Homer Lea’s Speeches
1) The following November 18, 1910 address appeared in “Needs of Greater Military Strength on Pacific Coast,” Long Beach Press, November 30, 1910, 1:
The address delivered by General Homer Lea of Long Beach, before the Pacific Coast Congress at San Francisco, has created a profound interest not only in military circles but also among all thinking people, especially on the Pacific Coast and will probably form a basis for Congressmen McGlachlan’s speech at the coming session of Congress in support of a bill to increase the military establishment and strengthen the defenses of this coast. The United Press sent the speech in full to all its leading correspondents in the United States.
The full context of the address follows:
While it is needless to add anything further to what has been said concerning the necessity of increasing our navy and building up a merchant marine proportionate to the economic and military needs of the Republic, yet we must, owing to the acute situation as it exists at the present time, consider this question from a point of view not yet considered.
Under present conditions, with the world shrunk together more compactly than were the a few states of Europe a half-century ago, there has come a corresponding increase in the necessity for this Republic to reach out and to participate in all the activities of this shrunken world, and if this is not done there shall in due time come about the whittling away of this nation’s greatness; for we must not forget that nations are destroyed externally in peace as well as through the force of invading armies, in so much as this Republic is separated from most of the world by seas, its participation in the affairs of the world is directly dependent upon its means of communication to and from those parts: it is dependent upon a merchant marine, proportionate to the greatness of its exports and imports and to the power of its navy; that is, in turn, proportionate to the size of its merchant marine.
The merchant marine and the navy of the nation are coordinate factors and one cannot exist without the other and because of this, both of these are as necessary in time of peace as in time of war. When a nation reaches that deplorable condition as has this Republic, as being dependent entirely upon foreign shipping, the impossibility of maintaining an efficient navy is apparent when at the present time more than 90 percent of the merchant marine of this Republic is carried on foreign ships and because of this we have laid down this indisputable naval law: that so long as the present conditions exist, that is to say, so long as the merchant marine remains inadequate, and the larger the American navy becomes, the more useless will it prove to be for the purpose of conducting war in the any theater distant from its base; hence it is that that portion of the American navy present in the Atlantic at the beginning of a war with a power in the Pacific would prove useless or at the best an immaterial factor in the consummation of that conflict.
The determinate factor in naval warfare, wherein is to be found the comparison of naval strength, is the strategic. No nation’s naval power is constant in its relation to all countries. The efficiency of a fleet decreases or is augmented as the distance of its main base to the theater of war is lengthened or diminished. The area of naval efficiency is determined by the multiplicity, dispersion and the efficiency of its naval bases, together with a merchant marine sufficient to meet the maximum demand of this Republic in war. Without these depots and merchant marine the navy decreases in efficiency as it increases in size. Because of these reasons if the naval policy of this country continues as it is today, the less useful will it become to the Republic in the conduct of war without the radii of their Atlantic bases.
We do not, however, agree with those who are in favor of dividing our present navy into two divisions, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific. We should say that just law governing naval expansion should be formulated as follows: that the naval expansion of the Atlantic fleets must be governed by the naval expansion of the European powers whose interests are convergent with those of this Republic, and that the development of the Pacific fleet must be determined by the naval expansion of the Asiatic powers whose interests are convergent with those of this Republic.
To this law must be added this corollary: that the building up of the merchant marine must stand in direct ratio to naval expansion; that is to say, for every battleship built there must be built in addition that number of merchant vessels that the necessity of modern war demands as auxiliaries to a battleship.
While the size of the present navy concentrated in one ocean makes it impossible to operate in the other during war, yet it would be only from bad to worse to divide, as has been suggested, the navy into an Atlantic and a Pacific fleet. It is true that under the present conditions the Pacific Coast is wholly defenseless, yet by the union of the fleet in the Atlantic there remains to the eastern part of this Republic an element of protection which would not exist if the fleet were divided.
A navy divided as would the American navy under these conditions is no stronger than its strongest part, and because of this we find that by any such division the American navy would become the weakest of any of the naval powers.
In relation to the Atlantic fleet, France would be:
50 percent stronger in big guns.
100 percent stronger in armored cruisers.
400 percent stronger in destroyers.
2,500 percent stronger and torpedo boats.
While Germany would be:
120 percent stronger in big guns.
