THE TASK AHEAD
By ADMIRAL ERNEST J. KING, Chief of Naval Operations
Navy Day address. New York City, November 27, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 95-96.
IN this company which includes the distinguished guests who have spoken here I wish to make three acknowledgements. First, the debt we of the United States Navy owe to the British Navy for traditions of valor of service and of efficiency which we have striven to emulate since the days of our beginnings. The association of the two navies in World War I and in the current war has served to strengthen and cement mutual understanding and good will not only of the services themselves but of the nations which they serve. The two navies have still much to do—together—before full victory over our enemies is won.
Second—but second only in order of mention and not in degree—the appreciation and admiration we owe to our own Army—particularly in this war—where there have been team work and comradeship which have enabled United States forces to wage the war with that skill and efficiency which will in due course bring us to victory in the Pacific as well as in Europe. Here again the Army and the Navy have a great deal yet to do before the time shall come when final victory can properly be celebrated. I must add that the splendid team work and comradeship have been due in large measure to the broad views of two of the distinguished guests here present, Secretary of War Stimson and General Marshall.
Navy League Thanked
Third, the thanks due from the Navy and the country to the Navy League for its patriotic services in sponsoring and promoting the celebrating of Navy Day—Oct. 27, birthday of Theodore Roosevelt—for over twenty years past in order that "all hands" might acquire pertinent information on thestate of the Navy, its functions and its needs. I am sure you will join with the Navy in saying that this Navy Day is one day of Navy Week!
Since the celebration of Navy Day is an annual event, it seems appropriate to review—in outline at least—the accomplishments of the last year.
In Europe the significant event for our Navy was the cross-Channel operation in early June where Admiral Kirk was responsible for the landing of General Bradley's troops in Normandy and on the Cherbourgh Peninsula. Then there was the important invasion of southern France in August where Admiral Hewitt managed that landing of Allied troops which had so much to do with speeding up the liberation of France.
In the Atlantic the submarine—or rather U-boat—menace has steadily declined in effectiveness. Allied convoys pass in almost entire safety through the waters adjacent to Europe —guarded by surface escorts, by land-based aircraft and by planes from merchant-ship type carriers.
Pacific Exploits Reviewed
In the Pacific the Gilberts were occupied in late November of 1943; the Marshalls were brought under control by the seizure of Kwajalein Atoll at the end of January of this year; the Mariannas—Saipan, Guam, Tinian—were occupied in June and July of the past summer; the Palaus were brought under control during September; the Navy is doing its part in the current operations in the Philippines.
The landings on Saipan were accompanied by an action at sea—wholly by carrier-based aircraft. The recent carrier aircraft strikes on Formosa brought about enemy air reaction and promised to bring on a fleet action but—here again as before—the enemy fleet did not cooperate at that time.
However, in the last few days the Japanese Navy made a concerted three-pronged attack pointed at General MacArthur's landings on Leyte. You know—the world knows— how all three attacks were repelled. The Japanese Navy has thus been reduced to not more than one-half of its maximum strength. As Admiral Halsey has said, "It is a certainty that the Japanese Navy has been beaten, routed and broken by the 3d and 7th Fleets."
The enemy is welcome to know that we shall continue to press them with every means at our command. The enemy already knows—the world knows—that when the war in Europe releases the powerful forces engaged there the greater part of them will be brought to bear against Japan. It would seem that even the sons of—Heaven—can read that handwriting in letters so tall and so clear that they are visible around the world.
Story of Submarines
The story of the work of our submarines—against the enemy—in the Pacific is now known to you in part. The parts not yet disclosed we must continue to withhold to insure future safety of our submarines as well as to promote their continuing success in ham-stringing Japanese sea communications.
The Navy's work in the war is not done by combat ships and aircraft and troops alone. Note must be taken of the large proportion of officers and men engaged in the exacting and difficult conduct of the logistics without which the combat units would be unable to succeed. Among these the "Seabees" are probably the most widely known. HeYe, too, are included the officers and men of the Merchant Marine who are all too often unhonored and unsung.
I have mentioned before—and now do so again—the splendid work being done by the Reserves—officers and men—men and women—who now comprise about nine-tenths of the total strength of the Navy. Their only desire is to learn in order that they may serve. They continue to do well!
The end is in sight in the war in Europe but no one can yet state a time when it will end. The war in the Pacific will not reach its maximum force until Allied fighting strength has been shifted from Europe.
Great Task Ahead
Let us all take heed therefore that a great task still lies ahead of us in the Pacific—let none of us relax our efforts to maintain and support our combat forces until the end is in sight in the war against Japan!
Indefinite though the end of the war may be, I think it fitting to make some mention of the part the Navy is to play in the preservation and continuation of the peace.
It is in order to quote certain paragraphs of currently existing United States naval policy: "To develop the Navy to a maximum in fighting strength and ability to control the sea in defense of the nation and its interest."
This paragraph together with the other paragraphs duly set forth in the general policy for the Navy, constitute the corollaries of fundamental naval policy which is, and again I quote, "To maintain the Navy in strength and readiness to uphold national policies and interests and to guard the United States and its continental and overseas possessions."
I am sure that you will recognize that the fundamental naval policy is wholly in line with that policy enunciated by Theodore Roosevelt when he said—in colloquial phrase— "Speak softly but carry a big stick."