Today, only a few years after the conclusion of a World War, the people of this country find themselves asking, uneasily, whether or not we shall have to fight World War III. Far from the permanent peace envisioned by all of us, we are already in the midst of a “cold war,” which is entirely too reminiscent of the years just preceding World War II. We are reminded that several of the great conflicts of history have come in series of threes. So far, it must be admitted, the signs point to a third war in our case also.
Whether or not such a war will occur is a question which cannot, of course, be answered by any man on earth. But we members of the Armed Forces cannot do otherwise than to assume the worst eventuality—that there will be one. We should fail in our duty if we did otherwise. Unfortunately there has grown up a suspicion (not entirely unfounded in the cases of certain foreign countries) that “the Military” might deliberately seek war for its own perpetuation and self-aggrandizement, since “war is their business.” In the United States this suspicion, assiduously fostered by subversive elements, takes the form of characterizing appeals for support and funds, and warnings about our weaknesses, as “war-mongering.” The fact that the Military in the United States differs from other military establishments by being one of the most democratic of institutions in a Nation of democratic ideals is frequently overlooked, as is the fact that the career members of our Armed Forces are as anxious to prevent war as any other of our intelligent and patriotic citizens. It is not realized that the bulk of the officers of the regular Navy, Army, and Air Force are obtained from among the young men of the country by the fairest system of free competitive examinations it is possible to devise. It is not fully appreciated that the average member of the Regular Armed Forces is more completely aware of his obligations as a citizen of this Republic than are many civilians, that his only loyalty is to the nation as a whole, and that frequently he is making a large personal sacrifice by voluntarily remaining in the Service. The Service is well named.
It is a significant fact that, in spite of the recent storm of abuse directed at all things military after the war, there have been very few replies in kind by members of the “professional” services. This is not the silence of guilt, but, instead, the silence of strong men who know that the cause they are dedicated to is worthy of its trust, in spite of the obloquy heaped upon it, sometimes only for financial gain, by some of our more vocal citizens.
At this point let it be made clear that no defense is intended for such abuses as were rightfully protested by those who had suffered them. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are unquestionably the better for having had their shortcomings so clearly outlined, and it must be admitted that the whole affair has been a stimulating, if not altogether pleasant, experience. Self-criticism and self-cleansing are good for the soul—and if we had to take a little unmerited abuse along with deserved criticism, well, that’s in the game too. Having dished it out, we must also show that we can take it. But all potential enemies please take note of the words “self-criticism” and “self-cleansing”! There is no weakness implied therein, but the reverse, for we have thereby reaffirmed the fact that, in this country, the inspired words of Lincoln still apply. Our Government and its institutions—which include the Armed Forces—is still of the people, by the people, and for the people, and it shall not perish from this earth as long as this is true.
The Armed Forces are, at this time, doing all in their power to prepare for a third World War, knowing in their hearts that a thorough preparation will very likely result in preventing the war from taking place at all. Having come through the trying period of self-purification and re-dedication to the ideals to which we have sworn allegiance, and having been equipped, by Unification, with a better tool to do the job, we have it within our power to serve more effectively our country’s welfare than ever before, and it is our duty to make the best possible use of the tools we have to work with.
But are we, in all honesty, doing the best we can with what we have? The answer to that question must be “No,” and must continue to be “No,” until the present intense and unconcealed rivalry between the three Services is eliminated. Unfortunately it cannot be eliminated by fiat alone; it must be eradicated from the thinking and attitudes of all the personnel in all three services, and that job can only be done, in the final analysis, by each individual himself. This condition is the most grave and outstanding fault in our Armed Forces as presently constituted, and is the basic one which the recent Unification was expressly designed to overcome. It is undoubtedly the sincere wish of the President and the heads of the military establishments, as well as of the people of the United States, that it be overcome. It is probably true that many of the latter feel that this has already been accomplished, more or less by decree. We must admit that we cannot blame them.
