Great War At Sea:
U.S. Navy Plan Red
"We would as soon fight the British as the Germans."
Admiral William Shepherd Benson
U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, 1917
Rivalry between the U.S. and Great Britain didn’t end
with the War of 1812. Some naval officers from each country saw the other
as a potential future threat, while others dreamed of close alliance between
the English-speaking powers.
By the time of the First World War, American naval officers had clustered
into two camps: those around William Shepherd Benson, the chief of naval
operations, disliked the British and saw them as their navy’s next
enemy. Others followed the lead of William Sims, who admired the Royal
Navy and saw Britain as a natural ally. During the war these camps polarized:
Some Americans had very positive experiences serving alongside the British,
while others burned at the arrogant attitude of some in the Royal Navy.
When the United States formalized its war plans in the early 20th Century,
potential foes were coded by color. Japan became Orange,
Germany was Black,
and Britain was noted as Red. British dominions also drew shades of Red:
Canada was Crimson, New Zealand was Garnet, India was Ruby and Australia
The Red war plan saw a pair of primary goals: the conquest of Canada,
and trade warfare. The first would be primarily the Army’s job.
The Navy would disrupt British trade while protecting American merchant
shipping. Though the Americans respected British fighting power, the plans
themselves reveal great confidence in the ability of American shipyards
to outstrip British production and in the individual superiority of American
sailors. There is also a powerful undercurrent of anti-Japanese hostility
in the text of the plans. In some of the more hysterical passages, the
British are seen practically as racial traitors for allying themselves
with the Japanese. One pretext for war given several times in documents
from 1919 and 1920 is an intelligence report claiming that the Royal Navy
was on the verge of transferring eight modern dreadnoughts to Japan.
American plans to build powerful new dreadnoughts during the course of
the First World War caused great hostility between the two navies. The
British pointed out the great need for destroyers and merchant ships,
while American resources went instead for new battleships that could not possibly
see action before the war ended. American naval leaders saw this pressure
as an attempt to maintain British naval supremacy. Some in the Royal Navy
believed the new warships could only be meant as a challenge, and wondered
if they had only beaten the Germans to lose control of the seas after
all. The Americans, they feared, were arming for the next war even while
the last was still under way.
War Plan Red, and its attached War Plan Crimson, gave the U.S. Navy the
task of invading Nova Scotia and disrupting communications between Britain
and Canada. This is usually the task of the American player in the game.
The Royal Navy foresaw these moves, and hoped to damage the Americans
with commerce raiders based on Bermuda.
The game’s map covers the Eastern Seaboard, from the Labrador coast
in the north to Virginia Beach in the south. In addition to the British
and American fleets, Plan Red the game also includes Canada’s
three proposed dreadnoughts.
The game also includes a number of ships planned or begun but
never completed. The Americans receive four examples of the 1919 battleship
design, a monstrous ship with eight 18-inch guns, and also four of the
South Dakota class, begun but never completed.
There are three examples of the original design of the Lexington-class
battle cruiser with 14-inch guns, and five smokestacks. We’ve also
got the American 1914 design of a fast armored cruiser with eight 10-inch
guns, which would have been built for commerce raiding.
On the British side, we have the huge N3 design battleships, with nine
18-inch guns, and the similar G3 battle cruiser with nine 16-inch guns.
The Royal Navy also gets its proposed F-class cruiser, and the three R-class
battleships which were ordered but later cancelled.
Plan Red includes:
• One 17x22-inch operational map
• 210 playing pieces
• 32 scenarios
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