THIS is to be considered a personal talk in which I wish first to thank in person the many amateurs who have so promptly responded to the invitation to become associated with our nation-wide organization. It is certainly very gratifying to have received hundreds of applications for membership within the elapsed period of less than two weeks since our first announcement appeared. And the fact that our membership dues are reckoned in dollars, rather than cents, as all previous amateur organizations have been, speaks eloquently to me of the appreciation of our efforts to really DO something for you ambitious and energetic experimenters. I know that in a great many cases considerable sacrifices have been made to secure this money, and the fact that I am now addressing hundreds of fellow members who have had, of necessity, to very carefully weigh the merits of the project, spurs me on to renewed effort to make the big men of the country take an interest in your affairs which shall equal that which I already feel. It would have been a great pleasure to all concerned in the establishment of the National Amateur Wireless Association if the necessary equipment could have been supplied gratis; this, however, was out of the question and we had to resort to the next best thing: placing the equipment on an actual cost basis. From the letters which are pouring into headquarters every day I know all our members are pleased; and that is ample reward for the labor without compensation which was required of the half dozen experts who collaborated in the creation of this serviceable material. And it is a great pleasure to record that I have already seen marked indications that you, as fellow members, appreciate that nowhere outside this organization could services of equal value be secured so economically.
That the National Amateur Wireless Association will have imitators is confidently expected; that our carefully worked out plans will be copied, modified, twisted and turned to serve someone's ends or gratify another's vanities, is something we anticipated long before the organization was launched. But the emblem and membership certificate you now hold means, and will continue to mean, more than an empty symbol. Conducting an organization of national service to amateurs requires--even with the unusually favorable facilities at our command--membership fees at least equal to ours. I feel that this financial discussion is required in explanation in these early days of our existence. As Americans of intelligence, you will be the first to appreciate that what is given for nothing is usually worth just that.
With so many men of high scientific position associated with us in official capacities this association should mean a great deal to those who purpose making radio communication a lifetime work; the National Amateur Wireless Association not only hopes to standardize progressive instructional steps for the amateur but assist those who qualify to enter the field professionally. Neither myself nor my associates are particularly interested in the dawdler who looks upon his wireless set as a pleasing plaything; we seek rather for better acquaintance with the many young men who are sufficiently interested in the experiments they are conducting to want to know why certain elements in combination accomplish certain results, not merely that these things happen. This does not mean that we have no interest in the beginner; on the contrary, we wish particularly to cultivate those who are just entering the amateur ranks. One of our most cherished desires is to place the newcomer in the proper environment, to have him associate with whatever club in his town or city is best qualified to instruct him along the proper lines, and to co-operate with that club in making its meetings so interesting that the beginner will apply himself diligently to the task of acquiring knowledge which will place him alongside the more advanced members. Through the delegate that each club securing recognition from the National Amateur Wireless Association elects to the National Council, we expect to learn just what are the definite problems that hinder progress and to deal with the cases in a broad way.
THE preparedness features of our program already outlined to you are ones we must not neglect in our anxiety to be of service to ourselves as individuals. A few nights ago I had the great privilege of dining with Frederick Palmer and listening to a talk on war conditions as he saw them. Mr. Palmer, as you probably know, is the war correspondent selected to represent the entire American press and the one newspaper man who spent a full year on the firing line in the great conflict raging abroad. What he said of our perilous situation is indelibly impressed on my mind. Never before have I so fully appreciated that where fighting forces are short of both equipment and training, they may be mowed down like wheat before the scythe, wiped out in battalions in the twinkling of an eye. That great personal courage is of little avail in modern warfare has never before been so graphically and horribly demonstrated; it is a war of iron machines spitting deadly fire and human machines burrowing in trenches. Brilliant charges and hand to hand conflict in the open is practically unknown--organization wins the victory, organization of heavy artillery equipment, vast quantities of supplies and ammunition brought forward with clockwork precision, and tens of thousands of men acting as one. As Mr. Palmer expressed it, it is a war of engineers.
