Dr. Michael J. Crawford: Retirement Remarks

Dr. Michael J. Crawford
Senior Historian
Naval History and Heritage Command

On this occasion of my retirement after almost thirty-six years as a navy historian, I want to talk with you about two subjects dear to my heart: me and us. I want to discuss my career as a historian and I want to address our work together here at the Naval History and Heritage Command as collaborators in creating and communicating historical understanding.

Are events contingent on the choices we make, or are they inevitable, driven by forces beyond our control? Was the American Civil War an irrepressible conflict, or did it occur because of specific decisions particular individuals made? For the historian, both propositions hold true. In explaining events as they unfolded, the historian must treat them as contingent, examining the choices pivotal individuals and groups confronted while weighing all that may have influenced their actions. But, looking back at those same events, the historian must conclude that they were inevitable, for, in fact, they did happen, and the historian’s job is to explain why. We are both free to make our own decisions and at the same time prisoners of our circumstances. Perhaps it was inevitable that I would become a historian of the navy in the age of fighting sail; or was it a fluke, contingent on a series of choices I confronted as I sought work in my chosen profession?

When I was in grade school, my father did two things to strengthen my reading skills. First, to improve my grasp of the meanings of words, he set me to taking the vocabulary quizzes that appeared in every issue of Reader’s Digest magazine. And second, to motivate me to read more avidly, he recommended swashbuckling tales of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The advanced vocabulary of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island challenged me, but I have vivid recollection of my excitement in reading Raphael Sabatini’s Scaramouch and Captain Blood. One of the earliest books I recall given me by my parents was Naval Battles and Heroes (1960), part of the American Heritage Junior Library series, written by Wilbur Cross, in consultation with John B. Heffernan. Rear Admiral Heffernan had been Director of Naval History and in charge of the predecessor office of the Naval History and Heritage Command from 1946 to 1956. Thus, some of my earliest formative experiences with books exposed me to stories of wooden ships, iron guns, and intrepid sailors.

While in high school, I built a large model of the U.S. frigate Constitution from a kit but thought little more about naval history. As an undergraduate at Washington University, in my native St. Louis, Missouri, taking courses taught by Professor John M. Murrin, I became enamored with early American history, where my interests centered on religious and constitutional ideas. This interest led to a dissertation on the intellectual sources of religious revivals in New England during the transition from Puritanism to Evangelicalism that took place between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which I wrote at Boston University under the tutelage of Professor Richard L. Bushman. After granting me my degree, Boston University offered me the opportunity to teach a course on the American Revolution.

With my Ph.D. in hand, I landed a visiting assistant professorship at Texas Tech University in 1978, with an option of staying a total of three years. The dearth of permanent history teaching positions in American colleges led me to consider other career paths. The texts of historical documents, the authentic words in which people expressed their ideas, had always fascinated me and I had very much enjoyed editing the spiritual autobiography of Nathan Cole, a participant in the eighteenth-century New England revivals, which I had the good fortune of publishing while in graduate school. So, I decided to market myself as a documentary editor, that is, a scholar of historical texts. During the summer of 1980, I attended “Camp Edit,” a three-week seminar in documentary editing sponsored by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and in the autumn of 1981 I said farewell to Texas Tech in order to accept a one-year fellowship at the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Under the direction of the editor, Robert Taylor, and his assistants, Greg Lint and Celeste Walker, and working with the papers of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, I learned the fine details of survey, selection, transcription, annotation, and indexing of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century manuscripts.

In the autumn of 1981, the Naval Historical Center was seeking to hire a historian to assist with the editing of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Documents of the American Revolution series. At the annual meeting of the Association for Documentary History, Dr. William S. Dudley, then head of the project, interviewed me for the position. Apparently, he found that my training as an early Americanist, my knowledge of the era of the American Revolution, and my experience with documentary editing made me the most qualified candidate, for on 22 February 1982, with my eye glasses fogging up as I came into the office from the cold, I entered into my duties as a naval historian.

Although I knew a lot about early America, I knew little about naval history-one could say that I did not know my aft from my hawse­hole-and I had to learn on the job. Two examples will illustrate the process by which I gradually became educated in the argot of the sailor. One of my first assignments was to index parts of the ninth volume of the Revolutionary War series, then being prepared for the press. This was before personal computers and automated indexing programs. We wrote each entry by hand on a 3″ x 5″ index card. We then alphabetized the index cards by hand and organized and consolidated them before turning them over to a secretary to be typed on a typewriter (a piece of equipment even rarer in offices today than secretaries have become). I remember coming across a phrase in a British log book stating that the ship anchored by the “Best Bower,” wondering if the Best Bower was a place name, a proper noun requiring an index entry, and learning from my colleague, Ken McQuistion, a grizzled ex-Navy chief, that the best bower was the chief anchor-it hung from the bow-and did not get indexed. Later, I was assisting with the indexing of the first volume of our series The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. A document relating to the U.S. naval station on Lake Ontario, at Sackets Harbor, New York, stated that the commandant had ordered a gun transferred from one of the warships and mounted on “the Cavalier.” Assuming Cavalier was the name of another ship, I spent a couple of frustrating hours finding no other mention of it until it finally occurred to me that there was no such vessel, and a dictionary of military terms revealed that the cavalier is a gun platform within a fort raised higher than any other part of the fort so as to be able to command the entire field of fire.

A career of three decades and more as an official Navy historian has increased my knowledge of the Navy’s history as well as afforded me the chance to contribute to that body of knowledge. It would bore you for me to mention all my wonderful colleagues who over the decades have taught me about the Navy’s history, sharpened my historical argumentation, and improved my writing. Those who are in the audience know who you are. But I want to acknowledge my wife, Elva, my beloved companion for almost as long as I have been with the Navy’s history enterprise, who, also having earned a doctorate and having spent a career in history, more than tolerates but truly understands my obsession with the past. She has also taught me that life is more than study-has shared a life of music, gardening, cooking, and volunteer teaching, as well as history. Likewise, I want to acknowledge our son Evan, who, having earned a doctorate in radiation physics, manages to keep his parents current on modem technology even from his distant post in Vienna, Austria, where he works to keep us all safe from nuclear proliferation in his job at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Pardon me, if my pride is showing.

Enough about me. Now, what about us?

Most of us in this space, whether we are archeologists, archivists, curators, documentary editors, historians, librarians, or museum specialists, are history professionals. We are all involved in the similar task of making the past come alive to a varied audience. We communicate our understanding of the past to others. The processes by which we accomplish this call for both collaboration and art. The experience of those of us who design museum exhibits and write their texts defies the stereotype of the solitary scholar reeking of lamp oil from lonely hours in an ivory tower. Similarly, those of us who are writers and editors of books, and this is particularly true of those of us who are documentary editors, work as teams. As our enterprises are large, our success is dependent on teamwork. Although some of us may be inventive geniuses, we are not like Thomas Edison the solitary inventor; rather we are like the teams of collective researchers assembled by Edison at his “invention factory” at Menlo Park. Or, a more apt analogy may be that we are not akin to Samuel Eliot Morison the Harvard scholar studying the voyages of Christopher Columbus, but we are akin to the team of Admiral Morison’s writers who produced the monumental fifteen-volume operational history of the Navy in World War II.

Have you ever felt like everything you thought you knew is wrong? I grew up believing that in a tornado one should leave a few of a house’s windows cracked to prevent a vacuum from causing the building to collapse, that margarine is better for your health than butter is, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that splitting an infinitive is bad grammar, that one should never end a sentence with a preposition, that Christopher Columbus was a hero, and that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Now experts tell me that all these ideas are bunkum. The world I thought I knew has been turned upside down. I feel like the character in John Barth’s The Sot-weed Factor, a novel about a tobacco merchant in colonial Maryland, who, when gazing at the stars and having it explained to him that the earth is a sphere traveling through space, and that the stars are not just above him but below as well, experiences vertigo and falls from his horse. Good history should be like this, it should turn our views upside down, give us vertigo, and throw us from our mounts.

Good art helps the viewer see things in a new way, from a different perspective. Great art transforms the way one understands the world. As communicators, we are also artists. Our objective as historians, whether in designing a museum exhibit or in writing a historical essay, is to shine a new light on the experience of the past, bringing new understanding to the museum visitor or the reader. Maritime historian Lincoln Paine begins his magisterial The Sea & Civilization: A Maritime History of the World with the sentence, “I want to change the way you see the world.” Such should be the goal of every work of history. If our audiences leave us merely entertained, we have not succeeded. If they leave merely reconfirmed in the views they held before encountering our work, we have not succeeded. Our audiences should leave us somehow different, with some value added; they should learn something new, see the past differently. In our work, we should challenge long cherished notions, shake up our audience a bit. Better yet if we can get our audiences hooked on history, for, like any addiction, an addiction to history changes the way our brains work.

Here is where the art comes in. We can effect a change in our audiences’ point of view without an in-your-face confrontation, without the audiences even realizing that they are being taught something new, and even while holding their interest by entertaining them. We can do this by applying to the art of history lessons from the art of fiction. The novelist creates characters who evoke an emotional response, places them in situations that reveal truths about the human predicament, and employs make believe to craft a narrative with purpose. Similarly, historians can portray historical characters in ways that evoke empathy or revulsion, focus on moments in which those characters made pivotal choices, and employ facts (and artifacts) to craft narratives that teach historical lessons. Our ultimate goal should be to make a difference in the way our audience perceives our world. The better we accomplish this goal, the closer will our work be to great art. And to create great history that is also great art is a worthy aspiration.

(Return to July 2018 Table of Contents)

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The Decisive Blow: the Anglo-French Naval Campaign of 1759


Origins of British Naval Supremacy
The Battles
Economic Effects
Colonial Repercussions

Kevin J. Delamer
U.S. Naval War College

The Seven Years’ War was a global conflict, conducted between 1756 and 1763, on a scale unlike any previous war. Most of the fighting was done in Europe between continental powers, and yet the only predominantly maritime power involved, Britain, proved to be the economic engine of the victorious side.  The question arises, what role did British maritime dominance play in this conflict and how did naval battles influence the outcome?  To answer these questions and understand the implications, we must add the economic dimension to our examination of the naval component of this war.  Ultimately, the impact of naval victories on the finances of the belligerents was the decisive factor in the outcome of the conflict.

The British naval historian Sir Julian Stafford Corbett noted that, “Since men live upon the land and not upon the sea, great issues between nations at war have always been decided – except in the rarest cases – either by what your army can do against your enemy’s territory and national life or else by the fear of what the fleet makes it possible for your army to do.” 1  While this comment is generally true for the Seven Years’ War, 2  two naval battles provided the critical element necessary for Britain to emerge victorious in this global struggle. None of the battles on land could be fought unless sufficient funds were available to finance the campaigns. This global war required specie and credit in massive quantities. It also required the ability to transport troops to distant theaters. The battles of Lagos and Quiberon Bay were not decisive in the sense of bringing the conflict to an immediate conclusion. These engagements were, however, the most important battles fought by British forces during this conflict, because absent these victories, the conquests in overseas theaters would be transient, continuing victories in new overseas theaters would be unlikely, and ultimately the reduction in the flow of revenue to the French court was the most effective and perhaps the only method of terminating the war on favorable terms.

Origins of British Naval Supremacy

At the outset of the Seven Years’ War, the British Royal Navy enjoyed both numerical and qualitative advantages over its French counterpart.  The War of Austrian Succession, known in North America as King George’s War, had begun for Britain as the War of Jenkins Ear.  This 1739 conflict pitted the declining maritime power of Spain against a resurgent Royal Navy.  The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which ended the War of Austrian Succession (1748) may have represented a peace of exhaustion for both sides, but it was neither an enduring settlement nor did it reflect the balance of military power, in the colonies, at sea, or in Europe. 3  At sea, the Royal Navy remained predominant at the formal outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, with eighty-eight ships of the line in comparison to thirty-three available to France.  Spain possessed thirty-nine additional ships of the line, but both the French and Spanish fleets were divided between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic ports. 4   Neither allied fleet could be concentrated without a contested transit of the Strait of Gibraltar, passing under the guns of the British garrison there.  Such an endeavor would also require a measure of seamanship that was not universal or uniform within the French and Spanish navies. 5

Across the board, Britain had proven the more aggressive belligerent at sea during most of the wars of the eighteenth century. This behavior was largely a function of capability. The French Navy had proven better resourced and better prepared at the end of the previous century. This state of affairs proved particularly worrisome for the British government, as preventing a continental adversary with a powerful army from gaining possession of the deep-water estuaries on the south shore of the English Channel had been a strategic priority since the Tudor dynasty. 6  While Minister of Marine Jean-Baptiste Colbert directed the French Navy and French colonial affairs in the late seventeenth century, Britain was emerging from civil war. Subsequent French naval leaders benefitted from Britain’s struggles brought on by the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The end of the reign of Louis XIV in 1715 instigated a dramatic decline in the attention paid to maritime affairs.  This decline in maritime interests, combined with a willingness to allow Dutch bottoms to carry French colonial trade, 7  produced a relative shortage of qualified seamen.  The advantage in professional mariners, from captains down to topmen and able seamen 8  gave the Royal Navy a decided advantage tactically.  The British Admiralty leveraged both the numerical and the qualitative advantages in the Seven Years’ War.

The maritime war between 1755 and 1763 followed the model of the previous Anglo-French wars of the preceding seven decades. Britain either possessed or gained maritime dominance and exploited this superiority to deny France the opportunity to land troops in the British Isles. This dominance also allowed Britain to move troops to the Continent.  In this manner, the Seven Years’ War was not exceptional.  France surprised the British Mediterranean squadron and seized Port Mahon, but the Admiralty recovered its sea legs and asserted maritime control.  This conflict was not without mishap, however.  British Admiral Edward Boscawen, commanding the North American Station, failed to prevent French reinforcement of Canada ultimately leading to the demise of Major General James Braddock and his ill-fated expedition which had been tasked with clearing the French outposts from the Forks of the Ohio.  Fortunately for Britain, his failure was neither as public as that of Admiral John Byng nor was he sacrificed to calm political turmoil like Admiral John Byng. 9

The Battles

Off Lagos, Portugal, Boscawen went on to redeem his earlier failure.  The battle was unremarkable in itself.  Having eluded the British blockading squadron, the seven ships of the line under Admiral de la Clue were run to ground (quite literally) off Lagos.  Three of these capital ships were captured while two were driven ashore and burned.  This result does not appear, at face value, to have shifted power in a manner that changed the dynamic of the war at sea.  The number of ships of the line, the capital ships of the day, available to France varied greatly during the war.  Some of the numerical variability can be attributed to the withdrawal of older ships constructed during earlier conflicts.  The legacy of a succession of active and effective Secrétaires d’État de la Marine (the French equivalent of the First Lord of the Admiralty), Colbert and Phélypeaux, père et fil, 10  had been reduced to decaying ships rather than sustained attention to maintaining the fleet. As a result, the loss of five capital ships represented over ten percent of the June 1759 French order of battle. 11  By June of the following year, after Lagos and Quiberon Bay, France had only fourteen ships of the line in commission, and three of these were beyond timely recall in the Indian Ocean. 12   Lagos represented the first step in the near-complete destruction of the French Navy. Even before Quiberon Bay, Lagos represented a stunning turn of events.  In September, contemporary diarist Horace Walpole, writing to British diplomat Sir Horace Mann, observed, “… Admiral Boscawen has destroyed the Toulon Fleet and made you Viceroy of the Mediterranean.” 13  The fact that the denouement of the battle occurred in neutral Portuguese territorial waters also had a significant impact on the future course of the war as well, serving as one point of contention in Spain’s march to war.

As 1759, Britain’s annus mirabilis, wore on, the bells of London were, in the words of Walpole, “… worn threadbare for the ringing of victories.” 14   Walpole’s letter and the celebrations that inspired it represented the sentiments of Britain following the news of Major General James Wolfe’s 1759 victory at Quebec.  Neither Wolfe’s victory nor the victory by Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, leading a mixed force of allied troops at Minden, provided permanence.  Each triumph gave the Anglo-Prussian alliance 15  a temporary advantage operationally.  Brigadier General James Murray, who succeeded to command for the winter after Wolfe was killed in the battle and the more senior Brigadier Generals, Townshend and Monckton, retired to convalesce in London and New York, respectively, lacked the ability to withstand the attacks of the remaining French troops in Canada if massed against him. 16   His ability to continue to hold Quebec depended on the arrival of British vessels with supplies, food, and reinforcements before French ships revitalized his adversaries. What few at the time recognized was that this string of remarkable victories was strategically meaningless absent the ability to achieve some degree of sea control. British North America possessed a far larger population than New France. It could have leveraged this larger, growing population to endure in the war, but the retention of Canadian conquests in the short term would have been unlikely.

Naval theorist Alfred Thayer Mahan asserted that the primary mission of a nation’s battle fleet was to seek out the enemy fleet and destroy it in a decisive battle.  Once this task was accomplished, the victor would possess “… that overbearing power on the sea which drives the  enemy’s flag from it, or allows it to appear only as a fugitive; and which, by controlling the great common, closes the highways by which commerce moves to and from the enemy’s shores.” 17   Admiral Edward Hawke was one of Mahan’s archetypes of a naval officer, because his victory at Quiberon Bay achieved results very close to the ideal set forth in Mahan’s most famous work. 18

Quiberon Bay highlighted all the advantages enjoyed by the Royal Navy.  Over the course of 1759, Hawke maintained a close blockade of the principal French Atlantic ports.  Sustaining such an endeavor over a prolonged period was an unheard-of accomplishment.  Doing so into the winter months had previously been assumed to be impossible. 19  It was the prolongation of the blockade that led to the battle.  The battle was fought in a raging storm, a factor that produced as many of the French losses as did the fire of British great guns.  Hawke’s ability to maintain the blockade and to order a general chase were predicated on the judgment and experience of his subordinate officers, particularly the captains.  It also took great skill among the sail handlers.  The long periods of blockade duty certainly offered opportunities to hone these skills; these same skills atrophied, however, aboard the French ships trapped in harbor by those blockades.  Quiberon Bay was not a singular blow that destroyed the French Navy in one stroke.  It was the culmination of a set of circumstances and a series of events.


By June of 1760, the French Navy was reduced to fourteen ships of the line.  This force was utterly inconsequential when compared to the one hundred and eleven British ships of the line then in commission.  This disparity was a function of losses suffered by France in combat, the natural attrition of wooden ships over time, and the inability of France to replace its losses. 20   While only one of these causes was directly attributable to the battles off the western coast of Europe in 1759, the others were artifacts of the battles as well.

Various British colonial victories during the Seven Years’ War were, as the Duke of Wellington would later be alleged to have said regarding Waterloo, “a damn close-run thing.” 21  The British army holding Quebec was nearly destroyed in the battle on the Plains of Abraham.  By the spring, the force under Brigadier General James Murray had been further reduced by illness and starvation rations, numbering approximately 3,800 troops.  This was capped by the battle of St. Foy in April 1760, when roughly one third of the remaining force was killed, wounded, or missing. 22   The surviving senior French commander in North America, the chevalier de Levis, had at his disposal a force of over 6,000 troops even after the losses suffered at St. Foy.  Only the lack of cannon prevented the French force from retaking Quebec City. While still short of supplies, Levis’ force proved to have retained substantial capability.

Similarly, the British position in the Carnatic in India was tenuous until the French squadron there retired to Mauritius during the monsoon season.  British forces on Guadeloupe managed to hold off the French relief force that arrived immediately following the surrender of the island in July, but the ensuing months saw over 800 of the soldiers die of tropical diseases.  This left a force incapable of resisting a serious challenge had the French Navy been capable of supporting such an endeavor.

Reduced to fourteen ships of the line by June 1760, the entire French Navy was inferior in numbers to the British Blockading squadron in the Atlantic. As three of these French capital ships were on station in the Indian Ocean, the disparity was even greater.   Had the battles of Lagos and Quiberon Bay ended differently, or not taken place at all, a more robust force might have been able to risk running the blockade.  A small squadron slipped away from France in 1762 headed for Canada.  Proceeding with one ship en flute, 23  these ships landed approximately 800 troops in Newfoundland, but these troops were defeated by a scratch force raised by Amherst. The ability of this force to escape was due, in part, to the belief by the Admiralty that the ships were bound for Ireland and the consequent repositioning of blockade force at the direction of the Admiralty. 24   A larger French naval force might have been capable of shielding more ships proceeding en flute from the blockading squadron.  More ships would also have been available to dispatch as ersatz transports.  Taken together, these efforts could have allowed France to succor the remaining French troops in Canada, or alternatively retake Guadeloupe, or put pressure on other British possessions in the Atlantic Basin. These options were all foreclosed by the state of the French Navy after the naval battles of 1759.  As Fred Anderson stated so elegantly, “… it was Lagos and Quiberon Bay that proved decisive at Quebec, and control of the Atlantic that settled the ownership of Canada.” 25   These battles also settled the ownership of Guadeloupe.

Economic Effects

For France, many other choices were also precluded by the effects of the naval battles.  The Seven Years’ War was a contest of economic might, particularly for France and Britain.  The naval battles of 1759 had a profound effect on French economic activity. 26   The overall level of French economic activity did not collapse following the British naval victories and revenue continued to increase.  The decline in revenue to the French government from commerce did not represent a large percentage in absolute numbers, but this reduction did force strategic decisions.  The decline in revenues from overseas sources also required an increase in other forms of taxation.  When these revenues were made good by imposing higher taxes on domestic commerce, support for the war among the moneyed classes in France declined.

The War of the Spanish Succession had imposed a crushing debt on the French state, amounting to roughly 2.600 billion livres tournois or roughly 30 billion in today’s U.S. dollars, 27  which undermined the economic foundation of future endeavors.  The cost of each succeeding conflict from the War of the Polish Succession through the Seven Years’ War grew progressively greater.  The revenue collected by the French government did increase, as did expenditures, although failing to cover the costs of the wars. 28

The difference between the Seven Years’ War and the earlier conflicts can be found in the per capita taxation and in the sources of that revenue.  By 1761, per capita taxation (in constant livres) rose over 15 percent compared to the peak rate during the War of the Austrian Succession and over 50 percent compared to pre-war rates.  Perhaps more troubling for French finances, the burden fell increasingly on domestic, direct taxation.  This was due to a decline in revenue from import duties and the virtual elimination of revenue from the government monopoly of the tobacco trade.  Before the outbreak of the war (1750), these sources accounted for about 15 percent of indirect taxation. 29    The percentage was significant. By 1760, virtually all commerce with Canada and the rest of New France had ceased.  From a peak of almost 80 million livres tournois (l.t.) to less than 4 million (approximately $800 million and $40 million in 2015 U.S. dollars), imports from Canada and New France plummeted as did the revenue from those imports.  30  At the nadir, the level of trade with French overseas colonies was lower than that with Britain, a state at war with France. The total amounts of revenue from these imports represented a smaller proportion of the higher expenditures during wartime, but the shortfall required France to make strategic decisions regarding the allocation of resources.  One of the most dramatic impacts was the decision to reduce naval expenditures.

The reduction in naval spending is particularly interesting because it involves a declining spiral.  The response to the effective destruction of the French Navy could have taken one of two courses.  France could have massively increased allocations for the navy to replace the lost assets or it could have written off the maritime domain and slashed spending.  King Louis XV took the latter course. 31   French naval expenditures dropped from just under 57 million l.t. in 1759 to less than 24 million l.t. in 1760.  Half of this reduced sum was required to pay debts incurred in previous years. 32   To make the situation worse, the ordinary expenditures with funded the shore establishment remained constant, while the extraordinary expenditures which funded operations and ship construction fell from just under 42 million l.t. to under 9 million. 33   This drastic reduction was a direct result of the 1759 naval battles. The cycle continued, as the loss of naval assets further reduced the protection afforded to trade, leading to a further decline in revenue which precipitated further naval austerity.

French maritime trade would not revive until after the end of the war, and would reach the pre-war levels in only one year between the end of the Seven Years’ War and the American War of Independence. 34  The rising political fortunes of Étienne François, duc de Choiseul, culminated with his ascension to primacy among the king’s ministers and his accession to the position of secretary of state for the Navy.  This new leadership produced a gradual improvement of the navy’s finances, but it proved too little and too late to impact the ongoing conflict.  Once the decision was made to cede the maritime sphere to Britain, the stage was set for all the scenes that followed in the Seven Years’ War.

The reduction in funding meant that the French Navy effectively ceased to exist.  The dramatically smaller fleet was incapable of engaging a single British blockading squadron.  This fact, in turn, rendered any attempt to reinforce existing French possessions impractical.  Only two significant efforts were made outside Europe were mounted between 1759 and the end of the war.

One attempt to bolster French possessions in the Western Hemisphere was the Newfoundland expedition noted above.  A small effort with troops embarked on a single ship of the line sailing en flute, escorted by two additional ships of the line and a single frigate was possible only due to the redeployment of British troops from North America for the invasion of Cuba and the repositioning of the blockading force off the French coast to guard against a landing in Ireland.  While this disposition was appropriate given unrest in Ireland, of which the government was aware, 35  it did allow the escape of the French ships.  The expedition failed, repulsed by an ad hoc force. 36   France was down to one additional extra-continental option.  All French colonial possessions were, from that point forward, at the mercy of British military operations.

The entry of Spain into the conflict also exposed the overseas possessions of that declining power to capture by British forces as well, adding weight to the British bargaining position in any future peace negotiations.

The command of the sea that fell to Britain following the battle at Quiberon Bay had global reach.  With only four ships of the line in India in addition to two East India Company ships of the line, 37  the French squadron under the comte D’Aché fought with some success against a larger British squadron of nine ships of the line through 1759.  While the British were reinforced, eventually numbering sixteen ships of the line, France lost the use of all but one to typhoon damage in January 1760. The disparity in force, supplies, and support led to inevitable results.  Blockaded by sea and besieged by land, the French commander in Pondicherry, Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally, was forced to surrender Pondicherry. This last French stronghold in India fell in January 1761. Dull summed up the results of these battles nicely, “The campaign of 1760 completed the destruction of French power in North America and India.” 38   These actions, in combination with the two naval battles of 1759, ended any realistic chance of the French Navy influencing events in the closing years of the Seven Years’ War.

