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tv   Naval Power Versailles Peace Conference  CSPAN  January 26, 2021 1:05pm-2:06pm EST

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two scholars discuss his story and explore how the memory of his heroics has evolved over the years. the national world war ii museum in new orleans hosted the event. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3 explore our nation's past. american history tv on c-span3, created by america's cable television companies and today we're brought to you by these cable companies. allied forces met for the versailles conference in 1919 after winning world war i. behind closed doors, the united states and britain disagreed about the size of the u.s. navy. up next on american history tv,
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a former navy commander talks about the tense moments between the two outwardly friendly nations. >> now it's my pleasure to introduce our speaker tonight, dr. john kuehn. he serves as the fleet admiral professor of maritime history at the u.s. naval war college and is the general william chair of historical research at the u.s. army command. he retired from the u.s. navy in 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years serving as the naval flight officer flying land and carrier-based aircraft. he has taught a variety of subjects including military history since 2000. he authored a military history
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of japan from the age of the samurai to the 21st century, the operational art of the great campaigns, and co-authored eyewitness pacific theater as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a prize from the society for military history in 2011. his latest book from the naval institute press is "america's first general staff" a short history of the rise and fall of the general board of the navy, 1900 through 1950 which is available to purchase in our online store. now without further adieu, please help me in welcoming dr. john kuehn to our stage. >> it's a royals mask.
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thank you very much, camille, for giving me this opportunity to do things kind of a new way. so i'm really looking forward to this. but i'm really glad that you can join us together, wherever you might be. and we'll try to make this worth your while. next year will be the 100th anniversary of the washington naval arms conference. i'll talk about that a little bit at the end of the lecture tonight. but that was a great turning point, a great milestone in the history of arms limitation and arms reductions and arguably that really got its start at versailles in 1918 and 1919. so we're going to kind of pull some of those things together. but, yeah, we're coming up on the 100th anniversary of the institution of arms control
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agreements, international law, and the international rules set that -- to some degree is in danger today. all right. let's talk about the naval battle of versailles a little bit. i'll move a little slower than i normally do. i like to wander around a little. it occurred at the versailles peace conference, but in terms of location, most of the activity we're going to talk about took place between high-ranking diplomats and political leaders of the allied side, the allies, who had won the great war. what we call world war i now. but the great war which had just ended in november 1918. so the activity actually didn't take place at versailles. you think about the great gardens at versailles and you're thinking maybe some sort of -- maybe they were out in the fountains or something have a fight in the fountains or something or putting boats in the fountains out there behind versailles. no, that's not what happened.
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so it's actually more correct to call it the naval battle of paris that occurred at the time of the versailles conference. and, of course, here in italy, they're talking to each other at versailles. the agenda here is to talk about, first, the context, which is the great war and the end of the great war and the treaty -- the peace conference that's taking place at versailles in 1918, 1919. but we're going to have to go back even further than that to u.s. history and talk about the 1916 navy act which is something that is unprecedented in american history in terms of what that act means. because that's why the british and the americans are not getting along at versailles in 1919 is because of that navy act. cracks in the alliance, there will be a standoff.
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we'll have some high times in paris. almost between political leaders and we'll get to a resolution and the way ahead, what lies in the future, what it all means, that kind of thing. and then we'll open it up for questions. i put this one up here just because we often forget that prior to world war i, war was really a two dimensional affair. it took place at sea and it took place on land. and when we get to world war i, we start having it take place under the water much more so. there had been mines. there was the turtle, the hundley. but the amount of warfare that took place under the water was unprecedent.
