Washington Naval Conference 1922 - History

Washington Naval Conference 1922 - History

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Washington Naval Conerence

The United States, Britain, Japan, France and Italy met and agreed on a treaty limiting naval powers. The treaty called for a ratio of naval ships of 5 to 5 to 3 to 1.7 to 1.7. Thus, for every 5 large ships of the US and Britain, Japan could have 3 and France and Italy 1.7. The United States agreed to scuttle 30 war ships as a result of the treaty.

The Washington Naval Conference was preceded by a four-power treaty signed by the United States, Britain, Japan, and France. It committed each party to respect the other's rights vis-a-vis island possessions in the Pacific. They agreed to refer any dispute to a conference of the four powers.

The London Conference almost broke down over the United States' demand that Japan accept a ratio of 3 ships for every 5 American or every 5 British ships. Japan insisted on a 10 to 7 ratio. Finally, Japan accepted after the United States agreed not to fortify any Pacific islands except the Hawaiian Islands.

The French and the Italians were allotted 1.7 war ships for every 5 British and every 5 American war ships. The Italians accepted, but the French objected. Finally, after a direct appeal to the French Prime Minister, the French accepted, but only for cruisers and battleships.

Disarmament: Washington Naval Treaty

Following the end of World War I, the United States, Great Britain, and Japan all commenced large-scale programs of capital ship construction. In the United States, this took the form of five new battleships and four battlecruisers, while across the Atlantic the Royal Navy was preparing to build its series of G3 Battlecruisers and N3 Battleships. For the Japanese, the postwar naval construction began with a program calling for eight new battleships and eight new battlecruisers. This building spree led to concern that a new naval arms race, similar to the pre-war Anglo-German competition, was about to begin.

Seeking to prevent this, President Warren G. Harding called the Washington Naval Conference in late 1921, with the goal of establishing limits on warship construction and tonnage. Convening on November 12, 1921, under the auspices of the League of Nations, the delegates met at Memorial Continental Hall in Washington DC. Attended by nine countries with concerns in the Pacific, the principal players included the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, and Italy. Leading the American delegation was Secretary of State Charles Evan Hughes who sought to limit Japanese expansionism in the Pacific.

For the British, the conference offered an opportunity to avoid an arms race with the US as well as an opportunity to achieve stability in the Pacific which would provide protection to Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Arriving in Washington, the Japanese possessed a clear agenda that included a naval treaty and recognition of their interests in Manchuria and Mongolia. Both nations were concerned about the power of American shipyards to out-produce them if an arms race were to occur.

As the negotiations commenced, Hughes was aided by intelligence provided by Herbert Yardley's "Black Chamber." Operated cooperatively by the State Department and US Army, Yardley's office was tasked with intercepting and decrypting communications between the delegations and their home governments. Particular progress was made breaking Japanese codes and reading their traffic. The intelligence received from this source permitted Hughes to negotiate the most favorable deal possible with the Japanese. After several weeks of meetings, the world's first disarmament treaty was signed on February 6, 1922.

Against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the Nazi rise to power, Benito Mussolini called for the creation of the Four-Power Pact on March 19, 1933 as a better means of insuring international security. Under the plan, smaller nations would have less of a voice in great power politics.

The Four-Power Treaty (四ヵ国条約, Yonkakoku Jōyaku) was a treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, France and Japan at the Washington Naval Conference on 13 December 1921. It was partly a follow-on to the Lansing-Ishii Treaty, signed between the U.S. and Japan.

Results of the Washington Naval Conference

The major nations that participated in the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22) entered the negotiations from differing positions of power and departed with differing levels of satisfaction:

  • Britain had been the world's largest naval power, but crushing debt incurred during the war rendered them receptive to limitations on their power.
  • The United States had the most powerful navy by the end of the war. Its position of leadership was solidified by a generally robust economy that was only temporarily slowed by a brief recession during the Harding administration. Nevertheless, ample criticism in the press arose about the United States' acceptance of the Washington treaties in particular, surrendering its naval superiority and its opportunity to strengthen its Pacific bases.
  • Japan had maintained a smaller and less powerful navy, but was offended by being asked to accept a lesser ratio under the terms of the Five Power Pact. Acceptance was gained only at the price of a promise by Britain and the United States not to further fortify their bases in the Pacific. Several exceptions were made, however, including the right for the U.S. to effect military improvements in Hawaii.
  • France had entered World War I as a leading naval power, but its fleet was severely reduced by war's end. Most of their efforts in the 1920s would be devoted to the development of a strong army to resist any future German threat. Naval construction was a much lesser concern, but that fact did not prevent the French from resisting acceptance of a small ratio. In fact, French opposition was so strong that it threatened to wreck the conference on at least one occasion. One important victory was won by the French delegation, which successfully insisted that that the naval ratio be applied only to capital ships*, not to lesser vessels such as cruisers, destroyers and submarines.