Colonial Repercussions

Another critical effect of the naval battles of 1759 was the British conquest of a series of additional French and Spanish colonies in the Americas. Having all but the last disposal force 39  in a vain attempt to take Newfoundland as a bargaining chip, France could reinforce only one of the colonies it still held. Spain, having entered the fray in 1762, had little capacity for reinforcement either. Martinique and Havana were the most valuable prizes among these vulnerable territories, and both were seized by Britain in 1762.  Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent all fell as well, although none were as militarily or economically important as the aforementioned islands.

Martinique and Havana offer particular insights into the plight of the allies attempting to hold out against Britain.  Martinique was taken by forces already in the theater combined with troops converging from North America under Major General Monckton and a squadron under Rear Admiral Rodney, proceeding from Britain.  The complete absence of French naval opposition altered the nature of the campaign.  In 1759, the capture of Martinique had been deemed impossible once forces arrived on station due to the strong French naval squadron posted there. The expedition in 1759 was diverted to Guadeloupe, which was taken only after a protracted siege in which the French garrison held out in the interior in hopes of relief by French forces from Martinique.  By the time of the 1762 expedition, only a single French ship of the line remained in the West Indies, and that had arrived en flute, carrying troops and stripped of her main battery. 40   The inability of the French Navy to send a fleet to sea in 1760 or 1761 had transformed an island formerly considered impregnable to attack into one susceptible to conquest. 41 Clevland dated 19 January 1762 and to [Lord] Newcastle dated 21 January 1762 in The Rodney Papers: Selections from the Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney, Volume I: 1742-1763, ed. David Syrett (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 433-435.  ]   Monckton had learned from the Quebec campaign the value of embarked troops that could land at almost any point.  This advantage, complete as at Quebec due the absence of the French Navy, greatly aided the swift conquest of the island.  France did send one last force to the West Indies, but it was timidly led and diverted to Cap François, Haiti.  The British victories at Lagos and Quiberon Bay stripped the French West Indies of naval support and this effect bore fruit in the conquest of the principal French commercial and naval base in the theater. 42

Havana presented a very different problem.  Long considered the strongest fortress in the Western Hemisphere, the difficulty in reducing the Spanish base of operations in the New World was expected to be extraordinary.  The French Navy had recovered marginally by the time the expedition against Havana was undertaken.  Admiral comte de Blénac led seven ships of the line to Cap François, but he had lost one to mishap.  The remaining six ships of the line did inflict casualties on a lightly escorted convoy bringing troops from North America, but the French squadron was effectively neutralized by operational design. 43   This approach to Havana involved using the Old Bahama Channel, sending a frigate ahead to sound the safe passage. 44   Only the fall of Martinique permitted this action, and that was another artifact of the 1759 victories. The Spanish naval squadron in the harbor at Havana, though larger, proved an easier problem to solve.  Following the surprise landing of Albemarle’s troops to establish lines of siege around the city, the Spanish command sealed the fate of their own squadron by sinking three ships of the line to block the harbor entrance, trapping the squadron inside. 45  The siege of Havana, as with so many of the effects of the maritime war, had economic effects that far exceeded the military impact.  Havana was the center of the trading system that extracted wealth from New Spain and transmitted this bounty to Spain.  It was the economic engine, not only of the Spanish territory in the New World, but of Spain itself. This Iberian state relied not on manufacture, or trade, or the produce of her native lands, but on gold and silver from the Americas to generate national wealth.  Economic factor remained the dominant effect of the maritime conflict.

French finances did not collapse following the defeats of 1759.  Total revenues rose in both absolute terms and in constant livres, adjusted for inflation. 46   Looking at this data, it might appear that the naval victories had little impact upon the financial fortunes of France.  Total tax revenue increased, at least until 1761.  But as mentioned above, the records are incomplete and reconstructed from sources that were neither native to France nor complete.  Even accounting for variations, the income to the government rose by approximately 100-million livres, approximately a 25-percent increase.  On the surface, this figure would seem to contradict the idea that these naval battles were the decisive factor in this conflict. Income alone, however, does not provide a full picture.

French expenditures rose more rapidly than the revenues, peaking at over 500 million livres during the Seven Years War. 47   This spending was unsustainable, and each year of deficits further reduced the funds available for military operations and diplomacy in the succeeding year.  Much of this conflict was fought by proxy.  “… although French revenues exceeded those of any other mid-eighteenth-century European state, France could not afford to fund an army large enough to rival the armies of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, and a navy as large as Britain’s.”  To vanquish Prussia and hold off Britain, France had to have allies.  These allies could not afford war on so massive a scale without subsidies.  France provided a total of over 50 million livres in subsidies to Austria and another 2 million per year to Denmark. In practice, France had to re-negotiate these arrangements concurrent with the reverses of 1759, and even then these amounts could not meet the obligations to which France had agreed. 48   The shortfall occurred in spite of the dramatic increase in domestic direct taxation.  The reductions in trade and the concomitant loss of duties and profits from state controlled enterprises such as the tobacco trade contributed.  There were additional, indirect effects of these events as well.

Unable to rely on financial institutions such as the Bank of England, France relied on novel methods of extracting revenue. “In Bourbon France, financing and banking were two different but related fields.” 49  To fund the navy, special arrangements with bankers were made.  In exchange for set levels of funding for naval accounts advanced by two banking houses that alternated years, these houses were authorized to collect import duties. These arrangements were contracted for twenty years. One of these principals experienced financial difficulties and was backed by a larger merchant banking house, Beaujons, Goossens, et Compagnie.  When the naval defeats undermined trade, the companies directly involved failed to fund the navy, placing additional stress on the general revenues. 50  Eventually, the entire financial system began to collapse. 51   Larger, more influential firms were also undermined.  The effects of the naval defeats spread to the general financial system, the diplomatic services, as well as to naval and military budgets.

Maritime theorist Julian Corbett observed, “Wars are not decided exclusively by military and naval force.  Finance is scarcely less important.  when other things are equal, it is the longer purse that wins …” 52  Alfred Thayer Mahan agreed on this point.  He believed wars could be won at sea and that the effects of blockade would eventually bring the enemy to its knees. 53   While these theorists differed on many points, they did agree that in the Seven Years War, the naval defeats suffered by France were the key events.  While the physical battles that wrested economic prizes from France and Spain took place on land, none of these battles could have been fought without the enabling naval victories.  These naval battles also produced economic effects independently.  The decisive blows in the war were struck at Lagos and Quiberon Bay.


Primary Sources:

Hawke, Edward. The Hawke Papers: A Selection, 1743-1771, edited by Ruddock F. Mackay, (Publications of the Navy Records Society; vol. 148). Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1990.

Pitt, William.  The Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Volumes I and II, edited by William Stanhope Taylor and John Henry Pringle. London: John Murray, 1838.

Rodney, George Brydges. The Rodney Papers: Selections from the Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney, Volume I: 1742-1763, ed. David Syrett. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005.

Syrett, David, editor.  The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762, (Publications of the Navy Records Society; vol. 114). London and Colchester: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne, 1970.

Walpole, Horace.  The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume I. Edited by Charles Duke Yonge.  New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890.

Secondary Sources:

Anderson, Fred.  Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Barrow, Ian. The East India Company, 1600-1858: A Short History with Documents. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2017.

Bosher, J.F. “Financing the French Navy in the Seven Years War: Beaujons, Goossens, et Compagnie in 1759” in Business in the Age of Reason, edited by R.P.T. Davenport-Hines and Jonathan Liebenau. London: Frank Cass, 1987; reprint, London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

Corbett, Julian S.  The Seven Years’ War: A Study in British Combined Strategy. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907; reprint, London: The Folio Society, 2001.

_____________.  Some Principles of Maritime Strategy.  London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1911; reprint, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988.

Dull, Jonathan R.  The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War.  Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Ferreiro, Larrie D.  Ships and Science: The Birth of Naval Architecture in the Scientific Revolution, 1600-1800. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

Kee, Robert.  The Green Flag: The Turbulent History of the Irish Nationalist Movement.  New York: Delacourt Press, 1972.

Kennedy, Paul M. The Rise and Fall British Naval Mastery.  London: Allen Lane, 1976.

Marcus, Geoffrey. Quiberon Bay.  New York: Barre, 1960.

Mahan, Alfred Thayer.  The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, Twelfth Edition. Boston: Little, Brown, 1918.

__________. Types of Naval Officers: Drawn from the History of the British Navy. Boston: Little, Brown, 1904.

Padfield, Peter.  Maritime Supremacy and the Opening of the Western Mind.  Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 1999.

Pritchard, James.  Louis XV’s Navy, 1748-1762: A Study of Organization and Administration. Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987.

Riley, James C. The Seven Years War and the Old Regime in France: the Economic and Financial Toll. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Riley, James C. “French Finances, 1727-1768.” The Journal of Modern History, 59, no. 2 (1987): 210-43. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1879726.

Robson, Martin.  A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016.

Tracy, Nicholas.  The Battle of Quiberon Bay, 1759.  Barnsley, England: Pen & Sword, 2010.

(Return to July 2018 Table of Contents)


  1. Julian S. Corbett,  Some Principles of Maritime Strategy  (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1911; reprint, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1988), 16.
  2. The Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) is better known in North America as the French and Indian War, a part of the conflict that began with a confrontation over possession of the Forks of the Ohio (modern Pittsburg) in 1754 and ended effectively with the capture of Montreal in 1760.
  3. Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall British Naval Mastery (London: Allen Lane, 1976), 73.
  4. Jonathan Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 263-265; Martin Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War (London: I. B. Tauris, 2016), 15; lists the relative strengths as 89 British and 62 French ships of the line at the outset of the conflict.  The discrepancy is difficult to resolve, but as Dull is the most prominent scholar writing on the French Navy in this period and the discrepancy is primarily in the number of French ships, his numbers have been cited.
  5. This was a function of the limited number sailors in service and the limited time spent at sea.  See Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, Twelfth Edition (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1918), 311-313; and Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, 113-114.
  6. For a discussion of naval affairs in the Tudor period (1485-1603), see Kennedy, Rise and Fall, 27, 75-77.
  7. Paul Walden Bamford, “French Shipping in Northern European Trade, 1660-1789,” The Journal of Modern History 26, no. 3 (1954): 207-208. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1875374 as compared with British shipping in Ralph Davis, “Merchant Shipping in the Economy of the Late Seventeenth Century,” The Economic History Review, New Series, 9, no. 1 (1956): 70.
  8. While the judgment of ship’s officers was critical in safely maneuvering and effectively fighting a ship, the skills of able seamen who could perform most tasks aboard ship and especially topmen, the sailors sent aloft to manage the sails and rigging, were equally important.  The skills of these enlisted sailors were generally honed during long-distance merchant service.  As France had a comparatively small percentage of the total long-distance carrying trade, even to and from French ports, it relied on North American fisheries to provide this experience. These fisheries could only be sustained if places were available near the fishing grounds where the catch could be dried or smoke to preserve it for the return voyage to Europe.  This explains the importance in the negotiations to end the Seven Years’ War of the small islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence used for this purpose, Miquelon and Saint Pierre.
  9. Robert Donald Spector, English Literary Periodicals and the Climate of Public Opinion in the Seven Years’ War (The Hague: Mouton, 1966).
  10. Jean Baptiste Colbert and his successors Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas and Ponchartrain and his son Jerome would lay the scientific foundation for an improved French Navy.  In the 1720s and 1730s, the financial support for the fleet flagged.  Ironically, Louis Phélypeaux’ grandson, Jean-Frédéric, would begin to rebuild the French Navy in the 1740s, but he would be removed in 1749 due to his criticism of the political influence of Madame du Pompadour, mistress of King Louis XV. See Larrie D. Ferreiro, Ships and Science: The Birth of Naval Architecture in the Scientific Revolution, 1600-1800 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), passim.
  11. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, 274.
  12. Ibid., 277.
  13. Horace Walpole, letter to Sir Horace Mann, a British diplomat stationed in Florence, dated September 13, 1759 in The Letters of Horace Walpole, ed. Charles Duke Yonge (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890), 173.
  14. Walpole, letter to George Montagu dated October 21, 1759, ibid., 178.
  15. The Seven Years’ War was a contest featuring France, Russia, and Austria, later joined by Spain in accordance with the Bourbon Family Compact opposed by a much narrower alliance centered around Prussia and Britain.
  16. Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), 368.
  17. Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, 12th edition (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1918), 138.
  18. Alfred Thayer Mahan, Types of Naval Officers (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, 1893; reprint, Boston: Little, Brown, 1904), 77-144.
  19. Ibid., 128-129.
  20. James Riley, The Seven Years War and the Old Regime in France: the Economic and Financial Toll (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press), 81.
  21. A frequent misquotation, so frequent that the phrase would later be borrowed by the British ground force commander in the Falklands, Major General Sir Jeremy Moore, KCB, OBE, MC, and would end up as the title of Russell Phillips’ 2011 history of the Falklands War.
  22. Anderson, Crucible of War, 392-394.
  23. Ships sailing en flute were used as transports. The main gun deck was cleared of its battery allowing space to berth troops.  These vessels were more secure than leased merchantmen, as the guns on the weather deck were retained and the crew of the warship was presumably more capable of handling the guns effectively than a merchant crew.  The number of retained guns was larger than those on typical merchant ships contracted as transports.  See N.A.M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1986), 425.  
  24. Instructions from the Lords of the Admiralty to Hawke dated 5 May 1962 and Hawke to Clevland dated 12 May 1762 in The Hawke Papers: A Selection: 1743-1771, ed. Ruddock F. Mackay (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1990), 380-381.
  25. Anderson, Crucible of War, 395.
  26. Much of the data on French finances has been reconstructed over time from a number of sources as fires in the Chambre des Comptes and controller-general archives had destroyed much of the original archival record.  This destruction has led to some divergent estimates as well as meaningful gaps in the record.  See James C. Riley, “French Finances, 1727-1768,” The Journal of Modern History 59, no. 2 (1987): 210. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1879726 accessed 1/13/2016.
  27. The absolute value of the debt incurred does not appear excessive given the massive deficits incurred today, however, given the limited capacity to collect taxes in the eighteenth century, this represented over six times the maximum revenues collected in any year of the Seven Years War. Monetary conversions here and henceforth taken from http://www.historicalstatistics.org/Currencyconverter.html;  See Riley, The Seven Years’ War and the Old Regime in France, 178. 
  28. Riley, “French Finances”, 210.
  29. Riley, The Seven Years’ War and the Old Regime in France, 54.
  30. Riley, The Seven Years’ War and the Old Regime in France, 111.
  31. James Pritchard, Louis XV’s Navy, 1748-1762: A Study of Organization and Administration (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1987), 220.
  32. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, 170.
  33. Riley, The Seven Years’ War and the Old Regime in France, 142.
  34. Ibid., 111.
  35. Ireland had a long history of rebellion against British control.  During the Seven Years’ War, there was a separate Irish Parliament but the dependence of this institution on London was problematic even for Irish Protestants.  As early as 1759, Pitt had been advised of attacks on the Irish Parliament by mobs; see Robert Kee, The Green Flag: The Turbulent History of the Irish Nationalist Movement (New York: Delacourt Press, 1972), 30-31; Letter from Richard Rigby to William Pitt dated December 5, 1759 in The Correspondence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, Volume I, ed. William Stanhope Taylor and John Henry Pringle (London: John Murray, 1838), 468-469.
  36. Julian S. Corbett, The Seven Years’ War: A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907; reprint, London: The Folio Society, 2001), 601-602; and Anderson, Crucible of War, 498.
  37. The various East India Companies (French, Dutch, British) maintained private armies and navies.  In addition, the East Indiamen, the merchant ships plying this trade, were heavily armed with several purchased by the Royal Navy and rated as fourth-rates, the smallest class of ships of the line. See Ian Barrow, The East India Company, 1600-1858: A Short History with Documents (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2017), 43-53.
  38. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, 179.
  39. As defined by Julian Corbett, a disposal force is a portion of the total force that may be used in independent operations or given to the use of another belligerent without compromising the security of the state. See Corbett, Some Principals of Maritime Strategy, 107-110.
  40. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, 280.
  41. George Brydges Rodney, letters to [Admiralty Secretary John
  42. Corbett, The Seven Years War, 523-528.
  43. Ibid, 552.
  44. Ibid., 554-558.
  45. David Syrett, ed. The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762 (London and Colchester: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne, 1970), 170.
  46. Riley, “French Finances, 1727-1768,” 229.
  47. Ibid., 228.
  48. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War, 133-134.
  49. J.F. Bosher, “Financing the French Navy in the Seven Years War: Beaujons, Goossens, et Compagnie in 1759,” in Business in the Age of Reason, ed. R.P.T. Davenport-Hines and Jonathan Liebenau (London: Frank Cass, 1987; reprint, London and New York: Routledge, 2013), 115.
  50. Ibid., 188-122.
  51. Ibid., 126.
  52. Corbett, Some Principals of Maritime Strategy, 99.
  53. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 138 (in general terms), 318 (in reference to this conflict).

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The First Class at RAF No. 31 Radio School: August to September, 1941


In the Wilds of Ontario
BCATP and the Aerodrome of Democracy
A Desperate Measure
No. 31 Radio School Launches
Drinking from the Radar Fire Hose
Life at at the School
After the First Class’ Graduation

Paul Renard
George Washington University
School of Medicine

In the Wilds of Ontario

William C. Fuchs Hawaii, 1938 (Fuchs Papers)

Part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP), No. 31 Radio School opened on 20 July 1941 and was ready to begin radar design and maintenance classes for an initial group of 133 U.S. Navy and Army personnel and a few RAF trainees on August 16.  Clinton was chosen for its remoteness to preserve secrecy, and because of its rolling countryside and proximity to a large body of water—conditions similar to those of southeast Britain.  Its remote location in an insular farming community had two advantages:  a lack of distractions for the trainees, and the unlikeliness of encounters with Axis espionage agents. 1  The first class session lasted just under a month, concluding on 13 September.  U.S. students consisted of 25 naval officers, 72 Navy enlisted men, and 36 Army enlisted men. 2U.S. Navy Aircraft Radioman First Class (ARM1/c) William C. “Willie” Fuchs (1919- ) crossed the border into Canada on 12 August 1941 and rode the busy wartime rails across western Ontario to Goderich along Lake Huron with a group of fellow sailors who had just completed a radar course at the Naval Research Laboratory Radio Materiel School (NRL RMS). Leaving the grain freighters of the town’s small harbor and its train station behind, he climbed aboard a bus for the final thirteen miles of his journey along the twisting Maitland River through a flat landscape of remote farms and small woodlots.  At the end of his trip was the newly opened Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 31 Radio School (RS) outside of Clinton—a top-secret facility reflecting Great Britain’s determination to continue the struggle against the Axis regardless of the outcome of battles in Europe.

ARM1/c Fuchs was among the first group of U.S. sailors and soldiers chosen to learn the latest technical advances in what the British called Radio Direction Finding (RDF)—known in the U.S. as radar.  Prior training at the NRL in Washington, DC had increased his self-taught knowledge of radio physics and mathematics, and following that course he and a part of his class were immersed in the theory and circuitry of American radar systems.  At No.31 Radio School, Fuchs and his classmates would be introduced to the technologies and structure of Britain’s Chain Home air defense radar that had helped to win the Battle of Britain, but the primary focus of the school’s initial class was Aircraft Interception (AI) and particularly on the latest developments in aircraft-mounted radar. 3

RAF No. 31’s dissemination of information about the technical workings and operational use of radar was an early and important tool in bringing the war to a successful conclusion.  Willie Fuchs and his classmates were the vanguard of thousands of Allied sailors, soldiers, and airmen who translated technical insight and expertise taught at No. 31 into victory.

BCATP and the Aerodrome of Democracy

Only a year old, the BCATP had ramped up quickly to support the war effort.  In December 1939, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan committed the RAF, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force to two critical strategic goals:  provision of air training fields that were similar to those in the United Kingdom but beyond the reach of Germany or Japan, and creation of a uniform training system that allowed for pooling of Commonwealth air personnel. 4

Canada was chosen as the primary location for the BCATP because of its wide open spaces suitable for flight and navigation training, clement weather, readily available supplies of fuel, proximity to U.S. industrial facilities, lack of threats from Commonwealth enemies, and its central location between the two main theaters of war. Canadian Prime Minister King’s government agreed to operate BCATP bases, and pick up a large proportion of the costs. Seeking to avoid the bloodbath of World War I, King also used the BCATP as a way of keeping Canadians productively contributing at home during the war, and reached an agreement with the British that air training would be Canada’s main wartime effort.

The BCATP began with three initial training schools, thirteen elementary flying schools, sixteen service flying training schools, ten air observer schools, ten bombing and gunnery schools, two air navigation schools.  Four wireless schools including RAF No. 31 were planned. On 29 April 1940, No. 1 Initial Training School saw the first group of 221 trainees. One hundred of them were selected for pilot training and sent to 15 different flying clubs across Canada for elementary of instruction, and 39 received their wings—only to discover that they would be transitioned to flight instructors for incoming classes. 5

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the BCATP was criticized for diverting pilots who were desperately needed by the RAF.  However, rather than closing or delaying the program, it was expanded with an eye toward the future of air combat and the great expansion of aircraft production capability that was underway in the U.S.  Construction crews worked round-the-clock and new schools appeared seemingly overnight. As ARMc/1 Fuchs discovered, trainees often found facilities that were unfinished and understaffed. However, by the end of 1941 BCATP pilot output more than doubled original projections, and it was on target for the 50,000 aircrew that the program had promised per year. As proclaimed by President Roosevelt, Canada had become the aerodrome of democracy. 6

By late 1943, over 100,000 administrative personnel operated 107 schools and 184 other supporting units at 231 locations across Canada. 7  By March 1945 when the BCATP essentially ended, it had graduated 131,553 personnel including 49,808 pilots, 29,963 observers and navigators, 14,996 air gunners, 18,496 wireless-operator air gunners, 15,673 bombardiers, 1,913 flight engineers and 704 naval air gunners. 8

A Desperate Measure

“Now they stand again under the same shadow, and with a tense feeling that this time the storm is about to break.  But there is calm, courage, and stoicism…” 9

Radar’s development had begun over a decade before Fuchs’ arrival at No. 31, and touched most of the major world powers before he arrived at the gates of the school.  By 1941, all of the major powers fighting or soon to be involved in the world war had developed at least a minimal radar capability, due in large measure to the lack of secrecy in radio and direction finding experimentation during the preceding 20 years. Technical journals in the U.S., France, and Germany carried detailed stories about both long wave and higher frequency communication. Building on the experiments of Robert Watson-Watt and others during the 1920’s, Britain was a technical leader in radar research, but far more important, had developed a sophisticated defense system around the technology.  10

All radar systems operated on similar principles—a directional radio wave was generated and broadcast toward a potential target, which then reflected the wave back to the radar set’s receiver. Both Britain and the U.S. had developed effective radars before the war, but had moved down different operational paths.  As Fuchs encountered at the NRL, much of the American radar effort was theoretical and focused on the scientific foundations of the technology.  Britain, however, fully integrated radar into its national air defense system while the U.S. lagged behind.  In addition, the British had made significant strides in designing microwave radar with better capabilities than the high frequency radars that were the American mainstay.  Both were working on designs and prototypes for airborne interception and sea search systems, and No. 31 Radio School came into existence at just the right time to support all of these efforts. 11

Outside of the English-speaking democracies, there were striking variations in the technical and operational environments from country to country. German radars were superior in capability to equivalent British systems, but when the war began in 1939, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe had only a few radar sets, and most were not integrated into air defense, surface search, or artillery targeting systems. 12   Radar was a low priority in the anemic Japanese industrial economy, and operationally lagged behind most of the other major combatants. 13  The Soviet Union entered the war with the least mature radar capabilities of all the combatants due to purges and mismanagement. 14  The Western powers were much more successful in turning scientific theory into prototype development, industrial production, and operational deployment. Churchill and Roosevelt demonstrated far greater prescience and commitment to radar technology than Hitler, Hideki Tojo, or Stalin. 15

Sir Henry T. Tizard (1885 – 1959)

In August and September 1940 at the height of the Battle of Britain, Sir Henry Tizard, one of Churchill’s key scientific advisors and chairman of the U.K. Aeronautical Research Committee, led a delegation of Britain’s top scientists to Canada and the U.S. to provide information and prototypes of advanced technologies that were helping the RAF win the air war and prepare for future victory.  These included a much need cornucopia of designs for gas turbines, atomic research, metallic alloys, jet engines, gun sights, underwater detection (SONAR), and rocketry technologies—along with the very latest advances in radar.  They brought blueprints, diagrams, schematics, and descriptions of their radar in action, along with one of the first twelve multicavity magnetron tubes that would lead to better than triple quality improvements beyond the Chain Home (CH) radars that were already deployed, extending the range and capabilities of existing radar sets.  In return, the U.S. provided Britain with advanced electronic designs such as duplexer circuitry that allowed a single antenna to serve as both transmitter and receiver, reducing the size and complexity of radars in the field. 16In April 1940, seven months of phony war exploded into active conflict in Western Europe.  The downfall of France and ignominious ejection of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk destroyed the certainties of the embattled democracies—that France was undefeatable, that the fixed fortifications of the Maginot Line would hold the German Wehrmacht at bay, and that Britain may lose a battle but always win the war.  Great Britain stood alone against Hitler and faced the likelihood of national extinction under the bombs of the Luftwaffe. As German troops gathered at French ports and prepared for the invasion of Britain, the British took a bold and desperate step to preserve the world from Nazism—sharing its most secret military technologies with the still-neutral United States and key members of the British Commonwealth.

