Some Considerations Affecting Naval Policy

By Rear Admiral W.V. Pratt, U.S. Navy

Nowhere is the danger graver than in the practical application to present needs, of the lessons learned from some late cataclysmic war. The psychic influences induced by such abnormal conditions will of themselves weave a false mantle composed of fear, distrust and other elemental but harmful forces behind which truth is hidden. Where accurate records are available, time is the most potent factor in separating the true from the false.

Thoughtful naval men realize this condition, yet also they realize the necessity of gleaning the harvest of experience while still it stands ripe in the field. Fortunately there is given to us the orderly method of thought and its concrete expression embodied in the reasoned estimate of the situation and the concise decision. These latter are the tools of his craft—to be used by the expert workman in gleaning the truths of which the late war and history are so replete. Had our military leaders in France accepted at their face value, the then apparent lessons of the war, and been guided solely by the graver counsels of foreign war experienced veterans, they might have been so thoroughly imbued with the principle of immobility that a truer perspective of conditions would have been impossible. Who can say now what form the Argonne campaign would have taken even had it eventualized; yet it was the crowning stroke of the war.

As a word of warning, let it be said; at no time has there been a greater need than exists today, for farsighted naval statesmanship, and for true interpretations, not only of the lessons of the late war, but also of the trend of the times. Rightly or wrongly the mass of the American people look upon naval men as tinged with militarism. As a tradition this commonplace is accepted without much thought. If called upon to define the feeling, it would mean, probably, looking at the same subject from a different point of view. But even among more intelligent men, the criticism sometimes arises that naval men lack breadth of view, induced by their training, education and the life they lead. Whether this opinion be true or not is hardly to the point. That it exists is everything. Nothing tends more to accentuate this feeling than the constant presentation of broader naval problems, from a purely military point of view. What bearing does this have to naval polity: much, though its influence be subtle. It aids to make the average citizen look upon us as a class apart, not appreciating the fact that first we are citizens of the United States, and in the second instance, naval men. It, together with other influences, affects our relations with Congress. Foremost naval men must not be technicians alone (though in that they must excel), or else they fail to live up to the examples and standards set by many of their predecessors. Public opinion has a distinct bearing on naval polity and is a factor of growing importance.

There are other considerations external to the navy to which thought might be given. It seems a far cry from the form of government we live under to matters affecting naval polity. Yet the distance is not so great as it appears. Strictly speaking, our government is neither democratic nor republican. More truly it is a constitutional government first and always, and a constitutional government administered by a free people functions best when its several parts co-operate thoroughly and loyally. Therefore any scheme of reorganization within departments, or interdepartmental, cannot with soundness, base its conclusions upon systems found efficient in less liberal and more autocratic countries. Autocratic, one-man control violates the American conception of the best form of administration. Respect for the basic law and a hearty co-operation in its support, are innate traits of American character, even during periods when acts seem to belie this statement. No organization, however specious the arguments in its support may be, that violate these requirements, will ultimately endure. Each new scheme should be closely inspected to see if it can stand searching analysis and is basically sound.

During the last war the feature causing most amazement to foreigners little acquainted with the inner workings of our apparently loose-jointed country, was the absolute co-ordination and co-operation of all its several parts, so that ultimately it became a well-oiled machine working for a purpose, and operating more efficiently than the German war machine ever worked; for, whereas the German war machine was perfect in details, it failed in its greater conceptions.

After each war, military and naval writers have spent reams of paper in explanation of the state of our unpreparedness on entering the struggle. Congress has held investigations in an endeavor to place blame where it belongs. Warnings are sounded; recriminations pass and repass; meanwhile, geography hides its head in its sleeve and laughs. Were we less fortunately situated with reference to other possible antagonists, the story would be different. We might be over-prepared, as is perhaps the case today with some other countries.

The character of a people has a determining influence upon naval polity indirectly affecting the structure, composition, development and operation of the naval establishment. Keynotes struck in our international relationships, are altruism and idealism. Whether other nationals are so convinced, the American people themselves are thoroughly satisfied that this is true. There is ground for this belief. In the three hundred odd years of our existence, though wave after wave of foreign immigration has swept over us; though radical propagandists encounter less active opposition to the dissemination of their doctrines in this country than elsewhere, they have not been able to overcome the subtle but potent influence of the ideals which, first brought over with us, are maturing in a favoring soil and stamp the American people for what they are. Rather may it be said that the old American spirit prevails, if not in one generation, then in the following. Could any more convincing proofs of practical idealism and altruism be asked than were shown by our men and women during the late war?