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and there was the cyber world and world war i encompassed all of that and it took place at sea. so all of these modern types of warfare notions. and people were wrestling with technology and what did technology mean. and as the war came to an end, people were kind of trying to put the genie back in the bottle. they were trying to take all of those demons that got out and put them back in the bottle. most of those demons had to do with technology. and much of that technology had to do with navies. it also had to do with air forces. but mostly, we'll be talking about navies tonight and how do you put the genie back in the bottle, can you put the genie back in the bottle. all right. go forward. think of versailles as a naval arms conference. there had been international agreements before, but
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versailles was really the first time where you got the sorts of arms limitations. nations had been limited in wars in the past, the size of their army, how many forts they could have. but in terms of a regime of naval arms limitations, versailles is unique because what it did is, it punished germany by limiting her armaments and this is fairly well known. the versailles treaty denied germany from having battleships. she was not allowed to have submarines for obvious reasons and many people thought that had solved the problem of german submarines by having it in a treaty that the german nation could no longer build and have
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submarines in her navy. she was not allowed to have aircraft or aircraft carriers. and it limited her construction to essentially a coast guard. the german navy was so small that she couldn't even man the few ships that she was allowed to have. the biggest ship she was allowed to build would be a 10,000 ton ship and that was as big a ship as she could build and she could only build three of those. if she built three of those, she wouldn't have enough crew to crew the rest of her navy. german was very, very limited. what's not known, is that versailles was contemplating limits on the united states navy. the british delegation to versailles came to versailles with a list and an agenda to limit american sea power, and we'll talk about that. you're probably going, well, the americans and the british are allies. why should the british worry about limiting the americans? well, you have to remember until
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the united states came into the war in 1917, the united states was a neutral, advocating freedom of the seas. we'll get into freedom of the seas again. and that position was violated by germany declaring unrestricted submarine warfare. the united states, though, that policy was not aimed directly at germany but also at great britain. so the united states, there were large communities and bodies of political opinion and policy in the united states, including the president who, when they said strict neutrality, they also meant that the british shouldn't infringe on american rights. the germans violated neutral rights because the german violation was so much more violent and egregious, it made the germans the bigger enemy. but that didn't mean the united states did not still have a -- quite a few complaints against
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great britain for the way she implemented her blockade and restricted american trade on the seas. so in order to answer that, president wilson in 1916 proposed a naval act. the 1916 naval act. this act was not aimed at just germany, but it was also aimed at great britain. so great britain would take the united states seriously. the act aimed at making the united states navy a navy second to none. that was how it was pitched. the united states would have a navy second to none. and it was sort of a bumper sticker phrase and it went over well with the american public. wilson brought this act to the u.s. congress and it passed. the act intended to build 33 battleships and battle cruisers of the most modern type.
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350 smaller warships, cruisers and destroyers, submarines, included in that bill was $20 million for naval aviation. not so well known that the aviation component of that budget was huge. you could just look at how 20 goes into $300 million. the $300 million of this budget was six times as large as the previous largest naval arms budget from the war -- from the spanish-american war. it was the biggest arms bill in peacetime in american history. okay? and it was really aimed at the british. and the british knew it. and they felt like the americans didn't understand their position and it antagonized the british leadership, particularly the first lord of the admiralty and
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the first sea lord. it would have made the united states navy superior to the royal navy by 1921 due to modern new designs approved by the premier design approval organization in the united states navy, the general board of the navy which was composed of admirals and captains and they improved all of the building plans and building designs as well as wrote all of the war plans for the united states navy. so that was the general board of the navy that had put this thing together. they were supported by a guy who previously had sort of been antinavy. he wasn't considered as a friend of the navy. secretary of the navy daniels. and after two years in the job, daniels became a hardened, hard core navalist and a big advocate
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of the united states navy. he was probably wilson's most important cabinet officer. he spent his entire two terms in office, wilson never replaced him. he was a newspaper man from fayetteville, north carolina. but he's a fascinating guy. there's a new biography out on him what we would call an apology biography. it takes daniels' side in some of the battles he fought against the navy, for the navy, and against others. but he was a big advocate for a big navy and he was also a big advocate for a big navy to intimidate the united kingdom. so this -- the british take this bill very seriously. 1917 comes, of course, and the -- things change. the united states and british are allies. we begin to cooperate. some of the building gets slowed down so we can build boats that
