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Inter-Allied Naval Relations and the Birth of NATO

Colloquium on Contemporary History June 14, 1993 No. 8

Opening Remarks
Dr. Edward J. Marolda
Head, Contemporary History Branch
Naval Historical Center

The title of today's colloquium is "Inter-Allied Naval Relations and the Birth of NATO." Why should we be concerned with the influence of navies and naval leaders on an event that occurred almost half a century ago? As we all know, we need to understand our past in order to illuminate the future. More to the point, we need to know how the U.S., British, and Canadian navies contributed to the development of the North Atlantic alliance for the light that may shed on the current search for order in post-Cold War Europe.

In the years from 1945 to 1949, the region was in turmoil. Hundreds of thousands of Germans, Poles, Hungarians, and other peoples, displaced from their homes by the war and many near starvation, roamed bombed-out cities. Death camp survivors struggled to overcome the horrors they had witnessed. Compared to the pre-war years, economic activity was anemic.

Another threat to European wellbeing emerged during these years. Joseph Stalin's Red Army tightened its occupation of the enervated states of Eastern Europe, his operatives installed pro-Soviet governments in these countries, and Communist parties adopted a militant stance throughout Western Europe. The Soviet potential for political, if not military domination of all Europe was real. The nations of Western Europe, whether on the winning or losing side in World War II, were drained by that experience and thus ill prepared to cope with this new, postwar menace.

To help redress the imbalance, the United States provided Western European nations with badly needed economic and some military assistance. Most of us have heard of the highly successful Marshall Plan. Washington assuaged the security concerns of some Western Europeans by basing medium bombers of the Air Force's Strategic Air Command in England. But, as we know from historian David Rosenberg, the American deterrent force was a hollow one. Moreover, skeletal U.S. defense budgets during these years precluded the deployment of sizeable American ground forces across the Atlantic. Unilateral U.S. military power would not provide the answer to Europe's defense needs.

The political agreement between the nations of the North Atlantic community to forge a common defensive front, however, proved the strongest deterrent to Soviet encroachment. We will explore this morning how the cooperative efforts of the U.S., British, and Canadian navies lent critical support to this political dimension. Naval force provided an essential ingredient to a military alliance that spanned a broad ocean and connected two continents.

An analysis of the naval involvement in this contentious period of modern history is particularly relevant to current European security concerns. After a half-century of relative calm, Europe is once again in transition. New nations have been born and old nations have died; borders are being adjusted, sometimes by force; new threats to European stability are surfacing. Ethnic and religious conflicts that threaten the NATO nations are underway in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. Once again, naval forces are involved in demonstrations of allied solidarity and collective will.

Hence, this morning's discussion of naval interaction to establish order in Europe during the tumultuous postwar years should be timely and instructive.

Lawrence S. Kaplan
Lyman L. Lemnitzer Center
for NATO and European Community Studies

On the afternoon of December 31, 1947, John D. Hickerson, director of European Affairs at the State Department, was full of fishhouse punch, a New Year's courtesy of the Metropolitan Club in Washington. He went directly from the club to the desk of his associate, Theodore C. Achilles, and said, "I don't care if entangling alliances have been considered worse than original sin since George Washington's time. We've got to have a peacetime military alliance with Western Europe. And we've got to get it ratified. It's your baby now." Hickerson later corrected this account on the grounds that he only drank martinis. But Achilles stuck to his story, noting not only that the Metropolitan Club offered free drinks with lunch on New Year's eve but also that they had all been drinking martinis for years with no such radical outbursts.

What Hickerson had blurted out was an intention to reverse one of the most powerful traditions in the nation's history: namely, the doctrine of non-entanglement with Western Europe. In fact, the tradition antedated George Washington's presidency; it was built into the relationship between the colonies and the mother country. Part of it had a religious motif, as was inadvertently recognized in Hickerson's reference to "original sin." The "City upon a Hill" that John Winthrop called Boston was a biblical reproach to the sinful ways of the Old World, one of which was the immoral system of dynastic alliances.

Perhaps a larger part of the tradition had its roots in what has been called the "salutary" neglect of the British colonies in North America from 1607 to 1763. The century and a half of British colonial development permitted the growth of a concept that wars were products of alliances among despotic kings serving European interests. The passage of control of the colonies from the Crown to Parliament made little difference to colonial attitudes toward Europe's wars. Certainly, the experience in the French and Indian War illustrated this attitude. While New Englanders and Virginians were eager to have Britain remove France from North America, they were not interested in paying for the costs of the war, or for providing troops for its prosecution, except when special interests of Massachusetts Bay or Virginia were involved. Nor were they interested in suspending profitable trade with Canada or the West Indies while General Wolfe was fighting on the Plains of Abraham.

Colonial antipathy to alliances did not mean that they shunned help from Britain's enemies in the Revolutionary War. In fact, they expected European rivals of Britain to cut it down to size. As a reward for their giving money and manpower to its cause, the United States would transfer its trade from the former mother country to the benefactors. No alliance would be necessary. This was the message of Paine's Common Sense in 1776; it was also the message of John Adams's Model Treaty later that year, as he presented to the Continental Congress a means of winning European support without paying the price of an entangling alliance.

The Model Treaty was not adopted, to the vast disappointment of the leaders of the Revolution. France, the nation with the most to gain from the reduction of British power, was willing enough to encourage the Americans, but only up to a point. A French commitment to American victory without corresponding obligations was impossible to achieve. The alliance with France, a classic example of an offensive alliance, was made more reluctantly by the French than by the Americans. It was filled with dangerous entanglements, notably an agreement not to leave the war without the ally's permission, and even worse, an agreement to come to the aid of the ally in the event of a war in the future. The French entered the alliance in 1778 only after prospects of American victory had been brightened in the Battle of Saratoga and only after France had the Spanish fleet at its disposal. American eagerness derived from the rocky course of the war; the new nation needed French money, arms, and men to win independence, and understandably shoved aside their misgivings to achieve this goal. Conceivably, there would have been no independence without the alliance, or if this is too extravagant a statement, the boundaries of the new nation would have been more confined than they were in 1783.

Once independence had been won, the constraints of the entangling alliance were increasingly unacceptable. First, France failed to continue its role of sustainer of the United States; it was unwilling-and unable-to accommodate America's intention to substitute for membership in the British economic network with a French partner that would provide credits, markets, and manufacturers for Americans. A decade later, Thomas Jefferson, the supposed friend of France, shared with the Anglophile Alexander Hamilton a desperate wish to terminate the alliance. The outbreak of the wars of the French revolution reminded all Americans of the dangers of an entangling alliance, even as the Federalists blamed the Jeffersonians for wanting to enter the war on France's side. The charge was untrue, just as the accusation against the Hamiltonians that they wanted to join Britain against anarchic, atheistic France lacked validity. When the Treaty of Mortfontaine was signed in 1800, ending the alliance, all parties recognized the wisdom of the isolationism of the colonial forebears. The memory of the French alliance governed American behavior toward Europe in the nineteenth century.

Even after two world wars, the tradition of non-entanglement was still alive, and the United Nations was less a symbol of its abandonment than of its continued vitality. Converts from prewar isolationism embraced a UN with the understanding that it would end forever the balance-of-power system and the alliances it had spawned. The victors of World War II would serve as policemen of a new world order, with the United States as its chief. When the division between Soviet communism and Western democracy became clear, to the extent that the Soviet Union appeared as dangerous or even more so than the Axis enemy of the recent past, disillusion reminiscent of post-World War I trauma set in. Once again non-entanglement from a Europe that did not appreciate American idealism and from a Communist virus that could even bring down the American system was a familiar alternative.

If neo-isolationism did not win the day, it was partly because of the circumstances of America's status in a diminished world and partly because of an able leadership in Washington. As it seemed obvious that without the involvement of the United States, communism would win over Western Europe, the Truman administration adopted a policy of containment, inspired, even though later disavowed, by George Kennan, that required an acceptance of alliances to redress what was considered to be a new imbalance of power tilting away from the West. But its initial expression, in the Truman Doctrine applied to Greece, was unilateral intervention against an imminent Communist take-over. When a similar but less immediate threat from communism loomed in France and Italy, the administration recognized that the economic plight of the West, rather than Soviet armies, was a major cause of Communist influence. Then, it put forth the Marshall Plan, a further step toward entanglement with Europe. Its successful passage through the United States Congress rested on the principle of self-help and mutual aid among European beneficiaries as the price for massive economic aid. The ground was prepared for a military alliance anticipated in a speech by Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent in 1947. In the United States, the idea met with considerable resistance among opponents and considerable qualms among the policymakers. Early in 1948 the State Department, led by the aforementioned Achilles and Hickerson, gingerly pressed for an alliance with Western Europe. They were aided by shrewd actions on the part of such European leaders as Ernest Bevin, which pointed the way to new European cooperation through a Western military union. Its proposal in January 1948 underscored the weakness of economic assistance to politically insecure nations. The fear was Communist conquest through European governments. Events in the winter of 1948 intensified these fears; a Communist coup in Prague, pressure against Norway for a non-aggression pact, and a potential Communist victory at the polls in Italy. In March, Britain, France, and the Benelux countries signed a 50-year mutual defense treaty that promised an integration of their forces and a guarantee that an attack against one would be an attack against all. The text of the treaty was phrased in such a way that Americans would know that the principles of self-help and mutual aid animating the Marshall Plan applied to the new Western Union.