100 percent stronger in armored cruisers.
500 percent stronger in destroyers.
400 percent stronger in torpedo boats.
While England would be:
450 percent stronger in big guns.
600 percent stronger in armored cruisers.
1,200 percent stronger in the stores.
900 percent stronger in torpedo boats.
In relation to the Pacific fleet, Japan would be:
100 percent stronger in big guns.
120 percent stronger in armored cruisers.
400 percent stronger in destroyers.
500 percent stronger in torpedo boats.
If, therefore, there should be any such division of the American navy, we find that in comparison to any of the great powers of the world it becomes a nonentity. The present size of the American navy and state of efficiency is far from being sufficient to meet the demands of a war with a European nation and it must be increased accordingly with the increase of European naval expansion in the augmentation of their trans-Atlantic convergence, which will be increased many fold on the completion of the Panama Canal. The American fleets in the Pacific must be entirely independent of those in the Atlantic and their size must be determined not by any arbitrary rule, but by the naval development of the greatest of the Pacific powers — that is to say, Japan, plus those strategic conditions imposed upon this nation by the fact that its territories are on the extremities of the great ocean, while the entire empire or its greatest competitor is in the strategic center.
Here, again, we have the same difficulties governing the Pacific fleets as governed the American navy as a whole; that is to say, dispersion, for there can be no segregation of any portion of this fleet between Asiatic and American waters in which either division is less in combative strength than the entire Japanese Navy.
We now must pass to the third important factor in naval warfare — the security, dispersion and capacity of naval bases. At the present time there are but two in the Pacific — one at San Francisco and one at Puget Sound. Hence a theater of naval war in the Pacific must be confined to an arch, the center of which is one or the other of these ports, and the balance of the ocean must be given over to the opponent.
We must now consider the creation of this new navy, together with its merchant marine and bases, without which it is useless, in relation to time and a unified defense of the Republic. In the development and consummation of a great national movement that is now before us, even if there were no opposition, must necessarily require a number of years, probably twenty or thirty, but during that time there must necessarily occur contingencies to vitally affect the continuance of this Republic.
Owing to the increasing compactness of the world, brought about by mechanical invention and rapid transportation and communication, there has been a corresponding great political expansion on the part of certain powers, and unfortunately or otherwise, as the case may be, the United States has become on account of its vast suzerainty over the Western Hemisphere, the storm center of their political convergence. So while we must struggle on to secure naval and marine domination, as has been outlined in this Congress, as necessary to this Republic’s welfare and greatness, we must not forget that it is also a very essential duty for this Congress to consider and to seek provision for the suitable defense of this coast and the Pacific possessions until the naval domination of this Republic is complete in the Pacific.
Without a navy in the Pacific, equal to or greater than that of Japan, the defense of the Pacific Coast and the Pacific possessions is determined by an effective mobile army.
Japan, with her million and a half veterans, with her great subsidized merchant marine, can land in one month on the Pacific Coast two hundred thousand men, within four months four hundred thousand men, within a year a million. Within one month the United States could not mobilize on the Pacific Coast a mobile army of twenty-five thousand regulars, plus forty thousand militia. Owing to the smallness of this force, it must remain united. If united in Washington, Oregon and California would be defenseless. If united in Southern California, Northern California, Oregon and Washington would be defenseless. The forts guarding the Pacific Coast are three–Puget Sound, the Columbia River and San Francisco. They possess no value whatsoever. Japan’s invasion of Washington and Oregon, the conditions that circumscribed it in the manner of its accomplishment constitute the simplest of military problems. Oregon is defended by three forts at the mouth of the Columbia. The defense of the state of Washington is relegated to three forts on the upper reaches of Puget Sound. These two sets of fortifications are in a protective sense utterly worthless, not only intrinsically, but for the purposes for which they were erected. If they were a hundredfold more powerful they would still have no retarding effect on the invasion of Washington and Oregon. These forts possess no defensive value whatever when concerned with the invasion of the states. The cities which they are supposed to protect will be occupied by Japan without the invading forces coming within a hundred miles of either fortification. As Portland and the cities on Puget Sound are possessed by the enemy, these forts will pass into their control without the firing of a shot. With the seizure and fortification of the Bitter Root Mountains east of Spokane, together with the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon, the dominion of the enemy over these two American states would become complete.
