This is about the US Navy's surface fleet. I should offer a disclaimer, which is that I was a surface warfare officer in the Navy for awhile.
Back in the day, the mission was pretty clear. Besides all of the "show the flag, project power" peacetime stuff, the real mission of the surface Navy was to get the convoys across the Atlantic in the event that the Red Army rolled across the border into West Germany.
Life was kind of different back in the Cold War, when the planners were contemplating casualties that were rather horrendous. First, there was the garrison of British, French and American soldiers in Berlin, whose mission statement upon the beginning of a conventional war with the Warsaw Pact boiled down to two words: Die bravely. The job of the Americans in Europe was to keep the Russians from rolling all the way to the English Channel before reinforcements arrived.
It was the job of the Navy to get the heavy reinforcements there, in the face of the opposition of the Soviet Naval Aviation and the Soviet Navy. By "Soviet Navy," I mean the submarines. They had a lot of surface ships, but most people seemed to think they'd have been converted into artificial reefs pretty damn fast.
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