BOOK REVIEW – 21st Century Ellis: Operational and Strategic Prophecy for the Modern Era

B.A. Friedman, ed. 21st Century Ellis: Operational and Strategic Prophecy for the Modern Era. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2015. 151 pp.

Review by Brigadier Generals’ Julian “Dale” Alford and Austin “Sparky” Renforth, USMC

It is often said that it is impossible to predict the future, much less what the next war will look like.  Marine Captain Brett A. Friedman, in 21st Century Ellis, hammers home why such beliefs are simplistic. Instead, he explains how Lieutenant Colonel Earl Hancock “Pete” Ellis, USMC (ret.) did, in a variety of writings, most notably Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia, predict the future. Friedman also explains how Ellis’ operational experiences, combined with senior leaders’ trust and decisions to enable him to receive a strategic education early in his career, were all essential to his now being referenced as the “Amphibious Prophet.”

21st Century Ellis’ 151 pages are divided into five chapters. The first chapter highlights Ellis’ operational experiences in the Philippines and visionary thoughts on countering insurgencies, in part described in a 1921 Marine Corps Gazette article titled “Bush Brigades.” Ellis’ insights reinforced the necessity of strategic legitimacy and its role in influencing the morale of those involved in countering an insurgency. His article also emphasized that “the use of artillery in street fighting against a small nation enemy should be carefully considered.” These visionary thoughts were published five years before T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 19 years prior to the Small Wars Manual, 43 years prior to David Galula’s Counterinsurgency Warfare, and 85 years prior to Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency. Also noteworthy was Ellis’ emphasis on the importance of the Marine Corps’ proficiency in executing “small wars,” to increasingly include urban areas.

Friedman next takes the reader through Ellis’ experiences in France in World War I, primarily anchored around his 1920 Marine Corps Gazette article titled “Liaison in the World War.” This chapter highlights the challenges inherent in fighting an enemy as part of a coalition. Specifically, Ellis reinforced the maxim that “military units are nearly always required to work before they are well trained,” particularly in fighting as part of a coalition. As a result, Ellis emphasized the importance of teamwork and direct, face-to-face liaison officers to enable close and successful coordination in combat.

The third chapter describes Ellis’ 1911-1912 Naval War College writings and lectures focused on forecasted war in the Pacific. In four essays, “Naval Bases: Their Location, Resources, and Security,” “The Denial of Bases,” “The Security of Advanced Bases and Advanced Base Operations,” and “The Advanced Base Force,” Ellis provided the foundation of thinking that ultimately led to Operations Plan 712: Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia’s creation. These essays provided critical insights for amphibious operations that are as salient today as they were in 1912; for example, “in general, the power of a fleet varies inversely as the distance from the base increases.”

“Ellis and the Pacific” is the book’s most insightful chapter as it includes his seminal 1921 work, Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia. This essay specifically described how war in the Pacific would be waged – two decades later. The reader is also reminded in this chapter that Ellis’ predictions and recommendations were only six years removed from the failed British, Australian, and New Zealand amphibious assault at Gallipoli. This failure resulted in both the Army Command and Staff College and Army War College both teaching the “impossibility of amphibious assault as a matter of course.” Yet, Ellis predicted not only that amphibious assaults would happen in the Pacific but also that a properly trained, educated, organized, and equipped Marine Corps, partnered with the Navy, was the optimal force to execute such challenging missions.

The book’s fifth chapter directly addresses our nation’s challenges in the Pacific now and going forward. Friedman does a great job highlighting China’s rapidly advancing five-domain warfighting capabilities, while also emphasizing our nation’s increasingly limited amphibious lift capabilities. Friedman specifically states “this (amphibious lift) limitation will severely restrict the options available to a joint force during any Pacific conflict.” In part due to both of these realities, our Corps’ posture in the Pacific is changing with the aim of “creating a more dispersed, mobile force layout.” To continue to ensure sea control, these increasingly distributed, smaller, primarily land-based MAGTFs must develop a symbiotic relationship with our relatively limited in capacity naval forces, to include MAGTFs on amphibious shipping. However getting to this point requires multiple changes to how our Naval Service currently operates, to include, at a minimum, greater naval staff integration, as well as long-range, medium altitude, long endurance unmanned aerial systems that can operate from expeditionary airfields while simultaneously extending digital and voice command and control networks; providing electronic and kinetic fires, along with multi-sensor, fused intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. When combined with the ongoing advances within the Marine Ground Combat Element, as well as the new and emerging platforms such as the G/ATOR, MV-22, F-35B/C, KC-130J, and forthcoming CH-53K, these collective capabilities will revolutionize how our Naval Service fights across the range of military operations.

In sum, 21st Century Ellis is a must read for all in the Naval Services. Emulating Ellis, we make the bold prediction that this important book will be added to our Commandant’s Reading List.

(Return to April 2016 Table of Contents)

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BOOK REVIEW – American Naval History, 1607-1865: Overcoming the Colonial Legacy

Jonathan R. Dull, American Naval History, 1607-1865: Overcoming the Colonial Legacy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012. 194 pp.

Review by Howard J. Fuller, PhD
University of Wolverhampton

This is one of the newest works from historian Johnathan R. Dull, carrying on from The Age of the Ship of the Line: The British and French Navies, 1650-1815 (2011) and The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War (2007), also with University of Nebraska Press.  Now his narrative-analysis focuses squarely on the rise of the U.S. Navy and well into the nineteenth-century, ending with the American Civil War (1861-1865).  This work counts as an important contribution to the literature, and indeed the ‘Notes and Suggested Further Reading’-section here is one of the best in recent years, underscoring just how comprehensive Dull’s scholarship and command of the existing literature is.

The subtitle is the main argument here; that European colonial traditions had to be overwritten.  Once the protective umbrella of British imperial naval power became the enemy during the Revolutionary War, Congress soon found itself locked into a debate over how to free the new nation from overseas threats, both in American waters and abroad wherever merchant vessels sailed—without becoming a maritime tyrant as well.  A republican navy also had to defend the unique interests of the people without taxing them to distraction.

Dull points out in successive chapters that conflicts such as the War of 1812 saw the United States totally mismatched against the premier power at sea, the Royal Navy, mostly because the economic and bureaucratic infrastructure was not yet in place to create and sustain a comparable force afloat.  Britain’s leadership during the Napoleonic Wars was fighting what it considered a life-and-death struggle against a mortal threat right on its doorstep.  Hence the ‘110 ships-of-the-line’ the Royal Navy commanded at its peak strength.  But American citizens did not feel the same fear, and therefore need, and even if they did the British had been building up their power-base for at least one hundred years; from dockyards to officer training to governmental oversight which helped controlled spending but also assured Parliament the money was more or less well spent.  American Naval History believes the war at least helped give the U.S. Navy permanent life, but one thing he ignores is the primacy given to coastal defence fortifications as well.  It was not just about the USS Constitution’s well-publicised victories on the high seas or the Battle of Lake Erie but the ability of Fort McHenry to defend Baltimore in September 1814 from the same fate which befell Washington, D.C. weeks earlier.  As most of the Third System of American continental fortifications stemmed from engineers like Joseph Totten, who turn in stressed the need for closely linked support from an economised navy as well as army, this work might have devoted some discussion of this strategic choice.

The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 likewise receives scant attention, though Dull notes “it was of great importance…in America’s overcoming its colonial legacy” (69).  But scarcely a month after President Monroe declared the firmly-worded doctrine of the United States in relation to foreign powers, he also addressed Congress on a “plan of the peace establishment of the Navy”.  Here the “great object in the event of war is stop the enemy at the coast.”  And for this he stressed “our fortifications must be principally relied on”:

By placing strong works near the mouths of our great inlets in such positions as to command the entrances into them…it will be difficult, if not impossible, for ships to pass them, especially if other precautions, and particularly that of steam batteries, are resorted to in their aid.

…nor can it be doubted that the knowledge that such works existed would form a strong motive with any power not to invade our [neutral] rights, and thereby constitute essentially to prevent war.

Monroe’s eight annual message to Congress, on December 7th, 1824, also concluded that the last war with Great Britain “admonished us to make our maritime frontier impregnable by a well-digested chain of fortifications, and to give protection to our commerce by augmenting our Navy to a certain extent.”

The supreme irony of course, as reflected in Dull’s penultimate and largest chapter, are the events of the Civil War which pitted the American republic’s navy against its own fortifications with varying degrees of success.  So even if the U.S. Navy had its own proud, blue-water battlefleet in place by 1861 it would have counted for very little against the host of coastal defence innovations the South deployed, from ironclad-rams to minefields, let alone assist the Union army with littoral operations.  This needs to be repeated: only America’s lack of ‘proper’ naval power by the mid-nineteenth century enabled it to survive the greatest ordeal it has ever faced.

For one thing, it forced the new, war-time administration of President Abraham Lincoln to consider radical innovations of its own as well as a general mobilisation of national resources (economic, industrial, maritime) to build a steam-powered Brown- as well as Blue-Water naval force.  Chief among these ‘inventions’ was the Union Navy’s reliance upon shallow-draft, iron-hulled monitor-type ironclads.  Dull considers them “only a limited success” but no single ironclad design of the era could offer any more in a conflict of this scope and complexity. The author’s endnote number 26 for the Civil War chapter (p. 172) notes how U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles rejected calls for more broadside-ironclads like the USS New Ironsides, citing Edward Sloan’s 1965 biography of Chief Engineer Benjamin Isherwood.

But in that work Sloan made sure to observe that Isherwood and [Chief Constructor John] Lenthall’s memorandum of March 17, 1862 (i.e., just over a week after the epic duel between the Monitor and the Virginia/‘Merrimac’) was too ambitious—and unrealistic—for its own good.  Isherwood and Lenthall were suspicious and not a little envious of civilian engineer John Ericsson’s stunning success and rising political clout with the Navy Department’s key decision-makers like Welles and especially Assistant Secretary Gustavus Fox.  Rather than build new and improved monitors with an overriding emphasis upon concentrated armour protection and ability to (turret) mount the heaviest guns conceivable for blasting any known armour protection built in the South or in Europe, even if meant sacrificing strategic range, the memo argued for a conventional fleet of ocean-going broadside-ironclads every bit as fast, well-armed, ‘invincible’ and wide-ranging as Britain’s HMS Warrior or the French Gloire; only the U.S. should build even more and thereby secure “the supremacy of the ocean”.

Thus, the chief engineer and constructor wanted not only what wasn’t possible before the Civil War, given the lack of strategic need compared with, say, Britain’s global maritime and colonial interests, while the urgent demands of mortal conflict against the Confederacy hardly justified a bid for pre-eminence for its own sake.  Now was the time for practicality not pride; victory not dominance.  At any rate, “Isherwood and Lenthall, in calling for the fastest, biggest, and most heavily armed and armored ships,” wrote Sloan, “were doubtless asking for too much, since the qualities they specified could never all be combined in a single ship”.  Even the Warrior had forfeited full armour protection for speed—making her that much bigger and therefore also less manoeuvrable—and a white elephant for Britain’s existing imperial dockyards to cope with.  Gloire was smaller and slower, but better shielded with iron plating extending all around the vessel.  But here too broadside armour never surpassed 4.5-inches in thickness and this was easy prey for the 15-inch guns of Union coastal (and ocean-going) and monitors.

That’s why broadside-ironclads proved to be the real dinosaur dead-ends in naval architecture while European navies struggled to increase armour thickness by concentrating their shielding to a central ‘box’ or casemate, with fewer, heavier guns inside.  In the end, turrets were the future.  That’s also why Welles approved Ericsson’s huge Dictator and Puritan, with 1,000-tons of coal-carrying range, rather than more broadside-ironclads, heavily-reliant upon sail and therefore that much vulnerable in combat scenarios, and the casemate hybrid USS Dunderberg (originally conceived with two rotating turrets as well as broadside gun-mounts.)

It was safer and smarter to edge the theoretical ‘command of the sea’ from the American ports and coastline outward in strategic increments directly based on the latest technological advances and upgrades, than to invest wholesale in ‘seapower’ with a civil war raging.  Even against Great Britain and/or France the open ocean was worth a cold, salty zero next to the shore where people lived.  And the technological and strategic edge belonged to warships that could kill within range of their own bases those enemy vessels which had to travel overseas in an attempt to ‘project power’.  The only thing that mattered in maritime or naval wars was victory or defeat, and every European broadside-ironclad sunk off the American coast was victory enough for the Union Navy.

This was the great temptation which America faced during the timeframe covered in American Naval History; not becoming ‘too European’ at the first opportunity.  And it was successfully mastered, ultimately, by a sober consideration of ends and means.

(Return to April 2016 Table of Contents)

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BOOK REVIEW – My Incredible Journey: From Cadet to Command

Peter Dingemans, My Incredible Journey: From Cadet to Command. Studley: Brewin, 2013.  224 pp.

Review by Chuck Steele, PhD
United States Air Force Academy

As the title suggests, My Incredible Journey is an autobiography detailing the career of Rear Admiral Peter Dingemans, who most notably served as the Captain of HMS Intrepid during the Falkland Islands War. The book has less than 206 pages of text, of which nearly half (93 pages) chronicle Dingemans’ time in Intrepid and his service in the War. Indeed, despite its brevity, this book is almost two different stories. One story is that of Dingemans’ rise to rear admiral, as conveyed through a series of vignettes based on his various assignments, and the other is of his command of Intrepid.

While the paucity of all sorts of naval assets made each and every vessel seemingly invaluable to the British effort in the Falklands War, the case for holding the worth of Intrepid and her Captain in extraordinary regard is sound. Most people familiar with the 1982 war in the South Atlantic are aware of the importance of the two aircraft carriers that were at the heart of Rear Admiral Sandy Woodward’s battle group, Hermes and Invincible. However, it should also be remembered that the Royal Navy could only provide two purpose built Assault ships/Landing Platform Docks (LPDs), Intrepid and Fearless, to help facilitate the landings that were essential to regaining the islands. If Dingemans career had amounted to nothing more than this one command, it would still be sufficient to warrant study.

Although Dingemans’ life is certainly important enough to deserve a published account, this book is perhaps too modest to do its subject justice. Primarily, the book needed expert editorial assistance. Its 23 chapters are parceled into three parts.  Part one, “The start of something big,” contains 16 chapters that span less than 100 pages. Many of the chapters are only two to three pages in length. The stories are often mere summations of cruises and shore visits reduced to but a few paragraphs that are not fashioned into any cohesive story.  The book also suffers from numerous redundancies, such as repeating the basic functions of an LPD, and addressing the role played by ships serving as training vessels for the Royal Naval College. The second and longest part of the book is “Intrepid.” This portion of Dingemans’ story is divided into only three chapters and deals primarily with the war. Despite its greater length and sharper focus, it still misses the mark of offering a cohesive story. Specifically, the last chapter of this section, “crew’s stories,” provides the scattered remembrances of those who served under Dingemans on Intrepid, without making any effort to incorporate them into a single narrative. The final part of the book, “After the big event,” is four chapters, three of which describe his naval assignments after the war, and one offering a glimpse of his employment as a civilian. These final chapters revert to the same format as those in part one.

In comparison with other biographical accounts of Britain’s Falkland Islands War commanders and dramatis personae, My Incredible Journey leaves a bit too much to be desired. The story is neither as detailed, nor as consistent as Woodward’s One Hundred Days, Sharkey Ward’s Sea Harrier Over the Falklands, or Dingemans’ operational commander during the war, Commodore Michael Clapp’s Amphibious Assault Falklands. Perhaps Dingemans would have been better served if he had enlisted the help of a co-author, as did Woodward and Clapp. There may still be nuggets to mine in this book, and it may serve as a useful companion to Clapp’s broader account of the war, but beware, those nuggets may prove hard to find.

(Return to April 2016 Table of Contents)

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View from the Quarterdeck: December 2015

chadbournChief of Naval Operations (CNO) of the U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson attended the Tenth Regional Seapower Symposium for the Navies of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Countries in Venice, Italy, in October of 2015.  Participating in a panel discussion focused on the theme of the symposium on enhancing maritime security in the Mediterranean, Admiral Richardson addressed what he sees as an increasing awareness of the growing importance of the world’s oceans as a shared commons.  “What becomes clear,” he said, “is a growing sense of the importance of the maritime domain as a global system that seamlessly and effectively connects global nations. . . . Our economies, our access to resources, our markets all flow on the superhighway that we call part of the global commons.” The American CNO went on to say that there are three purposes of naval forces in today’s maritime domain: to promote and protect freedom of the seas, to advocate for and demonstrate the benefits of international laws and standards, and to deter conflict and coercion.  And it is this final observation which brings us to the lead article for the December 2015 issue of IJNH, “Water Scarcity, Conflict and the U.S. Navy.”

In a paper prepared for the 55th Annual U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference, Christian Perkins of the University of Mary Washington observed that the U.S. Navy has a long history of using naval power to protect American interests worldwide.  Such operations included not only engaging the Barbary pirates in the early 19th century but also extended to patrolling the Yangtze River in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  The larger goal was promotion of world stability.  Perkins argues that today the world faces a potential new threat in the form of increasing freshwater scarcity which “has the potential to complicate and exacerbate existing instabilities” around the globe.  This timely article reminds us that the U.S. Navy has historical experience operating in the littoral zones of the world.  As then Undersecretary of the Navy Robert O. Work observed in January of 2013, naval strategists are beginning to recognize that American security concerns may increasingly be called upon to focus on brown-water operations.  Perkins explores this theme in detail, providing in the process a timely analysis of how global climate change may impact future naval operations.

Our second article is from a retired Naval Surface Warfare Officer, Scott Mobley, who recently completed his Ph.D. in History at the University of Wisconsin.  His paper offers intriguing and well-documented insight on the founding and evolution of the Office of Naval Intelligence, especially so with regard to strategic thinking in the United States.  Mobley makes a strong case for the early development of strategic thought at ONI in the 1880’s, long before the nation or the U.S. Navy had other institutions which might perform that function.  He also points out the importance of an early and continuing need for technical information about what other nations are doing with their navies.  Such knowledge is ever more vital in an age such as ours where technology is increasingly expensive yet vital.  Mobley’s study also reminds us of the importance of early professional development of institutions designed to gather intelligence and develop strategic direction which would come to fruition in the 20th century.

Timothy Walton’s article takes us to the Atlantic theater of World War II.  His study provides a fascinating reminder of the use of operational research in the Second World War.  Walton examines British operational research by Britain’s RAF Coastal Command and assesses its effectiveness in countering German U-boat operations.  Along the way he points out the enormous role of signals intelligence (specifically, “Ultra”) in shaping operational search patterns.  Walton concludes that lessons learned from his historical study suggest the importance of increased incorporation of operational research expertise into senior defense decision-making warrants attention.

Finally, we continue our ongoing examination of various naval archives which may be of interest to naval historians and other researchers.  Previously we looked at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Dudley Knox Library.  Our focus in this issue is the Naval Historical Collection at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI.  Former assistant archivist Scott Reilly originally wrote this piece, but current Head Archivist Dara Baker confirms she would be delighted to work with scholars interested in these specialized collections.  We hope our readers find this series as a whole helpful.  As Editor I would welcome suggestions of other archives for future inclusion in this series.

In retrospect 2015 has been a banner year for the International Journal of Naval History.  The sea buoy has passed astern.  For the first time since 2009 we met our objective of three issues per year with publications in January, July and December.  Perhaps of even greater importance, with support from CAPT Todd Creekman and the Naval Historical Foundation we established an award for distinguished writing.  At the 2015 McMullen Naval History Symposium Dinner at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis we presented the inaugural IJNH Best Article of the Year Award to  Michael J. Crawford, Senior Historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command, for his well-crafted article, “Taking the Moral High Ground: The United States, Privateering, and Immunity of Private Property at Sea.”  Mike’s article appeared in the January, 2015, publication of IJNH, Volume 12, Issue 1.   We plan to continue this award annually in the future.  Also, we continued our initiative to encourage younger scholars such as Abigail Wiest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, whose documentary “USS Kirk: Leadership Amidst Chaos, A Legacy of Survival” appeared in our July edition.  And finally, two new volunteers joined the staff: Matt Eng of the Naval Historical Foundation as Digital Editor and Liz Williams of the Naval War College as Executive Assistant to the Editor.  Howard Fuller, Associate Editor, and Chuck Steele, Book Review Editor, join me in thanking Matt and Liz for their enormous contributions to the journal.

As always, we hope you will share news of the International Journal of Naval History with colleagues and friends.  All they need to do is Google (search) IJNH to find us.  Perhaps you have scholarly work you would like us to consider for publication.  For those in the academic world we invite you to encourage your best students who have made new or interesting discoveries of their own to submit their work for consideration as an article.

For all our readers we wish the traditional “Fair winds and following seas” in this holiday season and a Happy New Year for 2016.

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

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Water Scarcity, Conflict, and the U.S. Navy


Historical Precedent
Scope of the Problem
Yemen: A Case Study
A Role for the Navy
Appendix A: Maps

Christian Perkins
55th Annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference
Domestic Category Prize Winner

Historical Precedent

Since its inception, the United States has made protection of its international interests a priority through transoceanic power projection. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the U.S. projected its military power primarily to maintain its commercial interests. Today, the U.S. continues to use its substantial power projection capabilities to stabilize regions in the name of maintaining global security; it has done so primarily through its substantial navy. 1  Navies have long been essential tools for nations engaging in power projection because they allow an extension of military power across long distances. 2  One of the first operations to this end in which the U.S. Navy engaged sought to protect American trade. Beginning in the late 18th century, pirates from the Barbary States of Africa began to harass U.S. merchant ships. The Confederation Government of the United States found itself unable to raise the funds or naval power to combat these pirates, and resorted to diplomacy to resolve the situation. However, the governments of Tripoli and Algiers refused diplomatic advances and sporadically continued their attacks. By 1801, the U.S. government built up sufficient military force to deploy ships and marines to engage the Barbary States, which they defeated handily. 3  Such military actions taken by the U.S. to protect trade assets set a precedent for using naval power to maintain its interests in remote regions.

USS Panay (Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

USS Panay (Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Navy put forth more extensive efforts to quell instability with the Asiatic fleet in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Internal strife then abounded in China, threatening American lives, trade interests, and property within the region. Well-armed pirates along the Yangtze River often perpetrated this conflict. Due to China’s fragile and preoccupied central government, these pirates controlled territories along the Yangtze River and robbed with impunity. Once the pirates were recognized as a threat, U.S. ships successfully began patrolling the Yangtze River and Chinese ports to maintain order. They drove pirates out of previously lawless regions, and U.S. ships often came to the aid of Chinese cities experiencing civil unrest or instability. The Asiatic fleet carried on the U.S. naval tradition of protecting economic interests and preserving order through show (though not necessarily use) of force. Often, U.S. ships simply had to arrive in an area of instability for conflict to diminish. 4

These examples embody the U.S. Navy’s responses to a myriad of inter- and intra-state conflicts, using its significant power projection capabilities to protect American interests abroad and promote world stability. Displays of U.S. naval power have mitigated the relatively apparent causes of these past conflicts. However, in future decades, increasing freshwater scarcity will complicate intra-state conflicts of interest to U.S. foreign policymakers. Water scarcity has the potential to complicate and exacerbate existing instabilities within states. These heightened conflicts have the potential to destabilize entire regions and topple governments, all from both direct and indirect consequences of water scarcity. Yemen demonstrates a key case study because it is both an example of the effects water scarcity can have on conflict and an area of prime concern to U.S. strategists. If U.S. policymakers remain committed to the goal of world stability, the U.S. Navy will probably involve itself more frequently in conflicts complicated by water scarcity.

The UN defines water scarcity as the point at which the aggregate impact of all users impinges upon the quality or supply of water under prevailing institutional arrangements to the extent that the demand of all sectors, including the environment, cannot be satisfied fully. 5  Policy makers and analysts acknowledge that water scarcity is becoming an international security concern. 6  Water scarcity has already engendered significant instability in the Middle-East, North Africa, and Central Asia. 7  The U.S. State Department has recognized water scarcity as a threat multiplier, meaning that it interacts with other underlying tensions to complicate existing feuds or class struggles. 8 Water scarcity has the potential to exacerbate both inter- and intra-state conflict, although most scholars consider the latter more likely. 9  The National Intelligence Council predicts that this scarcity will only worsen in the next 15 years and must be addressed now to prevent future instability. 10 The countries experiencing water scarcity typically do not have the resources, infrastructure, or proper governance to deal with the problem effectively. 11  It is in the U.S.’s best interest to aid in addressing water scarcity. The National Intelligence Council also argues that the U.S. can increase the likelihood of a future favorable global environment if it remains engaged in the international community and attempts to encourage stability. 12 This paper will first analyze the scope and causes of water scarcity and how it can exacerbate problems within a region. It will next demonstrate the role water scarcity plays in increasing instability by focusing on Yemen as a case study. The paper will conclude with a prescription for actions the U.S. and multilateral institutions should take to address the global problem of water scarcity as well as the possible roles the U.S. navy could play in preserving stability in scarcity stricken regions.