Washington Naval Conference

More formally known as the International Conference on Naval Limitation, the Washington Naval Conference was a disarmament effort occasioned by the hugely expensive naval construction rivalry that existed among Britain, Japan and the United States. Senator William E. Borah, Republican of Idaho, took the lead on this matter and urged that the major Allied nations from the recent war gather in an effort to slow the arms race. The proposal was not met with initial enthusiasm by the Harding administration, but it became a political imperative when it was portrayed as a Republican alternative to League of Nations’ peace efforts. In the summer of 1921, Harding extended invitations and expanded the agenda beyond arms control to include discussion of issues in the Pacific and Far East. The formal opening of the Washington Naval Conference occurred on Armistice Day 1921. The major naval powers of Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States were in attendance as well as other nations with concerns about territories in the Pacific — Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and China — who were not parties to the disarmament discussions. Soviet Russia was not invited, nor were the defeated Central Powers. The American delegation was led by Charles Evans Hughes, the secretary of state, and included Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge and Oscar Underwood, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate. In the initial session, Hughes shocked the delegates by going beyond platitudes and offering a detailed plan for arms reduction. Labeled by some as one of the most dramatic moments in American diplomatic history, Hughes called for the scrapping of nearly two million tons of warships and a lengthy “holiday” on the construction of new ships. He was widely hailed in the press as a savior, but leaders of the other Allied governments were quietly skeptical. Over the following weeks, a series of agreements was concluded:

  • Four-Power Pact (December 13, 1921). The major Allied powers — Britain, France, Japan and the United States — agreed to submit disputes among themselves over Pacific issues to a conference for resolution.
  • Four-Power Pact (December 13, 1921). The same Allied powers pledged mutual respect for the possessions and mandates of other signatories in the Pacific.
  • Shantung Treaty (February 4, 1922). The territory of Kiaochow in Shantung (Shandong) province was returned by Japan to China. The area had been leased by Germany in 1898, but was seized by Japan at the outbreak of war in 1914.
  • Nine-Power Treaty (February 6, 1922). The signatories — the Big Four, plus Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and China — endorsed the Open Door Policy and pledged mutual respect for Chinese territorial integrity and independence.
  • Nine-Power Treaty (February 6, 1922). The same Allied powers agreed to extend Chinese control over trade matters within Chinese borders.
  • Five-Power Naval Limitation Treaty (February 6, 1922). This agreement implemented the sweeping proposals of Hughes in somewhat modified terms. The leading naval powers — Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States — pledged adherence to limitations on the tonnage of capital ships and accepted a moratorium on new naval construction.
  • Five-Power supplemental treaty. The major Allied naval powers agreed on a series of rules for the use of submarines in future warfare and also outlawed the use of poisonous gases as a military weapon.
  • Six-Power Pact. The Big Five Nations plus China agreed to the allocation among themselves of former German cable routes in the Pacific.
  • Yap Island agreement. The United States and Japan agreed on provisions for U.S. use of the Pacific island as a distribution point for the transpacific cable.


Buckley, Thomas H. The United States and the Washington Conference, 1921–1922. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1970.

Goldstein, Erik, and John H. Maurer, eds. The Washington Conference, 1921–22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor. Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass, 1994.

Murfett, Malcolm H. "Look Back in Anger: The Western Powers and the Washington Conference of 1921–22." In Arms Limitation and Disarmament: Restraints on War, 1899–1939. Edited by Brian J. C. McKercher. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1992.

