ARMY & NAVY: Fleet Problem XVI

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As the sun popped its red head over the San Bernardino Mountains early one morning last week, the main strength of the U.S. Fleet stood out of San Pedro and San Diego harbors, went nodding up the California coast with torpedo-shaped, mine-cutting paravanes hung from every grey prow and all hands at battle stations. In the preceding preparatory weeks the West Coast had thrilled to the report that, although not a shot was to be fired, the Fleet had taken aboard almost its wartime ammunition load. Thus began Fleet Problem XVI, grandest Naval maneuver in U.S. history. whose scene and scope agitated the nation as none of its annual predecessors ever had before.

While a smaller detachment proceeded to Puget Sound, the main force paused at San Francisco. Then spade-bearded, air minded Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves, one of the few Fleet Commanders-in-Chief to be distinguished with a second year's term, steamed into the Pacific at the head of his flotilla. With that, absolute censorship clapped down. On land, less than a dozen officers in the Navy's Operations Office at Washington knew with any accuracy the day-to-day whereabouts of the nation's first line of defense. "Confidential." Except for bare statistics, official Naval announcements about the maneuvers had been unprecedentedly vague and guarded. The operation would last until June 10, said the Navy, cover 5,000,000 sq. mi. in the "Pacific Triangle" between Hawaii, Puget Sound, the Aleutian Islands. Fifty thousand men would take part on 160 vessels, in 450 planes. Potent newcomers to the Fleet would be the battleship Idaho, just modernized for $14,000,000; the Ranger, first U. S. aircraft carrier built as such from the keel up; five more heavy "treaty" cruisers; destroyers Dewey and Farragut, swiftest blue-water craft ever to join the Navy and first of a long line to replace the obsolescent Wartime destroyers. It was a Fleet, the Navy could not refrain from boasting, which was not only the most powerful ever to fly the Stars-&-Stripes, but in fighting strength second in world history only to the British Grand Fleet at the end of the War.

"Will of Heaven" The Navy's secretiveness provided the final infuriating touch for a large section of professional U.S. peace-lovers. When pacifists failed to stop the exercises by direct appeals to the White House, 301 preachers and rabbis resolutely did their religious duty, chose the day the maneuvers began to address an open letter to "Our brothers and sisters in Japan" deploring the Navy's action and asking them to "unite with us in redoubling our efforts to maintain our historic friendship." The Fellowship of Reconciliation dedicated May 3 to 5 to "Peace Maneuvers," one aspect of which was a "cherry blossom procession" of Chicago churchmen and pacifists to the Japanese consulate.

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