Naval Act of 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". It represented the United States' response to the Japanese invasion of China and the German annexation of Austria.
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 - BB55 to BB60), based on the provisions of the London Naval Treaty of 1930. 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 - SS204 to SS211), together with various smaller vessels. It was followed by the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940.
Extract of 17 May 1938 Act
"...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 authorised 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 defence so require, in which event the authorised 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 authorised under-age tonnage of four hundred and twelve thousand five hundred and twenty-four tons; ...
- (d) Destroyers, thirty-eight thousand tons, making a total authorised under-age tonnage of two hundred and twenty-eight thousand tons; ....
- (e) Submarines, thirteen thousand six hundred and fifty-eight tons, making a total authorised under-age tonnage of eighty-one thousand nine hundred and fifty-six tons ..."
- J. David Rogers, "Development of the World's Fastest Battleships", The Second Vinson Act (1938), accessed August 8, 2012
- Elmer Belmont Potter, Nimitz (Naval Institute Press, 1976)), 169
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