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

(Return to December 2015 Table of Contents)

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