Submarine Torpedo Boat Holland,
Holland Torpedo Boat Station,
New Suffolk,Long Island,November7,1899
In obedience to your order 180,609, July 7, 1899; copy append-
ed. On Thursday, July 13, I proceeded to this station and es-
tablished communication with the Holland Company by presenting my-
self to its Secretary, Elihu B. Frost, Esq., and thereupon commenc-
ed a series of observations hereinafter described.
At this place are stationed and maintained a force of mechan-
ics and draughtsmen as well as the torpedo boat Holland, with its
crew and their understudies.
Near by, in Little Peconic Bay is maintained a trial and prac-
tice course two miles long, marked out and subdivided by flag poles
upon each side and end.
Upon this course the Holland has made a large number of runs
in both directions, all of them for the purpose of experiment, for
the instruction of the crew and their understudies, and incidental-
ly for exhibition purposes whenever convenient to all parties con-
Two of these runs are notable.
One on July 26th, 1899, before the Board considering altera-
tions to the Plunger, on which occasion all the members of the
Board, in pursuance of their duty, made submerged trips.
The second was on October 6th, 1899, when two German Naval
officers were present, and one of them made the submerged trip, to
be hereafter alluded to.
At all of these trials I was either present or else was fully
cognizant of them and of their results, but of them I have made no
report because being preliminary they could add nothing to the in-
formation of the Navy Department.
On August 30, 1899, Gunner Allan S. Mackenzie, U.S.N.,
reported for duty at this station, bringing with him three White-
head torpedoes for use on board the Holland and for the instruction
of the crew.
He has made several submarine trips in pursuance of his duty
and all the success attained in handling these torpedoes is due
entirely to him.
On Monday, November 6, 1899, the Official trial of the Holland
took place before the Board of inspection and Survey, the following
members being present: Rear-Admiral Frederick Rodgers,U.S.N.,Presi-
dent; Commander Wm. H. Emory, l. S. N.; Commander Chas. R. Roelker
U.S.N.; naval Constructor W.L.Capps, U.S.N.; Lieut. Comdr. T.J. Henderson, U.S.N.; Recorder.
The start from the wharf at new Suffolk was made at 12.45 P.M.
with the electric engine. Present on board, Commander Wm. H. Emory
U.S.N., Captain John Lowe, U.S.N., and seven members of the crew,
making nine persons in all, or four more than when going into a
fight. There were three Wihtehead torpedoes on board, to wit:
one in the firing tube, one just abaft the tube, and the third in
the starboard wing of the boat.
The following are the principal circumstances which took place
within the boat:
Start, as before said, at 12.45 P.M. with the electric engine,
substituted the gas or surface engine at 12.48 and made for the
course. Revolutions 250. Stopped at 1.12 and substituted the
electric engine. Closed the conning tower and ahead at 1.14.
Filled after ballast tank at 1.23; amidship tank at 1.27, and fill-
ed the forward tank to 3225 pounds of water ballast, when the ves-
sel was ready to dive; ahead at 1.30 and a dive at 1.30:30 pm
to 6 1/2 feet, this being a preliminary dive before reaching the
course, which was ended by rising to the surface and discharging
the amidship tank at 1.27.
The vessel then, turret open and crew on deck, stood off-and-
on awaiting the coming of the observation boat and other vessels
until 2:19 P.M., when the turret was closed, the amidship tank fill-
ed and the vessel started awash at 2.26, then at 2:28:30 the vessel
dove, and proceeded upon the course before described and the offic-
ial trial commenced. Revolutions 226. Amperes 175. Volts 125.
Observed that the movement of both helms was quite small, indicat-
ing complete equilibrium. While thus submerged the first torpedo
was fired at 2:40:30. Discharge pressure 50 Pounds per square
inch. At 2:55:30 the vessel came to the surface, the amidship tank
discharged and the vessel was brought to a stop at 2:56:30, the end
of the course being reached. At this point Commander Emory left
the vessel, and shortly afterward Lieut. Henderson and Constructor
Capps came on board. At 3:20 a new start was made awash. Stopped
at 3:22:35 and loaded the torpedo tube with the second torpedo,
which operation was finished and the vessel started at 3:28.
Stopped and filled amidship tank at 3:29:40. Trimmed forward tank
to 3200 lbs. water ballast, when the vessel was in trim. Ahead at
3:34:05 P.M. Dive at 3:35; then while the vessel was at full
speed submerged the second torpedo was fired at 3:37. The amidship
tank was then discharged, the vessel brought to the surface, and
stopped at 3:38:30, and Messrs. Henderson and Capps left the vessel.
