This film is part of Free

The U.S. Navy 1940

1940 was a crucial year for the U.S. Navy. From the Panama Canal to the South Pacific, see how America was preparing its fleet for a war which was drawing closer by the day.

1940 18 mins


Bristling turrets on battleships in the Pacific, cunningly hidden gun placements on the Panama Canal, and submarines armed with sleek new torpedos: the images we see in this issue show the results of billions of dollars of investment in the US navy, under the command of Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark. Nonetheless, there was still work to be done. In 1940 America’s naval forces were outnumbered in ships, tonnage and manpower by the Axis fleets; hence the urgent tone of this March of Time film.

Historic archive footage from the 1922 Washington Naval Disarmament Conference is used in this issue to illustrate how far the US Navy had declined by 1940. Following the 1922 Five-Power Treaty, which limited naval construction for a ten year ‘naval holiday’ period, the American navy came to be seen as a ‘glamorous extravagance’ in the post-war years. By 1940, however, urgent recruitment of cadets and officers as well as investment in ships, submarines and air power was seen as necessary to prevent further Japanese advances in the Pacific.