Adm. Vern Clark, chief of U.S. naval operations, was exactly right when he inferred another nuclear carrier port is needed on the East Coast.
The Navy has five nuclear carriers on this coast, and all are homeported in Norfolk, Va. Clustered that close together, they are too vulnerable to attack -- or, more likely, an act of sabotage.
In the time leading up to World War II, many military resources were clustered together at Pearl Harbor. Japan took advantage of that weakness, launching a sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
The battle lasted less than two hours, but it was devastating. The Story of America, a Reader's Digest book, says nearly 3,500 Americans were killed or wounded. Eight heavy battleships were anchored at the base, and seven were badly damaged or destroyed. Of about 400 aircraft there, nearly all were hit.
This nation's ability to defend itself was severely crippled. Within a few days, Germany and Italy eagerly declared war on the weakened United States.
America eventually won -- but only after several initial setbacks in the Pacific.
As Clark seems to be suggesting, that terrible mistake shouldn't be repeated today. An attack on Norfolk could conceivably incapacitate nearly half of the nation's crucial carrier fleet.
Jacksonville's congressional delegation has been calling for work to make Mayport Naval Station capable of homeporting a nuclear carrier. That would take some time; a Times-Union article quotes Clark as saying five or six years might be needed to complete the environmental studies and construction work.
That's OK. Just get it done as quickly as possible.
The nation doesn't need a sequel to the Pearl Harbor nightmare
The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)
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