Oct 4

House Armed Service Committee 1949 B-36 Investigation

Thursday, October 4, 2018 12:01 AM


Vice Admiral William I. Martin, U. S. Navy (Retired)

Vice Admiral William I. Martin, U. S. Navy (Retired)

Naval aviation was on the budgetary chopping block in 1949, and part of the reason was the U.S. Air Force’s B-36 strategic bomber. While the Truman administration supported the expensive B-36 program, it axed the U.S. Navy supercarrier United States. Why pay for naval aviation when any future war would be decided by atomic bombs dropped by B-36s, many Air Force and U.S. Army proponents asked. The response from the Navy is referred to as the “Revolt of the Admirals.”

Pacific Fleet Commander-in-Chief and naval aviator Arthur Radford was a key player in the revolt. After allegations of improprieties in B-36 procurement process came to light, the House Armed Services Committee called hearings to look into the program, as well as cancellation of the United States.

In this excerpt from his Naval Institute oral history, Vice Admiral William I. Martin recounts his involvement in the the committee’s B-36 investigation. The probe went beyond the issue of B-36 procurement and the United States to include the issue of national defense strategy and unification of American air defense. Then-Commander Martin was sent to Washington, D.C., by Admiral Radford to assist in picking the technical panel and testify against the B-36 becoming the primary offensive aircraft for the United States.

Two of the main contributions of this oral history are in describing Admiral Martin’s work as a naval aviation pioneer, particularly in the area of night and all-weather flying, and his repeated contacts with Admiral Arleigh Burke. From 1945 to 1948 he was a test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River. He served 1948-50 as executive officer of the Fleet All-Weather Training Unit Pacific (FAWTUPAC), and was a student at the Naval War College, 1950-51. From 1951 to 1953, Martin was all-weather flight coordinator in OP-05W, the Air Warfare Division of OpNav, then served 1953-55 as commanding officer of FAWTUPAC.


United States Air Force B-36 Peacemaker.

United States Air Force B-36 Peacemaker in flight.


To read more about the Naval Institute Oral History Program, go to https://www.usni.org/heritage/oral-history-catalog.

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