Of all naval problems at that time, none had to be given more thought than the trend of public opinion. Naval operations by or against the Germans were, for much of the time, of relatively less importance than German propaganda. The united spirit of our people did much to kill schemes carefully prepared by cunning plotters, and lent itself to intelligent direction when necessary.

The temper of a people as manifested in public opinion may not be disregarded. What naval man viewing his problem from the military point of view only, could agree to the supreme sacrifice of naval strength which America made at the Washington Conference. Every historical fact told him he was correct in his conclusions that sea power, if it is to be enduring, must be backed by naval strength. Yet there are influences stronger than the conclusions drawn from historical and from mathematical deductions, and these influences may not be gainsaid. Who can tell that they may not portend a broader vision, more in keeping with the spirit of the times, than deduction drawn from the history of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? This may or may not be true. It must, however, be given due weight in the solution of great national problems.

International relationships have their bearing on naval polity. The true naval statesman, in peace, thinks less of what he will do in war, than of the part the navy should play to keep our country out of war. It is a trite saying that sincere international friendships cannot exist. If, however, honor, respect for law and justice, sympathy for the under-dog, uprightness, fair dealing, are necessary components of stable friendships, then there is a future hope that the term international friendship may come into being. Much as the writer dislikes being in disagreement with some able writers on naval subjects, he cannot entirely follow their reasoning relative to Article XIX of the Treaty for a Limitation of Naval Armaments, nor accept as altogether sound their opinions of the status quo clause. They attempt to visualize conditions as they fancy they should be in the future, and from those premises draw certain conclusions. They do not accept conditions as they really are. The writer, from a natural naval viewpoint, appreciates the importance of naval bases strategically located. On the other hand, the naval point of view, or in other words the strictly technical viewpoint, never has, and never will be accepted in its entirety by the American people. In times of trouble, yes, perhaps; but in peace, no; and there is much practical sense in this attitude of mind. Therefore Guam and the Philippines never were, and never would be adequately fortified by us, in peace, as they might be by a more military government. These far flung, outlying positions, while not powerful enough to speak with armed authority, were nevertheless, a thorn in the side of Japan, continually aggravating the tension already existing due to competitive building and to misunderstandings as to national aims and aspirations. Statesmen have spoken, and their judgments are wiser than purely naval decisions, for they are based on a just and discerning estimate of all conditions.

Perhaps nothing is needed so much today in fostering good relations, as the friendly intermingling of nations. The man on the spot can frequently accomplish things which letters will not accomplish. There is something warm and personal in the friendly visit, contrasted to the colder and more formal diplomatic correspondence. It is a pertinent part of naval policy, wherever possible, to see that through naval contact any good understandings now enjoyed be maintained, and that any misunderstandings be adjusted. For those desirous of maintaining the peace, such would seem to be a correct line of conduct to follow.

National wealth, domestic conditions, foreign trade and many other factors have their relation to, or effect upon, naval polity, and must be considered in any accurate solution of our problems. The sea trader is the pioneer, more than is the naval man, but as our sea trade increases in importance, so may the need for its support. From the time of the Phoenicians, the great Maritime traders, down to the present, water-borne commerce has represented or influenced sea power. Frequently the edicts of sound naval strategy have been violated, as was the case during the Napoleonic wars, when with no supporting fleet, our merchant marine carried the commerce of England and France in its bottoms, only however, because interests more potent were struggling against each other. It is often the external condition, not the technical military estimate, which governs, but these external controlling conditions are just as vital, just as true gauges to watch, as the purely naval factors. Perhaps a just appreciation of these things and of other vital essentials to the world life of nations may help us to make more reasonable estimates of international relationships, than the acceptance at face value as principles to guide us, of such trite, short, but somewhat commonplace expressions as militaristic country, traditional enemy, and other equally delusive statements, which are accurate only as they preserve their true balance in relation to other things.

