Naval strength cannot remain static if it is to retain strength. This is true of material. It is equally true of dispositions. To maintain a Navy, it is necessary to improve its implements as constantly as possible. It also is necessary to station its forces where they can exert maximum pressure for peace and, once the die is cast, the utmost energy in war.
There should be no excuse for a critical relapse of naval development in the United States after the present war. A nation which can afford to bring out yearly new models of 1,000,000 or more automobiles ought to have the price of a new-model bomber every two years and a new battleship every three. It should be worth it to the motorists, alone, to avoid World War 111 gasoline rationing.
By retaining a sizable Navy and renewing components of it periodically as required, circumstances such as those which compelled sketchy and dangerous dispositions of naval strength prior to the present war should be eliminated. There need be no repetition of the naval paucity which led Admiral Ernest J. King, as Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet prior to becoming Cominch, to say that he was forced to spread the butter “very thin” on the bread, and which caught us in the Far East with an Asiatic squadron of two cruisers, some overage four-pipers, and the elderly S-boats. The yardstick in naval dispositions should be “how much,” not “how little.” For naval strength is relative. In relationship of fleet to enemy fleet, it may soon shrink to weakness if kept static.
The problem of disposing and using available naval forces to best advantage is an age-old one which does not permit of any glib solution. Little of an elementary nature can be added to the observations of such eminent leaders in naval thought as Rear Admiral Alfred Mahan. It is possible, however, to re-examine the subject repeatedly in the light of developments in warfare. This paper represents a humble attempt to do so, particularly with reference to the coming post-war period.
Any attempt to lay down a formula which might roughly hint at the shape of naval things to come must immediately embrace both national and international complexities unknown, in some instances, as recently as half a century ago. It must recognize that sea warfare is three-dimensional rather than a surface struggle. It must be elastic enough to allow for technical advances in all respects, and especially in the air. And it must apply the lessons of the present war.
Certain definitions are necessary at the outset. The term Navy includes surface, underseas, and air craft; naval operational bases, air bases, and trained man power, all properly co-ordinated and effectively directed. By national factors are meant those components of naval strength inherent in a nation or directly under national control. By international variables are meant the foreign influences and developments which alter a nation’s naval position and policy.
The national factors most to be considered are: (1) surface ships, (2) aircraft, (3) submarines, (4) trained man power, (5) transportation, (6) production facilities, (7) raw materials, (8) experimentation, and (9) public opinion. In war time, public opinion may be permitted to trail at the end of the list. In peace time, it should come first. By swaying the fate of alliances and disarmament legislation, it becomes a governing factor.
International variables may, according to their trend, subject most of the national factors to addition, subtraction, and division, as their enumeration quickly indicates. The principal international variables may be set down as: (A) allies, real or potential; prospective enemies; (C) probable areas of future wars; (D) naval operating bases and air bases; (E) degree of disarmament of existing enemies; (F) degree of disarmament of our allies and ourselves.
Merely listing 15 elements as bearing upon modern naval strength emphasizes anew the difficulty of propounding any finite rule of measurement for United States naval forces. Unless strong pro-navy sentiment or leadership intervenes, the size of the post-war Navy is very likely to be dictated at first by the reaction of Congress and the American public to international events such as allocation of overseas bases, disarmament trends, and the like. Therefore it appears in order to pass over the national factors temporarily in order to consider one by one the world-wide conditions which may exert pressure upon the course of U. S. naval policy.
(A) Real or Potential Allies
International history since 1900 has demonstrated that the wording of treaties is not the clearest gauge of national intentions. Italy played turncoat against her Germanic allies in 1915. Great Britain found reasons for refusing to implement the Nine-Power Pact against Asiatic aggression when Japan seized Manchuria in 1932. Germany’s nonaggression pacts of the past five years invariably foreshadowed invasion.
The best index of a nation’s attitude usually has lain in its actions rather than its words. Post-war American diplomacy should leave off its kid gloves and put aside patty- cake policies in favor of realistic appraisal. The current political sentiment and economic condition of a foreign nation determine whether it is friend or foe far more than the signature of some rejected statesman on an aging treaty. Although it is dangerous to generalize, in general it can be said that America’s most reliable allies throughout the nation’s career have been innately democratic nations, such as Great Britain and France, or nations having no irreconcilable economic aspirations, such as Russia. History indicates that anti-democratic or avaricious nations cannot be kept as allies except while they arc under extreme pressure of international affairs.
