…Seeking to limit the cost of new naval armaments Britain called a Conference to occur in London in late 1922. Britain’s primary goals were to ensure that Battleships did not exceed the 50,000 tons existing British infrastructure and to avoid a ruinously expensive naval race with the United States and Japan. Further goals included trying to keep battleships and carriers as individually small as possible, abolishing or regulating the submarine and reducing the existing number of capital ships. Having the conference in London would allow them to retain their naval preeminence in spirit, and incidentally give their negotiators the ability to read their competitors mail via Britain’s cable tapping a code breaking operations.
Invited to the Conference as full participants were the United States, Japan, France, Italy and surprisingly Spain. These represented, with the exceptions of Versailles limited Germany and the pariah USSR, all the capital ship building nations of the world. The Spanish arguably did not count, needing to import much of the key components, but were invited to provide another voice in favor of smaller limits. Each of the invitees planned to attend for their own reasons.
The United States while the only power that could afford a naval race did not want to spend the money on one. Congress wanted to reduce military expenditures and President Wood wanted to cut the navy to free up money for the Army. However, they wanted something in exchange for that. Namely the United States would not accept less than parity with Great Britain and her Dominions, 4:3 superiority over Japan or better, the dissolution of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and the exit of Japan from Tsingtao. The United States was willing to give up much of their lead for this but the retention of all the existing Standards, save possibly Oklahoma and the completion of the four Colorados and the first three South Dakotas were nonnegotiable, as were the first four Louisville class cruisers, the construction of these having advanced to the point where the cancellation penalties exceeded the cost of completion.
Japan was looking at barely being able to afford their current program as it stood, assuming no modifications. With the American construction of their 12,000-ton Louisville class cruisers and further American plans for large aircraft carriers, their program would need expensive additions to stay competitive. A naval treaty would allow them to scale back the capital ship component to free up funds for other units and prevent the Americans from being able to decisively outbuild them. They were adamant that they receive no less than 60% of the American Capital ship strength or they would walk out, similarly they would walk out if unable to keep Nagato, Mutsu and all of their 14” gunned designs.
France had seen the Great War ruin long term plans to build twenty-eight battleships over ten years, with the war leaving things at seven, with five incomplete hulls too costly to finish. The war similarly scuttled plans to expand their naval infrastructure to accommodate any conceivable battleship. Thus, they were left with four first generation dreadnoughts inferior to most of their counterparts and three second generation designs worse than anyone else’s. They wanted a treaty to ensure their ships were not completely irrelevant and to keep future ships cheap enough for their shattered economy to afford and small enough for their infrastructure to build and to hopefully enshrine a future lead over the Italians whose four war prizes gave them a temporary ten to seven lead over France. With that said France was not going to walk out of the treaty under almost any circumstances, doing so would lose any influence they had in preventing the big three from taking things too far.
The Italians were like the French in a financially precarious position following the devastation of the Great War. Like them they saw the conference as a chance to prevent ship sizes from growing beyond what their strained economy could afford. Unlike the French the Italians did have a red line after which they would leave the conference. With the destruction of Austria-Hungary their primary naval rival disappeared, leading the Regia Marina to focus on their previous naval rival, France. Thanks to the cession of the Austro-Hungarian dreadnoughts with the end of the war, they found themselves having a temporary lead over the French, in theory. In practice the Italians considered their war prizes of marginal value and planned on immediately hulking two of them for spare parts. This lead was unsustainable in the long run and the Italians knew it, France was a bigger and richer country with a stronger industrial base. The Naval Conference provided an opportunity to have equality with the French enforced, and if they did not receive that they would walk out. It was not as if they cared about what the big three did, they foresaw no situation where they would fight the USN or IJN and viewed fighting the RN as both unlikely in the extreme and a lost cause.
The Spanish had no particular goals at the conference beyond being seen there as a naval power. Such recognition did much to wipe away the stain of 1898 on the pride of Spain. Thus, all they really wanted was their signature on the treaty, though smaller limits would please them.