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can participate in antisubmarine warfare. that's the biggest problem, not fighting german battleships, but fighting german submarines. but the bill is never done away with it. the apportions for the bill still exists, the spending bills still exist. the president can bill as much as he wants of this fleet. as you can see here are some of the ships that get created by the bill. the "uss tennessee" that will be at pearl harbor and refloated after pearl harbor and participate in great naval battles in the pacific. and then the battle cruiser "uss saratoga" which will get converted to an aircraft carrier. but they're paid for by the 1916 navy act. all right. a powerful new u.s. navy. great britain has ruled the seas
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without any real competitor for 115 years. so this is -- and the fact that it is the americans who the british have not always gotten along with that well, they fought two wars with the americans and then in the civil war they built blockade runners and raiders for the confederacy. so the united states and great britain don't have a great sort of attitude towards each other with respect to naval power. the british royal navy is very, very intimidated and fearful of this powerful u.s. navy. the british naval policy has always hinged on having the biggest navy, no other navy is allowed to be as big as the british navy, any other navy tries to build up to the size of the british navy, and the british will get involved in a
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naval arms race. the problem is, great britain is broke. all of the money that has financed the war from about 1915 on is coming from banks, many of them in wall street. i always tell my students, fleet street moved to wall street. so the united states has all of the british markers, all right, so financially and economically, the british empire can't compete. if it has a naval arms race, britain is going to lose and she knows it. she knows it. the other thing is, the u-boat campaigns have drastically impacted the british merchant marine. the world's largest. okay? and so the british are really concerned that the u.s. merchant marine, which is the second largest merchant marine in the world, is making a bid to become the largest bulk content carrier in the world. it's not just the u.s. navy, but the u.s. merchant navy with a large u.s. navy to protect it
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that is scaring the british. they think the united states is taking advantage of the situation to apply its influence and take a leading position in the world affairs. almost to the point where the united states is beginning to act a bit like they are. this is true, the united states -- the big winner in world war i is the united states of america and so this lecture kind of highlights why that is the case. all right? so these are the things that concerned british policymakers. here are the troublemakers on the american side, woodrow wilson is bargaining from a position of strength and he has the 14 points. and so he's going to use this big navy to apply pressure to the british to agree to his program outlined in the 14 points so that the war to end all wars is a war to end all
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wars based on an american plan for a new international order. okay? next to him are his cohorts, let me see if i can get -- that is joe daniels. i drink a lot of cup of joe, so you're going to have to go to bat against me to say cup of joe is not named after joe daniels. but there are people out there who don't think it's named after him. he got rid of alcohol on navy ships and replaced it with coffee. next to him is the first chief of naval operations, tough-looking character, huh? bill benson. two years prior to this photo, william benson is a captain in the united states navy. but another act gets william benson made a rear admiral and he becomes a four-star admiral.
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the first chief of naval operations in american history. two of the most powerful men in the world. and they work for one of the most powerful men in the world. some would say, the most powerful man in the world. their british opponents, first one is david lloyd george who is miffed, to say the least, at the american -- at the american attitude which he regards as petty and foolish. under him is admiral david beetty, the commander of the grand fleet. for some reason, he's the hero of jutland, i don't know why. he hates the americans. you may say, no, he doesn't hate -- he was married to an american and it was an ugly
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divorce. sometimes that explains a lot, doesn't it? sometimes little things like divorces from americans can lead to bad international relations. keep that in mind, folks, when you're considering a divorce. next to him is the first sea lord. he's what we might call anti-american navy. yes, he's had to cooperate with the americans, as have beatty, but war makes strange bedfellows. they're not as pleased as they could be with some of the fellows. he loves the british, but these guys regard daniels, benson, and even wilson to a little degree as anglo phobic. and they're aspiring to a position above their station, as the british might say it. and then there's walter long,
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first lord of the admiralty. of the british up here, long is the most moderate in the group. he's probably the most moderate in the group in terms of being a guy who is willing to compromise. on the american side, wilson's probably the compromiser. all right. here's the problem. two of wilson's 14 points come in directly to the talks that take place between the naval delegations at versailles. what gets created is a naval committee and so this battle takes place against the backgrounds of the movements and the positioning and the posturing of that naval committee. okay? wilson's 14 points, the two points that are most important to him, the reason the united states got into the war is .2, freedom of the seas and point
