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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
Prelude to Pearl Harbor

Gerald E. Wheeler

published by
University of Missouri Press,
Columbia, Missouri

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 1
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p. vii  Preface

In the years following the announcement of the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan the American nation has been forced to live with the ever-present possibility that war, with all of its atomic-thermonuclear potentialities, may again beset it. In facing up to this situation Americans and their armed forces have become more candid. The State Department speaks of "containing" Soviet Russia; generals and admirals describe the striking power of the eight‑jet intercontinental Stratofortress, the intercontinental ballistic missile, and the "atomic capability" of the Mediterranean-based Sixth Fleet; and those shouldering responsibilities for nuclear energy research and public health judge that danger to America at present overrides concern for the health of unborn generations. Most Americans, whether they read the editorial page or the comic page, have become aware that the Soviet Union is the national enemy.

For those defending the country, this national awareness has solved a major problem in defense planning. To keep their country secure, Americans now willingly spend enormous sums and bear the taxation necessary to prevent equally enormous budget deficits. When multibillion-dollar spending programs have been presented to Congress, budget trimmers have preferred to cut foreign aid, agricultural supports, and on occasions a bit of fat from the traditional "pork barrel." But the over‑all tendency has been to accept without question the military's needs, especially when presented by a popular President with a military background. A billion or two may be deleted from a current defense budget, but percentage cuts equivalent to those imposed on other budget items are seldom considered. The American taxpayer has now accepted a slight alteration of the homily: "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance — and taxation."

During the years 1921 to 1931 American naval leaders faced a problem in some ways similar to the situation after 1947. They were convinced that the United States had a national enemy in Japan. But the United States Congress, like the public that elected it during the 1920's, was less than impressed; in fact it was positively hostile to any suggestion that America might again go to war. The President  p. viii and his executive departments — save perhaps the War Department — were also reluctant to accept the Navy's conclusions or its premises. How the United States Navy solved its problem of preparing for war in an unsympathetic climate of opinion is the story here presented.

In the present of this book I have built up obligations to friends and colleagues that I can hardly discharge by preface acknowledgment. To Dr. Lyle H. Kendall, Jr., of Texas Christian University and Dr. Rex Burbank of San Jose State College I owe a special debt for their invaluable editorial commentary on the total manuscript. For advice, counsel, and much eye‑wearying labor I am grateful to Mr. William F. McCoy of the University of California (Davis) Library and to Dr. Daniel M. Smith of the University of Colorado. Dr. Paolo E. Coletta of the United States Naval Academy and Lieutenant Colonel George V. Fagan of the United States Air Force Academy were most helpful in their research and editing suggestions. Guidance, encouragement, thorough criticism, and almost unlimited time were made available to me by my University of California (Berkeley) mentor, Dr. Armin Rappaport. While I was preparing the manuscript for publication, Dr. John D. Hicks of the faculty at Berkeley and Dr. Benjamin F. Gilbert of San Jose State College offered much good advice and caution. Not only I, but almost all who have worked in the field of United States diplomatic history, cannot help but feel grateful to the late Dr. Carl Lokke and to Mrs. Julia B. Carroll of the National Archives. As a research assistant, editor, critic, and typist, my wife Jean French Wheeler was a constant source of help and encouragement. I am grateful to all for their help; they do not, of course, share the responsibility of any errors in this book.

Gerald E. Wheeler

San Jose State College
San Jose, California

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Page updated: 10 May 13