In evaluating allies, careful study should be made of all ten factors listed earlier as bearing upon the composition of United States naval forces from an internal viewpoint, such as ships and aircraft, man power, bases, production capacity, and public opinion. At present, the British Empire probably ranks highest among our allies in ships, aircraft, sea and air bases, and production. Soviet Russia ranks first in land forces and about abreast in production and raw materials. China possesses man power and materials; Brazil, bases and materials, and so on. In any post-war military family, the United States should endeavor to complement its allies wherever needed. But we should not allow our military establishment to become utterly interdependent upon theirs in any department. We cannot do so without yielding to another, however friendly and reliable, a military prerogative which we should retain for ourselves. As an example of the kind of filing to be guarded against, there is the plan of Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, a part-Japanese proponent of Pan-Europeanism. He is quoted (Time, November, 1943) as proposing that Great Britain provide the fleet and the United States the air force in a post-war military establishment to keep peace. While U. S. planes operated for a time from H.M.S. Victorious in the Pacific, the necessary components of sound sea-air strength certainly should not be split arbitrarily along national lines and exposed to the inescapable complications of binational operations.
As for public opinion, it is as important in our allies as in ourselves. Only when the Public opinion of the arrayed nations marches in step can their military machines move in full unison. Twice in 27 years the failure of American public opinion to keep up with farsighted Presidents has forced the British Empire to fight without American aid for two-year periods. Public opinion in France in the summer of 1940, artfully influenced by propaganda to consider the war totally lost, turned surrender into abject collapse and cost Britain an ally there. Public opinion in the Argentine, suppressed, has cost the United States an ally there.
Our most powerful allies at present are Soviet Russia, the British Empire, and China. Let us hope that all three, intelligent nations who thus far have been able to reconcile their inevitable differences, will continue to be our allies for centuries. But let us not bind ourselves and our futures hand and foot to any such belief. There are question marks above the horizon of the future. Will Soviet Russia, essentially a land power, be the dominant nation of a great European land mass whose continental system is based on socialism? Or will Great Britain, primarily a sea power, continue to exercise its capitalistic influence over a capitalistic Europe engaged in world commerce? Will resurgent China with its growing might and victorious Russia, also waxing, continue to be contented bed fellows in the Far East? All these questions, and more, may be easily and happily answered. The Teheran and Cairo conferences already have gone a perceptible distance toward doing so. But the answers are not yet conclusive. Not until they become conclusive should they be influential in guiding the future of American armaments.
(B) Prospective Enemies
Japan and Italy, our allies in the World War, were foremost among our foes less than a quarter of a century later. In the 168 years of United States history, we have fought against the British twice and by their sides twice; allied with the French twice (1778-84 and 1917-18), against them once (1798), and consecutively as foes and friends in the present war; against German imperialism twice and against Spanish imperialism once. We nearly became seriously embroiled with Germany repeatedly during the last of the nineteenth century over German meddling in Venezuela and at Manila Bay, and with the French over Maximilian’s imperialistic fiasco in Mexico (1862-67).
Through all this, one thing is noteworthy. Our two wars with Britain, our two clashes with the French 144 years apart, our other major foreign wars and threats of war all involved conflict with imperialistic or antidemocratic forces. And while force of wartime circumstance sometimes has aligned us with nondemocratic nations, such as Czarist Russia in 1917, our steadiest allies have been our fellow democracies.
It thus appears indelibly written in history that we should seek our allies among the democracies and among nations whose economic interests do not clash too sharply with our own. By this yardstick, dogmatically applied, Germany and Japan among the belligerents might remain enemies; Great Britain, China and Russia, in approximately the order named, remain allies; Italy and the submerged nations of Europe have to prove themselves; and among the neutrals, semifascist Argentina and fascist Spain emerge as potential storm centers. Under national self-determination, or what passes for it in some countries, any nation may, however, indulge in a change of heart and an ensuing change of international partners. An ally today may become inimical after the next national election or coup d’etat, and vice versa.
- Probable Areas of Future Wars
Variable C is roughly suggested by the conclusions pointed in A and B. Briefly, it can be stated from the past that the United States Navy has fought extensively in all waters of the globe except Africa below the North African section, the Indian Ocean, the Antarctic, and Canadian and Latin-American waters. And in this respect the past is no augur of the future. Until the present war, United States forces had not fought any fleet action in the Pacific except at Manila Bay, nor any engagements at all in the Aleutian, central and south Pacific, and Arctic areas, to mention only a few. The plain lesson of the present war is that the United States Navy should be prepared, with surface and underseas ships, planes and bases, to wage war in any part of the world where aggression may arise.
