On 23 April 1949, the process of cost-cutting and military unification led Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson to halt construction of the Navy's new supercarrier, the USS United States. This prompted much protest from Navy officials, but Johnson defended his action, saying that the USS United States was a platform for strategic bombing, a function he felt was adequately served by Air Force B-36 bombers. Also, due to a lack of nuclear weapons, the development of a carrier which could deploy nuclear-equipped aircraft was not financially feasible. The cesation of construction implied the end of Navy aviation. Implications aside, it was an outright modification of the Navy's plans for future defense development without their consultation. Secretary of the Navy, John Sullivan, immediately gave president Harry S. Truman his resignation.

Shortly after, an anonymous document was made public and eventually presented to the Armed Services Committee which stated that Louis A. Johnson, as well as the Secretary of the Air Force would gain personally through the procurement of more B-36 bombers and that had been their motivation for the decision to halt construction on the ship. The document was soon found to have been written by Cedric Worth, a civilian assistant to the under-secretary of the Navy (and interestingly, a former Hollywood script writer). Unfortunately for the Navy, this document was also found to be completely false.

Despite this, angry letters sent by three Naval Admirals resulted in hearings before the Congressional Armed Services Committee. Their complaint was against the de-emphasis of naval aviation. Prominent Navy officials presented their arguments to the commitee in person or through written statements from October 13 through 15, 1949. Omar Bradly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused these men of "open rebellion" for their dissent.

Eventually the committee sided with neither the Air Force or the Navy. In the Committee Report released on March 1, 1950, they concluded that they were not qualified to evaluate the effectiveness of the B-36 bomber. They did, however, question the qualifications of Louis A. Johnson to make decisions regarding the development of Navy vessels and decided that the government should accept the advice of leaders of each service regarding it's weapons.

Unfortunately, this was all a result (in my opinion) of misunderstandings between the Air Force and the Navy. The Air Force viewed the Navy's development of air power as competition whereas the Navy only wanted to enhance their sea power through the use of sea-based aircraft. It was also the result of a poor decision on the part of Louis A. Johnson. Although an ammendment to the National Security Act gave him the authority to make such decisions, he did so only under the advisement of Army and Air Force officals, and without consulting the Navy; a decision which ultimately led to his early resignation from the office of the Secretary of Defense at the request of Harry S. Truman.



references: http://internationaldefense.com, www.defenselink.mil, http://www.afa.org/, www.navy.mil

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