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one is the league of nations. he's convinced that if we don't get a league of nations with the united states and britain and france as members, it won't work. and there will be more war. for wilson, it's an article of faith if there's no league of nations with american and british participation, we're probably going to repeat the same mistakes that we've made in the past and have another world war. okay? he also is -- remember, the united states isn't an ally. they're an associated power. so he's a little bit miffed at -- a little concerned, maybe not miffed. concerned at the naval terms that have been levied on the germans that i talked about, including the complete surrender of their fleet to the british and the british drive that up to the flow to guard it up there. and so they start -- there's also this bickering taking place inside the naval committee at versailles about what do we do with the german fleet? how many german battleships do
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the americans and british get? how many german battleships do the italians get? and so these things are all taking place against the background there. and, finally, you know, should britain trust -- should britain trust this? is this really -- do they really want to put their security in this wilsonian security basket? well, the war of words begins. as soon as wilson finds out that the british want the americans to cancel the 1916 naval building act, he gets that from daniels who gets it from admiral benson, he says, we will build the strongest navy that our resources permit and as our people have so long desired. okay? that's wilson's position. we're going to blackmail you with our navy. of course, david lloyd george,
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pugnacious welshman fires back, great britain will spend her last guinea to keep the navy superior to that of the united states or any other power. he's bluffing because he knows the americans can make him spend his last guinea and they'll still have billions left to spend. but you know, you got to be bluff. you got to be out there, you know? so round one, the british sort of win it. lloyd george defers the discussion to the peace conference. wilson decides to abandon freedom of the seas. he says, we're going to abandon that as one of the 14 points because if we have the league of nations, we will have the freedom of the seas. the league of nations will guarantee the freedom of the seas, okay? and the league will be everybody plus outlaw states.
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the league of nations will be all of us and then, you know, the guys that don't want to play, like the soviet union, right? so that's kind of wilson's position. he arrives in january 1919 for a dinner in france and that's where he makes that statement about the navy and he's unhappy with the british and the french. the reason he's unhappy is not so much because the british have formerly demanded that we abandon our naval building plan, but because the british and the french are behaving very -- they're both broke. they need what? they need money. the french are charging us rent for our soldiers who are living in french trenches. imagine being charged to live in a dirt hole and the british are charging for moving american troops on british shipping huge rate, i might add, to help win
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the war that the british can't win without american troops. so, anyway, wilson is miffed about those things. you know how it is, the shooting ends but then the bills start coming in, right? okay. all right. there's daniels and benson again. they continue to lobby the public before they leave for versailles saying, hey, support the -- support the 1916 act, support the building plan. now we beat the germans, let's return to our plan to build the biggest navy in the world. second to none is code for, just as big or bigger than the british navy, than the royal navy. so daniels says the u.s. needs a big navy for these reasons. sounds good, right? we're going to protect the weak. we're going to go out there, we're going to protect the little guy which is, you know, sort of an american theme. we're for the little guy, right? and we're worried about a league
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without a world police force. so if we're a member of the league, we're probably going to be the world police force, therefore, we need a big navy. that's the logic train on that by daniels, by secretary daniels. and the u.s. navy would be the gap filler. meanwhile in japan, wait a second, you talk about the british, the french, the americans. well, what's going on is, the japanese also interpret this building plan as aimed at them. in part, it is. if you're going to build a navy second to none but you don't plan to fight the british, who are you going to fight? well, you're going to fight japan if they try to invade the philippines, right, which is a contingency plan called war plan orange which is united states has had on its shelf since 1908. so the japanese have their own building plan called the 8-8
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plan. the japanese are allied with the british. the british and the japanese agreed to come to each other's aid if they're attacked by an aggressor. it's a defensive treaty. japan attacks somebody else, britain doesn't have to help them. britain attacks somebody else, japan doesn't have to help them. and they were allies in the war. and japan, you know, helped kind of in the war. they did provide destroyers for antisubmarine during the warfare. she just took a province of china and kept it. the 8-8 plan is they're going to build eight battleships and eight battle cruisers. the problem with the japanese is, they can't afford it. the japanese government tells the japanese navy, good plan, but we don't think we can afford it.