WHAT would this country come to if we were invaded in our present state of unpreparedness! Have you ever stopped to think what war means? You know in a general way that the Navy's recent "war games" off the Atlantic coast have resulted in the defending vessels being "sunk" or put out of action and the "invaders" having things pretty much their own way. You know something of the naval appropriation bills that are now coming up before Congress. In a phrase, you know that with our present navy an attacking power would have little difficulty in landing on American soil. The army then must save us? In theory, yes; but in practice it would not have a chance. Most of us accept the unthinking attitude which considers raising a million men over night; many of us--particularly those who can trace lineal descent from Revolutionary fighters--believe the American civilian, once aroused, the greatest natural warrior in the universe. For a long time I felt that way about it myself. The fact that as a nation we have never been whipped, that wonderfully effective armies have been created out of raw material and have repelled strong invaders, has given us a false sense of security that is dangerous beyond expression. As one good American has phrased it, our young grow up believing that each of us can lick ten men of any other country. The boy leaves school with the idea that all he has to do is to grab a rifle and march to victory, that we can lock arms with each other and just push the enemy into the sea; and in a pinch, the Lord, or Edison, will save us. Blatant pacificism has so flattered our vanity that we have not taken the small effort necessary to see what lies spread before our very eyes.
THE army we are expected to depend upon is smaller than the army of Montenegro, a toy-country. It could not possibly defend all its forts, for it has less than one hour's supply of ammunition for coast defense guns. We picture it going valiantly into battle, never considering that the entire mobile force on the United States proper is scarcely more than twice the size of the New York police force, and has ammunition supplies that would be exhausted in three or four days of fighting.
A telegraphed summary of the text of President Wilson's annual message to Congress has come to my desk just as this is written. The strongest recommendations embodied in the document have to do with comprehensive plans for strengthening the national defenses, because: "The European war has extended its threatening and sinister scope until it has swept into its flame some portion of every quarter of the globe, not excepting our own hemisphere; has altered the whole face of international affairs, and now presents a prospect of reorganization and reconstruction such as statesmen and peoples have never been called upon to attempt before."
The passion of the American people, the President declared, was for peace; that conquest and dominion was not in their reckoning nor agreeable to their principles. "But just because we demand unmolested development and the undisturbed government of our own lives upon our own principles of right and liberty," he said, "we resent, from whatever quarter it may come, the aggression we ourselves will not practice. We insist upon security in prosecuting our self-chosen lines of national development. We do more than that. We demand it also for others."
War, the President declared, was regarded by the United States merely as a means of asserting the rights of a people against aggression, and that "we are as fiercely jealous of coercive or dictatorial power within our own nation as from aggression from, without." He said the nation would not maintain a standing army except for uses which are as necessary in times of peace as in times of war, but that the country did believe in a body of free citizens ready and sufficient to take care of themselves and of the Government. "But war has never been a mere matter of men and arms." he continued. "It is a thing of disciplined might. If our citizens are ever to fight effectively upon a sudden summons, they must know how modern fighting is done, and what to do when the summons comes to render themselves immediately available and immediately effective. And the Government must be their servant in this matter; must I supply them with the training they need to take care of themselves and of it. The military arm of their Government, which they will not allow to direct them, they may properly use to serve them and make their independence secure--and not their own independence merely, but the rights also of those with whom they have made common cause, should they also be put in jeopardy."
The President presented the War Department plans for strengthening the army as "the essential first step" and "for the present" sufficient. The plans include the increasing of the standing army to a force of 141,843 men of all services, and the establishment of a supplementary force of 400,000 disciplined citizens, who would undergo training for short periods, throughout three years of a six years' enlistment. "It would depend upon the patriotic feeling of the younger men of the country whether they responded to such a call to service or not," said the President.
There can be little question that the response will merit the confidence the leader of the Nation has publicly expressed on many occasions when referring to the patriotism of our young men.
The new army and the proposed National Reserve will not insure victory should war be declared on us to-morrow. But it is a step in the right direction and may aid in eventually securing the 400,000 trained regulars we need to back up our volunteer forces.
