Aviation and the Navy Building Program

By Rear Admiral W. A. Moffett, U. S. Navy

The history of mankind reveals the dominant influence woman has always had on the spirit and progress of all nations. A man fights for some woman and not for his country alone. Some woman is his inspiration and her appreciation is his reward-what he strives and fights for. In battle, he thinks of her as Tennyson in his "Princess" sings:

Thy voice is heard through rolling drums

That beat to battle where he stands;

Thy face across his fancy comes,

And gives the battle to his hands.

A moment while the trumpets blow

He sees his brood about thy knee;

And next like fire he meets the foe,

And strikes him dead for thine and thee.

You come to Washington at an opportune time. We are all looking towards one particular goal, the passage of the Navy building program at this session of Congress, to enable us to make a start towards building the London treaty navy. Last year in London the United States came to an agreement with Great Britain and Japan on naval limitation, which demonstrated our friendship and desire to preserve peace throughout the world and also to insure us national security. There were, as you know, many different opinions on the results of that conference, but finally the London treaty was ratified by the Senate with clear and positive provisions for the United States Navy. If we build up to this treaty, we will have an effective and adequate navy for our needs. But such groups of Americans as you, must let it be known plainly that the people of this country insist on having such a navy or Congress may turn its attention to other issues. You have the right to speak, for you represent great groups of women in every state, organized and working in such a patriotic way that you encourage all who have the safety, welfare, and self-respect of our country at heart.

In time of war it is you women who suffer most. You, therefore, are the logical ones to demand protection. Many of you would have been spared this suffering had this country been a real sea power in 1914. If we had had an adequate Army and Navy, commensurate with a population of 120,000,000, the responsible leaders in Germany would have considered us before going to war, instead of regarding us with contempt. We could have forbidden war by declaring that we would oppose them with a real force of ships, men, guns, and aircraft. We could have prevented the loss of millions of lives and the untold suffering that has followed. We are faced today with a similar situation. It has been said that armaments make for war. We can judge by our own history-by 1776, 1812, 1861, 1898, and 1917. At none of these periods were we armed and yet war was forced upon us. In 1776, French sea power made it possible for us to win; in 1812 French sea power and land power indirectly won for us; in 1861, had the United States possessed the naval and military power it should have had, the long struggle would have been quickly settled, which would have been to the advantage of both sides. As it was, naval power settled the war by blockading and strangling the Confederacy. In 1898 had we had an adequate Navy, Spain would never have gone to war. Our own history then, shows that we can not remain at peace merely by failing to provide forces of defense.

Under the terms of the London treaty, the United States will continue to have 135,000 tons of aircraft carrier tonnage; the Japanese, 81,000; or a ratio of 5-3. Each of the nations can also place flying decks on 25 per cent of their light cruisers; namely, the United States and Great Britain, about 80,000 tons, and Japan, about 43,000. I hope that the coming building program will result in the authorization of the unutilized tonnage for aircraft carriers; namely 55,200 tons; and that we will take advantage of the placing of landing decks on 25 per cent of the cruiser tonnage. These vessels will be, I believe, the forerunners of the warship of the future; namely, vessels which will carry airplanes on landing decks for taking off and landing, as well as guns. An airplane is a long range gun used also as a scout, a torpedo plane, and an observation platform, and we are coming more and more to regard them in this light.

The Navy Department has recommended, the President has approved, a moderate program for the first year towards building the ships, including their aircraft, that will give us parity in naval power with Great Britain and 5-3 with Japan, provided we build up to the treaty allowance. The program includes 280 airplanes for the ships. Bills to carry out this modest program have been reported out favorably in both the House and the Senate by the naval affairs committees. Little interest is evidenced in them by the public or the newspapers, or at least, very little compared with the tremendous interest taken in the London conference and later in the debate in the Senate, and the same influences that opposed an adequate navy in 1914 are opposing the present program.

