• U.S.

ARMY & NAVY: To Arms

4 minute read

Last week, at annual Budget time, the U. S. people heard billions beingbandied about for National Defense. In the name of National Defense they were to be asked to pay more taxes, spend less for Relief, less for the farmers, less for roads, less to fight syphilis. To $7,643,274,643 spent by their Army & Navy since 1934, they and their Congress were asked to add a mountainous $2,309,445,246.

At Sea. For their money the U. S. people have a wellarmed, well-organized, undermanned Big Navy. They soon will have an armada stupendous by any standards, second only to (if not bigger than) Great Britain’s, more formidable than any now afloat. Awesome as the sea is the arithmetic of U. S. sea power:

» Now in service are 15 battleships, six aircraft carriers, about 2,200 planes, 37 cruisers, 230 destroyers (including some outmoded cans), 96 submarines, 144,000 officers and men.

» Abuilding (and yet to pay for) are eight more battleships, two aircraft carriers, six cruisers, 34 destroyers, 18 submarines, many more planes.

» To be laid down this year (if Congress assents) are two more battleships, another aircraft carrier, two cruisers, eight destroyers, six submarines, four auxiliary tenders (which the Navy sorely lacks), one mine sweeper.

» Ships, like men, grow old (but do not necessarily lose their usefulness). In addition to overage but serviceable vessels, which alone would comprise a respectable fleet, the Navy is shooting for a monster, modern, under-age force to include: 18 battleships, eleven aircraft carriers, 6,000 planes, 53 cruisers, 202 destroyers, 88 submarines, 36 blimps (for coastal observation). Then the U. S. indeed would have what its admirals prescribe—a fleet mighty enough to beat any other naval power, friendly Great Britain included.

On Land. The Army, even as U. S.

Armies go, is neither so big nor so hungry. And, because it is even more undermanned, the U. S. Army is not so well organized as the Navy. Appropriations to bring the skeletal standing Army up to 227,000 men and 13,831 officers are still insufficient to flesh out vital corps organizations. At its new authorized strength of 235,000, the National Guard will be better for power, will still be undertrained and underequipped.

Equipment is the Army’s sore point. Because until lately the U. S. people planned things that way, their prospective “Army in Being” must fill huge holes in its supplies if it is to be ready to fight on call. As recently as 1938, Chief of Staff Malin Craig figured that $142,000,000 should be enough to plug the biggest gaps (modern field artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, rapid-fire rifles, tanks, gas masks, ammunition). For such ordnance the Army last year got almost as much as Malin Craig had begged, in last week’s estimates was allotted $100,266,413 more, was still far from surfeited. Only for Air Corps expansion did the Army feel well fed. After the $300,000,000 of money for the Air Corps voted last year, a mere $76,205,988 for new planes and parts (mostly replacements) appeared in the new budget. Other Army items:

» For badly run down coast defenses, $14,720,712.

» For further protective equipment and forces and new locks at the Panama Canal, $34,000,000.

» For badly needed bigger & better field training, $54,000,000.

» For barracks, other “public works” at Army posts, $48,485,298.

» For “non-military,” thoroughly peace ful flood control, dams, etc., $56,718,737.

What For? Last week Congressmen in audible numbers asked each other out loud why they had recently voted so much, why they were requested to vote so much more for National Defense. In good partisan tradition, many of the doubters were Republicans, who grumbled less about preparedness than about the horrid prospect of preparedness taxes in an election year. But the queries came fast and loud enough to insure that capable, meticulous Chief of Naval Operations Harold Raynsford Stark, the Army’s smart, hardbitten Chief of Staff George Catlett Marshall and their subordinates must give a clearer definition of what they mean by National Defense.

Until wartime bugles blow, the U. S. people always like to think that they, their Army and their Navy would never fight away from their seabound mainland. “The Atlantic and the Pacific are of tremendous value to our defensive situation, but they are not impassable,” observed George Marshall in a piece published last week. In such impassable equivocations, he and the Navy’s “Betty” Stark must deal. Otherwise that peaceful ostrich, the U. S. Citizenry, might suspect that its hired fighting men are doing their bounden duty by preparing to fight anywhere on earth.

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