From the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 to the present day, the U.S. Navy has exercised uncontested control of the high seas. In the absence of peer naval competition, the surface combatant force was re-oriented towards land attack and near-shore operations in support of power projection. This historically unprecedented strategic situation appears to be nearing its end with the rapid growth and reach of the new 21st century Chinese navy and the reinvigoration of the Russian fleet. In response, U.S. Navy strategic planning has been re-balanced towards naval warfare against growing peer competitors, and the naval shipbuilding program is being ramped up. The last time this took place was in the run-up to World War II. What can we learn from that experience, so that the currently planned buildup can be as effective as possible? This paper offers an introductory examination of how the U.S. planned, designed, and built the surface combatant fleet during the interwar period (1920–1941), with a focus on destroyers. After accounting for differences in warship complexity and the industrial and shipbuilding capabilities of the United States of the 1930's and 1940's as compared to today, lessons for today's surface combatant designers and program managers are identified and discussed. Recommendations are made for further work.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.