Spreading the Word
Founded in 1825, the American Tract Society (which is still in business) was established to publish and distribute evangelical Christian literature. Since seafaring men were regarded as particularly notorious sinners, some representatives of the Society focused their efforts on trying to get Uncle Sam’s sailors and marines to see the light and give up boozing and whoring.
Toward this end, representatives of the Society would meet warships as they came into port, and distribute tracts to sailors and marines as they came ashore, and try to convince some of them to take additional copies back aboard.
Surprisingly, the Society was actually quite successful at getting its tracts aboard ship. For example, during 1830 just five ships in the Navy were the recipients of some 112,500 tracts.
|Class|| Ship (guns) ||Tracts || Crew || T:C Ratio|
|Frigate ||Brandywine (44)|| 20,000 || 467 || 42.8|
|Sloop-of-War|| Falmouth (16)|| 30,000 || 190|| 157.9|
|Sloop-of-War|| Erie (18)|| 28,000|| 140|| 200.0|
|Sloop-of-War ||Peacock (22) ||20,000 || 140 ||142.9|
|Schooner ||Shark (24)|| 14,500 || 70|| 207.1|
| Totals || 112,500 || 1,007|| 111.7|
So there certainly seems to have been an eager audience for the Society’s message. Indeed, arguably the Society demonstrated an unknown streak of religiosity among Uncle Sam's tars and jarheads, particularly those aboard the armed schooner Shark, given the impressive number of tracts that each man received. Of course, since the society was a strong supporter of the temperance movement, some captains welcomed the chance to promote sobriety among their crewmen. And, of course, many of the men may have realized that in the Society they had found an excellent source of scrap paper for miscellaneous purposes.
Otto von Below Steps into the Breach
Otto von Below (1857-1944) was one of the more distinguished officers in the Imperial German Army. A native of Danzig, he had a long and varied career. Most unusual for a senior German officer, he was not a product of the Staff Corps.
When World War I broke out, von Below was commanding the I Reserve Corps in East Prussia, and led it in the opening battle of the war, at Gumbinnen and later in the smashing German victories in the Battles of the Masurian Lakes. Still later, von Below commanded corps and armies in the Baltic littoral, at Salonika, and on the Western Front. In the fall of 1917 he commanded the Austro-German Fourteenth Army, which spearheaded the Caporetto Offensive, that very nearly drove Italy out of the war. He ended the war commanding armies on the Western Front during the “Kaiserschlacht” and the final collapse of German arms, and returned to his native city in 1919.
Not much seems to be known about von Below the man. But a little incident that occurred before the war, suggests he by no means fit the image of the hardnosed Prussian militarist.
At the time, von Below was commanding a division in East Prussia. While traveling through a rural area, he was overtaken by nightfall and decided to stop at a local Gasthaus rather than attempt to press on. The general, who apparently was accompanied only by his driver, secured a room from the lady of the house, and asked if she could prepare him something to eat.
The Hausfrau explained to Herr General that she had no time, as her son needed help with his homework.
At that, von Below made the good woman an offer she couldn’t refuse. And indeed, she didn’t. So while she hastily prepared something for the general to eat, von Below helped her son with his Latin assignment.
Despite considerable battlefield success, fame somehow eluded the Imperial German Army’s Otto von Below, who crowned a distinguished career with his victory at Caporetto.
Japan’s Merchant Marine at War
A maritime nation, almost wholly dependant upon imports and exports for national survival, Japan entered World War II with a large merchant marine, but never managed to organize its shipping to produce the optimal possibly benefit for the war effort.
Japan began the war, on December 7, 1941, with over 6.38 million gross registered tons of merchant shipping. Despite captures, notably in the first six months or so of the war, and new construction, the Japanese merchant marine only barely maintained that capacity during 1942, and declined steadily thereafter, as can be seen in this table.
|Japanese Merchant Shipping (millions of g.r.t)|
| Date || Available ||Added Since|| Lost Since|
| Dec 41 ||6.38 || 0.00 || 0.00|
| Dec 42 || 6.37|| 0.40 || 0.52 |
| Dec 43 ||5.94 ||0.66 || 1.10|
|Dec 44 ||4.94|| 1.02|| 2.07|
| Dec 45 ||2.56|| 1.74 || 4.12|
|Aug 45 ||1.47|| 0.47 || 1.56|
On this table, the shipping on had at the start of the indicated month is shown, plus gains (mostly through construction, but some captures) and losses since the previous date (for Aug 45, the 15th is used). By the end of the war, Japan had added about 3.97 million g.r.t. to her merchant fleet, but had lost fully 8.89 million g.r.t.
Right from the start of the war, Japan had a shipping shortage. The situation never got better. The shipping crisis was worsened by the policies of the Army and Navy. At the beginning of the war each service appropriated large amounts of shipping (1.8 million tons for the Navy, 2.1 million for the Army) to support offensive operations. This left the civilian economy about a million tons short of their minimum needs. Since the arms factories depended on imports for most of their raw materials, production took a beating from the start. To make matters worse, the Army and Navy would not cooperate with each other or industry in the use of shipping. So Army controlled ships might deliver arms to isolated garrisons and then return back empty because moving raw materials were not an Army responsibility. This was rectified in 1944, but by then it was too late.
On top of that, Japan never developed an effective convoy system or anti-submarine techniques. This resulted in unnecessary loses to Allied submarines.