One after another, American commercial vessels attempting to enter the Communist-held port of Shanghai in 1949 were being stopped, searched, and even fired upon, by Chinese Nationalist gunboats engaged in an announced port closure of certain Chinese ports. The American vessels were alleged by their owners to be engaging in legitimate trade and hence it was claimed that they were entitled to U. S. Navy protection, particularly in view of the fact that the U. S. Government did not officially recognize the port closure because the ports declared closed were not in the hands of the Nationalist Government. The effectiveness of enforcement of the closure was becoming daily more evident to Washington officials.
The owner of the blockade running ships, the Hans Isbrandtsen Line of New York City, had several more of its ships scheduled to make the Shanghai run and, in order to prevent further attacks of this nature, petitioned the State and Navy Departments by telegram to furnish U. S. Navy protection against these hostile acts by a friendly government in time of peace.
In the Pentagon, the problem was handed to the International Affairs Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, which prepares action on such matters for the Chief of Naval Operations. And here the problem was received and handled with a surprising savoir-faire—for to the outsider the significance and possible implications of this situation appeared to call for melodramatic action. 13ut problems of this nature were nothing new to the Navy Department or to its International Affairs Division. It represented merely one of a multitude of involved and difficult international problems with which the Navy has been confronted during the post-war years.
Although the Navy’s participation in international affairs is effected dually—departmentally and operationally—this outline deals chiefly with the departmental participation and touches only lightly on the operational side of the picture. This treatment of the subject results from the fact that the writer recently completed a three-year tour of duty in the Secretariat of the International Affairs Division. During this tour of duty I was afforded a first-hand insight into the many foreign military affairs problems which confronted the Navy during three of the most critical post-war years. And it was here that 1 learned thoroughly the now well- publicized lesson of the futility of any attempts to negotiate or deal with Soviet or other Communist representatives on a basis of mutual comity.
One example of an affair which was constantly before the public eye was the Smith- Bender case the Navy Chief Electrician’s Mate and the Marine Master Sergeant who were captured and jailed by the Chinese Communists after their plane, in which they had been making a routine training flight, was forced down in the vicinity of Tsingtao in October, 1948. From the time of their capture until their release in May, 1950—a period of nineteen months—the Navy never ceased in its efforts, however fruitless and frustrating, to induce negotiations with the Chinese Communists for their release, to ascertain their whereabouts and condition, or to get some word to them or from them. During the period of their detention countless letters poured in—-from Congressmen, friends, relatives, civic and veterans’ organizations—criticizing the Navy for its ineffective efforts to obtain the release of its own men. One Congressman even went so far as to publicly offer himself as hostage in exchange for the two men. Every letter received was promptly answered, outlining in detail the many attempts made to contact the two men or to negotiate with their captors, and explaining the difficulty of dealing with a regime which recognizes none of the common usages of civilized society. This bombardment of the Navy ceased only when the two men were finally released, with the explanation that they had been forced to sign a spurious confession of spying on Communist activities in China in order to get released. You can well imagine the relief with which the news of their release was received in Washington, particularly in the Navy Department.
Other specific examples of the Navy’s post-war involvement in international affairs which reached public attention were the recovery of certain U. S. Navy ships lend- leased to the Russians during World War II, including the ex-U.S.S. Milwaukee, the evacuation of American nationals from Communist China, and the San Martin incident in Havana, Cuba, which resulted in the cancellation of visits of Navy ships to that port for several months.
The above illustrations are cited to give the reader an idea of the type of day-to-day international affairs problems which confront the Navy’s International Affairs Division, or “Op-35” as it is known in the organizational language of the Pentagon.
This division was established in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in December, 1945, and given the title “Politico- Military Affairs,” which was later changed to its more realistic title of today. It was headed by a Rear Admiral with a staff of officers of the rank of captain and commander, predominantly graduates of the National War College. Its charter assigned to it the primary function of keeping the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations advised on day-to-day international political events, especially those relating to the Navy. In very short order, this division branched out organizationally into a smoothly working and efficient team of international affairs experts. It made an immediate hit with Secretary Eorrestal, and his initial enthusiasm for the project was rewarded by a steady stream of memoranda, providing him with up-to-the-minute official information on such international events as the latest Latin-American coup, progress on the European Peace Treaties, the latest developments in the Palestine and China situations, and the cold war situation in general. It is worthy of mention that even after Mr. Forrestal’s appointment as the first Secretary of Defense, he continued his frequent calls for background information and studies on current international political developments.
The reputation of the International Affairs Division grew rapidly throughout the Department, and it became increasingly difficult to understand how the Navy Department previously met its international affairs obligations without such an organization. Prior to the establishment of this office its functions had been performed by a half- dozen separate activities, and thus it lacked the centralization and coordination necessary for efficient functioning.
In order to better understand the important part this division plays in the Navy’s role in international affairs, a brief review of its organizational functions is necessary. Within the division there are three geographic branches which cover the world. One covers the Western Hemisphere, including the Arctic and Antarctic; one covers Europe, Africa, the Middle and Near East; and the third covers the Pacific and Far Eastern theaters. Each of these branches is headed by a captain, with commander assistants. The branch heads represent the Navy Department as members and naval advisers on interdepartmental and inter-governmental boards and committees concerned with foreign military affairs in their respective theaters. They also maintain continuous liaison with their opposite numbers in the State Department, the Departments of Defense, Army, and Air Force.