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and the navy minister is beginning to think maybe we can't afford it. so the japanese are also interested in ending the naval arms race. but that naval arms race is already ongoing between japan as well. so the united states is really conducting a naval arms race with britain and with japan. and japan is britain's allies. if you're very confused, ask me questions during the question period. well, they create the naval committee. i told you about that. benson is going to be the head of the u.s. delegation. and it will conclude mostly these guys from the general board, the guys that came up with the navy second to none plan. the $300 million let's build the biggest navy in the world plan. they include admiral a.t. long, captain frank schofield, the office of naval intelligence,
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these are all guys from the general board. these are basically the american general staff, all right? naval general staff. it includeds admiral sims. so there is one dissenting voice, but davis basically shuts him down. and this creates a conflict between the two that is peripheral to our decision. sims is pretty much gagged. his opinions carry little weight in the committee. this is a month and a half after wilson gets there -- or two months after wilson gets there. and he's directed by wilson to meet with walters who is the first lord of the admiralty and
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then benson's counterpart, the first sea lord. this is after the british have let it known that they want the united states to get rid of the naval building plan in exchange for their support and membership in the league of nations. that's what the proposed deal is. benson arrives right after daniels and he is supposed to go to a meeting and he gets there late and he finds wemyss badgering secretary of the navy, u.s. secretary of the navy, daniels in his hotel room. and he gets between them and demands naval parity with admiral wemyss and things go downhill from there. they almost come to belows. the next day, everybody kind of goes home mad and colonel house,
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who is one of wilson's main advisers, meets with secretary daniels and he says, well, maybe we can end naval construction if that will get the brits to agree to the league of nations. well, daniels goes back in and meets with the same three again and it's a very, very stormy meeting. but this time, the meeting is with the first lord of the admiralty, walter long. and long says, no, the americans have got to stop this naval building plan. i don't know about the league of nations, but we want you guys to cease building now, promise us that you'll be -- and this is a case of who is going to blink first. who is going to compromise first. the british is going to say, okay, we agreed to support the league of nations and be a member. now will you stop the -- they want an act of good faith from the united states. the united states wants an act of good faith from the british. neither one is willing to make the first move.
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benson threatens war. he says, if that's your attitude, then, you know, we'll go to war. we'll have a war. this is the last thing anybody wants to hear is that the two most powerful naval powers of the day, the united kingdom and the united states, are threatening to go to war with each other over british membership in the league of nations. you might think, gosh, this doesn't seem like much of a reason to go to war, but these are the leaders of these nations and these navies and they are very, very hot under the collar about these issues. the u.s. has to stop building now and the talks are in jeopardy. this is when wilson enters the discussion. he kind of says, okay, kids, out of the pool, right? here's what we're going to go. secretary daniels has got to go to italy on a trip. so he's going to be gone for a week. why don't we just delay coming to an agreement for a week and when he gets back, we'll
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continue the discussion and forget about all of this talk of a war and everything. let tempers cool down. daniels leaves to go to italy and this is after he has breakfast with david lloyd george. and then wilson meets with lloyd george and that's when the delay is announced for a week. well, april 6th, 7th comes, and that's the day before daniels gets back. april 6th from italy. and the british kind of blow it. they're like, hey, we can't wait for this guy to come back. we need to know now if you're going to stop your naval building plan because it's key and especially essential. we're trying to come up with our budget. wilson goes, promise me, you'll join the league. they go, no, we can't make that promise and wilson threatens to leave the conference.
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can you imagine the president of the united states is going to storm out of the conference and go home and kind of abandon these idiots to their fate in europe. well, daniels returns the next day and the meetings resume, all right? and daniels tells wilson, you know, britain is trying to dictate naval matters in order to control commerce. in other words, britain wants to control all of the commerce on the seas, they want to limit the american economy and they want to limit the american ability to do business overseas in open markets according to the policy of the open door which is an economic policy of open markets for the entire world. so he tells that to daniels. daniels is a big fan of trade and open markets. so he goes to wilson. wemyss tries to meet daniels at a train station. i've called this the altercation at the station. we didn't have a celebration at
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the station this year. what we're going to have is an altercation at the station and it's not going to be a protest. it's going to be between the first sea lord admiral wemyss and secretary daniels. he ambushes daniels at the train station and before the meeting with the british first lord of the admiralty long. well, when long gets there, he proposes to daniels that a halt in naval construction for the uk is what they need. and they will agree to support the league if we do that. kind of you put your cards down at the same time we put our cards down and we'll all be friends, right? and so they agree to meet regularly on naval matters. i imagine how this took place was that daniels was at the train station, the british admiral shows up, moves in on him, starts to badger him.
