Naval Act of 1938

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Naval Act of 1938
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titles Second Vinson Act
Long title An Act to establish the composition of the United States Navy, to authorize the construction of certain naval vessels, and for other purposes.
Nicknames Navy Construction Act of 1938
Enacted by the 75th United States Congress
Effective May 17, 1938
Public law 75-528
Statutes at Large 52 Stat. 401
Titles amended 34 U.S.C.: Navy
U.S.C. sections amended 34 U.S.C. §§ 498, 498a, 498c–k, 749b
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 9218 by Carl Vinson (D-GA) on March 4, 1938
  • Committee consideration by House Naval Affairs, Senate Naval Affairs
  • Passed the House on March 21, 1938 (294–100)
  • Passed the Senate on May 3, 1938 (56–28)
  • Reported by the joint conference committee on May 4, 1938; agreed to by the House on May 11, 1938 (Agreed) and by the Senate on May 13, 1938 (Agreed)
  • Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 17, 1938

The Naval Act of 1938, known as the Second Vinson Act, was United States legislation enacted on May 17, 1938, that "mandated a 20% increase in strength of the United States Navy".[1] It represented the United States' response to the Japanese invasion of China and the German annexation of Austria.[2]

The act was sponsored by Carl Vinson, a Democratic Congressman from Georgia who was Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee. It updated the provisions of the Vinson-Trammell Act ("First Vinson Act") of 1934 and the Naval Act of 1936, which had "authorized the construction of the first American battleships in 17 years" (six battleships were authorised under the 1934 Act – BB-55 to BB-60), based on the provisions of the London Naval Treaty of 1930.[1][3] The 1938 Act specifically authorised the construction of 105,000 tons of battleships (the first three Iowa Class ships were built under this authorisation), 68,754 tons of cruisers, 38,000 tons of destroyers and 13,658 tons of submarines (eight vessels were built under this authorisation – SS-204 to SS-211), together with various smaller vessels. It was followed by the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940.

Extract of 17 May 1938 Act[edit]

"...In addition to the tonnages of the United States Navy as agreed upon and established by the treaties signed at Washington, .... and at London, ... the authorized composition of the United States Navy in under-age vessels is hereby increased by the following tonnages:

  • (a) Capital ships, one hundred and five thousand tons. ... Provided, that vessels of tonnages in excess of thirty-five thousand tons each may be laid down if the President determines ... that the interests of national defense so require, in which event the authorized composition of the United States Navy of capital ships is hereby increased by one hundred and thirty-five thousand tons, ....
  • (c) Cruisers, sixty-eight thousand seven hundred and fifty-four tons, making a total authorized underage tonnage of four hundred and twelve thousand five hundred and twenty-four tons; ...
  • (d) Destroyers, thirty-eight thousand tons, making a total authorized underage tonnage of two hundred and twenty-eight thousand tons; ....
  • (e) Submarines, thirteen thousand six hundred and fifty-eight tons, making a total authorized underage tonnage of eighty-one thousand nine hundred and fifty-six tons ..."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b J. David Rogers, "Development of the World's Fastest Battleships", The Second Vinson Act (1938), accessed August 8, 2012
  2. ^ Elmer Belmont Potter, Nimitz (Naval Institute Press, 1976)), 169
  3. ^ "Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934 – P.L. 73-135" (PDF). 48 Stat. 503 ~ House Bill 6604. Legis Works. March 27, 1934.