- Naval Operating Bases and Air Bases
This war caught the Navy without operating bases in Alaska; the Far East except at isolated Cavite; the broad Pacific except at Pearl Harbor; and the North and Central Atlantic outside of the continental United States. Its operating bases now serve practically all areas of vital operations. Its air bases, even more far-flung, link the world sky routes. A great many are in foreign lands. Those established under 99-year leases with the British Government probably will be maintained with the least international negotiation and friction. Others present postwar problems of varying diplomatic delicacy. There should be a special survey of outlying bases by a military commission representing all branches of the service to determine how many should be maintained, and upon what scale, after the final gun is fired. Essential bases, if not under the United States flag, should be covered by treaties providing for their use. They should be equipped and tooled to service American craft and should have U. S. Navy liaison personnel permanently stationed at them. Similar courtesies might be extended to confirmed allies at United States bases, as they are at present in many instances. Availability of bases like pre-war Singapore, singly or by the dozen, is pointless unless they arc fully mobilized to repair, refuel, and rearm American naval vessels and aircraft.
- Degree of Disarmament of Existing Enemies
Without being dogmatic, it can be suggested that any satisfactory peace must completely disarm the aggressor nations and must keep them disarmed until economic and political healing dispels the last lingering militaristic urge for “lebensraum,” a Greater Asiatic Dominion, or reconstitution of the Roman Empire of Caesar. The Allies of 1914-18 stripped Germany to a “police force” army and a token fleet, and denied her an air force altogether. But they failed to eradicate the militaristic virus. The impotence of their action has been horribly demonstrated. The aggressor nations should be denied armies, fleets, air forces. Their industrial facilities for war, such as steel plants find automotive factories, should be severely limited and strictly scrutinized. Airlines serving them should be kept under international control rather than permit important air facilities to fall into their hands. There is no reason to assume that debilitation of the Axis nations will preclude their comeback. France fought her fiercest wars after the draining debacle of the French Revolution; Germany hers after her sickening crash between the World War and the present conflict.
In naval disarmament, specifically, there should be no halfway or quarterway measures. It is pointless to permit Germany, which produced Panzerschiffe of the Deutschland class under a limit of 10,000 tons, to build say up to 5,000 tons after this war.
The Deutschland class, none too successful in themselves, undoubtedly aided in the development of truly dangerous ships such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz, Similarly, it is inviting future trouble to let Japan perhaps develop dozens of fast liners capable of conversion into auxiliary aircraft carriers. Possession of a destroyer by Germany or a gunboat by Japan may perpetuate the germ of a new naval construction race decades hence. The tree should be uprooted, not pruned.
- Degree of Disarmament of Our Allies and Ourselves
The big fallacy of self-disarmament during the sucker years of 1921-36 was that, having compelled the other fellow to surrender his pistol at the muzzle of our shotgun, we assumed that it was safe to throw away our shotgun and go home to bed. A recurrence of this notion already is visible in some quarters remote from the battlefronts. Leaders such as Chairman Vinson of the House Naval Affairs Committee have noted it and warned against it. All immediate proposals for sweeping disarmament will bear watching. Indeed, all will bear repelling unless the world suddenly grows sweeter.
It cannot be restated too often that a disarmament race, such as the one that the United States and Great Britain paced from the World War almost to the threshold of the present conflict, can be as damaging to world peace as an armament race. The latter sometimes provokes war, but the former invites it.
Assuming that gradual disarmament will come to pass, it should be placed upon a rational basis of scrapping the oldest ships first, retaining the newest capital ships longest, and completing pending construction slowly over a period of years as provided in a ship-for-ship replacement schedule. There should be no suicide of the latest and best, such as occurred with our 43,000-tonners after the World War. And there should be no wholesale scrapping in a rush.
As Commander H. H. Smith-Hutton, U. S. Navy, states in his article on “PostWar Problems and the Navy” (U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, June, 1943): “It will be neither necessary nor desirable to keep the Navy at war-time strength for a prolonged period, but it will probably be a number of years before it can be safely reduced to its pre-war level.” To which last might be added, “if ever.”
The trend of post-war disarmament depends greatly upon how clearly the peace treaties ending this war define the policing obligations of the victors. For example, if one hypothetical division gives China military supervision of the Orient east of India and north of Malaya, China in the absence of a substantial Chinese licet might leave naval policing of most of the area to joint American and British navies. In that case, the necessary forces could be determined by such factors as location and number of naval operating bases, areas involved, etc.