While the conquest of Washington and Oregon can undoubtedly be accomplished without even probability of a battle, yet the seizure of Southern California presents less difficulty than is to be found in the northern state.
Southern California is less in area and one-half of the state of Oregon, but of this area three-fourths belongs to deserts and mountains, while only a port on the remaining one-fourth is inhabited. The cities and cultivated area are all adjacent to the sea, so that over 90 percent of the entire population dwells within thirty miles of the ocean, while over 94 percent of the total wealth lies within the same distance of the sea. The seizure of Southern California is simplified by the further concentration of wealth and population in a single seaboard county, where is to be found two-thirds of the population and more than two-thirds of its wealth.
This delimination of the strategic area is finally reduced to the environs of a single city, so that the conquest of the southern flank is relegated to and depends upon the seizure of the city of Los Angeles. Within this city alone is to be found more than half of the entire population in wealth of Southern California. It constitutes the economic, political and railroad center of this entire territory. All other cities, communities and industries are dependent upon it. Once Los Angeles passes into the possession of the enemy the whole of Southern California would fall. Though Los Angeles constitutes the single strategic point on which depends the security of Southern California, no effort has been made to render it secure from attack, and a single regiment can now occupy the city with impunity.
Like Washington and Oregon, so extensive is the seaboard by which Los Angeles can be attacked and so close is the city to the sea that the only means — once the command of the sea is lost — which can insure it from capture is to prepare before war, systematically and thoroughly, such means for defense of the entire seaboard by mobile armies as modern warfare demands. Isolated fortifications, small and inefficient and forces, will not only hinder nor even delay the conquest of this region a single day, but will, on the other hand, result in useless destruction of life and devastation of the country.
Whenever the United States undertakes to regain Southern California it must recapture the Cajon, San Jacinto and Saugus passes and to attack these fortified places from the desert side is a military undertaking pregnant with greater difficulties than any ever attempted in any of the wars of the world. In attempting to regain San Jacinto Pass the nearest water adequate to the needs of an army is the Imperial Valley, 130 miles distant, while in an attack upon the Cajon Pass, the nearest water available for the use of an army is the Colorado River, 220 miles across the Mojave Desert. These are the conditions that renders Southern California impregnable against American attack when once these passes are held by an enemy.
The defense of San Francisco, as in the case of Washington, Oregon and Southern California depends upon the use of mobile armies and is concerned with three distinct theaters of action separate from its present system of fortifications.
First, the defense of San Francisco Peninsula; second, the defense of the Sausalito Peninsula; third, the defense of its inland lines of communications.
To defend the San Francisco Peninsula belongs to an army, stationed not on the peninsula, but in the Santa Clara Valley fifty miles southward; while the defense of the Sausalito Peninsula belongs to an army stationed fifty miles northward in the County of Sonoma. Whichever combatant ceases and holds these positions strategically controls both these peninsulas. The American army on the north cannot retreat further south in San Rafael without giving over into the hands of the enemy Sausalito Peninsula and the City of San Francisco, while the southern American army cannot retreat north of Palo Alto without giving the entire water supply into the hands of the enemy, which would force the immediate capitulation of San Francisco.
Under the present conditions in this Republic, if the entire military force were placed in or about San Francisco at the beginning of the war, they would be so inefficient and so incapable of defending it that the Japanese, landing simultaneously at Monterey Bay on the south and Bodega Bay on the north, could seize this city or force its capitulation within two weeks after their landing by five separate strategic moves and without engaging in battle.
Now in consideration of these conditions, so vitally a part of those purposes for which this Congress has convened, it becomes incumbent upon it to exert its influence in providing for the immediate establishment of mobile forces on this coast so that in the interim, during which our navy and merchant marine are being built, that this coast may be made secure against those possible invasions and seizures that international convergence and conflicts make possible.
2) The following address to a New York City men’s group appeared in “Writer Who Fears Japan,” New York Sun, July 7, 1911, 10:
Gen. Homer Lea, author of “The Valor of Ignorance,” and exposition of the “yellow peril,” has just sailed from New York for Europe. Whether or not he is indirectly bound for China he would not say. His head is alleged to be worth $40,000 over there to anyone who may hand it to the Government, but one look at him is enough to convince that a trifle like that would not keep him away if it suited his purpose to go into China.
