Impact Of The Washington Conference Of 1922 | Happy Student Education ™

Impact of the Washington Conference of 1922

Article Category Schools | Students | Teachers
Published June 9, 2021

Washington Conference

This article will analyze the Impact of the Washington Conference that took place after WWI. Moreover, we will see the effects as well as the 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 ratios, and the long-term effects on naval warfare.

The Washington naval conference was a treaty signed post-WWI on February 6th, 1922 in Washington D.C the capital of the United States; to stop, or at least realistically slow down, the naval arms race that began during WWI. The countries involved were the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, and Italy.

WWI Military Map
WWI Military Map

The Culmination of World War I

The Washington conference was the culmination of World War I. In the treaties, they specify the warship tonnage, in other words, the words; size and capacity of a ship; excluding those ships already under construction. 

They particularly enforce the limit of Aircraft carriers produced by a Nation; I believe this was very difficult since the Aircraft Carrier was the heart of many Navies including the U.S and British Royal Navy.

The impact of the Washington Conference of 1922 is the significance of the treaty. The Treaty specified that each member is allowed to have an exact limit of two Aircraft carriers of no more than 33,000 Tons. Furthermore, limiting the number of Air carriers by each Nation made the use of numerous Battle Cruisers diversified. Hence, large Battle Cruisers were reused as Carriers and consequently gave birth to the USS Lexington in the United States and the Akagi in Imperial Japan.

WWI Military Leadership
WWI Military Leadership

WWI was such a devastating conflict that all of the worlds’ powers were scar by the amount of death and destruction. Many nations became afraid of the possibility of another war and the possibility of an arms race.

5:5:3:1.75:1.75 ratios

In the Washington Conference, the powers also agreed to 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 ratios of naval tonnage and restrictions with regard to the new building of both ships and naval bases.

It was clear that while the United States and Great Britain had an equal amount of naval power, Japan was held to a navy 60% as large. France and Italy were restricted to navies 35% the size of the British and American Navies.

In 1927, US President Calvin Coolidge invited these powers to meet again to discuss extending the Treaty to include other classes of Ships not included in the original treaty such as; Cruisers, Destroyers, and Subs. France and Italy refused to attend the conference.

The League of Nations

The League of Nations was already trying to prepare a more comprehensive disarmament conference, and the two powers preferred to wait until that event to discuss air, land, and sea armaments altogether.

The United States, Great Britain, and Japan met in Geneva and started negotiations on the extension of naval limitations. Matters were complicated when the British revealed that, since under the Washington Treaty they had measured their ships in legend tons rather than standard tons, their capital ships actually totaled 604,000 tons.

Impact of the Washington Conference of 1922
The League Of Nations

This brought the tonnage ratios of the British, American, and Japanese warships closer to 6:5:3 ratios than the 5:5:3 ratio at which the Americans had aimed.

The United States suggested that the existing 5:5:3 ratios between the three powers be extended to include auxiliary vessels. The maximum size of cruisers remains at less than 10,000 tons with 8-inch guns. The total tonnage of cruisers was limited to 400,000 for the United States and Great Britain (240,000 tons for Japan).

The latter measure was designed to prevent the United States from having to embark on a massive building program to keep its fleet in line with the ratios established at the conference; as it was, to reach 400,000 tons it would have to build several new ships.


Regardless of strong efforts by the League of Nations and many world powers the Washington Conference eventually collapse; Italy and Imperial Japan gradually started to ignore the agreement reached in the Conference and later all other members disregarded it. The Washington Naval Conference was considered by many to have no lasting effects.

All the measures taken to stop another massive war were clearly a failure. World War II was the result of decades of failure from the European allies, including Germany. This is the Impact of the Washington Conference of 1922.


The Washington Conference, 1921-22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability, and the Road to Pearl Harbor (Diplomacy & Statecraft) Erik Goldstein, John Maurer
APU online Library

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