Date of Award
Master of Arts in History
“Freedom of the seas is one of the oldest policies... of the United States. We demand the right to go anywhere anytime. It is nobody's damn business where we go. We shall go anywhere we please ...”
Admiral Bull Halsey
August 29, 1946
The presence of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean is an accepted fact of diplomatic life. The ships and planes of the U. S. Navy represents American interests in such diverse countries as Egypt, Israel, Greece, and Turkey. That this force is of relatively recent origin is often obscured by the unquestioning acceptance of a global mission for the United States Navy. Such was not always the case.
In the immediate post-World War Two period, the United States possessed the strongest maritime force in the world; nevertheless, despite its superiority, the United States Navy was, at this time, fighting for its very existence. The development and utilization of the atomic bomb had apparently destroyed the premise upon which rested the rationale for a strong Navy. The intense and bitter unification controversy further undermined naval support. By 1946, the U. S. Navy was viewed by many as an expensive, obsolete "military dinosaur."
The actual commitment to create a large, standing naval force in the Mediterranean grew out of the conjunction of a complex set of perceptions of and responses to Soviet activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and a need by naval leaders to acquire a viable mission for the Navy in an era when traditional military strategy and foreign policy were distorted by the atomic bomb. The upheaval caused by World War Two had created a serious political vacuum throughout the world. At the war's end, the United States perceived an existing power void in the Mediterranean; saw this vacuum as a threat to her national interests, and, accordingly, took steps to meet the challenge.
This thesis explores and examines those political and military actions taken by the United States to secure its hegemony in the Mediterranean area out of which resulted the establishment of the U. S. Sixth Fleet, both symbol and substance of American power in that area. Utilizing contemporary sources, it delineates the impact of such a naval commitment on United States-Soviet relations in the immediate postwar period and exposes the broader implications of such naval activity for United States global foreign policy.
This thesis further argues that the creation of the U. S. Sixth Fleet resulted from the overlap and interplay of: (1) the global naval policy envisioned by the Secretary of the Navy, James V. Forrestal, which required a positive demonstration of the efficacy of a nav~l response to increasing Soviet activity in Europe; (2) the quest for a rationale upon which to build a postwar Navy consistent with the realities of the Atomic Age which led many prominent naval partisans to seek a theater in which to prove the Navy's worth. The decision to dispatch the USS Missouri in April 1946 and the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in September of the same year provided just such a stage, and was the pivotal point at which these two motivations--advancing the interests of the United States and those of the U. S. Navy intersected and overlapped.
Sowa, Maureen Melvin, "Go Anywhere We Damn Well Please The American Naval Presence in the Mediterranean" (1981). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1815.