The only element lacking in Europe's preparations was American membership in the new Brussels Pact. It required a year of internal struggle within the United States to make a commitment that would become the first military alliance with any European country since the termination of the Franco-American treaty almost 150 years before. It was not that the State Department planners were unprepared for a new relationship. Immediately after the Brussels Pact was signed, conversations were held at the Pentagon with Canadian and British representatives that pointed toward a North Atlantic security pact. But this was still sotto voce; the Western Union was not involved. France was specifically excluded from these conversations for fear of Communist influence in Paris. Ironically, the key British figure at the Pentagon conversations was Donald Maclean, a Kremlin agent, who presumably informed his masters of everything that was discussed at those meetings. What deterred the administration from an immediate response to the Western Union's initiative was concern that the American public was not ready for such a drastic change of policy. Three strong interest groups stood in the way: 1) the traditional isolationists, led by Senator Robert A. Taft, who would never be convinced that Europeans were not seeking to take advantage once again of innocent Americans; 2) the Pentagon leadership concerned in part over a U.S. commitment in excess of its ability to fulfill. They were aware with Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery that all the Soviets needed to march to the English Channel was a sufficient supply of shoes. Moreover, they feared that an alliance with Europe would drain the limited military stocks, as allies would compete with Americans for the small military budget allowed by the Truman administration; and 3) the converts from isolationism to the United Nations, led by Senator Arthur Vandenberg, were concerned that an alliance would undermine the world organization and lead America into the balance-of-power system, and to war.

These groups posed formidable obstacles to the commitment Europeans wanted. The United States yielded slowly and reluctantly to their importunities, first by promising support unilaterally in the Vandenberg Resolution and then after months of negotiation through the pledge of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. The Berlin Blockade of 1948, combined with the European claim that without a sense of security the Marshall aid would be wasted, ultimately made the difference. But the form in which the alliance was fashioned was not quite what the Brussels powers had in mind. Their idea was to have the United States join their union, and provide the military assistance to give it credibility. The United States demurred; the alliance could not be seen as a European affair, or as an arrangement that undercut the United Nations. Consequently, the final text had references to the UN Charter in almost every article, making it appear to be what it was not; a regional organization in conformity with article 53 of the UN Charter. Had this been the case, the allies would have had to report to the Security Council in which the Soviets had a veto as well as a seat. Even more important, the alliance had to be perceived as something more than European and something less than a traditional military pact. American insistence on Portugal, Denmark, and Iceland joining the pact was only partly due to the need for bases they could provide in the Atlantic; the presence of Iceland and particularly Canada took the European curse off the relationship; and the Canadian pressure for Article 2, the promotion of an Atlantic community, helped to distinguish the treaty from the military alliances of the past. On April 4, 1949, the United States became entangled with eleven other nations, including France and Britain, the former bete noires of isolationism.

Once the treaty came into effect in July 1949, it developed into an organization that has endured for over 40 years. NATO in many ways has become more fixed in the American psyche than the more acceptable connections of the past with Latin America and Asia. SEATO and CENTO, artifacts of the Dulles' encirclement of the Soviet empire, never had the significance of NATO, and disappeared almost without a trace in the late 1970s. NATO by contrast may have recurrent crises, but until the end of the Cold War it occupied a central role in American foreign policy. Conceivably, the 1990s may witness the termination of the alliance, and the American commitment to Western Europe. The superpower and the ideology which brought the alliance into being has dissolved; the weak group of European states that needed American help has evolved into a powerful community, capable of defending itself. NATO could be irrelevant to the future. But the role of the United States in world affairs, particularly in European affairs, has not become irrelevant. The disarray in the countries of the former Warsaw bloc may give rise to chaos that could affect Western Europe and the United States; the difficulties that the Europeans are experiencing in their attempts to create a political and military entity still require an American presence. NATO continues to be the vehicle to legitimize the United States involvement in Europe. It is noteworthy that no member of the alliance has demanded the ejection of American forces or has denounced the alliance, as can be done through Article 13.

If the alliance should dissolve, the initiative might come from America, not from Europe, as North Americans decide that Europe can defend itself, or is not worth the investment that had been made in the past. Such an outcome is possible, particularly if economic conditions force the removal of U.S. troops from Europe. But the movement for total withdrawal or even dissolution, is far less visible than it was during the Vietnam War. In the recent presidential election campaign, as in those of the 1980s, the entangling alliance with Europe was not an issue. It has been assimilated into the core of America's foreign relations, as familiar in the late twentieth century as non-entanglement had been a century before.

Peter M. Swartz
Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)



The subtitle is a wonderful phrase taken from the oral history of Vice Admiral Charles Wellborn, one of the commanders of the U.S. Second Fleet and the NATO Strike Fleet, Atlantic, during the 1950s.2 His words capture nicely the theme of U.S. Navy policy and practice during those years, vis-à-vis its Mediterranean, North Atlantic Ocean, and NATO commitments:

The Navy knew very well what the game was; it had joined the team; and it would play to win. But to the extent that it could, the U.S. Navy meant to pitch: After all, it was they who almost always "brought the baseball."

This paper weaves together a few strands of the very rich story of the U.S. Navy's turn toward Europe during the first 10 years or so after World War II. In particular, it will discuss-and draw some conclusions regarding:

  • The U. S. Navy's policy focus on Europe
  • U.S. Navy operations in the Atlantic and European waters, especially in Northern Europe
  • U.S. Navy relations with the Royal Navy3

A Survey of the Field

The relationship of the early postwar Navy with Europe and with its European allies isn't a very popular subject. Naval historians have pretty much ignored it, save for the return of the U.S. Navy to the Mediterranean in 1946 and 1947; you won't find any other aspects discussed in the books written or updated during the past two decades or so by Lacy, Beach, Hooper, Miller, Hagan, or Howarth (although Robert Love comes close).4

The one recent book that seeks to describe all the world's Cold War naval developments, Bruce Watson's ambitious The Changing Face of the World's Navies: 1945 to the Present, likewise fails to discuss NATO at all, or the inter-relationships among the NATO navies.5 Writers on NATO history haven't done much better;6 nor have authors of books on NATO strategy and policy.7

There are, however, some recent exceptions. In 1988 came Michael Palmer's Origins of the Maritime Strategy, which touched for the first time on several aspects of the U.S. Navy's early postwar planning on Europe.8 Then came four works on the Navy and NATO: Bob Jordan's short Alliance Strategy and Navies9; Joel Sokolsky's more comprehensive Seapower in the Nuclear Age10; Eric Grove's littleBattle for the Fiørds11; and Sean Maloney's Securing Command of the Sea.12


First, some important context:

As World War II was drawing to a close, the U.S. Navy had clearly emerged as the preeminent naval power on the globe. Navies were not the only military institutions in the world, however, and being top dog at sea did not necessarily mean world military preeminence. The U.S. Navy could not rest on its laurels. Asserting its relevance to deal with the emerging Soviet continental threat, and dogged by an Army Air Corps that thought it needed little help from another service, the U.S. Navy had to keep busy.

And keep busy it did. This is an important point. I would submit that the pace in the U.S. Navy in the first postwar decade was hectic-even frenetic-operationally, organizationally, and technically.

Operationally, the Navy was engaged all over the world: first to bring home the troops and to demobilize forces; then to deploy its greatly reduced fleet to the China Seas, the Mediterranean, and elsewhere, in the first operations of what came to be known as the Cold War. Then came Korea and the U.S. defense buildup; and then the routine deployment far forward of large multi-capable permanent fleets in Europe and Asia, and smaller squadrons elsewhere, especially in the Persian Gulf.

Politically and organizationally, the Navy was also busy. This was, after all, the era of the Pearl Harbor hearings, of defense unification, of the "Revolt of the Admirals," of violent swings in defense budget allocations, and of the change from the Democratic Truman Administration to the new Republican Eisenhower Administration.

In terms of hardware, the Navy was busier still. As Dr. Tom Hone has pointed out, the U.S. Navy had emerged from World War II with an enormous fleet that was "both victorious and largely obsolete," with much of its equipment still relatively new.13 The newest generation of German submarines, the deployment of jet aircraft, and-of course-the atomic bomb had shown that Admiral Ernest King's armada, vast as it was, would not be up to many of the military challenges of the postwar world order unless enormous technological and tactical changes were promptly instituted.

So the Navy was busy with new systems throughout this period-researching, developing, designing, testing, evaluating, justifying, procuring, building, and deploying them: New style carriers, revolutionary submarines, new destroyer types, jet aircraft and seaplanes, helicopters, nuclear weapons, and guided missiles, sonars and radars and fixed underwater arrays, new types of amphibious and logistic ships-an overwhelming torrent of new ideas, new machines, and new procedures.

There were not large numbers of ships being launched, however, but you have to look beyond the numbers.

Anyway, it was quite a time. And the officers who ran the Navy, the admirals, were trying to ride all these tigers simultaneously.

The picture I would paint of them at this point in history; beset by a plethora of bureaucratic and technological problems; an extraordinary operational self-confidence based not only on the great victory just achieved but also on the knowledge that they alone had developed the arts and sciences of naval warfare to unprecedented levels.

They were all-to use Tom Buell's apt description of Fleet Admiral Ernest King-"Masters of Seapower."14

This was an officer corps, however, whose members had been almost single-mindedly fixated for most of their naval careers on fighting and defeating the Imperial Japanese Navy in the vast Pacific.15

And now, with the Japanese defeated, and with everything else on their minds, they no longer had the luxury of focusing primarily on just one ocean or on how they would do things alone. They had to think about Europe too, and they had to think about allies. How did they do? Close examination shows that they did well.

The U.S. Navy Focus on Europe

The Navy turned to Europe quickly. There has been a certain amount written about the Navy's alleged "Pacific Orientation."16 War Plan Orange, the Asiatic Fleet, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam are usually cited as examples-thereby glossing over War Plan Black, the successive Mediterranean squadrons, World War I, the early Cold War, and the Maritime Strategy.

The U.S. Navy's geographic orientation, the record shows, is normally that of the country at large. The Navy sees itself as the nation's sea force. It's strategy since the time of Mahan has been to seize and maintain control of the sea, and once that is achieved-and often even when it is still in the balance-to project military power ashore from the sea.17

If the nation needs a force to control the sea and project power from it in the Pacific, the Navy goes there. If the nation needs such a force in the Atlantic, the Navy goes there. And if the nation needs such a force that is global, then the Navy goes there too.18

The Navy goes where the action is.