Scope of the Problem

The consensus among analysts is that there is no one cause of water scarcity. 13  Instead, they cite many different trends and problems that interact with each other to cause scarcity. Diverse factors can have differing levels of significance in various regions or countries. 14  Analysts identify the major trends contributing to water scarcity as unprecedented population growth, poorly designed policies, ineffectual government regulation, and increasing climate change. 14 Chronic water mismanagement and pollution interact with these trends as well. 16  Poor governance aggravates these problems so that water scarcity is now pervades in many Middle-Eastern countries like Yemen and Pakistan. 14 Although most of the Middle-East suffers from water scarcity to some degree, it is a global phenomenon. (See Appendix A, Figure 1.) For example, countries as diverse as Somalia, Nigeria, and Uzbekistan, also currently experience water scarcity. Many of these problems are solvable, but have persisted for so long that overcoming them seems impossible. 18  States lacking strong government and resources are the most susceptible to developing serious water scarcity. 14

Scholars have identified inter-state conflict, internal political strife, and ethnic clashes due to migration as categories of conflict that water scarcity worsens. 20 Inter-state conflict occurs most often over water disputes between riparian states. 21  In the past, these inter-state conflicts rarely resulted in extended conflict. 22  Many analysts agree that inter-state conflicts are unlikely since they require a particularistic set of circumstances. The downstream country must be highly dependent on the river’s flow for its national wellbeing, and the upstream nation must threaten to affect the river’s flow substantially. A history of antagonism must exist between the two states and, most importantly, the downstream state must believe it has sufficient military power to rectify the situation. 21 However unlikely, it is important not to discount inter-state conflict completely when discussing water scarcity. Michael T. Klare makes a compelling argument in his book Resource Wars for the potential of future inter-state conflict over water. He posits that if trends of worsening scarcity continue, the likelihood of inter-state water conflict will increase commensurately. 24  Countries have already come close to starting armed conflicts over water disputes. 24  As the resource becomes increasingly scarce, nations could become more aggressive towards the neighbors with whom they share water.

In contrast, analysts predict that intra-state conflicts involving water scarcity are much more likely. 26  Already, many states experience widespread internal instability due in part to water scarcity. 27  Water scarcity is most likely to exacerbate instability in poor or underdeveloped countries that lack the resources to address the issue properly. Parts of California currently suffer extreme water shortages, but the U.S. government possesses the infrastructure and resources to mitigate the drought’s effects. 28 Many countries plagued with water scarcity, however, do not have sufficiently strong governments to address the problem effectively. 29  Countries that do possess the financial resources to address water scarcities are usually dealing with more pressing problems like widespread insurgency or poverty. 30 Water shortages indirectly worsen these seemingly more pressing issues, intensifying instability. 31.

Resource capturing is a common response to water scarcity. Thomas Homer-Dixon defines resource capturing as aggressively acquiring and stockpiling a scarce resource to ensure one’s security. Scarcity encourages empowered groups to obtain as much water as possible to secure their own interests. This leads to the ecological marginalization of less socioeconomically privileged groups. Israel is a prime example of this. In the early 1990s, a water shortage on the West Bank of the Jordan River encouraged financially sound farmers to drill aggressively for more water. These wealthier farmers secured their own economic interests at the expense of other farmers who could not afford to drill for more water. This encouraged many to abandon agriculture and move into cities, hoping to find a better livelihood. Mass migrations have become common in countries plagued with water scarcity and cause a myriad of problems that further contribute to instability. 32

As Israel demonstrates, migrations induced by water scarcity often involve displaced farmers migrating either to an area where water is not scarce or to a city in search of other employment. 33  Sometimes these migrations are transnational. All such scenarios have the potential to cause widespread instability in a country or region. The migration of farmers to regions without scarcity strains populations already settled there. A higher concentration of farmers means more competition for water, land, and business. This can cause strife between migrants and settled populations as well as economic and environmental degradation. 34  A similar effect results when environmental refugees migrate to cities in search of economic and social stability. The overcrowding in cities of nations with widespread water scarcity has raised crime and poverty rates and increased political unrest. 34 Trans-national environmental refugees can strain neighboring countries, potentially heightening regional instability. These migrations have resulted in violent conflict between refugees and native populations of a country and have also damaged relations between states. 34

If a population perceives the government as either exacerbating, or not addressing, water scarcity, political frustration likely will increase. A government unable to mitigate water scarcity cannot address other national problems effectively. Unaddressed water scarcity adds to peoples’ perception that their government cannot maintain security or provide effectively for them. It further complicates problems already causing political frustration in a society. This makes insurgency or revolutionary action more likely. While it will not likely cause an insurgency directly, water scarcity’s indirect effects highlight the shortcomings and mistakes of an ineffective regime and increase a populations’ perceived deprivation. This can promote widespread instability in states struggling with water scarcity. Many of these regimes are vulnerable to, and even existentially threatened by, insurgency. Through its indirect socioeconomic effects, water scarcity increases both the likelihood and the intensity of an uprising. 21

Yemen: A Case Study

Yemen constitutes an example of how water scarcity can increase both internal and regional instability. 30 Yemen has the highest rate of water scarcity in the Middle-East, and analysts project that it will exhaust its water within the next decade. 39  Yemen’s population growth, misguided agricultural policies, significant qat industry, lack of regulation, and high vulnerability to climate change are the key causes of its water crisis. 30  Scarcity has historically been a source of conflict within Yemen. Sana’a University recently conducted a study that found that much of the country’s rising militancy is over resources, including water. 41  Armed insurgencies in North and South Yemen contest for precious water reserves. Militant groups will often use captured water supplies as leverage over both the government and rival groups. 42  Water scarcity intensifies this pervasive security threat and hinders the Yemeni government from addressing the root problem. The water crisis in Yemen has the potential to contribute significantly to its current trajectory toward collapse.

Yemen experienced significant agricultural development beginning in the 1970s. 43  This led to its rapid adoption of advanced farming technologies, steering Yemeni farmers away from traditional water management and agricultural systems. Although these new technologies stimulated the agricultural sector, they also encouraged unsustainable water consumption. The Yemeni government refrained from heavily regulating water usage, fearing it would slow this new growth. It also implemented poorly conceived policies to stimulate agricultural development. Low-interest loans and public investment in surface irrigation kept water extremely cheap, consequently encouraging waste. The failure to regulate water acquisition techniques, such as ground drilling and well sinking, allowed farmers to deplete ground water reserves quickly. This lack of regulation also engendered poorly built wells and pipelines, further increasing waste. 44

Once it realized the country’s water supplies were dwindling, the Yemeni government sought to regulate agriculture and water usage. It promulgated laws prohibiting unauthorized drilling or well digging and limiting water usage for farmers. It also mandated restrictions on the growth of qat, a narcotic plant consumed by most Yemeni people. Qat requires heavy irrigation and accounts for nearly 30 percent of Yemen’s annual water usage. 45 However, most farmers have ignored these new regulations. 46 Agriculture, especially qat cultivation, serves as their sole source of income, and these regulations disrupt their ability to sustain themselves. The central Yemeni government is so weak that it cannot enforce its regulations, and Yemeni farmers have no incentive to follow them, since many of them must cultivate qat to survive. 47

Yemen’s dire security situation prevents it from effectively addressing its water scarcity problem. A Shia group led by Hussein al-Houthi has been waging a war against the national government since 2004. 48  The Yemeni government has not neutralized these rebels, and in January 2015, the group overran the capital city of Sanaa. 49  The Houthi insurgents have taken over regions of Yemen crucial to the country’s water security. Aquifers in the south have become inaccessible because they are completely under insurgent control. Rebel activity has made the region unsafe for government surveyors and hydrologists, further threatening the water security of local populations. These populations think the government cannot solve their water issues, impelling them to support the insurgency. 45

The growing presence and strength of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has worsened Yemen’s impending implosion. Security analysts consider AQAP to be one of the most powerful and dangerous factions of Al Qaeda. 51 AQAP is currently taking aggressive action against both the Houthi insurgents and the collapsing central government. 52 These actions further disrupt the government and prevent it from reaching a peace agreement with insurgents. 52  The water crisis exacerbates all internal conflicts in Yemen. Before the rise of the Houthi insurgency and AQAP, the Yemeni government enjoyed little popular support partially because of its inability to solve the water crisis. 54 Thus, insurgent movements gained support among the population. The Houthi insurgency has explicitly promised fair and regular utilities to the Yemeni people if it attains power. 52 Unsurprisingly, the region in which the Houthi insurgents are strongest is the northeast, where water scarcity is pervasive.(See Appendix A, Figure 2.)Clearly, water scarcity has worsened instability. The inability of the Yemeni government to provide basic necessities for its people demonstrates its weakness and increases both the likelihood and intensity of insurgency. 52

Yemen is currently the most extreme example of how water scarcity can increase instability in a country and exacerbate other internal issues. It effectively displays how water scarcity can heighten existing political discontent and empower insurgent groups by giving them leverage over the government. The government’s reluctance to regulate water usage due to its fears of hindering economic development may have been a reasonable calculus in the short, but not long, term. In addition, Yemen’s instability has both regional and global ramifications. As the fighting within Yemen has worsened, Saudi Arabia and Iran have turned the struggle between various groups into a proxy war. 57  Iran has begun supplying weapons to Houthi rebels in an attempt to vie for regional influence. 58  The Saudi government has targeted both Houthi rebels and AQAP insurgents in airstrikes while supplying weapons to the Yemeni government. 59  The escalation of a proxy war in Yemen between two of the more powerful countries in the middle-east would have disastrous consequences for the stability of the region. Furthermore, AQAP’s significant presence in Yemen has allowed it to execute terrorist attacks against other countries in the region and against the United States. 52  It would be hyperbolic to claim that water scarcity caused AQAP’s rise to power in Yemen, but it has provided favorable conditions for an insurgent movement to accrue significant influence. 61


Yemen is a worst-case scenario of how water scarcity can exacerbate, extend, and complicate existing problems within a country. Analysts agree that Yemen is essentially a failed state and beyond saving. 62  If the Yemeni government had addressed its water problems when first identified, its current situation might not be as dire. Despite the belief that Yemen is a lost cause, the U.S. and UN send significant amounts of money and resources to the state annually. 63 Other water-scarce countries experience many of the same problems to a lesser degree. With timely corrective actions and external aid, these countries can potentially avoid Yemen’s fate. Water scarcity is a multifaceted problem exacerbating diverse sets of problems in different countries. Despite unique factors in each country, most water scarcity cases share a set of common variables.

Although there is no one solution, countries can pursue a set of common solutions that will significantly mitigate water scarcity. Though technical, some of these potential fixes are critical for many countries’ water problems. Addressing water pollution through increased industrial and agricultural regulation is a crucial step many water-scarce countries can take. Rampant industrial pollution has significantly compromised the groundwater reserves of China, Brazil, and Yemen, among others. 64  This is common among developing countries whose industrial sectors are growing rapidly and do not have strong governmental regulations. 65 Another critical step many water-scarce countries can take is to update their irrigation systems. Developing nations with large agricultural sectors, notably those in the Middle-East, waste significant amounts of water through inefficient or dilapidated irrigation systems. 66 For example, analysts estimate that irrigation systems in Yemen waste up to 60 percent of the water they transport due to leakage. 67 Updating irrigation systems would improve water efficiency and raise the government’s legitimacy among its people.

These steps are general; most water-scarce countries can take them to good effect. However, a broader focus on good governance and better regulation should be pursued as well. At present, the aforementioned steps cannot be effectively taken given the current state of many water-scarce governments. The majority of them have a history of poor policy design and implementation, corruption, and non-existent or ineffectual regulation. 31  These factors promote both instability and water scarcity. As with Yemen, weak regimes cannot meet their peoples’ needs, leading to political discontent and social disorder. 61  The U.S. needs to support weak governments through the financing of water scarcity relief projects and the promotion of good governance. Analysts and policymakers have determined the stabilization of the Middle-East to be crucial to U.S. interests, which is why addressing water scarcity in the region should be a priority. 70

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has placed increased attention and funding toward initiatives in the Middle-East aiming to improve governance in the past fifteen years. 71  These initiatives aim to produce long-term improvement in countries with imbedded governance problems such as Egypt, Morocco, and Yemen. 72  USAID has worked on increasing the freedom and efficacy of the press in these countries to increase government responsiveness to their populations. 72  It has also worked with the International Monetary Fund to enhance the skills of government officials in countries with widespread corruption and financial mismanagement. 72  Though these projects are ambitious and well-intentioned, one must remember that the U.S. cannot right every wrong. Policymakers must decide in which countries aid will do the most good and concentrate U.S. resources there.

Water scarcity is such a pervasive global problem that multilateral action must accompany bilateral action by the U.S. In recent years, various international organizations such as the World Bank and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have made fighting water scarcity a priority. 75 Although awareness of global water scarcity has risen in the past decade, the U.S. must keep pressing for more international attention devoted to this matter. 76  As noted, the U.S. cannot single handedly ameliorate this pervasive problem. More prominent discussion of water scarcity within the UN would help other leading nations realize that relieving global water scarcity is in their best interest. A 2013 Global Water Institute report predicts that despite increased investment in developing countries’ water security, 2.8 billion people will be dealing with water scarcity in 2025. 77  While financial commitments towards water relief projects from the World Bank have increased steadily over the last fifteen years, to make a meaningful impact on this worsening problem, more international effort and money needs to be allocated toward alleviating global water scarcity. 78  The international community must recognize that access to water is a basic human right. As people are increasingly deprived of this right, instability and conflict will continue to abound. If world leaders want to ensure a stable future global environment, they must make ameliorating this pervasive problem an international priority.

A Role for the Navy

150421-N-ZF498-155 ARABIAN SEA (April 21, 2015) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) operate in the Arabian Sea conducting maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

ARABIAN SEA (April 21, 2015) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) operate in the Arabian Sea conducting maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

Through recent actions, the U.S. Navy has shown that it is interested in becoming more involved in the littoral zones of the world. Naval analysts have expressed the need for smaller, more versatile ships to address smaller-scale security concerns in coastal waters and on land. 79  This has resulted in the aggressive development of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which is expected to be deployed in 2016. 80  The LCS is designed to conduct small-scale operations and eliminate mines, shore-based missile batteries, and small surface craft that can threaten larger vessels. 81  These new ships are well suited for addressing insurgency and civil unrest in coastal states, two types of instability that water scarcity can fuel. The development of the LCS symbolizes a strategic pivot of the U.S. Navy from large-scale blue-water conflicts to smaller-scale security preservation operations. Naval strategists are beginning to recognize that U.S. security interests lie increasingly in these smaller brown-water operations. 82  As U.S. Naval priorities continue to shift in this direction, it is likely that it will increasingly deploy ships in coastal security-promoting operations.

In late-April 2015, U.S. Navy to this end deployed ships to the Gulf of Aden. 83  Officials stated that the purpose of this operation was to block potential Iranian shipments of arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. 84 These actions show that the conflict in Yemen has reached a point of direct concern to U.S. naval strategists. The possibility of a proxy war in Yemen between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have potentially disastrous effects on the regional security of the middle-east. If regional conflict continues to escalate, the U.S. will undoubtedly further utilize its navy in an attempt to preserve stability. The U.S. Navy must acknowledge that it will most likely play a significant role in mitigating conflicts that water scarcity has exacerbated so it can plan accordingly. The multifaceted nature of these water-scarcity affected conflicts requires coherent strategy developed on a case-by-case basis with clearly defined objectives. In each conflict, the naval strategists and U.S. policymakers must determine its priorities and limitations and then decide how involved it will allow itself to become.

Appendix A: Maps

Figure 1: Global Water Scarcity (Source: World Resources Institute)

Figure 1: Global Water Scarcity (Source: World Resources Institute)

Figure 2: Insurgency in Yemen (Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence)

Figure 2: Insurgency in Yemen (Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence)


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Renner, Michael. “Environmental and Social Stress Factors, Governance and Small Arms Availability: The Potential Conflict in Urban Areas.” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (1998.)

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“USAID/DFID/World Bank Governance Roundtable Meeting Summary.” Toward Better Strategies and Results: Collaborative Approaches Towards Strengthening Governance. June-9th-11th, 2011. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Washington D.C.

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US Agency for International Development. “Yemen’s Water Crisis: Review of Background and Potentail Solutions.” By Craig Giesecke. June 5th 2012.

U.S. Department of the State, Office of the Historian. “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations.” accessed May 30th, 2015.

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Vego, Milan. “On Littoral Warfare.” Naval War College Review 68 (2015): 30-68.

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Wolf, Aaron T.  Kramer, Annika  Carius, Alexander, and Geoffrey D. Dabelko. “Navigating Peace.” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 1 (2006.)

Work, O. Robert. “The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why.” January 2013. Newport Paper. U.S. Naval War College.

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(Return to December 2015 Table of Contents)


  1. “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” accessed May 30th, 2015,
  2. Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, “Naval Diplomacy and Maritime Power Projection: Proceedings of the Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Conference 2013,” Edited by Andrew Forbes, 1-8.
  3. “Milestones: Barbary Wars: 1801-1805 and 1815-1816,” accessed May 30th, 2015,
  4. “Yangtze River Patrol and other US Naval Asiatic Fleet Activities in China, 1920-1942 as Described in the Annual Reports of the Navy Department,” Accessed May 30th, 2015,
  5. “UN on Water Scarcity,” last modified March 2012,
  6. Thomas Homer-Dixon, Environmental Scarcity and Global Security (New York: Foreign Policy Association Inc.,1993), 3-12.
  7. Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001), 138-190.
  8. “Global Water Security: The Intelligence Community Assesment,” last modified May 2012,
  9. Thomas homer Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999), 133-166.
  10. National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds (Washington D.C. 2012), 30-36.
  11. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity and Violence, 47-52.
  12. National Intelligence Council, Alternative Worlds, 98-106.
  13. Aaron T. Wolf, “Conflict and Cooperation along International Waterways,” Water Policy 1 (1998)
  14. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 12-25.
  15. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 12-25.
  16. Michael Renner, Introduction to the Concepts of Environmental Security and Environmental Conflict, Institute for Environmental Security, (2006): 1-5.
  17. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 12-25.
  18. Aaron T. Wolf, Annika Kramer, Alexander Carius, and Geoffrey D. Dabelko, “Navigating Peace,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1 (2006): 1-3.
  19. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 12-25.
  20. Niloy R. Biswas, “Is Environment a Security Threat? Environmental Security Beyond Securitization,” International Affairs Review 20 (2011): 5-10.
  21. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 133-166.
  22. Wolf, “Conflict and Cooperation”
  23. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 133-166.
  24. Klare, Resource Wars, 138-190.
  25. Klare, Resource Wars, 138-190.
  26. For a detailed explanation see the following sources: Daanish Mustafa, “Social Construction of Hydropolitics: The Geographical Scales of Water and Security in the Indus Basin,” Geographical Review 97 (2007): 484-501, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Environmental Scarcity and Global Security (New York: Foreign Policy Association Inc.,1993), Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001.
  27. Michael Renner, “Environmental and Social Stress Factors, Governance and Small Arms Availability: The Potential Conflict in Urban Areas,” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (1998): 2-5.
  28. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 47-72.
  29. Nicole Glass, “The Water Crisis in Yemen: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions,” Global Majority Journal, 1 (2010): 17-20.
  30. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 17-20.
  31. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 73-106.
  32. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 136-166.
  33. Richard Black, “Environmental Refugees: Myth or Reality?” University of Sussex, (2001): 1-3.
  34. Renner, “Environmental and Social Stress Factors,” 8-15.
  35. Renner, “Environmental and Social Stress Factors,” 8-15.
  36. Renner, “Environmental and Social Stress Factors,” 8-15.
  37. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 133-166.
  38. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 17-20.
  39. Stratfor Global Intelligence, “Yemen’s Looming Water Crisis,” December 1, 2014, 1-2.
  40. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 17-20.
  41. Giesecke, Craig, USAID Knowledge Services Center, “Yemen’s Water Crisis: Review of Background and Potential Solutions,” June 15, 2012.
  42. Stratfor, “Yemen’s Looming Water Crisis,” 1-4.
  43. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 20.
  44. Glass, Water Crisis in Yemen,” 20-22.
  45. Stratfor, “Yemen’s Looming Water Crisis,” 3-6.
  46. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 22.
  47. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 20-22.
  48. “Yemen Profile,” last updated February 27th, 2015,
  49. “Yemen Profile,”
  50. Stratfor, “Yemen’s Looming Water Crisis,” 3-6.
  51. “Threats to Yemen,” Accessed 3/10/2015,
  52. “Threats to Yemen,”
  53. “Threats to Yemen,”
  54. “Crisis in Yemen: Food, Water and the Slow Motion Coup,” accessed 3/18/2015,
  55. “Threats to Yemen,”
  56. “Threats to Yemen,”
  57. Martin Reardon, “Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Great Game in Yemen,” March 26th, 2015,  Al Jazeera,
  58. Jeremy Bender, “Iran’s Proxy War in Yemen Just Got Exposed,” May 1st, 2015, Business Insider,
  59. Bender, “Iran’s Proxy War,”
  60. “Threats to Yemen,”
  61. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 142-147.
  62. Stratfor, “Yemen’s Looming Water Crisis,” 4-5.
  63. “Democracy and Governance Initiatives in the Middle-East,” last updated March 24th, 2014,
  64. Emilio Custodio, “Trends in Groundwater Pollution: Loss of Groundwater Quality and Related Services,” Groundwater Governance: A Global Framework for Country Action, 2011.
  65. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 49-51.
  66. “Coping with Water Scarcity: An Action Framework for Agriculture and Food Security,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (2012): 13-14.
  67. Glass, “Water Crisis in Yemen,” 27.
  68. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 73-106.
  69. Homer-Dixon, Environment, Scarcity, and Violence, 142-147.
  70. National Intelligence Council, Alternative Worlds, 98-106: “Near Eastern Affairs: Regional Topics,” last updated, 2015,
  71. “USAID/DFID/World Bank Governance Roundtable Meeting Summary,” Toward Better Strategies and Results: Collaborative Approaches Towards Strengthening Governance, June-9th-11th, 2011, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington D.C.
  72. “Democracy and Governance Initiatives in the Middle-East,”
  73. “Democracy and Governance Initiatives in the Middle-East,”
  74. “Democracy and Governance Initiatives in the Middle-East,”
  75. “Findings of the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group,” last updated 2011,,,contentMDK:22508543~menuPK:6817435~pagePK:64829573~piPK:64829550~theSitePK:6817404,00.html: “Coping with Water Scarcity: An Action Framework for Agriculture and Food Security,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (2012): 1-3.
  76. Elizabeth Hameeteman, “Future Water Insecurity: Facts, Figures, and Predictions,” Global Water Institute, (2013): 3.
  77. Hameeteman, “Future Water Insecurity: Facts, Figures, and Predictions,” 3-5.
  78. “World Bank Projects,” last updated in 2015, Nations World Water Assessment Program, The United Nations World Water Development Report 2015, Paris, UNESCO.
  79. James Holmes, “Thinking About the Littoral Combat Ship,” The National Interest, May 22nd, 2013, accessed June20th, 2015,
  80. Robert O. Work, “The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why,” January 2013, Newport Paper, U.S. Naval War College. 2-7.
  81. Milan Vego, “On Littoral Warfare,” Naval War College Review 68 (2015): 31-41.
  82. Work, “The Littoral Combat Ship,” 2-7.
  83. Jim Sciutto and Jamie Crawford, “U.S. Warships near Yemen Create Options for Dealing with Iranian Vessels,” CNN, April 22nd, 2015,
  84. Sciutto and Crawford, “U.S. Warships near Yemen,”

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The Essence of Intelligence Work is Preparation for War: How “Strategy” Infiltrated the Office of Naval Intelligence, 1882-1889


“Little More than an Armored Target”
The Strategical Awakening
Early Developments in U.S. Naval Intelligence
The Establishment of ONI
ONI’s Strategical Mission

Scott Mobley
University of Wisconsin—Madison

“Little More than an Armored Target”

Standing on a bridge wing of the guided missile destroyer USS Richard E. Byrd, a peculiar sight caught my eye.  As the ship glided quietly into harbor of Talcahuano, Chile one overcast spring morning in 1989, I noticed the sailing masts, tubular smokestack, and squat gun turret of an antique warship.  The diminutive vessel’s jet black hull and gleaming white superstructure contrasted sharply with the modern haze-gray hulls towering nearby.  Curious, I queried our Chilean liaison officer about this odd relic.  “It’s the Huáscar,” he replied, “we captured it long ago in a war with Peru. Now it’s a museum.”  Sure enough; visitors today can tour Huáscar at Talcahuano, where the Chilean Navy faithfully preserves it as a memorial to the brave seamen of both Chile and Peru. 1

My inquiry was not the first interest in Huáscar expressed by a U.S. naval officerLieutenant Theodorus B.M. Mason preceded me by more than a century.  In October, 1879, Mason and a contingent of American officers eagerly clambered over the badly mauled, 196-foot vessel in search of valuable technical intelligence.  Having captured Huáscar off Cape Angamos just days before, the Chileans jubilantly displayed their prize and freely shared information about the battle.  As the first-ever clash involving modern ironclads on the high seas, the Angamos action held tremendous historical, professional, and technical significance—qualities fully appreciated by Mason and his comrades.  Indeed, Mason assessed the battle as “one of the most important in modern naval warfare.”  2   No doubt he marveled at the wonderful opportunity to gather substantial information on such a seminal event first-hand, and within a mere fortnight of its occurrence.

Rear Admiral Christopher R.P. Rodgers, commander of the U.S. Pacific Squadron, appointed the Huáscar inspection team on October 14, 1879.  Placing Captain Kidder R. Breese in charge, Rodgers instructed the inspectors to report on the ironclad’s technical details and the nature of damage received in the recent fight. 3   Carefully following the admiral’s instructions, Breese’s team combed the shattered Huáscar, examining, measuring, sketching, and recording the details of its design and condition.  They discovered twenty-four hits in the warship’s hull, battery, and superstructure—mostly nine-inch armor-piercing shells fired at close range from Chilean armored cruisers.  The Americans found Huáscar’s armored pilothouse punctured by three shells, a deadly barrage that killed all within, including Huáscar’s commanding officer.  Other shots struck the ship’s primary battery, a pair of ten-inch rifled guns mounted together in a single armored turret.  After initially jamming the turret’s rotation mechanism, Chilean shells penetrated the turret’s 5.5-inch armor, wiping out both gun crews.  Two other shots disabled the ship’s steering mechanism.  In short, Huáscar was a wreck.  “The Chilians’ [sic] fire must have been extremely accurate,” Mason later reported, “as the ‘Huascar’ was reduced during the latter part of the fight to little more than an armored target.” 4  Yet the Americans marveled how the former Peruvian ironclad remained afloat after the battle and even made port under her own power, a testimony to the virtues of modern British warship construction. 5

Breese submitted a formal report to Rodgers on October 20, who dutifully forwarded it to Navy Secretary Robert W. Thompson.  In his endorsement, the admiral noted that the report offered a “a careful and technical description.” 6   He emphasized to Thompson that “the Navy Department and all naval officers would take much interest,” suggesting that the information on Huáscar should be circulated promptly and widely throughout the service.