We all know that organized influence is at work, under cover of course, to defeat this program. I need not tell this group of the methods being used to obstruct and delay. The activities of those who do not or will not see the necessity for national defense as peace insurance as well as national safety are not always carried on in the open. They masquerade in many guises, such as urging other measures and bills so that nothing can nor will be done for national defense in this session if they can prevent it. These legislative measures that are urged obstructively before the naval building bill may be important, but nothing is more important than national defense and safety.

Even when we secure authorization from Congress for the program, if that is allowed to go through, only half of the battle will be won, and we must all work harder still to secure the necessary appropriations before we can start building the ships. If we do not secure this authorization and some appropriation from this Congress to start the naval building program this year, it will mean that no start will be made until another year-a year from July next. Congress will adjourn March 4 and there will be no regular session until next December. We will again next year face a similar situation to the present one. Even if the program is authorized by the next Congress and the money appropriated, no start could be made until after July 1, 1932. This will mean that none of the ships will be finished when the next Limitation of Naval Armaments Conference meets in 1935 as provided in the London Naval Treaty.

We were fortunate in having Great Britain agree to parity at London. Japan gained concessions above the 3-5 ratio because she had the actual ships in commission, more than parity in some categories, and more than 3-5 in others. The financial situation in Great Britain and Japan had much to do with an agreement at London, but similar conditions may not exist again nor in 1935. If we go to the next conference with a blueprint navy, we will be seriously handicapped and a situation may arise that will not only wreck all that has been gained but may cause serious international misunderstandings.

It is your duty and that of all patriotic citizens to do all that can be done to have this modest program passed at this session of Congress. You have a right to ask that it be passed. Before leaving Washington, I suggest you see your senators and representatives. Talk to your fellow-citizens at home, and explain the situation to them. Those of you who have suffered, as many of you have by the loss of dear ones because in 1914 the United States made her young men go forth to war unprepared and because this country had not recognized its duty to maintain its place as a real sea power, have a right to demand that we never be found unprepared again.

We spent billions for the last war. We are apparently about to appropriate over three billions for the veterans' compensation act, all because we were not adequately prepared in 1913-1914, and yet we are refusing to appropriate a total of less than a billion dollars, spread over five to ten years, for a Navy that will insure our security and prevent the expenditure of billions of dollars if another war is permitted. We are the only first-class power that does not believe in having adequate protection. All the other great nations have it.

There seems to be an abiding belief that when war breaks out we can meet the situation. How soon some of us have forgotten the lessons we should have learned from the last war! I hope that everyone who believes that we can spring to defend our land overnight without adequate preparedness, is reading the stories General Pershing is writing for the newspapers. The result of our shameful unpreparedness in the World War is disclosed in every line of this splendid biography. Thousands of lives were sacrificed. To defend ourselves on the outbreak of a war we must have not only war materials but trained personnel. Training takes not months but years; therefore in times of peace we must have not only warships but trained men.

When this country insisted on parity with Great Britain and 5-3 with Japan, was it just a gesture or did we really mean it? Japan came to the London conference with not only 3-5, but as I said before, more than parity in some categories, and for this reason obtained more than 3-5 in these categories. We gained parity with Great Britain but gave in to Japan because she had real ships and not paper ships.

We are the richest and most powerful nation in the world potentially, but we are not actually so unless we have adequate force in ships, arms, aircraft, and trained personnel to back up any position we may take.

We in the Navy are all for wise economy. We ask no needless expenditure of money. We ask only what is necessary for adequate national defense. We of the Army and Navy know what is necessary for adequate defense-it is our business to know. We know what the country needs for training and experience in peace to be ready for war.We are aware of conditions abroad and at home, propaganda, bolshevism, and want only to be strong enough to maintain the self-respect and honor of the nation. We are for the Kellogg Pact and other attempts to insure peace by arbitration and peaceful means, but we know that the Kellogg Pact and other treaties, as was the case with the treaty with Belgium, are not worth the paper on which they are written unless backed by sufficient force.

