Promoted to vice admiral in December 1945, Radford became deputy chief of naval operations (air) in January 1946. He took command of the Second Task Fleet in February 1947 and was named vice chief of naval operations in January 1948. Promoted to admiral in April 1949 and appointed commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, he emerged as the leading naval officer opposed to the Defense Department's cancellation of the flush-deck carrier United States. He also protested plans designed to make the U.S. Air Force the lone keeper of U.S. nuclear weapons. The navy's opposition to these moves became known as the Revolt of the Admirals.
During a congressional inquiry before the House Armed Services Committee, Radford articulated the navy's role in American defense. He also challenged the establishment of the air force as the sole guardian of atomic weapons, questioned the efficacy of the B-36 bomber, and attacked the tenuous concept of achieving military victory through atomic warfare alone. Although several naval personnel were sacked or resigned for their opposition to Defense Department decisions, Radford survived the bloodletting. His strategic vision later emerged victorious when the Defense Department reached a consensus that the Cold War required the maintenance of multiple nuclear options.
As Pacific commander in chief, Radford led the navy's Korean War operations. In August 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower tapped Radford as chairman of the JCS. Radford supported Eisenhower's New Look defense policy, which relied upon a strong nuclear deterrent to hold down the cost of large conventional forces. Radford argued that the United States should hold open its nuclear options in crises such as Dien Bien Phu and Jinmen and Mazu.
After two terms as chairman of the JCS, Radford retired from active duty on 15 August 1957 and entered private industry. He died in Washington, D.C., on 17 August 1973.
Thomas D. Veve
"Revolt of the Admirals." Time 54(16) (17 October 1949): 21–23.; Jurika, Stephen, ed. From Pearl Harbor to Vietnam: The Memoirs of Admiral Arthur W. Radford. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1980.; Palmer, Michael A. Origins of the Maritime Strategy: American Naval Strategy in the First Postwar Decade. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1988.