Class: 628 Airpower II                                                         Date: 20 Nov 2012

1. Bibliographic Entry. Revolt of the Admirals

2.  Author: Jeffrey Barlow

          Naval historian at the naval historical center

3.  Scope & Context:  Post WWII inter-service relations, particularly between the newly formed USAF and the USN

4.  Evidence/credibility:  historical narrative, with biases toward naval aviators (father was a naval aviator)

5.  Central Proposition/Thesis: USAF threatened the existence of naval air and worked unfairly against it. Naval aviators were denied a place in the post-WWII security strategy and needed to ‘revolt’ against DoD policies.

6.  Sub-themes:

a.      Author believes the carrier stood alone in defeating land based Japanese air, and as such, can do it again in the future.

b.     Author believes naval air TTPs and strategy was better formed at the outset of WWII (and thus concluded the war better as well) due to the Navy developing their doctrine at sea, under exercises and trials.  He opposes this to the ACTS who only developed their experience in the classroom (8-13)

a.     Again biased.  The Navy had no more combat experience than the USAAF at the outset of WWII, and the USAAF exercised as well.   As a matter of fact, the USAAF taught the Navy a few lessons during exercise that they didn’t heed until the Japanese Navy reminded them at Pearl Harbor.

c.     Author makes a valid point that the USAF was espousing airpower as the preeminent capability for national security in the ‘jet-age,’ but the USAF was only advocating for USAF airpower.  Airpower should include Naval airpower. (46)

d.     Naval response to the rise of the USAF and airpower is a typical status quo power reacting to an emerging state.  The Navy wanted to remain preeminent, but unlike the Army, they didn’t want to face reality and accept that some of their traditional mission would need to be shared by the USAF. 

e.     PTP: did the Navy act responsibly toward US national security in the  nuclear age, or did it try to sell something no one was interested in buying? Was the Navy trying to suppress the role of nuclear weapons? (88)

f.      PTP: Could a temporary and time limited (deck cycles) asset like a carrier task force truly sustain a strategic air campaign? Could a highly visible and vulnerable target like a carrier survive long enough to get into an attack position?

g.     Author cites the lack of success at Bikini from nukes against surface ships.  So what. Ships aren’t the target, and even if they were, this would only make the Navy that much more of a non-player in the nuke role because it’s their job to sink ships.

h.     The Key West and Newport agreements established the Navy as a partner in strategic bombing as required to execute their mission, and included them in nuclear weapons employment abilities.  The Navy agreed not to establish a strategic air force. This should have ended the debate, until budget battles re-ignited the rivalry. 

i.      Author again introduces a biased argument for intercepting the B-36.  Has no appreciation for, or knowledge of, the limits of TTPs of the very capability he’s suggesting should negate USAF strategic bombing capabilities.  This is a thinly veiled argument for big carriers, and would have been detrimental to national security.  Apparently, as long as we have big and exciting ships, national security can go to hell. (211)

j.      PTP: the big ‘revolt’ that the author writes his book about is simply the naval aviator flag crowd telling a congressional committee that they still need naval air, that it still has a viable place in national security and naval combat strategy.  Concur.  This is hardly a revolt but a realization that the Navy has a role, they just need to accept their reduced role in national security.


8 From 1 September 1944 to 15 August 1945 alone U.S. Navy F6F and F4U fighters destroyed 2,948 Japanese fighters (1,882 of them first-line Zeke [Zero 1 or other advanced model aircraft) in com)at at a cost of only 191 American planes.25 Such achievements by U.S. naval aviators dispelled the prewar belief that carrier aviation could not go up against, much less defeat, land-based aircraft.

            (Poorly construed, and biased argument.  If this is the basis for the rest of his thesis, then it’s erroneous. By the time carrier aviation went up against a broken Japanese air arm that was operated by idiots.  A combined US force broke Japan’s ability to conduct a war, including carrier aviation, but to say that carriers sailed into harms way and beat the Japanese at this rate is totally unfounded propaganda.)

46 The first theme was that air power had become the nation's dominant military force. General Spaatz asserted in October 1945, The aeronautical advance of the past few years has ushered in the 'Air Age.' Its primary force is Air Power. As sea-power was the dominant factor in the destiny of nations in the nineteenth century, so today the dictate is Air Power." Where before, the Navy had served to protect U.S. shores from enemy invasion, in the air age only air power could defend the United States from the devastation wrought by an enemy air force

88 In June 1946 Admiral Nimitz wrote to General Dwight Eisenhower suggesting that the joint planners avoid affirming in their plans that atomic bombs would be used, since such weapons might be outlawed by international agreement or the United States might choose not to employ them. A few days later in a related action, VCNO Duke Ramsey recommended to the JCS that a sentence stating that atomic weapons would be used if the United States became involved in a major war be removed from a list of general assumptions scheduled to be issued for joint planning purposes.

123 The Key West agreement assigned the primary function of strategic air warfare to the Air Force. The Navy, however, was assigned the collateral function to be prepared to participate in the overall air effort as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During the course of the meetings, the Navy representatives reiterated that their service had no intention of setting lip a strategic air force.  Accordingly, the group as a whole (including the Air Force representatives) finally agreed that the Navy could attack inland targets and could employ atomic weapons in carrying out it'; tasks.

129 After lengthy and sometimes heated debate, those present agreed that although the Air Force would be designated the interim executive agent for AFSWP, the Navy would be allowed to participate in atomic bombing, both for tactical purposes and, in assisting in the overall air offensive, for strategic purposes as well.

211 The Navy demonstrated the ability of its new F2H Banshee fighters to launch from the carrier and climb to 40,000 feet in just seven minutes. (at what endurance? At what sortie rate? Deck cycles and avoidance tactics just about negates this point defense TTP.)