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Evening star. [volume] (Washington, D.C.) 1854-1972, February 11, 1940, Image 82

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1940-02-11/ed-1/seq-82/

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I
In THIS war-ridden world millions of Americans are
asking if America is prepared to meet military attack.
We have a long and vulnerable coast line to defend.
JPe are envied and hated by nations that desire certain
of our possessions. The crux of our vulnerability is the
Panama Canal. Without it, we would be quickly crip
pled. Is it properly protected? How long will it take
to give it the protection it needs?
To answer these questions, and many others that
will be obvious as you read, woe asked Frasier Hunt,
famous wear correspondent, to make a thorough study
of American defense, and to tell the blunt truth to
our readers. This is the first of a series of articles that
tcill lift the curtain on the facts about our Navy, our
Air Corps and our Army. It should be of vital interest
to every one of our one hundred and thirty million
citizens. -The Editor
does America need in order to
ce herself reasonably safe?
./hat has she now to defend her
self with, in a world that understands only
force?
Let us for the moment stop being seif
•atimM sentimentalists, and be cold-blooded
realists. Let’s consider these facts:
Our total army of some 400,000 regulars
and National Guard troops is no larger than
that of tiny Finland; it is less than one-fifth
the Polish army that was crushed and de
moralized in seventeen days by the German
war machine; it is no more than a third the
size of the Chinese army that faced the Jap
anese invasion two years ago.
Our navy is a splendid fighting force, but
half its ships are now over-age; many ships
now building will not be complete until 1944;
and, even in 1944, there will be very definite
ltmitu to what wc can expect our Navy to
accomplish.
And today, added to the threat of war on
land or sea, is the greater threat of war in the
air. Long-range bombers are casting their
ominous black shadows far in front of them,
and we begin to realize that our old ocean
security will be weakened and possibly gone
forever.
Our “empire” stretches from the Atlantic
a full 10,000 miles westward to the Philip
pines.
We are rich, proud, and always right —
and enjoy sticking our nose in other people’s
business. Sooner or later that may lead to
trouble.
Well, just how do we stand in this world of
force and arms? We have no way of foretelling
how the present war may end, or what its
peace consequences may be. It is conceivable
that a group of more or less unfriendly powers
may emerge all-powerful and victorious. Part
of the peace settlement might be the ceding
of some of the French or British Caribbean
islands, or British or French or Dutch Guiana,
to these unfriendly powers. Any one of the
islands is only a bomber-hop from the Panama
Panal. Or it might be that a part of eastern
Canada would be the price of peace. That
would put enemy bombers within striking
Hinfancp of our great Eastern cities and indus
trial centers.
What would we b& able to do about it?
Could we defend our rights, and our hemi
sphere, against a combination of victorious
and unfriendly powers?
To answer that question, our first job is to
consider the United States Navy — America's
traditional first line of defense. How big is it?
How big should it be? How wide a field can it
cover — and defend?
In 1921 our statesmen and well-wishers
destroyed a quarter of a billion dollars worth
of fighting ships — sunk them without trace.
Then for the next eleven years we coasted
along on the promise of a world at peace.
During the eleven years of our naval holiday
we laid down a grand total of thirty-six ships,
against 156 by Japan and 123 by England.
Then we put a sailor in the White House.
He realized the importance of adequate de
fense in an upside-down world, but he quickly
had his ears knocked back when he tried
to modernize our Army. He did better with
the Navy. In his first year in office the Presi
dent allocated $238,000,000 horn emergency
funds for the construction of thirty-two ships.
The next year the Vinson-Trammell Act gave
us ninety-four additional ships, forty-five of
which are now in service and the rest still
building. Then in May, 1938, came the billion
iMlnr naval building program. To date this
vast program — for which only $70,000,000
has, up to this present Congress, been actu
ally appropriated — has given us a grand
addition of exactly two oil tankers, purchased
ready-built. But new fighting ships will begin
to appear this year, and by 1944 the billion
dollars’ worth will be in service.
But ships, like men, grow old. A submarine
is ready for the scrap heap after thirteen
years. A battleship lasts for twenty-six years.
It can be modernized, but it is still nothing
but a rebuilt job.
Today we have fifteen battleships. One is
already over-age; two will become over-age
this year, and four more in 1942. That means
that seven of the fifteen great ships of our
battle line are, or soon will be, obsolete. Of
the remaining eight the two newest are six
teen years old, the next two are eighteen, and
the rest still older. It is a proud but aging
fleet that guards our ocean ramparts.
Now we have eight beautiful battleships
in the building. Two of them are 45,000-ton
ships, and they will cost around $90,000,000
each. When they are finally commissioned
they will be the most powerful battlewagons
in the world. In 1944, when this billion-dollar
program is completed, what will be oqr
strength in modem, under-age ships? We
will then have the following under-age ships:
16 battleships
45 cruisers
150 destroyers
56 submarines
8 aircraft carriers
3,000 active Navy planes
That’s the picture for 1944. Only the British
Navy of that date will equal it in size and
fighting strength — and even Britain won’t if
her fleet is whittled down by the war. Our
Navy will be some thirty per cent larger than
the Japanese, and will be the equal of the
German and Italian navies combined.
And if the appropriations being asked for
at this session of Congress go through, we
should have in the latter forties three addi
tional aircraft carriers, eight more cruisers,
large numbers of additional submarines and
auxiliaries and an air strength double the
3.000 planes projected. As this is written itja
impossible to tell what new warships will be
authorized. There is talk that bigger warships
may be built in smaller number — and of
fast, heavily-gunned cruisers of 12,000 to
20.000 tons or more.
A he figures given above, let it be under
stood, do not take into account the over-age
or reconditioned ships that may still be in
service for patrol and training purposes — or
ntiyiliariim guch as sub-chaaers and small
torpedo boats. Nor do they reflect the status
of our Merchant Marine, so essential for
supply and transport in time of war. Under
the United States Maritime Commission
eighty-six new ship6 — over 1,000,000 tons —
have been added. But still more ships and
more trained men are needed for a merchant
marine adequate for a nation at war.
But let’s concentrate on the figures for the
Navy itself. Assume that the present naval
building program is pushed through to com
pletion in 1944. Will that give us a big enough
navy for our probable needs? And just what
are our probable needs? Who is threatening w
us —and where? And what’s all this talk
about a two-ocean Navy?
You have been reading a lot about a two
(Comtiitvd om pag» 6)
J-II-4* /

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