During the Unification of the Military Establishment
1946 - 1950
It should be termed “Dissent over Roles, Budgets and Missions”—David Anderson.1
In the few years after the end of World War II, part of the massive reduction in the military included proposals to reorganize and unify the country’s military organization. This reorganization had a great influence on Naval aviation and thus, on the part of the Aviation Midshipmen in and emerging from flight training.
In the several proposals for this reorganization, the Navy, especially Naval Aviation, was significantly reduced. Senior Navy officers, at the risk of their careers, objected. Some were retired, including ADM Louis Denfield and CAPT John Crommelin. Some remained on active duty, including ADM Arthur Radford and CAPT Arleigh Brurke.
Because of the impact on the Navy as a whole and the Flying Midshipmen in particular, this section on “The Revolt of the Admirals” is included in The Brown Shoes website.
It is interesting that the mission of the Navy, discussed at length in the hearings, was rendered moot when the North Koreans invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.
However, prior to this event, many naval aviators were transferred to the inactive reserve, On December 30, 1949, Lou Ives and others was given $200 and kicked out of active duty – six months before North Korea invaded the South.
Another view on this subject, by Omar Bradley from his autobiography, A General’s Life, will be included when permission from Simon & Shuster is received.
The following is excerpted from a March 30, 2008 transmittal letter from David Anderson to Lou Ives commenting on several pertinent articles he sent:
“Dr. Jeffrey G. Barlow’s “Revolt of the Admirals Reconsidered,” is a forward to a collection of papers from the Eighth Naval History Symposium held at the Naval Academy on 23-25 September 1987 published by the Naval Institute Press in 1989.
“His essay is a sort of historiography of the “Revolt,” I think it is invaluable to anyone trying to understand the dissent, especially from the Navy’s side
“The “Revolt … Reconsidered,” refers to a letter Admiral Arthur Radford sent to Captain Arleigh Burke asking John [Crommelin] “not to speak out.”
The next three documents are stapled together and are, top to bottom: the letter from Vice Admiral Felix Stump to Captain Burke, the note from Vice Admiral Stump to Captain Burke, and Vice Admiral Stump’s letter to Captain Crommelin. On page two of the letter from Admiral Stump to Captain Crommelin, in line two, there is one word which I could not decipher. I thought it might be formal, as in “Lieutenant Ingram saw a formal document …” but I am not certain what the word was supposed to be. Maybe it was a “typo” and was scratched out of the “top copy” of the carbon. Perhaps, in this line of reasoning, it just didn’t get corrected on the “third layer” of the carbon copy—I don’t know. My handwriting is to the left of the paragraph with “formal?” there. Once again the handwritten “Folder: ‘File No. 27’…“ was on the first page of my copy of the documents, and I think it came from Dr. Barlow. The letters and note are mentioned in the article on page 236, and are referenced in note 30 on page 243.
I thought you might like to see a copy of the letters from Vice Admiral Bogan, Admiral Radford and Admiral Denfield, which to borrow Captain John’s phrase from September 10, 1949, “blew the lid off” the dissent.
“The article, “Crommelin Retains ‘Bulldog Tenacity’ of Wartime,” by Francis P. Douglas has some good background on Captain John. This article also introduces what the Navy usually called “the Worth Document,” or “the Anonymous Document.” The Air Force usually called it “the Black Paper.” This manuscript is the first item in this whole “dust up.”
“This paper, by whatever name, was written by Cedric Worth, a civilian employee in the office of the Undersecretary of the Navy. Or at least, most of the final form of the monograph seems to have been written by Mr. Worth. Another source for the paper was probably Glenn Martin, famous for his Glenn L. Martin Company. There may have been other sources.
“The manuscript charges that the B-36 was obsolete. It said the Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, had benefited from wartime contracts of his company, Emerson Electric. Mr. Symington was supposed to have made large contributions to President Truman’s 1948 election campaign. Allegedly, these donations were made so that the government would not investigate the improprieties in wartime contracts.
“The document first “came to light” in about May 1949, or perhaps earlier. Captain John Crommelin was supposed to have seen one version at about this time, and he thought the piece was a good idea, voicing his approval then. One of the first people that made a big stir about the document was Representative James E. Van Zandt, a Republican from Pennsylvania. Mr. Van Zandt was also a captain in the Naval Reserve.
“On 9 August 1949, the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Carl Vinson (a Democrat from Georgia), convened to investigate the charges in the document. By the time the committee adjourned on 25 August, most of the document had been proven false. Captain John Crommelin, though, thought he was going to be called as a witness before the committee. Part of his September 10, 1949 statement had been written in anticipation of being a witness.
“This is probably enough background for the part of the article that mentions the Worth Document.
“If you would like to use these letters, notes, etc., on your web site (the pieces to/from Captains Burke, Crommelin, and Lee and Vice Admiral Stump), I would like to have them properly attributed. “from the Naval Historical Center, via Dr. Jeffery G. Barlow and David T. Anderson,” I think would be correct.”
Participants—with rank during the hearings.
Captain Arleigh Albert Burke (1901- ). Promoted to Rear Admiral 1950. Selected for CNO ( ). Retired ( ). Burke was a blackshoe.
Admiral Louis Emil Denfield (1891- 1972). Chief of Naval Operations. Truman set to appoint him to another two-year term as CNO. On SecDef Johnson’s request, Truman asked for and received Denfield’s resignation on 20 October 1949. Offered a post in Europe, Denfield declined and retired in March 1950. He was succeeded as CNO by ADM Forrest E, Sherman. Denfield was a blackshoe.
Secretary of the Navy Francis Patrick Matthews (1887-1952). Truman political sidekick. Not familiar with naval affairs or procedures. Appointed by Truman May 1949. Resigned July 1951. Appointed Ambassador to Ireland.
Rear Admiral Gerald Bogan.
Captain John G. Crommelin (1902-1996). Retired as rear admiral 1950.