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Vol. 45, No. 1


Whole No. 191



Motto: “The burnt child dreads the fire."

I. THE LOCKED DOOR Some people call it luck, and some people call it providence and still others absorb all the credit to our native ability to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. It cannot be disputed that luck was never a drawback to any enterprise ; but the man, the service or the nation that depends upon future luck is apt to find himself out of it. Providence is a help we must hope for and which has been conspicuously on our side so far; but providence seems to weary of taking unceasing care of the deliberately unready. As for the third solution, our ability in the manufacture of purses is proven and undoubted; but the most ingenious methods and most superlative energy require time.

When relations with the German Empire were broken off, we were confronted with the most gigantic problem of organization ever set squarely in the path of any service. And as this was a cause which no self-respecting providence could keep its hand out of, we were given a few months instead of a few days, in which to solve it. Providence, using the British fleet as an instrument, kept the enemy from our coasts; luck reduced our mistakes to an abnormal minimum; and for some time, under wise and patient leadership, we have been delivering the goods in quantities that none of our allies had dared hope for.

We have done it by all pulling together. We have proved that a man who requires normally two or three years to train into a useful petty officer, can, under the spur of dire necessity and exceeding patriotism, become a very valuable cog in our machine in six months or less. Emergency officers have been made with amazing rapidity. They have not the flexibility of thoroughly trained men who have gained a commission through regular channels of study; but each of them has his distinct value in his own specialty, and the thing hardest to acquire—the ability to handle men—is made easier by the fact that the men who have come to us by thousands want to be handled and have made boundless allowances for the greenness of their new officers and the pressure of work on their old ones. Any officer who has censored mail since April, 1917, has indisputable proof of that. “I'm making this a short letter, Kid," wrote one youngster. “You see, some officer has got to wade through all the letters, and we need all the time the officers have got. They have my sympathy, we're certainly a bunch of Reubs at this business.” They were undoubtedly, as green a crowd of men, 1100 strong, as ever gazed bewildered about the decks of a battleship, and the officers who came with them were only slightly less green. But that was in April. In July, no smarter, cleaner ship had ever gone to sea; the men at quarters presented a rigid, shining line of broad chests and square shoulders. The strained, gray look of the commanding officer and his department-heads had long ago given way to a look of pride.

Given as small a nucleus, it is impossible to imagine that we could at some future date accomplish as great results in much less time than we required during this war. In case another war should come, we cannot hope for a year or even for three months of respite while we get ready. We must have more than a moderate-sized, undermanned fleet and a wealth of raw material and untrained personnel. We cannot carry the sword about our business in peace times—for we are now fighting to end such swash-buckling, but the sword must lie ready and unrusted, close to our hand.

The final stage of cleaning up the muss after the present unpleasantness is going to leave as big a problem as the beginning gave us. The hundreds of thousands of level-eyed boys who have put through the war for us are going home. They will be ready to come back at the drop of a hat, if America needs them; but as

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