Policies agreed upon [ edit | edit source ]

The Washington Conference was called by President Warren Harding and run by Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. Harding demanded action in order to gain domestic political credit. Hughes—helped by the cryptographers who were reading the Japanese diplomatic secrets—brilliantly engineered a deal that everyone thought best for themselves. Δ] To resolve technical disputes about the quality of warships, the conferees adopted a quantitative standard, based on tonnage displacement (a simple measure of the size of a ship.) A ten-year agreement fixed the ratio of battleships at 5:5:3—that is 525,000 tons for the USA, 525,000 tons for Britain, and 315,000 tons for Japan. Smaller limits with a ratio of 1.7 applied to France and Italy. Ε] The dominant weapons systems of the era—battleships—could be no larger than 35,000 tons. The major powers allowed themselves 135,000:135,000:81,000 tons for the newfangled aircraft carriers. The Washington Conference exactly captured the worldwide popular demand for peace and disarmament without it, the US, Britain and Japan would have engaged in an expensive buildup, with each worried the other two might be getting too powerful. The agreements forced the US to scrap 15 old battleships and 2 new ones, along with 13 ships under construction. Britain had to scrap ships too—indeed, more warships were lost at Washington than at any battle in history. [ citation needed ]

The naval treaty was concluded on February 6, 1922. Ratifications of that treaty were exchanged in Washington on August 17, 1923, and it was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on April 16, 1924. Ζ] Japan agreed to revert Shandong to Chinese control by an agreement concluded on February 4, 1922. Ratifications of that agreement were exchanged in Beijing on June 2, 1922, and it was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on July 7, 1922. Η] ⎖]

Five-Power Naval Limitation Treaty

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Five-Power Naval Limitation Treaty, also called Washington Treaty, arms limitation treaty signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, and Italy on February 6, 1922. The agreement fixed the respective numbers and tonnages of capital ships to be possessed by the navies of each of the contracting nations. It was the third of seven treaties or agreements concluded at the Washington Conference of 1921–22.

The treaty designated by name the capital ships (defined as vessels of war exceeding 20,000 tons standard displacement or carrying guns with a calibre exceeding 8 inches [203 mm]) which each country might retain. The aggregate tonnage thus to be retained was 525,850 for the U.S., 558,950 for the United Kingdom, 221,170 for France, 182,800 for Italy, and 301,320 for Japan. All other capital ships, built or being built, not so named, were to be scrapped, except that France and Italy were authorized to replace existing tonnage to be retired in 1927, 1929, and 1931. The U.S. was to scrap 15 pre-Jutland ships (ships built prior to the Battle of Jutland in 1916) and 11 uncompleted ships Britain was to scrap 20 pre-Jutland ships and 4 uncompleted ships and Japan was to scrap 10 pre-Jutland ships and 6 uncompleted ships and to abandon its program for 8 ships not yet being built.

The number of capital ships of the U.S. and the U.K. was to be stabilized in 1936 at 15 each, and the number of Japanese ships was to be stabilized in 1935 at 9. In the case of France and Italy, the number of ships was not fixed, but no vessel was to exceed 35,000 tons displacement. Subject to certain specified exceptions and replacement provisions, the contracting powers agreed to abandon their capital ship building programs. The total capital ship replacement tonnage was not to exceed 525,000 each for the U.S. and the U.K., 315,000 for Japan, and 175,000 each for France and Italy, resulting in a final ratio of 5 each for the United States and the United Kingdom, 3 for Japan, and 1.67 each for France and Italy. No capital ship was to exceed 35,000 tons or to carry a gun with a calibre in excess of 16 inches (406 mm).

Restrictions were likewise placed upon aircraft carriers as follows: total tonnage was not to exceed 135,000 for either the United States or the United Kingdom, 60,000 for either France or Italy, and 81,000 for Japan. No carrier was to exceed 27,000 tons displacement or to carry a gun with a calibre in excess of 8 inches (203 mm).

An essential corollary to these ship limitations was Article XIX of the treaty, under which the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan agreed to maintain the status quo with regard to fortifications and naval bases in their respective territories and possessions located inside an area bounded on the east by the 180th meridian, on the north by the 30th degree of latitude, on the west by the 110th meridian, and on the south by the Equator. In addition, Japan agreed to maintain the status quo in the Kuril Islands. The significance of this nonmilitarization agreement meant that no two of the powers could launch an offensive attack on each other, and thus the naval ratio of 5:5:3 was made palatable to Japan.