*     *     *     *     *

The Navy Department had no established protocol for disseminating intelligence, neither within its headquarters at Washington, D.C. nor to naval units dispersed worldwide.  For that matter, the navy’s practices for gathering intelligence lacked focus and coherence.  Much depended on individual commanders, acting under a general mandate to report any useful information they might encounter.  Some enterprising officers like Rodgers demonstrated extra initiative, organizing intelligence cells within their commands.  Indeed, the Huáscar team represented one component of a larger project launched by Rodgers to monitor and report systematically on the War of the Pacific.  From time to time navy bureau chiefs or the secretary requested overseas commanders to collect intelligence on a particular subject or question.  Occasionally the department dispatched intelligence missions abroad to accomplish focused studies.  However, bureaucratic compartmentalization and ad hoc, uncoordinated efforts typified U.S. Navy intelligence endeavors through the early 1880s.  Similarly, the analysis of pertinent information to answer specific strategic or technical questions often depended on individual initiative from officers like Mason.

The disorganized nature of naval intelligence fairly assured that useful information on the South American war would not reach its intended audience through official channels as quickly as Rodgers desired.  Secretary Thompson simply appended the Huáscar report to his annual report in December 1879, which the Government Printing Office published a few months later.  Meanwhile, information gathered by Rodgers’s intelligence cell trickled onto the pages of various unofficial publications, including the Naval Institute Proceedings, the Army and Navy Journal, and the United Service magazine. 7   A thorough analysis by Mason of Huáscar and the Angamos fight finally appeared in the United Service fully one year after he visited the battered vessel.

Thompson’s successor William H. Hunt established the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in 1882.  Hunt believed the navy’s disordered intelligence practices lacked a capacity to manage the vast amounts of technical specifications, empirical data, and qualitative information needed to design and build a new fleet of modern steel warships.  Thus he conceived ONI as a clearinghouse for technical intelligence.  The new agency set up an attaché network to gather information on the technology, facilities, personnel, and practices of foreign navies and other maritime institutions.  ONI made previously-compartmentalized information accessible across the Navy Department (and beyond) by setting up an archive and catalog system.  To reach a wide audience of intelligence consumers, the office compiled and published much of the information it collected in a series of official technical publications.

The Office of Naval Intelligence quickly became the navy’s central agency for collecting, recording, and disseminating intelligence.  The first such institution in the United States, ONI soon established its reputation as a wellspring of technical information.  Less well known is the agency’s vibrant role as a center of strategic analysis and planning.  During the 1880s, ONI became a site where navy specialists translated into action a new strategical awareness awakened during the previous decade.  Under ONI’s aegis, a cadre of bright young officers began to study strategic questions earnestly and systematically as part of their official duties.  They also initiated the nation’s first, tentative attempts at peacetime strategic planning.  The abundance of strategic studies, war college lectures, and contingency plans produced by ONI staff officers during this period suggest a pioneering strategic role largely unrecognized by previous scholarship.

Much of the existing historical scholarship offers little insight into ONI’s early strategic role.  Two institutional histories examine the agency’s first decade, yet both leave unexamined  its connection to early strategic developments within the U.S. Navy.  While providing an excellent overall treatment of the fledgling ONI, Jeffery M. Dowart’s The Office of Naval Intelligence relates few of its strategic contributions. 8   Instead Dorwart emphasizes ONI’s technical and public affairs roles, concluding that “direct help from the intelligence office figured in every one of the first steel warships.” 9   The second work, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence by Wyman H. Packard, acknowledges how ONI assumed a strategic planning mission in 1885.  However, Packard limits his analysis to a single statement that ONI’s new strategy-making role made sense, given that the office already “had the responsibility for gathering the information needed for such planning.” 10   In their history of the Naval War College, Hattendorf, Wadleigh, and Simpson report how early ONI staffers, “distracted by broader war problems, higher strategy, and naval history,” drew the ire of navy department technocrats, but the authors do not expand upon this observation. 11

Most historical monographs on the Gilded Age navy regard the Naval War College (established in 1884) as the essential launching point for earnest strategic development in the United States.  At the same time, these narratives rarely, if ever, highlight ONI as a strategical institution. Harold and Margaret Sprout exemplify this interpretation.  In their view, only glimmers of strategical consciousness existed prior to the Naval War College program and Alfred Thayer Mahan’s scholarship. 12  Similarly, Walter Herrick describes the 1870s and 1880s as decades of strategic “drift.”  Herrick argues that the navy found its strategic compass only after 1889, as Mahan’s ideas gained currency. 13   John A.S. Grenville and George B. Young offer a similar interpretation, while giving principal credit to Stephen B. Luce rather than Mahan for the intellectual and institutional development of strategy. 14   Significantly, neither the Sprouts nor Grenville and Young mention ONI in their works. Herrick describes the office simply as a conduit for “the gathering and evaluation of strategic information from all quarters of the globe,” ignoring its role as a site for producing new strategic knowledge and plans. 15

Other scholars chart the intellectual development of strategy from the 1870s, some fifteen years before Mahan produced his seminal works on the subject. Yet ONI receives scant mention in these interpretations, despite the proliferation of strategic activity at the agency before 1890.  In an influential article on the strategy debates of the 1880s, distinguished naval historian Robert Seager II interprets the currents of strategic thought percolating among navy professionals, legislators, and concerned citizens.  While Seager discusses the nascent Naval War College’s significance in these debates, he neglects to address the impact of ONI’s strategical activity during the same period. 16   In another important article centered on the U.S. debates over maritime strategy before 1884, Benjamin L. Apt credits ONI simply with “diligently gathering information on the latest technological developments abroad.” 17

Technological developments inform other studies—Kenneth Hagan and Robert M. Angevine link ONI’s birth and functioning to technological transformations, rather than the navy’s changing attitudes regarding strategy. 18   Other scholars provide comprehensive syntheses of strategy, technology, and naval transformation during the 1880s, but they do not address the corresponding synergies of strategy and intelligence work.  Lawrence Allin provides useful insight into the transformational forces that shaped U.S. naval strategy and intelligence, but his research centers on the role of the U.S. Naval Institute, not ONI. 19   Mark Shulman considers the evolution of both strategy and intelligence, but argues narrowly that the navy reduced ONI to a public relations tool after 1890. 20   Finally, Peter Karsten makes only passing reference to ONI’s early strategic activities in his seminal work on naval culture, The Naval Aristocracy.  “The O.N.I.’s many publications,” Karsten summarizes, “served as media through which activist naval strategy found expression.” 21

Karsten’s observation warrants further investigation.  His suggestion of a strategic role for ONI seems to challenge scholars who overlook or underestimate ONI’s early contributions as a strategical institution.  A desire to address more deeply this historiographical question thus drove the research for this chapter.

The evolution of U.S. naval intelligence and strategy emerge from the historical record as distinct but interconnected lines of development.  As naval intellectuals awakened to new strategic possibilities during the 1870s, the tempo of U.S. naval intelligence activities also quickened.  These dual paths converged in 1882, with the establishment of the Office of Naval Intelligence.  Although ONI began life as an institution devoted to Mechanism—the gathering and processing of technical information—it quickly became a center for Strategic study and planning.  The interests and abilities of the office’s early leaders, staff, and field officers help explain this development.  Several were prominent in the navy’s strategical awakening, most notably Washington I. Chambers and T.B.M. Mason.  In addition, John G. Walker, Raymond P. Rodgers, John B. Bernadou, Charles C. Rodgers, and Carlos G. Calkins and others demonstrated notable strategical acumen after they affiliated with ONI.  In addition, a trio of capable and progressive navy secretaries encouraged ONI’s strategical mission: William H. Hunt, William E. Chandler, and William C. Whitney.

ear Admiral John Grimes Walker (The Progressive Manager). Walker learning progressive management practices while working in the railroad industry during leaves of absence from the navy. He earned a reputation for innovation as chief of the Bureau of Navigation (1881-1889), shepherding the nascent Office of Naval Intelligence. (Image courtesy USNI Blog)

Rear Admiral John Grimes Walker (The Progressive Manager). Walker learning progressive management practices while working in the railroad industry during leaves of absence from the navy. He earned a reputation for innovation as chief of the Bureau of Navigation (1881-1889), shepherding the nascent Office of Naval Intelligence. (Photo courtesy USNI Blog)

This paper also explores how progressive managerial practices guided the actions of Mason, Walker, Rodgers, and other key actors.  These men applied concepts such as the use of experts, efficient process and procedures, function-based organization, rational inquiry, and scientific method to address both strategic and intelligence-related problems.  Their activities align with the pattern of progressive bureaucratic development outlined by Robert H. Wiebe in his seminal The Search for Order, and amplified in later works by Alfred R. Chandler and Samuel P. Hays. 22

In their general approach, ONI’s incipient strategists anticipated social historian Camilla Stivers’s “Bureau Men,” who rose to prominence as municipal reformers after 1900.  Both naval strategists and municipal researchers shared a commitment to objective fact-finding as a basis for progressive problem-solving.  However, where strategists collected information through intelligence activities, the bureau men utilized public surveys.  Yet each group faced a distinctive problem set.  Armed with accurate and reliable information, both tailored approaches to meet their particular objectives: the bureau men sought to affect social change by improving city governance, while the strategists applied military means to accomplish the international political goals specified by civil command authority. 23

The separate evolution and ultimate convergence of Gilded Age naval strategy and naval intelligence structures this chapter.  The first section, entitled “Early Developments in U.S. Naval Intelligence,” parallels the Strategical Awakening narrative of Chapter Three.  A section follows on “The Establishment of ONI,” weaving the historical threads that delineated the agency’s founding as a clearinghouse for technical information.  The final section of the chapter, “ONI’s Strategic Mission,” argues that ONI played a vital yet overlooked role in pioneering the U.S. Navy’s strategical development.

The Strategical Awakening

For the first century of its existence, the U.S. Navy approached strategy as a wartime improvisation—an activity practiced on the fly during times of actual conflict.  When the guns fell silent, naval leaders typically reverted to what Mahan described as a “strategic apathy.” 24   Confident that America’s size, wealth, distance, and nonaligned foreign policy assured its security, navy professionals eschewed strategic studies and contingency planning during peacetime.  Instead, they focused on missions that promoted and protected the nation’s overseas trade networks.  Seamanship, diplomacy, and basic gunnery framed their professional identity far more than strategy and other advanced warfare skills.

The navy’s Civil War experience illustrates the traditional approach, when an ad hoc “Blockade Board” provided a modicum of strategic planning.  Hastily constituted in June 1861, the board hammered out a viable joint strategy for the U.S. Navy’s coastal campaign within a matter of weeks.  Apparently seeing no further imperative for an organization to guide war strategy, Secretary Welles disbanded the board after only three months of activity.  Thereafter, Assistant Navy Secretary Gustavus Fox (a retired naval officer) coordinated with squadron commanders to orchestrate naval operations.  However, after Appomattox the navy quickly resumed its routine commercial and constabulary duties abroad; operations chief Fox returned to private life in 1866. 25

Although the navy dissolved its strategy-making apparatus soon after the Civil War, memories of wartime experiences helped to foster a strategical awakening among navy intellectuals during the 1870s.  Departing from the tradition of peacetime strategic apathy, these officers discovered value in the study, discussion, and application of naval strategy and related warfare topics.  Commodore Foxhall A. Parker, Jr. and Captain Stephen B. Luce led the strategic initiative, which attracted a coterie of enthusiastic young officers, including: Frederick Collins, Charles Belknap, Robert M.G. Brown, Edward W. Very, Washington Irving Chambers, Charles C. Rogers, William Bainbridge-Hoff, and Theodorus B.M. Mason, among others.

The emerging strategic cadre questioned the U.S. Navy’s capacity to defend the nation as modernization and globalization transformed the international security environment.  New capabilities springing from an ongoing revolution in naval technology—reliable steam propulsion, iron and steel hulls, fast armored warships, and powerful new weaponry—seemed poised to eclipse a navy that still relied on wood, sail, and smoothbore muzzle-loading cannon.  Perceptions of the U.S. Navy’s material decline—allegedly the result of postwar retrenchment policies and Navy Department mismanagement—added urgency to their concerns.  “Our cruising ships, with one or two exceptions, are chiefly noticeable for their uniformity in the matter of obsoleteness,” warned one naval critic, “in a battle with any other ships they would be like crippled stags pitted against tigers in an arena.” 26, “Uniformity in the Navy,” United Service 5, no. 2 (August 1881): 144.]   Furthermore, political developments at home and abroad suggested to these officers that the nation would soon face a greater risk of war than in the past.  They postulated that America’s increasingly active role in the world—especially in the Western Hemisphere and Pacific Basin—might collide with the imperial ambitions of other powers.  The French project to build a Panama Canal, British and German activities in Samoa, and Japanese interest in Hawaii simmered as potential points of contention.

Awakened to the assessments of mounting international risk, the naval intellectuals admonished their fellow officers to develop strategical expertise.  New professional forums such as the Naval Institute Proceedings (founded in 1873) and United Service, (first published in 1879) helped to disseminate their message to a wider audience.  Calls to establish institutions devoted to strategic activities, develop a body of coherent strategic theory, study strategic problems facing the United States, and devise viable contingency plans accentuated their agenda.  Luce approached the Secretary of the Navy with a proposal for a naval war college in 1877.  Three years later, Charles Belknap advocated establishing a strategic advisory board to develop “plans for naval campaigns, both offensive and defensive.” 27   Belknap also recommended that the navy organize a new system to gather and manage “early and trustworthy information in regard to all matters going on of interest to the naval service,” specifying strategic and technical intelligence as top priorities. 28

Luce and Belknap achieved little headway during the early 1880s.  Within a professional service culture biased against strategic theory and practice their proposals attracted scant interest.  However, they continued to foster professional dialogue, press for change, and remain vigilant for future opportunities to realize their vision.

Early Developments in U.S. Naval Intelligence

Along with Belknap, Theodorus Mason was an early advocate for systematizing and consolidating naval intelligence work.  During his tenure as secretary of the U.S. Naval Institute, the progressive-minded young officer advanced a quasi-official role for the association as the navy’s intelligence center.  “Make the Naval Institute the bureau of information for the navy,” Mason proposed in 1879. 29

ieutenant Theodorus B.M. Mason (The Intelligence Expert). An early advocate for streamlining naval intelligence, Mason was instrumental in establishing ONI. He served as the navy's first Chief Intelligence Officer. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lieutenant Theodorus B.M. Mason (The Intelligence Expert). An early advocate for streamlining naval intelligence, Mason was instrumental in establishing ONI. He served as the navy’s first Chief Intelligence Officer. (Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Mason’s advocacy of an intelligence mission for the Naval Institute probably came as no surprise to his closest colleagues.  By the time he aired his proposal in 1879, Mason’s involvement with naval intelligence had spanned a decade.  He first experienced intelligence work while assigned to USS FranklinFranklin was the flagship of the U.S. European Squadron when Ensign Mason reported on board in October 1869, little more than a year after his Naval Academy graduation.  At the time, then-Captain Christopher R.P. Rodgers commanded Franklin—a fortuitous circumstance for the bright young ensign.

Rodgers—the future Pacific Squadron commander—was already an influential officer in 1869, highly regarded by contemporaries for his probing intellect and commanding yet personable leadership style.  A man of vision, Rodgers would play a leading role in founding the Naval Institute, which he directed for much of its first decade with “great skill and devotion.” 30   Rodgers anticipated a future navy composed of complex, modern warships, “with their new engines of destruction, their complicated machinery, and their novelties of structure,” and led by highly-educated professionals. 31   Moreover, he demonstrated an uncommon ability to advance this vision.  Rodgers seemed able to sense the possibilities inherent in most situations, no matter the circumstances.  Seeking out avenues within the scope of his authority through which he could effect change, Rodgers quietly instituted appropriate reforms and innovations.  With an eye to continuous improvement, Rodgers also actively mentored junior officers whom he believed showed promise as leaders for his future navy. 32

On the European Station in 1870, Rodgers found another opportunity to exercise his formula for change.  During the closing months of that year he organized a select handful of Franklin’s junior officers into an informal intelligence cell.  Theodorus Mason numbered among this group, as did Captain Rodgers’s son, Raymond Perry Rodgers.  Mason and Raymond Rodgers were close friends and naval academy classmates; both ranked as masters in June, 1870 (equivalent to today’s lieutenant, junior grade), and both would later command the Office of Naval Intelligence.

A directive from Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson prompted Captain Rodgers’s action.  In November the secretary tasked Franklin’s commanding officer to gather information on fast-moving naval developments in Europe, where war raged between France and Prussia.  The secretary’s list of topics was wide-ranging. “Take every opportunity to procure information,” Robeson directed, “in the relations of the enlistment of seamen; equipment of vessels and their methods of discipline, the management and system of conducting Navy yards…the newest plans of iron clad vessels and other professional subjects.” 33   No doubt excited to garner information which might foster his navy of the future, Rodgers embraced the secretary’s tasking with enthusiasm.  He soon set Mason and his fellow junior officers to work.

Curious, energetic, and multi-lingual, Mason found himself a natural fit for the business of intelligence.  Even after completing his tour of duty in Franklin, Mason volunteered to continue gathering naval information in Europe on his own time and at his own expense.  The Navy Department granted Mason leave upon his detachment from the ship in June 1871, whereupon he set out on a personal mission to visit European naval facilities. 34

Mason returned home from Europe five months later troubled by his overseas experience.  The sojourn abroad had “opened his eyes to our deplorable backwardness in naval construction and armaments and our almost total lack of information about them,” an acquaintance later attested. 35   However, Mason also sensed an opportunity to address both the navy’s material decline and the dearth of information on recent naval developments.   In the arena of naval competition, “we cannot even put up an anty [sic],” Mason suggested, but “by not playing we may save money in the end and at the same time learn the game.” 36   U.S. naval officers could learn much, Mason believed, by collecting pertinent intelligence and discussing their findings at the recently-established Naval Institute and other professional forums.

Mason made his recommendations just as the tempo of naval progress abroad sharpened the navy’s appetite for technical knowledge.  The brief war scare with Spain in 1873 and a series of conflicts in Europe, South America, and the Middle East piqued American interest in the efficacy of modern naval hardware and other maritime matters. 37   Some civilian administrators shared this enthusiasm, as demonstrated by Secretary George M. Robeson’s 1870 intelligence-gathering assignment to C.R.P. Rodgers in Franklin.  Furthermore, Rodger’s Franklin cell was not alone in its efforts to keep up with world naval developments.  Between 1866 and 1882, a continuous stream of discrete U.S. Navy intelligence missions fanned out across Europe and other continents.  These missions employed some of the navy’s most progressive officers: Stephen B. Luce, Edward Simpson, Caspar Goodrich, French E. Chadwick, Francis M. Ramsay, and James R. Soley, among others. 38

In 1867 the navy sent Chief Engineer J.W. King to Europe to gather information on shipyards in France and England.  King returned to Europe in 1869 to study steam engines, then twice again during the 1870s to learn about naval equipment and ship design.  King published a comprehensive report of his findings in 1877; the first edition (nearly three thousand copies) quickly sold out. 39   In the meantime, Theodore Mason obtained leave to travel in Europe again in 1878-79 for yet another personal intelligence-gathering mission. 40   Mason’s reports back to the Navy Department advanced his growing reputation as an intelligence expert.  “He was a qualified naval observer,” writes ONI historian Packard, who “knew what information was available, and knew how to get it.” 41

Unfortunately, bureaucratic jealousies often curtailed the usefulness of information submitted to Washington from agents in the field.  By the 1870s, a wealth of valuable intelligence already resided within the Navy Department’s technical bureaus: Ordnance, Steam Engineering, Construction and Repair, and Navigation.  Each organization actively gathered and archived relevant technical information from sources at home and abroad—individual agents received direction from the cognizant bureau chief, whether acting directly or through the secretary of the navy.  “The chiefs of the different bureaus had been in the habit of obtaining information abroad for particular bureaus,” a former bureau chief later recalled, “where it was held as confidential, and no one knew what information there was…scattered about in the various offices.” 42   Thus a self-serving reluctance to share information with other agencies—even those within the navy—led to project delays and wasteful duplication of effort.  Such widespread bureaucratic compartmentalization frustrated many officers.  One discouraged commentator aired his dissatisfaction in the New York Times, declaring: “officers gather information, conceive ideas…devise improved plans…and make valuable suggestions.”  Yet once received by the responsible bureau, too often this earnest correspondence disappeared “among the papers that are to be considered in a future that never arrives.” 43, “A Naval Suggestion,” The New York Times, December 19, 1881, 3.]   Such complaints helped to catalyze major changes in how the navy managed and used intelligence.

Other developments also helped to foster change.  In 1879, the War of the Pacific erupted between Chile and an opposing alliance formed by Bolivia and Peru.  Geography assured an important maritime dimension to the conflict, with ocean communications providing the best means for moving forces across the region’s arid, broken terrain and long, exposed coastlines.  The strategic and technological implications of the war sparked a demand in the United States and elsewhere for military information gleaned first-hand from the theater of operations.  Such prospects no doubt pleased Theodore Mason when he reported for duty with the U.S. Pacific Squadron, patrolling the west coast of South America.  Mason’s arrival coincided with outbreak of hostilities between Chile and the Alliance.

Mason’s old mentor C.R.P. Rodgers commanded the Pacific Squadron.  Mindful of the need for timely information on war developments, Rodgers stationed his ships along South America’s southwest littoral to monitor belligerent activities closely.  Interest in the conflict was keen among U.S. Navy professionals and technical experts riveted by the prospect of modern, armored warships battling each other on the high seas—a first in world history.  Chile and Peru each had procured such vessels from European shipyards during the previous decade.  Although the South American ironclads were slightly older in design, they were nonetheless more advanced than any vessel in the U.S. fleet.  The opposing ironclads clashed in several sharp actions, most notably the Punta Angamos battle of October 1879, which ended so ignobly for the Peruvian monitor Huáscar.

Charles C. Rogers (The Strategic Planner). As a young officer, Lieutenant (junior grade) Rogers developed contingency plans in 1887 for a potential conflict with British Canada. An Anglo-American squabble over access to Atlantic fishing grounds prompted Rogers's planning effort. (Photo courtesy NavSource)

Charles C. Rogers (The Strategic Planner). As a young officer, Lieutenant (junior grade) Rogers developed contingency plans in 1887 for a potential conflict with British Canada. An Anglo-American squabble over access to Atlantic fishing grounds prompted Rogers’s planning effort. (Photo courtesy NavSource)

In a reprise of his initiative in European waters a decade earlier, Rodgers formed an intelligence cell composed of officers from his squadron.  As in 1870, the admiral assigned  Mason to the new organization.  Among Mason’s experiences during his Pacific Squadron tour of 1879-1881, the inspection of Huáscar was probably the most profound.  The resilience of the battered ironclad impressed Mason and his fellow officers, who no doubt recognized the scant hope for their own wooden warships should they ever encounter such a foe.  Rodgers shared this understanding, emphasizing in his reports to Secretary Thompson the strategic impact of wooden vessels menaced by sea-going ironclad cruisers. 44   The admiral knew that a handful of South American ironclads posed no direct menace to the United States, but the implications of powerful European armored cruisers in Western Hemisphere waters concerned him. 45   When Rodgers departed the Pacific station in September 1880, Mason remained behind for another year to continue chronicling South American developments. 46   In time, his reports landed on the desk of Secretary of the Navy William H. Hunt.

The Establishment of ONI

Early in 1881, President-elect James A. Garfield welcomed William H. Hunt to his new cabinet as secretary of the navy.  A native of Louisiana, Hunt was the sole cabinet officer to hail from a former Confederate state. 47   Described by naval policy historian Robert G. Albion as “clear-headed, honest, tireless, and persuasive,” Hunt soon proved his mettle at the Navy Department as a capable administrator. 48   Although he had neither nautical experience nor any meaningful military background, Hunt proved a quick study on all matters naval.  He also had personal ties to the service: Hunt’s late wife belonged to a prominent naval family, and his eldest son was a U.S. Navy ensign. 49

Hunt benefited during his tenure as navy secretary from consultations with a team of talented and forward-thinking advisors, including most notably C.R.P. Rodgers, Commodore Montgomery Sicard, and Commodore John G. Walker. 50   The new secretary quickly concluded that the navy’s present size and condition were woefully deficient: hardly measuring up to its peacetime commercial and diplomatic missions, much less as an effective fighting force.  “The condition of the Navy imperatively demands the prompt and earnest attention of Congress,” he exclaimed in his first annual report. 51   Chester Arthur (who acceded to the presidency following Garfield’s assassination) affirmed Hunt’s argument, declaring in December, 1881 that “surely nothing is more essential to the defense of the United States and of all our people than the efficiency of our Navy.” 52

Congress seemed to agree with Hunt and Arthur, as legislators from both major parties signaled willingness to launch a program of naval reconstruction. 53   Interest in naval affairs had been stimulated by the congressional investigations of the preceding decade, leading to demands for naval reform. 54   Recovery from the economic downturn of the 1870s and a corresponding revival in foreign trade added further encouragement. 55

At the Navy Department, Secretary Hunt provided energetic, visionary leadership that helped channel the new naval enthusiasms of Congress and the public.  Just four months into his tenure Hunt took the first concrete step: he appointed a board of advisors to examine options for the navy’s technological revival.  Fifteen officers composed the board, including a mix of line and staff representatives.  John Rodgers, a seasoned flag officer with over five decades of service and a first cousin to C.R.P. Rodgers, chaired the group.  Hunt directed the Rodgers Board to define the navy’s material requirements and advise him how best to the “pressing need of appropriate vessels.” 56   After several months of study, the Rodgers board proposed an ambitious program to construct new steel cruisers and a variety of other ships.