NOW a word or two as to what the National Amateur Wireless Association expects from you. In the land warfare which history records the cavalry has always been considered the eye of the army. Nowadays an army is more concerned in determining the exact range for its artillery than in ascertaining the details of possible infantry charges on its flanks. Trench warfare means ceaseless firing of rifles and machine guns from covered positions, constant shelling from concealed batteries. Positions are usually taken only after the enemy entrenchments have been battered to pieces; consequently it is of the greatest importance for a commander to learn the location of enemy guns and the layout scheme of the opposing redoubts. In former days one of the most important missions of the cavalry was to conduct the reconnaissance, it was sent out to bring back word of the number of men opposing and their distribution. The new method of fighting has changed all this. As I have had it described to me by men who have actually walked along occupied trenches, there is absolutely no telling the number of the occupants--or even that they are occupied--until you are right upon them. Cavalry sent forth on this particular mission would be wiped out in an instant on the present battlefields in France.
Reporting the advance of enemy reinforcements brought up from the rear is also no longer the simple task it used to be. Thousands of men are now brought forward to the firing line in underground passages extending back as much as five miles from the actual scene of hostilities; they do not march along smooth highways with fifes screaming and banners flying.
The cavalry still has its uses and they are many, but the change just mentioned is indicative of the increasing importance of the branches of military service that are of such special concern to the members of the National Amateur Wireless Association.
IT is difficult almost to the degree of impossibility to learn exactly how wireless is being employed in the present fighting. But a few scattered bits of information given publicly and pieced together throw a little light on our needs in this connection.
The famous inventor, Marconi, president of your Association, said in a recent interview given to the Giornal d'Italia that while the war continued he could not enumerate the advantages obtained with wireless, but it was not a secret that with a small wireless apparatus aeroplanes could now communicate with headquarters without landing--indeed, could remain in the enemy's zone and continue their scouting operations while still in touch with their own army.
The extent to which the wireless equipped aeroplane has been developed by France is looked upon as one of the most remarkable developments of the war. The French air fleets have been organized and drilled as thoroughly as fleets of the sea; aerial tactics are being studied as carefully as any other form of strategy. Every day less is heard about smoke bombs signaling from aircraft to locate artillery fire, but practically nothing definite has been said about the increase in wireless signaling. Yet in the words of one of our greatest war correspondents in France we are told that an "officer got out one of the machines and exhibited its tricks and its wireless apparatus." And from the same source it is learned that an army consisting of eight corps has fifty-four of these aeroplanes, to which this significant remark is added: "I am speaking now of the particular type of aeroplane employed for regulating artillery fire."
John Hays Hammond, Jr., who has just returned from the other side, is now advocating, as part of the American defense program, the acquisition of 2,000 air scouting machines for land forces alone. Henry A. Wise Wood has begun an agitation through the Aero Club of America to establish a chain of aero-radio stations at intervals of 100 miles along our coasts. His plan embraces aeroplanes patroling a circle of 100 miles in diameter and reporting by wireless every hour to a base on shore. Two hundred wireless equipped aeroplanes would thus protect America from surprises by sea.
From all viewpoints, aircraft fitted with wireless appears absolutely essential. Whether 200 will do, or 2,000 will be needed, I am not prepared to say. The recommendation of the Department of War which the President endorses provides for four aero squadrons. Incidentally the present aerial equipment of our army reaches the grand total of ten machines. The navy is just as badly off--and this is the land in which the aeroplane was born!
SOME day we will know what the horrors of warfare really mean. It may be years off, but there is little question that this country will eventually come to grips with some other nation. And it is equally safe to predict that we will not be prepared. The defense of the nation will, as in the past, fall on the shoulders of the volunteer.
There is only one quick way to wake up the nation; that is for the people themselves to wake up. The heroism of the American volunteer is traditional, his behavior under fire has been written brilliantly in the annals of the wars of the past. But organization when war is upon us means the useless sacrifice of thousands of young men, the flower of the nation, as it were, snuffed out of existence because we are now blind to our peril, too cocksure that we'll be ready when the time comes. Our geographical problems are enormous, the very size of our country multiplies our difficulties beyond those that other nations have to face. And yet we placidly contemplate taking the field a million patriots strong at the sound of the first gun fired. Where are we going to get officers who know enough about this modern, highly specialized business of fighting to direct this theoretical army?