Belgium, China, Portugal and the Netherlands were also invited to attend, but not as participants. Rather they would be there as observers, the British felt it best that participation be limited to those nations who had built post-Dreadnought Capital Ships…
…Before the conference officially began the British delegation met with their French, Italian and Spanish counterparts. The British desired to have them join in issuing a common proposal, in hopes of putting greater pressure on the Americans and Japanese. The delegations of the lesser naval powers were interested in doing this as they saw the Americans and Japanese as the main drivers of the naval race that was about to render their whole fleets useless.
After some discussion the three agreed to the British proposal. Namely that they would open with a position of a limit of 30,000 tons and 14” guns, with exceptions for extant ships over that limit to be negotiated. This was the ideal case, it would mean that the ships of France, Italy and Spain would remain competitive and for the British the treasury would be happy for only having to pay for the smaller ships.
Of course, the parties involved in the discussion realized that it was unlikely for the Americans and Japanese to accept such a limit. They had both gone beyond 30,000 tons for years and had just transitioned to 16” guns. Them wanting to stuff the genie back in the bottle was viewed as unlikely. Thus, the plan was after the initial proposal to fight for it and then concede to a limit of 35,000 tons and 15” guns, with exceptions for the Colorados, Admirals and Nagatos. This would render the existing French and Italian ships useless, but it was not such a high limit that they could not afford to build ships that size. For the British it would mean their smaller 15” ships were still useful, and the cost was still more than acceptable to the treasury.
Unbeknownst to their partners however the British had a third string to their bow. They did not expect that the Americans or Japanese would agree to a 15” gun limit, as neither power used that caliber. Furthermore, both powers along with Britain viewed 35,000 tons as too small for a balanced 16” ship, meaning that a 16”, 35,000-ton compromise was unlikely. Since that was the case, they planned on offering 40,000 tons and 16” guns as a final compromise, with exceptions to be negotiated. They saw this proposal as fair and likely agreeable to the big three, with bargaining only over details. The French, Italians and Spanish would fall into line rather than risk possibly greater limits driving costs up further if they left.
Many in the Royal Navy wanted to make this the opening proposal at the Conference, especially with the interception of the American instructions making the lesser proposals unacceptable. However, the Treasury was adamant that the smaller limits be tried first. To provide a better negotiating position the French, Italians and Spanish were not told of the 40,000-ton proposal, so that they would argue harder for the lesser proposals and make the 40,000-ton version seem more reasonable when the time came for compromise. This approach was the single largest mistake the British would make at the conference…
…The first order of business at the Conference was not actually the discussion of any naval limitations but rather the exact composition of the parties involved. Or to be more precise the composition of Britain. The Dominions had all sent representatives to the Conference and wished to be considered independently of Britain. This fit with British goals to try and offload part of their responsibility to the Dominions in order to save money and ensure de facto superiority from de jure parity with the United States.
The United States was against this. As far as the United States was concerned the Dominions were part of the British Empire and took their marching orders from London. Any limitations imposed on Britain had to bind and include them as well. The Dominions argued vociferously that they should be treated as separate, but the British themselves caved. They were aware that the United States would walk out if this was not the case, and that was their worst-case scenario for the Conference. Therefore, the British agreed that the limits assigned to Britain would include the Dominions.
When the matter of the Dominions was finished it became time to present the proposals. The Americans and Japanese reacted poorly to the joint proposal when it was presented to them. They saw it as an attempt to present them with a fiat accompli, which it arguably was, and gave them the idea they were not being negotiated with in good faith. When news of this leaked the American and Japanese publics became angry. The obviously preplanned unveiling of the 35,000 ton compromise a few days into the conference merely reinforced American and Japanese feelings that they were not being dealt with in good faith.
Instructions from Washington and Tokyo made it plain that they were to leave if the other parties did not immediately start negotiating in good faith. The British intercepted these instructions and realized that the conference was at risk. They could afford to lose all three of the smaller navies far better than losing the US or Japan. Given the situation presenting the 40,000-ton compromise as planned would be right out. Rather the British would accept the 45,000 ton 16” gun limits the Americans and Japanese proposed to avoid dealing with messy compromises over exceptions as a starting point.
