Franklin D. Roosevelt… assistant secretary of the navy?
Many people — or perhaps even most people — today don’t even remember what position FDR held right before his presidency: governor of New York. But virtually nobody remembers what position he held even before that: assistant secretary of the Navy.
FDR held the #2 spot in the Navy from 1913-19. He was appointed a year before World War I broke out in Europe and four years before America entered the conflict.
In this June 1918 article, FDR explains the reasoning behind Germany launched a U-boat attack on shipping right off the American Atlantic coast:
First, merely to carry out the known German system of terrorizing the enemy; second in this particular case, it may be the definite belief of the German Admiralty that this campaign will force the United States to withdraw destroyers and patrol vessels now in European waters in order to protect our own coasts. To do this would be playing directly into the hands of the German Admiralty, because… it pays them better to attack our ships on the other side and not here; if we withdraw destroyers and patrol boats from the other side it would make it that much easier for the Germans in their chosen field of operations.
We must realize, therefore, that while Germany may and probably will continue to send occasional submarines to our own coasts, and while these submarines may occasionally sink ships off our shores, we must regard their operations as secondary.
The secretary of the Navy — and FDR’s boss — was Josephus Daniels. FDR would repay Daniels as president by appointing him ambassador to Mexico.
U-Boats Off Shore!: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Discusses the Possibilities and Purposes of Germany’s Submarine Attack
Published: Sunday, June 9, 1918