The Cavity Magnetron
A high-powered vacuum tube that generates  microwave radiation by passing electrons through a magnetic field. Unlike earlier tubes that were ineffective at high voltage, when the magnetron’s cathode is energized and a strong magnetic field was applied across the device, the electrons emitted at the cathode formed a high energy spiral. By controlling the voltage and the magnetic field within it, the magnetron oscillated at a high power centimetric frequency and produced a radar pulse that provided improved positional information. Below, the interior of a magnetron from 1941. 17

Over the following weeks, engineers and scientists from the NRL and Britain shared information and insights about radar in one of the strongest examples ever of international communication and trust.  Since U.S. radar technology was not far behind Britain’s, the most important result of the meetings was to convince American generals and admirals that radar could be integrated into existing operational platforms and processes—such as the British air defense system performing well during the Battle of Britain—and that it was a tool that the U.S. must have and use.  American politicians and scientists were surprised by the commitment that Britain had made to radar with over 500 development engineers were employed in the British program, dwarfing the NRL radar staff of fewer than 20.  There was a clear need for better trained U.S. personnel, and RAF No. 31 was one of the tools envisioned for sharing technical information at a very detailed level. 18

In the year after Tizard’s visit, the U.S. inched closer to a war with Germany while trying to avoid conflict with the Japanese in the Pacific—at the same time the Japanese Navy was planning its attack on Pearl Harbor—while Britain’s situation had changed dramatically.  Although still under pressure from the Blitz and heavily engaged in North Africa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June reduced air attacks on British industry and cities.  Nazi troops were advancing on Moscow but the Soviet Union continued to fight.  The introduction of convoys, better antisubmarine tactics, and U.S. escorts had improved if not resolved the dire situation in the Atlantic, and the imminent threat of starvation had receded.  However, Britain’s chance of survival was still tenuous, and measures such as the dispersion of key technical assets via facilities like No. 31 Radio School to the far side of the Atlantic were a prudent recognition that the war could still be lost. 19

AI Aircraft Interception
ASV Aircraft to Surface Vessels
CH Chain Home
CHL Chain Home Low
DC Direct Current
D/F Direction Finding
IFF Identification Friend or Foe
LR Long Range
OIC Officer in Charge
PPI Plan Position Indicator
RDF Radio Direction Finding (Radar)
RF Radio Frequency
RMS Radio Materiel School


No. 31 Radio School Launches

No. 31 came into being with the typical dynamic of wartime—do as little as possible for as long as possible, and then create a crash effort to immediately hit a goal.  The focus of No. 31 was unusual.  While it would be a major training center for Commonwealth personnel, it would also officially include U.S. soldiers and sailors who represented a country that was legally neutral, but in fact was all but a committed combatant.

In early July, the British High Commissioner and the Canadian Dominion Office had reached an agreement on U.S. reimbursement for No. 31 training:  no charge for rent, instruction, or rations, but the U.S. Army and Navy would be responsible for paying their own personnel.  At the same time, the RAF sponsors were concerned that the August program would have to be cancelled because no one knew exactly where the demonstration radar equipment was at the time.  For the course to be successful, the students would need hands-on training on units similar to those they would encounter operationally but capable of simulating radar signals, be able to fix and modify equipment that was likely to burn out or be damaged in the field, and learn to interpret the array of blips, lines, and waves that indicated the presence of the enemy. As of 11 July 1941,  20

Regret unable to give precise details of deficiencies.  F/Lt. Iliffe obtained equipment from various sources and only he knows the deficiencies.  We believe 75% of requirements were met and deficiencies consisted mainly of test gear and airbourne equipment.  Echelon sailing direct and can be expected 3 repeat 3 days before arrive date five. 21

RAF Flight Lieutenant Iliffe had an unenviable task.  He was busily scavenging English RAF facilities for both training equipment and basic electronic and mechanical components, attempting to pry late model electronics out of the hands of fellow RAF officers, and pack and ship everything to Canada in time for the first class.  He was trying to find equipment missing in shipment, repair broken transformers and tubes, and verify that his cargoes were safely crossing the submarine-infested Atlantic. The variety of the general supplies and the sorry state of the training equipment on Iliffe’s list suggested future problems for the students at No. 31 RS.

Training Equipment

CH Mk I by Dynatron – obsolescent, simulates 4 tracks of aircraft, gives range and D/F but not height or IFF

CH Mk II by Dynatron – 4 tracks, gives height and IFF, range and D/F.

Control Unit Type 39 – mechanical to provide independently controlled track.

GCI Interception Unit – prototype, mechanical to provide independently controlled track.

CHL Mk I – obsolescent, simulates 1 raid, unsatisfactory

CHL Mk II – prototype, 4 raids tracked, not satisfactory

GCI Mk 1 – prototype, interception training

AI Mk III – obsolescent, one screen for elevation and another for azimuth

AI Mk I – obsolescent, experimental

AI Mk II – obsolescent

AI Mk V – prototype nearly complete

ASV Mk I – obsolescent

ASV Mk II – prototype, provides 2 echoes

General Electronic Supplies

66 Stems 3/8 x 2 ½

4 T. dipoles

4 T. reflectors

8 R. dipoles

8 R reflectors

300’ copper wire 200 lb.

4 R. relays std. fitted

25 saddles concentric

50 screws ¾ No. 6

8 Nuts, washers, bolts 3/8 x 4 ½

4 Nuts, washers, bolts ¼   x 2 ½

2 brackets angle

2 cable BA12ALH 135’

2 cable Do. 60’

1 gross saddles conduit

2 gross screws ¾ No. 6

4 gross washers, bolts 3/8 x 4”…

1 lb. plastic compound

6 brackets type A

12 insulators Type 43

12 Stems Type 1

2 switches STC. 50 v. boxed

100 ft. copper 100 lb. wire …

Notations for Training Equipment 22 and General Electronic Supplies 23

While radar was conceptually simple (send a radio signal out, observe a reflection back), it was the end product of highly complex scientific and industrial processes that were in their infancy.  The list above, ranging from the mundane to the incomprehensible, tells a story of wartime shortages, general unpreparedness at No. 31, and the difficulties of moving a new technology into an operational state under military and time pressures.

Most of the critical decisions to support U.S. participation were hashed out in a series of meetings, cables and telephone calls to and from Canada, Britain, and the United States.  The syllabus for the first class solidified at the last minute.  As late as 12 August the curriculum was unsettled, and Wing Commander Cocks, No. 31 commandant, did not receive confirmation from the U.S. War Department that training could proceed until a phone call on 14 August.  Even at that late date, the suitability of the course syllabus was under discussion, and the inability of the RAF to provide instructors limited the first class size. Between 9 July and 14 August 1941, much of Iliff’s equipment arrived in Canada and made it to a local warehouse—where it sat unused during the first class—so nearly all presentations to Fuchs’ group were theoretical and schematic, with very little hands-on practice. 24

Drinking from the Radar Fire Hose

For many of the enlisted U.S. students like Willie Fuchs, the course of study at RAF No. 31 was a continuation of training in basic electronics, radio, and nascent American radar technology at Army and Navy labs. Fuchs’ skills with radio repair and operation had made him a candidate for the NRL’s Radio Materiel School in 1940, even though he only had two-plus years of seniority and the normal requirements were ten to twelve years. At NRL, radiomen received instructions in radio theory in the morning and worked in the laboratory in the afternoon, assisting engineers to build and test new equipment.  Fuchs joined NRL RMS Class 33 at Bellevue (Anacostia) in Washington, DC on 6 December 1940 along with 172 other sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines. Class 33 was twice the size of previous classes and condensed the normal two year program into six months.  After 40 students were unable to successfully navigate the dreaded “intermediate” exams, 132 graduated and earned their RMS “ticket.” With this important qualification in hand, Fuchs was briefly assigned to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard, but within a few weeks was unexpectedly on his way to Canada for radar training.  Unlike Fuchs, for many of the U.S. students who would pass through No. 31, preparation at RMS was insufficient. 25

RDF Syllabus – 16 August to 13 September 1941 26

Week 1


Pulse Technique – Schronisation – Range

D/F Methods

Cathode Ray Tubes

Time Bases

Square Wave Technique

Multivibrator Circuits

DC Restoration

General Description of Ground Station

General Description of ASV Installation

General Description of A.I Installation

Week 2

Block diagram ASV Installation

Power Supply and Voltage Regulation

Squegging Oscillator

Details and Setting up of Transmitter

Indicator Circuit details

Setting up the Time Base

Receiver Circuit RF Section

Receiver Output Circuit

Cathode Followers and DC Restoration

Long Range Installation

Circuit details of LRASV Receiver

Indicator Circuit

Week 3

Block diagram AI Installation Mk 4

Modulator Circuit

Anode Pulse Production

Indicator circuit – Brilliance Modulation

Pulse Suppression

Receiver Circuit details

Pilot Indicator Technique

Indicator Circuits

Strobing Technique

Strobe pulse production

Pulse Suppression and Setting up Procedure

Week 4

Layout/Block Diagram of Ground Station

General description M.B. 2

General description RF 7

IFF Installation and responses

Circuit and Setting up Procedure

Beacons for AI and ASV

CCI Station Layout and Block diagram

PPI Technique

Revision ASV and later developments

Revision AI and later developments

Question Paper

Final Discussion

With a great deal of work by the RAF and RCAF, and some good fortune, much of what was required to begin training fell into place. When the U.S. students arrived, they were quickly introduced to subjects that included the theory, operation and maintenance of several early warning land based, ship borne and airborne radars.  The course began with a description of the RAF Chain Home system that had played an important role during the Battle of Britain, its basic circuitry, and a definition of its components:  multivibration, cathode ray tubes, wave squaring, and DC restoration—technical capabilities that allowed the broadcast and reception of radar signals that indicated aircraft direction and altitude.  They were soon deeply involved in the full four week curriculum that had been a point of contention between the U.S. and Canada militaries.

The daily training plan called for demonstrations and exercises in the Main Laboratory, limited hands-on breadboard work in Main Demonstration Laboratory where the students wired up components of a radar system, inspection of ground equipment from Britain, and demonstrations and exercises in specialized AI and ASV labs where they practiced searching for aircraft in flight and vessels at sea.  RAF Flight Officer Naylor was Fuchs’ primary instructor, although other No. 31 faculty with technical specializations occasionally worked with his group.

Chain Home Operational Design (Fuchs Papers)

By 3 September 1941, a critical problem became apparent—many of the U.S. students were not prepared to understand the material presented in the classroom and laboratories.  The majority of officers had insufficient radio background since they were mostly pilots with little knowledge of advanced radio.  Among the enlisted men, 25% were evaluated as “excellent material and capable of maintenance on Airborne equipment” including Fuchs; 50% were likely to eventually become “competent radio mechanics;” and 25% were “completely unsuitable for the course.”   Part of their poor performance was a difference in pedagogical approach between U.S. and U.K. classrooms.  Students were expected to copy circuit diagrams into their notebooks from a single classroom chart, and many had difficulty with creating useful drawings.  This was resolved in later courses by providing mimeographs of the diagrams.  The large number of students also strained the laboratories and practical exercises—too many trainees per unit made it hard for anyone to study the few radar sets that had arrived from Britain and were finally working. 27

By the course’s halfway mark, Wing Commander Cocks and the No. 31 instructors had become increasingly concerned about the abilities of the students. While none of the Navy trainees were “unsuitable for training,” four of the Army enlisted personnel were struggling.  To avoid this problem in the future, the school put a “must pass” policy in place.  On the first weekly exam, students had to achieve a score of at least 35 percent. Any score less than 40 percent on the second week’s exam would trigger dismissal.  They also instituted a pre-course qualifying exam to cover basic radio concepts and knowledge. 28

ASV Radar Receiver and Instructions (Fuchs Papers)

In spite of these problems, or because of the lack of practical radar experience of American participants, the U.S. Army and Navy were very interested in future course offerings if Canada would agree to support them.  The U.S. evaluated the program as an “immense benefit to their respective services from the point of view of fitting and operating RDF equipment and that they would welcome any continuity of training facilities which Clinton could provide.” However, the U.S. War Department wanted a change in focus of the course since the Army was primarily interested in Air Interception while the Navy wanted more attention paid to ASV and IFF.  Future class groups during 1941and 1942 would reflect these differing interests with smaller, specialized student contingents and either an Army or Navy focus, while introducing all students to IFF. 29

Air Interception Radar MkIV Indicator Schematic and Instructions (Fuchs Papers)

The growing concern about Japanese intentions and the increased production of radar equipment in the U.S. and Canada raised the need for instructors at No. 31, and some of the students who were already there were a ready source for qualified teachers.  J.C. “Jake” Farrar, a 1931 enlistee and winner of the first communication competition at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in 1935, was one of a group of six radiomen from RMS 33 selected from the first No. 31 class to remain at Clinton as instructors. Fuchs recalled Farrar as “one of the really smart people from RMS” and excellent instructor material.  Five other instructor-selectees from later No. 31 class sessions had also been part of RMS 33, indicating the growing sophistication of U.S. radio and radar capabilities and NRL training. 30

A coordination conference on 3 September 1941 sorted out many of the start-up pains of the school.  The No. 31 commander, senior instructors, and representatives from the U.S. military resolved syllabus and subject matter issues, the length of the course, what to do with unsuitable trainees, translation of British slang to American terminology, orientation issues, and student-to-instructor ratios.  A key decision was to segregate students who were unable to keep up with the pace of the course so that they did not impede the other trainees. 31

Evaluation and coordination meetings were valuable, but the travel schedule took its toll on the program coordinators.  After gathering on 29 July, 12 August, 3 September, and 8 October, and with conferences scheduled at Clinton on 5 Nov and 3 December, the administrative meeting schedule was exhausting and uneconomical.  The Chief of Air Staff suggested replacing in-person meetings with phone calls and more cables.  By the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the school was running smoothly enough that these meetings became less frequent—and less urgent in the overall environment. 32

Life at the School

The contrasts between classroom and living arrangements were stark.  Away from the cutting-edge technical curriculum, life was primitive.  Fuchs recalled his first two meals at RAF Clinton—“a small scoop of mashed potatoes with a small amount of cheese mixed in,” followed the next morning by “bacon that was so rare that the fat was still white.”  He attributed the bad food to enmity between the British staff and the Canadians who supported the school—there appeared to be little love lost among them, and one result was food that was inedible even by wartime standards.  However, a more likely explanation for the poor food was the frantic kickoff of the course and the inability of the wartime Canadian logistics system to respond quickly to a large influx of hungry servicemen.  Coming from the U.S. where the bounties of peacetime were still available, the spartan mess hall was intolerable to them, and the senior U.S. officer-student “assertively” passed along the complaints of the American servicemen in what they called the food revolt—and meals were more edible after that. 33

Barracks were equipped with unstacked bunks and the students had heat and were relatively comfortable. Some of the students anticipated the Canadian winter with misgivings—even in early fall, Clinton was chillier than the balmy States. Planning ahead, U.S. Lieutenant Dale Brown, the Army officer in charge at Clinton, requested “arctic type head-gear and warm gloves” for his service’s students.  The Navy trainees had arrived with their winter coats and were unconcerned. 34

Social life was in short supply.  The heavy classroom schedule left little time for extracurricular activities, and remote, wartime Clinton had nothing to offer anyway.  Fuchs recalled the base pub that was the center of evening activities revolving around “beer, darts, beer, and beer.”  The students were allowed one liberty in Goderich, a town of 4,600 people, but found little to do—a short walk down the main street and then back on the bus to Clinton. Time at the school quickly settled into a routine:  classroom, eating, studying, beer hall, sleeping—and repeat for a month. 35

Security was tight at the base.  Each student signed a security acknowledgement upon arrival warning him of the importance of the material being taught and the penalties for disclosing it.  The RAF was particularly concerned about security violations if trainees were removed from the course.  Each student’s notebook was a potential trove of information about frequencies and operational deployment of the latest British radars, and plans were made to collect and destroy the notebook of any student who failed—a significant task since 63 students were rejected between the start of the program and 5 November 1941.  Officer notebook security was equally a problem.  Each week, U.S. officer-students were required to send their notebooks back to the NRL in Washington so that their latest diagrams could be distributed to Navy and Army scientists.  This involved a complicated process of travelling to a secure facility and transporting the books to the Canadian Air Attaché in Washington, who would then deliver them to the War Department.  Eventually, a secure bag with a combination lock was provided at No. 31 to avoid the arduous wartime travel. 36

After the First Class’ Graduation

In September 1941, the U.S. Navy was not ready for many of the first No. 31 graduates to work with radar due to low electronics production in the U.S. Some were temporarily sent to San Diego and encouraged to do whatever they wanted in electronics to keep their new skills sharp.  Fuchs, for example, worked with a team studying blind radar-directed instrument landings by PBY flying boats.  Slightly more than two months later, the attack on Pearl Harbor shook the Navy out of its lethargy, and the theory and skills learned at RAF No. 31 were an important part of the technical and operational insights applied to the war effort by Navy and Army radiomen.

Following graduation from No. 31, Fuchs was posted to Norfolk for advanced training in the latest U.S. radars.  By February, 1942, he was at Ford Island on Oahu installing radar units in PBY search aircraft as one of a small unit of radar technicians under Lieutenant Commander Roy Jackson.  Fuchs recalled working in a hanger that was badly damaged during the 7 December 1941 raid—while the walls were still standing, the roof had been blown off and much of their workspace was open to the sky. Radar had become a top priority, and his team was given carte blanche to requisition anything they needed to rapidly get airborne radar installed in the ramp-up to what would be the Battle of Midway.  The contrast with peacetime sluggishness was astonishing—when they encountered a shortage of pneumatic tools, the team put in a request and had them from the West Coast within 24 hours.  In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor raid, everyone understood the importance of radar and was fanatical about getting as much capability shipboard and airborne as soon as possible.  The skills learned at No. 31 began to pay dividends as early as June 1942 when aircraft carrier ship-to-air and PBY-mounted surface search radars—installed in part by Fuchs and his teammates—gave advanced warning of Japanese raids and allowed innovative defensive measures at Midway. 37

At No. 31, after twenty months of operation, the training agreement between Canada and the U.K. was fulfilled, and the British negotiated an end to their sponsorship. The school became a RCAF facility in July, 1943; its name was changed to No. 5 Radio School, and it continued operations with essentially the same curriculum—updated for advancing technology—and schedule throughout the war. By March 1945, No. 5 Radio School, Clinton had a staff of 478 all ranks with 627 students undergoing training.  Over the course of the war, 2,345 Americans and 6,500 Canadians graduated from Clinton.  Following victory over Germany and Japan, radar and advanced electronic training was still needed, and the school was renamed once again as RCAF No. 1 Radar and Communications School.  Dramatic post-war changes in electronics and the onset of the Cold War kept the school in operation until August, 1971 when it moved to Kingston, Ontario where it survives as part of Canadian National Defense. 38

No. 31 Radio School was important for three key reasons.  First, it provided a technology backstop for the British when their national survival was still in question.  By transferring knowledge to North America, they significantly increased the likelihood of eventual Allied victory—and the school contributed materially to the dissemination of this material.  Second, by providing additional and sometimes conflicting insights into radar technology, the school moved U.S. technical and operational understanding of radar ahead at a time when the nation’s capability was going to be stressed even further by Japanese assaults.  Finally, No. 31 served as a model of altruistic Allied cooperation.  Britain, Canada, and the U.S. all gained immensely by their collaboration, and arguably shortened the war by sharing technology rather than competing.  This cooperative spirit survived the collapse of the Axis and remains an important part of the close relationship among the countries today—a relationship forged by mutual threat and common goals.


During the war, Fuchs was promoted to Chief and then to Lieutenant. He remained in the Navy until 1947 when he resigned his active duty commission. Afterwards, he pursued a career as a civil servant and Naval Reservist with the Boston Naval Shipyard, the Bureau of Ships and lastly supporting the Navy Department’s Bureau of Aeronautics and the Deputy CNO for Air.  He rose to the rank of Commander in the Naval Reserve and continued his work supporting Naval aviation until his retirement from government service in 1974.  This began his second career at Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), defining and setting international air traffic control communications standards.  He served for a decade as Technical Director of RTCA beginning in 1975, and was Executive Director from 1985 until his retirement in 1989. He was a leader in defining standards for airborne radio communications, navigation and control systems and became known worldwide for his negotiations with foreign countries that set common communication frequencies and procedures for military and civil aviation. 39


Allison, David K. New Eye for the Navy:  The Origin of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory, NRL Report 8466. Washington, DC: Naval Research Laboratory, 1981.

Amato, Ivan. “Pushing the Horizon:  75 Years of High Stakes Science and Technology at the Naval Research Laboratory.” (1998), http://www.nrl.navy.mil/content_images/horizon.pdf.

Brown, Louis. A Radar History of World War II: Technical and Military Imperatives. Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, Ltd., 1999.

Brown, LT Dale. “Request to Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps for Arctic Equipment, Oic U.S. Army Detachment, No.31.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 9 September 1941.

Buderi, Robert. The Invention That Changed the World: How a Small Group of Radar Pioneers Won the Second World War and Launched a Technological Revolution. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Chief of Air Staff, Department of National Defense Air Service. “Communication to Air Attache, Canadian Legation, Washington.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 29 July 1941.

Chief of Air Staff, Department of National Defense Air Service. “Fourth Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 5 November 1941.

Chief of Air Staff, Department of National Defense Air Service. “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 3 Sep 1941.

Chief of Air Staff, Department of National Defense Air Service. “Third Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 3 September 1941.

Cocks, Wing Commander A.H.W.J. “Minutes of 9 July 1941 No. 31 Planning Conference.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 15 August 1941.

Communications and  Electronics Branch. “History – Annex C – World War II Ground Radar.” National Defence and the Canadian Forces (n.d.), http://www.commelec.forces.gc.ca/org/his/bh-hb/appendix-annexe-c-eng.asp.

Conrad, Peter. Training for Victory: The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in the West. Douglas & Mcintyre Ltd., 1989. 978-0888333025

Dominion Office. “To United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada, Potential Cancellation of No. 31 August Course.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 11 July 1941.

Dominion Office. “To United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada, Uncertainties About No. 31 Equipment Deficiencies.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 11 July 1941.

Fuchs, William C. “Base Life at Clinton and Goderich – 1941.” edited by Paul Renard. Fairfax, VA, 4/10/2011.

Fuchs, William C. 4/10/2011.

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Fuchs, William C. “Royal Air Force No. 31 Radio School Notes and Diagrams.” In William C. Fuchs Papers. Fairfax, Virginia, 1941.

Fuchs, William C. “Travel to Radio School No. 31 and Prior Events – 1941.” edited by Paul Renard. Fairfax, 5/12/2011.

Guerlac, Henry. Radar in World War II. Vol. 8: American Institute of Physics, 1987.

Hatch, F.J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada And The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan 1939-1945. Department of National Defense, Ottawa, 1983. ISBN 13: 9780660114439

Hayter, Stephen. “A Short History of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.” http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000299. Retrieved: 3/17/2016.

Iliffe, Flight Lieutenant. “Iliffe Partial List of Equipment.” In RCAF File – RCAF Overseas – Air Ministry Communications Centre – Signals Equipment – Conferences. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 2 June 1941.

Lang, Group Captain A. “Confirmation of Telephone Conversation with Wing Commander A. Cocks on 14 August 1941 (Canadian National Telegraphs).” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 15 August 1941.

Leckie. ” To Group Captain A.F. Lang – Programme of Intake of U.S. Personnel – Canadian National Telegram.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 24 December 1941.

n.a. “Appendix a – Schedule of R.D.F. Synthetic Trainers.” In RCAF File – RCAF Overseas – Air Ministry Communications Centre – Signals Equipment – Conferences. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 6 May 1941.

———. “Britain Awaits Ordeal.” The Globe and Mail, 7/24/1940.

———. “Goderich, Ontario.” Absolute Astronomy (n.d.), http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Goderich,_Ontario.

———. “Log of the U.S.S. Wharton.” (n.d.), http://usswharton.com/shipslog.html.

———. “The Magnetron.” Radar Recollections (n.d.), http://histru.bournemouth.ac.uk/Oral_History/Talking_About_Technology/radar_research/the_magnetron-part2.html.

———. “Radio Materiel School Class 33 Graduation Notes.” edited by Naval Research Laboratory. Washington, DC, 1941.

Orozak, Paul. “Royal Canadian Air Force Station Clinton.” Wings and Wheels (n.d.), http://www.wingsnwheels.ca/2009/clinton.html.

Swords, Sean. Technical History of the Beginnings of Radar, IEEE History of Technology. London: Peter Peregrinus, Ltd., 1986.

Townsend, Peter. Duel of Eagles. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003.

United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada. “Reimbursement for U.S. Training at No. 31 RS.” In S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy. Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 6 July 1941.

Watson, Raymond C. Radar Origins Worldwide:  History of Its Evolution in 13 Nations through World War II. North America: Trafford Publishing, Ltd., 2009.