With an ambitious new program for naval reconstruction in the offing, the demand for up-to-date technical information from abroad became critical.  The full range of experience and knowledge required to design, build, and operate a modern fleet hardly existed within the United States during early 1880s. 57   While the navy could tap domestic sources for useful information on recent advances in technology, organizational management, and education, the cutting edge of naval progress abided overseas, principally in Europe.  Besides accurate intelligence on “the strength and resources of foreign navies,” American naval experts needed to study all aspects of naval progress abroad, including ship and armament specifications, war materiel, operations, personnel, administration, logistics, coast defense systems, and other subjects of interest. 58

With these challenges in mind, Hunt recognized an urgent need to streamline the Navy Department’s intelligence-gathering effort. “The necessity was apparent,” one eyewitness later noted, as the navy “had no system for gathering information nor any idea of how to preserve it.” 59   Hunt’s naval advisors, including C.R.P. Rodgers, Stephen Luce, and the new Navigation Bureau chief John G. Walker helped to develop a suitable solution.  Theodorus Mason also played a role.  While some sources attribute the genesis of ONI principally to Mason’s vision, uncertainty persists regarding how much counsel Mason provided directly to Secretary Hunt prior to the office’s founding. 60   Neither meeting notes nor correspondence between Hunt and Mason on the subject of establishing ONI have been discovered.

Hunt was certainly familiar with Mason’s intelligence expertise, having read the latter’s recent reports from South America.  In addition, the secretary was probably aware of the proposal for an intelligence bureau which Mason had advocated in 1879.  Finally, Mason was stationed at the Naval Academy during the months leading up to ONI’s establishment, conveniently close to Washington, D.C. should Hunt have desired to consult him personally.  Regardless of Mason’s direct influence in bringing ONI to life, he certainly played a major role in establishing it as a vibrant institution. 61

Walker most likely played the central role in advancing the idea of a naval intelligence bureau.  As Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, he had ready access to Secretary Hunt.  In a 1902 letter to the navy’s chief of intelligence, Walker claimed that he pressed Hunt to establish the intelligence office. “The Secretary of the Navy went over the matter with me personally,” Walker recollected, “approved the idea, and directed me to draw the necessary order, which I did and was promptly signed.” 62   Walker’s subsequent enthusiasm as ONI’s chief patron and protector attests to his sense of ownership for the new agency.

*          *          *          *          *

By the winter of 1882 Hunt decided the time had come to consolidate the navy’s intelligence activities within a single agency.  His plans for naval reconstruction demanded a more sophisticated approach for managing information.  Hunt, along with Walker and Mason, evidently envisioned the new agency as an information clearinghouse, staffed by technical experts, and accessible to all branches of the navy.  “At the very time when the first cruisers were being designed,” one official later remarked of the secretary’s actions, “the Department took steps to supply its want of experience by the systematic acquisition of information as to naval progress abroad.” 63   On March 23 Hunt officially established the Office of Naval Intelligence.  “An ‘Office of Intelligence’ is hereby established in the Bureau of Navigation,” read his general order creating ONI, “for the purpose of collecting and recording such naval information as may be useful to the Department in time of war, as well as in peace.” 64

As events transpired, Hunt would make no more contributions to naval intelligence.  Three weeks after Hunt issued the order to establish ONI, the newly-inaugurated Chester Arthur replaced him with William E. Chandler. 65   Like Hunt, the new secretary was a lawyer by trade; unlike his predecessor, Chandler was well-acquainted with the backroom machinations of party politics.  Chandler cut his political teeth as a state legislator in his native New Hampshire before moving on to the national scene.  Aside from brief stints as naval solicitor and assistant treasury secretary, Chandler spent most of the previous two decades as a party strategist and campaign manager.  Despite his background as a political operator (or perhaps because of it), Chandler proved to be as capable an administrator as Hunt, although rumors of an overly-cozy relationship with Philadelphia shipbuilder John Roach would taint his term. 66

Soon after taking office in April 1882, Chandler appointed Mason to organize and run ONI as the navy’s first chief intelligence officer.  Within weeks of his arrival at navy headquarters two months later, Mason cobbled together a small staff of a half dozen officers pried from other departmental offices.  Administratively, ONI formed part of the Bureau of Navigation, where its powerful chief Walker nurtured the fledgling agency through its earliest years.

The scion of a prominent family with roots in New England and the Midwest, Walker was a no-nonsense professional.  Well-connected politically, he wielded tremendous influence within the Navy Department.  “Unquestionably the ablest and most forceful man of his time in the navy,” recalled a prominent government contractor. 67   Fellow officers and civilian officials anxiously avoided crossing Walker; they knew him as “a man of very strong character,” and “a bad one to oppose.” 59   Yet Walker also displayed an openness of mind and passion for innovation that earned him contemporary acclaim as a “splendidly able and progressive man.” 69

Walker’s progressive credentials were stronger than many of his naval contemporaries.  While on leaves of absence from the navy during 1872-73 and 1879-80, Walker worked as a senior executive first for the Burlington and Missouri Railroad and later for the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railway. 70   At the time, railroad management ranked among the most advanced professions in the nation, with robust national associations, specialized journals, educational prerequisites, and distinct career patterns.  “By the 1880s American railroad managers had taken on the standard appurtenances of a profession,” notes distinguished business historian Alfred D. Chandler, “they saw themselves and were recognized by others as a new and distinct business class—the first professional business managers in America.” 71   The professionalized nature of American railroading proved irresistible to Walker.  Having “nothing to do in the Navy” during the nadir years of its postwar doldrums, he admitted to entering the industry “from a desire to acquaint myself with the methods of handling great railroad corporations.” 72

Walker spent more than three years working as a railroad executive, learning from within its complex organizational and bureaucratic culture. 73   He applied managerial expertise gleaned from the railroads at the Bureau of Navigation, which Walker headed from 1881 to 1889.  Walker obtained impressive results.  Albion credits him with building up the bureau as an important center of influence within the Navy Department: “the real power of the Chief of Navigation seems to have begun with Rear Admiral John G. Walker…. Nephew of the influential James G. Grimes of the Senate naval Committee, he had good understanding of shore tactics.” 74   A junior officer from the 1880s remembered Walker as “politically the most powerful man in the Service…one of the ablest administrators the Department ever had.” 75   Walker’s rationale for establishing the Office of Naval Intelligence certainly bore the hallmarks of his railroad experience.  Efficiency and centralized control framed his vision for the new office, rendering it a model of progressive management.  “My recommendation to establish a single office to have charge of this work and cover the whole field was in the interest of good administration and economy,” he later recalled. 62

Under Walker’s astute mentorship, Mason began organizing the operations of the new intelligence office.  He instituted a permanent naval attaché network, superseding the Navy Department’s exclusive reliance on irregular intelligence missions.  At the same time, the ONI staff began the task of gathering and organizing the reams of information that already resided in various navy bureaus and agencies.  With assistance from Secretary Chandler, Mason cleared away bureaucratic obstacles to obtain files scattered around the Navy Department. “The Bureau of Steam Engineering had some ordnance notes but refused to give them up, and it required an order from the Secretary to compel that bureau to turn them over,” an early ONI staffer recollected. 59   A team of energetic junior officers dissected open-source publications and reports that might contain timely and relevant information.  One project that devoured hundreds of man-hours literally ripped apart recent volumes by naval authors to parse and catalog their contents.  The ONI staff subjected Chief Engineer King’s 1877 book on European navies to this meticulous process, along with a larger work on world navies by Lieutenant Edward W. Very. 78   Working with the new Navy Department Library, Mason soon acquired a steady flow of foreign maritime publications from which the ONI staff extracted, translated, and cataloged pertinent information.  Mason adapted an information management system from the State Department, creating a comprehensive index which facilitated ready access to ONI’s ever-growing accumulation of information. 79

As Mason and Walker busily organized the Office of Naval Intelligence, Congress debated appropriations proposals intended to arrest the nation’s naval decline.  Diminishing opportunities for new settlement on the American frontier and the end of Southern Reconstruction helped lay the political foundations for naval reconstruction.  These developments helped to revive public interest in foreign affairs, a shift reinforced by a growing sense of America’s potential in the wider world.  Furthermore, by the early 1880s the federal revenue account burgeoned from a consistent post-war policy of high tariffs. 80   The dynamics of party politics produced pressures to spend down the surplus funds, and naval reconstruction appealed to many lawmakers as a suitable solution.  As a result, Congress finally approved construction of a small squadron of modern warships in 1883, followed by additional shipbuilding authorizations each year from 1885.  With the launching of new warship-construction projects, the demand for relevant information intensified—the institutional longevity of Mason’s new organization seemed assured.

Mason amplified ONI’s value to the navy’s technical bureaus by satisfying their growing appetite for information on developments in science, technology, and engineering.  For specialists within the organizations responsible for designing and building the new navy, ONI provided myriad details on foreign ships, systems, and practices.  By keeping navy constructors well-apprised “of the progress of naval science in Europe,” ONI enabled them “to study the practical application of the problem as they had never studied it before.” 81   For the enrichment of all naval professionals, the office produced a general information series which contained reports on myriad topics intended “to assist officers in their studies.” 82   One such study on new unarmored cruiser designs employed information provided by ONI to bolster an argument for armoring U.S. warships. 83   ONI also published reports from various scientific and exploratory expeditions (which the navy continued to sponsor throughout the nineteenth century and indeed down to the present day).  Numerous reports and articles from ONI staff members appeared in official ONI publications as well as within the pages of the Naval Institute Proceedings and other journals.  These products also served to inform and educate a broader audience of citizens interested in naval affairs.  Speaking to an audience at the American Geographical Society in 1884, the noted editor and political commentator Albert G. Browne, Jr. referenced Mason’s “excellent, but strictly official monograph” on the recent War of the Pacific (ONI War Series No. 2) to help portray Chile as a rising challenge to U.S. hemispheric aspirations. 84   Three years later, the officer in charge of the navy’s Branch Hydrographic Office at the New York Maritime Exchange reported a strong local demand for ONI publications: “the reports of the Office of Naval Intelligence are eagerly sought.” 85

Walker soon reported with confidence that ONI was thriving as a center for technical intelligence.  Its valuable work “compiling and arranging information collected from all sources, and supplying this information…to the several bureaus of the Navy Department, and to the naval committees of Congress,” he proudly informed the new navy secretary, Benjamin F. Tracy, in 1889, “is now fully recognized.” 86   Evidently impressed, Tracy told the president and Congress that ONI’s efforts “have been of incalculable assistance in the work of reconstruction.” 87   Mason, who moved on to other duties in 1885, was no doubt pleased by the accolades his cherished agency had garnered as the navy’s primary provider of timely and useful technological information.  Yet all along Mason had envisioned ONI as more than a clearinghouse for intelligence relating to mechanism and technology.  From the outset he also quietly shaped the office as a center for synthesizing, analyzing, and disseminating information with strategy in mind.

ONI’s Strategical Mission

ONI’s founders replaced the navy’s traditional, jumbled approach to intelligence work with a progressive framework.  Systemization, specialized expertise, heightened efficiency, function-based organization, centralized institutions, and scientific method permeated the new agency.  Hunt’s original 1882 order to establish the office reflected a rational attempt to recast previously inchoate intelligence functions under the aegis of a central authority.  Blending his own vision with the ideas of Hunt and Walker, Mason designed internal processes and procedures with efficiency in mind.  ONI’s information cataloging system exemplified this approach.  Mason’s methods at ONI resembled the progressive bureaus of research that would emerge in the United States after 1900. 88   Just as the municipal research bureaus “provided endless data…and the skill for drafting some of the more complex ordinance,” ONI collected, synthesized, and published large amounts of information. 89   In time, officers at ONI would also draft complex strategic plans.

Mason staffed the new office with a select cadre of intelligence experts.  Secretary Chandler encapsulated the intelligence chief’s ideas in a directive issued on July 25, 1882, just weeks after Mason reported for duty.  The secretary mandated “only such officers as have shown an aptitude for intelligence staff work or who by their intelligence and knowledge of foreign languages and drawing give promise of such aptitude,” should be assigned to ONI. 90   Many of the young ONI staffers Mason and his successor recruited were adept in both technical and strategic endeavors: Washington I. Chambers, John B. Bernadou, Charles C. Rodgers, and Carlos G. Calkins numbered among the most notable in this regard.

Mason’s vision thus exceeded the explicit instructions of his superiors that ONI merely “collect and record” pertinent naval intelligence.  He believed that ONI should fulfill a strategical mission in addition to its technical responsibilities.  Mason had participated too fully in the strategical awakening of the 1870s not to realize the potential that his new command offered for the practice of strategy.  Civilian leaders apparently embraced Mason’s wider views.  The scope of information assigned to ONI’s purview by Secretary Chandler went beyond simply meeting technological requirements.  In the July 25 directive (likely ghost-written by Mason), Chandler opened the door to strategy-related activities by instructing the office to gather and synthesize a wide scope of information: “the cruising fleets of foreign powers,” distribution networks for “coal and supplies,” capabilities for “transporting troops and material,” “armament of foreign ports,” “facilities on foreign coasts…for landing men and supplies,” as well as “actual capabilities of foreign merchant steamers and the true routes followed by regular steamship lines.” 91

A prolific output of studies and articles penned by ONI staff officers affords ample evidence of a strategical agenda.  It clearly demonstrates that other officers shared Mason’s strategic interest and vision.  In 1883 the first thematic treatments appeared on topics of strategic interest.  These took the form of three campaign case studies covering recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, and South America.  Together the trio comprised the War Series. 92   At the same time, ONI published a General Information Series.  In addition to technical subjects, editions of the General Information Series that appeared between 1883 and 1889 featured articles covering strategy and grand strategy.  These included treatments on naval logistics, forward fleet operations, power projection, recent naval campaigns, the uses of merchant auxiliary forces, the management and use of naval reserves, and foreign mobilization plans and philosophies. 93   By 1890, strategic insight reached an advanced state at ONI.  In 1888, one ONI staffer exhorted navy professionals to embrace “grand strategic principles of national attack and defense.” 94

In addition to the official publications, ONI staff officers published articles of strategic interest in the Proceedings and other journals. 95   An especially significant essay appeared in 1883, under the title “Naval Intelligence.”  Ensign Charles C. Rogers (assigned to ONI 1882-1883 and 1889-1892) authored the piece, which amounted to a strategic manifesto for naval reconstruction.  Deep strategic insight framed Rogers’s discussion, which touched upon matters of force design; strategic movement; schemes of national defense and offense; campaign and war studies; strategic communications; global topography and hydrography (from perspectives of both defense and attack); naval logistics; the relationship between war and commerce; and the mobilization (and interdiction) of strategic resources, including fuel, food, and manpower. 96   Contemporary readers no doubt wondered how ONI might keep track of such an exhaustive body of information!

Following his tour at ONI, Rogers taught in Newport, Rhode Island, at the newly-established Naval War College.  His syllabus for the 1888 session signals a growing appreciation for the close relationship between strategy and intelligence.  Rogers interweaved both themes in the classroom, where he stressed to his students that “the essence of intelligence work is preparation for war.” 97   His lectures covered a variety of relevant topics, including naval logistics for fleets “acting at a distance”; establishment of supply depot networks; the importance of strategic intelligence; “the strategic value of trade routes, to include their defense and attack in war”; and reconnaissance. 98   Rogers also presented to his students a strategic study of the Great Lakes frontier.

*     *     *     *     *

Theodorus Mason’s tour as the head of naval intelligence ended in April 1885, when he detached for new duties in Central America.  His replacement was Lieutenant Raymond P. Rodgers, Mason’s good friend and fellow veteran of the Franklin intelligence cell fifteen years earlier.  Rodgers’s arrival as chief of intelligence coincided with a singular but little noted moment in U.S. naval history.

Just two days before Rodgers reported for duty, on March 31, new Navy Secretary William C. Whitney issued instructions that notably expanded the strategic dimension of ONI’s mission.  In his directive, Whitney ordered the intelligence office to “collect and classify information upon all subjects connected with war, or which can have a bearing upon naval action, and to prepare detailed plans of campaigns covering all contingencies of active naval operations.” 99   Whitney’s order marks the formal advent of peacetime contingency planning by the U.S. Navy.

ONI’s strategic planning efforts between 1885 and 1889 seemed tentative and amateurish by later standards.  At the outset, the navy possessed neither experienced planners nor models from which to design appropriate procedures.  Nevertheless, Rodgers and his staff made an honest effort, often personally overseen by the ubiquitous Walker.  As a start, the chief intelligence officer established a desk to address “Offensive and Defensive” matters—a title that suggests strategic synthesis and planning.  The ONI register lists Lieutenant William H. Beehler as the first officer to fill this position.  Beehler’s responsibilities included “Depots and Bases, Dockyards, Fortifications, and Operations”—important activities for developing strategic plans. 100   Rodgers also charged Beehler with keeping tabs on developments within the U.S. Army—an early acknowledgment of the need for joint coordination.

Preparation of “War Maps” represented another important ONI function.  The ONI staff compiled these large charts anticipating future operations.  Intended to show planners and commanders “all the information necessary to use…the localities they embrace for offensive and defensive operations,” the war maps possibly represent ONI’s earliest attempts at strategic planning, predating the first known campaign plans by several years. 101   Washington I. Chambers apparently established the war mapping function during 1883-84, with Beehler taking over in 1884-1885. 102

It appears that Whitney’s first planning assignment for ONI involved potential operations in Panama, where French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lesseps was attempting to construct a canal.  A rebellion exploded on the isthmus in March 1885—just days after the Cleveland administration entered office.  When rebels interdicted the trans-isthmian railroad (which the United States was bound by treaty to protect), burned a U.S. consular office, and otherwise menaced American lives and property, the new president ordered a naval expeditionary force ashore in early April to restore transit and prevent further depredations. 103   A simultaneous intervention by Chilean forces aggravated the situation. 104   Whitney quickly withdrew the U.S. sailors and marines after Columbian troops arrived to restore order.

Events in Panama quickly overtook whatever contingency planning ONI initiated—the Columbian forces assumed control by the end of April, and the last U.S. troops departed on May 25. 105   Whether or not planning advanced beyond a preliminary stage, ONI sponsored several strategic reconnaissance missions to Panama during 1885.  Walker directed one on-scene commander to perform a confidential survey of islands off Panama’s Pacific coast for the purpose of ascertaining “how completely they would control the Bay of Panama if we were to occupy them with a permanent force.” 106   On other missions, field intelligence officers in Panama performed thorough inspections of the French canal project under construction, and prepared detailed reports. 107   Back at ONI headquarters, Ensign George H. Stafford began compiling a war map of the Isthmus. 108

Excerpt from Rogers's 1887 strategic design. Rogers envisioned a joint sea-land campaign to seize Canada's strategic heartland. Lieutenant Seaton Schroeder, ONI's desk officer for campaigns and strategy, scribbled a margin note on this page (upper right corner). Schroeder's comment reads: "Very difficult no lines of Com. by water or rail. SS" (Photo Courtesy RG8, Naval Historical Collection, Naval War College; photographed by the author)

Excerpt from Rogers’s 1887 strategic design. Rogers envisioned a joint sea-land campaign to seize Canada’s strategic heartland. Lieutenant Seaton Schroeder, ONI’s desk officer for campaigns and strategy, scribbled a margin note on this page (upper right corner). Schroeder’s comment reads: “Very difficult no lines of Com. by water or rail. SS” (Photo Courtesy RG8, Naval Historical Collection, Naval War College; photographed by the author)

A dispute with Britain over fishing rights in Canadian waters prompted another strategic planning initiative in 1886. 109   Walker and Rodgers sought first-hand information on Canadian defenses to support the planning effort.  They and ONI staffer Seaton Schroeder traveled to Canada during the summer of 1887, evidently on a self-appointed mission to gather intelligence “that would be needed both for the protection of our own interests and to injure the enemy in case of war with England.” 110  The ONI mission coincided with another reconnaissance by Charles C. Rogers, then serving as intelligence officer in USS Galena.  On July 1, 1887, Rear Admiral Stephen Luce, commander of the navy’s North Atlantic Squadron, directed Rogers to survey ports in eastern Canada “as you may find to be of marked strategic or commercial importance.” 111   Rogers likely carried out his assignment with Walker’s concurrence, visiting Halifax, Toronto, Kingston, and other locations.  After completing his survey, Rogers spent several months at ONI assembling a series of voluminous classified reports from the materials he gathered in Canada. 112   One of his compilations, “Intelligence Report on War Resources in Canada,” subsequently provided reference material for Naval War College lectures. 113

A new fisheries treaty in 1889 eased tensions between the United States and Britain.  Nevertheless, the episodes involving Panama and Canada helped to spark an unprecedented burst of strategic development at the Office of Naval Intelligence.  Gathering and reporting intelligence characterized only the most basic aspects of ONI’s activities.  More significant was the degree of strategic synthesis performed at the office, largely in the form of contingency plans, war maps, and strategic studies.

Most notable was the appearance of actual strategic plans.  The full extent of these early planning efforts is not easy to assess.  “Nor was it clear how far war planning went against Canada or its protector Great Britain,” notes ONI historian Jeffrey M. Dorwart. 114   Dorwart and other scholars found only scant evidence of ONI’s early strategic planning.  However, nestled within the thick volume of Canadian war resource information prepared by Rogers in 1887 are sections entitled “Analysis of Defenses” and “Plan of Operations.”  We do not know whether Rogers prepared these plans by direction of senior authority or on his own volition, or whether top officials approved the final products.  However, it is clear that Rogers’s materials were not unknown to senior navy leaders.  The ONI staff officer responsible for campaigns and strategy annotated and initialed Rogers’s plans.  Naval War College president Mahan was also familiar with the documents, and other officers—including ONI chief R.P. Rodgers—almost certainly reviewed them. 115   Elements of a contingency plan for war with Great Britain drafted in 1890 by Mahan resemble those found in Roger’s 1887 original. 116

The war plans produced by Rogers were rudimentary drafts—each a handwritten outline of strategic designs—rather than detailed campaign plans.  Nevertheless they represent an important first step for a navy without significant experience planning strategic operations well in advance of actual need.  Most interesting among Rogers’s proposals was a comprehensive campaign plan for the conquest of Canada.

Rogers proposed a scheme of “divide and conquer” as the best path to military success in Canada.  He suggested cutting the nation in two by quickly securing control of its strategic locus: a geographic triangle demarcated by Montreal, Ottawa, and Kingston, Ontario.  Montreal, he predicted, would pose the toughest challenge.  To effect its capture, Rogers advised gathering a large army at Albany, “the critical depot of the war,” then driving north along the classic Hudson River-Lake Champlain-Richelieu River axis. 117   American forces would leverage the extensive railroad and waterway networks of the U.S. Northeast to achieve speedy movement, concentration, and resupply.

Rogers recommended securing the strategic flanks as a precursor to the crucial drive on Montreal.  To accomplish this preliminary goal, he believed that the U.S. Army with limited naval support must quickly isolate Halifax and seize the key Lake Ontario ports of Kingston, Toronto, and Hamilton.  With these early operations the Americans would win the strategic initiative.  At the same time, the bulk of the U.S. fleet would deploy to defend the American coastline against the enemy’s maritime incursions.

When ready, the Albany force would attack Montreal.  Bolstered by gunboats and torpedo craft from the navy, the army would chop through Canada’s strategic heart like a cleaver.  By moving perpendicular to the vital Saint Lawrence lifeline, Rogers argued the Americans could avoid the strategic blunder of rolling up the British-Canadian defense “along the lines of communication toward the point of support and base of supply.” 118   Rather than allowing enemy resistance to stiffen in retreat, Rogers’s bifurcation strategy would instead enfeeble it—at least in theory.  With Canada neatly divided, the American conquerors could muster a strong defense against counterattack from the east, while extending U.S. control over the rich Great Lakes basin to the west.

While Rogers devised his campaign plans, other officers produced materials to support planning efforts.  Following Beehler and Chambers, Seaton Schroeder and Charles C. Rogers supervised war maps between 1886-1889. 119   Schroeder, Rogers, and Beehler also researched “Strategic Positions” during this period. 120   Lieutenant Wainwright Kellogg charted the location of inter-oceanic telegraph cables—an essential resource should necessity arise to interrupt Britain’s communications with Canada. 121   Between 1887-1891, Ensign John B. Bernadou prepared a series of classified maps displaying in graphical form important strategic information on Britain’s seaborne food supply and maritime shipping patterns. One map series produced by Bernadou displayed a month-by-month analysis of British food import flows.  Another analyzed seasonal variations in Britain’s global shipping patterns, while a third series presented the same information for American shipping. 122   U.S. strategic planners would find such information useful in designing an interdiction campaign against Britain’s vital maritime lifelines—and for making plans to defend America’s own sea lines of communication.

