SHSND Home > North Dakota History > Unit 8: USS North Dakota > Set 3: High School > ABG Debate: Defenders

Unit 8: Set 3: High School - ABG Debate: Defenders

ABG Debate Intro | Critics | Defenders | ABG Debate Conclusion | ABG Debate Activities |
Treaty Intro | Documents | Treaty Activities

The Navy was anxious to clear the controversy over the North Dakota’s construction and design. Navy leaders agreed to meet under the leadership of President Roosevelt at the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island to discuss the complaints and to make adjustments if necessary or practical.

President Roosevelt was disturbed by the nature and frequency of the criticism of the North Dakota. The conference was to proceed in secrecy though the names of the participants were public. Among the officers were six Rear Admirals, several Naval Constructors, and Commander Albert L. Key.

The plans for the North Dakota (Battleship 29) and the Delaware had been submitted to Congress in 1906 along with a construction budget. Similar plans had been submitted to Congress for appropriations for the next ships to be built, the Florida and the Utah. Roosevelt, who had, as president, promoted a strong Navy, wanted to be sure that all four ships would be among the most powerful in the world.

During the conference, a news story was published stating that the ships of the Delaware class (including the North Dakota) were unsatisfactory. Roosevelt responded on August 21, 1908 with characteristic vigor:

There is no question about the plans being unsatisfactory; merely as to whether they cannot be made even better. The North Dakota [Delaware] class is undoubtedly better than any ships now afloat. The conference is simply engaged in the effort to try to make them better still.

The President, however, had temporarily halted work on the battleships until he saw new plans for that class of ship. A week later, President Roosevelt approved of the plans for the new ships with just a few adjustments. All the new ships (after the North Dakota and Delaware) would have turbine engines, and each would have two extra 5 inch torpedo guns.

The following statements in defense of the ships’ design and construction are taken from the New York Times, the Grand Forks Herald, and Scientific American.

  1. The Delaware and the North Dakota are nearly 40% completed and defects cannot be remedied at this time.
  1. Changing the plans of the Florida and the Utahwould require delaying the building of those ships by 5 or 6 months. These two ships were to be completed approximately one year after the North Dakota.
  1. Even if two chambers were hit by shells in combat, allowing water into the ship’s interior, the ship would float and remain able to return fire making the exact placement of the armor belt of less importance.
  1. The armor belt should be 6 feet below the most likely position of the water line at combat weight and that is where it currently is located on the North Dakota.
  1. Thicker armor for the 5 inch guns would mean heavier weight and greater displacement of water (resulting in a lower water line). While desirable, this would cause the loss of other desirable qualities in the ship.
  1. The 5 inch guns probably should be mounted higher, but a special inquiry should be held to determine the best position for mounting the 5 inch torpedo guns.
  1. The twelve inch guns of the North Dakota may be inferior to the new British 12 inch guns, but they were equal to guns currently in use. Improved 12 inch guns would be used on the newer dreadnoughts, the Florida and the Utah.
  1. It would be impractical to redesign the North Dakota to provide a cooler location for the powder magazine that is surrounded by steam pipes. The Navy would attempt to provide a cooling mechanism for the magazine.
  1. The location of the gun turrets is acceptable and is similar to the location of gun turrets on other nations’ ships. The position of the turrets contributes to the stability of the ship.
  1. Some sacrifices had to be made in order to achieve the proper weight, space, speed of the ship and maximum efficiency of broadside discharges of the 12 inch guns. Therefore, some of the criticisms of Commander Key must be set aside.
  1. The North Dakota and the other dreadnoughts of the US Navy are equal to any of their type in the world. Though there may be flaws in design, these are common among similar ships in the navies of other nations.
  1. Criticism of these ships is “unfair, untrue, and unpatriotic” according to Admiral Schley.
  1. The cost of re-fitting older ships and ships already well under construction would be better spent in improving the next ships whose construction had not yet begun.

612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Get Directions

State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment, please contact us at 701.328.2091 or
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.

Contact Us:
phone: 701.328.2666

Social Media:
See all social media accounts