“The Men Behind the Guns”

The Impact of the War with Spain on the Navy Enlisted Force
  • James R. Reckner
Part of the The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Series on Diplomatic and Economic History book series


Immense prestige accrued to the U.S. navy and thus the men of the fleet as a result of the battles of Manila Bay and Santiago de Cuba. “One of Dewey’s Men” was a description the sailors of the Asiatic Squadron who were present at the Battle of Manila Bay proudly attached to themselves evermore.2 The Navy and the men who served in it were beneficiaries of much good will as a result of the Navy’s apparent readiness for war. This appearance of readiness was emphasized by the Army’s equally apparent lack of readiness. And, of course, the fleet victories seemed to confirm these perceptions, although later critical analysis of American gunnery at the principal battles suggested the hitting rate of the American guns was less than stellar. Objective criticism, however, was unwelcome, and even a decade after the war, when Commander William S. Sims cited the gunnery figures during Senate hearings, he was roundly condemned.


Crew Member Officer Corps Hampton Road Commanding Officer Personnel Shortage 
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  1. 3.
    This information is presented in Frederick S. Harrod, Manning the New Navy: The Development of a Modern Naval Enlisted Force, 1899–1940 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978), 198.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    See, for example, L. G. T., Three Years Behind the Guns: The True Chronicles ofa “Diddy-Box” (New York: The Century Co., 1908).Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Here, see particularly Franklin Matthews’s two-volume account: With the Battle Fleet: Cruise of the Sixteen Battleships of the United States Atlantic Fleet from Hampton Roads to the Golden Gate, December 1907—May 1908 (New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1908);Google Scholar
  4. Franklin Matthews’s Back to Hampton Roads: Cruise of the United States Atlantic Fleet from San Francisco to Hampton Roads, July 7, 1908—February 22, 1909 (New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1909).Google Scholar
  5. 30.
    Rear Admiral Caspar E Goodrich, “Desertions in the Navy,” Army & Navy Register 39 (Mar 17, 1906): 26–27.Google Scholar
  6. 34.
    Electrician 1st Class John M. Burls, quoted in “Letters from the Enlisted Men of the Navy,” Army & Navy Register 44 (Aug 29, 1908): 21.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Edward J. Marolda 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Reckner

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