Book Reviews

The vision and efforts of such early submarine designers and engineers as Samuel Colt and Robert Fulton fascinated me. Their efforts to obtain funding and support for submarines and to secure pensions and money from their work are amusing and instructive. The reader will be surprised to find that the political system is still functioning in the same way.

Of great interest is the introduction of submarines into unrestricted warfare. Early thinking restricted submarine operations, but as World War I continued, the day of unrestricted submarine warfare gradually arrived. This book provides a splendid account of how and why unrestricted submarine warfare came to be accepted in World War II—a good description of how a new technology can cause a fundamental change in the art of war and its acceptance by the public and their governments. Some will be surprised to discover that Admiral Nimitz's testimony was used successfully in defense of German submarine officers at the Nuremberg trials.

This book will likely disappoint those who are looking for greater detail in the history of U.S. submarines in World War II. Brayton Harris gives great credit to the deeds of these boats but does not describe their actions thoroughly. Others will think that the nuclear era needs more attention. But Harris does give us the early days of the submarine in great detail. He describes these early years in most entertaining prose and has uncovered and pieced together submarine history which was both new and exciting. Many of us think submarines were an American invention and may be greatly surprised to learn that the vision for a submarine was first described in writing in the 16th century. This book does a remarkable job of taking us from that time to the nuclear era. Harris's treatment of the early days of submarines in the United States, particularly from 1900 to World War II, is equally revealing in its characterization of the men who made it happen. As with most new technologies, the entrance of the submarine into the U.S. Navy was stormy and not well appreciated by the professionals of the day.

The effect of the U-boat in both world wars—especially how the U-boat changed both wars—is described in some detail. I was surprised to learn that Royal Navy Admiral Jackie Fisher, who normally is portrayed as a battleship proponent, strongly pushed the British government to build greater numbers of submarines. Winston Churchill advised the British Prime Minister in 1939: "The submarine has been mastered." Readers will find many views of the submarine—and how the leadership of the era viewed its capability to affect the outcome of war—and may draw their own conclusions of the views about that leadership.

This is a book of submarine history and its leading characters. Throughout their history, submarines have fascinated many. This book will explain the fascination and make for enjoyable reading.

Admiral Kelso is a career submariner and former Chief of Naval Operations.

 

Sailing on Friday: The Perilous Voyage of America's Merchant Marine

John A. Butler. Washington, D.C.: Brasseys, 1997. 249 pp. Bib. Drawings. Ind. Notes. Photos. $27.95 ($25.15).

Reviewed by Winn B. Frank

A blurb on the book's flyleaf states that this is . . . "probably the most comprehensive chronicle of the American merchant marine and maritime industry ever produced." I agree completely. And the book could not have come at a more important time in our maritime history because the U.S. Maritime Administration recently approved the acquisition of American President Lines by Neptune Orient Lines. This leaves just one major U.S.-flagged containership operator, SeaLand Service. Hopefully, this book will help call attention to the importance of the merchant marine to this country's national defense and international trade.

By the author's own admission, this book was designed to make "history attractive." It is easy to read and the text is not bogged down with annotations. In the back of the book, however, Butler provides a chronology, bibliography, and a description of sources used for each chapter. Enough source information is provided for scholars to research particular subjects further. Butler also has met the challenge of making interesting and enjoyable reading of a subject that often is thought of as dull.

The history begins with the post-Revolutionary War period and the "dynasty" created by Elias Hasket Derby, sailing out of Salem, Massachusetts. Some other notable maritime events and people described by Butler include: The first posting of transatlantic packet service to calendar dates on a regular basis (1817); launching of America's first clipper ship, the Ann McKim ( 1833); the exploits of the CSS Sumter (1862); Alfred Thayer Mahan (1890); Elmer Sperry's first gyrocompass (1911); the World War I Hog Islanders; William Francis Gibb's association with the SS Leviathon (1920); the burning of the Morro Castle (1934); the World War II Liberty and Victory ships; the post-World War II United States (1952) and nuclear-powered Savannah (1959); and the Exxon Valdez accident (1989). The history continues through 1996.