But suppose Japan manages to retain or build up some shreds of a fleet. Suppose China decides that it is therefore inevitable that she build a considerable fleet of her own to guarantee her safety, since the American and British Navies failed to keep open her coasts in the present war. Suppose Russia decides that the continued existence of a Japanese Navy and the growth of a Chinese Navy demand that she expand her Pacific forces to a full-fledged fleet. Then the entire strength of American and British naval dispositions in the far Pacific should be instantly re-examined in the light of the new alignment of naval strength. It might be possible to reduce the Anglo-American forces or it might prove necessary to increase them, as circumstances dictate at the time.
The National Factors
Adverse international trends may swerve the post-war Navy program from its proper course. But only internal factors, notably misguided public opinion, can wreck it. There are two perils to be avoided. One is the danger that the Navy will be arbitrarily reduced to inadequacy by disarmament slashes like those of the 1920-30’s. The other, still greater, is that the Navy as now constituted will be virtually scrapped.
The bitterest post-war controversy on the Navy, probably transcending the disarmament issue, will center about whether air power is ripe to fly off on its own as a total substitute for sea power in its present three-dimensional form. Led by the two majors, Alexander de Seversky and A1 Williams, the extremist prophets of air power as a cure-all for war, peace, and the ailments of man and beast arc already attuned to argue about as follows:
Battleships, carriers, and cruisers are obsolete—the bigger the ship, the bigger the bomber target; scores or hundreds of big bombers can be built for the price of one battleship, hence the bomber is more economical; development of air power as the post-war armament will dovetail directly with the operation of peace-time plane industries which could be readily converted to war production, as many individuals and airlines will want to buy planes while few persons will order new surface craft larger than PT’s; the military plane can “do it all,” so why bother with a Navy or an Army?
In the midst of such arguments, a coolheaded approach must be made to the proposition of maintaining a balanced Navy, including a strong force of surface ships to operate everywhere including in areas and under conditions which preclude air action. This paper will not attempt to prove that sea power is mightier than air power, that the battleship can beat the bomber, or vice versa. It is dedicated to the scarcely disputable theme that it is silly for a nation wealthy and powerful enough to afford all necessary protection to throw away any portion of it— battleships or bombers or tanks.
This in turn is based upon the patent lessons of the present war: That various types of weapons arc necessary for varying climates, geographic locations, strategies and tactics. There have been and will again be times when battleships, bombers, cruisers, submarines, tanks, fighter planes, in turn or in combination, are at their respective bests. Lack of any one may mean a defeat. The United States had better keep what weapons it has and develop whatever new ones it can, despite the usual querulous cries as to why we need armaments and whom we are going to fight. Those questions have always answered themselves in time. Unless the millennium arrives meantime, they will answer themselves again.
For convenient discussion, the nine major national factors composing naval strength may be loosely grouped under three heads:
- Technical, pertaining to ships, planes, experimentation, and trained man power;
- Supply, embracing transportation, materials, and production; and, again last, but individually so, (3) Public Opinion.
(1) Technical.—The pros and cons of the ship-plane controversy were pointedly presented in four observations made by leading news commentators during November and December of 1943. As the public may have a considerable post-war role in armament decisions, the comments arc quoted as indicative of what the public reads and hears.
In the American Mercury magazine for December, Major de Seversky, ignoring the fact that the Japanese probably cannot sustain continued losses on the scale of those suffered in the Solomons, states of American “optimists” who expect island campaigns to bring victory:
Let them recall that it took .about a year to go from Guadalcanal to New Georgia, a distance of under two hundred miles, and apply that standard to all the thousands of miles separating Guadalcanal from Japan.
Whereas Mr. Upton Close, speaking over NBC, says:
Starkly outlined, the strategy in the Pacific is breath-taking. We invade the Gilberts, defy the Jap Navy to stop us either with its fleet or its land-based bombers. We build airbases and continue to the next group of islands. This argues first, that the Navy believes our fleet to be overwhelmingly superior to that of the Japs; second, that the Navy is confident that land-based enemy bombers cannot destroy our fleet; third, that our carrier-based planes are superior to the Jap land- based planes.
Then there is the carrier-bomber controversy. In the bomber corner, Major A1 Williams states in the Washington Daily News of November 4, 1943:
We arc close to the point where air power will be able to operate over all oceans from land bases. When such aircraft arc built, the greatest carriers again will be fleeing from land-based air forces. How deeply arc we ready to commit ourselves to 45,000-ton carriers, and how many of them will we have on hand when the long-range, land-based bomber outmodes them?
A few weeks later, Mr. John G. Norris commented in the Washington Post that U. S. land-based bombers were unable to drive the Japs from Rabaul, but that Navy carrier planes did the job. He concluded:
It may be that huge, long-range land bombers some day will make the carrier obsolete. If so— and Navy men do not believe it—it will hardly be during this war. The day of the aircraft carrier is just dawning, naval airmen firmly believe.