(Return to July 2018 Table of Contents)


  1. Orozak, Paul. “Royal Canadian Air Force Station Clinton.” Wings and Wheels (n.d.), http://www.wingsnwheels.ca/2009/clinton.html.
  2. William C. Fuchs, “Royal Air Force No. 31 Radio School Notes and Diagrams,” in William C. Fuchs Papers (Fairfax, Virginia1941); Paul Orozak, “Royal Canadian Air Force Station Clinton,” Wings and Wheels (n.d.), http://www.wingsnwheels.ca/2009/clinton.html; Department of National Defense Air Service Chief of Air Staff, “Communication to Air Attache, Canadian Legation, Washington,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248 (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 29 July 1941).
  3. Fuchs, William C. “Royal Air Force No. 31 Radio School Notes and Diagrams.” In William C. Fuchs Papers. Fairfax, Virginia, 1941.
  4. Hatch, F.J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada And The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan 1939-1945 (Department of National Defense, Ottawa, 1983).
  5. Hayter, Stephen. “A Short History of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.” http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000299. Retrieved: 3/17/2016.
  6. Hatch, F.J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada And The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan 1939-1945.
  7. Hayter, Steven. “History of the Creation of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.”
  8. Ibid.
  9. n.a., “Britain Awaits Ordeal,” The Globe and Mail 7/24/1940.
  10. Louis Brown, A Radar History of World War II: Technical and Military Imperatives (Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, Ltd., 1999), 53; Robert Buderi, The Invention That Changed the World: How a Small Group of Radar Pioneers Won the Second World War and Launched a Technological Revolution (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 77-97.
  11. David K. Allison, New Eye for the Navy:  The Origin of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory, NRL Report 8466 (Washington, DC: Naval Research Laboratory, 1981), 149-49.
  12. Brown, A Radar History of World War II, 73-83; Henry Guerlac, Radar in World War II, vol. 8 (American Institute of Physics, 1987), 1073-75; Sean Swords, Technical History of the Beginnings of Radar, IEEE History of Technology (London: Peter Peregrinus, Ltd., 1986), 91-101.
  13. Brown, A Radar History of World War II, 83-85; Guerlac, Radar in World War II, 917-24; Swords, Technical History of the Beginnings of Radar, 130-35.
  14. Brown, A Radar History of World War II, 85-89.
  15. Ibid., 49; Raymond C. Watson, Radar Origins Worldwide:  History of Its Evolution in 13 Nations through World War II (North America: Trafford Publishing, Ltd., 2009).
  16. Allison, New Eye for the Navy:  The Origin of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory, NRL Report 8466, 151-52; Ivan Amato, “Pushing the Horizon:  75 Years of High Stakes Science and Technology at the Naval Research Laboratory,”(1998), http://www.nrl.navy.mil/content_images/horizon.pdf.
  17. n.a., “The Magnetron,” Radar Recollections(n.d.), http://histru.bournemouth.ac.uk/Oral_History/Talking_About_Technology/radar_research/the_magnetron-part2.html.  Photo from http://www.vectorsite.net/ttwiz_03.html; http://steeljawscribe.com/2010/10/06/project-cadillac-the-beginning-of-aew-in-the-us-navy
  18. Allison, New Eye for the Navy:  The Origin of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory, NRL Report 8466, 152-53.
  19. Peter Townsend, Duel of Eagles (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003).
  20. Brown, A Radar History of World War II; Dominion Office, “To United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada, Potential Cancellation of No. 31 August Course,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 11 July 1941); United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada, “Reimbursement for U.S. Training at No. 31 RS,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 6 July 1941).
  21. Dominion Office, “To United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada, Uncertainties About No. 31 Equipment Deficiencies,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 11 July 1941).
  22. n.a., “Appendix a – Schedule of R.D.F. Synthetic Trainers,” in RCAF File – RCAF Overseas – Air Ministry Communications Centre – Signals Equipment – Conferences (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 6 May 1941).
  23. Flight Lieutenant Iliffe, “Iliffe Partial List of Equipment,” in RCAF File – RCAF Overseas – Air Ministry Communications Centre – Signals Equipment – Conferences (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 2 June 1941).
  24. Orozak, “Royal Canadian Air Force Station Clinton.”; Wing Commander A.H.W.J. Cocks, “Minutes of 9 July 1941 No. 31 Planning Conference,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248 (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 15 August 1941); Group Captain A. Lang, “Confirmation of Telephone Conversation with Wing Commander A. Cocks on 14 August 1941 (Canadian National Telegraphs),” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248 (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 15 August 1941).
  25. n.a., “Radio Materiel School Class 33 Graduation Notes,” ed. Naval Research Laboratory (Washington, DC1941); William C. Fuchs, “Travel to Radio School No. 31 and Prior Events – 1941,” ed. Paul Renard (Fairfax5/12/2011).  Analysis of the class notes show an student enlistment date median of 1930, average of 1930.26, and multiple modes of 1928 and1929 among the Navy contingent.
  26. n.a., “Appendix a – Schedule of R.D.F. Synthetic Trainers.”
  27. Department of National Defense Air Service Chief of Air Staff, “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248 (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 3 Sep 1941).
  28. Ibid; Leckie, ” To Group Captain A.F. Lang – Programme of Intake of U.S. Personnel – Canadian National Telegram,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 24 December 1941).
  29. Chief of Air Staff, “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.”; Department of National Defense Air Service Chief of Air Staff, “Fourth Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248 (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 5 November 1941).
  30. n.a., “Radio Materiel School Class 33 Graduation Notes.”; Chief of Air Staff, “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.”  Instructors chosen from the August 16 No. 31 group were H. Benoit, A. Boucher, W. Browning, W. Essex, J. Farrar, and E. Hoblit.  Later selectees were M Lehmann, T. Thrush, E. Weber, R. Dickeson, and W. Jenkins.
  31. Department of National Defense Air Service Chief of Air Staff, “Third Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy, DHH 181.009 – D1248 (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 3 September 1941).
  32. Chief of Air Staff, “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.”
  33. William C. Fuchs, 4/10/2011.
  34. Chief of Air Staff, “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.”; LT Dale Brown, “Request to Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps for Arctic Equipment, Oic U.S. Army Detachment, No.31,” in S-202/1/AIR, Part I – U.S.A. Service Personnel – Training at No. 31 Radio School – Policy (Ottawa: Defense Ministry of Canada, Directorate of History and Heritage, 9 September 1941).
  35. n.a., “Goderich, Ontario,” Absolute Astronomy(n.d.), http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Goderich,_Ontario; William C. Fuchs, “Base Life at Clinton and Goderich – 1941,” ed. Paul Renard (Fairfax, VA4/10/2011); ibid.
  36. Chief of Air Staff, “Second Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.”; Chief of Air Staff, “Fourth Conference on R.D.F. Training of U.S. Service Personnel at No. 31 Radio School.”
  37. William C. Fuchs, “Pearl Harbor – 1942,” ed. Paul Renard (Fairfax, VA, 4/10/2011); n.a., “Log of the U.S.S. Wharton,”(n.d.), http://usswharton.com/shipslog.html.
  38. Orozak, “Royal Canadian Air Force Station Clinton”; Communications and  Electronics Branch, “History – Annex C – World War II Ground Radar,” National Defence and the Canadian Forces(n.d.), http://www.commelec.forces.gc.ca/org/his/bh-hb/appendix-annexe-c-eng.asp.
  39. William C. Fuchs, “Post-World War II Events,” ed. Paul Renard (Fairfax, VA4/24/2011).

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Why There Was No Privateering in the Spanish-American War


The Declaration of Paris and the “Barbarous Warfare” of Privateering
The Righteous Victim: Spain’s Contradictory Diplomacy over Privateering
Professionals and Privateers: American Naval Strategy in the War with Spain
Honor for want of a Ship: Spanish Naval Strategy in 1898

Scott D. Wagner
Undergraduate Student
College of Wooster


The front page of the New York Times for April 25, 1898, ran the headline that dominated newspapers around the world that day: The United States had declared war on Spain. The second largest headline on that page? “Spain to Use Privateers.” 1

Privateering, the practice of private individuals with government authorization seizing enemy commercial property at sea, was nominally abolished with the Declaration of Paris in 1856. 2  However, neither the United States nor Spain signed on to the Declaration. As tensions rose between the two states in early 1898, European observers grew concerned that one or both of the sides would outfit privateers in the fast-approaching war, wreaking havoc on international commercial networks and violating the rights of neutral merchant vessels. 3  Coastal communities in the United States, too, were concerned over the threat that Spanish privateers could pose to their commercial activities and their safety. 4

Neither side officially announced their intentions on privateering until war broke out in April. The same day that President McKinley announced the blockade of Cuba, Secretary of State John Sherman sent a note to foreign powers pronouncing the United States’ decision not to use privateers. 5  President McKinley announced the decision to the public three days later, on April 25. 6  In the royal decree proclaiming a state of war issued on April 23, Queen Regent of Spain Maria Cristina stated that Spain would reserve the right to commission privateers but would not issue letters of marque until circumstances deemed it necessary. 7  Circumstances apparently never deemed it necessary; Spain never sent out privateers during the war to attack American commerce or protect their own merchant vessels.

This essay seeks to examine factors that contributed to privateering’s absence in the Spanish-American War. The reasons were not technological; the Americans used private ships and private crews during the conflict, demonstrating that citizens with little to no sailing experience could adequately man modern ships of steam and steel. To fully investigate the lack of privateering, a broader approach is needed, one that takes into account the strategic and diplomatic concerns of each belligerent. Through such an extensive approach it becomes clear that the practice of privateering never fit in with the military and diplomatic strategies at play in the Spanish-American War.

The Technological Argument: Privateering and Modern Warships?

In a letter written to Spanish Minister of Marine Segismundo Bermejo in March 1898, Admiral Pascual Cervera described at length his ideas for Spanish naval strategy in the upcoming war with the United States. He was not optimistic about Spain’s chances at all, believing the main fleet under his command should stay in European waters rather than sailing to the West Indies. He was even less optimistic about the prospect of privateering:

I do not speak on the subject of privateering, because it seems to me that no man acquainted with history can attach any value to privateering enterprises, which nowadays are almost impossible on account of the character of modern vessels. 8

In short, Cervera believed that private citizens could not crew modern vessels. To his credit the last time privateers had sailed during a major war was in the American Civil War, when many of the ships still had wooden hulls. Crews now had to deal with the complexities of steam engines and recoaling ships, something not seen on privateer cruises in the age of sail. 9  However events from the Spanish-American War show that Cervera’s argument that privateering was not technologically feasible does not hold water. During the war the US Navy frequently used private citizens to crew private vessels, a practice that appeared so similar to privateering that Spanish observer and artillery captain Severo Gómez Núñez stated that “There can be no doubt as to this system being privateering, and it was practiced as often as there was a chance.” 10

The Yale, Captain W.C. Wise, was one of the auxiliary ships loaned to the US Navy by the International Navigation Company for the duration of the war with Spain. (Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 85345)

Shortly before and during the war, the American Navy Department purchased or received on loan a number of private ships from the merchant marine and independent contractors to create an auxiliary navy. Of the auxiliary navy four ships are of particular note: the St. Louis, St. Paul, Harvard, and Yale, known collectively as the American Line ships. These vessels were transatlantic steamers of the International Navigation Company that in peacetime sailed the route from New York to Southampton. The Harvard was originally the New York, and the Yale originally the Paris; their names were changed for the duration of their time in the US Navy. Each ship could do twenty-one knots, making them faster than many of the auxiliary cruisers and nearly every capital ship in the American navy. The Harvard (Captain Cotton) and the Yale (Captain Wise) had a 13,000-ton displacement, while the St. Louis (Captain Goodrich) and the St. Paul (Captain Sigsbee, former captain of the Maine) displaced 14,910 tons. The ships were captained by US Navy officers, but were not crewed by navy seamen; rather, they were manned by their regular, private crews. In a lecture given after the conflict at the Naval War College, Captain Goodrich explained the reasoning behind the decision. The ships of the US Navy were already undermanned by the start of the war, “obliging [the navy]… to call largely for volunteers to supply the deficiencies.” Rather than using the untrained civilians of the Naval Militia to man the ships, why not use the regular crew that had the best knowledge of the intricacies of each vessel and its machinery? 11  The American Line ships were privately-owned, privately-manned ships (excepting their captains) that were ideally suited to pursuing and capturing enemy merchant vessels.

Owing to their high speed and mobility the American Line ships were used in a variety of capacities during the war. When the conflict began the Harvard, Yale, and St. Louis were dispatched to the Caribbean; the St. Paul had not yet completed its armament, and remained at Hampton Roads for the time with Rear-Admiral Winfield Schley’s squadron. After the Americans blockaded Cuba, the American Line ships were tasked with locating Cervera’s fleet. The Harvard monitored the area around Martinique, the St. Louis, Guadeloupe, and the Yale, Puerto Rico in an attempt to spot Cervera as he entered the Caribbean. 12  The Harvard found the Spanish first; on May 11 Captain Cotton telegraphed to Washington the presence of five Spanish ships just off the coast of Martinique. 13  Cervera sailed to Curaçao for coal then proceeded to Santiago de Cuba. Once there, he was blockaded by a fleet of American ships including the St. Paul, the Harvard, and the Yale. Meanwhile the St. Louis busied itself with another task: cable-cutting. The auxiliary ship under Goodrich succeeded in cutting off Spanish communications to Guantanamo and Haiti, and drove off the Spanish gunboat Sandoval while doing so. 14

With Cervera trapped in Santiago, the Americans could safely deploy the Army for a landing in Cuba. The American Line ships helped in this process too, serving as troop transports for Major General William Shafter’s army. Captain Goodrich was glowing in his praise for the St. Louis during the deployment:

For four days and nights she acted as mother-ship, feeding and berthing nearly 200 extra men and officers; coaling, watering, and repairing steam cutters; furnishing voluntary relief crews of machinists and firemen for the latter for night work…and all this without even taxing her facilities. 15

Though they did not play a major role in the Naval Battle of Santiago, the American Line ships did help rescue prisoners from the destroyed Spanish vessels, particularly the Infanta Maria Teresa and the Oquendo. The Navy Department then used the American Line ships to transport the Spanish prisoners northward and back to the states. During their time in the Caribbean the auxiliary cruisers captured multiple Spanish vessels, for which the officers and private crews of the ships received compensation in the form of prize money – the Navy Department did not eradicate prize money until shortly after the war. After the ceasefire and the ensuing peace treaty, the four ships were returned to the International Navigation Company.

In his postwar lecture Goodrich summed up the exemplary service of his ship, St. Louis:

I am informed by the port captain of the American Line that of the four big liners, the St. Louis, the only one which did not adopt navy enlistments, and routine, made more miles, did more work and more kinds of work, cost less in operation and returned in better order than any of her sisters…The record of the ship is notable. She spent six weeks at sea without taking on board a ton of coal, a gallon of water or a pound of provisions, during which period she scouted, captured blockade runners, landed Shafter’s army, housed and fed at one time as many as two hundred sailors detached from the fleet for this landing service, cut cables, and brought seven hundred of Cervera’s men north as prisoners. 16

Bear in mind that the American Line ships that took part in all the operations Goodrich describes were private vessels with private crews, albeit under naval command. The crews of these ships even took prize money during the war, making their service eerily similar to the practice of privateering. While there are clear differences between the functioning of the American Line ships and the actions of privateers, it is clear that the privately-owned, privately-operated auxiliary steamers provided exemplary service in a variety of capacities during the Spanish-American War.

The American Line ships proved an effective fighting force, even with private crews. The vessels had enough force and firepower to capture enemy merchant ships and lightly-armed craft, and had enough speed to avoid confrontation with a larger ship or fleet. Private ships could still be used in war in the late 1890s; but could private citizens – the likes of which would make up the bulk of privateer crews – effectively man modern vessels? The crew of the American Line ships were exemplary, but they were also trained seamen familiar with the machinery on board the vessel, something unlikely to be found on an average privateer. To analyze the effectiveness of private citizens manning armed vessels in wartime, we can turn to the Naval Militia.

Many private citizens served in various Naval Militias during the war with Spain, often serving with auxiliary cruisers and coastal monitors. (Photo by James H. Hare; Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 96734)

The Naval Militia was used by the Navy Department to augment undermanned crews of auxiliary ships. Made up of generally well-educated professionals from seaside states, the Naval Militia served with auxiliary cruisers and in other units established by the US Navy for coastal defense. In some cases, such as on board the Yankee and the Yosemite, the entire crew (excepting the captain and navigation officers) was comprised of men of the Naval Militia. Almost every report regarding the Naval Militia refers to the ardent motivation of the volunteers during the war. Commander Willard Brownson appreciated the “zeal and intelligence” possessed by the men under his command. 17  Commander Charles Train, captain of the Prairie, admired his men’s “patriotism, zeal and intelligence.” 18  Chief of the Bureau of Navigation Arendt Crowninshield, in a letter to Secretary Long, noted that the Naval Militia as a whole were “zealous and attentive” in their duties. 19

While no one could argue against the enthusiasm displayed by the Naval Militia, some captains were skeptical of their effectiveness. A report in the Army and Navy Journal cited officers that believed a crew of Naval Militia “would do more thinking than fighting.” 20  Crowninshield believed that they “lacked all of the training and sea experience which would have made them really efficient.” 21  Lieutenant Lazarus Reamey was especially critical of the Maine Naval Militia, stating that “not a single one of the number has the slightest appreciation of the qualifications necessary for service on board a government vessel.” 22  Commander William Emory had the most reason to discredit the Naval Militia; in his ship Yosemite he threw 28 men in the brig for supposed drunkenness, though some militiamen claimed Emory was an incompetent officer. 23  The men of the Naval Militia were not professional seamen, and some opponents of the organization were critical of its perceived improper attitude and performance during the war.

There were also a number of officers who were supportive of the Naval Militia. Commander Train believed the “industry and subordination” of the militia under his command were “beyond praise,” and described how,

The hard labor of coaling, the constant drills, and in short the complete change in their conditions of life from those to which they had been accustomed have been borne by them most willingly and cheerfully, and that, too, in spite of the fact that the ship, for the greater part of her cruise, was performing duty of a sort and in places that furnished no chance of an occasional attack of an enemy to break the monotony and furnish the excitement which alone can make such a life endurable. 24

Secretary Long’s report for the year 1898 admitted that while the Naval Militia lacked experience, they “rapidly acquired while on shipboard the knowledge necessary for their efficiency.” Long was supportive enough of the Naval Militia to claim “that the country has been amply repaid” for the cost of training the volunteers. 25  The report of the assistant secretary supported Long’s praise, stating that the Naval Militia “served with great intelligence and enthusiasm” and that they “made good men-of-warsmen.” 26

The performance of the Naval Militia was mixed. They were enthusiastic and happy to serve, but at times apparently lacked the necessary maritime knowledge to provide the most efficient service. Some of the complaints against the Naval Militia were not against their effectiveness but their professionalism. Commander Willard Brownson, captain of the Yankee, stated that “in caring for their messes, their bags and hammocks, scrubbing their clothes, and in many of the minor details of a man of war, [the Naval Militia] were almost entirely ignorant.” However, Brownson also states that “in performing the ship’s duties they were willing, and after some weeks, became fairly efficient.” 27

So how can we evaluate the performance of the Naval Militia, and could the members of the various Militias have provided adequate service on board privateers? On balance, there is reason to believe they could have. There are numerous reports demonstrating that over the course of the war the Naval Militia became competent, if not spectacular sailors. With the exception of the incident on board the Yosemite, there were few outstanding instances of poor service by the Naval Militia while at sea. The lack of professionalism so often levied as a criticism against the Naval Militia would have been a moot point on board a privateer. The men of the Naval Militia may not have been the best sailors at sea but their performance suggests that they would have offered comparable service to the crews of privateers from the late eighteenth century.

The examples of the vessels chartered by the United States Navy as auxiliaries demonstrate that privateering was not technologically outdated by the Spanish-American War. The United States effectively used private vessels during the conflict, recruiting the American line ships as scouts, transports, and cable-cutters. Private citizens also served with competency during the war. The crews of the American Line ships manned the steamers all through the war and received high praise from the naval captains for their service. The Naval Militia received mixed reviews from the officer corps after the war, but their performance suggests that private citizens with little-to-no sailing experience were able to provide adequate service on modern steam-powered vessels. While it would have been more difficult for privateers to outfit and sail during the Spanish-American War than it had been during the age of sail, evidence suggests that it was still technologically feasible. To understand why neither belligerent commissioned privateers, we must rather look to the diplomatic and strategic circumstances surrounding the practice of privateering and the Spanish-American War.

The Declaration of Paris and the “Barbarous Warfare” of Privateering

The Spanish-American War was a bilateral conflict, but one in which both belligerents were in constant talks with potential allies. Both Spain and the United States needed to court favor from the European Powers: Spain in an effort to forge an alliance, and the United States in the hopes of ensuring Europe’s continued neutrality. It was in part because of these diplomatic goals that neither side commissioned privateers. European statesmen and merchants had long seen privateering as a barbaric and outdated form of warfare and would doubtless look unfavorably on whichever power resorted to the practice. A brief investigation of the events surrounding the Declaration of Paris will demonstrate Europe’s animosity towards the practice of privateering and will explain why neither belligerent commissioned privateers during the Spanish-American War.

The Declaration of Paris grew out of discussions on maritime regulations following the Crimean War. During the war, Britain broke with tradition and agreed to abide by the “free ships free goods” principle, which precluded the seizure of neutral vessels carrying enemy cargo. 28  The United States staunchly supported the principle and after the war opened negotiations to make the practice a staple of international maritime law. It was not the first time the United States fought for neutral shipping rights; in a letter to British Foreign Secretary George Canning written in 1823, then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams argued that “this search for, and seizure of, the property of an enemy in the vessel of a friend is a relict [sic] of the barbarous warfare of barbarous ages,” and proposed a complete abolition of private war at sea. 29  Britain did not want to give up their right to seizure without receiving something worthwhile in return; they proposed to relinquish their traditional practices and accept “free ships make free goods” permanently if the United States agreed to abolish the practice of privateering. 30

Britain had a number of reasons for seeking the abolition of privateering. Privateers were a real threat to British naval strategy. A large number of small, fast commerce-raiding privateers could attack shipping lanes where the Royal Navy was absent and vanish before the Navy could respond. Britain had a large merchant marine and vast commercial networks; eliminating the threat of privateer attacks on British trade would allow the Royal Navy to focus its efforts on hunting down the enemy navy and blockading an opponent’s home ports. Queen’s Advocate J.D. Harding advised Queen Victoria that the abolition of privateering would be “a great advantage to the civilized world in general, and of peculiar value to Great Britain, especially in case of a war with the United States,” which had effectively used privateers against the British in two prior wars. 31  The eradication of a privateering threat would make a possible war with the United States much easier and would in general play to the advantage of British naval planners.

The mercantile community strongly favored privateering’s abolition. Privateering was unquestionably bad for business; lucrative merchant ships were the main targets of privateer attacks. Even if the cargoes made it to their destination safely, war always brought with it a spike in insurance rates which cut heavily into profits. On March 13, 1854, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce issued a resolution calling for Britain to renounce privateering. 32  MP Thomas Horsfall brought the resolution to the attention of the House of Commons four days later. 33  The abolition of privateering would remove a dangerous threat to the merchant community, allowing for more freedom of trade on the oceans and, in turn, more profit.

Eradicating the practice of privateering had a moral quality to it as well. In a letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Earl Clarendon, First Lord of the Admiralty Sir James Robert Graham spoke of the “advance of civilization” that would come from the elimination of the practice. In the same letter, he compared privateering to the slave trade, a practice that was outlawed by Britain in 1808. “The using of letters of marque,” Graham argued, “tends to foster a mercenary, violent, and lawless spirit, uncurbed by any social or moral control, which soon degenerates into that of a pirate.” 34  Graham’s arguments apparently swayed Clarendon; in the House of Lords, Clarendon compared privateers to “pirates, the common enemies of mankind,” and later called the practice “the fruitful source of iniquity and misery in its worst form.” 35  Privateering negatively impacted British strategy, business, and morality, leading many from Britain to lead the charge for its abolition. 36

The Declaration of Paris was announced on April 16, 1856 with the first article reading “Privateering is, and remains, abolished.” In their minds, Europe had achieved a major step forward economically, strategically, and morally with the abolition of privateering. Forty-five states agreed to the Declaration, but two notable exceptions were the United States and Spain. Both countries agreed on the other three articles of the Declaration regarding the rights of neutrals at sea and the legitimacy of blockades, but neither side would relinquish the right to privateering. The United States argued that since their navy was far weaker than the largest navies of Europe, their only hope to contend with European powers in a maritime struggle was through the reliance on privateers. 37  Spain’s position was directly related to that of the United States. Should a conflict arise between the United States and Spain where the Americans sent privateers against Spanish colonial possessions in the Caribbean, Spanish authorities wanted to withhold the ability to defend their possessions in the same manner.

The performance of Confederate privateers in the American Civil War demonstrates the suffocating diplomatic effect the Declaration had on the practice. Just five days after the Battle of Fort Sumter, Confederate President Jefferson Davis began accepting applications for letters of marque. Fear spread through the Union mercantile community, with some frightened reports claiming that Confederate privateers were preparing to sail from Spain and England. 38  Union representatives sought to have the privateers condemned as pirates in Europe; Secretary of State Seward even suggested that the United States may sign on to the Declaration. 39 to Russell [British Foreign Secretary], 27 April, 1861, in Tracy, Sea Power and Trade, 43. Lyons believed the suggestion was in bad faith, writing “The time at which the offer would be made renders the thing rather amusing.”]  Such an action was never carried out, and in the event the Union did not need to in order to neutralize Confederate privateers. The European powers maintained a strict neutrality in the Civil War and banned the sale of any prizes in their ports. Privateers relied heavily on the sale of prizes to produce profits; with nowhere to sell the spoils of war internationally, Confederate privateers struggled to operate anywhere outside of the American South. As William Robinson Jr. notes, the decision’s “effect upon the United States was vastly less injurious than upon the Confederate States.” 40  Owing to the diplomatic restrictions Confederate privateers operated almost exclusively in their home waters and by 1862 had largely disappeared from the war. 41  Though the Declaration of Paris failed to outlaw privateering worldwide, it had succeeded in neutralizing the impact of privateering and keeping the vessels out of European waters.

Since the Declaration of Paris in 1856 privateering had all but been eradicated in Europe, much to the approval of the Great Powers. European navies did not rely on privateering for naval defense; some, like Britain, were certainly better off strategically without the possible threat of privateers. Merchants rested a little easier knowing that their goods would not be seized in transit by roguish individuals on the high seas, while some merchants campaigned to take maritime law a step further and eradicate all seizure of private property. Politicians and pressmen alike trumpeted the advance of civilization with the eradication of a barbaric and cruel practice that was seen as an outmoded relic of warfare. Privateering was immoral, impracticable, and illegal to Europe, and since both the Spanish and the United States needed to curry favor from the European states during the 1890s, it made sense for both to avoid the practice altogether.

For the Americans, commissioning privateers may have escalated a conflict that was in many ways unwanted to begin with. During the election of 1896 William McKinley ran on a strong economic platform, representing the gold interests and a rebuild of the economy after the Panic of 1893. He had little-to-no foreign policy experience, and in none of his campaign speeches did he address the growing Cuban issue that would eventually lead to war with Spain. As late as April 1898 McKinley and his diplomatic staff were working with the Spanish to secure an armistice in the Cuban conflict, but McKinley eventually bowed to the domestic pressures of his Congress and turned the initiative to declare war over to them. 42  Once war was declared, the Americans wanted to ensure that the conflict would remain a bilateral affair. The United States was widely recognized as having the superior navy; given that, and Europe’s distaste for privateering, issuing letters of marque would have been seen as vindictive, antagonistic, and unnecessary. The diplomatic actions of the United States after the war demonstrate their desire to do away with privateering; at the Hague Conference of 1899 they introduced a motion to make private property at sea immune from attacks. 43  By announcing at the onset of the conflict that no privateers would be outfitted for the war, the United States eased the worries of Europe’s mercantile community, and in avoiding a disagreement with the Europeans over the controversial practice, ensured their continued neutrality. Spain too needed to garner favor from the European powers, but their diplomatic tactics were rather more complex.