Thus, the British proposed taking 45,000 tons and 16” guns as a fallback limit. If negotiations for a lower limit and other provisions failed, then the conference could at least agree on that. The United States and Japan agreed, while France and Italy saw the British move as a betrayal. The smaller powers insisted, with some justification, that such a proposal meant nothing, except for the four British Battleships of the N4 type, no ships on order were disallowed by such a limit. The two blustered but the American delegation put their foot down, they would sooner see a Treaty without France and Italy than a 35,000-ton basis. Rather than lose what influence they had the French and Italian delegations gritted their teeth and accepted the new position.
The parties immediately began trying to work out how to make a smaller number work. 15” guns were dropped almost immediately, neither the US nor Japan used them and neither was willing to design a new gun just for a potential treatyl 36,000 tons and 16” guns was proposed and immediately dropped, the big three believed that building a balanced ship was impossible on this tonnage without unacceptably sacrificing speed. Similarly, 37,500 tons was dropped for the same reason and negotiations focused on 40,000 tons as a possible limit.
Negotiations soon foundered over the matter of balancing exceptions and numbers of first-class ships. It was not just total tonnage that needed to be considered, but the composition of that tonnage. The British position was that first-class ships were those with 16” guns, while the American position was it was those over 35,000 tons, and the Japanese over 40,000 tons. The British position was seen as weakest, as it implied the 41,000-ton Admirals were not first-class ships while the 33,000-ton Colorado’s and Nagato’s were. The Japanese position was simply meant to exclude the 39,000-ton Tosas, which differed from the 41,000-ton Amagi class Battlecruisers simply in lacking 3.5knots of speed and having 3cm more belt armor and 7mm more deck armor. Hence the American Position was adopted.
This led to issues in working out the balance. Britain found that due to hard war service many of their existing ships were effectively over 20 years old, even if barely 10 years old chronologically. Thus, they desired to replace them and had 4 49,500-ton N4 Battleships under construction at the start of the conference. The RN figured that they could redesign the vessels to shave off 4500 tons, and thus desired to keep them in order to replace older, worn-out ships, and they had already been paid for. This meant that the British had 8 first class ships, ergo the United States would receive 8 and Japan 5, amounting to 6 South Dakotas and 2 Lexingtons and 2 Tosas and 3 Amagis respectively.
In order to avoid crossing a red line Japan would need to receive 495,000 tons, or 11 ships worth and the United States 765,000 tons, or 17 ships worth. In theory this would satisfy both parties and giving France and Italy 270,000 tons or 6 ships worth would satisfy them, and incidentally allow Britain to maintain a two-power standard absent the US. However, before they presented this position the British evaluated alternative positions.
Japan was considered the Royal Navy’s most likely real enemy, despite the existence of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Improving the force ratio against them to 18:11 could be done without crossing a red line. An alternative would be to add additional new ships to be built in the 20’s. Adding a pair of ships at the cost of Ashitaka and two more Lexingtons would change the modern unit force ration from 8:5 to a more favorable 10:6, it would require shifting the total tonnage to 19:12 to avoid crossing red lines, but doing so opened up a ratio of 20:12, which was incidentally the ratio of modern units in the plan. This would require keeping Thunderer and Princess Royal around longer, but this was not necessarily a bad thing from the Royal Navy’s point of view.
Thus Britain proposed ratios of 20:20:12:7:7:3 and 10:10:6 to the Conference. The American ratios of 15:15:9:6:5:2 and 4:4:3 and the Japanese ratios of 15:15:10:6:5:2 and 6:6:4 were presented as alternatives. Both alternatives however aroused the ire of the Italians and Spanish, the former demanded parity with France, the latter liked the greater implied recognition. The naval elements of both the American and Japanese delegations supported the greater amounts of new units. The politicians were questionable on the more expensive nature of the proposal, but the Japanese delegation was convinced by the naval side to support the British rather than modify their plan.