The book also discusses the development and evolution of the various maritime unions, federal maritime regulatory agencies, and shipbuilding programs. In a compact book such as this (249 pages), a detailed history cannot be produced and one expects light coverage on a few topics. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that the merchant sealift support for the Korean, Vietnam, and Gulf Wars gets very little mention. In Korea and Vietnam, Victory ships were recalled from the reserve fleet to bring in needed supplies. And the Gulf War was the first real test of the maritime prepositioning concept and saw the impressive use of the very large (946foot) and very fast (33-knots) ex-Sea Land SL-7 vessels as fast sealift ships.

These complaints notwithstanding, this book is a good read and is an important addition to anyone's library. In a poignant quote, then-President Ulysses S. Grant, who learned that the U.S. Merchant Marine carried less than one-third of the U.S. import-export trade after the Civil War, was heard to lament ". . . the tragedy of our drooping merchant marine." Deja vu 1998?

Mr. Frank is a consultant specializing in the field of transportation. He served in the U.S. Navy with the Military Sea Transportation Service during Vietnam, and has been associated with the maritime industry since.

 

Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century

Douglas A. MacGregor. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997. 283 pp., $24.95 ($23.50) paper.

Reviewed by Captain Terry L. Branstetter Jr., U.S. Marine Corps

What will yield an advantage on tomorrow's battlefields? This may well be the hottest question inside the Pentagon today. With the Quadrennial Defense Review complete, the services are searching for ways to comply with new requirements while maximizing force capability. Technological advances are viewed as one method of meeting future requirements. Regardless of method, all the services are trying to do more with less.

One possible solution is presented in Breaking the Phalanx . The author, Colonel Douglas MacGregor, U.S. Army, is an infantry officer serving as the Deputy Director of the Army's Battle Command Battle Laboratory. He wrote this text while serving as the Army Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. In Breaking the Phalanx , MacGregor presents a plan for restructuring the U.S. Army to meet the warfare challenges of the next century.

In his thought-provoking book, MacGregor maintains that land forces are required to exert strategic influence upon our nation's rivals. He presents an organizational design for Army forces to increase flexibility on the future battlefield. MacGregor envisions a reorganization of the Army's divisions into task-organized groups of brigade size, similar to Marine air-ground task forces. These groups will provide a self-contained force that can be tailored to specific missions. To optimize these new organizations, MacGregor calls for improved doctrine, focused training, enhanced education, and upgraded technology. He closes by offering an alternative to defense program budgets to align them with his proposed strategic dominance requirements.

MacGregor downplays the criticality of technology by espousing the merit of organizational reform. His thesis—revolutionary change in warfare requires organizational change; applying technology merely leads to evolutionary change. With examples from history and recent corporate initiatives, MacGregor successfully shows that timely organizational changes reap benefits beyond technological improvements alone.

Colonel MacGregor applies current and emerging technologies to his forces which are restructured from the ground up. He envisions four agile maneuver groups: heavy, airborne-air assault, and heavy and light recon-strike. These groups are composed of a mix of ground maneuver, aviation, fire support, C4I, and support battalions. Under his concept, eight groups provide specific functional support: general support, engineer support, rocket artillery, theater high altitude air defense, aviation strike, aviation support, and C4I. MacGregor designed these groups for modular employment by joint task forces. Any combination of the maneuver and support groups could be combined to meet the joint task force commander's operational requirements. Employed in this manner, the current division and corps command echelons are removed to flatten the command structure. This reorganization should increase the flexibility while retaining the dynamic character of traditional Army forces.

MacGregor asserts that maritime forces will play lesser roles in future national and military strategy. This view is shortsighted and is the only indication of service bias in the book. A maritime nation cannot afford to discount its naval forces; our economic and military freedom are placed in grave jeopardy without dominance of the sea.

Breaking the Phalanx provides a detailed, concise plan to restructure U.S. Army forces. Colonel MacGregor's arguments are logical and well supported. His proposals could well hold the key to reshaping land forces to meet projected changes in the future threats our nation will face. Regardless of implementation, this book's greatest contribution may likely be the enlightenment that stems from its nontraditional approach to defense reorganization.

Captain Branstetter is a field artillery officer who is a student at the Marine Corps University’s Command and Control Systems course in Quantico, Virginia. 

 

 
 

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