One of the favorite contentions of the air extremists for a long time was that the battleship was dead as the dodo—look at Pearl Harbor! Yet by a dogmatic application of that logic, the battleship South Dakota made the plane look deader than the dodo by knocking down 32 Jap aircraft while accompanying the carrier Enterprise. Only two battleships of recent date, H.M.S. Prince of Wales and the Italian Roma, have been sunk by planes. While both were completed within the past five years, neither incorporated all the improvements of the present war. The Prince of Wales did not compare in antiaircraft armament to the South Dakota, for example, nor did the Roma compare with a really new U. S. battleship in protection.
In his book on Seapower and Today's War, Mr. Fletcher Pratt pointed out in 1939 that the Italian Navy apparently was designed as a supplementary arm to air power in the Mediterranean rather than as a naval force in its own right. This being the case, it ran up against British sea power in conventional form. Although it possessed overwhelming numerical superiority at times, the Italian Navy certainly failed to control the Mediterranean. A navy which has been repressed into a subordinate role can hardly be expected to do great things. It would be unfortunate for the surface ships of the United States Navy to be reduced to the role of fighting only when and where air forces cannot fight, instead of fighting whenever and wherever surface vessels can fight. Yet the air power extremists, if unable to usurp the entire national defense system of the future, conceivably might seek to limit the Navy along just such lines.
The issue before the post-war public probably will be whether the plane shall replace virtually all other forms of armament. Therefore, in order that a balanced armament survive, it is necessary to rebut the totalitarian movement in aviation. In doing this, the writer wishes to emphasize again that he is not opposing more planes, larger planes, experimentation in planes—or, for that matter, in semi-rigid airships and dirigibles. He is only staling a belief that the shortest road to victory is along all paths leading to the enemy, not merely through the air.
Here are some of the exhibits submitted as evidence that aviation alone is not ready to win wars:
Exhibit A.—After prolonged heavy pounding of Festung Europa by hundreds and thousands of big bombers, the Allied high command announced preparations for a huge water-borne invasion of land forces. It appears that the infantry is still the queen of battles, and will continue to be transported by surface vessels. Air forces alone failed to triumph. Air advocates may protest that, given enough bombers and enough time, they could have conquered unaided. Given enough ships and enough time, naval surface forces also could have conquered unaided— as they have done before and as air forces never have done.
Exhibit B.—According to war correspondents, R.A.F. and U.S.A.A.F. planes made approximately 110 bombing attacks on the Nazi battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in harbor at Brest. At the termination of these raids, both ships and the 10,000-ton Prim Eugen managed to steam up the English Channel and back to German waters through repeated attacks by British planes and light surface forces. The weather simply did not favor air attacks. Apparently no heavy surface forces were in position to intercept. They got through. In December of 1943, however, the Scharnhorst made contact in the Arctic with a Murmansk convoy, guarded by H.M.S. Duke of York and other units. She was sunk.
Exhibit C.—This is a tale of two islands, the most bombed and beleaguered islands on earth. The Japs had absolute control of sea and air around Corregidor. They won. The Italo-German forces held nearly absolute control of the skies above Malta but their grip on the sea was shakier. They failed to win. An ordinary American-built tanker, the Ohio, repeatedly bombed and afire, heroically plodded into Malta in time to refuel the tiny fighter plane force there. Lacking control of the sea, the Axis was unable to stop a crippled tanker. Possessing control of a wide sea area around the Philippines, the Japs were able to frustrate attempts to aid Corregidor even when overage destroyers were used as blockade runners.
Exhibit D.—Churchill’s glowing and proper praise of the R.A.F., “Never in history have so many owed so much to so few,” has eclipsed the fact that Hitler, like Napoleon, was foiled at the Channel with enormously superior armies by lack of naval control. Except briefly at Dunkirk, the British failed to hold air supremacy over the Channel from May, 1940, to the following fall. Then the R.A.F. defended London and won the Battle of Britain. But what was all this except an air campaign to paralyze Britain prior to an invasion which, despite the high development of Nazi air transport, must have been water borne? Why did the Nazis keep a fast naval wing, the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen, posted at Brest for months, but to shield the water transport of the invasion from British surface forces? The defenders won the Battle of Britain by an air knockout in the first round. Had it gone beyond the first round, it would have become a test of sea power. As it was, British surface ships were the bulwark of Britain for five dangerous months.