In the first year or so after World War II, it became evident that the action was in Europe. There was still action in Asia, of course. Dr. Edward J. Marolda, then-Lieutenant Commander now Rear Admiral Joseph Sestak, Commander James Auer, and all the Korean and Vietnam War chroniclers have told those stories well.19

But the main event after 1945 was the American contest with Russia. And the center of gravity of that great continental nation lay in Europe. The leaders of the Navy understood this. Admiral Robert Carney, for example, who spent three straight years fighting a war in the Pacific, noted that, "as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (DCNO) for Logistics from 1946 to 1950, I dismissed the Pacific from my mind and turned myself toward Europe."20 Off to Europe the Navy went; fast.21

Now, how does one determine the "geographical orientation" of a service like the Navy anyway? Here the historian, unlike the polemicist, has to do some analysis. What do you analyze? There are several possible indicators; here I look at four: Flag officer assignments, capital ship assignments, fleet balance, and fleet exercises.22

Digging into all these indicators tells us that the Navy swung hard in the direction of Europe right after the war, but started swinging back again in the mid-1950s. These swings were well in keeping with the overall policy concerns of the nation.

First, it is necessary to look at the careers of the flag officers involved. The Navy sent some of is most important four-star admirals to Europe: Stark, Hewitt, Conolly, Carney, Fechteler, Wright, and Cassady. And to the North Atlantic: Mitscher, Blandy, Fechteler, and Wright (The lackluster Lynde D. McCormick is probably an exception, here).23

Turning to capital ship assignments, the pride of the fleet went to the North Atlantic and Europe throughout the first postwar decade. The three large aircraft carriers (CVBs)-MidwayCoral Sea, andFranklin Delano Roosevelt-were all Atlantic and Mediterranean deployers until Midway went to the Seventh Fleet in 1955.24 Even during the Korean War, they stayed in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, or in the yards.

The U.S. Navy kept most of the battleships in the Atlantic as well. From 1946 to 1958, when all four had been decommissioned, there was never a year when there were more Iowa-class battleships in the Pacific than the Atlantic. No more than one Iowa at a time ever served off Korea, while the Navy sent two every summer during the Korean War on cruises to Northern Europe.25

New ships usually went to the Atlantic, including the three CVBs and the first two new attack aircraft carriers (CVAs), Forrestal and Saratoga; the Salem-class gun cruisers; Boston, the first guided missile cruiser conversion; the first destroyer leaders Norfolk and Mitscher; the new Forrest Sherman-class destroyers; the command ship Northampton; the first five Dealey-class escorts; and nuclear-powered submarine Nautilus.

And the first Navy air-to-air guided missile fighter squadron was deployed in 1956-to the Mediterranean. This squadron was composed of F7U-3M Cutlass aircraft armed with Sparrow I missiles.26

Moreover, the newest and best ships and aircraft squadrons always got the best skippers, so the Navy's "comers" mostly were Atlantic and Mediterranean-oriented and experienced, along with the more senior admirals discussed above.27

Regarding overall fleet balance, the trend is also clear28 after examining the annual projections in the Navy's Basic Naval Establishment Plans (BNEPs). In 1946, 154 major combatants were projected for the Atlantic Fleet for 1947 and 165 were projected for the Pacific.

1946 was the turnaround year, however. The 1947 projection for 1948 was 142 for the Atlantic and 136 for the Pacific, and the Atlantic projections led thereafter. The 1957 projections for 1958 showed 231 for the Atlantic and 172 for the Pacific.29

Fleet exercises are my final indicator. At the end of the period being examined in Fiscal Year 1957, for example, the Atlantic Fleet conducted 33 national and international exercises; the Pacific Fleet 21. The Sixth Fleet carried out 28 such exercises, while the Seventh Fleet carried out only 11.30

The case should not be overstated; emphasis on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean never meant abandonment of the Pacific. But the fact remains that the Navy has not been an inherently Pacific-oriented outfit, as some claim, and that its central core value has been to achieve sea power and project power from the sea anywhere necessary, not to achieve regional preeminence in the Pacific.31

U.S. Navy Postwar Operations in Europe

Given that the U.S. Navy turned to Europe in the mid- and late 1940s and early and mid-1950s, what did it do there?

First the Navy stopped drawing things down in the Mediterranean after VE-Day and even started to build things up again. The little post-VE Day Mediterranean squadron of a cruiser and two destroyers became by the end of the 1940s the powerful Sixth Fleet, still in existence today.

Since others already have, there is no need to detail the postwar operations of the Sixth Fleet or the U.S. Navy in the Mediterranean.32 Suffice to say that it was the centerpiece of U.S. naval power in Europe and the Atlantic.

But there were many other things that the U.S. Navy did; it participated in the occupation of Germany;33 it exploited captured German naval technology;34 it began deploying warships to the Arctic in 1946;35its fleet units made major port visits in Scandinavia, starting in 1946; it sent large midshipman training cruise forces to Northern Europe in 1947, a practice it continued almost every summer for a decade;36 it sent U.S. naval vessels into the Baltic; and after 1952, its warships took part in multinational NATO Norwegian Sea exercises.37

All these activities merit in-depth study. This paper, however, is concerned with one particular U.S. Navy initiative in Northern Europe; the establishment and maintenance there of a permanent forward-deployed force, the Northern European Force.

The Northern European Force

The Northern European Force has received virtually no attention in the literature, in contrast to its contemporaries, the Sixth Fleet and the B-29 bomber force deployed to British bases. But the Northern European Force merits attention.

Shortly after When World War II ended in Europe, the operating forces of the U.S. Navy in European waters consisted of a cruiser and two destroyers in the Mediterranean, and no combat vessels in Northern Europe.38

Within months of V-E Day, Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, the new overall U.S. Navy commander in Europe, traveled to Scandinavian and Northern European cities and concluded that a permanent U.S. Navy presence in European waters was needed, "to 'show the flag' for reasons of politics and sentiment."39 Admiral Hewitt's official command history notes that: "There was nothing extraordinary in such a proposal, which was in accord with all naval practice and tradition."40 Hewitt argued his case by letter to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the new Chief of Naval Operations, in November 1945; in person in Washington in December; and again by letter in January 1946.41

Fleet Admiral Nimitz agreed, and on January 26, 1946, he ordered the Atlantic Fleet commander to send a heavy cruiser and two destroyers for duty with the U.S. Twelfth Fleet in Europe. A brand new cruiser, Helena (CA 75), and two new destroyers, Glennon (DD-840) and Cone (DD 866), arrived in Southampton, England, on February 20.42

Admiral Hewitt now had a force in Northern Europe equal in size to the force he had in the Mediterranean. Moreover, each force was comparable in both concept of operations and composition to Squadron 40 (T), the Navy's pre-war force in Europe.43 Both forces were therefore traditional. The Navy had turned to Europe immediately following the war, but had done so in a time-honored way.

At the same time that the new postwar U.S. naval force was constituted in Northern Europe, however, events in Southern Europe overshadowed it. The arrival of the squadron in Southampton coincided with the celebrated decision in Washington to use the battleship Missouri to return the body of the recently deceased Turkish ambassador to Istanbul. Admiral Hewitt's three ships in England were ordered south, Admiral Hewitt riding Helena, and the squadron spent the spring of 1946 in the Mediterranean.

The story to this point has often been told by authors chronicling the origins of the Sixth Fleet.44 The three ships from England are considered among the progenitors of that famous fleet. But they were also progenitors of another, far less storied naval force-the Northern European Force.

For when Missouri and her entourage finally headed west through the Straits of Gibraltar, the Helena squadron turned to starboard and headed back north.45 The ships made port visits in the United Kingdom. They were joined by the new light cruiser Little Rock (CL-92), the less than three-year old light cruiser Houston (CL-81), and two more new destroyers. Helena herself sailed for the Pacific via Suez, but in the fall of 1946 Admiral Hewitt took his remaining six ships and visited ports in Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and France. The Northern European Force had been born.46

Initially, the force had one or two cruisers and two destroyers, working out of Plymouth, England.47 The cruiser was often tied up at nearby Torquay.48 From December 1946 to 1950 there was also a station ship, for logistics, home-ported in Plymouth.49 This was a not inconsiderable force in Northern Europe in the late 1940s. Even the Royal Navy Home Fleet, for example, in late 1947 had an operational cadre of only one cruiser, two large destroyers, half a dozen frigates, and twenty submarines.50

The strength of the Northern European Force peaked in mid-1950. The last station ship left without relief in July of that year (replenishment now was conducted principally at the American naval base in Bremerhaven, Germany).51 By 1953, the force had also lost the cruiser, and began to be referred to also as the Northern European Escort Group.52

The force continued its existence for over a decade, routinely visiting ports in Northern Europe, training (especially in antisubmarine warfare with ships of the Royal Navy at Londonderry), and participating in larger exercises.53 By 1952, it had also taken on an intelligence gathering mission. One of the destroyers was now equipped to function in support of what was termed the "Special Electronics Search Program."54

In February 1956, the two destroyers of the Escort Group returned to the United States upon completion of a normal tour. The ships originally intended to form the next group were sailed instead directly from the United States to the Mediterranean to augment the Sixth Fleet during the Suez Crisis of that year.55 They never saw Northern Europe and the force was subsequently disestablished.

The Northern European Force did its job quietly and well. It signaled to allies, neutrals, and Iron Curtain countries alike that the United states was not prepared to cede Northern European waters to the Soviets. It thus is a fine case study of naval presence, and of the continuity between pre-World War II and post-World War II U.S. naval operations in Europe. The Sixth Fleet-following the vision of Richard Conolly, Forrest Sherman, and other forward-looking admirals-had evolved into something radically new; a self-supporting forward deployed, multi-platform, combat-ready battle fleet. But the Northern European Force-conceived through the experience of Chester Nimitz, H. Kent Hewitt, and other historically-minded admirals-remained something very traditional; a small forward squadron of surface ships that showed the flag and conducted surveillance and training in European waters.56

The U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy

Following World War II, the U.S Navy did not act alone in European waters (nor for that matter, in most other places). Exhausted and battered by the World War II experience as they may have been, the European navies continued to carry out their national missions.

