Our personnel, too, has always been good. The American seaman has always excelled, and so has the American gunner. No ships have ever been better handled than the American ships; no naval battles in history have been conducted with more skill and daring than those of American ships; no exploits in history surpass those of Cushing, Hobson, and Decatur.
In operations, however, in the handling of the navy as a whole, we have never excelled; though no better individual fleet leaders shine in the pages of all history than Farragut and Dewey. The strategical operating of our material and personnel has not been in accordance with carefully laid plans, but has been left largely to the inspiration of the commander on the spot, both in peace and in war. Material has suffered from lack of a naval policy, but only quantitatively, because material is a subject that the people understand. Personnel has suffered more, because the people fail to realize the amount of training needed to make a personnel competent to perform their tasks successfully, in competition with the highly trained men of other navies. But operations have suffered incomparably more than material and personnel; because naturally the people do not comprehend the supreme importance of being ready, when war breaks out, to operate the material and personnel skilfully against an active enemy, in accordance with well-prepared strategic plans; nor do they realize how difficult and long would be the task of preparing and testing out those plans. Therefore, they fail to provide the necessary administrative machinery.[*]
[Footnote *: Since this was written, the Congress has so enlarged the scope of the Office of Chief of Naval Operations as to make it a General Staff.]
In fact, the kind and amount of machinery needed to conduct operations skilfully and quickly cannot be decided wisely until the country adopts some naval policy; and in naval policy the United States must be admitted to have lagged behind almost every other civilized country. Spurred as we were to exertion by the coming of the Revolutionary War, we constructed hastily, though with skill, the splendid ships that did service in that war. But after the war, interest in the navy waned; and if it had not been for the enormous tribute demanded by the pirates of the Barbary coast from our government, and a realization of the fact that not only was it cheaper to build ships and fight the pirates than to pay the tribute, but paying the tribute was a disgraceful act, our navy would have run down even more than it did. Yet even with this warning, 1812 found our navy in a desperate condition. Rallying to the emergency, though too late to accomplish much practical result, we built a number of excellent ships, against the votes of many highly influential men in Congress. These ships did gallant service, and redeemed the reputation of Americans from the oft-repeated charge of being cowards and merely commercial