Strike carriers in the New Look era: Deterrence or intervention

MacLennan, Iain (2001) Strike carriers in the New Look era: Deterrence or intervention. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 10647914.pdf] PDF
Download (5MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


Strike Carriers were an important - some would say central - component of the United States Navy in the Post-World War II strategic environment. They are differentiated from other aircraft carriers by their offensive function, of projection of air power against enemy forces. They included the attack carriers of World War II, the CVs and CVBs, which were eventually reclassified as CVAs (strike or 'attack' carriers) by the US Navy, during the period referred to as the 'New Look Era'. This was a period which, by way of definition, took a 'New Look' at the defence policy of the United States, arguing in favour of more firepower (including atomic weaponry) as a cheap substitution for the manpower which the armed forces had been building up under the previous administration. This substitution helped coin the phrase 'more bang for the buck', and was designed to keep the US economy on a stable footing. The strike carriers' role from WWII onwards increasingly involved "over the shore" strikes against inland targets, due partly to the post-war environment lacking a pre-eminently naval foe to counter at sea. This dissertation is an effort to define the role of the carrier in the period of the Eisenhower presidential administration (1953-1961) by dealing not only with the years of the administration itself, but the thoughts of both the naval leaders and the president - himself a member of the armed forces - in the years leading up to the two presidential terms. In essence, the influences of leading figures such as Arthur W. Radford will be examined as a spur to the development of 'supercarriers' : large, expensive models which this dissertation will contend were initially for use in delivering the atomic bomb, as is revealed in the 'Unification and Strategy' debates of 1949, but were later developed as 'multi-role' platforms for use in all sorts of strategic scenarios, all of which came under the national security policy of 'containment' of the main threat perceived by the United States : the communist Soviets and Chinese. Their expense was justified by their versatility in a time of fiscal stringency during the period in question. It is important to note that the dissertation covers, to a substantial degree, the events leading up to the Eisenhower administration in an attempt to place that administration in the context of its immediate predecessor. The policies initiated under Eisenhower have been seen as a reaction to those imposed on the US armed services and foreign policy under Truman's presidency. In for example, the 'containment' of communism was first officially proposed by George Kennan while Truman was in power, and the first supercarrier - United States - was cancelled under his administration. The first 'supercarrier' which was actually completed was being designed and built while a "limited war" was ongoing in Korea, under the Truman administration's direction, and its design was influenced by that conflict, as well as the technological advances which were advancing carrier design at great pace. "Limited wars" were not discussed as part of the Unification and Strategy hearings of 1949, but would play an increased role in naval thinking during the 'New Look', which sought alternatives to fighting other "Koreas". Three distinctive roles emerge. The use of the strike carrier to directly support limited-intensity engagements - the prime example of this being the Korean War - referred to in the title as intervention; and the use of the carrier as part of the 'New Look': The Eisenhower administration's plan to use the US atomic superiority to deter war with nuclear weapons and fight "general", all-out war with nuclear weaponry to counterbalance the Soviet preponderance in manpower - referred to as deterrence. This dissertation will contend that the President himself wielded great personal influence over the national strategy, as can be seen from his pre-administration thinking. The third role, one which is stressed by the Navy and historians such as George Baer, is that of the traditional function of "sea control", which naval leaders saw as a necessary adjunct to the two missions described above: a mission this dissertation argues was required by the Navy for the security of the strike carriers before they were able to discharge either of the two missions outlined above. The dissertation contends that the administration's ideas about the use of strike carriers were different from the Navy's, especially toward the end of the period, under the Navy's chief officer, Arleigh Burke, a critic of the "Massive Retaliation" style of deterrence advocated by the New Look's originators, and the man responsible for the building of the Navy's 'alternative' deterrent force, the Polaris missile-armed submarine fleet. It attempts to reach a decision on how the strike carrier's role emerged from the debate ; whether the strike carrier was in the end a "limited war" weapon as Arleigh A. Burke thought - for use primarily in low-level conflicts - or as a weapon of deterrence whose main role was as a part of the American strategic retaliatory force under the Eisenhower New Look, and a deterrent, "trip-wire" function equivalent to the US Army divisions in Germany.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Military studies.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: O'Brien, Dr. Phillips
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-73394
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2019 08:56
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 15:16

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year