The U.S. Navy established close relations with most European navies during this early postwar period, but this paper discusses the U.S. Navy's relations with just the Royal Navy. Those relations were the most important, most complex, and often the most contentious of the U.S. Navy's bilateral relationships with its European counterparts.57

The officers of the Royal Navy had spent their pre-1939 careers consumed by the issue of maintaining parity with the U.S. Navy, and convinced of the superiority of the Royal Navy's naval warfare skills. But, by 1945 Britain's power had been considerably reduced. There was no type of ship in which they had close to the numbers the Americans had, and there was no area of sea warfare in which the Americans would defer to the prowess of the Royal Navy.

To the Americans, the Royal Navy lagged far behind them in field after field of naval warfare. And they took a dim view of the British practice of assigning land-based maritime patrol aviation to the Royal Air Force.

A June 1946 letter from Admiral Raymond Spruance, the President of the Naval War College, to his old Pacific war boss Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations, reflected the American attitude of intellectual superiority. With regard to the possibility of Royal Navy students attending the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, Spruance observed: "I judge, from what Captain Hummer told me yesterday of his recent course at Greenwich, that we would give far more here at Newport than our officers can possibly get there."58

Yet the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy had been close allies in war, and remained such afterward. Overt animosity was out of the question.59

For the first five years or so after the war, the two navies got on quite well, even without formal alliance ties.60 By 1951, however, despite having been officially declared comrades in arms with establishment of the NATO alliance, relations between the two navies had grown sour.

The reason was that each navy now perceived the other as a threat to its "essence," its "autonomy," and its "domain."61 Setting up the new NATO command structure, far from providing a framework for greater allied cohesion, had in fact created both a reason and an arena for trans-governmental naval rivalry.62

Although they operated well together at sea in Korea and in exercises, the U.S. Navy's and the Royal Navy's jockeying for position in the various headquarters in the early and mid-50s was as heated and as fractious as had been the U.S. Navy-U.S. Air Force contention of the late 1940s.

U.S. Navy and Royal Navy Concepts and Doctrine

Admiral Wellborn captured a central issue of the conflict in his oral history. He related:

There were the old Churchillians who felt that the British Empire would never go down, that they knew more about the management of world affairs than anybody else, and that it was perfectly normal for any kind of important international command to be in British hands.

Then there was always the American point of view of yes, we agree you know quite a lot about military affairs and the management of world affairs, but after all you don't provide much in the way of forces. Most of these are American, and, since we're providing most of the forces and know the idiosyncrasies of most of the forces, we think we'd better command.

For the same reason that the little boy who owns the baseball usually gets to pitch, the U.S. usually won those arguments.63

Admiral Wellborn went on to add that "my own personal view was that they were pretty good commanders."64

But this was hardly a sentiment universally shared by all of his fellow American admirals. Many felt that the Royal Navy no longer had the hardware or the concepts to wage war at sea effectively.65 The U.S. Navy staff even expressed that feeling in a "Top Secret" paper that Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke authored in 1953-1954 when Burke was Director of Strategy, Plans and Policy.66

The paper was entitled "United States/United Kingdom Differences of Opinion" and detailed 20 separate contentious issues, classified into four major categories: Higher Direction of the War, Command, Control of Specialized Operations, and Operational Doctrine. These issues ran the entire gamut of naval concerns, but one example will suffice:

The Employment of Carriers:

1. U.K. POSITION: Carriers should be employed primarily for air protection of shipping.

2. U.S. POSITION: Carriers should be employed in carrier task forces, whose primary mission is to exploit control of the seas.

3. DISCUSSION: The basic difference is one of experience; The U.S. Navy's experience during World War II in the Pacific and developments since that time, and the U.K. experience in the vicinity of the U.K. and in the Mediterranean in keeping open the lines of communication. As in the case of hunter-killer operations it is an offensive vs. a defensive concept.

There were 19 other such differences sketched out in the paper.

The battles over these issues were played out in hundreds of bilateral and NATO meetings all through the 1950s. The question in 1951 and 1952 of which navy's admiral would head the supreme allied naval command in the Atlantic finally had to be settled by the American president and the British prime minister.67

U.S. Navy and Royal Navy Technology

One area of cooperation always remained firm, however; the steady stream of naval technological innovation that flowed across the Atlantic, generally westward. U.S. Navy leaders appreciated British technological prowess and exploited that strength, even when budget problems prevented the Royal Navy from doing so.68

The U.S. Navy's most famous technical borrowings from the British during the first postwar decade related to carrier aviation: the angled flight deck; the steam catapult; the mirror landing system;69 Nylon crash barriers;70 the first ejection seats;71 the "probe-and-drogue" air refueling system;72 fin stabilizers;73 the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS);74 and air cushion vehicles.75 The first gas turbine designed to power a frigate was unveiled in October 1953 by Rolls-Royce of Great Britain. The U.S. Navy immediately bought two gas turbines for installation in an American hull.76

The flow wasn't all one way. The postwar Royal Navy and the industrial base that supported it may have been strong in many technologies but, in the words of Vice Admiral Sir Peter Gretton, Royal Navy:

Our close contacts with the United States Navy during the War had produced a shock in many technical fields, particularly those of propulsion machinery, anti-aircraft weapons and naval aircraft, and the techniques of replenishing ships with fuel and supplies while under way. It was clear too that we had a lot to learn about ship construction generally.77

Admiral Gretton could well have added submarine technology, especially nuclear propulsion.78

In sum, the British benefited from American technology as the Americans benefited from theirs, but the U.S. Navy got a very good deal; the British helped them bring better and better baseballs to the game!


There are some conclusions to be drawn from all of this. First, the U.S. Navy during the first postwar decade was a busy, exciting, multifaceted institution trying to cope with a new world environment-and largely succeeding. The Navy's leaders were quick to understand what was happening in Europe, quick to try to re-institute old operational patterns, and not slow to move beyond those patterns to new concepts of the use of naval power.

Second, the Navy was vital to the American presence in Europe in the early days of the Cold War, and in ways that have received little attention from historians or political scientists. The Navy was never principally an occupation force; in retrospect it was what we now call an "enabling force" upon which the subsequent redeployment of Army and Air Force units to Europe was based.

Third, the Navy's role in Europe shaped the Navy itself in many ways-its doctrine, organization, force structure, deployment patterns, systems development, even the career patterns and outlooks of its leaders.

And fourth, the Navy was as active a player in international trans-governmental relations as it was in domestic bureaucratic politics. Its relations with the Royal Navy in particular were as significant to it as those with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

Perhaps the most important thing these few examples do is to highlight the great richness of the American naval experience and the excitement still to be found in delving into little-researched aspects of its history. The U.S. Navy's postwar presence in Northern Europe was vital to its global success in the Cold War, and should receive the attention from historians that it truly deserves.79


1 This paper was originally delivered at a 1993 seminar held at the Naval Historical Center in Washington DC. It was subsequently updated somewhat in 2002.

Vice Admiral Charles Wellborn, "Reminiscences" (Annapolis MD: U.S. Naval Institute Oral History, 1972), 334-335.

3 This paper weaves together a few sections from a much larger study of the subject that I have been undertaking as a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Columbia University.

4 James L. Lacy, Within Bounds: The Navy in Postwar American Security Policy (Alexandria VA: Center for Naval Analyses, 1983); Captain Edward L. Beach, The United States Navy: 200 Years(New York: Henry Holt, 1986); Rear Admiral Edwin B. Hooper, United States Naval Power in a Changing World (New York: Praeger, 1988); Nathan Miller, The U.S. Navy: A History (Revised and Updated) (New York: Quill, 1990); Kenneth J. Hagan, This People's Navy: The Making of American Sea Power (New York: Free Press, 1991); Stephen Howarth, To Shining Sea: A History of the United States Navy, 1775-1991 (New York: Random House, 1991); and Robert W. Love, Jr. History of the U.S. Navy: Volume II: 1942-1991 (Harrisburg PA: Stackpole, 1992)

5 Commander Bruce W. Watson. The Changing Face of the World's Navies: 1945 to the Present (London: Brassey's, 1991)

6 The Navy and SACLANT don't come up, for example, in Kaplan's NATO and the United States: The Enduring Alliance (Boston MA: Twayne, 1988), or William Park's Defending the West: A History of NATO (Boulder CO: Westview, 1986).

7 Robert Osgood's otherwise indispensable NATO: The Entangling Alliance (Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 1962) gives no space to naval matters, nor does Paul Stares in Command Performance: The Neglected Dimension of European Security (Washington DC: Brookings, 1991) or Robert Allen Wampler's very detailed two-volume dissertation on the first decade of NATO strategy, "Ambiguous Legacy: The United States, Great Britain and the Foundations of NATO Strategy, 1948-1957" (Ph.D. dissertation: Harvard University, June 1991).

8 Michael A. Palmer, Origins of the Maritime Strategy: American Naval Strategy in the First Postwar Decade "Contributions to Naval History . . .No. 1" (Washington DC: Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, 1988). See page ix for the relationship between Palmer's research and the author's.

9 Robert Jordan, Alliance Strategy and Navies: The Evolution and Scope of NATO's Maritime Dimension (New York: St. Martin's, 1990)

10 Joel Sokolsky, Seapower in the Nuclear Age: The United States Navy and NATO, 1949-80 (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991). See Chapter 2 for the early period.

11 Eric Grove, with Graham Thompson, Battle for the Fiørds: NATO's Forward Maritime Strategy in Action (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute, 1991, Chapter 1.

12 Sean M. Maloney, Securing Command of the Sea: NATO Naval Planning, 1948-1954 (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995).

13 Thomas C. Hone, "Force Planning Cycles: The Modern Navy as an Illustrative Case of a Frustrating Trend," Defense Analysis 9, no. 1 (1993): 32.

