A naval arms race in the 1920s grew ugly enough that commentators on both sides of the Atlantic were claiming war “not unthinkable.”

This quote is from a lecture by an academic called John Moser; he doesn't give any more details though.

Who were these commentators? How serious was the threat of war, and what if any were the disputes other than naval supremacy? Someone suggested it was over a refusal to pay back Britain's WW1 debt. Wikipedia's article on Britain's national debt mentions some irregularities there, but doesn't say it was serious enough that people thought about war.

  • An article here seems to address the same thing. Might include it in your question. (I don't think it answers it).
    – justCal
    Dec 16, 2017 at 16:49
  • The Mail article is interesting, but of course governments make all kinds of military plans for scenarios. It doesn't mean they wanted this war or thought it was probable, just that it was a theoretical possibility. Moser seems to be saying people thought there was a practical possibility of a war.
    – Ne Mo
    Dec 16, 2017 at 16:56
  • Yes the 'Plan Red' scenario thing has been discussed before. A paragraph part way down beginning 'After the 1918 Armistice... ' brings up the debt issue, however. As I said, no answer since no evidence of who was talking, but another source showing the same claim.
    – justCal
    Dec 16, 2017 at 17:00
  • 2
    True or not, very hard to believe. My understanding is that in the case British ships are not able to contact their own government, they are to sail to USA ports. There will never be a war between the USA and Britain again.
    – Jeff
    Dec 17, 2017 at 8:12
  • 3
    I've written to Dr. Moser to ask for clarification.
    – MCW
    Dec 19, 2017 at 0:53

1 Answer 1


I asked Dr. Moser, who provided the following, and permitted me to post it here.

There were some in 1928-29 who suggested that an Anglo-American war was a distinct possibility. The quote itself comes from an issue of Literary Digest (vol. 100, February 9, 1929, pp. 5-7). See also Christopher Hall, Britain, America and Arms Control, 1921-37 (1987), William R. Braisted, "On the American Red and Red-Orange Plans, 1919-1939," in Gerald Jordan (ed.,) Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1945 (1977), and David Richards, "America Conquers Britain: Anglo-American Conflict in the Popular Media during the 1920s," in Journal of American Culture, vol. 3 (Spring 1980).

  • 1
    The quote itself comes from an issue of Literary Digest Aha! Called it.
    – Semaphore
    Dec 19, 2017 at 21:47
  • 1
    The horse's mouth. You can't ask more than that!
    – Ne Mo
    Dec 20, 2017 at 1:02
  • Don't look at me... OP quoted Dr. Moser; I wrote to Dr. Moser; Dr. Moser provided the quote. I don't make history, I just report the research.
    – MCW
    Mar 15, 2018 at 22:22

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