"The Fourth Dimension of Naval Tactics": The U.S. Navy and Public Relations, 1919-1939
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Prior to 1917, the United States Navy only utilized public relations techniques during times of war or to attract recruits into naval service. Following World I, the Navy confronted several daunting problems, including the postwar demobilization of naval assets, the proposed creation of an independent air service, and a public desire for naval arms limitation which many officers believed would endanger the Navy's ability to fulfill its missions. These issues threatened the generous support that the Navy had received from Congress for a quarter of a century, and also hampered the service's attempts to incorporate new weapons systems into its arsenal and recruit high-quality manpower. In response to these challenges, the Navy developed a peacetime public relations capability during the interwar period, despite the fact that many senior naval officials placed a low priority on public relations. Their attitude led subordinates in different parts of the Navy Department to perform public relations tasks despite lacking official orders to carry out such work. Such efforts were haphazard, redundant, handicapped by tradition, and dependent largely upon individual initiative. To augment its meager capabilities, the Navy relied upon external groups, such as the Navy League, to lobby the public for naval expansion. The service also developed formal and informal ties to the mass media, particularly the rapidly expanding motion picture industry. These disparate elements attempted to convince the public that the Navy was a haven for morally upright masculine behavior, a service able to integrate aircraft and submarines into its force structure and keep their operators safe, and a vital national asset with value beyond basic national defense. During the interwar period, the Navy expanded and reorganized the ways in which it courted public opinion. By forging ties with motion picture studios, radio broadcasters, and the print media, it was able to improve the image of the service, attract high quality recruits, and gained the public support for its drive to gain the resources needed to modernize and expand the fleet. During the same era, naval officials became more adept at minimizing the negative impact of the accidents linked to the development of aviation and submarines. Developments of the era laid the foundation for the institutional development of public relations and enhanced media relations during World War II and in the decades that followed.
Wadle, Ryan David (2011). "The Fourth Dimension of Naval Tactics": The U.S. Navy and Public Relations, 1919-1939. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from