The American delegation presented a counter proposal of 15:15:9:6:6:3 and 6:6:4 which convinced the Italians to support it, but the Spanish remained supporters of the British plan out of spite for 1898. However, the Japanese announced they would not go along with the American plan as it would require disposing of Kongo. With the British already having a plan that received the approval of 3 of 6 participants that was broadly acceptable to the US and Italy it was decided to go with the British plan. The tonnages would be 900,000 for the US and Great Britain, 540,000 for Japan, 315,000 for Italy and France and 135,000 for Spain.
This plan was criticized by many for not actually saving money or stopping the growth of naval armaments. It required cancellation of 20 ships that were not ordered yet, but of ships already under construction only two Lexingtons were to be cancelled and 4 N4’s downsized. It also only required the disposal of 12” armed ships by the US and Japan and 3 13.5” ships by Britain along with her 12” ships. To satisfy this it was declared that there would be a building holiday to avoid laying down new tonnage to replace old until the ships in question were 20 years old, as dated from the keel laying. This would mean the US and Japan would not lay down any further capital ships until 1931, the UK could do so in 1930 in addition to having a two-ship exception.
Italy, Spain and France were not covered by the building holiday, as Italy and France had old predreadnoughts that could be replaced immediately filling out their tonnages, and Spain was below her tonnage total.
Of course, with Capital Ship tonnage determined the question became what a capital ship was. One could not simply go by designation, as abuse of that was obvious. Given that the arguments over limitations focused on two qualities, size and caliber of main armament, these were to be the determining characteristics. If either characteristic was above a set limit, then the vessel would be a capital ship, otherwise it would be a cruiser or smaller vessel.
Where these limits were proved to be an issue. This related to what one wanted a cruiser to do. For Britain the primary purpose of cruisers was to be commerce protection and maintenance of the empire. For this she needed many vessels that were seaworthy and armed enough to deal with merchant raiders. Speed was to be enough to run down all but the fastest liners, but was otherwise not a priority, neither was armor or armament, as combat power could be made up with numbers. A need for endurance to provide a worldwide presence was mitigated by Britain’s wide-ranging network of bases. For France, Italy and Spain a cruisers purpose was scouting and leading destroyers. Cruisers needed speed and enough combat power to defeat enemy destroyers, but not much range in their expected environment of the Mediterranean. The Americans and Japanese were interested in scouting, raiding, counter raiding and in the Japanese case leading destroyers. However, they expected to use their cruisers in the vast Pacific and in addition to speed and combat power needed range.
Britain wanted smaller cruisers of 5,000 to 8,000 tons with 6” guns, large enough to do what she asked and cheap enough to be mass produced. Similarly, the French, Italian and Spanish could fit what they desired in a cruiser in under 8,000 tons and with 6” or 6.1” guns. For the Americans and Japanese, it was different as Pacific ranges required more fuel be carried and thus a larger ship. The United States ended up designing the 12,000-ton Louisville class in 1920, Japan responded with the Minase class cruiser in 1922, nominally 8,000 tons but in practice 9,300. Both of these classes had 8” guns as the clear weather and calm seas of the Pacific allowed for long range shooting.
The British knew that the United States would not give up their 4 cruisers of the Louisville class that were sufficiently advanced that the cancellation penalties outweighed the completion costs. Thus, they proposed that the United States and Britain be allowed 5 cruisers each above 8,000 tons that could carry guns larger than 6”, which would cover their Hawkins class, and Japan 3, which would cover their Minase class and one extra unit. Remaining cruisers would be limited to 8,000 tons and 6” guns to not count as capital ships but would be unlimited in quantity. Exception would be provided for cruisers older than 1905 so the varying powers could retain older armored cruisers with guns larger than 6” as training vessels.
This was unacceptable, to the United States at least, the 7,000-ton Omahas and 7,500-ton Pensacolas were both overloaded and lacking in endurance for Pacific operations. This could not be solved on a mere 500 tons making the limit unacceptable even for 6” cruisers. Rather 10,000 tons was considered a minimum for a 6” cruiser. Furthermore, the United States saw the 6” cruiser as unable to fulfill what they need from a cruiser, with its armament lacking in range for Pacific Operations.