Every inch of his 5 feet 3 radiates intense purpose. The adjective fire eating has been applied to his book, but there is nothing of the fire here in the appearance of the little, slight, pale, clean shaven, nearsighted man who has been a soldier of fortune since in early youth and has had many adventures. For several years he served in the army of the Government which is said now to have put a price on his head.
But of the adventure and romance side of his life General Lee will have nothing to say. In that Chinese matter he can find nothing but seriousness, and he succeeded in impressing it to on a luncheon party of New York men who had thought they were going to hear a fascinating chapter or so suitable for romance.
“How soon are we to have war with Japan?” Gen. Lea was asked rather facetiously.
“That is impossible to say,” he replied quietly, “or I would have made a prediction in ‘The Valor of Ignorance.’ The reason it is impossible to get exactitude relative to a question of that kind is not due to the fact of its possibility or impossibility, but is due to a condition entirely alien.
“In a general sense, war is determined by the angle of convergence of two nations toward a common objective. The time is determined by the acuteness of the angle of that convergence plus the rate of speed with which both nations approach that point of contact, which is war.
“The objective of these two nations is the control of the Pacific. The angle of convergence is as acute as are the necessities of one nation or the other to be supreme, but the rate of movement is the one uncertain thing which prevents our determining definitely the time of the war.
“For instance, before the Revolutionary War there was a convergence of the interests of these colonies with the interests of England. That was recognized for a long time. The rate of movement along their lines toward the convergent point was constant up to a certain period, when a single incident on the part of one, as the destruction of the tea in Boston Harbor, increased with such tremendous speed the movement of one party that war was almost simultaneous with this increased rate of speed.
“The same can be said as to the civil war and the Spanish-American War. While for many years the convergence of Spain and the United States was recognized, yet the rate of convergence toward war was so imperceptible as to lead people to believe in its impossibility. Yet the sinking of the Maine so increased the movement of this nation toward the point of contact that war again was almost simultaneous with the increase of speed.
“In other words it is only essential to ascertain the sources of war to understand its inevitability. When this is done the precipitating causes may be the most trivial circumstances. In fact the sources of war once determined are as a great rock on the brink of a precipice, and as a child may push over this rock so a nation in a fit of passion may in no greater length of time hurl down the great rock of empire.
“So in regard to Japan the sources of war have been determined. In other words the direction of those lines of national progress along which this nation and Japan move are convergent. That was my essential argument in ‘The Valor of Ignorance.’ But to say when this contact, which is war, shall take place is prophecy, concerning which we have nothing to do.
“Already the finger of this nation has rested upon the great rock which once pushed over would have meant war. Already this nation has received on two occasions an ultimatum from the island empire, and that war was not reached was due to the fact that the point of contact was never reached, because as the impulses of Japanese aggression toward this point were increased, in like ratio was there a recession on the part of the American nation. I do not know when the war will take place; my view has not changed since ‘The Valor of Ignorance’ was written.
“What were those two incidents you recall?
“One,” he replied, “was the protest of Japan against the occupancy by this nation of the Hawaiian Islands. The other is the ultimatum delivered by Japan concerning the treatment of her people in California.
“If this republic had created at any time a great naval and military base in Hawaii Japan’s opportunity of seizing the islands would have been lessened if not prohibited. I attempted to point out in the book that so long as these islands formed in invulnerable American base the mainland of the Republic would be removed from the sphere of military enterprise.
“While the establishment of American naval and military power in the Pacific or Hawaii has not been attempted yet Japan has prepared for this eventuality in so effective a manner that notwithstanding what the naval forces of United States may be in the future these islands can be seized from within and converted into a Japanese naval and military base so quickly that they will be impregnable to the power of this Republic, regardless of what it may be on the mainland.
“The tenure of any territory is determined primarily by military supremacy. Only when the attacking forces exceed on land those of the defense, or when a naval blockade assumes the character of a siege, does this tenure become insecure. If the military occupation of the Hawaiian Islands is insufficient force, whether by the United States or Japan, they could not be gained or regained by naval attack. The control of these islands is a military and not a naval problem.
“Japanese immigration into Hawaii has been political rather than economic, and is divided into three distinct political decades, as determined by two factors:
“First–American Pacific expansion:
(a) The establishment of the Hawaiian republic. (b) The annexation of Hawaii. (c) The conquest of the Philippines.