14 Thomas B. Buell, Master of Seapower: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980)

15 The definitive work is Edward Miller's War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1992)

16 See especially Vincent Davis, Postwar Defense Policy and the U.S. Navy, 1943-1946 (Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina, 1962) 76-80; Commander Harlan K. Ullman, "The Pacific and U.S. Naval Policy", Naval Forces 6, VI/1985, 36-48; and John Mearsheimer, "A Strategic Misstep: The Maritime Strategy and Deterrence in Europe", International Security 11, Fall 1986, 33, fn.75

17 This view of U.S. Navy strategy is not without its critics. For comprehensive looks at the development of overall U.S. Navy strategy and policy in the early and mid-Cold War periods, see Michael T. Isenberg, Shield of the Republic: The United States Navy in an Era of Cold War and Violent Peace, Volume I 1945-1962 (New York: St. Martin's, 1993; and Lacy, Within Bounds. For the late 1940s and early 1950s, see Palmer, Origins of the Maritime Strategy. For the 1950s and 1960s, see Richard E. Hegmann, "In Search of Strategy: The Navy and the Depths of the Maritime Strategy" (Ph.D. dissertation: Brandeis University, 1991); and idem, "Reconsidering the Evolution of the U.S. Maritime Strategy 1955-1965," Journal of Strategic Studies 14 (September 1991), 299-331. Also idem, "In Search of Strategy: The Navy and the Depths of the Maritime Strategy" (Ph.D. dissertation, Brandeis University, 1991).

18 For an argument that the United States in fact represents the world's first and only truly global maritime security system, see Michael Vlahos, "Historical Continuities in Naval Power Projection", in Uri Ra'anan, Robert L. Pfaltzgraff, Jr., and Geoffrey Kemp (eds.) Projection of Power: Perspectives, Perceptions, and Problems (Hamden CT: Archon Books, 1982), 64-92.

19 On U.S. Navy operations in and around China, see Edward J. Marolda, "The U.S. Navy and the Chinese Civil War, 1945-1952" (Ph.D. dissertation: The George Washington University, 1990, and "Through a Long Glass: U.S. Naval Leaders and the Chinese Civil War, 1945-1950", Journal of Strategic Studies 15 (December 1992) 528-547. For a study of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, see Lieutenant Commander Joseph A. Sestak, "The Seventh Fleet: A Study of Variance Between Policy Directives and Military Force Postures". (Ph.D. dissertation: Harvard University, August 1984). See also his "Righting the Atlantic Tilt", Proceedings 112 (January 1986) 64-71. On the U.S. Navy's efforts to rebuild the Japanese Navy, see Commander James Auer, The Postwar Rearmament of Japanese Maritime Forces, 1945-71 (New York: Praeger, 1973).

20 Interview, author with Admiral Carney, September 27, 1985. Admiral Carney later noted that "We turned to looking at Asia around the time of Dien Bien Phu"

21 On the Navy's turn toward Europe, see also Richard A. Best, Jr.'s "Cooperation of like-Minded Peoples": British Influences on American Security Policy, 1945-1949. (New York: Greenwood, 1986), especially 94-96.

22 Other possible indicators include public declaratory statements of policy, employment intentions as outlined in war plans, and ship design characteristics. Detailed analysis of these indicators is beyond the scope of this paper, but a cursory review leads the author to believe it would prove congruent with his findings.

23 Looked at from another direction, from 1949 through 1955 the Navy chose three Chiefs of Naval Operations (CNOs) in a row from the ranks of its Atlantic and European flag officers -- Admirals Sherman, Fechteler and Carney. In fact, between the firing of Admiral Denfeld in 1949 and the installation of Admiral Thomas Moorer in 1967, no former Pacific Fleet or Pacific numbered fleet commander made it to CNO, while five former Atlantic/European Fleet or numbered fleet commanders did. As stepping-stones to a fourth star, command of the Atlantic and Mediterranean's Second, Sixth and Eighth Fleets had a far better record than command of the Pacific's First and Seventh during the decade: About half of the Second, Sixth and Eighth Fleet commanders reached the rank of full Admiral, but only one Commander each from the two numbered fleets in the Pacific did so.

24 The career of each U.S. Navy's ship is summarized in the Dictionary of American Fighting Ships (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office). See also Norman Polmar, Aircraft Carriers(Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1969) 599-601. Forrestal, lead ship of the first post-war class of super-carriers, deployed in 1957. She too went first to the Mediterranean. See Navy Times Nov 3, 1956, 2).

25 But the Iowas seldom went to the Mediterranean. After Missouri's famous 1946 journey, no U.S. Navy battleship entered that sea until 1955. See John C. Reilly, Jr., Operational Experience of Fast Battleships: World War II, Korea, Vietnam (Washington DC: Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center, 1987).

26 Semiannual Report of the Secretary of the Navy: January 1 to June 30 1956 (Washington DC: USGPO, 1957), 168-9.

27 Virtually all commanding officers of Midway-class carriers (CVBs), for example, became admirals, and many went on to achieve very high rank. During the first postwar decade, when they operated exclusively in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the Midways were "the pride of the fleet, the premier commands to which senior aviator captains aspired -- 'admiral makers' for many of their skippers. Two of them, George W. Anderson of Franklin D. Roosevelt and David McDonald of Coral Sea, went on to become Chiefs of Naval Operations". Commander Thomas B. Grassey, "Retrospective: The MidwayClass" (Proceedings 112, May 1986/Naval Review 1986, 186. Two CVB captains, Anderson and Aurelius B. Vosseler, became the chief U.S. naval advisors to SACEUR from 1950 to 1955. Several went on to high fleet command, as did the non-aviator commanding officers of the battleship Missouri. For a look at what these carrier skippers took away from their European experiences, see Vice Admiral J.J. Clark and Clark G. Reynolds, Carrier Admiral, (New York: David McKay, 1967) 258-267.

28 Declassified official Navy projected figures for Fiscal Years 1947 through 1950, and for 1954 and 1958 can be found in the Basic Naval Establishment Plans (BNEPs) for those years, in the Naval Historical Center Operational Archives (hereafter NHC, OA) in Washington DC, Command File Post 1 Jan 46. Projected assignments as of December 1945 are in Secretary of the Navy Annual Report for Fiscal Year 1945 (Washington DC: Department of the Navy, 1946) 6,10,14; and in Jane's Fighting Ships 1944-5, "Addenda to 1946", A22-A24. The fleet balance as of June 1948 is in Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy: Fiscal Year 1948 (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1949), 6. Figures for 1949 and projections for 1950 are in Jane's Fighting Ships, 1949-50, 339. Korean War-induced changes between June and October 1950 for carriers, battleships and cruisers are in James A. Field, Jr., History of United States Naval Operations -- Korea (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962), 397.

29 Ship fleet assignments don't always tell you where a ship served since, during and after the Korean War, ships home-ported on the East Coast routinely deployed to Asia. This Atlantic Fleet contribution to war in the Pacific built up from one Atlantic Fleet battleship, one destroyer squadron and some amphibious ships in 1950 to a battleship, two destroyer squadrons, a carrier, a light carrier, the amphibious ships and a patrol squadron in 1953. NHC, OA, Atlantic Fleet Annual Reports 1 July 1950-30 June 1951, 15; and 1 July 1953-12 April 1954, 19.

30 Semiannual Report of the Secretary of the Navy: January 1-June 30 1957 (Washington DC: USGPO, 1958) 184.

31 Within the Navy, however, there always was a Pacific-oriented corps of officers, but they seldom achieved dominance in the post-war era. Old Pacific hand Admiral Arthur Radford, who became Eisenhower's first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would appear to be an exception, but he was chosen in part to compensate for Eisenhower's own relative lack of familiarity with Far Eastern military matters. See also Edward J. Marolda, "The U.S. Navy and the Chinese Civil War, 1945-1952" (Ph.D. dissertation: George Washington University, 1990; and Linda McClain, "The Role of Admiral William D. Leahy in U.S. Foreign Policy" (Ph.D. dissertation: University of Virginia, 1984), 375-377, 398, 460.

32 The most comprehensive treatment is Lieutenant Commander Philip A. Dur, "The Sixth Fleet: A Case Study of Institutionalized Naval Presence, 1946-1968." Ph.D. dissertation: Harvard University, 1975. On the Sixth Fleet's early years, see David J. Alvarez. Bureaucracy and Cold War Diplomacy: The United States and Turkey 1943-1946. (Thessaloniki, Greece: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1980); Guy Cane, "The Build-up of U.S. Naval Force in the Mediterranean as an Instrument of Cold War Policy," M.A. Thesis: The George Washington University, 1975; Midshipman Dennis M. Pricolo, "Naval Presence and Cold War Foreign Policy: A Study of the Decision to Station the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, 1945-1958." Trident Scholar Project Report: U.S. Naval Academy, 1978 (actually takes the story only through 1948); Edward J. Sheehy, The U.S. Navy, The Mediterranean, and the Cold War, 1945-1947. (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1992); and Stephen Xydis, Greece and the Great Powers 1944-1947, (Thessaloniki, Greece: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1963). On the Sixth Fleet during the 1956 Suez crisis, see Thomas A. Bryson, "Mission of Mercy", Proceedings/Supplement March 1985, 89-96; Lieutenant Commander William B. Garrett "The U.S. Navy's Role in the 1956 Suez Crisis", Naval War College Review 22, March 1970, 66-78; Marshall Smelser, "The Amiable Armada: Operations of the United States Sixth Fleet During the Suez War", Unpublished ms, Navy Library, NHC, South Bend Indiana: University of Notre Dame, (undated); and Suez Crisis, 1956 (Alexandria VA: Center for Naval Analyses, April 1974) CRC 262.

33 On the history of U.S. Naval Forces, Germany (the Navy's postwar command in Germany), see the appropriate sections in the CINCNELM Command Histories for the period, in OA, NHC. On the establishment of U.S. Naval Forces, Germany, see FADM Ernest J. King, The U.S. Navy at War, 1941-1945: Official Reports to the Secretary of the Navy (Washington DC: United States Navy Department, 1946), 209. On the U.S. Navy base at Bremerhaven, see Paolo E. Coletta (ed), United States Navy and Marine Corps Bases Overseas (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1985), 50-51. See also Oliver J. Frederiksen, The American Military Occupation of Germany, 1945-1953, Historical Division, Headquarters, United States Army, Europe, 1953, pp. 1, 23, 29, 32, 35, 41, 95, 149, 156, 175-176; and Chapter 17, "The Role of the Navy," in Harold Zink, American Military Government in Germany (New York: MacMillan, 1947), 223-229.