An abundance of strategic research and analysis emanated from ONI’s early planning efforts.  In addition to the reports on Panama and Canada, two other studies produced by ONI staff members stand out as substantial resources for strategic preparation.  The first, entitled, A Study of Exposed Points on our Frontier, was originally drafted for the 1885 Fortification Board chaired by Secretary of War William C. Endicott.  However, the study also constituted a detailed reference guide for strategic planners.  William H. Beehler, ONI’s desk officer for offensive and defensive operations, authored the report.  Beehler cataloged hundreds of strategic sites along the coasts and borders of the United States, analyzing each for military strengths and vulnerabilities.  He also assessed the railroad infrastructure of Canada and the United States.  He highlighted areas where the former posed particular strategic danger and offered suggestions on how to address American vulnerabilities. 123   Beehler’s contributions helped to shape upgrades to the nation’s strategic fortification system. 124   In addition, Rogers possibly consulted Beehler’s work while preparing his 1887 plan of operations for Canada. 125

A second, unpublished study was perhaps more influential than Beehler’s work.  ONI staff member Lieutenant Carlos G. Calkins researched and composed “The Coast-Line of the United States Considered with Reference to Maritime Attack and Defense,” and delivered it as a Naval War College lecture series.  Despite the title’s insinuations, Calkins devoted only one short section of his study to naval campaigning specifically along the U.S. coastline; the rest of his topics applied strategic concepts and principles to various dimensions of naval warfare in general, ranging from the “Objects of Aggressive Maritime Warfare” to “Strategical Geography Affecting Maritime Attack” to “Distribution of Forces for a Naval Campaign” and “Functional Employment of the Navy In Coast Defense.” 126

The newly-constructed State, War, and Navy Building (now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) housed ONI during the 1880s.

The newly-constructed State, War, and Navy Building (now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building) housed ONI during the 1880s. (Photo Courtesy LOC)

In effect, Calkins’s treatise was a primer for strategic planning.  Calkins first taught the coast defense topic at the war college in 1887, at the end of his ONI tour. 127   Calkins and others continued to present his lecture material into the 1890s, when it almost certainly influenced the tentative planning efforts for a potential war with Spain.  Naval War College President Henry C. Taylor, an instrumental figure in the planning for war with Spain, was intimately familiar with Calkins’s ideas. 128   Taylor singled out Calkins’s work for special mention in 1894, praising the younger officer for his “very rare abilities” as a strategist, and recommending him “as an officer of great use to the Navy Department in time of war.” 98


That naval intelligence staff officers produced no finished designs for wartime operations during this period is less important than the paradigm shift their efforts represent.  In a sharp departure from past practice (influenced by international frictions in Panama and Canadian waters), civil authorities directed navy strategists to prepare contingency plans during peacetime.  No longer was strategy merely an activity of wartime improvisation, nor did it remain an endeavor to which naval officers devoted little serious thought and energy when the nation was at peace.  Having fashioned itself into a locus for strategic studies, ONI became the navy’s first center for regular, systematic strategic planning.  Its early strategy-making accomplishments set the stage for more productive efforts in the decade that followed, when ONI staffers, working with the newly-established Naval War College, would play a leading role in developing the strategic blueprint for potential naval operations against Spain.  Perhaps more significantly, officers exposed to early contingency planning at ONI began to value strategic skills and encourage their comrades to develop strategic expertise.  In other words, they began to identify themselves as “strategists.”

The institutional development of strategy and intelligence advanced significantly within the U.S. Navy between 1869 and 1889.  Both began the period as sporadic, inchoate functions, improvised by amateurish practitioners acting largely without method, structure, or theory.  Two decades later both intelligence and strategy had become systematized processes, practiced regularly by an increasingly capable cadre of experts, during peacetime as well as in war.  After 1882, both intelligence and strategy found an institutional home in the Office of Naval Intelligence.

The institutional development of strategy and intelligence advanced significantly within the U.S. Navy between 1869 and 1889.  Both began the period as sporadic, inchoate functions, improvised by amateurish practitioners acting largely without method, structure, or theory.  Two decades later both intelligence and strategy had become systematized processes, practiced regularly by an increasingly capable cadre of experts, during peacetime as well as in war.  After 1882, both intelligence and strategy found an institutional home in the Office of Naval Intelligence.

The practices of naval intelligence and naval strategy arrived at the same place via separate, albeit often intertwining, paths.  At the outset, naval officers and civilian policy-makers seemed not to recognize the close relationship between strategy and intelligence; their actions treated the two disciplines as discrete functions.  Traditionally, American naval intelligence work responded to demands for technical, scientific, commercial, and professional information, with no apparent connection to strategic purpose.  At the same time, the navy’s approach to strategy followed a tradition of improvisation during war and disregard during peacetime.

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, several developments acted to transform naval attitudes toward strategy and intelligence.  First, Civil War experience opened the eyes (and minds) of some naval officers to new possibilities regarding the theory and practice of both disciplines.  Second, naval intellectuals grasped that traditional approaches to strategy and intelligence would soon become overwhelmed as the ongoing revolution in industrial technology heaped complexity and complication upon a world already convulsed by modernization.  Third, apprehensions over shifting international geopolitics added urgency to calls for change. Finally, the associations and journals associated with the navy’s own professionalizing project encouraged new dialogue and ideas within the naval officer corps.

Propelled by these transformational forces, the U.S. Navy experienced a strategical awakening during the 1870s and 1880s.  The navy’s new strategic consciousness marked a sharp departure from past habits that neglected strategic education, discourse, and practice.  At the same time, the need to accumulate and organize a fast-growing body of essential information prompted navy officials to establish the Office of Naval Intelligence.  By incorporating progressive managerial concepts such as the use of experts, functional organization, and scientific methodology, ONI created a new paradigm for the navy’s practice of intelligence.  These same concepts opened the door for a flowering of strategic studies and planning.

Once established, ONI became the institutional home for practicing naval strategy, along with conducting intelligence activities.  The responsiveness of both disciplines to progressive practices help explain this synthesis, but two other factors also contributed.  First, the leading figures behind the founding and early orchestration of ONI were already strategically-minded; many, like Theodorus Mason and Washington Chambers extended their pioneering work from the strategical awakening.  These men readily grasped the relationship between strategy and intelligence, a relationship conveyed concisely by the remark from Charles Rogers’s war college syllabus that “the essence of intelligence work is preparation for war.” 130   Second, ONI housed under a single roof a staff of young officers who eagerly absorbed the ideas of mentors like Mason, Walker, and Raymond Rodgers.  Their daily work soon reflected the natural synergy of strategy with intelligence, which they spread to a broader naval and public audience through official publications and journal articles.

By 1889, a new paradigm for the practice of strategy emerged within the U.S. Navy, as reflected by the proliferation of strategic studies and strategic planning at ONI.  Strategy-making, like the navy’s practice of intelligence, became increasingly coherent, methodical, pro-active, and expert-driven.  It was also becoming a permanent endeavor, with navy planners continuously at work preparing for war contingencies during peacetime.  Strategic practice would continue to mature into the following decade, when it would merge with a fresh set of ideas about strategy ideas emanating from the Naval War College—a confluence that would transform American naval policy and professional identity.

(Return to December 2015 Table of Contents)


  1. “Huascar, Reliquia Historica, Museo Flotante Ubicado En La Ciudad De Talcahuano, Chile, Armada De Chile,” El Sitio Web Oficial Del Monitor Huascar. La Armada de Chile, accessed December 1, 2014, The author, serving as Operations Officer in Richard E. Byrd, visited Huascar’s homeport of Talcahuano, Chile during September-October, 1989.
  2. Theodore B. M. Mason and R.R. Ingersoll, “The Capture of the Peruvian Monitor Ram ‘Huascar’ by the Chilian Squadron, October 8, 1879,” United Service 3, no. 4 (October 1880): 396.
  3. Breese commanded the squadron flagship, USS Pensacola. Four line officers and an engineer comprised the full Huáscar inspection team, or “board,” as designated by Rodgers. Besides Breese and Mason, the board included Chief Engineer E.D. Robie, Lieutenant Royal R. Ingersoll, and Lieutenant Duncan Kennedy. Rodgers specifically instructed the board to report on the details of Huáscar’s “ordnance, armor, construction, and engines.” Furthermore, in light of the Angamos battle, the admiral directed Breese’s team to “make a careful examination of damage she has sustained and the effect produced upon her armor and hull” by enemy fires. Rodgers to Inspection Board, October 14, 1879, M89, Reel 67, Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy from Commanding Officers of Squadrons, 1841-1886, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. 
  4. Mason and Ingersoll, “Capture of Huascar,” 405.
  5. The English shipbuilding firm Laird, Son and Company constructed Huáscar at their Birkenhead yard, launching the ship in 1865. British yards also produced Huáscar’s primary opponents at Cape Angamos: the Chilean armored cruisers Almirante Cochrane (launched 1874) and Blanco Encalada (launched 1875). See Robert Gardiner, Roger Chesneau, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860-1905, Naval Institute Press Edition (New York: Mayflower, 1979), 410, 419.
  6. R.W. Thompson, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1879,” 46th Cong., 2nd Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1879, 372.
  7. C.R. Perry Rodgers, “Official Report of the Naval Engagement Between the Chilian Fleet and the Peruvian Ram Husacar,” trans. John F. Meigs, Record of the United States Naval Institute 5, no. 10 (1879): 563–67; “Rear-Admiral C.R.P. Rodgers Reports to the Secretary of the Navy,” Army and Navy Journal 17, no. 17 (November 29, 1879): 327; “Injuries to the Huascar,” Army and Navy Journal 17, no. 21 (December 27, 1879): 410–11; Theodore B. M. Mason, “The War Between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia,” United Service 2, no. 5 (May 1880): 553–74; Mason and Ingersoll, “Capture of Huascar.”
  8. Dorwart analyzes an important 1883 article by ONI staffer Charles C. Rogers entitled “Naval Intelligence,” assessing it as supplying a “strategic underpinning” for the new agency’s functions. Dorwart also describes certain intelligence-gathering activities undertaken to support incipient war planning activities at ONI in 1885 and 1887, yet he offers no insight into the actual planning effort. I address these same developments later in this chapter.  Jeffery M. Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence: The Birth of America’s First Intelligence Agency, 1865-1918 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1979), 16–17, 28–29.
  9. Ibid., 20.
  10. Wyman H. Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence (Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval Intelligence: Naval Historical Center, 1996), 5.
  11. John B. Hattendorf, B. Mitchell Simpson, and John R. Wadleigh, Sailors and Scholars: The Centennial History of the U.S. Naval War College (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 1984), 7.
  12. Harold Sprout and Margaret Sprout, The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776-1918 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980), 198–222.
  13. Walter R. Herrick, The American Naval Revolution (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1966), 13–46.
  14. J.A.S. Grenville and George Berkeley Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy; Studies in Foreign Policy, 1873-1917 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966), 34–37.
  15. Herrick, The American Naval Revolution, 161.
  16. Robert Seager II, “Ten Years Before Mahan: The Unofficial Case for the New Navy, 1880-1890,” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 40, no. 3 (December 1953): 507.
  17. Benjamin L. Apt, “Mahan’s Forebears: The Debate Over Maritime Strategy, 1868-1883,” Naval War College Review 50, no. 3 (Summer 1997): 93.
  18. Kenneth J. Hagan, This People’s Navy: The Making of American Sea Power (New York: Free Press, 1991); Robert G. Angevine, “The Rise and Fall of the Office of Naval Intelligence, 1882-1892: A Technological Perspective,” The Journal of Military History 62, no. 2 (April 1998): 291–312.
  19. Lawrence Carroll Allin, The United States Naval Institute, Intellectual Forum of the New Navy, 1873-1889 (Manhattan, Kan: Military Affairs/Aerospace Historian Publishing, 1978).
  20. Mark Russell Shulman, “The Rise and Fall of American Naval Intelligence, 1882–1917,” Intelligence and National Security 8, no. 2 (1993): 219–223.
  21. Peter Karsten, The Naval Aristocracy: The Golden Age of Annapolis and the Emergence of Modern American Navalism (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2008), 300. See also page 166.
  22. The nascent U.S. Navy strategists personified Wiebe’s description of a new scientific-bureaucratic outlook that facilitated fresh, sophisticated approaches to problem-solving. In this regard, younger navy progressive like Chambers, Mason, and Rodgers understood science as a set of methods for guiding investigation, rather than the eternal laws or principles derived from such investigation. Wiebe’s commentary is apt: “bureaucratic thought…made ‘science’ practically synonymous with ‘scientific method.’ Science had become a procedure, or an orientation, rather than a body of results.” See Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920, 1st ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967), 147; also: Samuel P. Hays, “The New Organizational Society,” in Building the Organizational Society: Essays on Associational Activities in Modern America, ed. Jerry Israel (New York: Free Press, 1972), 1–15; Alfred D. Chandler, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press, 1977).
  23. Stivers’s scholarship and the work supporting this chapter both present some interesting methodological parallels. Both frame progressive reform as the product of cultural contrasts and convergences. Stivers describes progressive-era urban reform as a balancing act between two gendered middle-class cultures: the rational-procedure bureau men bent on improving city governance, verses compassionate “settlement women” focused on improving quality of life.  Within the Gilded Age navy, cultures of Mechanism and Strategy demonstrated a comparable duality: the two cultures generally working in unison to accomplish reform, but often clashing over institutional authority and resource issues. See Camilla Stivers, “Settlement Women and Bureau Men: Constructing a Usable Past for Public Administration,” Public Administration Review 55, no. 6 (November 1995): 525–526.
  24. A. T. Mahan, From Sail to Steam; Recollections of Naval Life (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1907), 271.
  25. See Gideon Welles, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1865” (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1865), 11.
  26. A.P. Mantus  [pseud.
  27. Charles Belknap, “The Naval Policy of the United States,” Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute 6, no. 14 (1880): 387.
  28. Ibid., 389.
  29. Theodore B. M. Mason, “The United States Naval Institute,” The United Service 1, no. 2 (April 1879): 295.
  30. Roy C. Smith, III, “The First Hundred Years Are…,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings 99, no. 10 (October 1973): 56. Rodgers was the Naval Institute’s second official member and a founding regent.  He served as the society’s vice president in 1874 , then president from 1875-1878 and again 1882-1883.
  31. R.W. Thompson, Annual Report of Secretary of Navy, 1877 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1877), 49.
  32. Stephen D. Brown provides a cogent analysis of Rodger’s role as a naval reformer and mentor. See Stephen D. Brown, “Christopher Raymond Perry Rodgers: Mentor of the New Navy,” in Naval History: The Sixth Symposium of the U.S. Naval Academy, ed. Daniel Masterson (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1987), 291–301.
  33. Robeson to Rodgers, November 8, 1870, in Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 6.
  34. Mason’s personal intelligence mission may have a coincided with a similar endeavor by his mentor C.R.P. Rodgers.  Official navy documents show Rodgers on special duty in Europe from late August 1870 through September 1871. Packard reports that during this period Rodgers gathered information on naval administration and logistics on matters in France, England, and Russia.  The timing suggests a possibility of cooperation between Mason and Rodgers, but no evidence exists to substantiate such a claim. See Lewis R. Hamersly, The Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, 4th ed. (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1890), 28–29, 185; Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence, 12–13; U.S. Department of the Navy, Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps and Reserve Officers on Active Duty (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872), 12–13, 34–35.
  35. J.M. Ellicott, “Theodorus Bailey Meyers Mason: Founder of the Office of Naval Intelligence,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings 78, no. 3 (March 1952): 265.
  36. Theodore B. M. Mason, “The 100 Ton Gun,” The Record of the United States Naval Institute 2, no. 7 (1877): 110.
  37. Prussia vs. Austria-Hungary (1866); Prussia vs. France (1870); Russia vs. Ottoman Empire (1877-1878), Chile vs. Peru and Bolivia (1879-1883), Britain vs. Egypt (1882), France in Tunisia (1881). See Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 5.
  38. See ibid., 6, 8; Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence, 1; Paolo Enrico Coletta, A Survey of U.S. Naval Affairs, 1865-1917 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987), 26. Altogether these authors cataloged sixteen overseas intelligence missions from 1866-1881, an average of about one per year.
  39. See James W. King, Report of Chief Engineer J. W. King, United States Navy, on European Ships of War and Their Armament, Naval Administration and Economy, Marine Constructions and Appliances, Dockyards, Etc., Etc. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1877), passim; Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 7; Herrick, The American Naval Revolution, 22.
  40. Hamersly, Records of Living Officers, 1890, 186; U.S. Department of the Navy, Register of the Commissioned, Warrant, and Volunteer Officers of the Navy of the United States Including Officers of the Marine Corps and Others, to January 1, 1876 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1876), 26.
  41. Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence, 2.
  42. Walker to Sigsbee, June 19, 1902, 1, Private Letterbooks, Vol. 3, Box 2, The Papers of John G. Walker, Naval Historical Foundation Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  43. A.P. Mantus [pseud.
  44. Rodgers to Thompson, May 26, 1879; Rodgers to Thompson, June 5, 1879; Rodgers to Thompson, October 13, 1879, M89, Reel 67, Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy from Commanding Officers of Squadrons, 1841-1886, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  45. Rodgers to Thompson, November 4, 1879; Rodgers to Thompson, November 17, 1879, M89, Reel 67, Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy from Commanding Officers of Squadrons, 1841-1886, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 10.
  46. Mason, “The War Between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia”; Mason and Ingersoll, “Capture of Huascar”; Theodore B. M. Mason, “The War on the Pacific Coast of South America Between Chile and the Allied Republics of Peru and Bolivia, 1879-’81,” Office of Naval Intelligence War Series (Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1883).
  47. Hunt launched a successful law practice in 1844 by earning admission the Louisiana bar at age twenty. Despite deep Southern roots, Hunt had been a dedicated Union man during the Civil War. Drafted into the Confederate Army in 1861, he avoided active service and welcomed Union commanders into his New Orleans home when the U.S. Navy seized the city in the spring of 1862. After the war Hunt embraced Republicanism, an affiliation that aroused hostility among many Louisianans. He became a tireless crusader against election fraud—no small challenge in a state known for its political corruption. “Campaigning in Louisiana was a dangerous undertaking for a Republican,” Hunt’s son later recalled, “it was doubly dangerous for my father because he was the most prominent Southerner in the Republican party and it enraged the Democrats to know that here was one white Republican whom they could not call a carpetbagger.” Thomas Hunt, The Life of William H. Hunt (Brattleboro, VT: E.L. Hildreth, 1922), 180. Republican leaders soon took notice of Hunt’s qualities. A succession of political appointments propelled him upward within the party ranks, eventually opening the door for a cabinet appointment. See also Walter R. Herrick, “William H. Hunt,” in American Secretaries of the Navy, ed. Paolo E. Coletta, vol. 1 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980), 390–391.
  48. Robert Greenhalgh Albion, Makers of Naval Policy, 1798-1947, ed. Rowena Reed (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980), 206.
  49. W.H. Hunt’s son Ridgely graduated from Annapolis in 1875. Ridgley Hunt served at ONI during 1890-1892. He retired as a lieutenant in 1897.  The younger Hunt served in ONI 1890-92. He retired as a lieutenant in 1897.  Hunt’s mother Elizabeth Augusta Ridgely died in 1864 at age thirty-nine. She gave birth to all seven of Hunt’s children; her father was Commodore Charles Goodwin Ridgley, USN 1784-1848. See Hunt, The Life of William H. Hunt, 122; Elizabeth Clarkson Jay, “The Descendants of James Alexander,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 12, no. 4 (October 1881): 157; Edward W. Callahan, ed., List of the Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 (New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1901), 284.
  50. Albion, Makers of Naval Policy, 1798-1947, 206; Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 14; Hamersly, Records of Living Officers, 1890, 28–29; Lewis R. Hamersly, The Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, 6th ed. (New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1898), 32. Rodgers served as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy during 1881, retiring later the same year. Sicard was chief of the navy’s ordnance bureau during 1881-1890; Walker headed the Navigation Bureau 1882-1889
  51. William H. Hunt, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1881,” 47th Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1881, 3.
  52. James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, vol. 8 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1898), 51.
  53. Naval History and Heritage Command, “Budget of the US Navy: 1794 to 2004,” Naval Historical Center-Navy Department Library, 2004, 650, /budget.htm; Naval History and Heritage Command, “Budget of the US Navy: 1794 to 2004”; Douglas A. Irwin, “Exports, by Country of Destination: 1790–20011. Table Ee533-550,” Cambridge University Press, Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition Online, (2006), /ISBN-9780511132971.Ee362-611. Earle traces the notable consistency of naval revival between 1880-1920, with each succeeding administration expanding upon its predecessor, regardless of party affiliation. Similarly, a review of navy budget authorizations from 1882-1897 reveals a general rise in appropriations of about 1.5% per year (during a time of overall economic deflation in the United States), regardless of whether the Congress was split or a single party controlled both houses.
  54. Sprout and Sprout, Rise of American Naval Power, 185.
  55. The volume of U.S. imports and exports dropped by nearly fifteen percent following the Panic of 1873, and remained low for the next several years. However, by 1880 trade volume climbed to 113 percent of the 1873 peak. See Louis P. Cain, “Value of Waterborne Imports and Exports of Merchandise, by Flag of Carrier: 1790-1994. Table Df606-611,” Cambridge University Press, Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition Online, (2006),
  56. Hunt, “Report of Navy Secretary, 1881,” 27.
  57. For a concise yet authoritative summary of technical atrophy in the postwar U.S. Navy, see Michael E. Vlahos, “The Making of an American Style,” in Naval Engineering and American Seapower, ed. Randolph W. King and Prescott Palmer (Baltimore, MD: Nautical & Aviation Pub. Co. of America, 1989), 17–25.
  58. J.G. Walker, “Report of the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, November 15, 1882,” in Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1882 (47th Cong., 2nd Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1882), 108; Charles C. Rogers, “Naval Intelligence,” Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute 9, no. 5 (1883): 680–689.
  59. Berry, “The Beginning of ONI,” 102.
  60. Two early ONI staffers would later testify to Mason’s pivotal influence. Seaton Schroeder (who served at ONI during 1886-1888) praised Mason’s “persevering initiative” in giving the office “official existence and a start.” Likewise, John M. Ellicot (assigned to ONI 1888-1891) claimed that Mason personally proposed to the secretary of the navy “that a section be established” to manage naval intelligence. See Seaton Schroeder, A Half Century of Naval Service (New York: D. Appleton, 1922), 171; Hamersly, Records of Living Officers, 1898, 134; “Register of Personnel of the Office of Naval Intelligence, 1882-1918,” n.d., 51, RG 38, Records of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Box 1, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  61. The precise influence of Hunt’s naval advisors upon his decision to establish ONI is difficult to establish.  Dowart mentions only that Hunt received intelligence reports from Mason off South America in 1881. According to Packard, Mason launched a campaign in late 1881 to set up an intelligence office at the navy department. Packard claims that Mason gained access to Hunt, who “apparently agreed with Mason’s idea for setting up and intelligence office.” Packard cites the 1952 journal article by J.M. Ellicott as his source. Ellicott knew Mason personally, but it is unclear whether his information on Mason’s role in ONI’s establishment came from Mason himself or other sources. Significant chronological discrepancies appear in Ellicott’s account, and the author seems to confuse Hunt with his successor William E. Chandler, who assumed office in April 1882. However, it seems possible that Mason did discuss an intelligence matters with Hunt, given his strong views on intelligence processes, and his proximity to the nation’s capital (Mason was stationed in Annapolis during late 1881-early 1882). Mason also enjoyed sponsorship from influential, high-ranking officers such as Luce, C.R.P. Rodgers, and John G. Walker—men were in positions to advance Mason and his ideas. See Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 11; Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence, 2; Ellicott, “Mason: Founder of ONI,” 266.
  62. Walker to Sigsbee, June 19, 1902, 1.
  63. Benjamin F. Tracy, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1889,” 51st Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1889, 7.
  64. Hunt, William H. General Order, No. 292, Washington, D.C., March 23, 1882, in M.S. Thompson, ed., General Orders and Circulars Issued by the Navy Department from 1863 to 1887 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1887), 208.
  65. Hunt’s appointment as secretary of the navy ended as it began, as a political expedient.  Garfield succumbed to an assassin’s bullet in September 1881, elevating Vice President Arthur to the presidency.  Six months later, Arthur replaced Hunt with Republican party functionary William E. Chandler.  As consolation, Arthur named Hunt as the new ambassador to Russia, an appointment the Louisianan considered tantamount to political exile. Hunt dutifully departed for Moscow in May 1882, leaving to his successor the details of organizing the new intelligence office. See Hunt, The Life of William H. Hunt, 257.
  66. Chandler’s opponents could not substantiate charges against him, but historians still debate his corruptibility. See Walter R. Herrick, “William E. Chandler,” in American Secretaries of the Navy, ed. Paolo E. Coletta, vol. 1 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1980), 399–400.
  67. Charles H. Cramp, quoted in Berry, “The Beginning of ONI,” 102.

    Augustus C. Buell, The Memoirs of Charles H. Cramp (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1906), 181.

