View from the Quarterdeck: July 2018

chadbournMost of us recall a particular teacher or professor who first piqued our interest in history.  Later, as we advanced in our professional studies, if we were fortunate we acquired a mentor we admired who took particular interest in guiding and developing students as a critical element of being a member of the historical profession.  These truly great historians not only advance our knowledge and understanding of history through their own work, but also inspire and guide others to follow their example.  Dr. Michael J. Crawford, recently retired as Senior Historian of the U.S. Navy, was such a giant in the field of naval history.

As our lead article in this issue, we publish Mike’s remarks upon the occasion of his recent retirement at the Museum of the United States Navy in the Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC.  His comments reflect not only a lifetime of commitment to being a naval historian in the fullest sense as scholar, mentor and colleague, but also serve to remind us of the complexity and craftsmanship of the historical profession itself.  How does a landsmen become a naval historian?  Mike tells us in his own words.  I hope that readers will find these retirement remarks as beautiful and inspirational as I did, both personally and in a professional sense.  These comments may also serve as a useful primer for all on what it means to be an historian.  I trust our readers will find Dr. Crawford’s remarks as touching as I did.

The remaining articles in this issue of IJNH have as a common theme: the impact of conducting war in the face of technological change, which not everyone understands clearly.  While change is certainly moving at warp speed in the 21st Century, we are not the first generation to engage in combat under such conditions.

Earlier I spoke of mentorship as an important part of the historical profession.  The second article in this issue is a study of the absence of privateering in the Spanish American War by Scott Wagner.  This study was prepared during an internship at the Naval Heritage and History Command under Dr. Michael Crawford’s guidance.  Wagner’s article, “Why There was No Privateering in the Spanish-American War,” demonstrates that by the end of the 19th Century privateering, while technologically feasible even as steam and steel ships were replacing sail power and wooden hulls, was rejected by both Spain and the United States.  In fact, however, the U.S. Navy frequently used private citizens to crew private vessels under naval command; a practice that many pointed out was remarkably similar in many ways to privateering.  Wagner shows that diplomatic and strategic considerations of the time, especially so those of the European powers, rather than technology, made the practice unthinkable.

In “The Decisive Blow: The Anglo-French Naval Campaign of 1759, Naval War College Fleet Professor Kevin J. Delamar addresses the question of the role of British maritime dominance in the Seven Year’s War of 1756-1763, a world war more commonly known in North America as the French and Indian War.  While most of the fighting took place in Europe between continental powers, Britain as a maritime nation proved to be the economic engine of the victorious side.  Professor Delamar concludes that ultimately the impact of naval victories on the finances of the belligerents, especially because of key naval battles of 1759, would be the decisive factor in the outcome of the conflict.  Delamar examines the war from the perspective 19th Century maritime theorists Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett.  He concludes that the 21st century is not the first age in which defense spending is critical to successful national security policy.

Historian Paul Renard wanted to capture his father’s (William Fuchs) Navy experiences in World War II before they were lost.  His article stemmed from his dad saying one day at breakfast, “I remember when I was in Canada in 1941 . . . .”  Paul knew nothing of this story – until his dad pulled out his 70+ year old album from the war years and began to talk.  Chance not only plays an important role in war but can also lead to significant historical discoveries as well.  The resulting article, “The First Class at RAF No. 31 Radio School, August to September, 1941,” is just such a case.  The author offers a personal account of the Anglo-American-Canadian friendship and determination of The Grand Alliance to defeat the Axis Powers, even if Great Britain surrendered.  Sir Winston Churchill’s famous “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” Speech before the House of Commons in the dark days of June 1940, illustrates the point.  Churchill thundered “. . . we shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”  Churchill was a master at marshalling the English language in the fight against Hitler, but as Renard demonstrates, in this case important operations in the wilds of Ontario supported his rhetoric.  The details Renard offers are fascinating!

Finally, our Editor for “Inside the Archives,” Dara Baker, an Archivist at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, contributes an instructive overview of records, including photographs, of the military service in World War II of the four sons of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt: Jimmy, Elliott, FDR Jr., and John.   Mr. J. Tomney, a FDR Presidential Library volunteer, compiled the information.  In retrospect, the war records of the Roosevelt boys are riveting.  Jimmy, the oldest, joined the USMC in 1936.  Wounded twice in combat, he would go on to earn both a Navy Cross and Silver Star for his exploits in the air.  Elliott served as a reconnaissance pilot in the North Atlantic and flew 300 combat missions over North Africa.  He was wounded twice and received a Distinguished Flying Cross.  FDR Jr. delighted his dad by spending four years in Navy ROTC at Harvard before the war.   After earning his law degree at the University of Virginia Law School, he entered active duty as a surface warfare officer.  Assigned to USS MAYRANT (DD-402), FDR Jr. saw duty in both North Africa in 1942 and Sicily in 1943 where he received a Silver Star and Purple Heart, and eventually rose to become Executive Officer.  Later reassigned to the Pacific Theater, he commanded USS ULVERT M MOORE (DE-443) in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa campaigns.  He was awarded a Legion of Merit with Combat V for the sinking a Japanese Submarine.  Son John also joined the Navy as a Supply Corps Officer and spent fifteen months on USS WASP (CV-18) in the Pacific Theater of Operations.  Dara’s account makes fascinating reading and is useful for anyone wishing to research the Roosevelts in World War II.

(Go to July 2018 Table of Contents)

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