On the other hand how many naval men, and especially how many outside the service, have given thought to the place the navy holds in the development of the industries and trade of our country. A study of this phase of naval activity would reveal much which is now unknown or not even dreamed of.

Again, economy does not and cannot mean to the government official exactly what it does to the business man. To live in business there must be profit, and where there is competition, economy must always be a very determining, if not the most important factor. The naval man, trained to look at his problems with an eye to accomplishing results first regardless of cost, places efficiency before economy. With us economy is weighed, sometimes in the same balance with efficiency, sometimes in the opposite. To both classes of men, naval expenditure represents overhead insurance, but the attitude toward it varies with the point of view. Both are equally patriotic citizens and their differences are capable of adjustment. The introduction of the budget system is practically certain to bring the business point of view more to the fore in the handling of naval financial matters, with a consequent effect upon the entire naval establishment.

You may well ask, what is the purpose of the above statements—surely it is not to preach unpreparedness. No, it is not that. Listen to what one of the best friends the navy ever had, one of the foremost statesmen of his time, our great President Roosevelt, has to say, "The American people must either build and maintain an adequate navy or else make up their minds definitely to accept a secondary position in international affairs, not merely in political, but in commercial matters. It has been well said that there is no surer way of courting national disaster than to be opulent, aggressive and unarmed." This principle is sound and true.

But the time has arrived when it seems necessary to analyze certain external fundamental conditions in their relation to our navy, and to show how powerful these external influences may be. What is the corrective, if corrective be needed? It appears as simple as the answer given by the delegates at the Washington Conference. Arrive at better understandings with your world-over neighbors and see to it that the good relationships established are kept alive. Education of the public to know what its navy means to it, and tactful appreciation on our own part of the public point of view, will do much to establish, in our own country, correct and mutual understanding.

Were you to ask me, what is the most puissant external material factor, that has in the past and will in the future influence naval polity, I think the reply would be geography. Can any student deny that the heart of our naval policy is intimately interwoven with the correct interpretation of the strategy of the Panama Canal? Does anyone fail to see the close relationship of the submarine problem to geography? Whether it be in the air, on the waters, or under them, we eventually return to geography, to our singularly fortunate position so favorably fixed geographically in relation to other nations. It is needless to go into details. The thoughtful man may read and draw his own correct conclusions.

Hand in hand with an appreciation of our own world position, our affluence, capabilities, and limitations, must go knowledge and recognition of the position which other countries occupy in relation to ourselves and to one another. Their aims, aspirations, and the vital necessities essential to a sane and normal national life must be comprehended, if we would maintain that position of leadership, not sought but which a growing and war sick world has thrust upon us. By treading the straight path of national uprightness and fair dealing, never swerving aside to secure a minor victory when the greater goal lies ahead, impelled by sympathy towards all and actuated by malice and suspicion towards none, our country will move on to the accomplishment of its ordained purpose. As servants of our country, naval men must take these lessons to heart, if they would serve best. Let it be said here, that whenever naval men have been entrusted with the conduct of international matters, almost invariably they have, due possibly to training and to a fair knowledge of world affairs, executed their missions satisfactorily, as recorded testimonials will bear witness.

Powerful as is the influence of external factors upon naval polity, and interesting as may be their study, yet the seagoing officer is much more concerned in the internal relations of the various parts of the naval establishment to each other, in their proper organization and efficient administration. Particularly is his attention centered in the sound administration and operation of the fleet, for in it he sees the hammer with which, in time of war, he may drive through all obstacles to secure for his country the purpose for which the fleet exists. No officer, the major part of whose life is spent at sea or in dealing with matters pertaining to the sea, can help being vitally concerned in the efficiency of the fleet. To command the fleet is the summit of his naval career.

In general, naval policy may be defined as the system of principles and the general terms of their application, governing the development, organization, maintenance and operation of the navy. It is based on and designed to support national policies and American interests. It comprehends the questions of number, type, and distribution of naval vessels and stations, the character and number of the personnel, and the character of peace and war operations. This precept guides our administrative acts.

During peace the normal tendency for the component parts of a naval establishment is to adjust themselves along sane and harmonious lines, keeping step with the progress of the times. Like seeks like, and progress and development in type move hand in hand, provided that initiative be not stifled, imagination is given free rein, and slothfulness and sluggishness do not permeate the naval body. Given sufficient foresight in our leaders and ample time for preparation and training, an organization along these lines should be able to adjust itself to the more special and intensive tasks demanded of it in war. Such has been the method of our naval development in the past.