The United States returned with a counter proposal for a limit of 12,500 tons and 8” guns with 500,000 tons for the US and UK, 300,000 for Japan, 100,000 for France and Italy and 50,000 for Spain. This was both too much for Britain and too little, they felt they needed 100 cruisers to fill all the Royal Navy’s obligations for cruisers. They did not think they could build 30 such large cruisers and afford 70 others, nor that they could fit 100 cruisers on 500,000 tons without making ships inadequately small. Furthermore, Britain thought she had a legitimate need for more cruisers than the US and did not want parity at that cost.
Knowing the United States would not accept 8,000 tons unless they received 30 or more large cruisers Britain released a counter proposal of 10 large cruisers for the US and UK, 6 for Japan, 4 for France and Italy and 2 for Spain, up to 12,500 tons and 8”. In this proposal the unlimited category was increased to 10,000 tons and 6” guns. The United States felt better about this one but still thought they needed more large cruisers. 10 were needed to replace the Armored cruisers as station flagships and at least 6 more were desired to substitute for not getting all the battlecruisers they asked for.
Japan came with a counter proposal shortly afterwards. It limited large cruisers by tonnage, not numbers, the US and UK would be allowed 250,000 tons, Japan 175,000, France and Italy 87,500 and Spain 37,500, based on their amount of capital ship tonnage and maintaining the armored cruiser exception. Cruisers with 6.1” guns and that were under 10,000 tons would not be limited. This was more acceptable to Britain than the American proposal 20 large cruisers and 80 small were more affordable than 30 and 70, and by being based on tonnage it allowed for the ability to build a greater number of slightly smaller cruisers, something Japan was obviously planning on doing.
The British delegation considered renegotiating to a smaller amount of First-Class cruisers, with 200,000 to 125,000 tons as the base for the US and UK. However, doing so would be varying from the capital ship ratio for all three of the smaller nations, and potentially reopen that hot button issue. The departure of 70% to Japan instead of 60% was something to be kept, as a bone for Japan accepting a slightly smaller tonnage ratio in first rate capital units compared to the US and Britain. This was found acceptable and the Japanese proposal became the limitations for first class cruisers.
Further proposals to limit second class cruisers by other nations were shot down by the British. They did not want to settle for parity with the Americans in this case. Facing stiff British opposition the Americans backed down on pushing for it, cruisers were not worth potentially wrecking the conference over. With that conceded potential limitations on destroyers, torpedo boats, and other small combatants were off the table, as they could be substituted with larger cruisers.
With cruisers dealt with the discussion moved to the other form of vessel that needed to be distinguished from Capital ships. These were the aircraft carriers, the newest type of warship afloat. Britain had 4 built or building, the United States and Japan had two each and all had plans for more of the vessels. To avoid a potential naval race limits had to be established, though what those limits where was to be the question.
It was clear that the vessels could not be limited to cruiser tonnage, the American vessels and the British Argus both exceeded the size first class cruisers were limited to and the USN and RN found them too small. Even if that was not the case nobody was willing to sacrifice cruiser tonnage for them, not with carriers being an unproven weapon. Therefore, they needed to be a separate category.
The Americans proposed a limit of 40,000 tons, as that was the size of the vessels they had been considering for their next naval building program before the conference began. This however was far too large for the British. A proposal to drop to 36,000 tons was likewise too large for them, but the United States was firm. 36,000 tons would allow them to convert the last two Lexington class on the stocks and save money, which was after all a goal of the Conference.
The British proposed a limit of 20,000 tons for individual vessels. This would keep costs low, as the Treasury desired, and allow ships small enough for their aircraft complements to be filled out, as the RN had already found the RAF difficult to pry aircraft out of, while being large enough for effective flight operations. However, it was considered too small by the Americans to fit both the engines and torpedo defenses they desired along with a useful load of aircraft.
It was the Japanese who made a compromise proposal, 30,000 tons, which would allow them to reuse machinery ordered for the to be cancelled Kii class battleships. The United States would be allowed an exemption for two carriers above that limit up to 36,000 tons, and Britain would be allowed to exclude Argus and Hermes from her tonnage. In exchange Japan would once more be allowed 70% of the American and British tonnage, rather than 60% elsewhere. Vessels bellow 10,000 tons were not specifically excluded but fell below the cruiser limit which meant in practice they were hence the Japanese ships and the British Egeria and Cavendish were not counted.
