ARMED FORCES: Revolt of the Admirals

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Matthews made a last attempt to preserve the appearance of effective unification, fostered so sedulously by Defense Secretary Louis Johnson. He insisted that Admiral Radford should not be heard in open session. It might "give aid & comfort to a potential enemy." The committee overruled him.

The Navy's Case. Next day, on Capitol Hill, in the full glare of newsreel lights. the Navy at last told what had been gnawing at its heart. Its spokesman was four-star Admiral Radford, the man naval aviators everywhere recognize as their champion, the officer who built the Navy's wartime air arm as director of aviation training, a brilliant fighting commander, and long an outspoken enemy of service unification.

The Navy's case was simple but grave: the U.S. was entrusting its defense to a "fallacious concept"—the atomic blitz, and an inadequate weapon—the Air Force's six-engined B-36 bomber. Said Radford: "The B-36 has become, in the minds of the American people, a symbol of a theory of warfare—the atomic blitz—which promises them a cheap and easy victory if war should come."

"The B-36 Is Vulnerable." The Air Force, he said, had pictured the six-engined B-36 as flying majestically at 40,000 ft., undetected by radar, unreachable by enemy fighters. Admiral Radford flatly disputed such claims:

¶The B-36 would be shot down before it reached its target: "Today . . . American planes by day or by night and at all speeds and altitudes which the B-36 can operate on military missions, can locate the bomber, intercept the bomber, close on the bomber, and destroy the bomber . . . It is folly to assume that a potential enemy cannot do as well . . . The unescorted B-36 is unacceptably vulnerable."

¶The B-36 cannot hit its targets "Bombing at very high altitude can be effective only on targets of great area. Such targets, unless we are committed to the concept of mass area bombing of urban areas, rather than precise bombing of specific military targets, are very limited. . . The B-36 is a billion-dollar blunder."

"Bomber Generals." The scorn that Airman Radford once saved for "battleship admirals" he now turned on his fellow flyers across the fence in the Air Force. "Are we as a nation to have 'bomber generals' fighting to preserve the obsolete heavy bomber—the battleship of the air? Like its surface counterpart, its day is largely past ... In the last analysis, the B-36 is a 1941 airplane."*

Then Radford moved in to attack the whole theory of "atomic annihilation." Even if it could bring victory, which he doubted, "a war of annihilation would be politically and economically senseless . . . [and] morally reprehensible." Said Radford: "This basic difference of military opinion concerning the bombing blitz has been at the root of our principal troubles in unification."

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