Afterward while in cruising trim the vessel made a short speed run,
the beginning of which I lost by a faulty observation, but stopped
at 3:50 P.M. 420 amperes at 123 volts was the output during the
time. The trial was then declared to be at an end.
At the start the voltage was 125 and there were 6 air tubes
filled with air to a pressure per sq. inch. of 2100 lbs: At the
finish the voltage was 123 volts and two air tubes had the pressure
lessened to 600 pounds per square inch, leaving the four others intact.
The maximum inclination of the vessel in diving was 10° by the
head and 9° by the stern.
The consumption of electricity was evidenced by the fall of two
(2) volts. Remembering that 104 volts is the lowermost limit, it
is evident that the vessel could have gone 10 times further than
she did during this trial.
All movements of the vessel were made in obedience to the com-
mands of the President, Rear Admiral Rodgers, U.S.N.
I greatly regret the fact that the crew of this vessel were
not given the opportunity to exhibit themselves in one thing more
to which they have been drilled, to wit: Allowing the vessel to
sink to the bottom of the bay, and thus while entirely out of sight
of any, either friend or enemy, while resting on the bottom, of
loading the third torpedo in readiness for a third shot, and then
leisurely making her appearance upon the surface again, to fire the
Throughout this trial the submergement could have been anything
desired but care was taken not to entirely submerge the flags and
poles because that would have rendered the vessel invisible to the
Board. In real warfare these flags and poles would not be present
at all and the vessel would be invisible even when lightly submerg-
ed. Throughout the trial the air in the living spaces was entirely
pure to breathe, being refreshed the steering engines and from that
used in discharging the trimming tanks.
In obedience than to that part of my orders requiring me to
submit a report of my observations, I submit the facts hereinbefore
stated, and I report my belief that the Holland is a successful and
veritable Submarine Torpedo Boat, capable of making a veritable
attack upon an enemy unseen and undetectable, and that, therefore,
she is an Engine of Warfare of terrible potency which the Govern-
ment must necessarily adopt into its service.
In obedience to the latter of my orders, I add the following
notes upon matters of professional interest, coming under my notice.
Concerning the worse than worthlessness of the present above
water Torpedo System, its methods, theories and appliances, the
need of a deliverance from its absurdities and from the Fools's
Paradise of its false security, and instead thereof the absolute
need of a real torpedo system such as the Submarine System, I have
already reported under date November 14, 1898.
Upon these topics I cannot now make better effort, therefore
I ask that my old report be considered alongside of this one.
In addition, however, I would like to give further reasons why
a Submarine Service should at once be organized as a matter of pub-
lic necessity and security.
In the first place we must concede that, notwithstanding the
Hague Conference, the times has not yet arrived for nations to dis-
arm; on the contrary, that nation which is not ready to fight,
that ceases to study war, that ceases to use the most frightful war
like appliances when war is made, has already placed itself in a
position of inferiority and has ceased to possess those valuable
attributes which are well described in the term Manhood. Such a
nation is already in the position of China, a prey to the weakest
and the most rapacious, and a disturbance to all the rest of man-
If, then, we propose to fight, we must fight, when we fight,
with every fighting appliance, and therefore, if there is anything
valuable in Submarine Torpedo Warfare, we must not permit our hands
to be tied behind our backs by any Hague Conference or pusillanimous
humanitarianism forbidding such appliance.
After conceding war to be possible, consider where the United
States is weak and how to resist attack.
Let us not ostrich like hide our eyes in the sand, but if we
see danger let us look upon it.
We have distant dependencies, the Philippines, Hawaii and the
like. Will an enemy seek to bring us to terms by attacking these?
Perhaps so. But if so, the move would be a weak one, exceedingly
weak. In fact, we could afford to offer these as a gambit, upon
which the enemy would waste its strength, while we were developing
Let us not deceive ourselves. Any powerful nation would not
play at war after that fashion. They would strike us in the vitals.
An eight day dash across the Atlantic would bring their ships to
Montauk Point, where they would encounter the American Fleet, which
being destroyed by force of numbers, the remainder of the enemy's
ships could pass on, and anchor in Long island Sound in perfect
security and very shortly Long Island would become a foreign poss-
Do not consider this scheme a fanciful one, it is not original
to my mind. So many have spoken of it, that I am satisfied it has
been considered and digested in foreign councils and is part of
Our last Spanish War convinced me that our own people were at
that time awake to this fact, for we saw the Army diligently forti-
fying against what ------ PHANTOM SHIPS!
