The Acting Secretary of the Navy (Roosevelt) to the Secretary of State
Sir: Referring to a conversation of 24 August between representatives of the State Department and Navy Department on the subject of inadequacy of the Yangtze River Patrol, I have the honor to give you the following data on the vessels at present in use and on those being asked for in the new estimates.[Page 748]
The three gunboats now in the Lower River, the Isabel, Elcano and Villalobos, are of too great draft to get into the section of the river between Ichang and Chungking, a distance of about 350 miles, where a great deal of banditry has taken place. The only two gunboats of shallow draft able to get into this section of the river are the Monocacy and Palos, both of which are of insufficient power to operate in the river at all seasons of the year, the current in the rapids at times running at 14 knots whereas the speed of these vessels is 13¼ knots. Since 1914, when these two gunboats were built, a great number of light draft merchant vessels have been built at Shanghai for operating on the upper river. The increase in river commerce since that time has been great and is demanding more protection.
Although the Navy Department is sending two mine sweepers to the Yangtze, they are of use in the lower river only as must any boat be that is not especially built for the upper river work. The necessity for a boat of not over 4½ feet draft, yet of sufficient power to go up the rapids and of a short length that will permit making the turns, is the reason for asking Congress for the new specially built boats, and is also the reason that the usual naval vessel cannot be sent to perform this duty.
All of the gunboats now on the river are so old as to be maintained at great expense, two of them, the Elcano and Villalobos, having been taken from the Spanish at Manila Bay.
In asking for the new boats, the Navy Department will present all of the technical reasons for the necessity for new construction. If, however, the Secretary of State will give the political and commercial reasons for creditable representation on the Yangtze River, it will no doubt have great weight with Congress. It appears that the use of worn out, improperly equipped and inefficient vessels on the river, in addition to failing to render the actual protection required by American interests, does not reflect credit on our flag or add to our prestige when these vessels are compared with the vessels of other nations that are far better represented.