Page images

Further consideration made it quite clear that no agreement for the limitation of land forces could be had at this time.


A different condition existed in relation to naval armament. It was believed by the Government of the United States that an agreement providing for a sweeping reduction and for an effective limitation for the future was entirely feasible. It was pointed out, after considering the failure of earlier endeavors for limitation of armaments that the Powers could no longer content themselves with investigations, with statistics, with reports, with the circumlocution of inquiry; that the time had come, and the Conference had been called, not for general resolutions or mutual advice, but for action.

The following general considerations were deemed to be pertinent:

"The first is that the core of the difficulty is to be found in the competition in naval programs, and that, in order appropriately to limit naval armament, competition in its production must be abandoned. Competition will not be remedied by resolves with respect to the method of its continuance. One program inevitably leads to another, and if competition continues its regulation is impracticable. There in only one adequate way out and that is to end it now.

"It is apparent that this can not be accomplished without serious sacrifices. Enormous sums have been expended upon ships under construction and building programs which are now under way can not be given up without heavy loss. Yet if the present construction of capital ships goes forward other ships will inevitably be built to rival them, and this will lead to still others. Thus the race will continue so long as ability to continue lasts. The effort to escape sacrifices is futile. We must face them or yield our purpose.

"It is also clear that no one of the naval Powers should be expected to make these sacrifices alone. The only hope of limitation of naval armament is by agreement among the nations concerned, and this agreement should be entirely fair and reasonable in the extent of the sacrifices required of each of the Powers. In considering the basis of such an agreement, and the commensurate sacrifices to be required, it is necessary to have regard to the existing naval strength of the great naval Powers, including the extent of construction already effected in the case of ships in process. This follows from the fact that one nation is as free to compete as another, and each may find grounds for its action. What one may do another may demand the opportunity to rival, and we remain in the thrall of competitive effort.”

But it was necessary to go beyond general observations. It was apparent that, in this field of opportunity, it was essential that the American Government, as the convener of the Conference, should be prepared with a definite and practicable plan. After the most careful consideration and detailed examination of the problem, with the aid of the experts of the American Navy, a plan was prepared and, under instructions of the President, was presented to the Conference by the American Delegation.


It was clear at the outset, and the negotiations during the Conference put it beyond doubt, that no agreement for the limitation of naval armament could be effected which did not embrace the navies of France and Italy. At the same time, it was recognized that neither of these nations, in view of the extraordinary conditions due to the World War, affecting their existing naval strength, could be expected to make the sacrifices which necessarily would lie at the basis of an agreement for limitation. These sacrifices could, however, be reasonably expected of the United States, the British Empire, and Japan, and these were the Powers then actually engaged in the competitive building of warships. The American plan, therefore, temporarily postponed the consideration of the navies of France and Italy and definitely proposed a program of limitation for the United States, British Empire, and Japan. The proposal was one of renunciation of building programs, of scrapping of existing ships, and of establishing an agreed ratio of naval strength. It was a proposal of sacrifices, and the American Government, in making the proposal, at once stated the sacrifices which it was ready to make and upon the basis of which alone it asked commensurate sacrifices from others.

The American plan rested upon the application of these four general principles:

“(1) That all capital-shipbuilding programs, either actual or projected, should be abandoned;

“(2) That further reduction should be made through the scrapping of certain of the older ships;

“(3) That in general regard should be had to the existing naval strength of the Powers concerned;

"(4) That the capital ship tonnage should be used as the measurement of strength for navies and a proportionate allowance of auxiliary combatant craft prescribed.”

More specifically, the plan in relation to capital ships was as follows:

CAPITAL SHIPS United States:

"The United States is now completing its program of 1916 calling for 10 new battleships and 6 battle cruisers. One battleship has been completed. The others are in various stages of construction; in some cases from 60 to over 80 per cent of the construction has been done. On these 15 capital ships now being built over $330,000,000 have been spent. Still, the United States is willing in the interest of an immediate limitation of naval armament to scrap all these ships.

"The United States proposes, if this plan is accepted

(1) To scrap all capital ships now under construction. This includes 6 battle cruisers and 7 battleships on the ways and in course of building, and 2 battleships launched.

"The total number of new capital ships thus to be scrapped is 15. The total tonnage of the new capital ships when completed would be 618,000 tons.

“(2) To scrap all of the older battleships up to, but not including, the Delaware and North Dakota. The number of these old battleships to be scrapped is 15. Their total tonnage is 227,740 tons.

“Thus the number of capital ships to be scrapped by the United States, if this plan is accepted, is 30, with an aggregate tonnage (including that of ships in construction, if completed) of 845,740 tons. "Great Britain:

“The plan contemplates that Great Britain and Japan shall take action which is fairly commensurate with this action on the part of the United States.

“It is proposed that Great Britain

“(1) Shall stop further construction of the four new Hoods, the new capital ships not laid down but upon which money has been spent. These 4 ships, if completed, would have tonnage displacement of 172,000 tons.

"(2) Shall, in addition, scrap her predreadnaughts, second-line battleships, and first-line battleships up to, but not including, the King George V class.

“These, with certain predreadnaughts which it is understood have already been scrapped, would amount to 19 capital ships and a tonnage reduction of 411,375 tons.

“The total tonnage of ships thus to be scrapped by Great Britain (including the tonnage of the 4 Hoods, if completed) would be 583,375 tons.


“It is proposed that Japan

"(1) Shall abandon her program of ships not yet laid down, viz, the Kii, Owari, No. 7, and No. 8 battleships, and Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8, battle cruisers.

