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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 90.djvu/559

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Can We Protect Our Coasts?

��On the Atlantic seaboard a hostile army of 400,000 could land at 116 undefended points

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��'E have, approximately, five thou- sand miles of coast line, about three hundred miles of which are now protected by twenty-nine coast de- fenses. Military men regard the navy as the first line of defense, coast defenses as the second line, and the army as the third.

But no matter how strong a coast defense may be, if it cannot repel land attack as well as sea attack it is practically useless. Thus big guns are not alone sufficient ; there must be a land force and small arms. The latest official estimate places the number of coast artillery at 508 officers and n men. Obviously, this is far less thai should be. Furthermore, our guns are for the most part old models, hope- lessly outdistanced by the powerful fifteen-inch guns of such ships as the Queen Elizabeth, So, when Gen- eral Wood s that an enemy fleet could lie

���The stars indicate the positions of forts along the Atlantic Coast. There are no less than 116 undefended points

Rockaway and throw shells into Four- teenth Street, New York, we have to swallow hard and admit he's right. c^Kx^ However, his statement is short-lived. The Government is now building a fortifica- tion at Far Rockaway, which, it is hoped, will protect New York from danger. But as regards Chesapeake Bay, one of our vulnerable points, nothing has'been done to protect it from the danger of foreign inva- sion beyond the placing of submarine nets. So small was the supply of coast defense ammunition in 1915 that it would be exhausted in forty-five minutes by a capacity fire of our coast defense guns. If

��the firing were done b\ howitzers, the ammunition would last about thirty minutes. Fortunately, this situation is no longer true, due to a re- awa

kening of t he author- ities at Wash- ington to the real state of afTairs. Our am- munition supply has steadily increased since 915. But it must still far behind the needs of the hour.

Our own army offi- cers have pointed out to us that 400,000 men could easily be landed on the Atlantic Coast. A system of heavy guns permanently \y^ mounted on railway carriages — mobile forts, in other words — has been suggested as a means of protect- ing our coast area and inland cities. They might prove useful, when it is considered that there are no less than oiie hundred and sixteen undefended points where an enemy could place troops. These statements are alarming. About the only redeeming feature of our situation is to be found in our railroads. We have a valuable net of railroads which could transport troops quickly.

In spite of the despairing predictions made by our military authorities, one of which is that it will be years before our coast defenses and mobile army can be developed into real fighting units-, there is the hope that some agency — motor torpedo boats, coast submarines, mobile forts, or whatnot — may back up our coast fortifications and afford our coast line the protection it needs.

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