Recent public controversy has caused people to believe that Unification automatically assures this country of adequate and appropriate defenses. During the period shortly before enactment of this measure, public statements made by members or proponents of the several services increased in numbers to an unprecedented degree. This was helped by the so-called “unmuzzling” order issued by the then Secretary of the Navy, and like policies adopted by the Army and Army Air Forces, which made it possible for military personnel to enter the public arena on their own responsibility. Most of the arguments, however, were made by persons of quasi-military connections. Since many of these gentlemen were men of not inconsiderable prestige, it naturally developed that each built up quite a large following among the people of the country, each individual citizen listening most responsively to that point of view which most nearly represented his own beliefs. The net result is that we have a body politic the members of which have many dissimilar views as to how the nation is to be protected in case of danger—but each of whom is confident that it can and will be saved by the method he personally espouses. We thus have the most dangerous type of over-confidence: we feel that we have ample defenses, and hence are unwilling to increase or improve them— and yet, strictly speaking, we do not know what they are.
For every man who advocates a reasoned, balanced approach to the problem, there are hundreds who vociferously claim that “Air Power” is all we need, or that “the Atomic Bomb” is the answer. With regard to the Navy, many followers of Mahan still feel that “Control of the Sea” will prove as decisive in future wars as it has in the past. And, of course, members of the Army can prove conclusively that actual physical investment of the territory of an enemy by our soldiers is the only sure road to victory.
The proponents of each philosophy have defended their separate points of view to such an extent that they have convinced themselves, and consequently only the most liberal minded and farseeing leaders are completely free from the tag of partisanship. If one may speak plainly, this is particularly true of supporters of the Air Force, who, having recently won their fight for autonomy can hardly be criticized for keeping their guard up a while longer. But, in order that we of the Armed Forces may properly discharge our obligations toward our country, it is necessary to cast aside the narrow picture, and to look at the war-making potential of the country as a whole in the same manner in which we did during the war years. It is most important that those of us not yet on the policy-making level devote thought and give support to the part which should be played by each of the services in the event of any of the possible forms a future war might take. This is not a problem which can be solved once and for all. It must be kept continually at the forefront of our considerations, and must be revised continually. We have digressed too long already, and have devoted entirely too much energy to other matters.
The author realizes that to attempt to encompass the gamut of inter-service relationships between the newly-created “sisterhood” would be far beyond the reasonable scope he might expect to achieve in these pages. He hopes only to point out the most obvious place in which we have all fallen down, and to indicate wherein he feels that our duty in our country’s service lies.
No matter what the scientists and politicians may say, the fact remains that Atomic Power is now, and will remain for years to come, a weapon—and nothing else. True, certain by-products may be of use medicinally and in other peaceful ways, and there is promise that there may some day be Atomic Power plants. But, for the time being and quite probably for at least one generation to come, it is a weapon. This particular weapon, however, is a far cry from the conventional ones the services have become accustomed to. It has its own board of control, the Atomic Energy Commission, which is quite capable of giving orders to the military concerning its use. It is a weapon of quite inconceivable power, and its possession may well spell the difference between victory and defeat during war. But it also has its own very definite limitations; for instance the fact that an Atomic Bomb, or any other application of Nuclear Power, can only be handled by persons very thoroughly and specially selected and trained for the job. Public Law 585 (The Atomic Energy Act) embodies this factor very decidedly. It is quite conceivable, therefore, that the agency which prepares a Bomb will be different from the agency delivering it; and the delivery agency will, in all likelihood, be totally different from any military organization this country has yet seen. The preparing agency will be made up of representatives of the various civilian and military cognizant agencies. The delivery agency may well be similar, and probably will be specially organized for each mission. Both war drops occurred, in fact, under exactly these conditions, for, though both Bombs were delivered by the Army Air Force, a Navy Captain (now Rear Admiral) and a Commander were respectively in charge of the two missions, and rode in the Bomb-carrying aircraft. The bombs themselves were built and delivered to the planes by a group of patriots who had that as their only objective, and who did not care to what organization a man belonged, so long as he could do the job expected of him, and keep his mouth shut. This project is perhaps the most nearly perfect example we have of the type of cooperation our nation has a right to expect of its citizens.
During the war, with the stimulus arising therefrom, this cooperation was not very hard to achieve to a satisfactory degree, and our citizens, whether civilian or military, forgot their traditional factional differences in the interest of their country’s welfare. Now it is not so easy, and the factional differences are reasserting themselves. In a broad sense, there never can be justification for controversies or rivalries which impair the National Defense, or harm the National Welfare; yet, such controversies have always existed, and some harm never fails to result. There are those who earnestly feel that an appeal to the public, in such a case, is good, because the will of the people will thereby be obtained. This is strictly a debatable point, for more often than not the resulting public controversy leads to loss of public confidence, or to harm to our expressed policies, which may completely offset any gain or improvement. Frequently such a public “debate” will actually be the expression of one point of view alone, for the other side for one reason or another may not feel free to become involved. In this case, of course, the public cannot be expected to approach a considered evaluation of the situation.
