ARMED FORCES: Revolt of the Admirals

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No Confidence. Just how good was the Navy's case? Obviously, the plain speech of patriotic men could not be dismissed as the whimpering of a proud service which now saw itself reduced to a second line of defense. It was clear that the Navy deeply distrusted Secretary of Defense Johnson, who had fathered the big-bomber program when he was Assistant Secretary of War before World War II, and had summarily canceled the Navy's supercarrier without consulting the Navy.

The Navy felt it was outnumbered on the Joint Chiefs of Staff; time after time General Omar Bradley and the Air Force's Hoyt Vandenberg voted 2 to i against the Navy's Denfeld. The Navy also had no confidence in the leadership of Navy Secretary Matthews, who was Johnson's choice. Matthews cheerily admitted, when he took office that he had never commanded anything bigger than a rowboat.

"What Atomic Blitz?" All of this made the Navy's bitterness understandable without making right what its bitter men said. Even so staunch a friend of the Navy as the New York Times's Annapolis-trained Military Analyst Hanson Baldwin wrote that he himself did not consider the cutbacks in the Navy program disastrous. Baldwin added drily that "Some of the Navy's interest in morality as applied to strategic bombing seems new-found."

Besides, what responsible man in any service talked of a "cheap and easy" blitz war? General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Air Force Chief of Staff, had been specific on that point. "Veterans of the Eighth, the Fifteenth, the Twentieth and other historic Air Forces," he said on July 2, "know very well that there are no cheap and easy ways to win great wars." The way Congress had apportioned funds almost equally among the Navy, Army and Air Force also seemed proof that no one was counting on an "atom blitz" to do it all.

Nor did the Air Force argue that the B-36 was invulnerable ("We know," said General Vandenberg in the same speech, "that no plane or weapon of any kind can be completely invulnerable"). The Air Force, Vandenberg said, held only that the B-36 could get through in sufficient numbers to deliver an initial atomic blow; the threat alone "serves to divert a great portion of any nation's effort to its internal defense." There were better planes than the B-36 on the drawing board and in the works, but until they were ready, the B-36 remained the best bomber in being, in a year of crisis.

What was the Navy's alternative? Said Radford: small, fast bombers which, escorted by fighters, could hit military targets with accuracy. It sounded remarkably like the formula for World War II carrier warfare. Certainly the Navy did not now have a bomber with the range, speed and armor of the B-36, which could drop the atomic bomb.

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