34 Palmer, Origins of the Maritime Strategy, 24, 28-29, 62-63, 76-77.

35 For an overview of this exploitation, see COMO H.A. Schade, "German Wartime Technical Developments," Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers 59 (February 1947): 77-97. On the exploitation of German atomic energy research, see RADM Albert G. Mumma, "The Alsos Mission," Naval History 3 (Summer 1989): 51-53. On the exploitation of German submarine design, see Dick L. Bloomquist, "Air-Independent Submarine Propulsion: A Historical Perspective from Walter to Stirling," Submarine Review (July 1993), 76-77; Antony Preston, Submarines: The History and Evolution of Underwater Fighting Vessels (London: Octopus, 1975), 105-106; Eberhard Roessler, The U-Boat: The Evolution and Technical History of German Submarines (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981), 283; Erich Topp, The Odyssey of a U-Boat Commander (Westport CT: Praeger, 1992),116-117; and Gary E. Weir, Forged in War: The Naval-Industrial Complex and American Submarine Construction, 1940-1961 (Washington DC: U.S. Naval Historical Center, 1993), 71-78 and passim. On the exploitation of German submarine sonar, see RADM Roy S. Benson Oral History, U.S. Naval Institute, 1984, 360; Lee E. Holt "The German Use of Sonic Listening," Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 19 (July 1947), 678-681; and Weir, Forged in War, 130. On jet propulsion, see Robert Esposito, "The Navy's P-80/TO-1 Shooting Stars: Part One: Early Days of Naval Jet Aviation," The Hook 19 (Spring 1991), 21-22. On guided missiles, see Robert L. Scheina, "Search for a Mission (1945-1950)," 264, and Willis C. Barnes, "Korea and Vietnam (1950-1972)," 289, in Naval Engineering and American Sea Power, RADM Randolph W. King, ed. (Baltimore: Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1989); also Isenberg, Shield of the Republic, Volume I, 656-659, and Weir, Forged in War, 227-231.

36 Michael Palmer mentions European "midshipmen" and "reservist" cruises in passing. See Origins of the Maritime Strategy, 21. Midshipman Dennis Pricolo noted the importance -- hitherto unnoticed -- of the Midshipman Training Cruise deployment to the Mediterranean in 1947. "Naval Presence and Cold War Foreign Policy," 124.

37 On the first such major NATO naval exercise, Exercise Mainbrace (September 1952), see Rear-Admiral H.E. Horan RN "Exercise Main-Brace", RAF Quarterly and Commonwealth Air Forces Journal 5 (January 1953), 33-39; CDR Harold Bradley Say USNR, "Mainbrace - Potential Becomes Reality", U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 79 (January 1953), 75-81; and "Russia Can be Hit from Two Seas", U.S. News and World Report 33 (September 26, 1952), 13-15. For a critical (but parochial) view, see John F. Loosbrock, "Carriers to the Rescue?" Air Force, 35 December 1952), 16-21; and "There is no Easy Way Out -- A Second Look at Mainbrace", Air Force 36 (January 1953), 21-23.

38 Commander, US. Naval Forces in Europe Narrative, 1 September 1945-1 October 1946, Enclosure (1), 14.

39 Ibid, 80.

40 Ibid.

41 Richard K. Smith, Cold War Navy (Falls Church VA: Lulejian and Associates, March 1976) 5-4; NHC, OA, Command File Post 1 Jan 46, Narrative of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, 1 September 1945 to 1 October 1946, 14, 80.

42 Narrative Ibid, 81.

43 Squadron 40-T had normally been comprised of a new cruiser and two new destroyers. See Willard C. Frank, Jr. "Multinational Naval Cooperation in the Spanish Civil War, 1936", Naval War College Review, Spring 1994, 89; CAPT Edward E. Conrad USN (Ret), "An Ensign's First Ship", Shipmate, June 1993, 20-22; and Adam Siegel, "The Tip of the Spear: The U.S. Navy and the Spanish Civil War", Center for Naval Analyses, draft unpublished paper, 1993, 13 and passim.

44 In addition to the works already cited, see David J. Alvarez, "The Missouri Visit to Turkey: An Alternative Perspective on Cold War Diplomacy," Balkan Studies 15 (1974): 225-236; Jonathan Knight, "American Statecraft and the 1946 Black Sea Straits Controversy," Political Science Quarterly 40 (Fall 1975): 451-475; Marx Leva "Barring the Door to the Med", Naval Institute Proceedings 113 (August 1987): 83-88; Stephen G. Xydis, "America, Britain and the USSR in the Greek Arena, 1944-1947," Political Science Quarterly 78 (December 1963): 581-596; and Stephen G. Xydis, "The Genesis of the Sixth Fleet," Proceedings 84 (August 1958): 41-50.

45 NHC, OA, Command File Post 1 Jan 46, Narrative of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, 1 September 1945 to 1 October 1946, 86.

46 Ibid, 87

47 Various cruisers were used, but principally Columbus (CA 74), CINCNELM flagship from September 1948 through October 1951, except for a December 1949-June 1950 overhaul in Boston MA. Nominally home-ported in Plymouth and assigned to the Northern European Force, not the Sixth Fleet, Columbus nevertheless spent much time in the Mediterranean. See also "Plymouth", All Hands, June 1951, 14-15.

48 Interview, Rear Admiral Robert P. Hilton, USN (Ret), June 14, 1993.

49 Mercury (AKS-20) until April 1947. Then Hamul (AD-20) until April 1949, when she was relieved by MercuryHamul was at Plymouth again until July 1950. See Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, Administrative History of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe, August 1945 to March 1947, 18, NHC OA; CINCNELM Annual Report, 1 July 1948-30 July 1949, 2; and Dictionary of American Fighting Ships, Vol. III, (Washington DC: USGPO, 1968) 230.

50 Eric Grove, "The Royal Navy: the Fleet Comes Home", in Martin Edwards (ed) The Defense Equation (London: Brassey's, 1986) 84.

51 NHC, OA, CINCNELM Annual Report 14 June 1952 - July 1953, 2, and subsequent reports.

52 NHC, OA, CINCNELM Annual Report, 14 June 1952-1 July 1953 (p.5) and subsequent CINCNELM Annual Reports for the next three years show the Northern European Force as only comprising two destroyers.

53 See CINCNELM Annual Reports for the period

54 NHC OA, CINCNELM Annual Report 14 June 1952 - July 1953, 2, and subsequent reports.

55 NHC, OA, CINCNELM Annual Report 1 July 1955-1 May 1956 OA Encl 1 p. 6

56 For descriptions of Northern European Force cruises, see Captain Paul H. Grouleff, "Last Cruise of Wilkes Barre", Shipmate 53, November 1990, 19-22; and "Warships and Subs Back From Europe",Navy Times, June 5, 1954, 5.

57 On the postwar Royal Navy, the current definitive work is Eric Grove, From Vanguard to Trident: British Naval Policy Since World War II. (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute, 1987). See also then-Commander William J. Crowe's "The Policy Roots of the Modern Royal Navy, 1946-1963" (Ph.D. dissertation: Princeton University, 1965), although Crowe curiously has little to say on U.S. Navy-Royal Navy relations.

58 Spruance to Nimitz, 19 June 1946, NHC OA, 00 Files, 1942-1947. Box 2 Folder 31.

59 Ibid. Spruance noted that the 1946 U.S. Navy strategic problems at the Naval War College included operations against "Russia in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic, both in high latitudes", "Great Britain as an opponent for a study of the mid-latitude Atlantic", and "the Indian Ocean briefly with a demonstrative problem of the British versus the Russians". He added -- with a touch of condescension, "I do not believe, however, that there is anything in the fact that we use the British as a possible opponent to study strategy in certain areas which would offend any sensible Englishman -- particularly, if the situation were explained to him".

60 The best published source to date covering postwar British-American naval relations is Best, "Cooperation of Like-Minded Peoples".

61 These are terms taken from the literature of political science. For a full treatment, see Morton Halperin with Arnold Kanter and Priscilla Clapp, Bureaucratic Politics (Washington DC: The Brookings Institution,1974 )

62 For a detailed account of the Anglo-American controversies over the NATO command structure, see Maloney, Securing Command of the Sea.

63 Wellborn Oral History, 334-5.

64 Ibid.

65 This view had roots in the World War II experience, and earlier. See Robert Love's chapter "Ernest J. King" in Stephen Howarth's Men of War: Great Naval Leaders of World War II (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993) for a discussion of King's contempt for the British as naval planners and operators.

66 OA NHC Burke Papers, Personal File, #51. The paper is undated, but is obviously from Burke's Op-30 tour, and -- from its place in the file -- was probably written in January 1954. Its format -- a series of short papers -- suggests that it was developed to prepare a U.S. Navy flag officer for an upcoming meeting with a Royal Navy leader.

67 On presidential and prime ministerial involvement, see Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation (New York: W. W. Norton, 1969); and Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961).

68 For an overview and status report on naval systems as of 1952, see "U.S. Navy Adopts Ideas Developed by British", Navy Times, December 13, 1952, 12. For a brief overview of postwar British accomplishments in military technology, see Roger Beaumont, "The British Armed Forces Since 1945", in Lewis H. Gann (ed), The Defense of Western Europe, (London: Croom Helm, 1987) 52-53.