No nation fell intentionally, each felt strong and secure. Each fell from disintegration within, luxury, unwillingness to make sacrifices for national defense, as we are doing today, expenditures for the luxuries of peace, and refusing to spend money for national defense. A nation that continues to live as we are doing will suffer again, as we did in the last war and are suffering now. Millions for luxuries and comparatively little for national defense!

In considering national defense, do not forget aviation. It is a new weapon, a new power. Sea power is a term we have long heard. We must now think in terms of air power as a part of sea power. Aviation depends in many ways on sea power. We know how to use the old arms, ships, guns, and torpedoes, but comparatively little about the uses of this new weapon that knows no natural obstacles and proceeds through the air-a human, intelligent projectile. So we should leave nothing undone to develop it so as to be ready to use it to the fullest extent when the emergency comes.

In connection with the naval building program, there is probably nothing that would help unemployment more than construction of the London treaty navy. Eighty per cent of the cost of men-of-war is pay of American labor. The building of a man-of-war involves all of the arts and industries of the country, and skilled as well as unskilled labor distributed over the entire country. There is no question that a program for the building of ships, distributed over a period of years, would have a most beneficial effect on the whole industrial situation.

Of the greatest importance also is to get a merchant marine and personnel inferior to none, parity, at least, in merchant marine. A merchant marine is a large part of sea power. A navy is only a part of it. As long as we have a merchant marine inferior toany other nation we will not have parity in sea power. We can gain it by building merchant ships just as we build cruisers. Each merchant ship can be changed into an aircraft carrier. Thus aviation will make merchant ships potential men-of-war. They can, when converted into aircraft carriers, carry bombing planes having a range of 600 miles. Before the advent of aviation, merchant ships could only carry comparatively small guns having only a few miles radius. Aviation has enormously increased the relative value of a merchant marine, and in getting parity in navies we must realize that we have still a long way to go to have parity in sea power. Think this over and see that we get a merchant marine inferior to none. It will not only be a most powerful and essential factor of national defense but of enormous value and of far-reaching importance to our commerce and national prosperity in time of peace. It would assist greatly in solving farm, labor, and unemployment problems.

The enemies of national preparedness have but one course of action open to them. Through propaganda and through lobbying they will attempt to influence Congress into voting against any increase of arms of defense. For the success of their efforts we may fear the worst, for in times gone by they have delayed and blocked legislation to such degree that we have fallen pitifully behind in building up to the treaty limit.

It is less than a year ago that the newspapers were clamoring about the London treaty, calling to our delegates not to "sell out" to the other powers; to stand by their guns for an adequate Navy. This they did;they fought for and achieved parity. But what good does it do? I was for the treaty as long as I thought Congress would build up to it. If the people of this country fail to demand a London treaty navy, then we deserve the defeat, the suffering and the humiliation that will come in the next emergency. The government is but the voice of the people. If we are too indolent to carry out our duty in supplying national defense, then we should frankly accept our position as a second-rate power, for such we will be beyond a shadow of a doubt. One way lies prosperity, honor, peace and self-respect, with an adequate navy; in the other, ultimate suffering and disaster.

I am no visionary, far from it, for I believe that in a practical world one must be practical. Enthusiastic as I am for naval aviation, I am positive that aviation alone is a pitifully weak defense for this vast country. We must have a fleet capable of protecting our country, supported by a strong and efficient air force with and as a part of the Navy. The two, fleet and air force, are supplementary branches of the service and not separate.

To insist upon an adequate London treaty fleet is the personal duty of everyone of us. We must combat the influences of those working against it; we must convince those who fear that armed forces point the way to another world war that they are wrong.

Nothing is more essential to the welfare, honor, and self-respect of this country than the creation, maintenance, and operation of an adequate Navy, including its aircraft, second to none, built to the strength allowed by the London treaty.

 

 
 

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