The treaty also laid down precise rules for scrapping and replacement, and it stipulated the periods during which scrapping was to be effected. Finally, it contained several significant miscellaneous provisions: (1) Should any contracting power consider the requirements of its national security materially affected by any change of circumstances, it might request a conference with the other contracting powers with a view to reconsidering and amending the treaty. (2) After eight years from the coming into force of the treaty, the U.S. was to arrange a conference to consider changes rendered necessary by possible technical and scientific developments. (3) Should any contracting power become engaged in a war affecting its naval defense, upon due notice it might suspend for the period of hostilities its treaty obligations. (4) The treaty was to remain in force until December 31, 1936, subject to the right of any contracting power to give notice two years before that date of its intention to terminate the treaty. Upon such notice taking effect, the treaty was to terminate as regards all the contracting powers. Restive under the limitations of the treaty, Japan subsequently demanded parity with Britain and the U.S. its demand being rejected, Japan gave notice of termination, and the treaty expired at the end of 1936.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

New York Shipyard post World War I

In the post war period, NY Ship had orders for 4 Navy ships:

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USS Idaho BB 42 &ndash Ordered in 1915 before signing the treaty. Complete in 1919. Shown off Okinawa 1945.

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USS Saratoga (CV3) &ndash Ordered as a battle cruiser in 1917. As a results of the treaty, converted to an aircraft carrier in 1922. 888 feet long, one of Navy&rsquos first air craft carriers.

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mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_153,h_120,al_c,q_80,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01,blur_2/USS%20Washington.jpg" />

USS Colorado BB 45 &ndash Ordered in 1916, commissioned 1923. Sister ship to USS Washington (right), ordered in 1919, order cancelled in 1922 when about 76% complete. The hull was sunk as a target 1924.


Immediately after World War I, Britain still had the world's largest and most powerful navy, followed by the United States and more distantly by Japan, France and Italy. The British Royal Navy had interned the defeated German High Seas Fleet. The Allies had differing opinions concerning the final disposition of the Imperial German Navy, with the French and Italians wanting the German fleet divided between the victorious powers and the Americans and British wanting the ships destroyed. The negotiations became mostly moot after the German crews had scuttled most of their ships.

News of the scuttling angered the French and the Italians, with the French particularly unimpressed with British explanations that the fleet guarding the Germans had then been away on exercises. Nevertheless, the British joined their allies in condemning the German actions, and no credible evidence emerged to suggest that the British had collaborated actively with the Germans with respect to the scuttling. The Treaty of Versailles, signed soon after the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet, imposed strict limits on the size and the number of warships that the newly-installed German government was allowed to build and maintain. [ citation needed ]

The Americans, the British, the French, the Italians and the Japanese had been allies during World War I, but with the German threat seemingly finished, a naval arms race between the erstwhile allies seemed likely for the next few years. [2] US President Woodrow Wilson's administration had already announced successive plans for the expansion of the US Navy from 1916 to 1919 that would have resulted in a massive fleet of 50 modern battleships. [3]

In response, the Japanese Diet finally authorised construction of warships to enable the Japanese Navy to attain its goal of an "eight-eight" fleet programme, with eight modern battleships and eight battlecruisers. The Japanese started work on four battleships and four battlecruisers, all of which were much larger and more powerful than those of the classes that they were replacing. [4]

The 1921 British Naval Estimates planned four battleships and four battlecruisers, with another four battleships to follow the subsequent year. [2]

The new arms race was unwelcome to the American public. The US Congress disapproved of Wilson's 1919 naval expansion plan, and the 1920 presidential election campaign caused politics to resume the non-interventionalism of the prewar era, with little enthusiasm for continued naval expansion. [5] Britain also could ill afford any resumption of battleship construction, given the exorbitant cost. [6]

In late 1921, the US became aware that Britain was planning a conference to discuss the strategic situation in the Pacific and Far East regions. To forestall the conference and to satisfy domestic demands for a global disarmament conference, Warren Harding's administration called the Washington Naval Conference in November 1921. [7]

The Conference agreed to the Five-Power Naval Treaty as well as a Four-Power Treaty on Japan and a Nine-Power Treaty on China. [8]

