When Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz took the helm as Chief of Naval Operations in December 1945, he had just—less than four months earlier—ended a world war as the architect of victory in the Pacific. But now he faced emerging new adversaries. One was America’s recent ally—the Soviet Union—which was showing increasing signs of belligerence in what would become known as the Cold War. Another formidable foe did not yet exist but was looming on the horizon.
All through the war and increasingly in its aftermath, there had been talk of creating a whole new armed service. Aviation had played a significant role in World War II, and now, as the proverbial dust was settling, it was becoming clear that there would soon be a United States Air Force. While this was arguably good for the nation, it was not all good for the United States Navy. Some proponents of this new air force thought it should subsume naval aviation. Some even argued that an air force would obviate the need for a Navy altogether, including a soon-to-be Secretary of Defense who would say, “the Navy is on its way out . . . the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do. . . .”