JF Ptak Science Books Post 1619
If the Maginot Line could float, it might have been well represented by the U.S. Navy during the 1930's (and up to about, say, 7 December 1941). It was pretty much understood that the previous thinking about battleship power as the mainstay of naval capacity had to be re-accessed following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and that the aircraft carrier and naval air power were certainly, absolutely, a devastating new weapon and strategic initiative.
The power the attack on Pearl by a task force of aircraft carriers had already been demonstrated to the ruling powers of the U.S. Navy and by one of their own, nine years earlier, at 0800 hours on 7 February 1932.
During Fleet Problem XIII and Grand Joint Exercise 4 Vice Admiral Harry Yarnell (1875-1959, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1897), showed the rest of the Navy what the aircraft carrier could do. In the war game between two naval forces (blue vs. black) Yarnell (commanding blue) chose a different approach in confronting the black team. Rather than have the battleships duke ti out in horizon-to-horizon shelling, he brought his force of two aircraft carriers (the Lexington and the Saratoga) and four destroyers (all under radio silence) from California to the home base of the black team at Pearl. Operating beyond the normal shipping lanes and squalls he was able to successfully approach the base without being detected, and launched 157 planes against the ships and the defending aircraft (which was still on the ground).
Committing imaginary strafing Yarnell's attacking force decimated the defending aircraft; and in dropping flour-sack bombs the attacking force pulverized the ships docked at Pearl. It was an extraordinary victory for the blue team, and it should have been a monumental wake-up for all those decision makers involved in running the Navy.
In spite of the obvious victory by Yarnell, the exercise was seen as something as a fluke, and the umpires evaluating the manuevers judged the use of the aircraft carrier in a possible attack on Pearl Harbor to be "doubtful".
In his review of teh exercise Yarnell clearly stated that the aircraft carrier should become the main arm of the U.S. Navy--it would certainly be so for other navies, including potential enemy navies, thereby putting the U.S. on an unequal footing should this course of action not be followed. He was certain that he demonstrated that a major change was due in American naval tactics and strategy, and that in order to fight a transoceanic war that six to eight aircraft carriers would be necessary.
The battleship admirals carried the day, though, saying post facto that their remaining force (and the part out at sea) would have been able to catch up to the retiring aircraft carriers and destroyers and from long range send them sinking, and that the air defense that had been so badly beaten by Yarnell really wasn't so and that their was actually a strong defending air response. But probably not. In any event, the battleship people probably didn't want to see time and effort and money removed from their own projects, and so the Yarnell results were dismissed,
Between 1936 and 1940 the U.S. Navy laid keels for twelve ships, including eleven battleships and one aircraft carrier.
Yarnell retired in 1939 at age 64, after having been the admiral in command of teh U.S. Asiatic Fleet.
When the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941 they did so using six aircraft carriers (each carry between 54 and 72 planes) for a total of 387 planes (excluding spares and including 48 air patrol Zeroes and six seaplane scouts for reconnaissance). And that, as they say, was that.
The funny thing about these results is that the New York Times seems to have been reporting on the progress of the maneuvers throughout their course, over a period of weeks,k which would (if we assume that the commanders and officers in Hawaii were reading the newspapers) tip the hand of a "surprise" attempt, further weakening the case for the battleship folks.
1. "ARMY IS PREPARED TO 'DEFEND' HAWAII: Officers Inspect "Black" Defenses From Air -- Planes Mass for War Manoeuvres. ATTACK" DUE SATURDAY " Blue" Forces Under Command of Admiral Leigh Slips Silently Across the Pacific. "New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Feb 1932: 13. HONOLULU, Feb. 3 -- Hawaii's "Black" army settled down today in its field positions to await the onslaught of the "Blue" force, which is steaming somewhere in the Pacific, en route for its attempted conquest of these islands. Defense arrangements have been completed in every sector and installations have been inspected from the air by a staff of officers and reported satisfactory.
"BLUE FLEET CLOSES NET AROUND HAWAII: Defenders Forced Back by the Growing Pressure Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES." New York Times (1923-Current file); Feb 10, 1932; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007) pg. 15.