At the first plenary session held November 21, 1921, US Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes presented his country's proposals. Hughes provided a dramatic beginning for the conference by stating with resolve: "The way to disarm is to disarm". [9] The ambitious slogan received enthusiastic public endorsement and likely abbreviated the conference while helping ensure his proposals were largely adopted. He subsequently proposed the following:

  • A ten-year pause or "holiday" of the construction of capital ships (battleships and battlecruisers), including the immediate suspension of all building of capital ships.
  • The scrapping of existing or planned capital ships to give a 5:5:3:1.67:1.67 ratio of tonnage with respect to Britain, the United States, Japan, France and Italy respectively.
  • Ongoing limits of both capital ship tonnage and the tonnage of secondary vessels with the 5:5:3 ratio.

Capital ships Edit

The proposals for capital ships were largely accepted by the British delegation. However, they were controversial with the British public. Britain could no longer have adequate fleets in the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Far East simultaneously, which provoked outrage from parts of the Royal Navy. [ citation needed ]

Nevertheless, there was huge demand for the British to agree. The risk of war with the Americans was increasingly regarded as merely theoretical, as there were very few policy differences between the two Anglophone powers. Naval spending was also unpopular in Britain and its dominions. Furthermore, Britain was implementing major decreases of its budget because of the post–World War I recession. [10]

The Japanese delegation was divided. Japanese naval doctrine required the maintenance of a fleet 70% the size of that of the United States, which was felt to be the minimum necessary to defeat the Americans in any subsequent war. The Japanese envisaged two separate engagements, first with the U.S. Pacific Fleet and then with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. It calculated that a 7:5 ratio in the first battle would produce enough of a margin of victory to be able to win the subsequent engagement and so a 5:3 ratio was unacceptable. Nevertheless, the director of the delegation, Katō Tomosaburō, preferred to accept the latter to the prospect of an arms race with the United States, as the relative industrial strength of the two nations would cause Japan to lose such an arms race and possibly suffer an economic crisis. At the beginning of the negotiations, the Japanese had only 55% of capital ships and 18% of the GDP of the Americans. [ citation needed ]

His opinion was opposed strongly by Katō Kanji, the president of the Naval Staff College, who acted as his chief naval aide at the delegation and represented the influential "big navy" opinion that Japan had to prepare as thoroughly as possible for an inevitable conflict against the United States, which could build indefinitely more warships because of its huge industrial power. [ citation needed ]

Katō Tomosaburō was finally able to persuade the Japanese high command to accept the Hughes proposals, but the treaty was for years a source of controversy in the navy. [11]

The French delegation initially responded negatively to the idea of reducing their capital ships tonnage to 175,000 tons and demanded 350,000, slightly above the Japanese limit. In the end, concessions regarding cruisers and submarines helped persuade the French to agree to the limit on capital ships. [12]

Another issue that was considered critical by the French representatives was the Italian request of substantial parity, which was considered to be unsubstantiated however, pressure from the American and the British delegations caused the French to accept it. That was considered a great success by the Italian government, but parity would never actually be attained. [13]

There was much discussion about the inclusion or exclusion of individual warships. In particular, the Japanese delegation was keen to retain their newest battleship Mutsu, which had been funded with great public enthusiasm, including donations from schoolchildren. [14] That resulted in provisions to allow the Americans and the British to construct equivalent ships. [ citation needed ]

Cruisers and destroyers Edit

Hughes proposed to limit secondary ships (cruisers and destroyers) in the same proportions as capital ships. However, that was unacceptable to both the British and the French. The British counterproposal, in which the British would be entitled to 450,000 tons of cruisers in consideration of its imperial commitments but the United States and Japan to only 300,000 and 250,000 respectively, proved equally contentious. Thus, the idea of limiting total cruiser tonnage or numbers was rejected entirely. [12]

Instead, the British suggested a qualitative limit of future cruiser construction. The limit proposed, of a 10,000 ton maximum displacement and 8-inch calibre guns, was intended to allow the British to retain the Hawkins class, then being constructed. That coincided with the American requirements for cruisers for Pacific Ocean operations and also with Japanese plans for the Furutaka class. The suggestion was adopted with little debate. [12]

Submarines Edit

A major British demand during the negotiations was the complete abolition of the submarine, which had proved so effective against them in the war. That proved impossible, particularly as a result of French opposition, which demanded an allowance of 90,000 tons of submarines, [15] and the conference ended without an agreement to restrict submarines. [16]

