Public Papers of Herbert Hoover, 1930

Author: Herbert Hoover  | Date: April 11, 1930

Statement About the London Naval Conference.
April 11, 1930


"I am greatly pleased with the final success of the Naval Arms Conference in London and I have today telegraphed the delegation expressing my approval of the result achieved and my admirationfor their patience and determination in an arduous and difficult negotiation. And I wish to congratulate the delegations of the other governments for their constructive and courageous action.

"The most vital feature of its great accomplishments for peace is the final abolition of competition in naval arms between the greatest naval powers and the burial of the fears and suspicions which have been the constant product of rival warship construction. It will be recalled that prior to the three-power conference at Geneva in 1927, when France and Italy felt obliged to decline attendance, there was naval competition in all craft except battleships with constant international friction. Consequently, upon the failure of that Conference the rival expansion received even new impulses and resulted in increased international suspicion and ill will through the world and a steady drift to greatly increased navies.

"When I initiated this negotiation it was after a critical examination of the experience before and after the Geneva Conference and a determination that the causes of that failure could be met with adequate preparation and preliminary negotiation. At that time we realized, and have realized at all times since, that the particular setting of the continental nations, because of the inseparable importance of land armies in their bearing upon naval strength, together with the political agreements that reduction of such arms implied, made a five-power agreement extremely improbable, as the United States could not involve itself in such agreements. The French and Italian Governments have shown the utmost good will in this Conference in an endeavor, in the interest of world peace, to support the present solution just as far as they could do so, and they have joined the present agreement in important provisions.

"It is difficult to estimate the precise reductions in warcraft tonnage which has been brought about by this agreement because of the factor of normal replacement and additional tonnage authorized but not yet constructed. Nine battleships are to be scrapped of a total of about 230,000 tons, the replacement of 16 or 17 others to be deferred for 6 years. The various navies in the agreement are to reduce some 300,000 to400,000 tons of other categories in the next few years as they become obsolete—but some categories of some of them must be increased in order to come up to the standards set. The net balance will be a very considerable decrease in the world’s actual tonnage as it stands today.

"The economic importance of the accomplishment can best be measured in terms of the situation developed at the Geneva Conference. That Conference broke down upon the feeling of the British representatives that it was necessary for them to create or maintain a navy of a total of nearly 1,500,000 tons. Their prewar navy was much larger than this. The American delegates were not able to agree to this basis, as it implied such a huge amount of naval construction in the United States that it was hopeless to expect public support, and it meant a perpetually inferior navy.
"The British suggestions at Geneva were approximately:

1. Maintain the battleships as provided in the Washington Treaty of which the British battle fleet then stood at 606,000 tons, and the American battle fleet of 525,000 tons.

2. Aircraft carriers as in the Washington Treaty at a maximum of 135,000 tons.
3. A cruiser tonnage of about 450,000 tons in 70 cruisers.

4. Although actual figures were little discussed the conversations appear to have indicated a destroyer tonnage of about 225,000 to 250,000 tons, and a submarine tonnage of about 75,000 tons, or a total fleet of nearly 1,500,000 tons on a British basis, or 1,420,000 American basis owing to our inferiority in battleship tonnage through the Washington Arms Treaty.

"If this fleet had been adopted as the basis of parity, it would have cost the United States somewhere, upon different calculations, from $1,400 million to $1,750 million for replacements and new construction to attain it with greatly increased maintenance costs.

"The present agreement calls for parity of American and British fleets of approximately:

1. A battleship basis to each of us of about 460,000 tons, but no replacements for next 6 years on either side.

2. Aircraft carriers as in Washington Arms Treaty at a maximum of 135,000 tons.

3. A cruiser basis of 339,000 tons if the United States exercises the option of the same types as Great Britain, but, if the United States builds a larger ratio of the large cruisers, our tonnage would be 323,000. It represents a reduction of about 20 ships in the basis of the British cruiser fleet.

4. Destroyer tonnage of 150,000 tons and a submarine tonnage of 52,700 tons each.

"That is a total fleet basis of, roughly, about 1,136,000 tons (slightly less if we build the larger cruisers) as compared with about 1,500,000 ton British basis of the Geneva Conference, shows a reduction of about 364,000 tons below that basis to the United States and Great Britain and a proportional reduction to Japan. In bringing this about the British scrap four 8-inch gun cruisers and five battleships, while we scrap three battleships, thus bringing about parity in battleships which was not attained in the Washington agreement. The Japanese Navy under the proposed agreement will amount to something near 800,000 tons. These results are to be arrived at by scrapping, by obsolescence, and by construction in some categories prior to 1936 when a renewed conference is to take place.

"The cost to the United States of replacements and new construction during the next 6 years until the further conference will be (under various estimates) from $550 million to $650 million as compared to a sum, as I have said, of between $1,400 million to $1,750 million to attain parity on the Geneva basis. To this latter would need be added the additional cost of maintenance and operating which would make the saving upon the present basis as compared to the Geneva up to $1 billion in the next 6 years.

"The savings are not alone to the United States but to Great Britain and Japan as well. The total savings to the world is perhaps $2,500 million below the Geneva basis to which the world was steadily drifting. This sum devoted to reproductive enterprise will be a great stimulus to world Prosperity.

"There are no political undertakings of any kind in the present treaty except an agreement for the regulation of the conduct of submarines against merchant ships in time of war. The whole agreement is a great step in world peace and an assurance of American parity in naval strength."


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Chicago: Herbert Hoover, "113 Statement About the London Naval Conference.," Public Papers of Herbert Hoover, 1930 in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Herbert Hoover, 1930 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.589 125–126. Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022,

MLA: Hoover, Herbert. "113 Statement About the London Naval Conference." Public Papers of Herbert Hoover, 1930, in Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Herbert Hoover, 1930 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.589, pp. 125–126. Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022.

Harvard: Hoover, H, '113 Statement About the London Naval Conference.' in Public Papers of Herbert Hoover, 1930. cited in , Federal Register Division. National Archives and Records Service, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Herbert Hoover, 1930 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1956-), P.589, pp.125–126. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from