  68. Berry, “The Beginning of ONI,” 102.
  69. Bradley A. Fiske, From Midshipman to Rear-Admiral (New York: The Century Co, 1919), 72.
  70. No doubt Walker’s experience as a railroad executive exposed him to a number of innovative managerial practices. Noted historian Richard White describes the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy as one of the most aggressive and organizationally influential rail system in the western United States during the early 1880s. White also notes that railroad organization charts seldom depicted ground truth with accuracy. In practice, corporate authority had limited reach, allowing local managers and supervisors to exercise considerable autonomy (and frequent malfeasance) in running day-to-day operations.  As a naval officer accustomed to independent command, Walker would not have found the complex reality of intra-corporate relations unfamiliar. See Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2011), 213, 235–236.
  71. Chandler, The Visible Hand, 132.
  72. Walker to Miner, March 21, 1902, Private Letterbooks, Vol. 3, Box 2, The Papers of John G. Walker, Naval Historical Foundation Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. In 1902 Walker shared recollections of his railroad experience in correspondence with New York Herald editor George R. Miner.
  73. Walker biographer Francis P. Thomas provides additional details of Walker’s railroad career. See Frances P. Thomas, Career of John Grimes Walker, U.S.N., 1835-1907 (Boston: s.n., 1959), 50, 53–54.
  74. Albion, Makers of Naval Policy, 1798-1947, 72.
  75. Gleaves, Life and Letters of Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce, 72.
  76. Walker to Sigsbee, June 19, 1902, 1.
  77. Berry, “The Beginning of ONI,” 102.
  78. See King, Engineer King Report; Edward W. Very, Navies of the World; Giving Concise Descriptions of the Plans, Armament and Armor of the Naval Vessels of Twenty of the Principal Nations. Together with the Latest Developments in Ordnance, Torpedoes, and Naval Architecture, and a Concise Summary of the Principal Naval Battles of the Last Twenty Years, 1860-1880 (New York: J. Wiley & Sons, 1880).
  79. Berry, an ONI staff member during 1882-1883, later described these details these early activities in a 1937 Naval Institute Proceedings article. See Berry, “The Beginning of ONI,” 102.
  80. Between 1881-1891, the federal revenues exceeded expenditures by some $100 million per year, on average.  High tariffs sustained the surplus, as protectionist spirit remained strong in Washington. Civil War pensions and local pork barrel projects absorbed much of the excess revenue, but the navy also benefited. See Edward Mead Earle, “The Navy’s Influence on Our Foreign Relations,” Current History 23, no. 5 (February 1926): 651; Herrick, The American Naval Revolution, 24; Sprout and Sprout, Rise of American Naval Power, 183.
  81. Benjamin F. Tracy, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1889,” 51st Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1889, 8.
  82. Chandler to Mason, July 25, 1882, RG 45, Correspondence, 1798-1918, Letters and Telegrams Sent to Naval Officers on Special Duty, Vol. 12, 56-57, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
  83. F.T. Bowles, “Our New Cruisers,” Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute 9, no. 4 (September 1883): 622.
  84. Albert G. Browne, Jr., “The Growing Power of the Republic of Chile,” Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York 16 (January 1, 1884): 42, doi:10.2307/196360; Mason, “The War on the Pacific Coast of South America Between Chile and the Allied Republics of Peru and Bolivia, 1879-’81,” 77.
  85. V.L. Cottman, “Report of the United States Branch Hydrographic Office, Maritime Exchange, New York, July 1, 1887,” in Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1887 (50th Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1887), 197.
  86. J.G. Walker, “Bureau of Navigation, October 15, 1889,” in Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1889 (51st Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1889), 299.
  87. Tracy, “Report of Navy Secretary, 1889,” 7.
  88. George B. Hopkins, “The New York Bureau of Municipal Research,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 41 (May 1, 1912): 235–44; Jesse D. Burks, “The Outlook for Municipal Efficiency in Philadelphia,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 41 (May 1, 1912): 245–61; Rufus E. Miles, “The Cincinnati Bureau of Municipal Research,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 41 (May 1, 1912): 262–69; J. E. Treleven, “The Milwaukee Bureau of Economy and Efficiency,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 41 (May 1, 1912): 270–78; Bruce D. McDonald, “The Bureau of Municipal Research and the Development of a Professional Public Service,” Administration & Society 42, no. 7 (November 1, 2010): 194, doi:10.1177/0095399710386309.
  89. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 168.
  90. Chandler to Mason, July 25, 1882.
  91. Ibid.; Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 15; Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence, 3. Both Dorwart and Packard speculate that Mason most likely wrote the July 25 directive for Chandler’s signature.
  92. See M. Fisher Wright, trans., “Operations of The French Navy during the Recent War with Tunis,” Office of Naval Intelligence War Series (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1885); Mason, “The War on the Pacific Coast of South America Between Chile and the Allied Republics of Peru and Bolivia, 1879-’81”; Caspar F. Goodrich, “Report of the British Naval and Military Operations in Egypt, 1882,” Office of Naval Intelligence War Series (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1885).
  93. For example, General Information Series Volume Three contained essays that addressed logistics, fleet operations, and power projection. Volume Five covered recent naval campaigns, Volume Six: merchant auxiliary forces, Volume Seven: naval reserves, and Volume Eight: foreign mobilization plans and philosophies. See Office of Naval Intelligence, General Information Series, vols. 3, 5-8 (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1884-1889)
  94. Sidney A. Staunton, “Naval Training and the Changes Induced by Recent Progress in the Implements of Naval Warfare,” in Naval Reserves, Training, and Materiel, Office of Naval Intelligence General Information Series 7 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1888), 66. Staunton served on the ONI staff during 1887-1889.
  95. A survey of Naval Institute Proceedings and United Service editions from 1883 through 1889 reveals a number of strategically-relevant articles authored by serving or former ONI staff officers, including: W.H. Beehler (one article), J.B. Bernadou (one article), W.I. Chambers (three articles), C.C. Rogers (three articles)
  96. Rogers, “Naval Intelligence,” 680–689.
  97. A. T. Mahan, “Report of President of Naval War College, October 13, 1888,” in Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1888 (50th Cong., 2nd Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1888), 101.
  98. Ibid.
  99. W.C. Whitney, order, March 31, 1885, quoted in Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence, 5. Italics added for emphasis. Packard reports the original order as lost. He discovered this segment repeated in a Navy Department document dating 1892.
  100. “ONI Register,” 32.
  101. “Explanation of Work of the Summer Session of 1896,” 1896, RG 8 Box 53 Folder 5, Naval History Collection, Naval War College; Herbert to Taylor, March 21, 1895, Naval War College (U.S.) Records, 1884-1914, Naval Historical Foundation Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Comments from Secretary of the Navy Hillary A. Herbert in 1895 suggest a close linkage between war maps and war plans.
  102. “ONI Register,” 22, 32.
  103. Daniel H. Wicks, “Dress Rehearsal: United States Intervention on The Isthmus of Panama, 1885,” Pacific Historical Review 49, no. 4 (November 1980): 581–605; Walter Lafeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1998), 15; Ellicott, “Mason: Founder of ONI,” 266.
  104. William F. Sater, Chile and the United States: Empires in Conflict, The United States and the Americas (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990), 52.
  105. William C. Whitney, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1885,” 49th Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1885, 16–17. Coincidentally, Mason commanded an artillery battery during April-May 1885 as part of the U.S. expeditionary force in Panama.
  106. Walker to MaCalla, April 6, 1885, Personal Letterbooks, Box 1, The Papers of John G. Walker, Naval Historical Foundation Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  107. See W.W. Kimball and W.L. Capps, “Special Intelligence Report of the Progress of the Work on the Panama Canal During the Year 1885,” 49th Cong., 1st Sess., H. Misc. Doc. 395, 1886; Charles C. Rogers, “Intelligence Report of the Panama Canal,” 50th Cong., 1st Sess., H. Misc. Doc. 599, 1889.
  108. “ONI Register,” 37.
  109. Grenville and Young, Politics, Strategy, and Diplomacy, 28–29.
  110. Walker to Gridley, July 25, 1887; Walker to Shelley, September 13, 1887, Personal Letterbooks, Box 1, The Papers of John G. Walker, Naval Historical Foundation Collection, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  111. Luce to Rogers, July 1, 1887, Luce Papers, MSC 10, Folder 8, Naval History Collection, Naval War College. Walker later endorsed Luce’s orders to Rogers.
  112. Luce to Rogers, September 1, 1887; Harmony to Rogers, October 27, 1887, Luce Papers, MSC 10, Folder 8, Naval History Collection, Naval War College.
  113. Rogers taught at the Naval War College in 1887, 1888, and 1889 as a visiting instructor.  In an August, 1888 letter the naval intelligence chief, Mahan indicates that Rogers desired to utilize unclassified information from the Canadian War Resources report in his own lectures.  Apparently the report was on loan from ONI, as Mahan requested to retain it for the upcoming War College session.  However, it seems the report never made it back to ONI; it remains archived in the Naval War College’s Naval History Collection. See Mahan to Rodgers, August 13 1888, in Robert Seager II and Doris D. Maguire, eds., Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan, vol. 1 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1975), 656. 
  114. Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence, 29.
  115. As previously noted, Mahan referenced Roger’s “Intelligence Report on War Resources in Canada,” in his August 13, 1888, letter to the chief of ONI.  This report included an eleven-page campaign plan for the conquest of Canada. Commander Colby M. Chester, commanding USS Galena, signed and annotated this same plan “Approved and Forward.” Lieutenant Seaton Schroeder was the campaigns and strategy desk officer at ONI during 1886-1888. Schroeder’s margin notes are clearly discernible in the original document. Intelligence chief R.P. Rodgers and Bureau of Navigation chief Walker reviewed other reports prepared by Rogers at the same time—most likely they reviewed the Canada campaign plan as well. See Mahan to Rodgers, August 13 1888; Charles C. Rogers, “Intelligence Report of the General War Resources of the Dominion of Canada” (USS Galena, 1887), 374, Record Group 8, Box 5, Naval Historical Collection, Naval War College; Charles C. Rogers, “Intelligence Report of Kingston, Canada,” 1887, 12, Record Group 8, Box 5, Naval Historical Collection, Naval War College.
  116. Navy Secretary Benjamin F. Tracy assigned Mahan to a secret strategy board during 1890-91. The board also included: William M. Folger (Chief of Ordnance), Charles H. Davis, Jr. (Chief of Intelligence), and Assistant Secretary of the Navy John R. Soley. See Chapter Seven for a discussion of the similarities between the 1890 plan and Charles C. Roger’s campaign design of 1887.
  117. Rogers, “Report of War Resources of Canada,” 368.
  118. Ibid., 367.
  119. “ONI Register,” 22.
  120. Ibid., 32, 39, 47.
  121. Ibid., 35.
  122. Ibid., 46.
  123. See W.H. Beehler, A Study of the Exposed Points on Our Frontier, Lines of Communication and Possible Bases of Hostile Operation (Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval Intelligence, 1885).
  124. ONI contributed several other reports to the Endicott Board, including assessments of naval weapons technology and platforms, information on foreign navies, and other topics. Acting upon the recommendations of board, Congress authorized $60 million dollars to renovate and upgrade U.S. coastal fortification infrastructure, a project that encompassed fifteen years. See William C. Endicott, “Report of the Board on Fortifications or Other Defenses Appointed by the President of the United States Under the Provisions of the Act of Congress” (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1886); Walter Millis, Arms and Men; a Study in American Military History (New York: New American Library, 1956), 135.
  125. Rogers make no reference to A Study of Exposed Points on our Frontier in his strategic plan. However, the 1885 publication would have been readily available to Rogers as he finished compiling his reports on Canada at ONI during August-September, 1887.
  126. Carlos G. Calkins, “The Coast-Line of the United States Considered with Reference to Maritime Attack and Defense” (Lecture Series, 1888), 1, Papers of Washington I. Chambers, Subject File, Box 29, Library of Congress, Naval Historical Society Collection.
  127. Hamersly, Records of Living Officers, 1898, 170; William C. Whitney, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1887,” 50th Cong., 1st Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1887, 164.
  128. Taylor was a key figure in contingency planning for a Spanish War between 1894-1897, along with ONI staffers William W. Kimball and Richard Wainwright (ONI Director from April 1896 to November 1897).  Taylor personally utilized Calkins’s lecture material to teach at  the Naval War College during the summer of 1894—a moment when the college first began to seriously consider the strategic contingencies of a war with Spain. See Hilary A. Herbert, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1894,” 53rd Cong., 3rd Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1894, 209.
  129. Ibid.
  130. William C. Whitney, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, 1888,” 50th Cong., 2nd Sess., H. Ex. Doc. 1, Part 3, 1888, 101.

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Eyes of the Ospreys: An Analysis of RAF Coastal Command’s Operational Research Section in Counter-U-Boat Operations


Background on the Situation
Courses of Action Taken
Analysis of Results and Consequences

Timothy A. Walton
Independent Scholar

In his declaration of war, President Woodrow Wilson protested: “German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.” 1 Following the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, the international community adopted the 1930 and 1936 London Naval Treaties, which declared “cruiser rules” applied to submarines as well as merchant vessels. 2 Nonetheless, during the Spanish Civil War and to a much greater extent World War II, the scourge of the submarine would strike again. German submarine effectiveness in targeting merchant shipping led to major Allied innovations in technology, tactics, and methods. These in turn were met by reciprocal German responses.

This paper will analyze the use of operational research methods in World War II by Britain’s Coastal Command in aerial counter-U-Boat operations. 3 It contends that operational research methods significantly improved Coastal Command’s operational effectiveness and led to changes in Allied policies and procedures at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. The paper will proceed in three sections: background, courses of action taken, and analysis of results and consequences.

In order to frame the scope of effort, the paper focuses on Coastal Command’s efforts in the Atlantic, while noting significant initiatives in the Mediterranean and Indo-Pacific theaters. Additionally, in focusing on British operational research, it seeks to complement scholarship on American counter-U-boat operational research activities, as documented by scholars such as Max Schoenfeld and General Montgomery Meigs. 4 Lastly, in assessing the effectiveness of operational research methods in improving counter-U-boat performance, the paper will limit its discussion of the enormous role of signals intelligence (namely, intelligence gained from “Ultra”, the decryption of the German Enigma code machine) in shaping operational search patterns. While not comprehensive, this piece aims to analyze this crucial analytical method in order to understand the historical lessons more perfectly, and where appropriate draw other historical and contemporary implications. 5

Background on the Situation

During World War I, naval actions were concentrated in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. After the declaration of war, Allied Forces, led by Great Britain, began a distant naval blockade of Central Power ports. Over time the blockade had a major impact on the ability of the Central Powers to import food and supplies. 6 In response, in 1914 Germany designated the waters around the British Isles a “war zone” in which all belligerent ships (including merchants) were subject to destruction without warning. 7 Apart from select, high-profile successes early in the war, German U-boats were primarily employed against merchants. 7

In addition to the development of technological countermeasures such as anti-submarine warfare hydrophones, depth charges, mines, and aircraft, Great Britain in September 1917 began full-scale convoying. 9 These tactics and technologies accelerated the German culmination point that was likely reached in July of 1917. Additionally, while a reciprocal dynamic developed, the German navy (in part limited by the technological capabilities of the submarines) did not develop effective tactics to counter the convoying, such as wolf packs. By 1918, Allied losses had reached non-critical levels while major German submarine losses slashed force structure and morale, relegating the force to coastal defense.
At the end of the Great War, German leaders concluded the failure of unrestricted submarine warfare principally lay not in faulty assessments of enemy economic output or performance, but in a small force structure. With only twenty to thirty 500 to 700 ton U-boats on station around the British Isles, one of German Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff’s experts, Dr. Richard Fuss, conceded: “The U-war was never unrestricted.” 10

During the Interwar Period, Germany secretly reconstituted its submarine force. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War Germany’s 2nd U-Flotilla, named “Saltzwedel”, began an active, though covert, role complementing the efforts of their Italian comrades against the Republican forces. In the Spanish Civil War, active sonar (then referred to by the British as ASDIC) was first used by British warships to pursue German and Italian submarines. 11 By the terms of the Nyon Arrangement, British warships were empowered to depth charge submarine contacts which displayed hostile intent. 12

The first official meeting of the National Defense Research Committee Source: Vannevar Bush, "National Defense Research Committee," The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 51, No. 3. (Sep., 1940), pp. 284-285, on 284. (Wikimedia Commons)

The first official meeting of the National Defense Research Committee. Source: Vannevar Bush, “National Defense Research Committee,” The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 51, No. 3. (Sep., 1940), pp. 284-285, on 284.

Despite the great advances that took place in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) between 1914-1918 and the operational experimentation of the Spanish Civil War, many of the tactical and operational lessons of World War I were forgotten during the Interwar Period. 13 Additionally, British and American military leaders displayed overconfidence in their ASW capabilities. In June 1935, after the Anglo-German Naval Agreement (that codified the end of Germany’s abiding by the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles) Admiral Chatfield, the First Sea Lord wrote “our methods [of ASW] are now so efficient that we will need fewer destroyers in the North Sea and the Mediterranean.” 14

In response to these attitudes and the growing possibility of war, concerned scientists in the U.S. and Great Britain offered their technical skills to prepare for the potential war to come. In the United States, Vannevar Bush, President of the Carnegie Institute, formed the National Defense Research Committee in June 1940. 15 Securing funds from President Roosevelt’s budget, Bush and his colleagues arranged for a committee sponsored by the National Academy of Science to study subsurface warfare. The Colpitts Report, named after the committee’s chairman, incisively criticized the scientific background of the U.S. Navy’s antisubmarine warfare effort, noting: “We feel an altogether inadequate research effort on fundamentals has been put forth since the last war.” Colpitts noted as well that the scientific contribution to antisubmarine warfare was, “also a question of tactics and tactical doctrine, of personnel and training and of operational records.” 15 Similar observations were made by concerned scientists in Great Britain.

Establishment and Aims of the ORS Office

The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Coastal Command was one of three branches of the Service, the other two being RAF Fighter Command and RAF Bomber Command. Its primary task was to protect British shipping from enemy naval threats, with strike of enemy naval forces as a secondary duty. However, Great Britain entered World War II unprepared for ASW. Coastal Command “began the war with unsuitable aircraft for hunting U-boats, no airborne depth charges, and aircrews untrained in anti-U-boat operations.” 17 The German navy also entered into the war with an inadequate submarine force structure. At the outbreak of war, it only had 26 ocean-going U-boats. 18 German Befehshaber der Unteresebooten (BdU) (Commander in Chief, submarines) Admiral Karl Dönitz estimated he “needed 300 U-boats to defeat the Allied convoys and force Britain into submission.” Nonetheless, the German Navy initially achieved great success.

In response to the German threat, the British military sought improved means to counter the serious U-boat threat. After some lag and resistance, in late 1941 an Operational Research Centre was formally established at the Air Ministry in order to improve operational analysis. 19 Simply defined, operations research is “a scientific method of providing executive departments with a quantitative basis for decisions regarding the operations under their control.” 20 A subsidiary Operational Research Section (ORS) was established in RAF Coastal Command, and equivalent organizations were established in Canada and the U.S.

Conrad Hal Waddington, one of the leaders of Coastal Command’s ORS (thereafter referred to as ORS) and its post-war historian, recounted that ORS sought to define problems (using data to inquire what the problem is), attack the problem using various methods, and produce reports with actionable recommendations. 21 Initially ORS allocated individuals to projects on an as-available basis; in mid-1943, however, ORS was divided into four groups (with approximately four individuals in each group): Anti-U-Boat operations, Anti-Shipping operations, Planned Flying and Maintenance, and Weather and Navigation.

Courses of Action Taken

This section will analyze the courses of action taken by Coastal Command ORS to counter the U-boat threat. It will proceed by examining principles of aircraft-submarine warfare, the progress of the campaign, and specific initiatives that highlight ORS’ contribution to improving Coastal Command combat effectiveness.

Principles of Aircraft-Submarine Warfare

Throughout most of the war, standard German U-boats were compelled to spend a large portion of their time surfaced in order to recharge their batteries and navigate at greater speeds. “The 500 ton U-boat had an overall endurance on the surface ranging from 14,000 miles at 6 knots to 2,800 at 17 knots; but the underwater endurance on one charge of the batteries was only about 14 miles at 8 knots, 28 miles at 6 knots, 65 miles at 4 knots.” 22

Additionally, U-boats also found it necessary to spend a considerable amount of time on the surface in their attacks on convoys. Usual convoy speeds across the Atlantic were 7 or 9 knots. Therefore, U-boats generally required surface navigation in order to shadow or gain a bearing on convoys. The introduction of the snorkel to a select number of U-boats in late 1944 provided U-boat’s the ability to run diesel engines and recharge batteries while still submerged.

U-boat operations chiefly consisted of two tactics: solitary stalking in littoral waters or wolf-pack tactics in the open ocean. The former relied on submerging by day and surface recharging of batteries at night. This tactic initially worked as Coastal Command lacked effective night capabilities. In contrast wolf-packs essentially used submarines as surfaced torpedo boats at night. Patrol lines of submarines, guided by BdU, would seek to find convoy targets. The coordination of a large pack attack usually took 20 or more hours to develop.

Progress of the Campaign

The U-boat/counter-U-boat campaign in the Atlantic proceeded throughout the entirety of the war. It shifted in character and geographic location as German forces made operational and tactical adjustments, and Allied forces followed suit. Early in the war, German U-boats conducted independent actions in coastal waters. Improvements in British ship-borne active sonar and the harassing presence of aircraft led Admiral Dönitz to command wolf-pack tactics in the mid-Atlantic. During this period, the average number of U-boats at sea was about 25. 23 In 1941 1,976,000 tons were sunk for a loss of about 36 U-boats. These results were better than those of 1939 and 1940. Nonetheless, aircraft was beginning to influence German U-boat morale and patrol tactics. In response to the air threat, Admiral Dönitz placed his patrol lines as far as possible in the mid-Atlantic outside the reach of air cover. 24

Shipping Losses During the Battle of the Atlantic Source: John Stillion and Bryan Clark. “What it Takes to Win: Succeeding in 21st Century Battle Network Competitions”, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2015, 28.

Shipping Losses During the Battle of the Atlantic
Source: John Stillion and Bryan Clark. “What it Takes to Win: Succeeding in 21st Century Battle Network Competitions”, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2015, 28.

Dividing the effort of U-boat forces, in the fall of 1941, Adolf Hitler insisted that the U-boat arm devote most of its efforts to the Mediterranean in order to assist in efforts to secure the sea. 25 At least ten submarines had to be maintained in the Mediterranean at all times and fifteen more outside the Gibraltar approached. 26 Operations within the Mediterranean achieved minor successes targeting naval and merchant targets, while those outside of the Gibraltar Strait were more successful targeting merchants. These commands effectively halved the number of submarines available for operations in the Atlantic.

With the entry of the United States into the war, Admiral Dönitz directed his forces to conduct inshore operations off the U.S. coast (Operation Paukenschlag, “Drumroll”), taking full advantage of the lack of U.S. preparation. 27 German submarines had great success in U.S. coastal waters until June 1942, when the U.S. fully adopted convoy tactics and fully organized an effective anti-submarine air force. The introduction of new 1,600-ton supply submarines, to complement surface tankers, combined with the increasing monthly production of Mark VII and Mark IX U-boats promised to give BdU greater numbers of submarines in the patrolling areas. 28

Additionally, in early 1942, Germany broke British Naval Cipher Number 3, the Allied convoy code. By July 1942, the Germans read 80 percent of all messages sent in this cipher. 29 This reinforced the highly centralized command and control of the U-boat force, which was successful initially but provided weaknesses that could be exploited by the Allies. With exception to most of 1942 and brief periods in 1943, Allied intelligence was able to decipher most German Enigma radio transmissions. 30

In August 1942, German forces again conducted wolf-pack tactics against convoys in the mid-Atlantic. During this time, German forces reached a culmination point in March 1943 (sinking 108 Allied ships at a cost of only 14 U-boats lost). However, due to mounting losses caused by the increasing effects of land-based and escort carrier air power and the increase in naval escorts (formed in hunter-killer groups), German forces withdrew from the Atlantic offensive in May 1943. 31

Subsequently, they focused on various, distant vulnerable points, principally in the Caribbean targeting the transport of petroleum and other raw materials. As Admiral Dönitz’s War Diary states on 15 April 1942: “The enemy powers’ shipping is one large whole. It is therefore immaterial where a ship is sunk…. Tonnage must be taken where it can be destroyed most reasonably as afar as making full use of the boats is concerned.” 32 This geographic shifting of areas of operation in order to achieve tonnage goals and minimize danger is logical; however, it retarded fundamental assessments of tactics and technological countermeasures. Admiral Dönitz “did not look to scientists and engineers for ways to improve capabilities of submarines until the summer of 1943, when the slide toward defeat had become obvious.” 33

In October 1943, a second, disastrous attempt was made to return to the North Atlantic. This offensive sought to make improved use of German Ju. 290 aircraft for reconnaissance purposes. However, cooperation between aircraft and the submarines was difficult due to problems with navigation coordination, communications, and the low mobility of submarines. The invasion of Europe in June 1944 prompted an unsuccessful U-boat counter attack. By this time, increasing numbers of snorkel-fitted boats were fielded. These performed much better in coastal waters and were significantly less vulnerable to aircraft; however, they could still be tracked with active sonar and attacked by surface ships with new, forward-launched weapons such as Mousetrap and Hedgehog.

ORS Initiatives

ORS initiatives significantly improved the combat effectiveness of Coastal Command operations against U-boats. Their efforts can be grouped into five categories: organization of effort, improvement of radar performance, addressing visual problems, tactical strike, and operational-level analysis.

The Organization of Effort

ORS took a comprehensive, system-level approach to improving Coastal Command effectiveness. This began with addressing basic questions and problems with the organization of effort within the force. One of the main contributions of ORS in this regard was to thoroughly systematize and improve Coastal Command readiness rates and operational availability. It did so through a process of “Planned Flying and Planned Maintenance”, which systematically analyzed the inputs required to generate combat power. 34
ORS also examined questions of navigation. While seemingly trivial, aircraft search patterns for convoys had resulted in them not meeting convoys nearly 80% of the time for distant convoys in 1941. ORS analysis introduced more effective search patterns and promoted the introduction and proper use of different, neglected navigational aids. 35
As a related issue, ORS analyzed the impact of weather on operations and the optimization of flying time. This led to changes in maintenance patterns as well as an analysis of the adequacy of bases. For instance, toward the end of 1944, after the Germans had lost their Biscay Bay U-boat bases, it was recognized that considerable U-boat traffic would be sent northwards round the Iceland-Faroes Channel. Recognizing the limiting weather conditions, ORS concluded that while the expansion of certain bases in Scotland and Iceland was appropriate, others in the area were paradoxically not, even though they were closer to the operating area. This was because poor weather conditions would provide an even lower sortie rate than aircraft flying from further away. 36 These analyses improved the efficiency and effectiveness of the force.

