On a warm Southern California day in June 1948, the USS Valley Forge (CV-45) returned to San Diego, completing an eight-month cruise around the world, the first by a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. The carrier and escorting destroyers, the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764) and USS William C. Lawe (DD-763), entered port in the midst of growing great power competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Valley Forge’s early Cold War deployment provides a historical example of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ recent call for greater operational unpredictability in U.S. military deployments through the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS).
The Valley Forge’s schedule changed three times as the Navy gradually extended her deployment, creating considerable uncertainty for anyone trying to predict her movements. The task force, commanded by Rear Admiral Harold Martin, originally left San Diego in October 1947 for three months of training based out of Hawaii followed by a planned six-month deployment to the Western Pacific with port visits in Australia, China, and Japan.1
1. Barrett Tillman, VF-11/111 'Sundowners' 1942–95 (Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2010), 58; “Task Force to Visit Australia and China,” The New York Times, 7 December 1947; The Reminiscences of Rear Admiral Draper L. Kauffman, USN (Retired), Volume I, interview by John T. Mason, Jr., 5 December 1978, 319, Navy Department Library.
2. The Valley Forge cruise proved to be the second U.S. Navy task force to sail to Australia within a year as the carriers Antietam and Shangri-La visited in May 1947. Denfeld himself visited Australia in the summer of 1947. See Vice Admiral John Collins, RAN, Chief of the Naval Staff to Sir Frederick G. Shedden, Secretary, Department of Defense, June 12, 1947, 12/2, Discussions Chief of the Naval Staff ADM Denfeld USN; Record Group 11, Sea Power Centre - Australia, Canberra. The U.S. Navy has played a central role in maintaining American relations with Australia as detailed in Russell Parkin and David Lee, Great White Fleet to Coral Sea: Naval Strategy and the Development of Australia-United States Relations, 1900-1945 (Canberra, Australia: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2008).
3. “Task Force to Visit Australia and China,” 31; Rear Admiral Harold Farncomb, RAN, Flag Officer Commanding, HM Australian Squadron to Secretary, Naval Board (Australia), “A.F. 237/537/12, Exercises with Task Force 38,” February 23, 1948, 2002/2/215, National Archives of Australia.
4. “U.S. Gesture to R.A.N.,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 10, 1948, 2284/3, A5954, National Archives of Australia; Captain Wilfred Harrington, RAN to Secretary, Australian Commonwealth Naval Board, “Report on Visit to Pearl Harbour,” 17 February 1948, 1968/2/722, MP1049/5, National Archives of Australia.
5. “U.S. Carrier to Go to Arabia Trouble Spots,” Los Angeles Times, 27 February 1948; “Three More U.S. Warships Ordered to Near East,” Daily Boston Globe, 27 February 1948, .
6. “U.S.S. Valley Forge World Cruise, 1947-48,” 95.
7. Charles Hurd, “U.S. Naval Force to Visit Norway,” The New York Times, 6 April 1948.
8. “Valley Forge Here on World Journey,” The New York Times, 23 May 1948.
9. Rolf Tamnes, The United States and the Cold War in the High North (Dartmouth, NH: Dartmouth Pulbishing Co., 1991), 42; “‘Peace Ships’ in Bergen: U.S. Warships on Mission to Prevent Conflict, Envoy Says,” The New York Times, 3 May 1948.