69 See Ray Sturtivant, British Naval Aviation: The Fleet Air Arm, 1917-1990 (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute, 1990), Chapter 30 "The Old Order Changeth"; Paul Beaver, The British Aircraft Carrier(Cambridge: Patrick Stephens, 1983), Chapter 11 "The Post War Revolution"; and Brian Johnson, Fly Navy: The History of Naval Aviation, (New York: William Morrow, 1981), Chapter 5 "Into the Nuclear Age". On the U.S. Navy adoption of the angled deck, see Commander Harold L. Buell, "The Angled Deck Concept -- Savior of the Tailhook Navy," The Hook 15, (Fall 1987), 13-23. On adoption of the steam catapult, see Rear Admiral D.K. Weitzenfeld, "Colin Mitchell's Steam Catapult: The Heart of Modern Aircraft Carriers", Wings of Gold 10 (Summer 1985) 27-31. On the mirror landing system, see VADM Donald D. Engen, "'Roger Ball' -- How it Started," The Hook 15, Fall 1987, 24.

70 Commander Thomas B. Grassey, "Retrospective: The Midway Class", Proceedings 112, (May 1986), 186.

71 Captain Rosario Rausa, Pistons to Jets (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1987), 7.

72 Brian Gardner, "When You Need a Buddy: The Development of Air Refueling in the United States Navy", The Hook (Fall 1983) 11-13; and Lt Col Dennis K. Ryan USAF, Air Force Air Refueling for Naval Operations: History, Practice, and Recommendations (Maxwell AFB AL: Air University Press, 1990), 8.

73 "'Guinea Pig' Destroyer to Install British Device to Reduce Rolling", Navy Times, September 17, 1955, 1; and "Fin Stabilizers Due to Guided Missile Ships", Navy Times, September 8, 1956, 4.

74 Norman Friedman, U.S. Naval Weapons (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute, 1983), 143. See also Kenneth Schaffel, The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the Evolution of Continental Air Defense, 1945-1960, (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991) 199.

75 Willis C. Barnes "Korea and Vietnam (1950-1972)" in Rear Admiral Randolph W. King (Ed), Naval Engineering and American Seapower (Baltimore MD: Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1989), 301.

76 Desmond Wettern, Decline of British Seapower (London: Jane's, 1982), 84.

77 Vice Admiral Sir Peter Gretton, Former Naval Person: Winston Churchill and the Royal Navy (London: Cassell, 1968), 317

78 There is a respectable literature on this. See, for example, Eric Grove, Vanguard to Trident: Chapter Six, "Peroxide to Polaris"

79 I myself did not start out understanding this. And I learned it the hard way, through years of research. Most of that research was conducted with the superb assistance of the Naval Historical Center. Again, I thank them for their help, and I thank them for providing me with this forum today to share some of my findings with you. I hope others will now join in exploring this important era, and that some of the material in this paper has pointed the way.

Richard A. Best Jr.
Library of Congress

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been for so many years the basis of the national security policy of the United States that it is hard for many of us to think of American defense planning since the end of World War II in any other context. It is difficult now for Pentagon planners coping with post-Cold War realities; it is equally difficult for historians to recognize alternatives that could have been pursued by the Truman administration. Yet in the formative, first postwar years, an Atlantic alliance was by no means widely anticipated in Washington, especially a military alliance involving the stationing of U.S. troops in Europe. America now clearly had international responsibilities, but these would still not require specific military commitments outside the Western Hemisphere (and, to an extent, in the Western Pacific.

Pentagon planning had been initially based on other assumptions, on a continuation of something close to the framework of hemispheric defense that had characterized prewar American defense planning. Although there were forces at work which would shortly bring about entangling alliance with Europe, a form of continentalism was the initial and perhaps reflexive goal of senior defense officials as they wrestled with conditions of turmoil and complexity.

American security, postwar planning documents indicate, would depend on the country's inherent industrial strength and its ability to generate large, powerful forces from citizens prepared by a Universal Military Training (UMT) system. UMT would be buttressed by possession of a capability to retaliate for any future Pearl Harbor with devastating force and effectiveness in a strategic bombing campaign. Acquisition of the atomic bomb led some military planners (albeit to a lesser extent than some civilians) to assume that a nuclear force-in-being could by itself serve as an adequate deterrent to potential disturbers of the international peace. This planning preceded the conviction that the Soviet Union was an implacable enemy. Wartime plans were not based on the assumption that the Soviet Union would inevitably become a postwar adversary, but in 1946 and 1947, in a series of developments well known to everyone here, it came to be accepted that Moscow was America's number one enemy.

Planners had to face up to the permanent hostility of the Soviet Union in conjunction with revolutionary developments in aviation and nuclear technology. They had to accept that, for the first time, North America faced a threat of aerial attack from abroad, especially across or near to the frozen Arctic wastes--the most direct route from Soviet territory to the industrial centers of the United States. Planning became less an artificial construct used to size military forces; there was now a need for a viable defense strategy against a real-life danger.

The threat of a Soviet air attack on the continental United States led planners to focus on the possibility of creating capable air defenses for CONUS-through a network of radars and bases for interceptor aircraft. Creating an air defense system for North America was an approach consistent with traditional U.S. planning for hemispheric defenses. It was also consistent with practical politics, as it did not involve tying the country to any other nations, even to principal wartime allies (who had many international problems which Americans had no desire to share).

Since an attack by the Soviets would have to come across the polar region, air defenses would inevitably involve close cooperation with Canada. Concern about entangling alliances-which continued to be a formidable American political concern-did not seem to apply to cooperation with the friendly northern neighbor. An intimate security relationship had existed between the United States and Canada since 1940, when the Permanent Joint Board on Defense (PJBD) had been created by President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Mackenzie King.1

Pentagon planners began in 1945 and 1946 to give serious thought of erecting a network of radar sites supporting interceptor aircraft stationed at appropriately located bases in Canada, Alaska, and along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. Despite the continuity with prewar experience and a need for a strategy which would accommodate the public's determination to see the boys brought home, this approach quickly proved to be unrealistic. The technological and geopolitical realities of the emerging postwar world made it so. There were two major factors which undermined the continentalist strategy. First, a system of realistic air defenses for the continental United States would have required an enormous investment in radars and interceptors and bases that would have absorbed an unacceptable percentage of declining defense budgets. Secondly- and these points are the focus of my remarks this morning-a security policy based on continental defense would have required active cooperation and a sizable financial commitment from the Canadians.

A great deal has been written about the evolution of the Army Air Forces strategic thinking during World War II. The concentration on strategic bombing campaigns was all-encompassing and tenaciously defended. Although the results of strategic bombing in the campaign against Germany remain in dispute to this day, the atomic attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seemed to provide definitive evidence that strategic airpower could destroy an enemy's will and capability to resist. Proposals to concentrate on continental defense competed directly against the Air Force's intended goal of a sizable force of offensive strategic bombers. It is not necessary to delve into internal Air Force politics to understand that bomber advocates could make a persuasive case that building radar sites and fighter bases far to the north was a less effective allocation of resources than acquiring a force of bombers capable of delivering atomic bombs on major targets deep in Eurasia.2

At the time, however, strategic bombers-mostly B-29s with a 2,000 mile radius-based in CONUS could not effectively launch retaliatory attacks on the Soviet Union and return. As Air Force historian Harry Borowski has conclusively demonstrated, any intention of basing planes at airfields in the extreme northern latitudes had to overcome a host of then-insurmountable problems.3 The Canadian dimension (which is crucial but occasionally ignored by American historians) of the air defense problem has been carefully detailed by Professor Joseph Jockel of Saint Lawrence University in his book No Boundaries Upstairs.4 Jockel details the growing ties between military staffs in the two countries. As World War II was drawing to a close, Canadian defense officials were also giving consideration to future security issues. An Advisory Committee on Post-Hostilities Problems concluded in January 1945 that although a direct military threat to North America was unlikely "for several years at least, adequate protection against airborne attacks, especially from the North, northeast and northwest has become an essential part of North American defences." The committee further concluded that Canadian defenses should be closely coordinated with those of the United States and that Canada would have to accept greater defense responsibilities than before the war. In part, of course, the committee's work reflected a reality that in the postwar world Canada's principal partner would inevitably be the United States and not the United Kingdom as had earlier been the case.5

In October 1945, the PJBD was asked to undertake a joint assessment of potential threats to North America. It began to look to a revision of its Basic Defense Plan designed to defeat Nazi Germany. An appreciation of the threat to North America and a new Basic Security Plan designed to provide protection against a hostile Soviet Union were duly drawn up by a separate committee of military planners (the Military Cooperation Committee (MCC)) and forwarded to senior government officials in Washington and Ottawa in June 1946.

The new Basic Security Plan was based on close military cooperation between the two countries, including a program of air photography, mapping and charting, tests of personnel and equipment in the Arctic environment, exchanges of personnel, and standardization of combat equipment. Its most significant aspect, however, was its recommendation for the construction of extensive air warning and interceptor sites in the Canadian north to provide protection for the entire continent. Included was a radar network stretching across northern Canada as well as both Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the deployment of hundreds of U.S. and Canadian aircraft. Its costs would inevitably run into many millions of American and Canadian dollars.

Although the need for close U.S.-Canadian cooperation was widely accepted among Canadian leaders, it was quickly perceived by Prime Minister Mackenzie King that such plans would place enormous demands on Canadian taxpayers. Ottawa was also reluctant to launch a policy patently antagonistic to the Soviets, with whom relations had already soured dramatically after exposure of a Soviet spy ring in Ottawa in 1945. The plan was put on hold by the Canadian cabinet while the strategic and fiscal implications were weighed.

Canadian leaders had an awareness of the need for a primary connection to the United States, but they remained especially sensitive to British security concerns (even though the prime minister was a dedicated opponent of schemes for coordinated Imperial defense planning). A logical approach was to encourage a close Anglo-American relationship in which Canada would retain the good will of both. The British, needless to say, were not keen to see the United States or Canada single-mindedly focus on the Arctic ice flows while they were stretched to the limits in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and central Europe. London was doing its best to steer the Canadians (and, as I have argued elsewhere,6 the Americans) towards playing a role in collective security arrangements to deter the Soviets.