Radar (ASV)

In its anti-U-boat form, radar was known as Anti-Surface Vessel (ASV). 37 The war in the Atlantic exhibited a reciprocal dynamic as Allied forces adopted L, S, and X band radars, and German forces introduced appropriate countermeasures. ORS strongly contributed to analyses of the effectiveness of different radars, development of search patterns and tracks, and the lessening of incident radar energy needed to detect and approach submarines. 38 ORS also influenced radar operator training. By comparing the quality of radar operators, it introduced a process for eliminating inferior operators via tests during the training process. This was recommended after discovering that the bottom 15% of classes of radar operators never detected a U-boat. 37
Furthermore, ORS strongly shaped analysis of operational performance in order to determine reciprocal responses by German forces and recommend actions on appropriate countermeasures. For example, as early as 1941, questions were being asked as to the cause of disappearing contacts with Mk. II ASV. Through ORS analysis, coupled with intelligence information, it was deduced by autumn of 1942 that U-boats had been fitted with a receiver to counter ASV Mk. II. 40 As Figure 1 shows, the use of daytime ASV Mk II was paradoxically to the disadvantage of Allied forces, because of German receivers. 41 With the introduction of ASV Mk III, Allied radar advantage was once more regained, to be countered again by the Germans. Winter 1943-1944, the Germans launched radar balloon decoys termed Aphrodite; however, they were designed for 1.5 meter wavelengths, instead of the centimeter ASV Mk. IIIs. 42

Figure 1: Reciprocal Reponses in the Radar War 43

Visual Problems

In May 1941, ORS conducted an analysis of visual problems related to aircraft spotting the U-boat and remaining unseen until near enough to deliver an attack. 44 Analyzing available data, it found that “in nearly 40% of the cases, the U-boat was already diving when first seen, which meant that it had seen the aircraft first. In a further 20%, the U-boat had already submerged (having only its periscope visible).” Therefore, around 60% of U-boats had spotted aircraft first—not counting U-boats that had completely submerged and were never spotted. 45 At the time, aircraft in use were painted with the standard Bomber Command black, which was intended to defeat searchlights. ORS recommended painting the bottom and sides of Coastal Command aircraft with white camouflage. The recommendation improved unsubmerged detection rates by 20%. 46 A commensurate factor noted in ORS analysis is that the deterioration in the standard of training of U-boat crews may have also contributed to the increased success.

Figure 2: Analysis of Day Sightings 47

Tactical Strike

The culmination of 55,000 man-hours or more of pilots, maintenance staff, and other ground personnel and all the aforementioned factors was the opportunity to conduct a brief attack on a U-boat. Frustratingly, though, aircraft lethality against visible U-boats was quite low at the start of the war. With the help of ORS, the lethality per attack on a visible U-boat rose from 2 or 3% in 1941 to about 40% in 1944, and to as high as 60% on the few surfaced U-boats seen in the last months of the war. 48 ORS’ main contributions were to the selection and arming of weapons and their aiming. Throughout the war, the main weapon employed by aircraft against the U-boat was the depth-charge, usually fused with a hydrostatic or time delay fuse so as to explode without the necessity of contact with the U-boat. 49 Depth charges are normally dropped in sticks, each stick consisting of a number of depth charges which fall in a more or less straight line along the direction of flight of the aircraft.

Through their analysis, ORS found that depth charges were fused for hydrostatic initiation at 100 feet or 150 feet. This was done with the expectation that submarines would already be at depth when the attack took place; instead, “as many as about 40% of all attacks the U-boat was either visible at the instant of attack or had been out of sight for less than a quarter of a minute.” 50 With only a lethal radius of 15-20 feet in the 250 lb depth charge, depth settings of 100 or 150 feet were way too deep for surfaced or near-surface U-boats. ORS recommended improved fillings for depth charges to increase their lethal radius and recommended depth settings at 25 feet. In a long, evidentiary process convinced the Air Staff to gradually increase the depth settings. 51 These changes were accompanied by increases in the lethality of attack.

Figure 3: Progress of Lethality of Depth Charge Attacks 52

Another area of strike improvement was addressing aiming errors. Air Staff supported pilot views that they had little aiming errors. ORS found that their stated aiming lines were better than achieved in exercise conditions. After studying the problem, including the introduction of rearward facing cameras into aircraft to as to track depth charge spreads, ORS recommended some solutions. First, it recommended a countermanding of the “aim-off forward” order, which sought to account for the forward travel of the U-boat while the depth charges fell and sought to avoid breaking up the depth charges in case they struck the U-boat. A 50% increase in kills took place after the elimination of that order. Another area for improvement was the introduction of the Low Level Bomb Sight Mk. II, which was initially met with considerable skepticism by the Air Staff as aircraft flew quite low in altitude when bombing. 53

ORS also provided the data to shape tactics. For example, in April 1943, U-boats adopted the practice of staying on the surface and fighting back with their anti-aircraft armament. In June and July of 1943, U-boats transiting the Bay of Biscay proceeded in daylight in groups of 3 to 5 to have supporting fire. Approximately 50% of the aircraft attacking through flak were hit, and in July and August when the fire was heaviest from U-boat packs, about 11% of attacking aircraft were shot down. 54 ORS provided Air Staff with the analysis to show that thanks to the valor of the aircrews, German forces were losing submarines at a disproportionate ratio that greatly favored the Allies. Coastal Command thus continued with its low-altitude attacks, instead of adopting medium-altitude bombing. The loss of 45 U-boats and serious damage of more during this period broke the force of the standard U-boat during the summer of 1943 and led to a policy of maximum submergence at the expense of much longer transit time. 42

Operational-Level Analysis

ORS analysis assisted officers in developing operations. Against U-boats, Coastal Command primarily conducted two types of operations: the protection of a given convoy and the general protection of shipping by cutting down the U-boats’ mobility, by harassing them, or by sinking them at sea. ORS found that a more economical and effective use of Coastal Command aircraft was instead of providing every convoy with air escort sufficient to prevent a U-boat attack, to focus on threatened convoys. The use of signals intelligence made this possible with a reliability of about 90%. 56 Therefore, wolf-packs could be countered in a cheaper way (than total coverage) by interfering with the shadowing of the convoy and accumulation of the pack.

ORS played a vital role in providing the analysis necessary to support “Transit Offensives” in the Bay of Biscay and elsewhere. Until the capture of the French coastal ports by the Allies in 1944, German U-boats primarily operated from the Bay of Biscay. The northern route from Germany or Norway round the north of Scotland was primarily used by new submarines. The Strait of Gibraltar was also used by submarines entering into the Mediterranean theater and small, pre-fabricated Type XXIII boats that were assembled in Toulon. The limited number of submarines operating in that area and the poor flying conditions and visibility at far northern latitudes made focus on the Bay of Biscay a top priority. By dedicating aircraft to this mission, instead of convoy protection, Coastal Command followed through with the axiom that “offense is the best defense.”

Before the Bay Offensive, though, Sir Archibald Sinclaire, the secretary of state for air, demurred allocating the requested 55 bombers. 57 He noted this could be done only by sacrificing the bombing of Germany, which had been promised to Stalin. Additionally, he expected German fighter cover for their submarines to effectively counter Coastal Command aircraft. This resistance was overcome by ORS analysis, which demonstrated that although the Bay Offensive would not produce an “unclimbable fence”, 58 it would destroy 20-25% of all U-boats that left Biscay ports. 59 In this manner, ORS managed to shift the strategic allocation of resources. Sinclaire’s fears did not come to fruition as Dönitz was unable to obtain sufficient Luftwaffe support to contest the airspace over the Bay of Biscay.


Figure 4: U518 under attack by an RAF Sunderland while outbound north of the Spanish coast, 27 June 1943. 60

A final area in which ORS provided support to the Air Staff was in analysis of the effects of bombing operations against U-boat shore-based infrastructure. Submarine pens, often made of thick, reinforced concrete, were impervious to most bombs. However, systems analysis did provide ancillary support locations (such as construction yards, submarine assembly factories, ground transportation infrastructure, and maintenance and refitting locations) ports to bomb.


Figure 5: The Consolidated B-24 (Liberator) bomber rated as a true Very Long Range aircraft, which was successfully employed by Coastal Command in 1943 to close the Atlantic Air Gap. 61

For example, on 5 July 1943, naval engineer Otto Merker proposed to Admiral Dönitz a new construction system in which submarines were to be built in pre-fabricated section in inland factories, transported to coastal yards, and quickly assembled in bomb-proof dry docks. “Merker’s system promised to reduce building time of the 1,600-ton Type XXI to 260-300,000 man-hours per boat, compared with 460,000 man-hours for a boat of similar size by existing methods.” 62 In addition to providing new, safe locations for the construction of submarines, this would address the major lag maintenance lag of the U-boat force. The Air Staff responded by bombing the canals used to transport pre-fabricated submarine sections, which were 27 feet long and 25 feet high, weighing 150 tons. With them destroyed, the construction effort had to rely on problematic rail infrastructure, which was also under attack.

Analysis of Results and Consequences

In a public speech, Admiral Dönitz once remarked that “the U-boat has no more to fear from aircraft than a mole from a crow.” 63 While the boast was largely true against submerged submarines, it certainly did not apply to U-boats on the surface. During World War II, 289 German U-Boats (of the 1,150 commissioned) were sunk by aircraft. 64 This amounted to approximately 36% of German losses. 65 ORS played a pivotal role in improving the effectiveness of Coastal Command aircraft by shaping technologies, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), and operational concepts. While other factors also played an important, if not decisive, role in the defeat of the German U-boat force, ORS sharped Coastal Command’s effort and contributed significantly.

Although this analysis focuses on understanding the historical campaign, there are contemporary lessons to draw from ORS. Chief among them is the value of incorporating operational research expertise into senior levels of decision-making. By ensuring operational research expertise at high levels of the executive decision-making process, one can ensure that operational research skills can actually inform and shape choices, rather than simply providing justification for the established course of action. Executives sometimes say scientists “should be on tap, but not on top.” 66 As stated by Conrad Hal Waddington: “This is a poor way to see the situation as scientists should be in neither of those positions, they should be members of a team, entitled to that degree of respect which they can earn with the practical effectiveness of their advice.” 66

The recruitment of highly skilled talent within such organization is another laudable goal. Although the existential crisis of World War II and the commensurate pull of talent is generally not replicable, standards should be set high. ORS remained fairly small throughout the war, with an average strength of about 16 officer-grade staff and two or three assistants. 68 As an indication of the intellectual caliber of the staff, two of them later received the Nobel Prize and six were Fellows of the Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences. 69

Another lesson to draw from ORS is the value of assigning adequate staff to do the work involved. Senior scientists must have enough time to cogitate creative approaches and experiment with different methodologies. ORS also did not commit itself to any special expertise, such as Queuing Theory, Games Theory, or Decision Theory; instead they were “ready to stick our noses into what everyone told them did not concern them, and to follow wherever that led.” 69 This approach facilitated a comprehensive, or systems-level, approach to analyzing the problem. ORS staff “refused to confine themselves narrowly to what they disdained as ‘gadgetry.’ They insisted on applying scientific method to the whole problem of the detection and destruction of submarines and to the environment in which the submarine operated.” 71 In order to preserve the time of the skilled scientists, routine statistical work was delegated to a Statistical Bureau. 72 Overall, ORS highlights the effectiveness of small, skilled, and empowered groups within staffs.

Operational level expertise should be closely integrated with the senior levels of the command, not only in systems analysis of acquisition programs and the like but actual operations. As stated by Conrad Hal Waddington: “There is a strong general case for moving many of the best scientists from the technical establishments to the operational Commands, at any rate for a time. If, and when, they return to technical work, they will be often much more useful by reason of their new knowledge of real operational needs.” 73

Moreover, their expertise will assist in shaping the operational level of war at sea. During World War II, ORS analysis assisted in defining the specific value of potential operational and campaign-level actions. The U.S. Navy has historically neglected operational-level planning, only adopting the operational-level of war at sea when Admiral Kelso, as Chief of Naval Operations, and General Mundy, Commandant of the Marine Corps, signed the first “naval doctrine publication,” entitled Naval Warfare, in the spring of 1994. 74 The three elements of war, in the Navy’s eyes, had previously been strategy, tactics, and logistics. The work of ORS reinforces the value in shifting the paradigm of ASW strategy, and naval strategy more broadly, from one based on the positional employment of forces to one that focuses on both the systemic analysis of inputs required to affect the enemy (a WW II predecessor to effects/kill chain analysis) as well as the operational level definition of goals and aims. 75

The experience of ORS also provides lessons on the iterative and reciprocal nature of war. Enemy activity is dynamic, constantly changing in its technology, tactics, and geographic areas. For every counter developed, planners must expect a reciprocal response and develop institutions capable of rapidly innovating. Thus, they must not fall prey to what is referred to as the fallacy of the last move, “in which a proposed innovation is touted as capable of providing a permanent advantage.” 76 Moreover, the identification of the fallacy of the last move must not foster a “fallacy of the second-to-last-move”, in which actors see only one move deeper and decline taking action thinking that it will only be countered. 76 The Bay of Biscay offensive establishes how “a sequence of temporary advantages can be as useful as a permanent advantage.” 76

Undersea warfare and ASW are important components of contemporary thinking on Joint Operational Access. For instance, U.S. undersea warfare capabilities vis-à-vis China are highlighted in discussions of potential Joint Force campaigns. 79 The experience of ORS provides striking parallels to a potential future conflict. One can compare the bomb-proof submarine pens La Pallice to those of Hainan and Qingdao in China. Alternatively, China’s challenge in sallying submarines past the First Island Chain resembles the problems BdU faced exiting the Bay of Biscay, or Gibraltar, or the Northern Passage. On the other hand, U.S. submarines—even if they spend little time on the surface—are still vulnerable to aircraft, with submarine air defenses only in incipient stages of development. Additionally, U.S. forces face major challenges in conducting open-ocean ASW and guarding against structured attacks on the high seas, much like German U-boats threatened convoys with wolf packs.

More broadly, the lessons of ORS demonstrate how today’s Kill Chains and operational concepts are unlikely to be those of the future and would likely evolve during a war. Therefore, a healthy regard for the possibility of tactical or technological surprise undercutting U.S. advantages in submarine warfare or ASW should be exhibited by U.S. forces. Additionally, the experience of ORS demonstrates how narrowly analyzing weapon effectiveness or even entire Kill Chains does not address other crucial factors, such as inventory or force structure; capacity (rate at which kill chains can be executed); or training and proficiency. In these times of rapid technological and tactical change and near-peer competitors, the incorporation of operational research expertise into senior Department of Defense decision-making merits increased attention.


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David Syrett. The Defeat of the German U-Boats. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994.

John Terraine. Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars, 1916-1945. London: Leo Cooper, 1989.

Gordon Valeth. Blimps and U-Boats. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1992.

Conrad Hall Waddington. O.R. in World War 2: operational research against the U-boat. London: Elek, 1973.

D.J. White. Operational Research. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, 1985.

(Return to December 2015 Table of Contents)


  1. Holwitt, Joel Ira. “Execute Against Japan: Freedom of the Seas, the U.S. Navy, Fleet Submarines, and the Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, 1919-1941”, The Ohio State University, Thesis, 2005, p. 31.
  2. Under these rules of international law, merchants could not be sunk without the crew and passengers being first provided an opportunity to disembark.
  3. Operations research is “a scientific method of providing executive departments with a quantitative basis for decisions regarding the operations under their control.” Philip Morse and George Kimball. Methods of Operations Research. 1st rev. ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1951, 3.
  4. Max Schoenfeld. Stalking the U-boat: USAAF Offensive Antisubmarine Operations in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995; Montgomery C. Meigs. Slide Rules and Submarines: American Scientists and Subsurface Warfare in World War II. Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1990.
  5. U-boats were more submersibles, or submersible torpedo boats, than true submarines. For ease of reading, however, the author will use the terms U-boat and submarine—instead of submersible.
  6. Holger H. Herwig, “Total Rhetoric, Limited War: Germany’s U-Boat Campaign 1917-1918,” Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Vol 1, No 1, 1998, p.1.
  7. Holwitt, p. 30.
  8. Holwitt, p. 30.
  9. J.R. Hill. Anti-Submarine Warfare, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1985, 10.
  10. Herwig, p. 9.
  11. Hill, 10.
  12. Hill, 11.
  13. John Terraine. Business in Great Waters: The U-Boat Wars, 1916-1945, London: Leo Cooper, 1989, xv.
  14. John Terraine, 175.
  15. Meigs, 26.
  16. Meigs, 26.
  17. Syrett, 8.
  18. “U-Boat Force Combat Strength”, U-Boat,
  19. Conrad Hall Waddington, O.R. in World War 2: Operational Research Against the U-boat, London: Elek, 1973, 9.
  20. Philip Morse and George Kimball. Methods of Operations Research. 1st rev. ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1951, 3.
  21. Waddington, 21.
  22. Waddington, 31-32.
  23. It is worth noting that Italy provided an Atlantic Flotilla. They were highly ineffective outside of the Mediterranean and will not be analyzed in this piece, as they did not significantly affect submarine-aircraft dynamics.
  24. Waddington, 35.
  25. Hoyt, 119.
  26. Hoyt, 120.
  27. Lawrence Paterson. Second U-Boat Flotilla, Yorkshire: Leo Cooper, 2003, vii.
  28. Meigs, 40.
  29. Meigs, 41.
  30. McCue, 7.
  31. David Syrett. The Defeat of the German U-Boats. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994, 266.
  32. Brian McCue. U-boats in the Bay of Biscay: an essay in operations analysis, Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1990, 18.
  33. Meigs, 24.
  34. Waddington, 56.
  35. Waddington, 100.
  36. Waddington, 115.
  37. Waddington, 122.
  38. McCue, 8.
  39. Waddington, 122.
  40. Waddington, 141.
  41. Waddington, 142.
  42. McCue, 27.
  43. Information Based on: Brian McCue. U-boats in the Bay of Biscay: an essay in operations analysis, Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1990, 31.
  44. Waddington., 151.
  45. Waddington, 151.
  46. Waddington, 165.
  47. Chart based on information from Waddington, 142.
  48. Waddington, 168.
  49. Waddington, 169.
  50. Waddington, 174.
  51. Waddington, 177.
  52. Chart based on information from Waddington, 156.
  53. Waddington, 194.
  54. Waddington, 198.
  55. McCue, 27.
  56. Waddington, 38-39.
  57. Hoyt, 191.
  58. McCue, 22.
  59. Waddington, 242.
  60. Paterson, 115.
  61. Terraine, 494.
  62. Terraine, 653.
  63. Waddington, 32.
  64. Syrett, 18.
  65. Hoyt, 222.
  66. Waddington, 247.
  67. Waddington, 247.
  68. Waddington, 18.
  69. Waddington, xiii.
  70. Waddington, xiii.
  71. Meigs, 28.
  72. Waddington, 24.
  73. Waddington, 9.
  74. Wayne P. Hughes. “Naval Operations: A Close Look at the Operational Level of War at Sea”, Naval War College Review 65.3 (Summer 2012): 22-46.
  75. Meigs, 1990.
  76. McCue, 172.
  77. McCue, 172.
  78. McCue, 172.
  79. Sean Mirski, “Stranglehold: The Context, Conduct and Consequences of an American Naval Blockade of China”, Journal of Strategic Studies, 36:3, 2013, pp. 385-421.

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Inside the Archives: Hector Bywater and William Honan in the Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College

Scott Reilly
Former Assistant Archivist
U.S. Naval War College
Newport, RI

Hector Bywater in Dresden, 1909 (Naval War College Archives)

Original Caption: “Bywater’s mentor St. John Gaffney (center, in profile) with his wife at his left and Hector Bywater seated at his right, entertaining visirors in Dresden, 1909. Gaffney, whose pro-German sympathies led the Gov’t to suspect him of being a German agent, would be flabbergasted to learn Bywater worked for the British Secret Service.” (Naval War College Archives)

Hector Bywater’s life and work – as journalist, naval analyst, spy, and prophet of the Pacific War – largely escaped popular notice until 1970.  In that year, American Heritage published William Honan’s article concerning Bywater’s visionary 1925 book The Great Pacific War and its potential influence on Japanese war planningAfter twenty years of additional research, Honan, a New York Times editor, eventually expanded the article into Visions of Infamy, the first, full-length biography on Bywater.  Numerous critics credited Honan’s work with ensuring Bywater’s place in the history of the Second World War.

Honan carefully collected and catalogued his research including notes, original documents, interviews, and correspondence and donated his collection to the Naval War College, Naval Historical Collection (NHC) after the publication of Visions of Infamy for the benefit of future researchers. The Naval Historical Collection’s mission is to document the history of the Naval War College and significant events, people, and research on naval and maritime history. NHC has become a depository for naval and maritime historians, collectors, and biographers:  Thomas Buell’s research collection for the biographies for Admirals Raymond Spruance and Ernest King, B. Mitchell Simpson’s research collection for the biography of Harold Stark, and Edward Miller’s research collection for his book on War Plan Orange are a few of the unique collections held at NHC.  The Honan papers are representative of this type of collection at NHC highlighting a lesser known, but no less significant, figure in Naval War College (NWC) and naval history.


Hector Bywater

While there is no substitute for researching in the original records, collections like Honan’s can be a tremendous boon for other researchers.  Not only do they offer a substantial body of documentation on a specific subject in one place, but they can provide helpful pointers to other collections and resources that may warrant further exploration.

Researcher collections however offer much more than copies of documents from other archives.  As Honan’s papers demonstrate, such collections often include original material and copies of records held by private individuals.  In conducting his research, Honan recorded numerous interviews (including with Bywater’s children); received copies of photographs and other documents from Bywater’s family and associates; and corresponded with Japanese naval officers to gather their recollections of Bywater and his work.  In addition to Honan’s extensive notes, these materials contribute to make his papers a unique and invaluable trove.

Akin to other researcher collections, Honan’s papers also are important to historiography.  By researching his research process, other historians can retrace Honan’s work to better evaluate its scope and depth and to expose new avenues of inquiry.  Moreover, the Honan papers include book reviews and correspondence that illuminate how his work was received.  Honan’s correspondence with Mark Peattie and David C. Evans, who both were highly critical of his work, offer further insight into the history of the history.

Honan hoped that by donating his collection to the  Naval Historical Collection he was offering other researchers a jumping-off point to further scholarly inquiry into matters of naval history.

Bywater Encryption Key (Naval War College Archives)

Bywater Encryption Key (Naval War College Archives)

The hybrid nature of these collections means that one collection can have multiple copyright owners, not necessarily the Naval Historical Collection, where the collection is housed. Researchers using these types of collections are responsible for determining and obtaining copyright permissions for the use of photocopied materials.

For more information about the Honan collection and other holdings at the Naval Historical Collection, visit our website: or contact Dara A. Baker, Head Archivist, Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College at or by phone at 401 841 2435.

(Return to December 2015 Table of Contents)

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BOOK REVIEW – Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, Fabled Fifteen: The Pacific War Saga of Carrier Air Group 15. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. 240 pp.

Review by LCDR Ethan Williams, USN
United States Air Force Academy

The 1944 combat performance of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Group 15 (CVG-15) is impressive. Flying off of USS Essex (CV-9) during the battles of the Philippine Sea (the “Marianas Turkey Shoot”) and Leyte Gulf, CVG-15’s fighter squadron, VF-15 (“Fighting 15”), shot down 312 Japanese planes and destroyed an additional 348 planes on the ground. The air group’s bomber squadron, VB-15 (“Bombing 15”), and torpedo bomber squadron, VT-15 (“Torpedo 15”), sank over 174,000 tons of Japanese cargo shipping and helped sink both the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) battleship Musashi (sister ship of the famed Yamato) and carrier Zuikaku (the sole survivor of the six carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor), along with numerous other Japanese warships. Every pilot from VT-15 earned the Navy Cross and twenty-six VF-15 pilots became aces. The air group commander (CAG), Commander David McCampbell, was the navy’s leading ace in World War II with thirty-four kills and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Marianas and at Leyte.

The author’s interest in CVG-15 began as a teenager and grew when he served with some former CVG-15 and Essex officers during his own time in the U.S. Navy in the early 1960s. In the years since, he has interviewed many other CVG-15 and Essex veterans and published several books and articles on World War II air combat. In writing Fabled Fifteen, the author approaches the battles not from the strategic or operational level that so many other books do. Instead he places the reader in the cockpit with the pilots and aircrew of CVG-15 as they dogfight Zeros or dodge flak during their bomb runs on Japanese targets over the western Pacific.

One of the more interesting story lines in the book is the leadership development of McCampbell. Before his promotion to CAG, McCampbell served as VF-15’s first commanding officer. Once CAG, he continued to serve as the de facto leader of VF-15, undermining the authority of the squadron’s appointed commanding and executive officers (p. 69). During CVG-15’s early 1944 transit from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor on USS Hornet (CV-12), VB-15 lost over a dozen aircraft through mishaps, several of which were attributed to operating procedures established by the Hornet’s Captain. No evidence is presented that McCampbell challenged the Captain’s unsafe procedures. Upon arrival in Hawaii, CVG-15’s readiness was so low that CVG-2 was ordered to replace CVG-15 as Hornet’s air group (p. 69-70). Amazingly, McCampbell, the man who became the navy’s “Ace of Aces,” was not relieved. Once CVG-15 entered combat in the Marianas, McCampbell’s talent as fighter pilot truly emerged. His capability as combat air group commander, however, was lacking and in late August Task Group commander Rear Admiral Frederick Sherman counseled McCampbell on his performance as CAG. Sherman emphasized that the CAG’s duty was to lead and coordinate strikes, not to hunt for Zeros. McCampbell responded and effectively led strikes throughout the Leyte campaign, although he did continue to rack up aerial kills, including nine in a single day (p. 127-128).

