American Naval Policy

November 20, 1935

Report Outline
Preparations for Coming London Naval Conference
United States Navy Before and Since the World War
American Naval Needs in the Atlantic and Pacific
The Navy and America's New Neutrality Policy

Preparations for Coming London Naval Conference

Delegates of the principal sea powers are to meet in London on December 5 to undertake the task of framing a naval limitation treaty to go into effect when the Washington and London treaties expire on December 31, 1936. Preliminary conversations conducted a year ago by representatives of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan disclosed an unyielding determination on the part of Japan to subscribe to no new agreement which did not accord her the right to complete naval equality with the United States and Great Britain. Since a Japanese navy equal in size and strength to the American or British navies would be vastly superior to either in practical operation, owing to its concentration in a restricted area, Tokyo's demand met resistance, particularly from the United States.

Nothing has occurred since the conversations closed on December 19, 1934, to denote a change in either the Japanese or the American position. On July 22, 1935, the British government, which last year made efforts to evolve a compromise, announced that it was prepared to abandon the ratio principle. It proposed as an alternative a series of bilateral conversations in which each power would be asked to state what size navy it desired to have by 1942—the year when the American navy is scheduled to reach treaty strength—when a conference would be held to consider extension or reduction of existing programs. In the meantime, the British hoped that by application of their method the various programs could be so adjusted as to provide adequate strength for each country without giving any nation power to attack another with anticipation of ultimate success. This suggestion was coldly received, Japan intimating that it would amount to continuance of the ratio system without the name. Plans subsequently went forward for convening a general conference late this year.

World Unsettlement and Risk of New Naval Rivalry

Gathering war clouds in Europe only made more dubious the chances for a successful outcome of that meeting. In a Navy Day pronouncement on October 27 President Roosevelt declared that “in the unsettled conditions existing throughout the world, it is imperative that we should heed the needs of national defense.” It became known a few days later that Secretary of the Navy Swanson had instructed navy yard commandants to speed up construction of vessels now being built. At a campaign meeting in England on October 28 Prime Minister Baldwin asserted that “what we want, what we must have, is to replace our pre-war construction in ships by modern ships.” Two weeks later the British government's general rearmament program was given a strong popular endorsement at the polls. Japan, meanwhile, had been showing signs of preparing for further penetration on the mainland of Asia.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Navy
Jul. 23, 1976  Navy Rebuilding
Mar. 06, 1968  Sea Power and Global Strategy
Oct. 06, 1945  Army-Navy Consolidation
Oct. 02, 1941  Undeclared Naval Warfare
Oct. 25, 1939  Naval Blockades and Submarine Warfare
Nov. 20, 1935  American Naval Policy
Nov. 19, 1934  Naval Limitation and Pacific Problems, 1921–1936
Oct. 27, 1931  The Proposed Naval Holiday
Jul. 25, 1930  Military and Naval Expenditures
Jan. 16, 1930  The London Naval Conference
Sep. 28, 1929  The Anglo-American Naval Situation
Feb. 13, 1928  The 1928 Naval Building Program
U.S. at War: World War II