The Righteous Victim: Spain’s Contradictory Diplomacy over Privateering

In a letter written shortly after the Maine incident, Admiral Cervera wrote to Minister of the Marine Segismundo Bermejo, “A campaign against [the United States] will have to be, at least for the present, a defensive or a disastrous one, unless we have some alliances, in which case the tables may be turned.” 44  The balance of military power in the war tilted decisively towards the Americans, and Cervera was correct in stating that Spain’s only realistic hope of victory was to establish an alliance with one of the other European states. In an attempt to gain support from one or more of the Great Powers, Spain positioned itself as the just and righteous defender of honor, a law-abiding victim of the bellicose and imperialistic Americans. In doing so, the Spanish hoped to turn diplomatic opinion against the Americans, and increase the sympathies for their own side. Authorizing privateers, an act made illegal by customary law in the Declaration of Paris, would have comprehensively undermined Spain’s diplomatic strategy and would have likely turned the sympathies of Europe against the Spanish.

With the explosion of the Maine in Havana Harbor pushing the two sides closer to war, Spain sought to emphasize their innocence to other European powers. Whereas the Spanish believed the incident to be “purely accidental,” American yellow journalists were quick to accuse the Spanish of treachery, allegations that Spain categorically refused. 45  In a letter to Spanish ambassadors, Minister of State Pío Gullón e Iglesias requested that the ambassadors “invite attention” to the unfounded press reports which were “arousing a spirit of menace in the relation of that Republic with Spain.” 46  Both states formed commissions to investigate the cause of the explosion; the Spanish complained that their inquiry was impeded by “the refusal to establish the necessary cooperation” between the two commissions. 47  The two sides naturally came to different conclusions; the Spanish believed the explosion was internal, while the Americans found that the source of the blast came from outside the hull of the ship. The Spanish saw the discrepancy as an example of American treachery in the face of Spanish morality, a view they were quick to push upon other European powers.

In late March, Gullón attempted to garner outright European support for Spain against the Americans. In his letter he used what would become the standard Spanish diplomatic ploy during the war: positioning Spain in the moral right against US aggression, while threatening that war may have adverse effects on the Great Powers.

So convinced is Spain of her right…and of the prudence with which she is acting that…she will not hesitate to at once ask the counsel of the great powers and, in the last resort, their mediation to adjust the pending differences, which differences, in the near future, may disturb a peace that the Spanish nation desires to preserve as far as its honor and the integrity of its territory will permit, not only on its own account, but because war, once begun, affects all other powers of Europe and America. 48

Gullón’s pleas had little effect; the Great Powers expressed their sympathies but chose to remain neutral. The only action they undertook was to send a weakly-worded demarche to the United States government “appeal[ing] to the feelings of humanity and moderation of the President”; this letter was criticized by the Spanish for being too considerate to the Americans. 49

In mid-April, as war became inevitable, the language used by Spanish diplomats became more extreme. In a letter to his ambassadors on April 14, Gullón spoke of the “irritating and groundless charges against Spain” levied by the US House of Representatives, and asserted that Spain “has gone to the extreme in its moderation and painful sacrifice to maintain and facilitate peace.” 50  Four days later Gullón sent another memo to his ambassadors including “a statement of the facts up to this time” regarding Spanish-American relations over the Cuban insurrection. The document detailed the methods used by the United States “for encouraging the fratricidal struggle” in Cuba and explained how the Americans “skillfully exploited” the Maine explosion “to provoke a conflict between Spain and the United States.” It continued on to describe the “fresh and painful sacrifice” of concessions made to the United States by Spain, concessions that the power-hungry Americans would not accept. The letter concludes, “His Majesty’s Government only desire to make known to the civilized world that reason and right are on their side and provocation and injustice on that of the United States.” 51

Once the war began, Spain took note of every supposed American transgression, bringing them to the attention of the European powers in the hopes of garnering sympathy for their cause. One of the major points of contention was the declaration of the Cuban blockade. Officially, the Congress of the United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898. However, on April 22 McKinley had declared the blockade of Cuba, and vessels of the United States Navy had begun to take Spanish ships and apply for prize money from those captures. McKinley, then, had technically authorized warlike acts before war had been declared; to remedy this, Congress backdated the declaration, stating on April 25 that the state of war had existed since April 21. In a letter detailing Spanish grievances to foreign powers, Gullón called this a “strange and unlawful particularity.” The consequences of the war’s declaration were more than semantic. Given that Spain deemed the retroactive war declaration unlawful, every seizure of a ship between April 21 and April 25 was also illegal. In the aforementioned letter Gullón specified nine Spanish vessels that had been taken in that time span and also included “any others which may have taken place prior to April 25.” 52

Spain also claimed that the ineffectiveness of the Cuban blockade made it illegal. According to the Declaration of Paris, “blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective – that is to say, maintained by a force sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy.” 53  The US blockade officially commenced on April 22, but Gullón provides a list of seven vessels that sailed past the blockade between April 22 and May 7. If the blockade was ineffective to begin with, it was all but nonexistent when Rear Admiral William Sampson, commander of the squadron blockading Cuba, took his fleet to Puerto Rico to scout for Admiral Cervera’s Spanish force. 54  Any interruption in the blockade required a new notification once the blockade was reestablished; Spain received no word as such from the United States. 55

In constantly reporting perceived American violations, Spain sought to turn support against the United States and gain enough sympathy that one of the European powers would support her in the war. The strategy succeeded, in part; Austria expressed intentions of helping to end the war but never received wide European support. France was instrumental in communicating Spain’s desire for a ceasefire with the Americans to bring about a quick end to the war. While Europe may have been sympathetic, Spain’s diplomatic strategy was not effective in bringing a strong ally into the war.

Throughout the Spanish-American conflict Spain positioned itself as the just victim of American aggression; why, then, did Spain explicitly reserve the right to commission privateers, rather than renounce the practice entirely as the United States had done? Perhaps Spain, fearing the worst in the coming war, wanted to be able to resort to privateering should the Americans launch an attack on the Iberian Peninsula; however, as the war ended before the Eastern Squadron set sail, this is impossible to prove definitively. What is clear is that throughout the course of the war, Spain used the threat of privateering in an attempt to leverage both the Great Powers of Europe and the United States.

On April 24 Gullón sent a missive to his ambassadors detailing the Spanish declaration of war. The section regarding privateering is of particular note:

Regarding privateering, your excellency should state, confidentially, that although the Government of His Majesty reserves absolutely its right it does not intend to exercise it for the present, unless the neutral powers do not observe the strict neutrality prescribed by the law of nations. The Government of His Majesty trusts that this generous concession on its part will be duly reciprocated by friendly powers, and that they will see in it a new proof of the correct procedure of Spain, who desires to demonstrate that in all its acts it is influenced by justice and right. 56

Once again Gullón emphasizes Spain’s position of “justice and right” in their decision to refrain from privateering. However, they would resort to the practice if the Great Powers did not remain neutral in the war. If Spain could not forge a European alliance, it could at least ensure that its opponent remained isolated too. The language of the letter contains more of the same Spanish diplomatic posturing, while the spirit of it implies a simple threat: remain neutral, or privateers will devastate European commerce.

Spain’s threat was not directed at all of Europe, but at one power in particular, the state that was the most likely to form an alliance with America: Britain. During the 1890s Britain found that its interests lined up with those of the Americans. An increased American presence in the Far East would help to balance the rising power of Germany in the region, and open the door for further British expansion there. 57  When American ambassador to Spain Stewart Woodford broke off official relations with the Spanish, he left the British embassy in charge of American interests in country. 58  The press were quick to seize upon rumors of an Anglo-American alliance against the Spanish in the coming war. On May 13, those rumors appeared accurate when British Minister for the Colonies Joseph Chamberlain proposed that the war between Spain and the United States could help bring about an Anglo-Saxon alliance. 59  The British never broke from their commitment to neutrality, but it was clear that their sympathies lay with the Americans.

Britain too had the most reason to fear a return of privateering. Britain still had one of the largest merchant marines in the world, and had close trading ties with the United States. Of particular interest to the British were American ships carrying wheat and cotton to the British Isles; attacks on these ships by Spanish privateers would disrupt the British food supply and textile industry. 60  Spanish privateers could pose major disruptions to British trade and may well have forced Britain into the war, thus hurting Britain’s diplomatic standing with the rest of Europe. Preserving the right to commission privateers allowed Spain to use the practice as leverage against Britain and the other European powers without ever having to resort to privateering or to stray from the already-established diplomatic strategy of appearing as the just and righteous power in the war against the Americans.

Maintaining the right to use privateers allowed Spain to leverage the United States with threats of the practice as well. Up and down the American coastline there was widespread fear of Spanish naval raids, giving Spanish agents a grand opportunity to create unrest among their opponent’s populace. One notable example of Spanish agents using the threat of privateering comes from British Columbia. The province had a number of small inlets and harbors, making it almost impossible for the authorities to track down potential privateers. The lucrative Yukon gold trade also ran just off the coast of British Columbia and down into the Pacific American coast and was an enticing prize for any privateer. Spanish agents in the region spread rumors tothe local press about the presence of a Spanish privateer, and sent encoded telegrams that were intercepted by the Americans referring to Spain’s intention to purchase ships in the region. No privateer ever sailed from British Columbia during the war, and the affair had no major effect on the war’s outcome; however, the “phantom privateer” in the Yukon demonstrates that by refusing to renounce privateering, Spain enabled its agents use the practice to spread concern along the American coast. 61

Spain could not commission privateers during the war with America in 1898 because doing so would utterly undermine the diplomatic strategy Spain was pursuing. Before and during the war, Spain sent a steady stream of memoranda and letters to the Great Powers of Europe detailing the “real” nature of the conflict as a war of imperial aggression on the part of the United States against Spain, the peaceful monarchy that had done all it could to avoid an unjust war. Commissioning privateers would have been contradictory to the role Spain had created for itself; however, privateering was still an effective tool as a threat. Spain did not renounce privateering altogether because it intended to use the threat of privateering to leverage both the European powers and the United States. Though Spain’s threats of privateering did achieve some minor successes, they had little effect on the overall war effort.

Professionals and Privateers: American Naval Strategy in the War with Spain

For the United States Navy, the question of privateering was never in doubt: the Navy did not want privateers, nor did it need them. Leading up to and during the war, the Navy worked to remodel itself as a first-class, professional navy, a notion entirely contradictory to privateering. Largely because of these improvements the US Navy was far superior to the Spanish Navy by the start of the war and did not need to resort to commerce raiding to cripple its opponent. The strategy for the war, which was planned out well in advance of the actual conflict, was predicated on gaining control of the waters around Spain’s colonies and not destroying Spain’s trade networks. Even for coastal defense the US Navy used other auxiliary vessels, negating the need to use privateers to protect major American ports. The attitudes and actions of the Navy Department regarding the war with Spain effectively eliminated privateering from the conversation in American naval strategy.

Long before the first signs of war with Spain arrived, the US Navy had worked towards the establishment of a more professionalized naval officer corps and department as a whole. During the 1880s the Navy created the ABCD fleet made up of the modern warships Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and Dolphin. The Office of Naval Intelligence was established in 1882 and would play a major role in the war providing information on Cervera’s fleet and the Spanish Navy at large through their network of naval attaches placed in the capitols of European powers. 62  Two years later, the Naval War College opened. The brainchild of Rear-Admiral Stephen B. Luce, the War College sought to educate officers in “the higher branches of the naval profession,” including strategy, history, and international law. 63  Writing just after the war, Englishman H.W. Wilson believed the main strength of the US Navy was its professionalism and conduct, calling the American naval officers “intelligent, brave, and resourceful.” 64  Since the 1880s the American Navy was trending towards a more professional and sophisticated organization, and the officers prided themselves on the quality of their service. A hearkening back to the banditry of privateering would have been a complete about-face for the Department and would have run contrary to their intention of creating a professionalized fighting force.

Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan was a proponent of battleship tactics, and was skeptical of the success of commerce-raiding tactics. (Naval History and Heritage Command)

In the years before the war with Spain American naval strategy shifted towards an increased use of battleships accompanied by lightly armed cruisers. Much of the impetus for this new direction came from Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. In his seminal work The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, Mahan spoke at length of the merits of large fleet action as opposed to a strategy predicated on commerce raiding. He concluded his analysis by stating:

It is not the taking of individual ships or convoys…that strikes down the money power of a nation; it is the possession of that overbearing power on the sea which drives the enemy’s flag from it, or allows it to appear only as a fugitive; and which, by controlling the great common, closes the highways by which commerce moves to and from the enemy’s shores. This overbearing power can only be exercised by great navies. 65

The benefits of a large navy were more than strategic; leaders like Theodore Roosevelt saw a powerful navy as a necessity for the pursuit of America’s imperial ambitions. To truly be considered a great power, America needed a world-class navy. The two men played major roles in the Navy’s strategy during the war with Spain; Theodore Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, while Captain Mahan was a member of the Naval War Board. Their influence led to an emphasis on the role of the battleship in naval grand strategy, and steered America far away from the unprofessional and inconsistent practice of privateering. 66

The improved efficiency and competency of the US Navy meant that, out of all the military branches of either belligerent, it was the most prepared for war with Spain in 1898. 67  In 1894, a year before the Cuban Revolt even began, Captain Henry C. Taylor gave his students at the Naval War College an exercise asking them to formulate a strategic plan of war against Spain, including the “principal objectives” of both sides and bearing in mind tactical considerations such as coal and railroad operations. 68  That same year Lieutenant Commander Charles J. Train drafted a potential operational plan for war with Spain. He accurately predicted that a Spanish offensive against the US coast was “most improbable,” and that “command of the sea would play an all-important part” in a war over Cuba. Train also was one of the first to propose the idea of a blockade of Cuba in his plans, suggesting a “strict blockade” of Havana, Matanzas, Saguala Grande, and Cienfuegos. 69  In 1896 Lieutenant William W. Kimball issued a similar plan, detailing that the war would grow out of a conflict over the fate of Cuba and suggesting that the Navy’s primary objective should be to target the Spanish fleet as it made its way into Cuban waters. 70  In his own plan of action the same year, Taylor concurred that the main theatre of operations would be the Caribbean but warned that “an attack on Cuba cannot be successful through a blockade alone.” 71  A Naval Board that evaluated Taylor’s plan of action in December 1896 chose to add a “European squadron” to make demonstrations against the Spanish coast; this plan was never carried out, though the idea of making direct attacks on Spain never fully disappeared during the war. 72

The foresight of the US Navy is notable in and of itself, but of particular interest to this study is the complete lack of privateer operations in each of the plans. Train’s plan called for three fleets, one of which would be comprised of “cruisers and armed merchant ships” and which would be used primarily as a blockading force. 73  Kimball too called for an “auxiliary fleet” comprised of “fifty auxiliary cruisers” and “twelve to twenty yachts and small steam craft in commission for despatch [sic] and look-out vessels.” He believed such a force was best equipped to “meet [a] fleet of 20 Spanish naval small craft and privateers”; Kimball assumed that while the Americans would abide by the Declaration of Paris, Spain would outfit privateers. 70  Taylor’s sketches offered no suggestions on privateers and only briefly mentioned an auxiliary fleet, “which of necessity we must employ.” 71  The Board’s plan of 1897 also neglected privateers but spoke of “light vessels” which could be employed as blockading ships and “must be drawn from the merchant service.” 76  While the early plans for war did not seem to consider privateering a viable strategic option, they all appreciated the necessity of outfitting private merchant vessels as auxiliaries to the primary capital ships.

The diplomatic fallout from the Maine explosion encouraged the Americans to ramp up their preparations for war. On March 9 Congress appropriated fifty million dollars for the national defense, $29,973,274.22 of which was used by the Navy Department. 77  The funds were used to secure “such vessels as might be desirable for purchase” to add to the auxiliary fleet; a full list of purchased vessels can be found in the Secretary of the Navy’s Report from 1898. Of particular note are the Amazonas and the Almirante Abreu; the American government purchased the two ships from Brazil in March and renamed them the Albany and the New Orleans. The Spanish had been eyeing the same vessels and were putting money together to purchase them from Brazil before the Americans swooped in and beat the Spanish to the punch. Private donations also bolstered the ranks of the United States Navy; William Randolph Hearst and F. Augustus Schermerhorn both donated their yachts to the Navy for the duration of the war. 78  In their preparations for the war the US Navy was proactive in searching for additional vessels to add to their fleet, finding new ships from both foreign nations and domestic businessmen, along with a number of ships from the American merchant marine. These kinds of vessels, particularly the small and fast ships of the merchant service, would have likely been the preferred vessels of privateers had they been commissioned during the war. With the US Navy’s actions, those private ships found a home within the ranks of the Navy, not in the hands of private individuals.

Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera was skeptical of privateering’s compatibility with modern steam-powered warships. (Naval History and Heritage Command photo NH 120476).

When the two sides declared war in April, the United States had a clear plan of operations for their fleet. Commodore George Dewey was immediately ordered to “proceed at once to the Philippine Islands [and] commence operations at once, particularly against the Spanish fleet.” 79  President McKinley ordered the blockade of Cuba on April 21 and deployed Rear-Admiral Sampson and the North Atlantic Fleet to the Caribbean. The main objective was the destruction of the Spanish fleet under Cervera, which was expected to appear in the West Indies sometime in the spring. Held in reserve was the Flying Squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral Schley. Schley’s fleet gave the United States more flexibility in their deployment; once Cervera’s fleet manifested itself, Schley and Sampson could converge and eliminate the threat from Spain’s navy in one single action. With Cervera’s fleet destroyed, it would be possible for the US Army to move safely across the Caribbean and land in Cuba or Puerto Rico. No part of the US Navy’s strategy called for commerce raiding in the privateer style. Capital ships under Sampson (and after his deployment to the Caribbean, Schley) would cripple commercial networks running in and out of Cuba through the blockade, following Mahan’s emphasis on battleship tactics discussed earlier. Privateers and their style of commerce raiding had no place in America’s naval strategy for the war with Spain.

In the 1850s the primary reason given by the United States for refusing to agree to the Declaration of Paris was the need to rely on privateers to protect the country’s coast and maritime commerce. While there was never a strong campaign to revive privateering for coastal protection, there was a genuine fear of Spanish attack on the Eastern seaboard. Local merchants and business leaders feared the war would jeopardize their seaborne trade and hamstring the coastal economy. Charles B. Church, a shipping magnate based in Washington, DC, had even requested that the navy employ a convoy system to protect Atlantic trade. 80  Most naval strategists thought it highly unlikely that Spain would send the bulk of its forces to attack the American coast. Captain Alfred Mahan called the public fear of attack “preposterous and humiliating terrors,” while Captain Caspar Goodrich stated that “our worst foe is ‘uninstructed public opinion.’” 81  Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt was of the same mind and by his own word “urged the President and the Secretary [Long] to pay absolutely no heed to the outcries for protection from Spanish raids.” 82

Though it seemed highly improbable that an attack from Spain would be forthcoming, the Navy felt obligated to do something to provide for the common defense; to that end, it created the Northern Patrol Squadron and a mosquito flotilla. Commodore John A. Howell commanded the Squadron, and the San Francisco and auxiliary cruisers Prairie, Dixie, Yankee, and Yosemite comprised its main components. 83  Commander Horace Elmer organized and led the mosquito flotilla until his death in April, at which time Rear-Admiral Henry Erben took command. 84  Coastal defense gunboats and monitors composed the principal ships of the mosquito flotilla, which was organized into nine districts along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The ships of the mosquito flotilla largely remained in their home districts, while the Northern Patrol Squadron cruised up and down the entire Eastern seaboard. The Northern Patrol Squadron and the mosquito flotilla were in many ways more theater than defense. In his patrol orders to Captain Theodore Jewell of the Minneapolis and Captain James Sands of the Columbia, Secretary Long stated:

The object of this cruise is to reassure the inhabitants of the cities and towns on the New England coast by showing a few of our vessels in their vicinity. Therefore it is important to either enter the harbors, or to send in a boat to get the mail, or communicate with the local authorities, or make such inquiries regarding the enemy’s vessels as will demonstrate to the people the fact that one of our ships is on the lookout in the neighborhood. 85

As H.W. Wilson stated after the war, the mosquito flotilla may have been sparsely armed, but successfully “reassure[d] the timid and ignorant.” 86  With the two squadrons and well-equipped coastal fortifications protecting the Eastern seaboard, the Navy could appease the public outcry for protection at relatively little cost to the main theatre of operations in the West Indies and without having to outfit privateers for the same purpose.

To crew the numerous ships in the mosquito flotilla and Northern Patrol Squadron, the Navy drew on state-based naval militias. The men of the Naval Militia were given a modicum of training and dispatched aboard ships for duty, primarily serving with the deep-sea auxiliary cruisers and the mosquito flotilla monitors. In his report of 1898 Secretary Long states that “the personnel of the [Auxiliary Navy] was almost entirely contributed by the Naval Militia organizations of the various States,” and that additionally “a small percentage was supplied by the merchant marine.” 87  Nearly 4,000 sailors served in the Naval Militia during the war, with over 1,500 coming from New York and Illinois alone. 88  Though the militia operated with mixed results – as seen earlier in this essay – naval strategists saw “the imperative necessity for the maintenance of a national Naval Reserve.” 89

The Naval Militia was just one of the many ways the United States Navy eliminated the need for privateering and took from the same sources that privateers would have tapped during the war. Privateers would have needed ships, men, and a place in the grand strategy of the Navy; they found none of that during the Spanish-American War. The increased professionalism of the American Navy and its growing reputation abroad negated any possibilities of a privateering campaign, as shown by the actions of the Navy Department before and during the war. None of the plans for war dating back to 1894 gave any thought to America using privateers, or even partaking in commerce raiding outside of a blockade of Cuba. As war drew near, the Navy Department bought and outfitted any vessel it could find that would provide some use in the war, leaving the cupboard bare for any potential privateers looking to purchase seaworthy cruisers. By commissioning officers and sailors in the Naval Militia to join the Auxiliary Fleets, the US Navy eliminated a vital source of manpower that privateers would have needed to operate. The efficiency of the Navy Department and its grand strategy utilizing auxiliary cruisers demonstrates neither a desire nor a need for privateers on the American side during the Spanish-American War.

Honor for want of a Ship: Spanish Naval Strategy in 1898

Privateers were most often commissioned by the side with the weaker navy. Privateers were cheaper, required less direct control, and could prove devastating to enemy commerce, though they were all but hopeless against enemy warships. The Spanish Navy was recognized as the weaker force in the war; on paper it was only superior to its American counterpart in speed, but as German Rear-Admiral Plüddemann wrote, “It is doubtful…whether Spanish ships ever actually possessed the speed officially claimed for them.” 90  With a weaker naval force, perhaps Spain could have benefited strategically from the use of privateers. Most of the American fleet was operating in the Caribbean and the Philippines, leaving American commercial routes in European waters exposed to possible attack. Privateering may have also demoralized the American people and brought a more satisfactory end to the war. Spanish artillery captain Severo Gómez Núñez believed that privateers could have separated the two American naval squadrons under Sampson and Schley and eased the pressure of the blockade, saying “there is no possible excuse to justify our not having taken advantage of this means of warfare.” 91  There was potential strategic upside for Spain to commission privateers, yet they never issued letters of marque. The Spanish did not have the resources necessary to stage a privateering campaign, and given their attitudes regarding honor in war it is unlikely the Spanish would have resorted to the practice even if the resources had been at their disposal.

In the Naval Annual of 1899, Sir George Clark wrote, “In Spain, some efforts of preparation [for war] were made, but want of money, of resources, and of administrative capacity proved fatal.” 92  Clark’s assessment is entirely accurate; where the US Navy was well-prepared for the war, the Spanish Navy floundered. Ship construction and outfitting lagged sorely behind schedule. In a letter to his cousin, Admiral Pascual Cervera cited the example of the Cataluña, a ship that had been under construction for eight years and still lacked a completed hull. He noted that the Carlos V, a ship entirely of Spanish construction, “is not what she should be,” if not entirely “a dead failure.” 93  In his letters to Bermejo in the early part of 1898, Cervera predicted that a number of Spanish capital ships would be unfit to sail by the time his squadron departed. He was correct; upon receiving his orders to sail to Puerto Rico, the Pelayo, Carlos V, Vitoria, and Numancia were all incomplete or ill-equipped for the voyage. 94  The armaments on board the ships were poor as well; the Cristobal Colón, which Cervera called “no doubt the best of all our ships,” did not have her heavy guns, nor did the crew have any 5.5-inch ammunition needed to fire the new, lighter guns. 95  In the months preceding war with America, Spanish ships were on the whole poorly constructed, in states of disrepair, and possessed weaker armaments, a testament to the dilapidated state of Spain’s maritime power. Materials and armaments to outfit public ships before and during the war were sparse and poorly administered; it is unlikely that any significant amount of resources could be found to outfit private ships in their place.

In many ways Spain’s problems in outfitting its fleets can be tied to its finances, or lack thereof. Spain was economically in dire straits before and during the war in 1898. Though the monarchy had stabilized the government in 1875, old political rivalries between the Liberals, Conservatives, Carlists, Republicans, Basques, and a host of other interest groups meant Spain was never internally unified and struggled to find the stability necessary for strong economic prosperity. Most of Spain’s trade was with its colonies rather than with other European powers. With insurgencies growing in power and scope in both Cuba and the Philippines in the 1890s, that trade was running perilously low. By January of 1898, Cervera was able to state that Spain was “absolutely penniless,” particularly compared with the United States. 93  The war only made the situation worse – principally for the lower classes, as the price of food increased and poor men were inducted into the military. In early May, the citizens of Gijon rioted over the price of bread, and the Civil Guard had to impose martial law. 97  Spain simply was not a wealthy state, either in the public or private sector. The lack of funds prevented the Spanish Navy from effectively preparing for the war with America, and likely would have precluded any potential privateering expeditions from outfitting successfully.