Pacific bases Edit

Article XIX of the treaty also prohibited the British, the Japanese and the Americans from constructing any new fortifications or naval bases in the Pacific Ocean region. Existing fortifications in Singapore, the Philippines and Hawaii could remain. That was a significant victory for Japan, as newly-fortified British or American bases would be a serious problem for the Japanese in the event of any future war. That provision of the treaty essentially guaranteed that Japan would be the dominant power in the Western Pacific Ocean and was crucial in gaining Japanese acceptance of the limits on capital ship construction. [17]

Tonnage limitations
Country Capital ships Aircraft carriers
British Empire 525,000 tons
(533,000 tonnes)
135,000 tons
(137,000 tonnes)
United States 525,000 tons
(533,000 tonnes)
135,000 tons
(137,000 tonnes)
Empire of Japan 315,000 tons
(320,000 tonnes)
81,000 tons
(82,000 tonnes)
France 175,000 tons
(178,000 tonnes)
60,000 tons
(61,000 tonnes)
Italy 175,000 tons
(178,000 tonnes)
60,000 tons
(61,000 tonnes)

The treaty strictly limited both the tonnage and construction of capital ships and aircraft carriers and included limits of the size of individual ships.

The tonnage limits defined by Articles IV and VII (tabulated) gave a strength ratio of approximately 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 for the UK, the United States, Japan, Italy, and France, respectively. [18]

The qualitative limits of each type of ship were as follows:

  • Capital ships (battleships and battlecruisers) were limited to 35,000 tons standard displacement and guns of no larger than 16-inch calibre. (Articles V and VI)
  • Aircraft carriers were limited to 27,000 tons and could carry no more than 10 heavy guns, of a maximum calibre of 8 inches. However, each signatory was allowed to use two existing capital ship hulls for aircraft carriers, with a displacement limit of 33,000 tons each (Articles IX and X). For the purposes of the treaty, an aircraft carrier was defined as a warship displacing more than 10,000 tons constructed exclusively for launching and landing aircraft. Carriers lighter than 10,000 tons, therefore, did not count towards the tonnage limits (Article XX, part 4). Moreover, all aircraft carriers then in service or building (Argus, Furious, Langley and Hosho) were declared "experimental" and not counted (Article VIII).
  • All other warships were limited to a maximum displacement of 10,000 tons and a maximum gun calibre of 8 inches (Articles XI and XII).

The treaty also detailed by Chapter II the individual ships to be retained by each navy, including the allowance for the United States to complete two further ships of the Colorado class and for the UK to complete two new ships in accordance with the treaty limits.

Chapter II, part 2, detailed what was to be done to render a ship ineffective for military use. In addition to sinking or scrapping, a limited number of ships could be converted as target ships or training vessels if their armament, armour and other combat-essential parts were removed completely. Some could also be converted into aircraft carriers.

Part 3, Section II specified the ships to be scrapped to comply with the treaty and when the remaining ships could be replaced. In all, the United States had to scrap 30 existing or planned capital ships, Britain 23 and Japan 17.

The treaty marked the end of a long period of increases of battleship construction. Many ships that were being constructed were scrapped or converted into aircraft carriers. Treaty limits were respected and then extended by the London Naval Treaty of 1930. It was not until the mid-1930s that navies began to build battleships once again, and the power and the size of new battleships began to increase once again. The Second London Naval Treaty of 1936 sought to extend the Washington Treaty limits until 1942, but the absence of Japan or Italy made it largely ineffective. [ citation needed ]

There were fewer effects on cruiser building. The treaty specified 10,000 tons and 8-inch guns as the maximum size of a cruiser, but that was also the minimum size cruiser that any navy was willing to build. The treaty began a building competition of 8-inch, 10,000-ton "treaty cruisers", which gave further cause for concern. [19] Subsequent naval treaties sought to address that by limiting cruiser, destroyer and submarine tonnage.