After every great war there is the very natural tendency to assume that other wars will follow the course of the last. While in major premises this is reasonably true (such as predicating economic war), methods and details to carry it out will change. An impulse, therefore, is given to our naval establishment to make it conform to and adopt the practices of the last war. This impulse followed to extremes, would impose upon us the methods of the last war rather to the neglect of a study of principles, some of which may have been handed down to us from history as effective through long periods in the past. This inclination to adopt methods in lieu of analyzing principles is a danger which should be carefully guarded against, for it may lead to false conclusions and it is apt to crystallize our conceptions as to what warfare in the future will be. The methods that served well three or four years ago, if adopted even ten or fifteen years hence may be antiquated and out of date, however true the fundamental principles upon which they are based. It is to guard against the fallacious idea of adopting past practices as a substitute for the study of principles, that this note of warning is sounded.

There are certain basic laws upon which the naval establishment should be organized, administered and operated. No violation of these laws will stand the test of time, regardless of how specious may be the arguments presented in favor of any particular method of application. During the progress of war there is usually an inclination to centralize, and to vest supreme control in the persons of few individuals. If allowed to run its natural gait, this tendency will in war adjust itself to the needs of the time. But if, in time of peace, we assume that the conditions imposed by war are the natural and normal conditions upon which to base our permanent organization, we err greatly in principle. The very foundations upon which our governmental structure rests, demand of our central organizations the ability to co-operate to the utmost, rather than to direct to the maximum. Our personnel also lends itself best to a form of control by induction, in contra-distinction to one by direction. The system of departmental organization, much as it has been attacked, especially since the late war, is sound in principle and conforms to the same basic laws that tie our federation of states into such an harmonious whole. The co-operation of the various integral parts of our central naval establishment is soundly arranged for through the agency of a co-operating and administering military head. The advisory and plan-making bodies co-ordinate their activities directly through this head with the civilian head. No military head can assume the duties of the civilian head of our naval establishment without violating some of the principles upon which our government is based, for it is not within his power to co-operate as fully with the legislative bodies as can the civilian head appointed for this purpose. The amount of influence and direction which the military head exercises, depends entirely upon the conditions which confront our country at the time. If it be peace, the function of a military head is largely advisory, and in a broad sense inspectional; in, a more minor sense it is directional. In time of war the directional function increases in importance and that of inspection is relegated to a minor place. The advisory function maintains its same relative position, but the character and importance of subjects handled change.

In certain countries there has arisen the apparent need for a department of national defense which combines under one head all military, naval and allied civil activities. Impelled by some specific and local urge, nations which have in the past lent themselves to alliances of alien interests, are more free to adopt such a system than is a country like our own with a looser form of government, thoroughly disliking any form of alliance of different interests, or even a too intimate association of similar interests if it be built up to constitute a super body. In the organization spoken of above, it is easy to trace certain psychological effects produced by the late war. The word defense is itself an expression of the fear which actuated these countries when they formed this body organic to protect themselves. It has been adopted by some countries where the time element is of greater importance than it is to us who are allowed more latitude in this respect. It is the attempt to combine under one super-head various separate activities, each having a life, a purpose and a function of operation individual and distinct from the activities of the other organizations with which it would ally itself. The result is to create a super-head whose functions in war would infringe upon those of the constitutionally appointed commander-in-chief, in whose person is now vested the general direction of all war activities.

Another effort which will bear close analysis, is the attempt to organize all air activities, naval, military and civil, under one independent head with the objective of obtaining complete air control, and through that control effecting complete war control, and ultimately victory. The one nation which has accepted this organization is England, and apparently she purposes to accomplish by organization some of the things which France, just across the channel, imagines she can do through the agency of adequate mobilization. It is not the writer's intention to contrast the conceptions of other nations in these matters, except as they affect America's interests. It might be pertinent, however, to point out that French military strategy and tactics, in the main, have been unusually sound; while England's naval strategy and tactics have been equally so. In view of the almost universal soundness of England's sea policy, the separation of her naval air force from her navy is not entirely clear. It might, perhaps, aid us to quote certain succinct paragraphs taken from the Geddes report, on the question of a separate air force.