"It should be observed that this does not involve the stopping of construction, as the construction of none of these ships has been begun.

“(2) Shall scrap 3 capital ships (the Mutsu launched, the Tosa and Kago in course of building) and 4 battle cruisers (the Amagi and Akagi in course of building, and the Atoga and Takao not yet laid down, but for which certain material has been assembled).

“The total number of new capital ships to be scrapped under this paragraph is seven. The total tonnage

The total tonnage of these new capital ships when completed would be 289,100 tons.

"(3) Shall scrap all predreadnaughts and battleships of the second line. This would include the scrapping of all ships up to but not including the Settsu; that is, the scrapping of 10 older ships, with a total tonnage of 159,828 tons.

“The total reduction of tonnage on vessels existing, laid down, or for which material has been assembled (taking the tonnage of the new ships when completed), would be 448,928 tons.

"Thus, under this plan there would be immediately destroyed, of the navies of the three Powers, 66 capital fighting ships, built and building, with a total tonnage of 1,878,043.

“It is proposed that it should be agreed by the United States, Great Britain, and Japan that their navies, with respect to capital ships, within three months after the making of the agreement, shall consist of certain ships designated in the proposal and numbering for the United States 18, for Great Britain 22, for Japan, 10.


“The tonnage of these ships would be as follows: Of the United States, 500,650; of Great Britain, 604,450; of Japan, 299,700. In reaching this result, the age factor in the case of the respective navies has received appropriate consideration.

"Replacement: "With respect to replacement, the United States proposes: “(1) That it be agreed that the first replacement tonnage shall not be laid down until 10 years from the date of the agreement;

“(2) That replacement be limited by an agreed maximum of capital ship tonnage as follows:

For the United States.

For Great Britain..

500,000 For Japan...

300,000 "(3) That subject to the 10-year limitation above fixed and the maximum standard, capital ships may be replaced when they are 20 years old by new capital ship construction;

(4) That no capital ship shall be built in replacement with a tonnage displacement of more than 35,000 tons.'

This proposal was presented on behalf of the American Delegation at the first session of the Conference, and at once evoked from the other delegates expressions of assent in principle. The question of a definite agreement, however, presented many difficulties requiring protracted negotiations, in which a conclusion was not finally reached until January 31, 1922, when the draft of the proposed Naval Treaty was adopted in the Committee on Limitation of Armament.


It was obvious that no agreement for limitation was possible if the three Powers were not content to take as a basis their actual existing naval strength. General considerations of national need, aspirations and expectations, policy and program, could be brought forward by each Power in justification of some hypothetical relation of naval strength with no result but profitless and interminable discussion. The solution was to take what the Powers actually had, as it was manifest that neither could better its relative position unless it won in the race which it was the object of the Conference to end. It was impossible to terminate competition in naval armament if the Powers were to condition their agreement upon the advantages they hoped to gain in the competition itself. Accordingly, when the argument was presented by Japan that a better ratio—that is, one more favorable to Japan than that assigned by the American plan, should be adopted and emphasis was placed upon the asserted needs of Japan, the answer was made that if Japan was entitled to a better ratio upon the basis of actual existing naval strength, it should be, but otherwise it could not be, accepted. The American plan fixed the ratio between the United States, the British Empire, and Japan as 5-5-3 or 10-10-6; Great Britain at once agreed, but the Japanese Government desired a ratio of 10-10-7.


There was general agreement that the American rule for determining existing naval strength was correct, that is, that it should be determined according to capital ship tonnage. There was, however, a further question and that was as to what should be embraced for that purpose within the capital ship tonnage of each nation. It was the position of the American Government that paper programs should not be counted, but only ships laid or upon which money had been spent. It was also the position of the American Government that ships in course of construction should be counted to the extent to which construction had already progressed at the time of the convening of the Conference. The latter position was strongly contested by Japan upon the ground that a ship was not a ship unless it was completed and ready to fight. It was pointed out, however, that in case of an emergency a warship which was 90 per cent completed was to that extent ready and that only the remaining 10 per cent of construction was necessary; and, similarly, in the case of a ship 70 per cent or 50 per cent or other per cent completed the work done was so much of naval strength in hand. It was also pointed out that it did not follow that because a ship had been completed that it was ready for action; it might be out of repair; its engines, boilers, apparatus, armament, might need replacement. It was idle to attempt to determine naval strength on supposed readiness for action at a given day. Objections could be made to any standard of measurement, but the most practicable standard was to take the existing capital ship tonnage, including the percentage of construction already effected in the case of ships which were being built. It was added that the American Government, while ready to sacrifice, in accordance with the terms of its proposal, its battleships and battle cruisers in course of construction, was not willing to ignore the percentage of naval strength represented by over $300,000,000 expended on the unfinished ships.

The American Government submitted to the British and Japanese naval experts its records with respect to the extent of the work which had been done on the ships under construction, and the negotiations resulted in an acceptance by both Great Britian and Japan of the ratio which the American Government had proposed.


Before assenting to this ratio the Japanese Government desired assurances with regard to the increase of fortifications and naval bases in the Pacific Ocean. It was insisted that while the capital ship ratio proposed by the American Government might be acceptable under existing conditions, it could not be regarded as acceptable by the Japanese Government if the Government of the United States should fortify or establish additional naval bases in the Pacific Ocean.

The American Government took the position that it could not entertain any question as to the fortifications of its own coasts or of the Hawaiian

« PreviousContinue »