summer in 1917. In the preceding April a declaration that Germany had been waging war upon the United States had been made in Congress; war resolutions had been passed and signed by the President. This on April 6. On April 7 the Navy Department had put into effect plans that had already been formulated. Much had been done when the President boarded the flag-ship of the Atlantic Fleet that early summer afternoon. Some of our destroyers were already at work in foreign waters, but the bulk of our fighting force was at home, preparing for conflict. And it was this time that the President chose to meet those upon whom the nation relied to check the submarine and to protect our shores against the evil devices of the enemy.
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