THE Navy was known during the war as the "Silent Service."
Little appeared in official dispatches or in the public press
regarding the operations of the United States Naval Forces
either in Europe or on our own coast. In fact, in only a handful
of instances, where a transport was torpedoed or where an enemy
submarine was definitely accounted for, was any mention made of
our naval work. Generally speaking, the people at home knew only
that their Navy was successfully manning the transports and
escorting the troops, munitions, and supplies in safety to the
shores of France.
How very much more these operations involved is only now coming
out. On our entrance into the Great War in the spring of 1917,
steps were immediately taken by the Navy Department to build up
an organization to be based on the French coast, primarily for
the purpose of keeping the famous "Neck of the Bottle" as free
as possible from German submarines. The distance from Bordeaux
to Brest is a comparatively small one, and almost every ship
entering the French ports from the United States had, of
necessity, to pass through a narrow strip of sea. This small
area had proved a famous hunting ground for enemy submarines,
and it became our obvious task to send over every possible means
of assistance to work with the French Navy.
The story of what our officers and men did in those early days
is the best illustration of the all-round efficiency of the
Navy. A large proportion of the officers and men came from civil
life, but were quickly and successfully indoctrinated into their
naval duties by the regular officers of the service. The tools
with which they had to work were, in large part, makeshift.
Yachts were hurriedly converted to naval purposes; all kinds of
equipment were taken over for possible use in France. From small
beginnings the organization grew until by the summer of 1918 the
whole western coast of France was guarded by a string of surface
vessels and aircraft.
Not only was the ''Neck of the Bottle" made safe for our troop
and supply ships, but the operations were extended from the
defensive type to the offensive, and the very existence of enemy
submarines was rendered extremely unhealthy long before the
To the men who took part in this great work too much credit
cannot be given. Extraordinary physical endurance was called
for, and more than that, imagination and a genius to meet new
conditions with untried weapons was essential to success.
During the summer of 1918 I had the pleasure of visiting these
French bases and of seeing the work at first hand. No part of
our naval activities deserves higher credit than the part they
took. They have the satisfaction, at least, of knowing that the
Navy and the country are proud of them.