The official Navy Birthday is now celebrated on October 13 every year thanks to Admiral Zumwalt declaring that day as the one to remember. But it has not always been celebrated on that day or with the same focus.
In 1947, the aftermath of the Second World War was being felt all around the world. The Iron Curtain had been declared, the Cold War was starting to emerge and the Navy was undergoing many changes. Historians tell us that there was a tremendous amount of pressure to amalgamate all of the services into one post war structure under a unified Department of Defense. The Navy fought most fiercely against this unification since it was not convinced that the Army would be able to understand the needs of a nautical force.
The article that follows came from the United Press services but reading it from a Navy Historian perspective, I can see the influence of many of the Navy’s leaders in the words and ideas. What is remarkable for 1947 was how right the predictions ended up being. I thought it fitting as we approach the 243rd Anniversary of the Navy that this article would be a great post to share. I hope you agree.
Navy Expects War With Russia Next
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25. 1947 — (UP)—
The Navy, celebrating its “birthday” Monday, is vigorously preparing for the greatest fundamental changes in its 172 year history.
It has a fistful of ideas for ships, new weapons and new ways of fighting that to promise a revolution in warfare.
Submerging capital ships, rockets armed with atomic, planes that can outrun he sun, clear skies when you want them — these are only a few of the dramatic ideas the Navy is considering.
Deep in the secret file until very recently was a development that seems tame by comparison but is actually of tremendous importance. It is “Radac” a revolutionary method of answering battle questions at the speed of light.
Details of Radac—rapid digital automatic computation— are locked up as tight as the Navy Knows how but the only announcement of its existence compared it in military significance to radar —king of war due inventions.
Many advances are a long way off, but even in the next few years the Navy would not fight a war with the weapons of World War II.
Carriers are switching to jet planes. Cruisers are getting completely automatic turrets. Destroyers are being equipped with new intricate detection devices. Submarines are learning to use the German “schnorkel/’8 breathing tube that allows a sub to stay concealed for weeks at a time.
None of these inventions played in a part in the war. Their development is a delayed dividend on war research.
Our original Navy idea was a fleet of ships to defend the shores of the United States against an enemy. For such a purpose the present day powerful fleet has no equal. But if the United States is to do anything about keeping peace in the world and supporting small nations against aggression, then a different kind of fleet is needed.
It will have to go anywhere in the world and fight if need be not other ships but planes and submarines defending foreign shores, perhaps with atom bombs. It will have to protect and land troops and supplies unless atomic war eliminates the need of an invasion.
Navy leaders do not say so publicly, but their private nightmare features Russia seizing the Middle East and Europe with her huge army and the U.S. trying to carve a foothold for an expeditionary force by the use of sea and air power.
Regardless of whether this is a realistic estimate, the American fleet is slowly being prepared for such a mission.
The battleships designed to fight other battleships, is dead. Its place will be taken by a new type vessel, the guided missile ship.
Two experimental ships are being constructed, using the unfinished hulls of other type ships. In the same way the first aircraft carriers were converted from other hulls.
The main weapons of the new type will be guided missiles and rockets. The huge 1-inch rifle, with its amazing accuracy, is obsolete.
The ram jet engine for a guided missile has done better than 1,500 miles per hour under test, but years will pass before it can carry a warhead and have a good range.
Rockets are closer. The first big ship rocket, the Neptune, is scheduled for test next year. Capable of 235 miles range with a light load, it is designed to teach scientists how to build big rocket weapons rather than be a weapon itself.
Marking the first such experiment, a German V-2 rocket was fired last month from the carrier Midway, but it behaved erratically and exploded six miles from the ship. One leading admiral said later that the information obtained could have been discovered by a little study and thinking.
Although the Navy does not contemplate arming its carriers with 45 – foot rockets, shipboard testing of the Neptune will probably be undertaken on a carrier. The guided missile ships are a long ways from being finished.
Defense of all ships, but especially the guided missile ships, which will have to carry the brunt of the attack, will bring many changes.
Ships will have to be sealed against radio-activity, all fighting and navigation done from below decks. Radar antennas, gun directors and other equipment which cannot withstand the shock of atomic bomb blast will have to be strengthened or made retractable into the hull.
Propulsion by atomic energy has been predicted variously for the next five or ten years. The Navy’s best ships will have to be equipped with it, bringing such changes as eliminating the smoke funnel, increasing range, providing more space for armament, probably higher speeds.
With superstructure and funnel cut down, the capital ship will look like a submarine and may end up being just that.
As I think about ships like the Ohio and Virginia Class submarines operating in tandem with the nuclear powered super-carriers and their amazing fleet of technological warriors, I wonder what the authors of this article would think today. I also wonder what the future of the Navy will be as we experiment with the new weapons that would not have even been imagined in that day. Especially the ones named after the man who set the Navy’s Birthday as October 13.