This was accepted and the parties turned to working out total tonnages. The USN wanted 2 3 ship divisions of large carriers in the long term, which meant 200,000 tons for 2 Lexingtons at 36,000 tons, 2 Langley class as training vessels at 13,000 tons and 4 future carriers at 25,500 tons. However, the Politicians, after seeing the navy get their way too often put their foot down. The US would propose a limit of 150,000 tons, enough for 3 26,000-ton vessels once the Langelys were retired.
Britain proposed 150,000 tons as well, so that they could have 6 22,500-ton carriers out of their allotment, enough for two each at Home, in the Med and East of Suez. With the two largest parties agreeing on 150,000 tons as a base it became 150,000 tons, 150,000 tons, 105,000 tons, 52,500 tons, 52,500 tons and 22,500 tons. As a sop to the USN for vessels converted from other hulls it was decided that their age would be determined based on the original vessel, not the carrier conversion, allowing Langley and her sister to be replaced in 1931.
The question then became a matter of armaments. A fear among the negotiators was that the carriers could be used as a back door for more cruisers or capital ships. Therefore, the armaments had to be limited. This limit could not be too great, such valuable units would need self-defense armaments to deal with enemy cruisers. At the same time those armaments could not be so great as to make them alternatives to First Class cruisers.
After a bit of wrangling a limitation was set at up to 10 8” guns for 25,000-30,000 tons, 8 8” guns for 20,000 to 24,999 tons and 6 8” guns 15,000 to 19,999 tons. Vessels below 15,000 tons would be limited to 6” guns. Vessels that carried 8” guns would be limited to 12 total guns above 5.1”. This was mutually satisfactory. With the key issues fully determined the conference turned to other, lesser matters…
…The British delegation put forward a proposal to abolish the submarine as a weapon of war. This would eliminate what they saw as the biggest threat to their security and allow them to avoid spending on both submarines and anti-submarine measures. This was vigorously opposed by both the French and the Japanese. Both parties considered submarines a key part of their strategic requirements and were loath to lose them. The French in particular considered it an absolute necessity.
Facing stiff opposition, the British instead proposed limiting submarines. However, that led to a fight between the United States on one side and Japan on the other. The United States wanted a limit on the number of submarines but wanted large vessels that could make sustained patrols off Japan when based at Hawaii. Japan wanted the limit based on tonnage, they expected to operate their submarines relatively close to their bases, limiting it by tonnage would advantage them in number of boats relative to the United States.
Arguments soon ceased after France demanded no less than 90,000 tons or 150 boats as their limitations. As this was felt to be tantamount to no limits at all the matter was dropped…
…Another matter relating to ships was that of building ships for export. Doing so was considered extremely valuable to the parties at the conference in providing ones naval industry with work while gaining foreign currency. However it presented a challenge in that ships building for export could be seized by the building party, as the British had done with four battleships during the previous war. It was feared that one could use straw purchasers to functionally get around the limits of the treaty system. As such it was proposed by the Japanese that building capital ships for export be banned
This was opposed by the United States and Britain, who were both bidding on an offer by Brazil for a fourth and potentially fifth battleship, and Italy who had just signed a contract with Argentina for the completion of Cristoforo Colombo along with Francesco Caracciolo. They did not want to lose a potential sale and both the income and maintenance of infrastructure it represented. At the same time they recognized that not doing something about this could ruin the treaty.
Limits were proposed that each power could only build two capital ships and two first class cruisers at one time. Furthermore capital ships built for export would be limited to 35,000 tons and 15” guns, to allow the Italian ships to complete while still being weak enough not to completely overshadow the legacy ships owned by the smaller powers. Finally the building power would be required to post several times the value of the ships in question as a security guarantee with a third party, to be forfeited upon seizure of the vessels…
…One of the United States prime goals for the Conference did not appear in the actual treaty and was not formally discussed. This was the dissolution of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. The British had said that the Alliance did not apply to the United States, but the US saw otherwise. As far as the US was concerned, with the breaking of the Central Powers the United States was the only nation that warranted such an alliance between the #1 and #3 Naval Powers.