“Second–Japanese political development:
(a) Protest of Japan against annexation of Hawaii.
(b) The Japanese victory over China.
(c) Japanese victory over Russia. (d) Anglo-Japanese Alliance.
“In the first political decade, 1884-96, there occurred:
“First–the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the establishment of an American republic.
“Second—Japan’s protest against annexation.
“Third—Japan’s victory over China; the elimination of that nation from the Pacific and the beginning of Japan’s political development as a Pacific power.
“Simultaneous with these events the Japanese population in Hawaii increased from 116 in 1884 to 22,329 in 1896.
“In the second political decade, 1896-1900, there occurred:
“First, the annexation of Hawaii.
“Second, the conquest of the Philippines.
“Third, the development of the Japanese army and navy.
“Simultaneous with these events the Japanese population increased from 22,329 in 1896 to 61,115 in 1900.
“In the third political decade, 1900-1908, there occurred:
“First, Japan’s victory over Russia, the elimination of that nation in the Pacific and Japan’s increased development as a Pacific power.
“Second, the Anglo-Japanese alliance and Japan’s advance as a world power.
“Third, unprecedented development of the Japanese army and navy.
“Simultaneous with these events Japanese immigration into the Hawaiian Islands from 1902 to 1908 has been 65,708. The departures during this period were 42,313. The military unfit have in this manner been supplanted by the veterans of a great war and the military occupation of Hawaii tentatively accomplished.
“Concerning this last opposition we shall say nothing, but it would be well for this nation to draw some inference from the former.”
Since the publication of “The Valor of Ignorance,” Gen. Lea was asked, “has any matter developed that would lead you to believe that you have aired in your statements?”
“As I look back during the last two years,” he replied, “I feel that I have erred in making the book to conservative. While I did not say that war would result in the immediate future, while I did not necessarily say that war would occur with Japan prior to any other Power, unfortunately conditions have so arisen that we are today not two years nearer war, but immeasurably closer than I anticipated at the time of the publication of the book.
“Another element has come into the settlement of the Pacific, and that while I construed Japan as only moving against the maritime development and progress of this Republic under the realization of the necessity that she must control the exterior shores of the Pacific or eventually succumb. Japan has now started on a plan that is not only the assumption of a proud race but the logical consequence of that great political genius which is inherent only in a militant race.
“Japan has begun the absorption of China, and so tomorrow, unlike yesterday, brings into the consideration of this nation this new element: that while this nation must either cease its progression westward and abandon the Pacific, or increase its military and naval forces to the maintenance of it, it must also look forward to and exert its influence in the reestablishment of the political and military equilibrium of the Orient, and this can only be done by the renascence of China and the creation in China of a great military power. This power, unlike that of Japan, can never become aggressive or in any way affect the development, the tenure, or the greatness of this republic in the Pacific.”
“In what, then, would you base the hope of the American people to maintain its present status in the Pacific and to open to the American people free intercourse with China?”
“There are,” replied the general, “two distinct courses which, though very opposite in their sources, are identical in their effect. One is for the American Republic to except in toto the recommendations of the late Secretary of War, Mr. Dickinson, and the recommendations of the Chief of Staff, Gen. Wood.
“And the second course?”
“To give to the Chinese people those rights upon which the liberties and the greatness of this Republic were founded.”
“What would that do?”
“It would save this republic.”
“Do you mean that if this nation would make some sort of a differentiation between the ruling Manchu race, who, I believe, number about a million, and the Chinese race, who, I believe, number about four hundred and twenty-six millions, it would result in any benefit to this republic?
“I will not answer that question,” said Gen. Lea. He would say no more.
3) The following address, given at the opening of the U. S. Grant Hotel “Bivouac Grill” in San Diego on December 16, 1910, appeared in “Coast at Mercy of Any Hostile Force Says Noted War Expert,” San Diego Union, December 17, 1910, 10:
“San Diego could be blockaded and cut off from communication with the rest of the world by a single war vessel of an enemy’s fleet or by a single company of an invading army because only a single line of railroad connects this city would Los Angeles. That railroad runs within 300 to 900 yards of the water. It runs within cannon shot of any war vessel at sea. A handful of determined men could blow it up and isolate this city from all civilization.”