Exhibit E.—Consider the submarine. In the Battle of the Atlantic, Nazi U-boats finally were whipped. Planes, carrier and land-based, played a major part in the victory. Whereupon it was suggested in some quarters that submarines, like slow antediluvian monsters, all were doomed to extinction from on high. But meanwhile, in the Pacific, U. S. submarines during the first 22 months of the war sank 77 per cent of all enemy shipping sent to the bottom. Air power, even at 350 tons of bombs per raid, was among the also-rans in that vast area of action. The submarines, with a loss of only 16 vessels and fewer than 1,000 men, virtually lived in Japanese waters and sank approximately 2,000,000 tons of enemy shipping. The planes in that time raided Japan once (from a carrier) and destroyed only an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 tons. Is the submarine doomed or is the plane outmoded? The answer, of course, is that neither is. Each has its place.
In conclusion on the ship-versus-plane debate, it can be said that, no matter what vast strides are taken in air warfare and aerial transportation, air power cannot replace sea power outright until a bomber can outhit a battleship and a transport plane out haul a freighter or oiler. A bomber today can carry a missile as weighty as a 16-inch shell—but it is a one-punch assailant. Not even the quicker turn-around trips of transport planes can rival the slow but capacious freighter. And neither bomber nor transport plane is as impervious to weather as surface craft.
In the field of experimentation in warfare, the United States is reported to be spending in excess of $100,000,000. If the proved results of naval experimentation are any indication, most of the sum will be money well spent. A dozen Navy research and testing laboratories have made noteworthy contributions. The Naval Air Experimental Station at Philadelphia and its predecessors contributed much to the development of the catapult and carrier arresting gear. The Naval Research Laboratory at Anacostia has a notable record. They should continue their researches unabated after the war. Here, as much or more than any place else, can the winning of any “next war” be assured.
Aside from experiments in equipment, the proper authorities might derive valuable post-war data from regarding whole phases of war-time operations in the light of an experiment. Take aircraft carriers. Before the close of the war, the U. S. Navy probably will be operating combatant carriers of 45,000, 33,000, 25,000, 19,000, 14,500, and several lesser tonnages. Study of data on these operations should indicate which sizes of vessels are tactically and economically best suited for post-war assignments, and which should be concentrated upon in any future construction program.
There is another, greater experiment in the offing, although it can hardly be termed an experiment in view of some joint operations of the present war. That is the merger of land, sea, and air forces in one tripartite Department of War, as advocated by Rear Admiral Yates Stirling and others. Flag officers of the United States Navy have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to command sea, air, and land forces, perhaps with more assurance and dexterity than most others. In such a merger, it would not be implausible to visualize an admiral, a trained flier, and naval officer with experience in commanding land forces, as the Chief of Staff or even the Secretary. Selection of a naval officer would have one especially beneficial effect from a viewpoint of balanced armament for the future. A unified command headed by another might conceivably slight surface ships if compelled to make a financial “orphan” of one of its activities. If so, another conflict would find our World War II battleships pitted against a foe’s World War III planes. A Secretary with a naval background would steer clear of such a situation.
Trained Man Power
The personnel of the United States Navy has multiplied approximately eight times in the two years since Pearl Harbor. Rapid development of excellent training techniques has brought a considerable portion of these 2,600,000 officers and men to a higher state of efficiency than any previous war-time Navy. More personnel are at sea, learning from experience, than ever before in the Navy’s history. All present personnel are likely to have at least two to three years more of seasoning through service before the war ends. The peace, come when it may, will find the United States Navy endowed with the greatest wealth of trained man power in all its years. What, then, to do with it?
By far the largest portion of the Navy today consists of Naval Reserves. Opportunities already are presented to the fittest, especially among junior officers, to transfer to the regular Navy and make naval service a career. But what of literally millions of other Reserves? Their average age is around 23 for enlisted men, slightly higher for officers. For the next 15 years or more, those of them who retain their physical fitness will be of high potential value to any peace-time defense system provided they can be kept abreast of naval progress in technical fields such as aviation, fire control, and ship propulsion.
If this nation desires to reduce its standing Navy below, say, 500,000 officers and men, the safest way to do it is to compensate for the reduction by an extra-large Organized Reserve. How to make the Organized Reserve sufficiently attractive is one of the problems. A partial answer may lie in revision of its past summer training cruise schedule. Two weeks is too short a time to “brush up” or impart much knowledge of nautical matters, according to veteran officers of the Organized Reserve. Four weeks would be preferable. In the past, many employers have declined to give employees in the Reserve more than two weeks’ vacation with pay—if that. At present, labor organizations such as the C.I.O. have demanded three- and four-week vacations with pay, and have obtained them in some industries in normal times. If a four-week vacation with pay can be obtained thus, certainly the Congress, by amending Naval Reserve legislation, can provide two-week vacations with Government pay at the employee’s normal pay rate to supplement two-week leaves already allowed him. Training cruises then could be regularly four weeks instead of two, with a resulting effect upon naval efficiency.
