War, Cooperation, and Conflict: The European Possessions in the Caribbean, 1939-1945

By Fitzroy André Baptiste | Go to book overview

1
The Framework of Defense of the European Caribbean: 1938-1939

The Anglo-American naval strategy of World War II, in which the Caribbean became part of an American/Western Hemisphere Sea Frontier, was shaped in the 1930s. An important stage in that process was the 1930 London Naval Conference. The conference, by ending the post-World War I Anglo-American friction over naval issues such as the Cruiser Question, represented "an absolute success, not merely a relative and passing success".1 As a result, United States-British naval strategy during World War II was based on the World War I model.

The achievement of the conference was due to the statesmanship of Prime Minister Ian MacDonald and President Herbert Hoover, aided by pragmatists within their respective admiralties. These naval men had served together during World War I and had developed the strong conviction that Anglo-American cooperation was crucial to the maintenance of a stable world order. By the 1930s this generation of men had risen to top positions in their naval establishments. They began to recall the experiences of the past against the backdrop of yet another developing world conflict involving not only Germany but also Japan. A leading exponent of this viewpoint within the United States Navy Department was Admiral William V. Pratt. As captain, Pratt had been assistant chief of naval operations to Admiral William Benson in 1917-1918, and in 1930 Pratt was named chief of naval operations (CNO). His successors in that post from about 1933 to 1943 were Admirals William H. Standley, William D. Leahy and Harold R. Stark. They, together with officers of their War Plans Division (WPD), were of the same generation and cast in a similar mold, as were their counterparts in the British Admiralty.

This generation of men also included political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1932 among these leaders was the new president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who in World War I had been the assistant secretary of the Navy. Franklin Roosevelt, like his uncle Theodore, had a keen grasp of the role of sea power in world affairs. He also had an early

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