What the Canadians did not realize (as has been demonstrated by Professor Jockel) was that the U.S. input to the BSP, albeit approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not fully reflective of American priorities. The American delegation to the MCC, headed by Army Major General Guy Henry, a former Chief of Cavalry recalled to active duty during the war, was in fact operating on a rather long leash. Henry and his colleagues felt themselves free to draw up a plan based on North American defense requirements as they understood them. The Basic Security Plan arrangements were not, however, systematically brought into alignment with the priorities of the Bureau of the Budget nor of the Pentagon. To those experienced in Pentagon practices this is not especially surprising, but the Canadian government thought they were being presented with an elaborate and expensive American plan, coordinated at the highest levels, for radars and bases on Canadian territory and in Newfoundland, which they would be expected to help build, maintain, and staff.

In reality, Henry and his colleagues were not taking into adequate account (or were not sufficiently advised of) other factors that would determine U.S. national security policy. The pressure for massive reductions in defense spending would grow until the Korean War. Bombers with greater capabilities for offensive operations were the Air Force's all-consuming ambition and easily overshadowed interest in air defense.

Consideration of the Basic Security Plan seems to have been kept separate from planning for European and Middle East contingencies, but I am not sure this resulted from tight compartmentation. More likely, Henry was left to do his thing in an area that was not on the Pentagon's front burner and requirements for North American were left in place, but--unbeknownst to the Canadians--it was accepted in the Pentagon that they were by no means the first priority.

Canadian skepticism of the Basic Security Plan did not diminish in the summer and fall of 1946, even though the reality of Soviet capabilities was understood and Ottawa shared Washington's concerns with the drift of Moscow's policies. Even a meeting between King and President Truman in October 1946 did not clarify in the Prime Minister's mind the lack of zeal that existed in Washington for an expansive air defense network.7

The record shows, moreover, that an important factor in shaping Canadian skepticism was an unwillingness to accept the reality of a genuine Soviet threat from the North; instead they believed that the real danger lay in Europe and that attacks on North America would be at most diversionary. At a cabinet meeting on November 15, 1946 to consider the issue, Brooke Claxton, shortly to become Minister of National Defence, emphasized "in the strongest terms . . . a fundamental difference in the concepts of the American and Canadian Staffs." The Americans, Claxton maintained, "say that they are to be the object of the main attack, and we say that at the outset we would be the object of a diversionary attack." Claxton's views, shared by some, but not all senior military officials, had a sympathetic listener in Prime Minister Mackenzie King-no fan of expansive military projects and as determined to reduce defense expenditures as his American counterpart.

The Canadian cabinet's unhappiness with the Basic Security Plan led to the call for a meeting with the Americans at the political level. Secret talks were arranged to be held in an Ottawa hotel to avoid attracting undue speculation; military men were to wear civilian attire to avoid press notice. Significantly, however, the U.S. delegation to the talks in mid-December 1946 included not only the officials who had helped prepare the plan but also the Counselor of the State Department, George Kennan, who had recently returned from the Moscow Embassy from which he had dispatched several memorable messages on the nature of Soviet policy. In the context of an extensive discussion of the relative threats facing the West as a whole, Kennan contributed a major infusion of realism to the U.S.-Canadian discussions, emphasizing that the threat was not so much one of a surprise military attack but rather a long drawn-out geopolitical struggle.8

In ending the Ottawa meeting, the two sides acknowledged that any rapid implementation of the air warning and interceptor aspects of the plan was out of the question, although planning would continue at the military staff level. Plans for North American air defenses were essentially put on hold. U.S. and Canadian military officials concentrated on improving liaison and coordination, joint exercises, exchanges of personnel, and other worthy projects. Announcement of continuing U.S.-Canadian defense cooperation was dutifully, if blandly, announced in February 1947.9

The Ottawa meeting represented the point at which a continentalist strategy was definitively recognized as being inappropriate. Both Canada and the United States would subsequently base their defense planning on being prepared to deter and, if necessary, resist Soviet aggression in Europe. The Ottawa meeting is an important marker on the road to the North Atlantic Alliance which would formally commit both countries to the defense of Western Europe.

Planning for North American air defenses did continue, it being recognized that the Soviet Union would eventually acquire capabilities for intercontinental bombing attacks as well as long range missiles. Authorization for a system known as Plan Supremacy was sought in late 1947, but no appropriations became available. Funds for extensive radar systems did become available with the rapid expansion in defense spending at the time of the Korean War and eventually the well-known series of radar lines (Pinetree, Mid-Canada and DEW) was eventually constructed in the 1950s. But before this happened Canada and the United States were thoroughly enmeshed in the North Atlantic Alliance. By the time the various radar lines were installed, they were connected more to the protection of a second strike capability than simply with continental defense.

It is true that as the international situation deteriorated throughout 1946 some American planners were shifting their attention towards countering Soviet capabilities to overrun Western Europe and the Middle East, as reflected in the series of Pincher plans drawn up (but not officially adopted) in 1946 and 1947.10 Nonetheless, there were miles to go before Washington would base its force structure and strategy on defending Western Europe against a Soviet attack. It is noteworthy that Canadian political leaders were somewhat quicker than their American counterparts to accept the fact that the perimeters of North American defenses now had to run through the heart of Central Europe. This realization no doubt encouraged the early and important role Ottawa played in the negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty, but that is another story.

Note: The views express above represent those of the author and not those of the Congressional Research Service, the Library of Congress, or any Federal agency.


Canadian defense policy is ably treated by James Eayrs in a number of works. For this period, see In Defence of Canada: Peacemaking and Deterrence (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972); also, Denis Smith, Diplomacy of fear: Canada and the Cold War, 1941-1948 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988). The standard account of the PJBD in wartime is Stanley W. Dziuban, Military Relations Between the United States and Canada, 1939-1945 (Washington: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1959).

The evolution of air defense is treated by Kenneth Schaffel, The Emerging Shield: the Air Force and the Evolution of Continental Air Defense, 1945-1960 (Washington: Office of Air Force History, 1991). More general aspects of Air Force history is analyzed by Robert Franck Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: A History of Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force, 1907-1964 (Maxwell, Alabama: Air University, 1971); also Herman S. Wolk, Planning and Organizing the Postwar Air Force, 1943-1947 (Washington: Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force, 1984).

Harry R. Borowski, A Hollow Threat: Strategic Air Power and Containment Before Korea (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982).

Joseph T. Jockel, No Boundaries Upstairs: Canada, the United States and the Origins of North American Air Defence, 1945-1958 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987. Also important is the same author's "The Canada-United States Military Co-operation Committee and Continental Air Defence, 1946," Canadian Historical Review, Vol. LXIV, No. 3, 1983.

See Report of the Advisory Committee on Post-Hostilities Problems, 'Post-War "Canadian Defence Relationship with the United States: General Considerations,' 23 January 1945, reprinted in Eayrs, In Defence of Canada: Peacemaking and Deterrence, pp. 375-380.

In my "Co-operation Among Like-Minded Peoples:" British Influences on American Security Policy, 1945-1949 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986).

An oral message had been prepared by the State Department that seemed to endorse an expansive system of defenses "as far out from Canadian and American industrial centers as possible," but Truman apparently did not read the message to King. It was nonetheless forwarded in diplomatic channels to Canada shortly thereafter. Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman, October 26, 1946, reprinted in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, V, pp. 57-61. See Jockel, Boundaries, pp. 25-26.

The Canadian account of these talks is found in Memorandum from Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to Prime Minister, December 26, 1946, printed in Canada, Department of External Affairs,Documents on Canadian External Relations, 1946, Vol. 12 (Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services, Canada, 1977), pp. 1721-1725. The U.S. version is found in Memorandum of Canadian-United States Defense Conversations Held in Ottawa in Suite "E" Chateau Laurier Hotel, December 16 and 17, 1946, reprinted in U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, Vol. 5 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1969), pp. 68-75.

"U.S.-Canadian Permanent Joint Board on Defense to Continue Collaboration for Security Purposes, Department of State Bulletin, February 23, 1947, p. 361.

10 See Steven T. Ross, American War Plans, 1945-1950 (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1988), pp. 25-52.

Speakers' Biographies

Lawrence S. Kaplan is one of the foremost authorities on the history of the NATO alliance. He earned the B.A. degree at Colby College in 1947 and took the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History at Yale in 1948 and 1951, respectively. Dr. Kaplan launched his professional career as an historian with the Department of Defense from 1951 to 1954. He then began a long association with Kent State University, ultimately serving as a professor of history, chairman of the history department, and dean of the college of arts and sciences. He has held many fellowships, scholarships, and other academic honors. Dr. Kaplan has authored, co-authored, or edited 17 books, numerous book chapters, and articles. From 1979 to 1992, he was the Director of the Lyman L. Lemnitzer Center for NATO and European Studies at Kent State University. He is currently preparing a study of Robert S. McNamara.

Peter M. Swartz has been a scholar in uniform. In 1965, he received a B.A. degree in international relations and a commission in the U.S. Navy from Brown University. During the next 10 years, he earned an M.A. in international relations from Johns Hopkins' School of Strategic and International Studies, taught in the Navy's schools system, and served a tour in Vietnam. Subsequent tours were served as a strategist and analyst in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, with the U.S. Mission to NATO, and as a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Captain Swartz retired from the Navy in 1992 to pursue a doctorate in history at Columbia University. His dissertation topic is the U.S. Navy's involvement in the early days of the NATO alliance.

Richard A. Best Jr. earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from Rice University in 1965 and 1967 and completed a doctorate in Modern European studies at Georgetown in 1983. He has taught courses on European civilization and U.S. defense policy at Rice, Georgetown, and Catholic universities. Dr. Best also served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, with tours in intelligence at home and abroad. Following his military commitment, he worked as a civilian analyst at the National Security Agency and as a legislative assistant in the House of Representatives. Dr. Best has authored numerous articles on naval strategy relating to modern Europe and in 1986 published a book with Greenwood Press entitled Co-Operation with Like-Minded Peoples: British Influences on American Defense Policy, 1945-1949.


Mote: The views or opinions expressed or implied are those of the speakers alone and not those of the Department of the Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.


Published: Wed Nov 18 14:32:06 EST 2020