In our next war it wont be phantom ships, for there are at
least two nations which can do this thing single handed.
We need right off and right now 50 Submarine Torpedo Vessels
in Long Island Sound to preserve the peace and to give potency to
The French in this matter are much more alive to their need
than we are. What we have left to a private company the French
have taken up as a national affair.
Leaving out the Gymnote, of which I know little, the
French at the end of the year will have spent money and produced
vessels as follows:
Gustave Zede ..................... $586,181.00
Morse ............................ 166,483.00
Narval and class, 7 boats ........ 910,000.00
in round numbers one and one-half million dollars.
It so happens, however, that the Zede is only a partial succ-
ess (newspaper accounts to the contrary notwithstanding) and the
Morse still less so, while the Narvel and her class will be abject
failures because of the same mistake made in our Plunger, a notable
mistake which the Holland demonstrated in advance and which mistake
I understand is to be rectified.
All the mistakes which have befallen the French will pass by
our Government, notwithstanding the fact that instead of one and
one half millions our Government has not spent one cent, nor has it
bestowed anything more than scant encouragement upon the private
company which has spent large amounts of money.
Beside the mistakes saved, very many essential difficulties
have been overcome which could not have been dreamed of at the
outset, and as the consequence the Holland people by means of the
Holland are in possession of ripe experience which this Government
should possess, and no one else.
Among the acts stated in the first part of my report, I have
described the Holland Torpedo Station and sketched the daily rout-
ine. I might observe that this is precisely what the Government
would do did it possess a station of the kind. It is also the rout-
ine to be observed by a Torpedo Boat at sea, lying in wait for an
enemy. That is to say, while motionless or in cruising trim, the
batteries can be recharged and the air tanks filled ready for the
approach of an enemy, until the fuel for the gas engine is nearly
Of course this routine has produced the Holland and its crew,
the one available as a school and practice vessel, the crew avail-
able as drill masters wherewith to leaven the entire Navy.
It seems to me, therefore, quite a necessity that this Govern-
ment should not allow this skill and knowledge to pass out of its
own hands from native to foreign lands, but should forestall such a
catastrophe by at once purchasing the Holland and putting the Hol-
land people under some ban whereby they will be prevented from dis-
closing secrets to the disadvantage of the United States.
How keenly Foreign Governments are alive to the Holland, I
have shown in my facts herein reported, concerning the presence of
foreign officers upon her.
Concerning future improvements to be made in the Holland and
her successors, I confine myself to one example to show how much
this point is a matter of opinion and not yet of knowledge.
The Holland thus far has only one Torpedo Tube.
On the one hand, some advocate two such tubes and give good
reasons; on the other hand, others argue that one tube only should
be provided and give good reasons.
This, and several other alterations, can be made in the Hol-
land either now or at any other time if so desired by the Government.
I desire to add my own opinion as to what the future policy of
the Navy Department should be, after inaugurating a Submarine
Instead of doing too much with one vessel, each one should be
a distinct vessel of its kind, and no have combined two or more
kinds in one vessel.
Thus, there should be Submarine Torpedo Boats, Submarine Gun
Boats, Submarine Observation and Dispatch Boats; Submarine counter-
mines, and Submarine Channel Draggers, &c., each kind complete in
itself, but not combining more than one office.
The object I have in mind is to keep the boats down to small
dimensions for the sake of handiness and to keep each boat as roomy
and as habitable as possible for the sake of the crew.
Further. It must be remembered that this class of vessel
cannot possibly have the comforts of a roomy vessel. For example,
there is no room for bodily exercise and recreation. There can
only be limited cooking facilities. They must, therefore, always
be attached to some base, either on shore or afloat, and then when
sent on service the vessel and the crew must be considered analog-
ous to an Army Scouting Party; they must carry food in their
haversacks and water in their canteens. For sleep they will always
be better off than soldiers are because they will always have a
dry and warm blanket and sufficient relief to get sufficient rest.
When the fuel for the engines is exhausted then food should
be exhausted and the vessel should return to base, or the base
to the boat for relief and replenishment.
All of which I have the honor to submit.
The Honorable Secretary of the Navy.
John Lowe Manuscript, Library of Congress