The air force was essentially a war creation, and owed its separate existence mainly to the necessity for preventing competition between the navy and the army for men and material in aerial warfare. It was also felt at that time that a definite function of independent air attack was called for, but would not be realized unless the air arm was freed from naval and military control. No other nation, however, has as yet followed the example of this country in establishing such a separate force…We appreciate that it is only on financial grounds that our terms or reference would entitle us to express opinions on the question of a separate air force.

England's problem is evidently not our problem. No independent air effort will ever be initiated by us, which first must not be supported by sea force, and second, by land force. For a period of time man, like the bird, may fly in the air, and, like the fish, live under the seas; but eventually, he comes to stable rest on the surface of the earth; and fighting force must ultimately express itself in factors composed of military power on land and naval power on the sea. To learn their sea problems, there must be a naval air force, animated by the same purpose that directs the grand sea campaign. There is undoubted need for the development of civil air activities, but the relationship between the civil air force and the naval air force is about the same as that existing between the navy and the merchant marine. Of the three forms of control, air, surface, and underseas, there is but one form, surface, which contains within itself that complete cycle of basic war functions, which, if exercised independent of the other two forms of control (in the sense of their being non-existent), contains all essential strategic and tactical qualities which will eventually encompass all war problems necessary to bring the grand campaign and eventually the war to a successful conclusion. Due to certain natural qualities inherent to the mediums in which they work, and influenced also by the physical locations of the objectives for which they must strive, both the underseas forces and the air forces lack certain basic war assets without which a complete and independent cycle of war functions cannot be maintained. The submarine lacks the necessary flexibility, without which it cannot independently effect complete defeat of its own kind, nor impose its full will on other fighting types. The aircraft lacks complete tactical endurance, which defect renders it incapable of performing those patient and continuous war operations as successfully as other war types whose expenditure of war energy is so much less. On account of the extreme mobility possessed by this type, it cannot hope to contain the enemy to the same extent that other war types may, nor is it able to retain war gains to the utmost limit, as may infantry forces. Therefore, independently and of themselves, the air and underseas forces cannot with full efficiency wage complete war, but must ultimately be supported by and be supplementary to the surface forces whose objectives and war functions will in the end dominate.

Shore establishments in the shape of navy yards, training stations, naval bases and educational institutions, came into being through the process of evolution and to serve certain conditions existing at the time when they were born. Their main military purpose is to serve the fleet. When international conditions change, adjustments of our shore establishments will have to be made. The position of the United States fronting two great oceans, one replete with a historical war past, the other full of future possibilities, is unique and peculiar. A happy balance must be struck between those establishments serving the fleet m one ocean and those necessary to the life of the fleet in the other. But no matter what the present strategic demands may be, it must be borne in mind that a fleet cannot exist if those forces on shore which give it life, sustenance and rest, are destroyed. And it must further be remembered that while naval strategy has a tendency to look ahead to the future, it must not entirely forget the past. Neither must it neglect to note that shore facilities built up with much care and thought, through a long space of time, and activities carried on by a competent personnel, cannot entirely be disrupted without gravely affecting in some manner the efficiency of the fleet. No naval man should look too far in the future and make decisions based upon premises which may not exist fifty years from now. Therefore, while reductions are always proper, total abolition of existing facilities, in the long run, may be unwise. Adjustment is the far safer and saner course to adopt; a wise adjustment tempered by economy. Nor should we, in preparing for the future, be governed by a too great local and present urge. Rather should the whole situation receive calm and grave consideration.

