In the aftermath of WWI, the world was tired of war. Millions had died for reasons that most people didn’t understand. Secret treaties and insane military build ups were seen as part of the problem, so in the wake of the war a massive demobilization was undertaken. A move was also made to limit the size of each nation’s military. Take away the toys, and no one would want to play. The Washington Treaty, also called the Five Power Treaty, of which the picture above present an actual copy, was designed to limit the size of the Navies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan.
Signed in 1922 the treaty set a strict tonnage (displacement) limit for the navy of each power. That tonnage would be counted against their battleships, battle cruisers and aircraft carries based on certain ratios. While much time is spent discussing the actual ratios of the allowed tonnage, the important thing to note is that the US and Great Britain were allowed much more tonnage than Japan and far more than France and Italy.
For the US and Britain the allowance was 525,000 tons for capital ships (battleships and cruisers) and 135,000 tons for Aircraft carriers. With the average displacement of a capital ship at 35,000 tons that would limit each to about 15 capital ships. Aircraft carriers at 27,000 tons would allow for 5. A drastic reduction indeed.
Japan was allowed 315,000 and 8,100 tons (9 and 3).
France and Italy came in at 175,000 and 60,000 (5 and 2-ish).
Size and amount of guns on each ship we also limited as well as a ten-year moratorium being placed on new construction.
Like most treaties that came out of the Great War, this one left everyone, let’s just say “grumpy”. With the world spinning towards the next great war, Japan realized that the treaty left them incredibly behind the other US and Britain in the Pacific and in 1934 the announced they were pulling out of the treaty. In 1936 the treaty was not renewed.
Japan always felt like the little brother to the West in modern times, they way their contributions in WWI were overlooked, and their subordinate position in this treaty simply brought them to the point where conflict would become inevitable.
Aren’t treaties wonderful things?