The U.S. Navy and Its Cold War Alliances, 1945-1953

Corbin Williamson

After World War I, the U.S. Navy’s brief alliance with the British Royal Navy gave way to disagreements over disarmament, fleet size, interpretations of freedom of the seas, and general economic competition. This go-it-alone approach lasted until the next world war, when the U.S. Navy found itself fighting alongside the British, Canadian, Australian, and other Allied navies until the surrender of Germany and Japan. In The U.S. Navy and Its Cold War Alliances, 1945–1953, Corbin Williamson explores the transformation this cooperation brought about in the U.S. Navy’s engagement with other naval forces during the Cold War.

Like the onetime looming danger of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, growing concerns about the Soviet naval threat drew the U.S. Navy into tight relations with the British, Canadian, and Australian navies. The U.S. Navy and Its Cold War Alliances, 1945–1953, brings to light the navy-to-navy links that political concerns have kept out of the public sphere: a web of informal connections that included personnel exchanges, standardization efforts in equipment and doctrine, combined training and education, and joint planning for a war with the Soviets. Using a “history from the middle” approach, Corbin Williamson draws upon the archives of all four nations, including documents only recently declassified, to analyze the actions of midlevel officials and officers who managed and maintained these alliances on a day-to-day basis. His work highlights the impact of domestic politics and security concerns on navy-to-navy relations, even as it integrates American naval history with those of Britain, Canada, and Australia. In doing so, the book provides a valuable new perspective on the little-studied but critical transformation of the U.S. Navy’s peacetime alliances during the Cold War.

“Corbin Williamson’s book not only is a strongly written and excellently researched account but also fills a major chronological gap in the multinational history of U.S. and Allied navies during the early Cold War. Williamson’s book should foster additional studies on the topic for this time period. In addition, his work could be a policy blueprint for the United States and its allies today in terms of navy-to-navy contact and operations, especially given budgetary and other restraints on those navies in meeting the threats of the early twenty-first century.”

—Hal M. Friedman, professor of modern history, Henry Ford College

“This original analysis of postwar naval cooperation among the United States, Australia, Britain, and Canada adds to a growing body of new Cold War global scholarship. Drawing upon political, strategic, operational, and technological factors, Corbin Williamson’s insightful and nuanced work offers readers a refreshing interpretation of American and Commonwealth naval cooperation. Williamson challenges the traditional picture of a U.S. navy that turned its back on wartime friends, showing clearly how perceptions of a future Soviet submarine threat caused particular high-ranking officers to encourage linkages among the forces. A must-read for historians of twentieth-century navies and for scholars of the Cold War.”

—Isabel Campbell, senior historian, Directorate of History and Heritage, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Canada

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About the Author

Corbin Williamson is assistant professor of strategy, Air War College, Montgomery, Alabama. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including books such as The Culture of Military Organizations and The Vietnam War in Popular Culture and periodicals such as the International Journal of Naval History, Diplomatic History, and Joint Force Quarterly.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series