Coming then to the fleet, and considering the purpose for which it exists, and the methods whereby it lives and perfects itself as a war organization, we arrive at that part of our naval establishment which always must give the maximum amount of concern. By the fleet, in this particular instance, is meant all of those forces afloat necessary for the successful conduct of a sea campaign. In its broadest aspect we may say the fleet is composed of two parts. The first and most important part comprises the fighting forces, those which through operations against the enemy, accomplish certain definitely desired results. Broadly speaking, these results may be the destruction of the fighting sea forces of the enemy, containing the fighting sea forces of the enemy, and operations directed against the enemy's economic life. To effect any of the three purposes indicated above, much detailed work must be performed. Parts or all of the fighting forces will be occupied in the performance of tasks already indicated through past experience, or in undertaking new tasks. This general line of conduct will govern the activities of the fighting forces during the entire campaign. Time is an exceedingly important element for the fighting forces of the fleet to reckon with. Ability to pass quickly from one set task to another without too great disruption of the major purposes of the campaign must always be had. Imagination which looks ahead, visualizing the intentions of the enemy even before they are indicated, must always stand at the right hand of the commander-in-chief as his guide. The purpose which he has in his mind, carried as far into the future as it is wise to predicate, must animate the actions of all subordinates, though indeed, if they fully comprehend his purpose much individual initiative may be theirs. In times where quick action is needed, it is not always possible to issue that series of detailed instructions which will enable one to cope with an immediate task, and then to press on to tasks following close on the heels of the first. Not only should the commander-in-chief be able to make immediate and accurate decisions, but above all, his purpose must be sound and thoroughly understood by every subordinate in order that the fewest orders, simply expressed, may flow between them. Likewise his purpose and immediate decisions should be altered as seldom as sound strategic conception and good fleet management will permit. This is accomplished only through a thorough indoctrination of all the forces under his command. Indoctrination itself will not be complete unless it is based on a sound groundwork of study and preparation, and much actual work in the way of theoretical and practical sea maneuver is given.

Visualizing naval matters from the broadest viewpoint, the second great part of the fleet will be composed of those auxiliary forces or of our advanced bases whose purpose it is to sustain or support the fleet. The activities of these auxiliaries, while perhaps not so spectacular as those of the fighting force, are more contiguous and at certain stages of a campaign may become even of relatively greater importance; as, for example, if the character of the campaign changes from one purely naval to one also involving military activities. Then, operations ceasing to become purely naval in character and combining with military activities, the importance of the auxiliary fleet may be supreme. So great may become the import of these allied operations, that great pressure may be brought to bear on the fighting sea force, even to an extent tending to divert it from its main and logical mission. One consideration which must always be given the activities of the auxiliary fleet is the fact that its operations, when begun, should be continuous. In general, the operations of the fighting fleet, to be effective, must be timely and conducted with a maximum degree of concentration. The activities of the auxiliary fleet are apt to be more continuous than timely, and are more often scattered than they are concentrated.

Out of the efforts which the attacking fleet and the auxiliary fleet must make, there comes into being another set of operations which should be taken into the reckoning. As a fleet advances and occupies positions given up by the enemy, these posts must be held and maintained for our own purposes. The supplies necessary for the upkeep of the fleet or its personnel, the ships carrying troops (if a long campaign be contemplated) and the supplies necessary for their sustenance must flow continuously onward. These operations call into existence a third class of war activities which falls into the zone lying somewhere between the operations of the fighting fleet and the operations of the auxiliary forces. Speaking in broad terms, the operations of this third force (which for purposes of organization we may call a control force) are in character more defensive than offensive. In the course of a long war its operations will tend more to co-operate activities with the auxiliary forces than with the fighting fleet. Here again, however, this statement must be tempered by the thoughtful use of geography. As we advance further toward the enemy's country the purposes of the control force blend more with the purposes of the fighting force. In one respect, however, operations of the control force vary from those of both the fighting fleet and the auxiliary forces. While the operations of the fighting fleet may be specially characterized as timely and those of the auxiliary forces as continuous, the operations of the control force, while undoubtedly they will be continuous throughout a war, on occasions may need be very timely. However, in general, as we review the major character of the operations which a sea campaign will engender, we see at a broad glance that all these sea activities may be classed as specific war tasks, whether they be conducted by the fighting fleet, the control force, or the auxiliary forces. Some of them are so common to all wars that we may predict their continuance in the future. Some of them are so evanescent in character that their purpose may have ceased with the late war. Others yet may not be born. The matter which concerns us is how may we lay our plans so that, if the need arises, we may use all of our sea forces in the way which will produce the most efficient results. Looking then at the complete cycle, it seems fair to the writer to assume that the training of the fleet to accomplish efficiently those tasks which it might be called upon to undertake in war, and the performance of those duties which it must undertake in peace, are the prime missions on which the organization, distribution, and operation of the fleet must be based.

