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IT was the contention

of one of the greatest

of American historians, the late Rear

Admiral Mahan, that

in worldwide conflicts

such as we are describing that side is

almost certain to win which succeeds in

controlling the seas. His doctrine of

sea-power as applied to history was widely

accepted in many countries, and certainly

many precedents could be cited to uphold

it. To go no further back than the sixteenth century, it was the British navy

which enabled Great Britain to triumph

over the Spaniards in the series of wars

beginning in the days of Drake, and it

was the superiority of that navy over

that of the Dutch which settled the conflict for commercial predominance in the

seventeenth century. Had France controlled the seas, she and not Great Britain

would have won the "Second Hundred

Years War," and she would have retained

Canada and developed India. For years

only the British navy stood between

Napoleon and complete dominance in

Europe. On the other hand, Great Britain lost the Thirteen Colonies in America

because temporarily she lost command

of the seas. As for other great wars, it

is virtually certain that if it had not been

for the blockade the Southern Confederacy

could not have been conquered; the Spanish-American War was decided by the

destruction of the Spanish fleets; and

without her victorious navy Japan could

not have won her war against Russia.

Such precedents gave weight to the theory,

and, in consequence, among knowing

observers, there was much speculation

as to whether it would hold true in the

present conflict.

The relative strength of the opposing

navies, so far as ships, guns, and men were

concerned, was known with reasonable

accuracy, and a statement regarding the

matter has already been made. It was

known, for example, that the combined

navies of the Entente Powers were fully

twice as strong on paper as those of the

Central Powers, and it was recognized by

naval men that where a fleet fights another

fleet only half as strong in ships and guns

the odds are really, for a number of causes,

much greater than the ratio of 2 to 1. It was

also known that some of the British super dreadnoughts carried heavier guns than

did any of the German ships, and experts

believed that this would give the British a

decided advantage in an engagement, even

when the vessels otherwise were equal.

The British system of fire control, that is,

of aiming and firing the guns, was also

supposed to be the best in the world.

Evidently, therefore, if the men and

officers of the Entente navies were equal in

courage and seamanship, man for man,

to those of the navies of the Central Powers,

the outcome of a finish fight was a foregone

conclusion-unless some accident or chance

or new device in warfare should neutralize

these overwhelming advantages. Possibilities in the use of the submarine and the

airship gave, on this account, an interest

to the course of naval operations that

would otherwise have been lacking.

The question of immediate control of

the sea was quickly settled. The French

concentrated a large part of their fleet

in the Mediterranean, and this force,

together with a few British ships, was so

overwhelmingly superior to the German

and Austrian ships in those waters that

they made no effort to do much more than

escape. German and Austrian merchant

ships in the Mediterranean region were

either seized or were laid up in Austrian

or neutral ports, while the warships of

these powers that were outside of Austrian

ports scurried rapidly for places of safety.

Only two German vessels in this region

deserve our particular attention. These