Unofficial effects of the treaty included the end of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Although it was not part of the Washington Treaty in any way, the American delegates had made it clear that they would not agree to the treaty unless the British ended their alliance with the Japanese. [20]

In 1935, the French Navy laid down the battleship Richelieu combined with the two Dunkerque-class battleships also under construction, which placed the total tonnage over the 70,000-ton limit on new French battleships until the expiration of the treaty. The keel laying of Jean Bart in December 1936, albeit less than three weeks before the treaty expired, increased the magnitude of France's violation by another 35,000 tons. The French government dismissed British objections to the violations by pointing out that Britain had signed the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935, which unilaterally dismantled the naval disarmament clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. German naval rearmament threatened France, and according to the French perspective, if Britain freely violated treaty obligations, France would similarly not be constrained. [21]

Italy repeatedly violated the displacement limits on individual ships and attempted to remain within the 10,000-ton limit for the Trento-class cruisers built in the mid-1920s. However, by the Zara-class cruisers in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it had abandoned all pretense and built ships that topped 11,000 long tons (11,000 t) by a wide margin. The violations continued with the Littorio-class battleships of the mid-1930s, which had a standard displacement in excess of 40,000 long tons (41,000 t). The Italian Navy nevertheless misrepresented the displacement of the vessels as being within the limits imposed by the treaty. [22]

The naval treaty had a profound effect on the Japanese. With superior American and British industrial power, a long war would very likely end in a Japanese defeat. Thus, gaining strategic parity was not economically possible. [23]

Many Japanese considered the 5:5:3 ratio of ships as another snub by the West, but it can be argued that the Japanese had a greater force concentration than the US Navy or the Royal Navy. The terms also contributed to controversy in high ranks of the Imperial Japanese Navy between the Treaty Faction officers and their Fleet Faction opponents, who were also allied with the ultranationalists of the Japanese army and other parts of the Japanese government. For the Treaty Faction, the treaty was one of the factors that had contributed to the deterioration of the relationship between the American and the Japanese governments.

Some have also argued that the treaty was one major factor in prompting Japanese expansionism by the Fleet Faction in the early 1930s. The perception of unfairness resulted in Japan's renunciation of the Second London Naval Treaty in 1936.

Isoroku Yamamoto, who later masterminded the attack of Pearl Harbor, argued that Japan should remain in the treaty. His opinion was more complex, however, in that he believed the United States could outproduce Japan by a greater factor than the 5:3 ratio because of the huge American production advantage of which he had expert knowledge since he had served with the Japanese embassy in Washington. After the signing of the treaty, he commented, "Anyone who has seen the auto factories in Detroit and the oil-fields in Texas knows that Japan lacks the power for a naval race with America." He later added, "The ratio works very well for Japan – it is a treaty to restrict the other parties." [24] He believed that other methods than a spree of construction would be needed to even the odds, which may have contributed to his advocacy of the plan to attack Pearl Harbor.

On December 29, 1934, the Japanese government gave formal notice that it intended to terminate the treaty. Its provisions remained in force formally until the end of 1936 and were not renewed. [25]

What was unknown to the participants of the Conference was that the American "Black Chamber" (the Cypher Bureau, a US intelligence service), commanded by Herbert Yardley, was spying on the delegations' communications with their home capitals. In particular, Japanese communications were deciphered thoroughly, and American negotiators were able to get the absolute minimum possible deal that the Japanese had indicated they would ever accept. [26]

As the treaty was unpopular with much of the Imperial Japanese Navy and with the increasingly active and important ultranationalist groups, the value that the Japanese government accepted was the cause of much suspicion and accusation among Japanese politicians and naval officers. [ citation needed ]

Protocol of Deposit Of Ratifications of the Treaty Between the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan for the Limitation of Naval Armament

In conformity with the Article XXIV of the Treaty between the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan to limit their respective naval armament, concluded at Washington on 6 February 1922, the undersigned representatives of the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan this day met at the Department of State at Washington to proceed with the deposit with the Government of the United States of America of the instruments of ratification of the said Treaty by the Governments they represent.

The representative of the Government of the French Republic made the following declaration:

The instruments of ratification produced, having been found upon examination to be in due form, are entrusted to the Government of the United States of America to be deposited in the archives of the Department of State.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the present procès-verbal, of which a certified copy will be sent by the Government of the United States of America to each one of the Powers signatory to the said Treaty, is signed.

Watch the video: Treaties and War, The Washington Naval Conference (July 2022).


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  2. Kigagul

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