In truth the matter was already settled before the Conference. The British had at the most recent Imperial Conference decided to terminate the Alliance. Australia and New Zealand had argued for keeping it, saying the Japanese had been a valuable ally during the war while the United States was an isolationist neutral who could not be relied upon. The Canadians had vehemently challenged the idea of Japan as a valuable ally, not one Japanese soldier had set foot in Africa, Europe or the Middle East, not one Japanese warship had entered the warzones of the North Sea, Adriatic or Aegean. In Canada’s view Portugal had been a more valuable ally than Japan, the former had suffered 25 times the casualties fighting alongside British troops in Belgium compared to the latter’s Pacific land grab. As for American Neutrality, the Canadians had produced figures for how much the empire had benefited from America being a friendly neutral rather than a hostile one in the previous war.
The Australians and New Zealanders then changed tack, to stating that an alliance with Japan was necessary for their security. The Canadians had responded that the only potential threats were the Untied States, who the Alliance did not apply to and Japan. An Alliance with Japan to prevent a Japanese attack was an invitation for betrayal, not an alliance the Canadians reasoned. The Canadian view prevailed, and it was decided to end the Alliance at the Imperial Conference…
…Related to the Naval Treaty was the Four Power Treaty, the Ten Power Treaty and the Shangtung Treaty. The first, between Britain, France, Japan and the United States was an agreement to respect the status quo in the Pacific and not seek territorial changes. The Ten Power Treaty between all the participants sought to formalize the American Door Policy and thus equal access to Chinese trade and greater sovereignty for China. The Shangtung treaty unlike the previous two proved controversial.
That treaty solved the Shandong question which had existed since the Japanese seizure of the province from Germany. Japan argued it should be theirs by right of conquest, China argued that they leased the province to Germany but not Japan. The Treaty of Versailles saw Japan’s position confirmed albeit extremely reluctantly on the part of the United States. China however refused to sight the treaty and an economic war began between the two countries.
Rather than let things spiral out of control into what was possibly another war it was decided to solve it at the conference. Japan would return sovereignty of the Province to China but would be allowed to retain economic control over it. In the short term it ended the economic warfare between the two countries. In the long run it only heightened nationalism on both sides…
…As a sop to Japan for accepting the Shangtung Treaty it was decided to limit the construction of fortifications in the Pacific region. The United States was forbidden from constructing or enhancing fortifications at its Pacific Island territories, excepting Hawaii but including the Aleutians. Similarly, Britain was forbidden from doing the same outside of immediate proximity to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Malaya. Japan was forbidden from doing so in the Mandates, Formosa and the most far flung of its island possessions, but could do so at home, in Korea and in certain key island chains like the Ryukyus, the Bonin islands and the Volcano Islands…
…Late in the conference the Japanese requested a minor alteration to the Capital Ship limits. Namely that each power be allowed to preserve one ship of historical value that entered service no later than 1906 without counting against any limits. This was because they desired to preserve the Mikasa, Togo’s flagship at the decisive battle of Tsushima. They chose the date to allow the British to potentially preserve Dreadnought if they so decided. This was considered an acceptable alteration, given the ships in question would lack combat power and at most be useful as overgrown monitors or training vessels.
In the end Japan preserved Mikasa, the United States the old pre dreadnought Oregon and Britain preserved nothing. An attempt to preserve Dreadnought foundered early on due to cost grounds and no other ship aroused significant interest in being preserved. The originator of the Dreadnought era thus went to breakers, coincidentally next to the torpedo training hulk Vernon III, formerly known as HMS Warrior and the originator of the ironclad era…
…As a final concession to those who thought the treaty was insufficient, it would require a follow up Conference to occur in three years to negotiate additional limitations. The location was to be the League of Nations headquarters in Geneva Switzerland…
…The final treaty produced was accepted fairly easily by Britain, Spain and Italy. France saw the first attempt at ratifying it fail, as many deputies on the right were incensed at the Italians being given equality and on the left at the relative lack of limitations. However after some horse trading it was passed by the Chamber of Deputies. In Japan it caused quite a bit of anger among the IJN brass, who saw the 60% capital ship ratio, and the slightly lesser ratio in first class units, as inadequate for fighting the United States. However the treasury pointed out that the US was effectively outbuilding them by 2 to 1 in capital units without the treaty and would do so significantly more in large cruisers and aircraft carriers if the treaty failed. Between that and the worry that their mortal enemies, the IJA, would take advantage of a public fight over the ratification of the treaty the IJN acquiesced.