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daniels is starting to get upset and the first lord of the admiralty comes up and says, just a second, i think we can resolve this like gentlemen. what's not on the slide is the fact that wilson told daniels you're going to get the british to agree to a league of nations or else. daniels knows he has the authority of the president to make a deal. another thing they agree to is they agree not only will we agree to halt the naval construction on these battleships, not only will they agree to -- or slow down the naval construction or cut it back, but they'll also agree we're going to meet regularly, annually on naval matters. so this naval committee, we're going to turn it into a semipermanent thing. it's not really a part of the league of nations. it's really an anglo-american committee that's going to meet. sometimes the french will come.
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sometimes the italians will come. the guy that's not at the table for all of this, of course, is the japanese. but they're more than happy to support the british position. but instead of inserting themselves into the process by also commanding the americans halt it, they figure, well, if we do that, the americans will really get pissed because they'll think that the japanese are trying to influence the british. so they're in the background here and they really kind of finesse the situation to the best advantage. at this time, america is a very, very racist country. there are bills being passed in california and other western states that are pulling japanese and chinese school children out of the schools and putting them in the same situation that african-americans are in. the united states is not a place that wants to hear that the japanese are telling the americans to stop building ships.
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the final solution, he's going to sacrifice the freedom of the seas because the league of nations will guarantee that. and naval parity for -- with great britain for the league of nations and that becomes the deal. great britain will become a charter member of the league of nations. the aftermath, the german fleet problem is kind of in the background the whole time. the german solve that problem for everybody by scuttling the fleet. all of the arguing about who gets what ships, there's only a couple ships leftover. one of them is an old battleship damaged by a mine coming back from jutland. they tow her over to chesapeake bay and a hack named mitchell sinks her on a clear day without a crew. the league of nations, ironically, the united states gets britain to sign onto the league but the united states said it refuses to ratify the
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treaty of versailles and so the united states doesn't join the league. when that happens in 1920, the naval arms race starts again. although, it's mostly between the japanese and the americans. in fact, there's a war scare in 1920 because of american legislation against japanese and japanese school children in the united states. particularly in california. at one point in time, california was that way about asian-americans, among other things. so that arms race begins in 1920. britain decides that the united states is just going to have to be lived with and so they agree to let their treaty with japan lapse. that's a concession that the americans had not asked for but that the british give them. sort of a signal, hey, we know we're not going to fight you guys, right?
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and with that, we get a new administration. but everybody realizes, versailles didn't solve anything. we still have a naval arms race. how do we stop it? and this time, the americans will invite everybody to washington, d.c., to constitution hall which is just across the street from the vietnam war memorial. if you've ever been to washington, d.c., that's where it is. and they'll all gather around a table at constitution hall and the united states will offer to limit armaments and reduce armaments so that the united states and great britain will both be equal in terms of the size of their navies. and maybe that's a lecture we can do here in a year or two for the washington naval treaty. that's the aftermath. okay. to wrap up, this is an example of something that everybody
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thinks has solved a major problem but it's really just kicking the can down the road. and so the naval battle of versailles, which it looks like the british have won, they haven't. they've only delayed the united states' plans to build a navy every bit as big as great britain. and far more modern in terms of its designs. that navy of the united states, for example, one of the first things they do is they look at the british royal navy's record during the war, how ships were blowing up up at jutland, how they performed against submarines and the americans go and get the german damage control and design doctrine for warships and bring that back to the united states and use that as their basis for building american ships, not british designs. so the damage control doctrine of the united states navy today
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is german damage control doctrine because german ships did better in terms of damage control than british ships. so versailles is just one of those things that it seemed like it accomplished a lot, but it accomplished very little in that there were outstanding issues that had to still be resolved and would not be resolved for several years to come. with that, i'm finished and i'm ready to take questions. thunderous applause for all of you online. you can barely hear me talk because of the thunderous applause. >> john, we're going to give it a few more seconds. again, we encourage everyone, if you're watching on our youtube stream, if you're watching on facebook, don't be shy. we are ready for the questions. all right. here comes our first one. a little bit of humor behind this one, i think, it asks, what did you mean about rascally in
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regards to lloyd george? >> well, lloyd george was a pugnacious welshman, he was a combative guy. he's the perfect guy to have in control in a have in control in. ruthless, uncompromising, okay? and i use the word rascally, you know, maybe pugnacious is a better word, maybe uncompromising is a better word. but he could be very emotional and very ruthless, and he was certainly underwriting the attitudes of the first lord admiral and the first lord of the admirety walter wong. >> our next question, in terms of relative expenditure how did the 1916 navy act compare to the two ocean navy act of 1940.
