The U.S. Navy emerged from World War II unmatched in history for its offensive power and mobility. At the core of this invincible fleet was naval aviation, of which the key offensive element was the aircraft carrier. During the war, U.S. naval aviation expanded from a modest, untested peacetime force of one escort carrier, seven fleet carriers, and 1,774 combat aircraft to a fleet of 99 carriers of all types, and 29,125 combat aircraft. As the war progressed, requirements for new war-fighting capabilities precipitated advances in such areas as electronics, communications, weapons, aircraft power plants, and shipboard damage control systems, which were accompanied by parallel developments in operational procedures, doctrine, and training.
All of the foregoing was accomplished with a virtually inexhaustible supply of resources—people, money, and materials. After the war, the well went dry. Within the aviation navy, carriers and squadrons were decommissioned at an astounding rate. At the same time, advancing technologies, such as jet propulsion, guided missiles, and atomic weapons, began to effect fundamental changes in our capabilities to wage war. The Navy's immediate and pressing problem was to begin the evolutionary process of matching new technologies with obsolete weapons and doctrine, all the while maintaining an overseas presence and redefining roles and missions in the newly created National Defense Establishment.
The battlefield shifted rapidly from the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific to the halls of the Pentagon and the committee rooms of Congress.