Today in AFJ History

October 20, 2013  

1964: Missiles can’t replace guns

In the late 1950s, RIM-2 Terrier missiles replaced eight six-inch guns aboard the cruiser Providence. (Navy)

From the archive: October 17, 1964

Is Navy Too Quick In Abandoning Guns?

There are many in the Navy and Marine Corps who were happy to learn, from Admiral David L. McDonald’s speech to the Defense Orientation Conference, that a study is underway in the matter of gun power in the Navy.

The Chief of Naval Operations, discussing important items now under study, said: “With the advent of missiles many of our ships’ guns have been replaced. The question arises: Do we have enough guns left to insure adequate gunfire support of amphibious operations?”

The Marine Corps Commandant, General Wallace M. Green, Jr., definitely believes that “any further reduction in naval gunfire support would materially affect the ability of landing forces to successfully force a landing against a defended beach.” The question also came up when North Vietnamese PT boats attacked our destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The advent of missiles has so reduced the gunpower of destroyers that they were hard put to bring enough firepower to bear on the PT boats. The matter of adequate gunfire support of amphibious operations has led to a suggestion that the four WWII battleships now in reserve be converted into “commando ships” so their big guns could be utilized while also fitting out the ship to carry more Marines and copters.

Certainly, we can not afford to give up all our guns. Missiles open up new fields in warfare, but can not take over all the functions of guns.

Editor’s note: Was this the piece that launched a thousand “bring back the battleships” op-eds? In any case, the Iowa class would return to service just four years later.

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