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>> yeah, the two acts were very, very similar. of course the two ocean navy act will dwarf the 1916 act. it's probably the biggest naval building act in the history of man kind. i mean the navy that gets built by that act is going to be a navy that has over 6,000 warships. the united states has 280, 282 ships today, warships, okay? so at the end of world war ii it had something on the order of 6,000 warships, all right? so they were, very, very similar. so the two ocean navy act is even bigger. and what's fascinating they share a lot in common. they're both passed in peacetime, both passed with the united states as a neutral power. the two ocean act, though, is not aimed at britain. it is aimed squarely at germany and japan. it's meant to be an act of deterrence. the two ocean navy act is an act
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that's meant to deter germany from attacking american shipping in the atlantic, and it's meant to deter japan from engaging in further aggressive war in china and asia. and it fails disastrously as a deterrent but succeeds fabulousy in building a war that can fight on two oceans and defeat the germans and japanese. >> our next question. did the proposed destruction of the canal by the british represent a significant point of contention? >> the americans were very upset at this sort of -- and again we'll have a similar approach
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after world war ii. the assistant secretary as a soviet agent. we didn't know that at the time. we found out after the cold war. so this idea that the britdish are going to completely defang germany not just militarily but economically. and on the face of it, here's a canal you can use on interior lines to transfer warships from the baltic to the north sea. it didn't really give the germans much of an advantage during the war. and the americans regard it more as an attack on commerce and on germany's future economic viability. the united states is convinced that without an economically healthy and viable germany there can be no peace in europe.
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let that sink in, okay, because that's the plan that's going to be adopted after world war ii in sort of an opposition. but it did -- it made the americans only more antagonistic to the british and favorable toward the germans, too. remember the british blockade is ongoing against germany. the united states is very unhappy with that. in my other lecture i talked about that, the lecture i did on the navy after world war i and the famine relief that's being done. at the same time this is all going there's this pandemic killing millions and millions of people. and people are dying not just from the pandemic because they're weakened from the blockade, it's germans, dutch, hungarians, romanians, pols, all
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these sorts of people and britain still has this ridiculous blockade in place. which at the time were regarded as harsh so the americans, yeah, they were a little upset. >> our next question. how politically realistic was it to get the consistent funding to actually build to the 1916 plan? after all usn was never able to build up to treaty levels of cruisers. >> okay, that question has conflated two things. so treaty levels of cruisers is going to be something that is going to be in place after the london naval conference of 1930. we're talking about 1919. but the point is well-made. so the british are kind of expecting that the united states is bluffing in building all these ships.
