Early Cold War

The Soviet Union, formerly an ally, now stood ready to challenge America and the West. Already much of Eastern Europe lay behind what Great Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, called the "Iron Curtain." In the next global war, the Soviets could move against the West and China with no need for a navy. Yet Communist Russia built a powerful fleet seeking to trump America's one great advantage - the U.S. Navy.

To prepare for the Cold War, the United States developed strategic aircraft, concealed intercontinental missiles throughout the Midwest, and launched a fleet of ballistic missile submarines. The strength of its defense, however, lay in the nation's surface fleet. President John Kennedy argued, "Control of the seas means security; control of the seas means peace; control of the seas can mean victory."

Control of the seas, for the United States, meant aircraft carriers. Fifteen attack carriers would be kept in service, some deployed to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, others to the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The carriers and their task groups would project American power, affect American foreign policy, show the American flag, and respond to crises abroad. When Cold War hot spots flared up, whether in Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, or the Middle East, the first move to influence the balance of power and secure the region was made by carrier task groups, whose aircraft gained air superiority and made further action possible.


Model of the USS United States

Due to budgetary constraints, the construction of this new class of super carriers was canceled in 1949. Larger jet aircraft developed during the post-war period required this ship to have a unique flush-deck design. Courtesy of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Bethesda, Maryland.


RA-5C Vigilante

The development of the RA-5C Vigilante by North American during the 1950s reflected the post-war sparring between the Navy and Air Force. Though developed as a carrier-based, heavy bomber, the Navy found it better suited to reconnaissance work during the Vietnam War. Courtesy of Chuck Stewart.

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USS Midway