Jul 19

Two-Ocean Navy Bill Becomes Law, 19 July 1940

Monday, July 19, 2010 12:01 AM

By

 On 17 June 1940, Congressman Carl Vinson, the chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee, brought before the committee a bill crafted by Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark and his staff that called for a 70 percent increase in the size of the U.S. Navy’s authorized combatant tonnage. Admiral Stark testified before the committee the following day. He called for increasing the Navy by some 200 combatants and 20 auxiliaries—an increase of 1,325,000 tons of new ships—at a cost

In 1940, Admiral Stark won congressional approval for a “two-ocean Navy” and authored the document that set America’s Europe-first strategy of World War II.

of $4 billion. Although he did not provide the committee with the numbers, he was expecting that this increase would furnish his service with an additional 7 battleships, 18 aircraft carriers, 27 cruisers, 115 destroyers, and 43 submarines. Stark testified that this increase was needed in light of existing world conditions—it would allow the U.S. Navy to undertake offensive action against an enemy navy in one ocean while carrying out successful defensive operations against an opposing navy in another ocean.

The members of the House Naval Affairs Committee needed little reminding about the dire situation in Europe. In fact, that morning newspapers around the country were reporting that France’s leaders had requested an armistice with the Germans. Nazi Germany had just knocked France out of the war. Spurred by the international news, the committee, and indeed Congress as a whole, acted with unusual dispatch. The House Naval Affairs Committee reported the bill out the day after the CNO testified, and the full House voted to approve it on 22 June.

Dubbed the “Two-Ocean Navy Bill,” the legislation was handled almost as swiftly in the Senate. Reported out by the Senate Naval Affairs Committee on 8 July, it was passed by the Senate two days later. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law on 19 July 1940. The Two-Ocean Navy Act and the monies thereafter appropriated by Congress to carry out its terms, laid the groundwork for the wartime U.S. Navy that helped substantially to win World War II.