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UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE
Vol. 45, No. 6 JUNE, 1919 Whole No. 196
U. S. NAVAL INSTITUTE, ANNAPOLIS, MD.
Military power, whether afloat or ashore, has in all ages been measured in units of skilled fighting men, properly equipped. Improved equipment increased the value of the unit, as is instanced by the success of the armored Greek, when opposed to the unarmored Asiatic.
Equipment was more or less permanent, could be captured, or passed on to new men; the men were but mortal; and, on the average, lack of men set limits to the power of the state.
From this fact arose the effort to increase, by constant improvement, in the equipment, the effectiveness of the fighting man at the front, and, as civilization developed, and the mechanical arts with it, the value of the unit of power was constantly augmented.
Equipment grew in effectiveness, and also in cost. In the Middle Ages equipment became so expensive that only a small part of the fighting men could be fitted out with the best equipment. Cost is a question of labor used in production, and a certain part of the man-power is required to furnish this labor.
Economy in money requires that we obtain as good equipment as is possible with the money available, for the numbers of fighting men we can count on. It must be here remembered that money means labor, and labor means time. It would be a simple matter to improve the equipment of the fleet, if there were no question of cost. No objection could be found to a complete replacement of the battleship force by new ships of much greater size and power, if there were no loss of time, and no increase in the cost of maintenance. It is not necessary to argue that the men now on the old ships would have much greater fighting power on the new ships. But the millennium has not yet come, and there is the ever present spectre of cost.
When all is said and done, there is available a certain amount of money, to be expended in a given time, for fighting ships. Leaving out of consideration the small craft and auxiliaries, which consume but a small fraction of the total, the available funds will build, in a given time, a number of capital ships, the number depending on the type. What type shall be built? Clearly, the type or types that will give their crews, of a fixed number, the greatest fighting power. And why build capital ships? For the reason that the capital ships do give to a fixed number of men the greatest fighting power. Fighting power means offence and defence. It is just as necessary to protect our own men and material, as it is to damage or destroy the enemy's men and material.
The battleship has been developed into a machine that represents the greatest amount of fighting power that can be obtained from its crew. There is both offence and defence, balanced evenly. At different periods we will see battleships of different sizes, and different degrees of effectiveness, depending on the state of mechanical development at the time. But always there is the balance between offence and defence. A ship is no more a battleship, if she has no armor, than if she has no guns; if she has no torpedo protection than if she has no offence against torpedo vessels. The battleship has consistently represented the maximum fighting power for a given crew, which is the only thing that counts on the day of battle.
Many times have we seen special types evolved, even in capital ships. They have been brought about in most cases, perhaps in all, by ideas that might be traced to other bases than the fundamental one of fighting, and of producing fighting equipment. Already we have seen many of them disappear, after a short life, while the battleship type so far has remained. We need only mention the ram, the commerce destroying cruiser, the armored cruiser, the monitor. They all have wasted money that should have gone into fighting ships. We now have the battle cruiser.