According to military authorities the world over, a soldier who has had less than a year's training is useless in battle; even with the equipment at hand our volunteers would be pitifully inadequate until they had undergone the experience that makes trained soldiers.
Unmistakably, the solution lies with you. You may lie back in fancied security, or you may prepare.
IF war comes wireless operators will be needed--a great many wireless operators. Up to now you have probably considered the navy's problems only; it is natural to link up any thought of wireless with the sea, and we hear the naval appropriation more frequently discussed in public. But so far as the amateur wireless man goes, the sea forces don't need him, don't want him. If there is one thing the most useless in this universe of ours it is an untrained man aboard a fighting vessel. Those among you who are ready to consider a war time career in charge of a battleship set had better see the recruiting officer right now. As an enlisted man the navy will welcome you, will treat you famously in time of peace as well as war, but as a volunteer when war arrives--well, you would simply be in the way. No, if you are going to get ready to serve as a volunteer, turn your thoughts to coast defense and the land forces, learn something of military strategy, do actual field communication under the conditions which would apply in time of war and, above all things, strive for mastery of the code and a technical understanding of efficient apparatus.
You can't do this alone, you can't do it as a loosely governed radio club. But there are some among you who have spirit enough to get a wireless corps together, others who have had militia experience and are willing to serve as instructors. Somewhere in this country an amateur is going to start something, to blaze the trail for others to follow. The general public has long looked upon the amateur as a nuisance; someone is going to change that opinion and show what can be done in the way of elementary training of defense units. The radio signal corps, as a distinct and highly specialized branch of the service, can easily set the pace in civilian preparedness.
LET me show you the cumulative effect of concerted action on the part of amateurs. A wireless corps is organized somewhere to-morrow, we will say. The members, all boys between the ages of 12 and 18, affiliate with a local battalion of the Junior American Guard or some similar organization and faithfully attend the weekly drill and the summer encampment; they learn what military discipline means, accustom themselves to the rigors of camping and forced marches, perfect themselves in the operation of portable wireless equipment and become trained soldiers in embryo. Others then follow this example and signal corps are formed all over the country. These finally attain such proportions that they are given the opportunity of participating in parades and reviews in large cities. What will be the effect on the sidewalk spectator? Don't you think that he will then begin to realize his shortcomings and take action of some kind, either consider service in the militia for himself, or come to a realization that the handicaps placed on our paid defensive forces should be removed and these brought up to, at least, the safety point?
Assume now that a period of years has elapsed and the boys of the original corps have grown into manhood. Some of them still remain as military signaling instructors and are training the younger generation. Others have decided that the elementary training has been beneficial and they would like to continue it, for reasons of health, patriotism and recreation; they have gone into the militia and are devoting one night a week to drilling and studying the higher branches of training. Through sheer force of numbers and purpose these men have made the radio signaling corps what it is not today: a properly equipped, dependable branch of service, composed of trained men and ready for any emergency. That the regular army would then bring its radio divisions up to the proper standard is certain; seeing the militia well equipped, the people would demand that the regulars be even better provided for. And once we are properly organized in one branch there is hope that the American defensive program will permit proper organization throughout both land and sea forces. The conditions that exist today should certainly not be tolerated longer.
THINK over this matter of preparedness carefully. When you get ready to take up the matter seriously, have determined that you I will not only start your signal corps but will continue it with faithful attendance at all drills for at least one year, let your Association know that you have secured a competent instructor and are ready to organize. When a sufficient number of such communications have been received the details will be worked out to fit all cases.
That is all for the present. The next step is up to you.
| The eyes of many are blinded to fact and their minds closed to reason by an abhorrence of what they term "militarism," without any actual conception of just what this means or how it should affect the proper consideration of the subject. Those who really fear militarism, or, more accurately stated, those who dread real militarism, should be the strongest advocates of reasonable preparation. The latter is the preventive of militarism. If they unwisely defeat reasonable preparedness, they leave the country in a condition where the inevitable result of defeat, humiliation or acute apprehension will be hasty and ill-advised provisions as to armament far beyond anything which calm reason and wise provision would deem necessary.--From the annual report of Secretary of War Garrison.|