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THE BUSINESS MAN'S MAGAZINE, 37 W. Fort St., Detroit, Mich.
Volume VII JULY., 1907 No. 5
IFTY million dollars, according to the estimates of the War Department, are needed to complete our system of fortifications for coast defense. It is an urgent demand, because, if we were attacked at the present time by Japan, or Germany, or any other alert and aggressive power, we should be likely to suffer terribly for lack of preparedness in this respect.
So far as forts go, we are excellently provided, but there is an insufficiency of guns, an alarming want of trained artillerymen to shopt them, and a serious deficiency in certain indispensable apparatus for the management of the batteries—not to mention an almost total absence of the submarine equipments, especially for mine-fields, which are required for the protection of our seaports.
In a strategic sense, the weak point of the United States is its enormous length
of coast-line. From the sea we are vulnerable in a great many spots, and on this account the creation of adequate defensive works for guarding our numerous and widely-scattered harbors is necessarily a costly affair. In the building of the fortifications requisite for this purpose no less a sum than $72,750,000 has been expended within the last few years, but, as above stated, the system is as yet incomplete with respect to its equipment, and there is a woeful lack of men behind the guns.
The gigantic scale on which our system of coast defenses has been established is realized very imperfectly by the people at large. On the Atlantic shoreline alone we have no fewer than fortysix modern fortresses. The Gulf has twelve, and the Pacific coast thirteen forts. All of these are provided with high-power guns (though in some instances the number of the latter is insufficient as yet), and are up-to-date in all respects, so far as their construction is
concerned. By the expenditure of the $50,000,000 already mentioned every one of them can be made practically impregnable.
A fortress of this kind, of the highest class, costs about $5,000,000, of which amount rather more than half is spent for guns. It consists of a series of concretelined pits, called emplacements, below the level of the ground, in which the guns stand on their carriages. The pits are placed at considerable distances from each other, in order to offer as poor a target as possible, and as near as practicable to the water's edge. From the water, whether it be river channel or harbor, a grassy slope extends back to the pits. Beneath the grass and several feet of earth is an inclined plane of concrete; but from the viewpoint of an approaching vessel the works are altogether invisible, their outward aspect being merely that of a well-kept bit of landscape.
Such a. fort may have twenty-four guns—twelve large ones, and an equal number of' smaller caliber. The big ones, of twelve-inch and fourteen-inch caliber, intended primarily for attacking battleships, are placed two in each pit. Those of less size, three-inch quick firers, which are mainly for covering and protecting the mine-fields off-shore, occupy two emplacements, six in each. All of which formidable defensive equipment is reinforced by sixteen mortars, in similar pits, some distance in the rear.
Now, to give a notion of the tremendous character of these weapons, it should be explained that a twelve-incb rifle gun is forty feet long, weighs fiftyseven tons, and, with a charge of five hundred and twenty pounds of powder, throws a 1,000-pound projectile a distance of thirteen miles. Be it remembered, incidentally, that a ship is invisible from the water's edge when it is only seven miles away, owing to the curvature of the earth. Such a weapon does effective and accurate work at twelve thousand yards. It fires armor-piercing shells containing heavy charges of a high explosive, so as to burst on impact.
The mortars are even more effective than the big guns. Altogether different from the old-style weapon so called, they are, in fact, short rifled cannon eight feet in length and of twelve-inch caliber, dis
charging cylindro-conical armor-piercing projectiles weighing 1,000 pounds and loaded with a high explosive. One such projectile landing upon the deck of a warship will go far toward putting her out of action. The mortars are set back at a distance from the shore because they do better work at long ranges, being fired into the air at an angle of forty-five degrees—notwithstanding which curve of trajectory the projectiles reach their mark with utmost precision.
It is out of the question for warships, no matter how powerful, to attack with success a fortification of this kind. In order to harm it, they would be obliged literally to batter down the landscape. Meanwhile the defenders are invisible, and the guns (being on disappearing carriages) rise into view only at the moment when they discharge their projectiles. As for the mortars, it may be added that frightful execution was done at Port Arthur by the Japanese with weapons of this type, though they were of smaller size than those here described, throwing shells that weighed only five hundred pounds. They are destined to prove extremely formidable in the warfare of the future.
It is not going too far, then, to describe such fortresses, when they are fully and properly equipped, as impregnable—at all events to attack from the sea. To assail them by land would require a considerable military force, such as could hardly be disembarked anywhere upon our shores. As a matter of fact, however, an enemy would not attempt to capture or destroy fortifications of the kind by naval operations, but would try to run past them. In this effort battleships might easily be successful, escaping'very serious damage, and thus reach an unprotected inner harbor, like that of Xew York, from which point of vantage they could destroy a city or hold it to ransom.
This cannot be done if mine fields obstruct the channel. But, unfortunately, here is the very point in which our arrangements for the defense of our coast cities are weakest. Our military experts have devised the most admirable system of submarine mines in the world, but as yet it is almost wholly on paper. Should war break out with japan, or with Ger