But there is much more harm done to the National Defense by the controversy in which both sides air their views, for the discriminating person, who might detect a one-sided presentation, would probably in such a case discount all arguments as partisan—and thus deprive himself of the reasoned judgment of those of our military leaders who may have thought out, and be expressing, a larger concept.
The question of Unification has been settled. It is now clearly the duty of each member of each of the three services to make it work. We now have the framework of the organization with which we will meet the next war, and the perpetuation of internal jealousies may prevent it from realizing fully the efficiency expected of it.
The most serious of rivalries now existing is that over jurisdiction. It is easy to oversimplify and say that our National Defense structure now has the three components of land, sea, and air. Much too easy, for this rather naive division of the world ignores the fact that the purpose of the military organization is to win battles, campaigns, and finally wars, not merely to divide up cognizance over the parts of Terra Firma. Those who argue that each service should be restricted to a single sphere, or to a single type of weapon, fail to realize the contributory nature of all services and all weapons, and delude themselves and their followers.
There are, of course, many other controversies between the three services at this writing which, while possibly not so broad in scope as the basic one mentioned, are for the time being more vociferous. It is as easy to be overly enthusiastic as it is to be ultra conservative, and there are men whose very nature causes them to lean one way or the other, which is a perfectly natural thing. The orderly, mature synthesis of both attitudes produces the considered judgment which should be supported in a dignified and responsible manner by members of the Service. The impassioned devotion to one single point of view does real harm, both to the individual and to the Service he is in, for he thereby closes his mind to logic and deprives his associates and subordinates of the benefits of the responsible attitude which is their due.
Service to our country is the ideal to which we must return, or betray the trust placed in us. We have had a mechanical Unification, and the machinery for improved and more efficient service has been developed. But until we can put aside entirely the prevalent semi-public rivalry over issues which should be solved in the privacy of the joint council rooms, the three sister services cannot operate this machinery at its full effectiveness. We cannot, in a word, properly carry out our mission to provide for the common defense in these troublesome times while we are engaged in inter-service bickering. The Secretary of Defense has made his position in this matter amply clear, but it will not be until each and every officer and man in all three branches realizes that he is in the Service of his country, and not merely in the service of his branch of the Service, that the full value of this concept can be realized.
The trust which has been placed upon us is a great one, for in spite of our most earnest desire to the contrary, and in spite of the most strenuous efforts to avoid it, we must in all sincerity admit that another World War within a decade appears at this time to be at least a possibility if not an actual probability. The American people are traditionally slow to anger, but our history indicates that we have a tendency to finish what we start. If we become convinced that the job so recently completed was in truth only half done, that the ruthless totalitarianism we thought we had stamped out still exists in the world, and that the peace and freedom we fought for are threatened by this resurgent totalitarianism, we will fight. This may well be the last war, for it should end in the complete destruction of one of the two opposing systems—which may turn out to have been the price the world will have to pay for peace.
The task placed before the Armed Forces, therefore, is the familiar one, with a new emphasis. First, we must constitute an instrument which, in being, can bolster and assist our National Policy of aiding Freedom and fighting Tyranny throughout the world. Second, if any nation should be so misguided as to force another war upon the world, we must administer once again the lesson we had been at some pains to teach three services reaches much farther down than merely to the upper few levels. It extends to the very lowest level, and the requirement of establishing a working cooperation belongs to every member of the Armed Forces. It is perhaps our most important duty, for upon it depends our very salvation —and maybe that of the world. twice before. But, most important of all, we individual members of the Service must appreciate that our responsibilities for cooperation in the forging of this instrument—for the success of the Unification program, if you will—are greater and more urgent than they would have been had this legislation not been enacted. The cooperation expected of the three services reaches much farther down than merely to the upper few levels. It extends to the very lowest level, and the requirement of establishing a working cooperation belongs to every member of the Armed Forces. It is perhaps our most important duty, for upon it depends our very salvation—and maybe that of the world.