In addition to the geographic sections, the Division provides a captain to the Staff of the National Security Council, and a captain as naval adviser to the Chairman of the Far Eastern Commission. When so requested, the Division furnishes representation to foreign surveys and projects. Recently it provided one of its experts on Far Eastern affairs to accompany the Presidential appointed “Griffin Mission” to study the political, economic, and military situation in Southeast Asia.
The mission of the International Affairs Division, as stated in its official charter, is “to provide assistance, counsel, representation, coordination, planning and policies on politico-military affairs of interest to the Department of the Navy.” Its charter further provides for the following major functions:
“a. To advise and assist the Secretary of the Navy, the Under Secretary of the Navy, and other appropriate members of the naval establishment on the political aspects of matters which may be referred to joint U. S. committees, including the National Security Council, Armed Forces Policy Council, the United Nations and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“b. In consonance with U. S. foreign policy to recommend naval policy with respect to international affairs and to effect appropriate coordination of policies, planning and implementation within the Department of the Navy of those matters involving international affairs.
“c. To maintain liaison with the Department of State, and other executive agencies of the Government, and to recommend action by the Department of the Navy on reports from other governmental agencies and committees relating to international affairs.
“d. To coordinate implementation, within the Department of the Navy, of the decisions of the National Security Council and the Armed Forces Policy Council.
“e. To furnish general policy recommendations and advice regarding matters requiring inter-departmental, inter-service, and Navy Department coordination in connection with the Foreign Military Assistance Programs. To process all such matters having political-military aspects and to provide policy guidance for naval advisory groups abroad.
“f. To represent the Department of the Navy as appropriate on inter-departmental or inter-governmental committees and other composite organizations concerned with international affairs.
“g. To arrange for diplomatic clearance for visits of U. S. naval ships and aircraft to foreign countries.”
In connection with the function of arranging for diplomatic clearances for visits to foreign countries, an important part of that function is the responsibility to evaluate the political desirability of sending naval ships to certain foreign countries. This evaluation must take into consideration any known political unrest in the country or port to be visited, and other influences capable of causing an incident of possible embarrassment to the U. S. and the Navy. Not infrequently, it is necessary to disapprove, or delay until a more auspicious time, the visit of a naval ship or squadron to a foreign country because of political factors unknown to the operational commander requesting the visit. At the same time, requests for naval visits abroad are occasionally initiated by the Department when it is considered desirable, from a politico-military point of view, that our men-of-war be in evidence in a particular Country or area.
In concluding this brief summary of the functions of the International Affairs Division, a listing of some of the formidable- sounding assignments, stalls, boards, and committees to which it provides representation may prove interesting: The U. S. Navy Information Control Board for North Atlantic Treaty Coordination; the Navy Department Liaison Representative for the Armed Forces Policy Council; the Department of Defense Interdepartmental Working Group for the Clapp Mission; the Executive Committee on the Regulation of Armaments; the Subcommittee of the Executive Committee on the Regulation of Armaments for Technical Safeguards; the International Aviation Facilities Subcommittee of the Economic Division, Air Coordinating Committee. There are more, but that should be enough!
Although this summary of the Navy’s participation in international affairs is a sketchy one and far from complete, there is one phase which cannot be ignored in any such analysis—and that is the Navy’s position in the formulation of American foreign policy. We are all aware that the Navy does not make foreign policy. Foreign policy emanates from the National Security Council, over which the President presides, and the Department of State. But before a recommended policy or action originated by one agency reaches the level necessary for approval, it is accompanied by many so- called “slants” submitted by various other departments and agencies concerned with the subject. These slants may range from complete disapproval to a recommendation for minor textual changes. It is through the medium of these “slants” that each department and agency, including the Navy Department, is afforded the opportunity of interjecting its opinions and influence in the formulation of U. S. foreign policy.
For example, when the National Security Council, which advises the President on matters relating to the security of the nation, is confronted with a problem involving U. S. military commitments or complications, the problem is submitted, via the Secretary of Defense, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for consideration and recommendation. The Joint Staff, in drawing up a solution to the problem for the Joint Chiefs’ approval, in turn submits the problem to the three military departments for their reaction. Where matters of a politico-military nature are involved, the International Affairs Division works out the Navy view and coordinates it with those of the Army and Air Force. Upon receipt of the views of the military departments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff then resolve any existing differences and come forth with an approved recommendation. The views of the JCS are then submitted, through the Secretary of Defense, to the National Security Council where they are taken into consideration in the final determination of the policy being formulated.
Hut once a policy is decided upon and approved at the necessary level, it is the U. S. Navy, with its Marine Corps, which puts teeth into the policy through its responsibility of enforcing and carrying out American foreign policy. The most recent example of the Navy’s present effective mobility was the Korean crisis. When called upon by President Truman to protect the Island of Formosa from Communist China invasion, and to lend succor to the South Koreans, the Navy was ready to go into action with a well-trained task force, within a few hours’ distance from the scene of operations.
Time and again throughout its history, the Navy has proved itself to be the most potent and effective instrument in the American arsenal for emergency action protecting American interests and enforcing American foreign policy throughout the world. And this fact is truer today than at any time in its history, since never before has the Navy had its fighting units situated as strategically around the world as they are today.