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and then when wilson and daniels and pencen get there and it's clear that -- that if you're not nice to them, they are going to do it. even if they build half of what they intend to build, the british are going to have a really, really hard time because their naval policy is predicated on being the biggest navy. and if the united states navy is now the bench mark that you have to be bigger than, are you going to believe that they're going to build all these warships? certainly the general board of the navy and admiral benson are saying, yes, we're going to build these ships. not only do we want to build them but we can build them, but we have the money to build them. on the other hand, they're the politicians particularly wilson who's a man of peace. say what you want about woodrow wilson, he is a man of peace. so woodrow wilson is more than happy to forego the naval
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building plan if it serves his agenda and the british are kind of hoping that's what's going to happen. it is what happens, but they sort of play their cards wrong initially when they antagonize wilson and daniels. they don't realize that it two guys that are probably the guys they can count onto scale back the naval building are not the two guys you need to antagonize with combative language. >> our next question. what influence did alfred mahan have on woodrow wilson if any on the quest to second to none? >> he's dead. 1914, '18, mahan dies of a broken heart as europe plunges into war. in fact, he says of it europe is now at war through a series of blunders that sound statemanship
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and clear thinking could have prevented. mahan is gagged in july -- or august 1914. wilson issues a gag order that says no american can write anything on policy about the war, and he has mahan in mind, and he tells daniels if mahan violates the order and writes pro-british editorials for forbes magazine or -- let's try again. he's a pundit. so wilson tells secretary daniels to -- if mahan writes anything in favor of the british and violating strict american neutrality, then mahan will be brought back on active duty and court marshalled. and i think that to some degree also contributes because mahan
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already has an editorial acceptance for a magazine. i don't know if it's forbes or american sentry magazine. but he already has an article accepted for publication, and he has to withdraw the article because daniels threatens him if he has it published. and it's not an even an article should america go to war with germany. it's an article on the situation in europe and why it's of concern to the united states. it's a fairly mild article, but he has to pull it. he's very upset about it. but his influence is through the idea that any naval building plan should be based on the most -- on the most powerful navy, not the most likely enemy. let me rephrase that. so you shouldn't base the size of your navy on the most likely enemy. for the united states the most likelynomy is japan, not great
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britain. but mahan says, no, no, no you don't build your navy based on the navy that probably is going to fight. you build your navy based on whoever has the most powerful navy. in other words, your bench mark for the seize of your navy should be great britain or whoever has the biggest navy. that is actually kind of a policy driver here for all these admirals which whoever's got the biggest navy controls the world. so great britain is going to have the biggest navy and the united states if it wants to be a player with great britain and have influence on great britain, then she should build her navy as big as great britain. japan also says we should have a navaly as big as the americans. so now you can see why there's this horrible naval arms race that's ongoing not only before the war with the germans involved but with the japanese, british and the americans after the war. and, oh, by the way, the french and italians who are looking at
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each other and building based on each other, okay? so all of that navalism has not been put back in a bottle and done away with. so i would say that is part of the influence of mahan. is he the only guy with that idea? no. but he's sort of the first one to articulate it, and it does become the policy bases for all the navy, ministries and naval general staffs of the five most powerful navies of the world after world war i which are italy, france, japan, the united states and great britain. >> if there is one thing we should learn from world war i, what would be one lesson you could take away? >> well, obviously i'm going to offer a naval lesson. there's so many lessons we could learn from world war i. you know, the big one is that, you know, just when you think that war is impossible, it's
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not, okay? or as admiral macarov of the russian navy said remember war. for the navy guys i think the lesson here is that particularly in a globalized world that naval power is not less important, it's more important. global trade is based on moving the bulk of value and the bulk of goods in shipping. and it seemed like it had reached a climax prior to world war i. and there were even people who thought, well, in the future boat goods aren't going to move mostly by the sea anymore. they're going to move by railroads and diesel railroads because oil is so cheap and it's everywhere. and they turn out to be wrong, and the shipping that runs the economy of the world today is --
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it dwarfs what existed in 1914 and 1919. what people learn in world war 1 is never forget the sea. >> folks, thank you for joining us here this evening wherever that was from. it was a complete joy. your questions were really incredible. on behalf of the national world war i museum and memorial, thank you for being part of our program this evening. we so hope that we can have you back in our auditorium soon. and the museum and memorial proper is open right now. so if you are ready to come back, we will welcome you with masks and not so close open arms. so virtual round of applause for the doctor for joining us. >> weeknights this month we're
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featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight events from world war ii. during the december 7, 1941, attack on pearl harbor the u.s. navy mess attendant helped the wounded and fired anti-aircraft guns at the japanese. though he'd never been trained on the weapons. as a result of this grandson of slaves became the first african-american awarded navy cross. two scholars discuss dorie miller's story. the national world war ii museum in new orleans hosted the event. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. >> use our website to follow the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak. watch our searchable video anytime on demand and track the
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spread with interactive maps all at >> in both the first and second world war african-american troops were subjected to experimental medical treatments based on racial stereotypes. coming up on american history tv, a look at these treatments and the physical and mental toll they exacted. due to its subject matter, this program may not be suitable for children. so as an introduction i want to talk a little bit about how my book came to be. despite the fact that both of my grandfathers fought in racially segregated or colored units in world war ii and i myself am the child of an


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