And it was a small man who spoke those words. He wore glasses and as far as appearances go, he might have been an inoffensive clerk. But his achievements in war had gained him international fame. For years he has been one of the great strategists of the United States Army. He reorganized the Chinese imperial army and taught the celestials modern methods of carnage. Everywhere among all nations General Homer Lee, the principal speaker at the opening of the U. S. Grant Hotel grill last night, under the auspices of the Officers’ association, is recognized as an authority on military attack and defense.
General Lea is an earnest speaker. His words carry the force of his conviction. Military and naval men listened with rapt attention to every utterance. His sentences came like the thundering roar of artillery.
“The captain of industry,” he said, “builds up his little structure which can be destroyed in a day, but never was there a nation that has not been built up and maintained by the blood and sinew of war.
A hush fell over the banquet hall.
“Europe is but a few days distant from our ports. The speed annihilators of the ocean can carry armies to our shores in less time than it would take an army to make a march during the Civil War. The world today is no larger than the United States was 60 years ago.
“The isolation of America is a false idea. That the American people can arise and repel a foreign invader is a false idea. Never was there a single instance in the history of the world when a people untrained in the art of war arose and destroyed and invader.
“The wealth of a nation has nothing to do with the success of war. Its only use is its utilization as a means of war. Of what use will be our resources and the resources of other nations if they are destroyed by war. Of what service will they be to the millions who are now enjoying the blessing of peace if they are not protected against the destruction that attends war? Whatever the captains of industry may say, the wheat of Dakota will not serve on the firing line. The wool that is raised on the back of the sheep in our mountains will not serve as a breastworks. All those things cannot be used to protect the wealth of the captains of industry. All the wealth of the world cannot buy the eye that looks along the barrel of the rifle.
“The power of a nation, strange as it may seem, weakens as that nation grows rich. Every time a nation has fallen before the forces of an invading army it has been a rich nation. Every time in the history of the world that a nation conquered, that conquering nation was a poor nation.”
The speaker here reviewed the great men of war who had destroyed empires to show that valor was born generally in hardship and private nation, and that decline began with indolence and ease.
“Now on the other side,” he continued, “we have a nation which we condescend to look upon with consideration. I have heard it said in Los Angeles that if that nation should invade our shore the police force of Pasadena would repel its army. What does that boast mean? It means vainglory. It means ignorance. What is the Japanese taught? He is taught to go to death with a laugh. He goes to death eagerly. He goes into battle prime for death.”
General Lea, who was speaking extemporaneously, declared that the uniform of the American soldier and sailor was considered a badge of servitude.
“The curse of this spirit has fallen on America,” he continued with dramatic emphasis. “The fever stricken swamps, the anguish, the pain, the heroism of the men of who wear that badge are forgotten. If those things give us trouble, put them aside, is the cry of the captains of industry while they are erecting stone edifices which can be destroyed with a shell. With the exception of the American navy we are less able to defend ourselves today than we were at any other time in our history. There is no such thing as operating from a base of war, once the sea has been gained.”
It was at this point that the speaker described the defenselessness of the cities on the Pacific coast. He explained that an invading army would not land at the fortified ports. An attack on San Francisco would not be made through the Golden Gate.
“Once an enemy lands within 50 miles of any of our coast cities, those cities would fall without a shot. You might as well put your fortifications on the top of the Bitter Root mountains or sink them into your rivers and harbors.
“An attack on San Francisco would be made from Monterey Bay and the enemy would move on that city in a bloodless victory.”
The speaker explained that lines of defense extending 32 miles south and 15 miles north of San Francisco would be required to repel the invaders — a line so long that there are not enough men in the regular army to fill it. He said that with the water supply of Sweetwater dam cut off the city could withstand an attack of only three days.
The seizure of Los Angeles, in which he said more than half the wealth of Southern California was concentrated, would mean the subjugation of the entire southern part of the state. The defenseless position of San Diego, with its single line of railroad was next shown.
“You cannot stop war,” concluded General Lea. “It has come to us from primitive man. It is a part of our nature. It cannot be crushed out without destroying human nature.
“People who rise up en masse, untrained in the art of war are as useless as blubber. They are slaughtered and the enemy easily wades through their blood to victory and subjugation.”