The author’s writing is at its best when describing CVG-15’s combat actions. When describing the strategic and operational events surrounding CVG-15’s tactical actions, however, the author’s explanations and conclusions sometimes fall short. For example, the author attributes the Japanese Navy’s mindset for a single-stroke, decisive victory at Leyte Gulf to the Japanese sports of kendo and botaoshi practiced at the Japanese naval academy (p. 163). Perhaps a better explanation for the IJN’s decisive victory mindset is the IJN’s decades of study of the sea power theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan prior to the battle. The author also makes some other minor errors that may not be apparent to the general public, but stand out to the naval aviation enthusiast. The launching and recovering of aircraft every hour to an hour and a half is known today as “cyclic operations” or “cyclic ops,” not the “operation cycle” (p. 28).  Today’s air wing commanders do not fly fighters (or strike-fighters as “fighters” are no longer in the fleet) out of a “de rigueur” tradition that began in 1944, but instead fly fighters because most come from a fighter background and are thoroughly experienced in strike warfare (p. 26). Finally, LT (later Rear Admiral) V.G. Lambert is not “the only non-Annapolis graduate to ever command a super carrier” (p. 210).

The most significant issue with this book is its lack of documentation. Despite the author’s substantial use of first person accounts and quotations throughout the book, there are no footnotes or endnotes to reveal the sources of those accounts. The bibliography is a scant two and a half pages and composed mainly of secondary sources, despite the fact that the Foreword, written by the son of McCampbell, touts the author’s “exhaustive research of official records…personal interviews and diaries written during the conflict” (p.7). No official records, personal interviews, or diaries appear in the bibliography, such as the diary of Petty Officer Alfred Graham that is referenced throughout the book.

Fabled Fifteen is a fast paced book that is told primarily through the first-hand accounts of the participants. Through his research and interviews, the author has preserved an important part of naval aviation history. It is unfortunate that he did not thoroughly document his sources.  The general reader looking for an action packed story of World War II aerial combat will enjoy Fabled Fifteen. The scholar looking to do further research on CVG-15, the Marianas, or Leyte will be frustrated by the lack of documentation. There is a gap in the historical record with regards to CVG-15 that has only partially been filled. Perhaps in a second edition or follow-on work the author can further contribute to the historical record by better documenting what appears to be valuable research. For now, the reader is left wondering how much of the book is original scholarship and how much is synthesis of existing literature.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Royal Navy: A History Since 1900

Duncan Redford and Philip D. Grove, The Royal Navy: A History Since 1900. London: I. B. Tauris, 2014. 363 pp.

Review by Joseph Moretz, PhD
British Commission for Military History

Writing a single-volume history of the navy which can claim to possess the greatest and most varied operational experience from the twentieth century forward represents a singularly difficult task. Compression is essential and accepting that much of necessity will fall by the wayside, ensuring that which remains is faithful to the greater story while retaining both interest and value to the reader becomes an almost insurmountable challenge. When the effort is guided by the hands of two authors, consistency in approach poses a further barrier. Duncan Redford and Philip D. Grove have in the main negotiated these pitfalls in a lavishly illustrated work for the generalist reader though rather less so for those more attuned to the subject. In fairness to the last observation, The Royal Navy: A History Since 1900 is but one work of many in a greater series covering Britain’s Navy from the eighteenth century jointly produced by the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the publisher. Thus, taken together the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

As for their efforts, if the work is solidly anchored upon official primary sources and the best of the secondary literature, then the authors fail to offer a fresh interpretation of the Royal Navy. The accounting rendered is one that incorporates the previous views of traditionalists and revisionists with equal vigor and while a balanced assessment might have resulted, too often the conclusions reached fall between the opposing stools for the contrarian view is never engaged. The history that unfolds depicts a service almost always successful operationally, but invariably trapped by forces greater than itself be they strategic, political or financial. Ironically, winning victories in war if the ultimate expression of naval effectiveness at one level did little to guarantee institutional success for the service at another. Truly, the greatest period of peril for the Navy, if not for the nation and the empire that it defended, was when peace prevailed. Why this irony proved so is a missed opportunity to set the story of the Royal Navy within a broader context. At a minimum, a final chapter drawing appropriate conclusions could have been provided.

The difficulty of writing a survey is that judgment when rendered often appears sweeping and not nuanced and requires the reader to take a lot on faith. Exceptions to any rule can always be found, but when present multiple times calls into question the whole edifice of what is offered. Hence, this reviewer cannot accept the verdict that Jutland remained a tactical victory for the Royal Navy. The defeat of a superior British force at the hands of a lesser adversary was without precedent. Such was the loss inflicted on Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Fleet that the late intervention of Jellicoe’s Battle Squadrons did little to redress. This was understood within the Navy and explains why the battle assumed the proportions that it did at the moment of crisis and in the years that followed. Likewise, the conclusion that Admiral Sir John Fisher’s strategic thought had migrated from dreadnoughts to embrace flotilla defence and sea denial must be treated with caution. Certainly, ample evidence exists that Fisher saw the potential of the submarine and questioned whether the surface fleet could continue to operate in their presence. Yet, the World War found the Royal Navy singularly lacking in a mining capability and Fisher deprecated the deployment of heavy ships on subsidiary operations such as to the Dardanelles. Submarines and flotilla craft had their place and they remained more preferable to the Admiralty than maintaining large numbers of troops to meet an invasion not likely to occur in any event, but the strategy was not as settled as indicated.

Nor is it correct to avow that the Army and the Navy had ‘vile relations’ before the World War which poisoned cooperation in combined operation leading the service to pursue economic warfare as a strategy once command of the sea had been secured. Strategically, a Committee on Combined Operations under the auspices of the Committee of Imperial Defence was formed in 1905 to define set-piece serials that could be executed promptly upon the outbreak of war. The fruits of their labor were seen in 1914 when multiple expeditions to the Pacific and Africa were quickly initiated. Intellectually, cooperation was close with strong ties developed between the naval War Course and the Army Staff College. Indeed, the utility of combined operations was a feature even at the Indian Staff College when that school formed in 1905 with all drawing upon the lessons of the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Era and what had recently occurred in Manchuria. Meanwhile, operations in China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion and in Somalia in 1903 demonstrated that both services could work effectively side-by-side in amphibious operations.

Still other questionable assertions exist. The Navy before Jutland deprecated night action not because it failed to train for such encounters, but more importantly because it viewed itself as the superior force. Chance was thought to play too great a role and negated the advantage conferred by force of numbers. This view was not wrong, but it assumed contact could be retained with an adversary determined to escape until it was day once more. More troubling is the summary provided on the interwar naval arms control agreements which treats the limits imposed as absolute and static. In truth, variations to the rules existed to account for the dissimilar nature of the several fleets and to allow agreement to be reached at all.

These pitfalls must be expected in a work seeking to cover a topic offering endless variation in fortunes and endless possibilities for analysis. As such, the military professional and the academic historian will find The Royal Navy Since 1900 a disappointing read because brevity no longer suits their needs. For the non-specialist though and with the money to spare, what remains is a worthy introduction and can be recommended with these qualifications.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Sea and Civilization. A Maritime History of the World

Lincoln Paine, The Sea and Civilization.  A Maritime History of the World.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. 784 pp.

Review by Kenneth J. Blume, PhD
Dept. of Humanities and Communication Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Lincoln Paine has given us a volume that any maritime historian and any world historian will savor.  For years, maritime historians have emphasized that “the sea connects all things,” and this book demonstrates those connections.  This is global history seen through a maritime lens, demonstrating that global history is maritime history.  Only a few historians have been able to single-author a world history—for example, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, John M. Roberts, or Peter N. Stearns.  Paine is a rare example of an author willing to attempt a global maritime history.

In twenty chapters and about 600 pages of text, Paine has a daunting task to accomplish.  He lays out his fundamental premise early on—that “mankind’s technological and social adaptation to life on the water—whether for commerce, warfare, exploration, or migration—has been a driving force in human history” (p. 8). A book that begins with an exploration of the very first human encounters with the waters also reminds us, in the Introduction, that even in the twenty-first century “ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization” (p. 9). We are also warned not to expect a book “about ships per se” (p. 10). If you want minute details about ancient Egyptian ships, or about the first class dining rooms of the great Atlantic liners of the 20th century, you’ll find titles in Payne’s exhaustive bibliography.  Rather, The Sea and Civilization is about the things that ships carried:  “people and their culture, their material creations, their crops and flocks, their conflicts and prejudices, their expectations for the future, and their memories of the past” (p. 10).

Readers looking for specialized details (although there are plenty of details) might say that the book has too much context and not enough ships, or too much civilization and not enough sea.  Such criticism misses the point of the book.  Paine achieves what he sets out to accomplish, with a comprehensive overview that is filled with juicy details.  He begins as far back as we have any human records: 6,000-year-old Norwegian rock carvings of reindeer hunters in boats—“the oldest known pictorial representations of watercraft” (p. 11).  From there, the narrative surveys the world by era and geographical region: the ancient islands of Oceania; the Americas in ancient times; ancient Egypt; the Bronze Age; Mesopotamia.  When Paine gets to the Epic of Gilgamesh, he emphasizes the water-related aspects of that familiar story.  When we reach the Phoenicians, Greeks, and ancient Mediterranean, we are reminded that these are the first civilizations to create “sea-based colonial empires” and the first to “build ships specifically for war and develop strategies for their use; to erect port complexes dedicated to facilitating commerce; and to systematically explore the waters beyond the Mediterranean” (p. 79). The implications of these “firsts” are among Paine’s important insights.

Then, there are chapters on Carthage, Rome, and The Mediterranean; Chasing the Monsoons (with a gem of a glimpse at the elephant trade!); Continent and Archipelagoes in the East; The Christian and Muslim Mediterranean; Northern Europe through the Viking Age; The Silk Road of the Seas; China Looks Seaward; The Medieval Mediterranean and Europe; The Golden Age of Maritime Asia; The World Encompassed; The Birth of Global Trade; State and Sea in the Age of European Expansion; Northern Europe Ascendant.  When we reach the 18th century, we see the full potential of the sailing ship being unleashed—for both good and evil.  Paine provides a remarkable and vivid snapshot of conditions on slave ships, and also the horrifying conditions for “free” travelers to North America.  At the same time, Paine’s narrative provides a good analysis of the 18th century “balance of power” and how it was especially dependent on naval power.

The final three chapters—18, 19, and 20—provide a concise analysis of the remarkable changes of the past 200 years.  Above all, of course, was the advent of steam.  In 1838, when Sirius arrived in New York harbor, just seventeen days after leaving Cork, the New York Herald proclaimed that the event signaled the “Annihilation of Space and Time.”  Paine has zeroed in on the defining (and still changing) characteristic of the Modern World. Curiously, Paine does not mention the role of SS Savannah in this revolutionary annihilation. Then, of course, world navies entered the machine age.  Paine takes us from the American Civil War to World War I, to World War II, and then the Korean War, sketching the changing tactics, technologies, and policies that have shaped global affairs and global life.  Finally, the book’s last chapter surveys major developments since the 1950s, particularly containerization and flags of convenience.

Paine’s The Sea and Civilization takes us on a tour around the world, throughout time, on ships.  It is a remarkable voyage, with excellent illustrations and maps, based on a vast list of sources.  For the maritime historian, the juiciest sections will perhaps be those that discuss the actual ships of the various civilizations.  But for any reader, this book, in the end, is a world history survey that reinforces the centrality of maritime affairs.

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BOOK REVIEW – Into the Dark Water: The Story of Three Officers and PT-109

John Domagalski, Into the Dark Water: The Story of Three Officers and PT-109. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. 280 pp.

Review by CPT Andrew Ziebell, USA

Into the Dark Water is purportedly about PT-109 and the three officers, including John F. Kennedy, who commanded her during her roughly thirteen months in service. The book explores some of the technical and logistical considerations, as well as the administrative actions, which saw PT-109 eventually arrive in the Pacific Theater with Lieutenant Rollin Westholm at the helm. Once in theater, it is evident that the 109 and her crew are just one very small part of a much larger effort and that, in singling out one boat, the author sets himself a difficult task. The subtitle of the book may have more rightly been: “PT boat actions off Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands, 1942-43.”

It is in the descriptions of these actions, even ones in which the 109 does not participate, where the author truly excels. Drawing upon a wealth of research, Domagalski brings to life the daring, primarily night-time missions of the PT boats. One gains an appreciation for just how dangerous these actions were by hearing directly from those involved. It is particularly interesting to discover how the after action reports submitted by the US officers differed significantly from those in the Japanese records. The fog of war often led to wildly inaccurate battle damage assessments, but this in no way diminishes the importance of the PT boats, nor takes away from the heroism of their crews.

Domagalski leaves no doubt that these were, indeed, brave men led by exceptional officers. One of the more moving accounts in the book is when one officer describes abandoning his boat and diving into the dark water, not only because staying aboard meant certain death but because he knew that his comrades would eventually come to find him. That speaks to not only the incredible courage of these men, but also to the trust that must have existed between them. The three successive commanding officers of the 109, along with captains of sister boats, instilled this sense of trust by continuously adapting in the face of the enemy, constantly looking to the welfare of their men and always placing themselves at the most dangerous point.

The author’s efforts to place PT-109 properly within the context of the Pacific war does detract, at times, from the narrative without adding anything of particular value. The reader would have been better served with more personalized accounts of day to day life at war. Perhaps the most glaring shortcoming is in the chapter that seeks to trace the use of small, torpedo-armed boats against larger, destroyer-type ships. While mentioning the first submarine, Bushnell’s Turtle, to be used in action against a British ship before giving ample space to the development of steam and ironclad ships by both the United States and the Confederacy during the Civil War, it is curious that the author makes no mention of the jeune ecole which emerged in France during the 1870s and 1880s. Certainly the innovative theories advocated by Vice Admiral Aube and others in searching for ways to combat a superior naval force are eminently more relevant to the situation that the PT boats faced at the end of 1942.

PT-109 made her final contribution to the war in August, 1943. With Lieutenant junior grade Kennedy at the helm, she was sliced in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. By the author’s own admission, the final mission of PT-109 would likely have been just one more incident in a long bloody war, if not for the post-war fame of her final skipper. Even this, despite Domagalski’s assertion that it is an event still taught in high schools around the country, is fading from memory. But maybe that is the point here. Countless stories remain that must continue to be told and re-told before they are lost to time.

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Vol 12, Issue 3: About the Authors

Christian Perkins Picture

Christian Perkins
Water Scarcity, Conflict, and the U.S. Navy

Christian Perkins is a recent Cum Laude graduate of the University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA, in Political Science .  His paper on “Water Scarcity, Conflict, and the U.S. Navy” was the Domestic Category prize winning essay at the 55th Annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference at Annapolis in 2015 with 150 delegates from 40 different nations.  He is completing an assignment as Field Organizer for the Democratic Party in Virginia for the 2015 State Senate Campaign.

Mobley _photo

Scott Mobley
The Essence of Intelligence Work is Preparation for War: How “Strategy” Infiltrated the Office of Naval Intelligence, 1882-1889

Scott Mobley studies the political, economic, technological, and cultural influences that shaped naval history.  He recently earned a Ph.D. in U.S. History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His dissertation, “Progressives in Navy Blue: Maritime Strategy, American Empire, and the Transformation of U.S. Naval Identity, 1873-1898” examines how progressive values shaped intellectual and institutional developments within the U.S. Navy during the Gilded Age.  Mobley is a retired navy Captain.  He served thirty years as a surface warfare officer, commanding USS Boone (FFG-28) and USS Camden (AOE-2).

Timothy Walton

Timothy Walton
Eyes of the Ospreys:An Analysis of RAF Coastal Command’s Operational Research Section in Counter-U-Boat Operations

Timothy A. Walton is an independent scholar currently associated with the Alios Consulting Group, a defense and business strategy firm focusing on the Asia-Pacific and Latin America by providing expert assistance for strategic planning, defense studies, capture shaping, and market entry.  His article was developed while researching the papers of Russell J. Bowen at Georgetown University’s Booth Family Center for Special Collections..


Scott Reilly
Hector Bywater and William Honan:A Biographer’s Papers in the Naval Historical Collection, U.S. Naval War College

Scott Reilly, previously Archivist of the Naval Historical Collection, the archives and special collections of the U.S. Naval War College, is currently an archivist with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, RI.  Prior to joining the Naval War College in 2014, Mr. Reilly served as Senior Archivist at the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Notre Dame and earned his Master’s in Information Studies, with a concentration in Archives and Records Management, from the University of Texas at Austin.

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BOOK REVIEW – Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic

David Head, Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 2015. 201 pp.

Review by Benjamin Armstrong
King’s College, London

The wars of the early American republic, and the forces that fought those wars, have come to dominate the naval history of the early 19th century. From the founding of the U.S. Navy in response to Barbary and French attacks on American shipping to the frigate duels of the War of 1812, naval historians have frequently been guided by a kind of caricatured Mahanian view of naval affairs that focuses on fleet composition and sea battles, decisive or otherwise. Likewise, maritime historians of the Atlantic world regularly cast their view as far from broadsides and the gold braid as they can, focusing on the multitude of socio-cultural and economic elements of studying merchant sailors. Into the divide between these interests sails the small group of scholars who specialize in privateers and privateering. David Head’s Privateers of the Americas makes a well crafted and solidly researched contribution to this sometimes overlooked part of the field.

Napoleon’s capture of Fernando VII of Spain in 1808 sent the Caribbean world into a crisis of identity that brought danger and insecurity to the southern borders of the United States. As the Spanish American colonies went through alternating experiences of rebellion, reconquest, and civil war, naval affairs played an often understudied role. During this revolutionary era each of the new nations created fleets of privateers, matching the example set by their northern neighbor during the United States’ own war for independence. Many of the men, who took up these Spanish American commissions, and the ships they sailed, were actually from the United States. Privateers of the Americas lays an important foundation for the study of these mariners and their roles as combatants and actors on the cutlass edge of legality and warfare in the Atlantic world.

The structure of Head’s effort is straightforward. He begins with a thorough and quite readable explanation of the diplomatic events of the era. After summarizing the history that brought Spanish America into a state of rebellion, the book pulls focus on the Monroe administration and the work of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to lay the background for the following chapters. The general discussion of revolt, counter-revolution, and diplomatic maneuvering gives way to three chapters which are each focused on a different physical area of operations.

The first discusses the men of New Orleans and Barataria. Historians of the period, and even some readers of popular history, will be well familiar with the Lafitte brothers and their band. While discussing that relatively well mined history the author’s contribution is placing these men in the context of the larger geo-political and economic factors that played out during the period. The second chapter introduces the privateers who fitted out and sailed their ships from Baltimore for the revolutionary cause. Though clearly a violation of United States neutrality laws, Head shows how the city which had become the center of American privateering in the War of 1812 continued in its preferred industry while developing ways to circumvent U.S. law. The final of the theater focused chapters explains the development of Spanish American privateering bases on the edge of U.S. territory at Amelia Island, Florida and Galveston, Texas. In this chapter Head’s history brings together a fascinating array of interests from the privateers, to filibusterers intent on the capture of territory, to the government officials of the U.S. Navy and Treasury attempting to enforce confusing and sometimes contradictory national policy.

In the final chapter of the book the author uses representative samples of the Americans and foreigners involved in Spanish American privateering to discuss the differing motives and intent of a colorful cast of historical figures. He illustrates how these non-state, pseudo-state, and national actors operated among their peers in the name of everything from patriotic zeal to clear profit motive. The research for the book has an excellent grounding in the previous scholarship of the period and the Spanish American revolutions, then builds on that using relatively unstudied court records from U.S. Admiralty cases that provide excellent detail of the privateers who worked from American shores.

There is however, one missing element of the author’s analysis that this reviewer found rather glaring. Head never satisfactorily addresses the question of whether these men were privateers or pirates. As early as page 2 of the book the author defines what it takes to be a privateer: a ship with a commission, a captured enemy vessel, and a ruling from an Admiralty Court that it is a legitimate prize. However, in an enormous number of the examples that the author so deftly describes, there is no ruling of the legitimacy of the prize. Instead, the “privateers” simply sell off their captured merchandise and ships or smuggle the goods into the United States. This was the Lafitte brothers’ great skill, which is so well described and documented in the book. It is also the definition of a pirate. While the author seems to dismiss President Monroe’s characterization of these men as “privateer pirates” as something like political grandstanding, this reviewer is left wondering if the President was right.

The question of piracy aside, Privateers of the Americas is a well crafted and researched addition to the study of American privateering and maritime history. The privateers that sailed the Caribbean, whether from the Spanish American revolutionary governments, the United States, or European powers, made for a conflicted and dangerous sea. David Head’s history of Spanish American privateers and the United States in the early 19th century makes an important contribution to defining and understanding the maritime interests of that era.

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View from the Quarterdeck: July 2015

chadbournIn the summer of 2015, l’Hermione, a beautifully reconstructed replica of an 18th century, three-masted, 32-gun, Concorde class French frigate visited ports on the east coast of North America from Yorktown, Virginia, to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. Her namesake vessel gained fame in 1780 by ferrying the Marquis de Lafayette to America with secret news that King Louis XVI of France was sending much-needed military support in the form of a half-dozen naval ships and 5,500 troops under the command of Comte de Rochembeau to assist the American colonies in their revolt against Britain. This military assistance would prove critical to the eventual Franco-American victory at Yorktown the following year. The original l’Hermione was wrecked in heavy seas in 1793 after running aground on the rugged coast off Le Croisic in the Loire-Atlantique department of western France. Two centuries later, reconstruction of l’Hermione at Rochefort, France, would be possible only because the British Admiralty, recognizing the superior design of the vessel, had preserved blueprints in their archives of her sister ship captured during the wars between France and England.

Archives are indispensable for providing the lifeblood of primary source materials and other documents which are so essential to serious historical inquiry and study.  In this edition of IJNH we introduce a new series of articles called “Inside the Archives” as the first of what we hope will become a regular feature in the future.  The intent of these articles is to focus a spotlight on and to share information about archival holdings of interest to Naval Historians.  We begin by examining the Special Collections of the Dudley Knox Library at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  The Head of Special Collections Section, John Sanders, offers a brief glimpse of the fascinating Yangtze River Patrol Collection in the Knox Library which provides insight into American Naval activity in China at the turn of the 20th Century.  We invite Archivists, Librarians, and Scholars to submit their own candidates for inclusion in this series.

Also in this issue, Corbin Williamson of Ohio State University analyses conflict and cooperation in Anglo-American naval relations in the spring of 1941.  His article examines “debates over warship deployments and repair work that occurred as part of the ABC-1 military staff talks in Washington.”  Williamson contends that historians have not given adequate attention to the role of industrial facilities, including shipyards and dry docks, “in shaping the development of Anglo-American relations during the Second World War.”  He attempts to address that oversight in this article. Williamson concludes that the ABC-1 agreement was one of the first instances in Anglo-American military relations in which growing American naval strength “played a significant role in shaping the outcome.”

Just over 70 years ago heavy American involvement in the Vietnam conflict was initiated under President Lyndon Johnson.  Appropriately enough we have included two articles on the Vietnam War in this issue.  In the first article Dr. Nathan Packard examines the U.S. Marine Corps’ search for relevancy and modernization during the years of the Carter Administration, an era that proved to be critical for the Corps.  A more extensive examination of this topic will be forthcoming in a monograph to be published by the University of North Carolina Press under sponsorship of the Society of Military History.  In the second article we continue our commitment to encouraging scholarship by junior members of the profession.  Again we are publishing an article drawn from entries to the annual National History Day competition in College Park, Maryland, a documentary entitled “USS KIRK: Leadership Amidst Chaos, a Legacy of Survival.”  Author Abigail Wiest tells the story of a U.S. Navy destroyer escort that played a central role in the rescue of many South Vietnamese military members and their families fleeing Communist forces at the end of the Vietnam War.  This article makes an original contribution to knowledge of the tragic ending of the war in Vietnam through capturing the voices of former Vietnamese officers who played key roles in the drama that was the fall of Saigon.  We decided to include the extensive annotated bibliography prepared for this documentary, not only because of the quality of the scholarship, but because of what it adds to our knowledge of the subject matter as well.

L'Hermione fires her cannons as she arrived in Lunenburg. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

L’Hermione fires her cannons as she arrived in Lunenburg. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Much of the scholarly debate on the Royal Navy mutinies of 1797 has revolved around actions at Spithead, the Nore, and Yarmouth, with a cursory nod to the later mutinies that occurred in the Mediterranean, the West Indies, and Simon’s Bay and Table Bay at the fledgling British Cape Colony.  Allison Funk rectifies this shortcoming in her article through analysis of the events at the Cape.  In the process she offers us valuable insights not only into the epidemic potential of mutiny, but the British sailor as well.

We have two important personnel announcements.  First, Dave Colamaria is stepping down as Digital Editor of IJNH due to the increasing demands of his position with the photo archives of Naval Heritage and History Command.  Dave has been instrumental to the revitalization of this journal over the last two years.  Quite frankly, without him it would not have happened.  Matthew (Matt) Eng, Digital Content Developer at the Naval Historical Foundation will be our new Digital Editor.  Also, Elizabeth Williams is joining our staff as Executive Assistant to the Editor.

Comments, suggestions, ideas, and potential articles for these pages are always welcome.  Such dialog is productive in the development of historical knowledge on the important roles played by maritime forces.

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

(Return to the July 2015 Table of Contents)

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