If the situation in Spain was unconducive to the practice, the situation in the colonies – the main theaters of operations during the war – was hopeless. Insurrections in both Cuba and the Philippines had driven both economies to ruin. In a speech given to the Senate in March 1898, Vermont Senator Redfield Proctor described Cuba as a land of “desolation and distress, misery and starvation.” 98  With the reconcentration policy placing all Cubans into the towns held by the army, there were few opportunities for public enterprise in Cuba in the lead-up to the war. As a result there were few Cubans who could legitimately stake their funds to privateer expeditions. In addition, the ships that were already in Cuba were of no use; Cervera wrote that “the eight principal vessels of the Havana station…have no military value whatever, and, besides, are badly worn out.” 99  The Commandant-General of the Manterola Navy Yard in Cuba was of the same mind, stating that “of the fifty-five vessels composing this fleet thirty-two are auxiliary launches of little usefulness, even for police service on the coast.” 100  Even if there had been a number of effective ships in Cuba, and enough money in country to fund privateer expeditions, the United States Navy took control of the waters off Cuba almost immediately after war was declared. Privateers operating from Cuban ports would have likely seen little success in the face of direct US opposition. What vessels that were seaworthy in Cuba were used with mixed results as blockade runners and posed no real threat to US sea superiority there. In the Philippines, US control was even more pronounced. Following Dewey’s victory at Manila Bay, Spain had no major harbors in the archipelago and was losing territory rapidly to the insurgents under Emilio Aguinaldo. There, the Spanish could only hope to hole up in Manila and wait for support from the homeland.

Spain did not have a viable option for outfitting privateers. In the Iberian Peninsula, maritime facilities had few ships to offer and were incapable of successfully outfitting ships for the Spanish Navy, let alone ships for private individuals. Economic difficulties made the practice unreasonable in Spain, and impossible in its colonies. Yet even if Spain did have a strong foundation from which to send out privateers, it is unlikely that Spanish leaders would have opted to use them. Running through nearly all the Spanish documents related to the war is an emphasis on fighting with honor; if Spain was going to lose its colonies, it would maintain its pride while doing so. With military leaders, statesmen, and press all putting an emphasis on honorable wartime conduct, Spain would never rely on such a dishonorable practice as privateering.

In response to reports of US military superiority over the Spanish in March, Madrid-based newspaper El Imparcial wrote, “such news items would weigh very little in one pan of a balance scale compared with Spain’s honor in the other pan.” 101  Spain’s actions throughout the war were characterized by a strong desire to fight with honor, even at the expense of prudent tactical decisions. The General Ordinances of the Spanish Navy included an article stating:

You will fight as far as lies in your power against any superior forces, so that, even though necessary to surrender, your defense will be considered honorable by the enemy. If possible, you will run your ship aground on own or hostile coast rather than surrender, if there is no immediate risk of the crew perishing in the shipwreck; and even after running aground, it will be your duty to defend the ship and finally burn it, if there is no other way of preventing the enemy from taking possession of it. 102

When facing likely defeat in Santiago, Cervera was expected to follow these instructions. Captain-General of Cuba Ramon Blanco ordered Cervera to attempt to break the blockade, believing “it is preferable for the honor of arms to succumb in battle” than to possibly lose the fleet without a fight. 103  Tactically, little could be gained from the attempt to run the American blockade, but following Blanco’s orders Cervera led his squadron out of Santiago on July 3, where he were resoundingly defeated by the Americans. In his telegram to Blanco informing him of the disaster, Cervera made a point to emphasize that the “gallantry of all the crews has earned the most enthusiastic congratulations of enemy.” 104  If Cervera’s fleet had to be destroyed, Spain thought it best that it went down fighting rather than dishonorably surrender.

After Cervera was defeated, the Spanish Army’s position in Santiago was unsustainable. The US Army under Major General William Shafter approached General Jose Toral regarding a surrender; however, Toral was skeptical. He stated, “A solution [must] be found that leaves the honor of my troops intact; otherwise you will comprehend that I shall see myself obliged to now make defense as far as my strength will permit.” 105  By July 15, the Spanish had decided that “the honor of our arms has been completely vindicated,” and were ready to give in to the Americans. 106  The agreement between the two sides never used the term “surrender,” opting instead for the less extreme “capitulation,” and Article IX of that document stated “That the Spanish forces will march out of Santiago de Cuba with honors of war…” 107  The timing of the Spanish surrender and the articles therein were primarily based on satisfying Spanish honor, a testament to the emphasis placed on the ideal by the Spanish military.

A similar occurrence happened in the Philippines, when the Spanish troops there surrendered in August. Trapped in Manila by Dewey’s fleet since early May and surrounded on all sides on land by a combination of American troops and Filipino insurgents, Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes sought to turn the city over to the Americans rather than let it fall into the hands of Aguinaldo’s fighters. However, the Spanish military code necessitated some form of resistance before surrender, at the risk of a court-martial upon their return to Spain. 108  Jaudenes came to an agreement with Dewey whereby the Americans would bombard an unoccupied fort for an hour then advance their foot soldiers towards the city, at which point the Spanish would surrender. Both sides played their respective roles, and on August 14 the Spanish again capitulated “with all honors of war.” 109

Spain’s blind obedience to its principles of honor had its fair share of critics both at home and abroad. 110  One of its staunchest opponents was Captain Victor Concas, commander of the Infanta Maria Teresa under Admiral Cervera. In the preface of his work he criticizes “political men” for their reliance on “romanticism and legends,” stating “that these are not the reality; that they do not now and never did constitute war, and that the nations which have had recourse to them have ended by disappearing from the map of the world.” 111  Concas gives the example of Admiral Sampson’s decision to avoid the coastal batteries set up by the Spanish, saying that “We should have considered that cowardice,” and that Spain would seemingly have “preferred a squadron crippled and rendered useless by a glorious battle without any objective, to a squadron that has remained intact….” 112  Concas bluntly states later in his work that “The object of military operations is final success and not proofs of valor. But it is useless to discuss this point, for it will never be understood in Spain.” 113  Concas apportions blame for Spain’s failure to a number of parties, but lays the brunt of the blame on Spanish press and politicians for their haughty and foolish adherence to irrelevant ideals of honor and valor, principles that Concas believes were woefully out of place in the conflict with the United States.

Regardless whether or not Spain’s romantic interpretation of wartime conduct was detrimental to its cause, it is clear that Spain sought to fight the war according to its cherished principles of honor and righteous conduct. In some cases valorous conduct was deemed more important than tactical considerations. Privateering was not seen as a chivalrous practice in its heyday, and was unquestionably judged negatively in 1898. Even if Spain had the resources and administration necessary to stage a large-scale privateering campaign during the war, it is highly unlikely Spain’s ministers would have accepted the adoption of the practice as it contradicted the lofty ideals of war they aspired to follow.


No privateers ever sailed during the Spanish-American War, a conflict that lasted only a few months and resulted in a decisive victory for the United States. Despite arguments to the contrary it was still technologically feasible for a state to outfit privateers and send them against an enemy’s maritime commerce. The United States employed a system somewhat similar to privateering during the war, using private vessels crewed by volunteers and barely-trained seamen; however, they were careful to keep the vessels under the direct control of the Navy Department, a clear contrast to the practice of privateering. The reason for privateering’s absence from the war, then, cannot be the technological improvements of fighting vessels over the course of the nineteenth century. Privateering was outdated by the Spanish-American War because of diplomatic and strategic factors. With the nominal abolition of the practice with the Declaration of Paris in 1856, Europe took a strong stance against privateering and made the tactic untenable by closing its ports to privateer prize sales. As both sides needed the support – or, at the least, the tacit neutrality – of Europe’s Great Powers, outfitting privateers would have been a risky endeavor that may have necessitated armed intervention from Europe. Spain, in an inferior military position to the Americans, desperately needed support from the Great Powers and tried to use American transgressions of agreed-upon maritime practice as a tool to gain sympathy from other states on the continent. All the while, they maintained their right to outfit privateers should another power – namely, Britain – join with the Americans, and attempted to use the threat of privateers to leverage their diplomatic position. The US Navy neither desired nor required privateers to wage war against Spain. The improved professionalism and training of the officers of the United States Navy resulted in a wartime strategy that focused on battleship action and not on commerce-raiding tactics of privateers. To augment the main battle fleet, the Americans relied on auxiliary cruisers which were under direct control of the US Navy. While Spain, as the weaker maritime power, could perhaps have benefited from outfitting privateers, the country never had the naval infrastructure nor the material and financial resources needed to wage an effective privateering campaign, and their mindset that placed honor above tactical and strategic considerations suggests that they would not have resorted to the practice even if it had been feasible. Scholars cannot explain the disappearance of privateering throughout the nineteenth century by only looking at the advancements of technology. The example of the Spanish-American War shows that while privateering was still technologically possible, strategic and diplomatic considerations surrounding the conflict made the practice unthinkable for either side.


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Lemnitzer, Jan Martin. Power, Law and the End of Privateering. Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

“Letters of Marque and Privateering.” Liverpool Mail, March 18, 1854. British Newspaper Archive

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Robinson, William M. The Confederate Privateers. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928.

Savage, Carlton, ed. Policy of the United States towards Maritime Commerce in War. Washington, D.C.: United States Printing Office, 1934.

Semmel, Bernard. Liberalism and Naval Strategy: Ideology, Interest, and Sea Power during the Pax Britannica. Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1986.

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Tejeiro, José Müller Y. Battles and Capitulation of Santiago De Cuba. Vol. I. War Notes. Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1898.

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(Return to July 2018 Table of Contents)


  1. I would like to acknowledge the support and advice of my supervisor Dr. Michael Crawford of Naval History and Heritage Command for introducing me to this topic and for guiding me every step of the way. I am also indebted to Dan Roberts and Dr. Dennis Conrad of Naval History and Heritage Command for their assistance searching for sources for this article. The New York Times, 25 April 1898. Accessed June 28, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0424.html#headlines.
  2. For more on the growth of privateering and the role it played in military and business affairs, see David J. Starkey, s.v. “Privateering,” in The Encyclopedia of Maritime History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).
  3. For one example of this from Dutch newspapers see Nico A. Bootsma, “Reactions to the Spanish-American War in the Netherlands and in the Dutch East Indies,” in Sylvia L. Hilton and Steve J.S. Ickringill, eds. European Perceptions of the Spanish-American War (Bern: Peter Lang, 1999), 38.
  4. This will be discussed later in this essay.
  5. The Secretary of State (Sherman) to Diplomatic Representatives, 22 April 1898, in Carlton Savage, ed. Policy of the United States towards Maritime Commerce in War (Washington, DC: United States Printing Office, 1934), 486. Sherman would resign his post only three days later, on April 25.
  6. “War with Spain – Maritime Law,” 25 April 1898, in Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, vol. 63, 772-73.
  7. Royal Decree, enclosed in Minister of State to the Representatives of His Majesty Abroad, 24 April 1898, in Spanish Diplomatic Correspondence and Documents 1896-1900 (Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1905), 157.
  8. Pascual Cervera to Segismundo Bermejo, 7 March 1898, in Pascual Cervera, The Spanish-American War: A Collection of Documents Relative to the Squadron Operations in the West Indies, vol. VII, War Notes (Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1899), 33-36.
  9. John D. Coogan, End of Neutrality: The United States, Britain, and Maritime Rights, 1899-1915 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), 22.
  10. Severo Gómez Núñez, The Spanish-American War: Blockades and Coast Defense, vol. VI, War Notes (Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1899), 50.
  11. Caspar F. Goodrich, “Scouts: Lecture Delivered, Summer Course, 1902”: NWC Lectures, Record Group 15, Box 1, p. 6. Naval Historical Collection, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. A detachment of marines was also placed on board each vessel to man the guns during combat.
  12. For the locations of these ships throughout the war see Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Year 1898 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1898), 329-59.
  13. Captain Charles S. Cotton to the Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 13 May 1898, in “Documentary Histories: Spanish-American War,” Naval History and Heritage Command, accessed July 15, 2016. https://goo.gl/QqZcSe; hereafter “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. Cotton feared that the Spanish fleet under Cervera would lay in wait to capture the Harvard as it left port. Cotton was particularly concerned about “the peculiar status of the officers and crew, who are serving on board of an armed ship while they do not belong to either branch of the Naval or Military service of the U.S.”; he feared that the Spanish might consider the ship a privateer, and treat the sailors as pirates.
  14. For more on cable-cutting throughout the war see H. W. Wilson, The Downfall of Spain: Naval History of the Spanish-American War (London: Sampson, Low, Marston and Company, 1900), 382-95.
  15. Captain Caspar F. Goodrich to Rear-Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, July 2 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/3MTmyz.
  16. Goodrich, “Scouts,” 8.
  17. Commander Willard H. Brownson to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 28 August 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/jb4kc7.
  18. Commander Charles J. Train to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 15 September 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/c2jxH6.
  19. Commodore Arendt S. Crowninshield, Chief, Bureau of Navigation, to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long, 1 October 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/kGciwb.
  20. On the Future of the Naval Militia, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/KCVBgq.
  21. Crowninshield to Long, 1 October 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/kGciwb.
  22. Lieutenant Lazarus L. Reamey to Commodore Arent S. Crowninshield, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, 13 May 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/GivLHA.
  23. Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Commander William H. Emory, 11 May 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/BjJyl6.
  24. Train to Long, 15 September 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/c2jxH6.
  25. Annual Reports 1898, 19.
  26. Ibid. 109.
  27. Brownson to Long, 28 August 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/jb4kc7.
  28. There is still considerable debate regarding Britain’s reasons for adopting the principle. Along with the combination of domestic pressure from the mercantile community and the demands of international diplomacy, Jan Martin Lemnitzer argues that one factor in the decision may have been the threat of American privateers. By agreeing to the “free ships free goods” principle, Britain ensured America’s cooperation in the war, and guaranteed that Russia would not be able to outfit privateers in American territory. For further discussion see Jan Martin Lemnitzer, Power, Law and the End of Privateering (Houndsmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 17-25.
  29. The Secretary of State (J. Q. Adams) to the British Minister (Canning), 24 June 1823, in Savage, Policy of the United States, 302-303.
  30. Cabinet Minutes Respecting the Declaration of Paris, 6 April 1856, in Nicholas Tracy, ed. Sea Power and the Control of Trade: Belligerent Rights from the Russian War to the Beira Patrol: 1854-1970, vol. 149, Navy Records Society Publications (Burlington, VT: Ashgate for the Navy Records Society, 2005), 32-33.
  31. Observations of J.D. Harding, the Queen’s Advocate, on the Answer of the United States’ Government respective Maritime Law, 27 September 1856, in Tracy, Sea Power and Trade, 36-40.
  32. Liverpool Mail, 18 March 1854, p.5.
  33. HC Deb 17 March 1854, vol. 131, cc 968-70. Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell tabled the motion to allow naval strategists time to consider the proposal.
  34. Sir James Robert Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty, to the Earl of Clarendon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 3 March 1854, in Tracy, Sea Power and Trade, 10-24.
  35. HL Deb 22 May 1856, vol. 142, cc 501.
  36. For a further investigation of British responses to privateering, “free ships free goods,” and the policies of liberalism and ideology that contributed to the adoption of the Declaration of Paris, see Bernard Semmel, Liberalism and Naval Strategy: Ideology, Interest, and Sea Power during the Pax Britannica (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1986), 51-67.
  37. President Franklin Pierce summarized the US position in his State of the Union in 1854, stating: “The bare statement of the condition in which the United States would be placed, after having surrendered the right to resort to privateers, in the event of war with a belligerent of naval supremacy will show that this Government could never listen to such a proposition. The navy of the first maritime power in Europe is at least ten times as large as that of the United States. The foreign commerce of the two countries is nearly equal, and about equally exposed to hostile depredations. In war between that power and the United States, without resort on our part to our mercantile marine the means of our enemy to inflict injury upon our commerce would be tenfold greater than ours to retaliate.” See Message of President Pierce to Congress, 4 December 1854, in Savage, Policy of the United States, 378-81.
  38. William M. Robinson, The Confederate Privateers (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928), 25. Throughout the war, the British press consistently referred to any Confederate vessel as a “privateer,” which may have led to some confusion for the American reporters.
  39. Lyons [British ambassador in Washington
  40. Robinson, Confederate Privateers, 28.
  41. For more on the exploits of Confederate privateers see Robinson, Confederate Privateers. For an analysis of how maritime law played a role in the naval strategies of the Confederacy, see Lemnitzer, End of Privateering, 118-34.
  42. For more on McKinley’s efforts to avoid war and the diplomatic events leading up to the Spanish-American War see John L. Offner, An Unwanted War: The Diplomacy of the United States and Spain over Cuba, 1895-1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).
  43. Coogan, End of Neutrality, 28. See also Michael Howard, ed. Restraints on War: Studies in the Limitation of Armed Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), 47.
  44. Pascual Cervera to Segismundo Bermejo, 16 February 1898, in Cervera, Squadron Operations, 25.
  45. The Chargé d’Affaires of Spain to the Minister of State, 16 February 1898, in Spanish Correspondence, 86.
  46. The Minister of State to the ambassadors of His Majesty in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, London, St. Petersburg, Rome, and the Holy See, 16 March 1898, in Ibid. 92.
  47. The Minister of State to the Minister Plenipotentiary of His Majesty in Washington, 27 March 1898, in Ibid. 102.
  48. The Minister of State to the representatives of His Majesty abroad, 25 March 1898, in Ibid. 98-99.
  49. U.S. Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1898 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1901), 740-1, in Brad K. Berner, The Spanish-American War: A Documentary History with Commentaries (Lanham, MD: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2014), 57-58.
  50. The Minister of State to the ambassadors of His Majesty in Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, Rome, St. Petersburg, and the Holy See, 14 April 1898, in Spanish Correspondence, 124.
  51. Enclosed memorandum in Minister of State to the representatives of His Majesty abroad, 18 April 1898, in Ibid. 126-32.
  52. The Minister of State to the representatives of His Majesty abroad, 11 May 1898, in Ibid. 164.
  53. For a discussion of the legal ramifications of the Declaration’s language on blockades see John Fraser MacQueen, Chief Points in the Laws of War and Neutrality (London: William and Robert Chambers, 1862), 53-54.
  54. For more on Sampson’s movements in the early years of the war see James C. Bradford, ed. Crucible of Empire: The Spanish-American War and its Aftermath (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1993), 50-51.
  55. The Minister of State to the representatives of His Majesty abroad, 11 May 1898, in Spanish Correspondence, 164. In his work Blockades and Coastal Defense written after the war, Spanish artillery captain Severo Gómez Núñez was especially critical of the American blockade, calling it a “farce” and stating that from their positions in Havana the Spanish could see “private tugs of the United States Press and pleasure yachts, on board of some of which we could distinguish lady excursionists and almost feel the excitement of champagne.” See Núñez, Blockades and Coast Defense, 18.
  56. The Minister of State to the representatives of His Majesty abroad, 24 April 1898, in Spanish Correspondence, 155-56.
  57. At Manila Bay, after Dewey’s victory but before the city capitulated, Germany actually had more ships in the area than the United States. The entire time, Britain kept a ship in the region to monitor the situation. For more on Anglo-American relations in the Far East see Bertha Ann Reuter, Anglo-American Relations during the Spanish-American War (New York: Macmillan Company, 1899), 110-49.
  58. The Minister of the United States to the Minister of State, 21 April 1898, in Spanish Correspondence, 135-36.
  59. Offner, An Unwanted War, 199-200; see also Reuter, Anglo-American Relations, 150-59.
  60. Reuter, Anglo-American Relations, 86.
  61. For more on Spanish agents in British Columbia and the “phantom privateer,” see P.M. Sherrin, “Spanish Spies in Victoria, 1898,” BC Studies no. 36 (Winter 1977-78), 23-33.
  62. For more on the ONI and its overseas attachés, see Bradford, ed. Crucible of Empire, 1-22. For intelligence as a whole during the war, see ibid. 23-46.
  63. John B. Hattendorf, B. Mitchell Simpson, III, and John R. Wadleigh, Sailors and Soldiers: The Centennial History of the U.S. Naval War College (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 1984), 17. In addition to improving the professionalism of the naval officer corps, the formation of the Naval War College was part of a growth in professional practices during the late-nineteenth century; for more on this and the early years of the Naval War College see Ronald Spector, Professors of War: The Naval War College and the Development of the Naval Profession (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 1977).
  64. Wilson, Downfall of Spain, 68.
  65. Alfred T. Mahan, Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1890), 138.
  66. For more on Theodore Roosevelt, see Edward J. Marolda, ed. Theodore Roosevelt, the US Navy, and the Spanish-American War (New York: Palgrave, 2001). For Mahan’s role on the Naval War Board, see Alfred Thayer Mahan, Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan, edited by Robert Seager II and Doris D. Maguire, vol. III (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1975), 627-43. For an analysis of Mahan’s strategic thought see Jon Tetsuro Sumida, Inventing Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer Mahan Reconsidered (Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1997).
  67. For a comparison of the readiness of the Navy to the US Army see Bradford, ed. Crucible of Empire, 106-107.
  68. Captain Henry C. Taylor to Lieutenant Commander Charles J. Train, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/CBxzxy.
  69. Plan of Operations against Spain prepared by Lieutenant Commander Charles J. Train (1894), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/Mrnnr2.
  70. Plan of Operations against Spain prepared by Lieutenant William W. Kimball (1896), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/FRHm8j.
  71. Plan of Operations against Spain prepared by Captain Henry C. Taylor (1896), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/2fWbLI.
  72. Plan of Operations against Spain (1896), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/DmNhLJ. The idea for a European squadron remained in the war plans in 1897; see Plan of Operations against Spain (1897), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/eZDdq9. It was also discussed during the war in 1898, and Commodore Watson was put in command of an Eastern Squadron which was supposed to sail across the Atlantic. Spain called for a ceasefire before the squadron could set sail.
  73. Plan of Operations against Spain prepared by Lieutenant Commander Charles J. Train (1894), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/Mrnnr2.
  74. Plan of Operations against Spain prepared by Lieutenant William W. Kimball (1896), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/FRHm8j.
  75. Plan of Operations against Spain prepared by Captain Henry C. Taylor (1896), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/2fWbLI.
  76. Plan of Operations against Spain (1897), in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/eZDdq9.
  77. Annual Reports 1898, 44.
  78. Ibid. 21. Hearst’s yacht was the Buccaneer, renamed the Gloucester while in naval service, and Schermerhorn’s was the Free Lance.
  79. Ibid. 6
  80. This request was wisely denied by Rear-Admiral Montgomery Sicard; see Rear Admiral Montgomery Sicard, President, Naval War Board, to Charles B. Church, 4 May 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/jkGYxV.
  81. For Mahan, see Alfred T. Mahan, Lessons of the War with Spain and Other Articles (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1899), 69. For Goodrich see Captain Caspar F. Goodrich, Points on Coast-Defense Brought Out by the War with Spain, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/ewlQ3I.
  82. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, 14 March 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/LCECA0.
  83. Annual Reports 1898, 5. Also attached at various points during the war were the Columbia, Minneapolis, Badger, and Southery.
  84. For the order from Secretary Long authorizing the creation of the flotilla, see Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Commander Horace Elmer, 23 March 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/s7DuWh. Rear-Admiral Joseph N. Miller commanded the Pacific coast.
  85. Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Captain James H. Sands, 23 April 1898, in “Documentary Histories,” NHHC. https://goo.gl/lpRPdw.
  86. Wilson, Downfall of Spain, 57.
  87. Annual Reports 1898, 19.
  88. Ibid. 132.
  89. Quote from W.H.H. Southerland, found in Ibid. 144.
  90. M. Plüddemann, Comments of Rear Admiral Plüddemann: German Navy on the Main Features of the War with Spain, vol. II, War Notes (Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1899), 9.
  91. Núñez, Blockades and Coast Defense, 20.
  92. Sir George Clarke, “Naval Aspects of the Spanish-American War,” in The Naval Annual 1899, ed. T.A. Brassey (Portsmouth: J. Griffin and Co., 1899): 129.
  93. Pascual Cervera to Juan Spottorno, 30 January 1898, in Cervera, Squadron Operations, 12-13.
  94. Pascual Cervera to Segismundo Bermejo, 24 April 1898, in Ibid. 65. In an earlier letter Cervera also included the ship Lepanto in his list of those unfit for service; see Pascual Cervera to Segismundo Bermejo, 25 February 1898, in Ibid. 27-29.
  95. Pascual Cervera to General Captaincy of the Squadron Staff, 6 February 1898, in Ibid. 16.
  96. Pascual Cervera to Juan Spottorno, 30 January 1898, in Cervera, Squadron Operations, 12-13.
  97. Diario de Barcelona, 5 May 1898, in Berner, Documentary History, 71-72.
  98. Congressional Record, 55th congress, 2nd session, vol. 31, part 3: 2916-19, in Berner, Documentary History, 52-53.
  99. Pascual Cervera to Segismundo Bermejo, 16 February 1898, in Cervera, Squadron Operations, 24-25.
  100. Commandant-General of Navy Yard (Manterola) to the Admiral (Cervera), 21 May 1898, in Ibid. 84-85.
  101. “España no se asusta,” El Imparcial, March 15, 1898, in Berner, Documentary History, 31.
  102. General Ordinances of the Navy, part 3, Chap. I, art. 153, cited by Cervera in Cervera, Squadron Operations, 101, footnote 2.
  103. The Captain-General (Blanco) to the Admiral (Cervera), 26 June 1898, in Ibid. 113.
  104. The Admiral (Cervera) to the Captain-General (Blanco), 4 July 1898, in Ibid. 121.
  105. Major-General William Shafter to Adjutant-General H.C. Corbin, 13 July 1898, in Correspondence Relating to the War with Spain: Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Islands and the China Relief Expedition, April 15, 1898, to July 30, 1902, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1993), 133.
  106. José Müller Y Tejeiro, Battles and Capitulation of Santiago de Cuba, vol. I, War Notes (Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1898), 143.
  107. Terms of convention for the capitulation of Spanish forces in Santiago de Cuba, 16 July 1898, in Correspondence Relating to War with Spain, 151-52. See also David F. Trask, The War with Spain in 1898 (New York: Macmillan, 1981), 315.
  108. Thomas M. Anderson, “Our Rule in the Philippines,” North American Review 170 (February 1900): 278, in Berner, Documentary History, 174-75.
  109. French Ensor Chadwick, The Relations of the United States and Spain: The Spanish-American War, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911), 421-22.
  110. For further examples of Spanish criticism, see José Martínez Ruiz, “Gaceta de Madrid,” Madrid Comico, 10 April 1898, in Berner, Documentary History, 32-33. For examples from foreign commentators see Jacobsen, Sketches from the War, 7.
  111. Victor Concas, The Squadron of Admiral Cervera, vol. VIII, War Notes (Washington, DC: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1900), 7.
  112. Concas, Squadron of Admiral Cervera, 14.
  113. Ibid. 26; emphasis in original.

