Island bases get approval (2-16-41)

Reading Eagle (February 16, 1941)

House Naval Committee urges expansion of Guam and Samoa
Washington, Feb. 15 (AP) –
Development of Guam and Samoa, Pacific Islands, as naval aviation “lookout stations” was recommended unanimously late today by the House Naval Committee after it heard secret testimony from the Navy High Command regarding the Far Eastern situation.

The committee’s recommendations were made in approving legislation authorizing expenditure of approximately $400,00,000 for expansion of many existing naval shore bases and establishment of new facilities. Funds for a large part of the work were requested by President Roosevelt earlier in the week.

There was no discussion of the Guam or Samoan projects at public sessions of the committee, but Chairman Vinson (D-GA) told newsmen the subject was thoroughly explored when the legislators went over the entire program behind closed doors with Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations.

Vinson cautioned members of the committee against discussing, even among themselves, the proceedings of the secret session. He told reporters it was “a highly important executive session” and when asked whether it dealt with reports of growing tension in the Pacific replied that the legislation was considered “in the light of the world situation.”

Big program for Guam

As approved by the committee, the bill would authorize expenditure of $4,700,000 at Guam for bombproof shelters for personnel, communications centers, and to make the harbro usable by both large and small surface vessels and seaplanes.

Rear Admiral Ben Moreell, chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, testified that the Guam project was virtually the same as that rejected by Congress twice since 1938. Guam is oml;y 1,500 miles from Tokyo, and opponents of the Navy’s improvements there contended that Japan would be offended.

At Samoa, far to the south of Guam and in a direct line from Honolulu to New Zealand and Australia, the Navy would be authorized to spend $8,100,000 for expansion of the relatively minor facilities now at Tutuila, bombproofing of vital centers and establishment of aircraft operating facilities.

The committee was told by Navy officials that the project was important because the development of aviation had brought the islands into the “strategic picture” in the Pacific. Informed sources said an outpost there would be extremely valuable in the event of hostilities involving a long-range blockade such as has been suggested might result if trouble developed between the United States and Japan.

Atlantic sites involved

The bill also provides for Congressional sanction for development of the Atlantic base sites obtained from England.

The committee agreed on an amendment which would authorize the work and limit the total cost of the Navy’s share to $116,050,000. Moreell testified that work already underway, chiefly with money from President Roosevelt’s emergency fund, would cost about $62,000,000. Besides the naval expenditures, the Army expects to spend about $102,000,000 on the bases.

\In addition to approval of the legislation, the committee recommended establishment of a $40,000,000 Marine Corps training center on the East coast for ground forces and aviation.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Holcomb, commandant of the Marine Corps told the committee the new center would be established in North Carolina on a tract of about 700,000 acres near the village of Jacksonville, in Onslow County. The land would cost “something over $1,000,000.” Holcomb said.

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