As has been stated before, there appears to be a natural tendency to adopt methods, as easier and perhaps safer than analyzing principles. If we stick too closely to past methods we lose the art of reconstruction. If, for all classes of fleet forces we adopt as basic, organization on the task group principle, and predicate for the future those tasks found essential in the past, we assume that, regardless of changed conditions, regardless of the number of years we may be at peace, regardless of external conditions which may be imposed upon us, the next war will run the course of the last. This assumption renders us liable to commit grave errors. As said before, those operations and methods which will be continuous, which history has shown will be repeated century after century, it may be safe to predicate a long time in advance. For this reason the auxiliary forces may be organized on the task group principle; though here again task is by type. But in the sphere where operations must be timely, where the engines and inventions of war change rapidly, where the imagination should work freely, where ideas and methods take on a new and increasing importance, it is an unsafe practice to tie up organization too closely with the past in the endeavor to make it take the place of adequate mobilization and timely distribution. But this is exactly what any organization of a fighting fleet on the task assignment principle does. You have but to turn to one of the commonest examples in ordinary life to realize what is meant. In a normal life, girls flock with girls, children with children, and young men with young men. During the formative, educational and training portions of their life they, for the most part, grow and develop by types. Later, for the accomplishment of certain set tasks they may group themselves into social organizations. It is believed that it is a more normal, flexible, and progressive way to organize by types and to train these types to perform all tasks which may fall to their lot, than it is permanently to organize during the training period on the principle of intermingling types to perform certain war tasks which may or may not eventualize. It is wrong to charge organization with an overload which should be carried by other agencies. The battleship has a mission of its own to perform, built into it in the very nature of things, stern and inexorable as fate. That mission it must perform, shoulder to shoulder with other battleships, though in the course of events it may perform other tasks. Its main mission, however, is fixed for it, and it is unsafe to disregard it and to make it secondary to other tasks, the methods of whose accomplishment change with time and type. The doctrine of the destroyer is not the doctrine of the battleship. The doctrine of aircraft is not the doctrine of the destroyer or of the battleship. The doctrine of the cruiser may in details differ from all. Nevertheless, all types may be combined to perform set tasks as occasion demands, and during joint maneuvers the points where the various doctrines intermingle will become established. Basing organization on the task group principle hampers the free inception and flow of doctrine, and it has a further tendency to crystallize the organization into the task form or the task group laid down for it. There is one very vital war fundamental which the segregation into task groups tends to violate, namely, the principle of concentration of force. Where types develop their own doctrine, each emulating the other to see as far into the future as possible in order to make themselves proficient in any or all tasks which may be assigned them, a quite different principle is involved from the one where a set task is assigned to a certain group and that group is organized to perform that task as its permanent mission. Though under the task group organization there still exists need for the various groups to come together, co-operating thoroughly in strategic and tactical problems, a tendency is bound to be created for each task group to believe that it can accomplish its own appointed work by itself. Each new problem also will require a new task assignment if it covers original ground. In indoctrination by type, however, there is always the realizing sense that the major problems of strategy and tactics can never be accomplished unless all parts of the fleet are constantly in touch with each other and sharing each other's views and life through physical contact.

Perhaps the most subtle but demoralizing influence which the task group organization exercises is the undermining influence which it exerts upon leadership, as expressed through and in the person of the commander-in-chief, by the handicap which it imposes upon the free development of doctrine. Through doctrine is imposed upon all forces the purpose and personality of the commander-in-chief. Through doctrine is effected the maximum concentration of purpose through the maximum decentralization of administration. Any weakening of this instrument is a weakening of the influence of the commander-in-chief, and consequently, a disorganization of the forces under his command.

It is not to be expected that many of the conclusions reached in this article will be agreed to. The conduct of naval affairs always will be influenced by temporary expediency. Yet expediency must be the exception, not the rule. Through the agency of the Washington Conference limits have been placed on naval armament. Though possessing the national wealth to do so, we may not spend as we will on naval construction. Congress also has set bounds to personnel and to expenditures. It therefore behooves naval men to take account of stock and to bend every energy to make our navy second to none.

 

 
 

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Award Presentation

Sat, 2014-04-26

"Wrecks, Rescues, and Mysteries: Air and Sea Disasters"

Sat, 2014-04-26

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