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BOOK REVIEW – Thinking Wisely, Planning Boldly: The Higher Education and Training of Royal Navy Officers, 1919-39

Joseph Moretz, Thinking Wisely, Planning Boldly: The Higher Education and Training of Royal Navy Officers, 1919-39. West Midlands, UK: Helion & Company, 2014. 528 pp.

Review by CDR Benjamin Armstrong, PhD
United States Naval Academy

The years following the Great War have become something of a favorite of modern day military analysts in search of historical analogy. The development of innovative doctrine, the introduction and assimilation of new technologies, and struggles with fluctuating fiscal support for national defense, all make that era before the start of World War II appear relevant again as nations face the dilemmas of the 21st century. While developments in the fleets of both the United States and Great Britain have received a good amount of attention from scholars to help inform these comparisons, much less attention has been paid to the educational system that prepared the officers to face their challenges. Joseph Moretz’s book Thinking Wisely, Planning Boldly makes a commanding foray into the subject of Royal Navy officer education which is an important contribution to understanding of the era.

Noted historians, like Arthur Marder and Stephen Roskill, have written on the subject but mostly in passing and as part of wider examinations of the period following the Great War. As a result, previous scholarship on the subject sometimes lacks depth and focus and commonly relies on memoir and oral histories from the officers who served rather than the archival record. Moretz lays all this out in a clear summary of the literature, and then proceeds to offer the deep research and focused examination of the education and training programs which were the part of senior officers’ careers. The first two chapters offer the reader context on the era, discussing the aftermath of the First World War and the issues the Royal Navy faced: including reestablishing the norms of a peacetime navy, the financial challenges that came with post-war retrenchment, and the requirements of Imperial interests and political necessity.

The bulk of the remainder of the book is made up of chapter length examinations of the different courses senior officers took during their progression through the ranks. The re-introduction of the staff course at Greenwich, initiated prior to the war but suspended during hostilities, and the history of its purpose, curriculum, and leadership was the first school which many officers experienced at the mid-grade and senior level. It also had a broad focus on the introduction of policy and strategy so graduates could serve effectively on the staffs of higher commands. This was paired with the Senior Officers’ War Course, also focused on strategic decision making in both peace and war, taken once an officer was promoted to Captain. Moretz’s descriptions and analysis of these courses come from an impressive breadth of research both in the official documents and the private papers and reminiscences of officers who both attended and taught the courses. Significant figures, like Herbert Richmond and the cohort who began the Naval Review before the war, now promoted into positions of responsibility appear in the history but the author balances them well with the experiences of the average officer as well as those promoted to important senior positions during the Second World War.

Following his examination of the well-known courses at Greenwich, Moretz dials out his scope and considers the other training and education programs which were a part of the naval officer’s career path. These included the Senior Officers’ Technical Course and the Tactical Course, both of which have received very little attention from other historians. Moretz’s focus is not only on what was taught at these courses, but also how and when they fit into an officer’s career and how the staffs that taught the courses were used by the Admiralty as experts within their fields: either the technical materiel of war or the tactical employment of that changing materiel. The book then examines how naval officers fit into the increasingly important ideas of jointness, including attendance at the Imperial Defence College as well as the staff colleges at Camberley and Andover run by the British Army and the Royal Air Force. These are treated with the same depth of research as the staff course and war course.

The final chapters of Thinking Wisely, Planning Boldly consider how officers were used following their completion of the courses, and reflects on the experiences of officer education between the wars with some wider analysis. Some graduates were used well, and assigned to appropriate staff positions. However, as most members of any military bureaucracy will identify with, many received assignments that made little use of their newly acquired knowledge. Moretz’s analysis asks well considered questions raised by the history, both in search of areas for expanded historical study and also in looking to apply the information he presents to inform modern day efforts at preparing the Royal Navy for its mission.

Readers should be forewarned this is a dense book. The author’s exhaustive research occasionally results in digressions that consider specific biographical notes of figures who appear, or detailed examinations of staff processes and naval policies not directly related to the subject of the book. These digressions are always interesting and incredibly well sourced, but nonetheless can seem to take the work off track for a moment. This may result in minor confusion from readers who are not expert in either the inner workings of the Royal Navy of that period or of particular personalities and why they were important. Likewise, the almost complete lack of explanation of how officers were trained and educated in their junior ranks misses an opportunity to provide non-specialists with important context and foundation. These are minor issues, however, and they may actually serve to increase a general reader’s interest and desire for further investigation.

Joseph Moretz has written what should be considered an authoritative and in-depth account of Royal Navy senior officer education in the interwar era. In doing so, he has made not only an important and needed contribution to the scholarship on the period, but he also offers analysis and important frames of reference for modern discussions and debates. How to prepare officers for the responsibilities of command and strategic decision making is a question of perennial relevance as the world’s navies face the sole constant of history: change.

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BOOK REVIEW – Defensive Positions: The Politics of Maritime Security in Tokugawa Japan

Noell Wilson, Defensive Positions: The Politics of Maritime Security in Tokugawa Japan. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. 244 pp.

Review by John M. Jennings, PhD
United States Air Force Academy

Conventional wisdom among historians had long held that throughout most of the Tokugawa Period (1603-1868), Japan pursued a policy of self-imposed isolation from the outside world. Japanese historians even coined a term, sakoku, or “closed country,” to describe this paradigm. However, more recent historiography has persuasively repudiated this earlier view, demonstrating that Japan, while indeed limited in its contact with the West, remained an active and consequential actor in Asian affairs during the Tokugawa Period, with maritime trade playing a major role in that engagement. Nevertheless, the Tokugawa Shogunate, which emphasized maintaining domestic political control, showed little interest in developing the capacity to project naval power and preferred instead to define maritime defense as starting at the coastline. Given that, coastal defense takes on a particular significance to the study of Japan’s political and military affairs during the Tokugawa Period, as Noell Wilson’s Defensive Positions: The Politics of Maritime Security in Tokugawa Japan indicates.

While previous histories have tended to treat coastal defense as an issue only addressed by Japan’s rulers toward the end of the Tokugawa Period as a response to the renewed threat of the Western imperial powers, Wilson shows that the issue of constructing, maintaining, and manning coastal defense installations dates back to the early Tokugawa Period. Beginning as early as 1641, the Tokugawa Shogunate appointed regional lords known as daimyo to supply the troops to man the fortifications of Nagasaki, Japan’s main port of entry for foreign vessels, on a rotational basis. Thereafter, the daimyo-managed coastal defense mission expanded by including interdiction of Chinese and Japanese smugglers, protection of the Dutch trading establishment at Nagasaki (the Dutch being the only Europeans with whom the Japanese were still trading), and expansion of coastal defense installations to other major port cities.

According to Wilson, the evolution of coastal defense along those lines during the Tokugawa Period had significant political ramifications. Emphasizing that coastal defense is an expression of national sovereignty and reiterating Max Weber’s assertion that the monopolization of violence was “the foundation of political stability of the early modern world” (p. 10), Wilson argues that the Tokugawa Shogunate’s decentralized policy of ceding responsibility for coastal defense to the daimyo ultimately undermined its sovereign position as the national government. As a result, by the middle of the nineteenth century, some of the more powerful daimyo, who were increasingly concerned about national defense against the incursion of the Western imperial powers, had begun to take the lead in carrying out their own military modernizing reforms and were increasingly ignoring the Tokugawa Shogunate. Wilson concludes that this increasing irrelevance in the realm of coastal, and national defense as well as the compromise of its legitimacy due to the loss of the monopolization of violence played no small role in the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868.

While Defensive Positions is commendable for reminding readers of the importance of coastal defense throughout the Tokugawa Period and for shedding much-needed light on the political dynamics of coastal defense, Wilson’s larger conclusions are less persuasive. Her acceptance of the Weberian association of the sovereignty of the state and the monopolization of violence leads her to apply a Western construct that is ill-suited to the much more complex and decentralized division of military responsibilities in Tokugawa Japan. Indeed, in the Tokugawa system, the daimyo were required to maintain their own armies and to deploy those armies at the behest of the Shogunate, which, as the national government, in turn determined national defense requirements. In this system, then, the acceptance by the daimyo to oversee and man coastal defense installations was, if anything, an expression of their acceptance of Tokugawa sovereignty rather than an arrogation of that sovereignty. Moreover, Wilson actually contradicts her argument in later chapters when she shows how Tokugawa efforts in the mid-nineteenth century to place coastal defense under the direct control of the Shogunate upset those arrangements and antagonized the daimyo by threatening their traditional autonomy. In other words, it was not the inherent decentralization of the coastal defense structure, but rather the Tokugawa Shogunate’s late-in-the-day bid to centralize power that provoked many of the daimyo to rebel against it, thereby contributing to its downfall.

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BOOK REVIEW – Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France 1793-1815

Helen Watt and Anne Hawkins, eds. Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France 1793-1815. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2014. 668 pp.

Reviewed by Lisa Vandenbossche, PhD Candidate
Department of English, University of Rochester

Recent trends in contemporary criticism to recapture and understand the experiences of those from below have left scholars searching for artifacts and narratives from outside the upper ranks of society and leadership. In Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France 1793-1815, Helen Watt and Anne Hawkins make a significant contribution to this effort by compiling and contextualizing 255 letters sent to and from men under the rank of commissioned officer in the Royal Navy and Marines from 1793-1815, which remained until now mostly unpublished. These personal letters – significantly addressed to family and friends on shore, rather than state officials or military leaders – offer valuable eyewitness accounts of life at sea in the British Navy and more in-depth understanding of the motivations and actions of those involved in the 1797 mutinies.

It is estimated that 1/48th of the British male population served as seamen during this period and most families would have had a direct connection to someone working at sea (pg. xi). Given these numbers, it is easy to see why Watt and Hawkins argue in their introduction, “the letters of seamen of this period are immensely valuable as they allow us a glimpse into the minds of this very large section of society at a crucial point in the history of the British Royal Navy and of Britain itself” (pg. 4). The letters, which are transcribed and annotated for easier reading, are organized in two categories with the first group of letters (letters A1-194) covering the entire period from 1793-1815 and the second group of letters (letters B1-61) relating specifically to the mutiny on ships of the North Sea Squadron at Yarmouth and Nore in 1797. The first batch of letters thus provides readers with a broader understanding of what life was like for common seamen in the British Navy during times of war and the second group uses this context to provide a more in-depth look at the 1797 mutinies from the perspective of the seamen involved. While Watt and Hawkins are surprised (as their readers might also be) by the lack of details about life on board ship in many of the letters, their significance is what these letters do tell us about seamen’s money worries, homesickness and concerns for those left at home, which seem to be the primary preoccupations of their writers. The letters taken as a whole also offer first-hand accounts of significant naval battles in the British wars with France, as well as the justifications and concerns of seamen taking part in mutiny at the Nore as related to loved ones on shore.

Just as importantly as the letters themselves, Watt and Hawkins create a critical apparatus surrounding the collection that effectively organizes and contextualizes for readers what could otherwise be an overwhelming quantity of information. Their introduction provides readers with background on the literacy rates of sailors, the postal system that enabled the letters to travel between sea and shore and the important role that letters played in connecting seamen to their family and friends at home. Each grouping of letters then receives its own introduction, which breaks down main themes of the letters within that group and connects individual letters with the historic events they describe. The appendices following the letters include biographical data on the letter writers (Appendix A) and an index of the ships on which the men sailed (Appendix B). This structure brings the letters and their writers to the center of critical focus, as readers are easily able to trace the careers of the letters’ authors and the history of the ships from which the letters are being sent. With this contextual information, readers get a fuller sense of the significance of the letters, even when the letter writers themselves might not understand the importance of the events they are narrating.

Letters of Seamen in the Wars with France 1793-1815 offers readers an invaluable look into life below deck by giving voice to men and women whose stories might otherwise remain untold. One drawback for interested readers will be the price tag that accompanies an exhaustive critical edition such as this one. I would encourage the editors to consider a future digital companion to this collection as a way of increasing usability and access to the incredibly compelling archive they have created.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Sea in History

Christian Buchet, editor.  The Sea in History.  Suffolk, UK: Martlesham, Boydell & Brewer, Inc., 2017.  3424 pp (4 volumes, tables, maps; scholarly notes; bibliographies; photographs and line illustrations)

Review By Dr. Timothy D. Walker
Professor of History; University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Considered collectively, this abundant new four-volume work, coordinated by chief editor Christian Buchet, represents an extraordinary achievement for the field of maritime history, precisely because it manages to consistently demonstrate the fundamental significance of the sea at all stages of human history, and to connect the development of civilizations around the world to the use of ocean resources in a rich variety of ways. The project’s ambitious goal is to provide a comprehensive summary of humankind’s maritime endeavors through the recorded past, on a global scale. This the project does admirably well, in an engaging manner that is intellectually inspiring, reflective, as well as deeply informative.  The editors have assembled new commissioned works by top historians working in maritime history and related fields, including archaeology and anthropology. These scholars, under the direction of the editorial team, have used an innovative all-embracing approach to assess the importance of the sea and convincingly link human endeavors on the oceans to all dimensions and eras of world history.

This exceptional collection covers a broad range of maritime topics with a comparative approach, assessing the core subject matter in diverse historical and cultural contexts. Thus, the volumes succeed in providing a valuable resource for scholars, especially those unfamiliar with the significance of the sea in history, who may wish to add a maritime dimension to their studies or course lectures. Within the confines of a brief review, it is difficult to convey the breadth and richness of this project’s offerings. Each of the four volumes includes between 43 and 75 chapters (255 in total), each averaging approximately twelve pages. Subjects considered include the development of shipbuilding and navigation techniques, mariners as a specialized social and labor class, ocean resources as an objective for economic exploitation, the evolution of maritime law, piracy as a global phenomenon, the economics of maritime endeavors, and the singular characteristics of distinctive maritime communities. Particularly gratifying is the number of new maps and charts commissioned to support many of the texts; often these present unfamiliar regions, or convey novel perspectives that will enhance the knowledge of any reader.

Publication of The Sea in History is the culmination and product of an ambitious five-year collaborative international project called Océanides, begun in March 2012, the principle objective of which has been to “provide scientific evidence of the key role seas and oceans have played in human evolution, culture and history.” The decision to offer a bilingual publication that approaches maritime history with chapters in French and English is a welcome one, as ultimately it broadens the potential readership and the geographic impact of the work in regions beyond those that are solely Francophone or Anglophone.

Christian Buchet and his team have produced a compelling new work of scholarship, important for its innovative framing of maritime history on a global scale by exploring the multiple ways that the sea has influenced and contributed significantly to world history. Buchet is a Professor of Maritime History at the Catholic University of Paris, where he founded the Centre d ‘études de la mer. He was the scientific director of the Océanides project. His prior research and publications focus on the interactions between the sea, human societies, and economic activity.

The framework of the set proceeds chronologically, and casts a broad narrative net.  The Sea in History opens with a consideration of recent historiographical trends and theories regarding the role of the oceans in world history, and poses a series of broadly applicable historical questions around which the text is organized, forming a theoretical core. In general, the writing is strong; this highly erudite collection showcases the contributing authors’ decades of teaching and writing related to this subject, and creates a continuous historical narrative from pre-history to contemporary times.

Volume one, The Sea in History – The Ancient World, is edited by Philip de Souza (University College, Dublin), Pascal Arnaud (University of Lyon II and the Institut Universitaire de France). In its introductory capacity for the set, this volume covers a broad range geographically and culturally, starting with tentative prehistoric seaborne endeavors and proceeding through classical civilizations in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. The Americas, Africa, and Asia are not neglected; chapters function as a series of case studies, discussing such matters as human migration by water in different parts of the globe, key ancient port cities and commercial routes, war at sea in classical times, and the rise of ancient fishing fleets. In this volume, 18 of the chapters are in French; 25 are presented in English.

The second volume, The Sea in History – The Medieval World, edited by Michel Balard, emeritus professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne), takes the reader from the final days of imperial Rome to the end of the sixteenth century.  Through an examination of seafaring peoples like the Vikings, the Hanseatic States, the Venetians, Genoans, and Normans, this volume demonstrates the centrality of the sea to the economy and livelihood of many medieval states and peoples taking a genuinely inclusive global approach, with chapters surveying maritime endeavors in Africa, across the Americas, East and Southeast Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean. The volume is particularly strong in its consideration of the Vikings as a force of cultural and technological dissemination; evolving nautical technology (especially shipbuilding in various geographic and cultural contexts), and its detailed examination of the short-lived era of Chinese maritime exploration in the fifteenth century. In this weighty volume there are 73 separate contributions, 39 of which are written in English, while 34 are in French.

Volume three focuses on The Early Modern World, and is edited by Gérard le Bouëdec (emeritus professor at the University of South Brittany) and Christian Buchet.  It contains 42 French language contributions and 33 in English.  Beginning in the era of key voyages of exploration by Columbus and da Gama, this volume carries the story of the sea through the Napoleonic Wars and the pinnacle of the Age of Sail. Central to this tome is the development of European maritime trade routes and colonial empires maintained by sea, first focused on ports and markets in Asia, but in time creating the dynamic seaborne economy of the Atlantic World. The editors have skillfully highlighted the fundamental role of seaborne activity during this period in changing the world profoundly, not only through geographic movement of peoples (whether willingly or forced), animals, and plants (the dynamics of the Columbian Exchange), but also through the global dissemination of languages and basic social concepts about religion and government. Additional topics include essential developments in maritime technology — navigation, shipbuilding, and the development of port facilities globally. Mercantilism, of course, takes a lead role in this story; multiple chapters describe the broad impact of transoceanic trade in key commodities like Asian spices and textiles, wine, plantation-grown sugar and tobacco, and the enslaved peoples required for colonial labor. One notable lacuna, however, is the lack of consideration in this volume of the dire cardinal problem that, as voyage distances increased, all early modern mariners faced:  maintaining health at sea.

The fourth volume, The Sea in History – The Modern World, edited by N. A. M. Rodger (All Souls College; University of Oxford), carries the narrative into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when developments in maritime technology allowed for the unprecedented global pursuit of seaborne trade, and the projection of force — circumstances that often led to confrontation and conflict.  Unsurprisingly, sea power, strategic planning, and the evolving logistics of commerce and warfare in the modern era are central themes here — including useful incisive perspectives from second-tier or late-developing maritime powers like Portugal, Denmark, and China. In the context of examining modern fishing fleets, this volume concludes with a very timely discussion about sustainable ocean resources and the impact of climate change on the seas. The majority of this volume’s chapters (58 of 64 total) are presented in English.

A project of this size and scope is bound to have some drawbacks, and there are a few that should be noted, due to the practical effect that these factors will have in using this collection as a research tool. First, there is no comprehensive bibliography for the project; instead, each individual chapter may have its own organized list of cited sources — some have them, while others do not. Further, there is no uniform system of citation footnotes; there are significant variances in documentation format from one chapter to another. Ultimately, these blemishes alone are not ruinous, and are no doubt a byproduct of how the editorial team commissioned contributions, recruiting diverse international scholars from disparate academic cultures. This lack of editorial coordination of the format of the scholarly apparatus is more than compensated by the value of including exceptionally varied historiographical perspectives. However, the lack of a comprehensive index (either for the set or in the individual volumes) is a more serious matter, as it will create a significant challenge for future researchers. While readers will find much here to enrich their understanding of the maritime dimensions of global history and the seas’ impact on the world — Buchet and company have undoubtedly created a profoundly useful resource and teaching text for global studies — that said, one hopes that this particular shortcoming may be corrected in subsequent editions of the work.

One final matter that bears mentioning is the overall production quality of the volumes — their printing and binding. Unfortunately, the imprint of the pages is occasionally uneven, with the photo-reproduction of several text sections appearing significantly lighter on some pages than others. The paper quality is mediocre, and in the copies provided for this review there was a problem with some of the pages not being well cut or aligned; nor are all of the page signatures bound evenly into the bindings. Considering this set of scholarly books retails at $780.00 USD ($195.00 per volume), buyers might reasonably expect a higher quality of printing and binding. In subsequent editions, Boydell & Brewer would do well to address the concerns raised here.

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BOOK REVIEW – The U.S. Navy: A Concise History

Craig L. Symonds, The U.S. Navy: A Concise History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. 136 pp.

Review by Jason W. Smith, PhD
Southern Connecticut State University

It is often a pleasure to read short books, and Craig Symonds’ The U.S. Navy: A Concise History does not disappoint. Symonds, professor emeritus at the United States Naval Academy, is an eminent scholar of naval history whose work has focused primarily on the navies of the American Civil War, but has also ranged from his earliest Navalists and Anti-Navalists (1980) about naval policy in the Jeffersonian era to a reconsideration of the Battle of Midway (2011). Here, he brings his pen to bear on a work of short synthesis, tracing the Navy’s many wartime expansions and peacetime contractions within the larger transformation of a force designed to protect, promote, and sometimes raid maritime commerce to one structured at the turn of the twentieth century by the imperatives of empire and a more muscular vision for the United States in the world. Symonds contends that the history of the U.S. Navy is not one of unabated growth and power, but rather, in his metaphor, a “sine wave . . . oscillating dramatically between periods of quiet torpor and moments of frenetic expansion” (pg. ix).

Symonds proceeds chronologically from the birth of the Continental Navy to the 2014 commissioning of the Navy’s newest Zumwalt class destroyer. He gives readers a balanced treatment of naval combat and peacetime flag-showing alongside questions of administration, technology, strategic thought, and social history, placing all within a brief, but useful political, military, diplomatic, and cultural context. This is no small feat as Symonds deftly consigns to a page or paragraph topics that have merited whole books—some of which he himself has written. Symonds is painting in broad strokes, and he does it well. The cast of characters should be familiar to naval historians. Barbary corsairs and Old Ironsides, Matthew C. Perry and Matthew F. Maury, Luce, Mahan, Sims, and Nimitz, guerre de course and sea power, Operation Market Time and Operation Praying Mantis, Symonds hits the important people and the significant moments with an eye for salience and for big questions of significance. He seems particularly interested in identifying evolutionary change within the service in technology, geopolitics, and culture—by which he means the social demographics and experience of the officer corps and enlisted personnel. How did the U.S Navy evolve from “a handful of small sailing craft to the juggernaut of today?” Symonds wonders (pg. ix). The answer, he suggests, is to be found in the confluence of these technological, social, and geopolitical factors over time.

Symonds is not the first to ask such questions, nor is he the first to answer them in now-familiar ways. The book joins Kenneth J. Hagan’s fine This People’s Navy (1991) and his edited volume In Peace and War (1978), Robert W. Love’s two-volume History of the United States Navy (1992), E.B. Potter’s Sea Power (1960), and James Bradford’s new edited volume America, Sea Power, and the World (2016) as the most significant works of synthesis in the field. With the exception of the latter, these books are all at least a quarter century old—in Potter’s case, much older—and so it is perhaps no surprise that 2016 saw the publication of two new works that concern the general history of the American navy.

Symonds’ book is especially welcome in that it moves the narrative forward another generation. Of this most recent era, Symonds argues, the Navy became “the global cop on the beat: quelling pirates, chasing smugglers, deterring terrorists, and occasionally extending a humanitarian helping hand” (pg. 116). Conspicuous for its absence in this era, of course, is naval war in its conventional Mahanian sense. Operation Praying Mantis, in which the U.S. Navy and Marines destroyed surface elements of the Iranian Navy and occupied several oil platforms in the Persian Gulf in April 1988, is the exception that proves the rule. Symonds warns his readers that from the final years of the Cold War to the present, “the United States confronted the reality that great military power did not translate into the ability to control events” (pg. 106). A navy unrivalled in its dominance, nevertheless finds itself in some ways ill-equipped to meet a multiplicity of post-Cold War threats in an era of new strategic and fiscal realities.

With the exception of this final chapter, Symonds is plying waters well-sounded by previous syntheses. Unique in its brevity, A Concise History nevertheless hardly deviates from the traditional course of naval historiography. While Symonds in some ways echoes Hagan’s emphasis on the endurance of brown water and commerce-raiding operations, at other points he appears quintessentially Mahanian in seeming to lament postwar contractions. He characterizes the period after the Civil War, for example, long known by naval historians as “the Doldrums” or “the Dark Ages” as “an era of swift retrenchment with little forward progress” (pg. 55). The commissioning of Texas and Maine, which naval historians often cite as one beginning of the New Steel Navy of the 1890s, is, to Symonds, “another false dawn,” citing the vessels’ small size, limited range, and design for coastal operations (pg. 59). The reader can’t help but sense that for Symonds, like many others, the period between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War was one of regrettable decline, examined with a sort of historiographical impatience anticipating the arrival of an American naval renaissance. While Symonds is correct that the Navy lost the technological edge seized during the Civil War and that many naval officers chafed at slow promotion through the ranks, he seems to ignore the compelling argument made by Hagan in American Gunboat Diplomacy and the Old Navy (1973) and echoed in This People’s Navy, in particular, that the Navy’s size and its force structure in this era generally met the needs of the nation at the time. Whether Symonds agrees or not, some acknowledgement of these interpretations and some inclusion of newer work by John Sumida on Mahan (1997), by Katherine Epstein on torpedoes and a turn-of-the-century military-industrial complex (2014), or James Rentfrow on the origins of fleet operations in the North Atlantic Squadron (2014) would acknowledge the ways historians’ understanding of the Navy’s history has been revised or enriched in recent years.

One area in which this book excels over earlier works like it is in its treatment of the Navy’s social or cultural history. Where earlier general histories of the Navy have focused mainly on operations, administration, and questions of technology and strategy, Symonds also keeps his eye on the demographic, social, and cultural changes of its officers and enlisted personnel and their experience over time. There are some wonderful moments in the book where Symonds takes readers into Olympia’s fire rooms during the Battle of Manila Bay (pg. 63) or into the cockpits of “giddy” dive bomber pilots at the Battle of Midway (pg. 81). Such moments showcase Symonds’ unique talent for storytelling that, by the nature of a book like this, can only shine too briefly. This book, in fact, makes an excellent companion to Symonds’ Decision at Sea (2006), in which the author is able to develop these page-turning narratives in greater depth.