Further, large numbers of naval ships are certain to be laid up to various degrees after the war. It might be well to assign all Organized Reserve units specifically to such ships, for maintenance work where geographically possible, even if they do not actually man those ships in a future war. The ships would link the Reserves with the Navy. A sailor- man without a ship is only half a sailor at best. With one, even on inactive duty, he can feel that he has a home, a battle station, a definite role in the post-war Navy.
(2) Supply.—The United States will be fortunate in finishing the present war with an enormous amount of merchant shipping. The Liberty ships may go to the scrap heap even faster than the Hog Islanders of 1917-18-19. But the newer and faster Victory ships should be maintained, together with a sizable fleet of Liberties, in storage basins under adequate care at worst, and at sea under full steam at best, assuming world commerce conditions permit the latter.
For there does not appear any immediate or even fairly close prospect of air transportation assuming the burden of ocean trade. Take the outlook for heavy air transport. Henry Kaiser and Howard Hughes are now building a mammoth $16,000,000 transport plane which is due to make its test flights late in 1944 or possibly in 1945. Published figures indicate its cargo capacity will be 80 to 100 short tons—a fly speck beside the load of the average freight steamship. Conceding that it can make 10 to 20 trips while the ship makes one, its capacity still falls short of the ship’s. Even if the original cost is cut by mass production, it still will not put the big planes in the bargain class when compared with steamships.
Meanwhile the Naval Air Transport Service points with justifiable pride to the performance of its huge new cargo flying boat Mars. The Mars lifted the heaviest take-off load ever raised by any type plane, 74 tons. It carried the greatest air cargo, 17J tons, and flew 8,972 miles in 55J hours. Its cargo was mostly rare and valuable minerals which commanded A-l flight priorities. The Mars' performance was fine. NATS has done wonderful things, truly. But few people would suggest that, in view of the Mars flight, aircraft are ready to replace surface craft as freight haulers.
Proponents of air transport rightfully stress its imperviousness to submarine attack, but do not dwell upon its dangerous vulnerability to fighter planes. American fighters in North Africa tore into a big formation of slow, cumbersome Junkers transports, each hauling scores of crack Nazi reinforcements, and shot down nearly every one in flames. Had the transports been strongly fighter-convoyed, the losses might have been lighter but the general result probably would have been the same.
Thus to place full reliance on air transport in a future war might simply mean elevating the next “Battle of the Atlantic” from the surface stratum, where the present one is now being won, to an air stratum fraught with new and untried combat threats.
Hindsight always is easier than foresight. On the subject of materials essential to any future war effort, however, the program is plain. Buy up and store up vital materials not obtainable in this country or on this continent, such as rubber, manila, quinine, unless the production and quality of synthetic substitutes is satisfactory. Rather than have civilian agencies squabbling over who shall buy what, it might be preferable to vest authority in the War and Navy Departments or their possible successor.
Regarding production, now mobilized to the most stupendous height in world history, special steps appear necessary. There might be an industrial demobilization similar to the military one. And just as many officers and men will remain in the military and naval reserves, so should executives and workers with particular talents for war production work be enrolled where possible in a war production reserve. Details would have to be worked out by the proper governmental agencies. But the principle might well be put in operation.
(3) Public Opinion.—“From the military point of view, the absurdity of the procedure is clear; but for national safety it has to be equally clear to statesmen and to people.”
Those lines were written by Admiral Mahan in reference to division of Russian naval forces in his Naval Administration and Warfare in 1906. But they apply full force today. American blunders and near-mistakes in naval policy, from the clamor for splitting up U. S. naval forces to protect the entire Atlantic seaboard in 1898 on up to dale, nearly always arise from failure of high naval and military authority to get across their viewpoint to the gentlemen whom Admiral Mahan politely referred to as statesmen, and to the people. Unless unusual care is taken, the same ghost may walk again.
A sampling of American public opinion in the late summer of 1943 revealed that 64 per cent of those questioned favored a large Navy after the war. But, given a choice of Navy or air force, that exact percentage placed the air force ahead of the Navy in importance. A little analysis is in order. Headlines at the time were pounding home news of bombings of Berlin and other Axis strong points. Battleships, when mentioned at all, were operating off Wewak or Attu instead of Tokyo. Air power appeared to be hitting at the heart while sea power trod on the toes. There was no room in headlines or dispatches to explain that the “block busters” and high-octane gasoline got overseas to bomber bases only because the allied navies controlled the ocean shipping lanes.
