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The USS North Dakota: The All-Big-Gun Debate - The Defenders' Position 1

The Defenders' Position 1

The Navy was anxious to clear the controversy over the North Dakota’s construction and design. Navy leaders agreed to meet under the leadership of President Roosevelt at the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island to discuss the complaints and to make adjustments if necessary or practical.

President Roosevelt was disturbed by the nature and frequency of the criticism of the North Dakota. The conference was to proceed in secrecy though the names of the participants were public. Among the officers were six Rear Admirals, several Naval Constructors, and Commander Albert L. Key.

The plans for the North Dakota (Battleship 29) and the Delaware had been submitted to Congress in 1906 along with a construction budget. Similar plans had been submitted to Congress for appropriations for the next ships to be built, the Florida and the Utah. Roosevelt, who had, as president, promoted a strong Navy, wanted to be sure that all four ships would be among the most powerful in the world.

During the conference, a news story was published stating that the ships of the Delaware class (including the North Dakota) were unsatisfactory. Roosevelt responded on August 21, 1908 with characteristic vigor:

There is no question about the plans being unsatisfactory; merely as to whether they cannot be made even better. The North Dakota [Delaware] class are undoubtedly better than any ships now afloat. The conference is simply engaged in the effort to try to make them better still.

The President, however, had temporarily halted work on the battleships until he saw new plans for that class of ship. A week later, President Roosevelt approved of the plans for the new ships with just a few adjustments. All the new ships (after the North Dakota and Delaware) would have turbine engines, and each would have two extra 5 inch torpedo guns.

The following statements in defense of the ships’ design and construction are taken from the New York Times, the Grand Forks Herald, and Scientific American.