Still, Symonds might have gone farther within the parameters of this brief introduction to include a deeper incorporation of blacks, other racial and ethnic minorities, and women. To read this book and scan its index—like many other books in this field—is to read a history of white men. Part of this, of course, is inescapable, and Symonds does go to some lengths to include women and African Americans, in particular. Nevertheless, these groups appear more as a faceless and nameless social group than as individuals relative to the many male officers, listed above, who constitute the Navy’s main figures. Among the many white men astride quarterdeck and bridge, Symonds briefly mentions the pilot and astronaut Wendy Phillips. He might also have included, for example, Nancy Harkness Love, Grace Hopper, Wesley Brown, and Michelle Howard, among others.

Among a few minor errors in this book, one worth bringing to the readers’ attention is the image on page 86, which, according to the caption, shows Curtiss Helldivers aboard USS Yorktown. They are, rather, P-47 Thunderbolts aboard USS Casablanca enroute from California to Guam in July 1945. One wonders how that oversight escaped both Symonds and the editor’s scrutiny.

Altogether, this is a well-crafted, useful little book. It succeeds brilliantly in distilling a long, complicated history of American naval affairs without sacrificing too much to the demands of brevity. While Symonds might have missed opportunities to say more about new scholarship and, in particular, about the individual contributions of women, African Americans, and others, such criticisms must be partly tempered by the very nature of this book and its aims. The U.S. Navy: A Concise History will be a necessary addition to the shelves of naval, military, and maritime historians. The book’s succinct structure will make it useful in the classrooms of service academies, Professional Military Education, and civilian institutions. While the story Symonds tells here will be familiar to naval historians, the book should serve as the standard primer to undergraduates, military officers and enlisted personnel, and policy-makers seeking to know something about the Navy’s past.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945

Peter Hennessy and James Jinks, The Silent Deep. The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945. London: Allen Lane, 2015. xxxvii + 823 pp.

Review by Sarandis Papadopoulos, Ph.D.
Arlington, Virginia

Submarines are the most beguiling aspect of the maritime Cold War. At the cutting edge of innovation throughout the conflict, they received nuclear power and nuclear weapons, advanced sonar, cruise missiles, as well as pioneering navigation and communication systems. To captivate us further, these undersea craft also practiced intelligence collection and specialized tactics, even under the Arctic’s ice cap. But with notable exceptions, we mostly know post-1945 submarines through popular culture, especially from films, wargames and paperback fiction. In scholarly terms they are the least well known part of the Cold War at sea, largely concealed by a cloak of classified information. With The Silent Deep, historians Peter Hennessy and James Jinks have dramatically filled a void in the literature, answering many questions of how the Royal Navy (RN) conceived, built and used submarines during the 70 years since the end of World War II.

The work opens with a minute-by-minute account of a 2012 “Perisher” training course of four prospective RN submarine captains. Witnessed by Hennessy and Jinks and gripping in tone, it demonstrates the roots of the service’s core concept, stemming from the commander of the boat and his (until now) calculated aggressiveness under stress. The engineering challenges of a nuclear submarine, even a ballistic missile vessel, take a definitive back seat to leading crews under all circumstances and when needed to fight their boats. Such performance is what matters both to the British service and this narrative. The link makes sense, reflecting the book’s interviews with over four dozen RN officers, several of them retired First Sea Lords or Flag Officers, Submarines (the branch’s senior officer), all of whom appeared on the record. One suspects the wider navy’s reluctance to accept some of the technical changes posed by undersea developments and force structure choices (55, 234, 245) have been answered by the submarine branch’s continual embrace of leadership as its primary tenet.

Design and building of three classes of fast attack nuclear submarines, three ballistic-missile types and four Diesel classes takes up much of The Silent Deep. That portion in part reflects Jinks’s doctoral dissertation work on the Polaris missile system, with Hennessy as supervisor at the University of London. Crucial to the RN nuclear propulsion and missile programs was U.S. Navy help, which the authors depict as “a fantastic bargain” for Britain. (222) The arrangement was brokered by two navy chiefs, Admirals Lord Louis Mountbatten and Arleigh Burke, and eventually ratified in 1962 for Polaris in Nassau by Prime Minister Harold MacMillan and President John F. Kennedy. Despite his initial reluctance the exchange was managed by Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN, head of Naval Reactors, allowing the British to profit from American investments, and mistakes, at relatively low cost.

For over 50 years these and succeeding nuclear decisions have been subject to British domestic politics. Since 1968 the United Kingdom’s strategic deterrent has been solely submarine based, and the nation’s Labour Party has often resolved to abolish the mission. For Hennessy and Jinks that outcome is undesirable, even though the expense of investing in a submarine nuclear deterrent has reshaped the entire fleet. (216, 495) To date the deterrent has remained, but the authors suggest that if a British government gave up the capability, or skipped regular replacement of it every generation, the country would never restart the role. The force also remains dependent upon American support, but that nation also benefits from helping a complementary allied program, as the RN is about to start replacing its Trident boats before the USN does.

By 1982 the RN specialty lay in anti-submarine warfare, a role largely taken in a NATO context. When the service’s undersea arm had to complement the British campaign to retake the Falkland Islands, the changed contest became clear. Crews of four nuclear boats, headed south and shifted gears to breaking Argentina’s anti-access/area-denial effort, as we would today term it. Their direction remained centralized in Britain, however, which the overall task force commander, Vice Admiral Sandy Woodward (a submariner too), did not at first know. (412) Woodward’s request to change the rules of engagement for HMS Conqueror to torpedo and sink the cruiser ARA General Belgrano therefore needed approval by a committee chaired by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher herself. (419) Current-day sailors should read this explanation of history’s most-recent naval war, for the Falklands probably anticipates most challenges they will face in a future conflict.

Where The Silent War is most captivating is in its chapters on hunting for Soviet and now Russian submarines. Throughout the work, lengthy trails of opponents and contesting the ocean with them proved the ultimate test of submariner mettle, at times becoming harrowing. As part of a concept seeking to deter the Cold War Soviet Navy, the RN and its USN counterparts admirably succeeded: Allied submariners’ professionalism won the peacetime subsurface contest. Tactically, Hennessy and Jinks also demonstrate much in The Silent Deep, for one can count no fewer than 12 trail actions by RN submariners here, partly revealing their tactics during missions which lasted for months. That the much larger US Navy has chosen to declassify just two of its lengthy trail missions of Soviet submarines seems meager in comparison.

This reviewer found almost no errors, with little detail omitted. At times, its lengthy quotations sometimes interrupt the narrative too much. The large book’s binding seemed lighter in weight than warranted, as my copy wore out from just one reading. Perhaps the sole spot needing exposition by Hennessy and Jinks relates to the RN’s last conventional submarines, the four Upholder-class Diesel boats built in the 1980s and ultimately sold to Canada in 1998. Despite reliably citing accidents and technical flaws elsewhere, on this class The Silent Deep largely affirms its title, noting building delays and torpedo-tube problems from before 1994, when they left RN service (539, 584). Unresolved design problems, or what happened when Vickers Shipbuilding (now BAE) preserved the decommissioned boats before their sale, do not appear in the book. Canadian readers, many of whom now despairingly view the four Victoria-class craft as British-made lemons, prone to flaws and pricey to maintain, will not find out here what went wrong.

To complain more would be unfair. The Royal Navy submarine force has its much- needed recent history clearly, professionally and compellingly told in The Silent Deep. Hennessy and Jinks have spoken to many participants or seen records other researchers have not reviewed, and read others still not generally available. With the tale taken into the 21st century, it will be a long while before readers will need to search for another general work on RN submariners and their boats. In that light and at the risk of being provocative, students of the U.S. Navy submarine force might well ask, “well, where’s ours?”

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BOOK REVIEW – Naval Families, War and Duty in Britain, 1740-1820

Ellen Gill, Naval Families, War and Duty in Britain, 1740-1820. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016. 278 pp.

Review by Joseph Moretz, PhD
British Commission for Military History

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters may have been men in King George’s Navy, but they were not all bachelors. Those left behind—often for years at a time—did more than keep the home fires burning as Ellen Gill, an independent scholar, recounts in Naval Families, War and Duty in Britain, 1740-1820. Spousal support beyond stewarding family responsibilities absent the legal head of household also frequently abetted the professional’s career. In an age when interest and patronage assumed outsized proportions in the Naval Service such contacts, whether made through official or unofficial channels, allowed those serving on a distant station to advance their prospects or at a minimum keep it from suffering in the doldrums. Much of this story is already familiar to naval historians, but the value of Gill’s monograph is of the importance of correspondence and the conventions such followed during the period comes to the fore.

In an age when isolation from civil society immediately followed the taking-in of the ship’s lines, the importance of correspondence even allowing for the limitations of the means at hand, became all important for sustaining the morale of all concerned, be it the wife or the child remaining ashore or the sailor upon the sea. Gill’s avenue for assessing this vital link in action are the letters of a finite number of naval and military officers where both ends of the correspondence survive. Sadly, few such pairings exist owing to the dearth of letters from the wives of naval officers being available. This may say more about what others of an earlier moment thought worth preserving. Still, it also suggests that in deeply personal correspondence between lovers where one is a public figure of even minor repute aspects of discretion have prevailed. This does not detract from what the author has achieved, but it is a reminder that a glimpse only is being provided of the times and their participants.

Still, that glimpse is of much value for the tenuousness of life and its circumstances formed much of the context of the Georgian Navy. For every day that Admiral Nelson spent in battle, a matching year was spent on blockade. Time was a commodity that weighed heavy on both family and flag officer and, of course, on those not so nearly exalted. Letter writing might bridge the distance, but it could not conquer time. Indeed, with a postal system operating at the mercy of the elements and in the face often of an enemy desirous of securing British mails for the intelligence that it offered, that any missive might reach its destination was not to be assumed. That knowledge often led to the numbering of letters the better for the recipient to gauge the pace of communication, but also its absence.

Naval Families is anchored on a firm foundation of academic secondary literature and archival sources and offers a reasoned accounting of the ‘personal’ factor for those serving in the period’s Royal Navy and, yes, the British Army, notwithstanding the work’s title. The author’s conclusion that the stereotypical portrait of the jolly Jack Tar is difficult to square with the realities of service life is undeniably correct. That image was a work of fiction and probably seen as such by much of the British public. The metaphor nevertheless served a purpose. The six novels of Jane Austen are fiction too and while allowing that being the sister of two eventual Flag Offices provided Austen with a window into the Navy, the works remain every bit as fiction as the jolly Jack Tar so lamented by Gill. The merits of Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice can stand or fall on their own, but their source as confirming the validity of the author’s conclusions remains suspect at least to this reviewer.

More questionable, is the failure to consider the case of Admiral Lord Nelson in a work surveying naval life, the naval family and the value of correspondence. Yes, much ink has been spilt on that story already. Yet, the triumvirate of Nelson, Lady Nelson and Emma Hamilton is very much the elephant in the room, if only because that admiral came to define the ethos of the nineteenth century British Navy. The letters of dockyard workers and their survivors petitioning the Admiralty is a story rich in pathos; the more so as most were unsuccessful. Likewise, Nelson’s petition to the Admiralty in 1799 for his share of prize money whilst serving in the Mediterranean and not recounted says much about the workings of the Admiralty, the place of interest in naval life and the usefulness of letter writing. In Nelson’s case, £10,000 of usefulness, or in today’s valuation about £850,000. Meanwhile, a demanding, estranged wife and an extravagant mistress bided his return.  This is not to dismiss the contributions of a Philip Broke of the Shannon and his loving Loo or that of a George Perceval and his wife Jane. The joys of fatherhood and its sorrows along with words of wisdom shared with growing children offer portraits of naval officers often missed by military historians. It is a story worth bringing to a broader audience. Theirs though is the story of the second eleven.

The accounting provided by Gill though remains a solid work of research and of historical discourse. Enjoyable to read, warmly told and accompanied by several illustrations, Naval Families will appeal to those attuned to the social side of British history, if not always to its Navy. Meanwhile, those that continue to go down to the sea in ships may ponder how much has or has not changed in the intervening two centuries. If Gill’s work be any guide, perhaps rather little.

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BOOK REVIEW – Where Divers Dare: The Hunt for the Last U-Boat

Randall Peffer, Where Divers Dare: The Hunt for the Last U-Boat. New York: Dutton Caliber, 2016. 320 pp.

Review by Nicolas Russell, 2Lt
United States Air Force 

Where Divers Dare is an fascinating read for those interested in either World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic or deep-sea diving. The book creates a duality, starting with the events leading to the sinking of U-550 and transitioning to the eventual discovery of the wreck by a team of divers. Peffer has crafted an excellent story which demonstrates that history is not necessarily set in stone, and is sometimes an educated-guess rather than an absolute truth. While Where Divers Dare recounts an interesting story, it only aspires to tell a good story, as it lacks elements which prevent its classification as a scholarly text.

The highest praise to be given to Peffer is the technical detail he conveys through his writing. Peffer demonstrates expert-level knowledge of sailing and diving, and is able to convey this expertise in a manner which those with varying levels of understanding can comprehend. One such passage reads, “And he can lose the DEs by going beneath a thermocline that he suspects exists at about 100 meters below the surface. It’s a layer of colder, denser water that the Americans’ sonar cannot penetrate, the ultimate natural shield to hide him from his enemy.” The rear flap of the book states that Peffer holds a 100-ton license and has logged over a hundred thousand miles at sea. Peffer also conveys an understanding of diving. In the second half of the book, focused on the divers who find the U-550 wreck, he uses diving colloquialisms such as narked, free ascent, and getting bent. As far as content is concerned, Where Divers Dare presents enjoyable prose with technical detail that provides context without being overwhelming.

The Author’s note states, “The events, the actions of individual men, and the dialogue in this book have been carefully reconstructed from my firsthand observations as well as the stories of the men involved, their families and eyewitnesses. When necessary and appropriate, I have also relied on an extensive collection of relevant books, websites, military records . . .” While the content in the book seems to demonstrate historical acuity, the book does indeed fall short in this regard. There is a complete lack of citations, or a works cited page. There are moments when the reader is told what the historical characters are thinking and the general progression has the feel of prose. This is most evident in the first section of the book, regarding the events during the Battle of the Atlantic. The lack of citations in this portion can cause skepticism to arise at certain instances and, more importantly, does not give any credit to the authors of the secondary sources which Peffer mentions in his Author’s note.

The diving section, which begins in 1983, suffers less from these issues. The lack of sources or citations for the diving section did not detract from the story significantly, but still would have been appreciated. This is not to say the book is not a worthwhile read, because it is most certainly enjoyable. However, because of the issues with citations this book cannot be considered a scholarly text.

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BOOK REVIEW – I Will Hold: The Story of USMC Legend Clifton B. Cates, From Belleau Wood to Victory in the Great War

James Carl Nelson, I Will Hold: The Story of USMC Legend Clifton B. Cates, From Belleau Wood to Victory in the Great War. New York: Caliber, 2016. 340 pp.

Review By Captain Kevin M. Boyce, USMC
United States Naval Academy

The annals of American military history reveal a breadth of scholarly writings, encompassing the stories of countless heroes of war and the battles in which they fought.  These legends are often remembered for acts of heroism that imbue the unrivaled victories of the U.S. military with celebrated accounts known today.  James Carl Nelson provides a narrative of one individual worthy of such remembrance.  In I Will Hold, Nelson documents the numerous exploits of Clifton Bledsoe Cates in a detailed biography that covers Cates’ beginnings as a rugged outdoorsman from Tennessee to a Marine Corps officer on the battlefields of France during the Great War.  Fighting with the newly formed 6th Marine Regiment from Quantico, Virginia, Cates’ achievements in combat reflect multiple acts of extraordinary heroism serving on the Western Front against the German army.  While this book also highlights Cates’ extraordinary actions in battle, Nelson notes that Clifton B. Cates’ was defined by not one single act, “but for his body of work in World War I.”

Readers of military history are familiar with the famous battles of the U.S. Marines who faced heavy losses in the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front.  However, Cates’ story is unique.  During a time when the Marine Corps itself was unknown to many Americans—even Cates himself did not know what the Marine Corps was before he joined—the small force would expand from 18 thousand at the beginning of the war to 60 thousand by the peak of US involvement.  Nelson’s monograph traces a small number of these men by following Cates’ 96th company and his men through each town and battle.  From their extensive training in Quantico, Virginia, to the bloodiest battles Marines suffered to date in Belleau Wood, Soissons, Blanc Mont, and Meuse-Argonne; Nelson’s story paints a meticulous depiction of intense battles against unrelenting German machine gun and artillery fire and the man who literally led his men from the front.

Contrary to the hundreds of men who perished within his regiment, Cliff Cates earned the appropriate nickname “Lucky” after surviving two gun shots to his helmet, a barrage of German machine-gun and sniper fire, shrapnel wounds from artillery, and multiple close calls with lethal mustard gas attacks.  On July 19, 1918, the deadliest day in the 6th Regiment’s history, Cates was one out of only a dozen men, from the unit of over four hundred, who survived.  The 96th company was eventually disbanded due to casualties, and the survivors scattered to other units.

A day after the unit’s decimation, Cates tasked a runner to carry a letter to his regimental commander, Colonel Thomas Holcomb.  In it, Cates asserted, “We need support, but it is almost suicidal to try and get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and a constant artillery barrage is on us.  I have no one on my left and very few on my right…I WILL HOLD.”  This quote, made famous in the aftermath of the Battle of Belleau Wood, characterizes the courage and leadership of the young officer in the face of an unyielding German enemy.

Fortunately for Cates, his run of luck endured through the culmination of the war as the Marines forced the German army to capitulate in November of 1918.   Lucky Cliff Cates’ career continued long after his escapades in the woods of France, commanding the 1st Marine Regiment in the Pacific campaign of World War II in harrowing locations such as Tinian, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima and, as Nelson eludes, would appropriately conclude as the highest authority in the Marines—a four-star general and service as the 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps.

Nelson’s historical methodology includes a quality assessment of evidence and expresses an almost reverent narrative for the “laconic” Cates.  Exhausting an extensive variety of primary resources, Nelson uncovers the intimate details of Cates’ military career, surveying extensive amounts of personal correspondence, oral narratives from Cates’ family, as well as military records from the Marine Corps and National Archives in Washington, D.C.  The preponderance of these sources come from Cates’ personal letters from war and unit histories from the 6th Regiment.  Additionally, Nelson draws from a hefty amount of secondary sources to supplement the biographical material, which encompasses the broader historical details of the United States’ involvement in the war.

What the book achieves in detailed research, it lacks in organization of evidence by ignoring much desired endnotes or footnotes.  To the greater public, this work is highly accessible and easy to digest with its short chapters and flowing narrative.  However, Nelson’s work would benefit from the inclusion of sources as a convenience for the reader and for the use of scholars to verify the extensive quotes and facts used in the narrative.  Nevertheless, the format works well for popular history.

Ultimately, while I Will Hold has some limitations for its use by scholars and researchers, it is a suitable and highly-recommended read for anyone looking to learn more about the Marine Corps in the Great War.  It also would serve junior officers well as fodder for leadership discussions, or in efforts to gain a better understanding of small unit leadership.  Despite the 100-year-old story of “Lucky” Cates, its historical analysis is contemporary in its methodology and is easily approachable for a wide audience of military professionals and historical readers.

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View from the Quarterdeck: August 2016

chadbournThis issue of IJNH continues the practice of offering two permanent columns.  One is designed to offer suggestions from our readers of potential titles you may wish to add to your own reading intentions.  The list is eclectic, including not only interesting historical monographs, but also good fiction, and even a notable work of children’s literature as well.  The other column, compiled by Dara Baker, Head Archivist at the U.S. Naval War College, focuses on archives of possible special interest to naval historians and researchers.  In this issue USO Archivist Michael Case offers an interesting examination of the activities of the USO in Hawaii during World War II entitled “Down Honolulu Way: The USO and The Navy in Hawaii” as reflected in the organization’s historical records.  This archive is rich in photographs drawn from the USO Historical Images Collection in Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Our lead article for this issue is by Beth Wolny, a USMC Officer who is also a full-time doctoral candidate in History at George Mason University in Virginia.  In this piece Ms. Wolny sheds new light on the role of women Marines in a combat environment.  Drawing on original sources, her study offers fascinating insights on how senior leadership of the USMC really feels about women in the Corps and the role played by politics.  As she suggests, the final chapter in this important history is far from written!  Her work helps us to understand the process of changing viewpoints in our time on women in combat.  Her article again reminds us of the importance of taking off our blinders and thinking clearly in fresh terms about the very nature of our Armed Forces.  In her dissertation Ms. Wolny intends to focus on the full integration of women into the Marine Corp in the post-Vietnam War period.  Her findings and interpretation will be timely indeed in an era when many experts contend the very nature of war itself is changing!

Our second story in this issue is our first on the history of navies in Africa.  Dr. William Abiodun Duyile of Ekiti State University, Nigeria, examines the highly significant role of the Nigerian Navy in the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970.  Dr. Duyile concludes that while small, Nigerian Naval Forces were essential in determining the outcome of the conflict in traditional ways that would not surprise a naval strategist like Sir. Julian Corbett, whom he cites in the paper.  Many of Dr. Duyile’s conclusions are drawn from his numerous personal interviews with key participants in this conflict and his understanding of maritime strategy.  Readers will find his comments on the Cold War also of interest.

IJNH is committed to mentoring and supporting the next generation of naval historians.  Beginning in 2014 we have published carefully selected papers and documentaries each year from the internationally acclaimed National History Day at the University of Maryland in College Park.   To that end we include in this issue a special section focusing on two papers and a documentary which were finalists in the June 2016 competition at the University of Maryland in College Park.  Many of our junior colleagues display sophisticated understanding of how to use primary sources for original historical research.

National History Day always attracts numerous entries about naval and maritime history, and especially so this year with the theme of “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History.”  For example, Noah Hai Lam Rice of Minnesota explored the compelling story of migration of refugees out of Southeast Asia in three waves following the end of the Vietnam War.  Many of these refugees fled by sea.  They experienced unspeakable hardships of all kinds in escaping to freedom over the great commons of the world’s oceans.  Of the 231,000 Vietnamese immigrants who came to the United States, Rice tells us that over 18,000 would end up in Minnesota, which he describes as a “welcoming place for immigrants from all over the world.”  Rice utilized the rich resources of the Minnesota Historical Society, particularly the Vietnamese Community Oral History Project, and records of the Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota in his study..

We also include in this section two studies of remarkable sea voyages of discovery.  Flora Ranis of Florida provides an account of the exploration of Arctic waters by USS Jeanette to geographical, oceanographic and meteorological knowledge, particularly in the Arctic.  She writes that even today over a century later the extensive knowledge brought back in Jeanette’s logbooks is still being used to better understand environmental change in the polar regions.  Theo Sage-Martinson, also from Minnesota, produced an intriguing documentary on the voyages of Sir Francis Drake.  Sage-Martinson reminds us of the significance of sea power throughout history, but especially so in the 16th century as a key ingredient to English world conquest.  These articles contain useful bibliographies.

Please share news of the International Journal of Naval History with colleagues and friends.  If they Google IJNH they will find us.  We publish only in digital format.  Perhaps you have scholarly studies you would like us to consider for publication.  For those supervising graduate work in the academic world we invite you to encourage your students who have made new or interesting discoveries of their own to submit articles for consideration as well.  And we are always interested to learn what you are reading!

Dr. Charles C. Chadbourn, III
Editor, International Journal of Naval History
Professor of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College

(Go to August 2016 Table of Contents) 

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Vol. 13, Issue 2: About the Authors


Beth Wolny
Female Marines Guard the Embassies: An Experiment in Social Progress and Cultural Change

Beth Wolny is a full-time PhD student in the History Department at George Mason University, who recently spent eighteen months as the Research and Assessments Branch Head with the Marine Corps Force Innovation Office (MCFIO). While there, she led the development, coordination, facilitation and presentation of all Marine Corps research related to recommendations regarding integration of women into the ground combat arms. She is also a logistics officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Her primary research interests include U.S. in the 20th century, specifically women, military and public history. She plans to focus her dissertation on the full integration of women into the Marine Corps 1972-2001.


William Abiodun Duyile 
Nature and Impact of Involvement of the Navy in the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970

Dr. William Abiodun Duyile is a lecturer in the History and International Studies Department at Ekiti State University in Nigeria. His research interests include matters of military and naval history in Nigeria. His 2015 dissertation from the University of Benin was titled “From the Nigerian Marine to the Nigerian Navy: The Development of Nigeria’s Maritime Capability, 1914-1983.” His work has appeared in the Ado Journal of History and International Studies and the Journal of International Affairs and Global Strategy. He is also a member of the Historical Society of Nigeria.


Flora Ranis
From Hopeless to Heroic: The Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

Flora Ranis is entering ninth grade at American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida. Flora chose to research the USS Jeannette because so few people today are familiar with the ship and the crew’s mission, including her grandfather and uncle who both served in the U.S. Navy. She wanted to help ensure that the remarkable sacrifices and accomplishments of the crew of the USS Jeannette are not forgotten. Flora’s historical paper on the USS Jeannette won third place at the 2016 National History Day competition at the University of Maryland. 


Noah Hải Lâm Rice
Có Chí Thì Nên: Vietnamese Immigrants Explore a New Home in Minnesota After the Fall of Saigon

Noah Rice is a recent graduate of the Friends School of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minnesota. Noah participated in Minnesota State History Day, where he earned second place in the junior division as well as a topical prize for best use of MN Historical Society Collections for use of oral history collections in his research paper, “Co Chi Thi Nen: Vietnamese Immigrants Explore a New Home in Minnesota After the Fall of Saigon”. He went on to the National History Day competition where he took 8th place. Noah will be attending high school at St. Paul Academy in St. Paul, and is already looking forward to future History Day competitions.


Theo Sage-Martinson
The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: Opening New Routes of Exploration and Exchange

Theo Sage-Martinson is entering 9th grade at Highland Park Senior High in St.Paul Minnesota. He has participated in National History day for three years.  In 7th grade he placed 3rd in Minnesota. In 8th grade he placed 1st at Minnesota History Day and 4th place at National History Day. He also won the MN Outstanding State Entry award in 2016.  Outside of school he enjoys camping, hiking, cross-country skiing and playing ultimate frisbee.


Michael Case
Inside the Archives: Down Honolulu Way: The USO and The Navy in Hawaii 1942-1947

Mike Case has worked in the still and moving image archives field for over 20 years including at NARA and National Geographic. He is currently the archivist at the USO in Arlington, Virginia. This is his first published work.

(Return to August 2016 Table of Contents)

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