Admiral King himself recognized the difficulty in presenting the Navy’s case to the public when he said at the Army War Show at Washington last September:
... I am sorry that the Navy could not have prepared a similar exhibit—but battleships, cruisers, destroyers and the like, arc not built for land operations, and even if they were their very size would preclude their exhibition here.
For possibly five years after the present war, the unpleasant task of convincing the taxpayers that the nation should remain well armed ought not to be too difficult. After that, as the economic burdens and delayed consequences of war derangements make themselves increasingly felt, the hue and cry against “unnecessary expense” for naval affairs is certain to be raised. Congressional investigating committees will toss into the issue reports which indicate that, in the heat of war, the Navy paid too much for this or that. Then the debate over what services and weapons are most essential to national security will take on a cutting edge. The winners will continue to get appropriations. The losers will get the axe.
One of the biggest post-war problems confronting the Navy is to educate the public before it and its representatives pass judgment on the Navy of the future. The task is not simple. As late as 1939, an important daily newspaper which exercised considerable influence upon the Administration came out for a big Navy—but a Navy limited to coast defense ships which could not get far enough away from home to embroil the nation in war. This concept, which overlooks the coolness of Robley Evans when his barge was stoned in Chile, the diplomatic work of numbers of admirals and the Navy’s frequent role as peaceful emissary, is all too common. Nor is it surprising. School children learn from their texts that the Royal Navy press gangs’ seizures of American seamen led to the War of 1812; that the Civil War began when Fort Sumter fired upon the steamship Star of the West; that the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine set off the Spanish-American War, and that the World War exploded with the torpedoing of the Lusitauia and American-flag merchantmen. By the end of this war, the history books may be brought up to date with a chapter implying that if the Pacific Fleet had not been at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, we might not have been dragged into this war. It is high time that history “as she is taught” is corrected to show that the Navy does not start wars, but docs end them.
Popular misconceptions of the function of the Navy have been offset, before the World War and the present conflict, by the presence in the White House of Presidents particularly able to understand and foresee the need for a strong Navy in time to start the shipyard machinery before the enemy started his gunfire. Woodrow Wilson wished to go to the Naval Academy as a boy, according to his Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, and he never lost interest in the Navy. Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, saw to it that combatant ships, some of which have since given splendid accounts of themselves, were begun with Public Works Administration funds when no others were available. But the Navy cannot hope for a continuation of this sequence of Presidents who recognize its needs in national crises, and spur or override dormant public opinion. It must speak for itself, and ably, if its words are not to be lost in the clamor of small and selfish voices.
. . . Today the United States is the nation indicated by position, extent of territory and population to be the preponderant sea power. . . . Today the United States can more easily develop, exercise and protect sea power than any other nation.
Those words were written by Captain William D. Puleston, U. S. Navy (Retired), more than a year before Pearl Harbor in “A Re-Examination of Mahan’s Concept of Sea Power” (U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, September, 1940). Time has borne them out fully, if toilsomely. Captain Puleston added that sea power, as understood by Mahan, “has always comprehended and required much more than a preponderant surface fleet.” Surely that is the case today, and will be the case in the post-war world.
Having touched upon national factors and international variables, which might be considered divisions of a slide rule, let us venture into the manipulation of this highly hypothetical instrument.
Starting with C and D, the probable area of action and the bases therein, let us apply 1, 2, and 3; surface ships, aircraft, and submarines. Prevalent weather conditions of the area indicate at once the extent to which each of the three combat components may be freely used. Operations radii from bases give further indications. Strength of dispositions can then be determined by applying A and B, allied and enemy strengths.
In any problem on mobilization, Variables E and F, on disarmament of our enemies and ourselves, would enter the computation in relationship to factors 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9— that is, man power, transportation, production facilities, materials, and the state of public opinion prior to war itself.
If the condition is peace time, the area C the Far East, our allies A a Chinese fleet of light cruisers and destroyers, and our prospective enemies B a Japanese force of secretly built heavy cruisers and carriers, application of D (bases) and 1, 2, and 3 (ships, planes, subs) would aid in determining whether existing and available forces were adequate, or whether a rush program of shipbuilding was in order to make up for potential shortcomings.
Without indulging in further detail, it is humbly submitted that a co-ordinated program, allowing for international trends and the workings of public opinion at home, affords the best prospect of maintaining a balanced Navy in the form and force in which it can be most effective.