It was in the United States that the fight over ratification was the toughest. For most of the Senate the Treaty did not go far enough. The entirety of the current building program was to be completed, albeit with two battlecruisers converted to aircraft carriers, and only the largest units of the next program would be cancelled and the limit for carriers and large cruisers required future construction on a large scale. Furthermore only 18 battleships would be disposed of, 10 of which were predreadnoughts. For isolationists in the Midwestern states this was too little, they thought the United States had no need of such a large navy to defend its shores and that the taxes to pay for it could be better spent elsewhere or not collected.
Informal polling by the Senate leadership indicated that the Treaty would likely get 50-60 votes, below the 64 needed to ratify it. Concerted lobbying efforts were made to convince fence sitters. Appeals to racism were made, arguing that attempting to renegotiate the treaty would only benefit the Japanese. Related appeals were made stating that if the treaty failed matching the Japanese would require greater expenditures of money. In the end 63 yes votes and 3 absences were secured, allowing the Treaty to be ratified…
…Per the Treaty the following ships were allowed to be retained:
For the United States: Ranger, Saratoga, Constellation, Lexington, Massachusetts, Iowa, North Carolina, Montana, Indiana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Washington, Maryland, Colorado, California, Tennessee, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Nevada, Texas and New York.
Ironsides and United States would be converted to aircraft carriers of no more than 36,000 tons.
For Great Britain: Rodney, Howe, Anson, Hood, Repulse, Royal Sovereign, Royal Oak, Resolution, Revenge, Warspite, Queen Elizabeth, Tiger, Emperor of India, Benbow, Marlborough, Iron Duke, Ajax, Centurion, King George V, Princess Royal and Thunderer.
4 currently unnamed N4 class battleships would need to be redesigned to displace less than 45,000 tons standard.
2 additional capital ships could be laid down by Britain before 1930. Until that point Conqueror, Monarch, Orion, Australia and Colossus could be retained.
For Japan: Ashitaka, Atago, Akagi, Amagi, Kaga, Tosa, Mutsu, Nagato, Hyuga, Ise, Yamashiro, Fuso, Haruna, Kirishima, Hiei and Kongo.
For France: Provence, Lorraine, Bretagne, Paris, Jean Bart, France, Courbet, Voltaire, Mirabeau, Diderot, Danton, Condorcet, Verite, Justice, and Liberte.
For Italy: Zara (ex-Svent Istvan), Fiume (ex-Prinz Eugen), Trento (ex-Tegetthoff), Trieste (ex-Viribus Unitis), Duilio, Andrea Doria, Leonardo da Vinci, Giulio Cesare, Conte di Cavour, Dante Aligheri, Napoli, Roma, Regina Elena, and Benedetto Brin.
For Spain: Castila, Aragon, Jaime I, Alfonso XIII, Espana, and Pelayo
Ships to be disposed of were:
For the United States: Arkansas, Wyoming, Utah, Florida, North Dakota, Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Kansas, Vermont, Louisiana, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Georgia, and Virginia.
For Great Britain: Neptune, Indefatigable, Collingwood, Temeraire, Superb, Bellerophon, Dreadnought, Hibernia, Africa, Zealandia (ex-New Zealand), Britannia and Hindustan.
For Japan: Settsu, Aki, Satsuma, Kurama, Ibuki, Ikoma, Tsukuba, Katori, Asahi, Shikishima, Fuji, Iwami (ex-Oryol), Mishima (ex-Admiral Seniavin) and Okinoshima (ex-General-Admiral Apraksin)…
-Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007
Okay this is probably the most monstrous update yet by a factor of two, you can see I spent a lot of time on it