100 Years of Naval Institute Book Publishing

By Thomas J. Cutler

More followed, and it had become apparent that there was a real need for a book publishing arm of the Naval Institute. In 1898, the Board of Control made the decision that is today celebrated as the official beginning of the Naval Institute Press. The first book not produced as a hermaphrodite version of Proceedings appeared the following year as The Log of the Gloucester and was advertised as "the Official Report of the Principal Events of her Cruise during the Late War with Spain, including the destruction of the Spanish Destroyers, the Rescue of Admiral Cervera, and her famous capture of Guanica." The price for this inaugural hardcover book was $1.50. In 1902, what was to become the Naval Institute's all-time best-seller debuted. Virtually every Sailor who has gone to sea for most of the last century has done so with a copy of The Bluejacket's Manual— now in its 22nd edition—in his or her seabag.

For many years, the books published by the Naval Institute Press were designed specifically as texts for use by Naval Academy midshipmen, earning the Naval Institute the title of "University Press for the U.S. Naval Academy."

Typical titles serving as textbooks and manuals included such subjects as Notes on Steam Engineering, Ship and Gun Drills, Hydromechanics, and Grammatical Notes. Many of these early books succumbed to the vicissitudes of time and technological development, whjle others adapted and endured. An interesting case in point is The Manual of Wireless Telegraphy that first appeared in 1906 and survived for decades while evolving through eight editions into Robison's Manual of Radio Telegraphy and Telephony. An Aid for Executive and Division Officers, which included "Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill forms on paper especially tough to withstand erasures," eventually became The Division Officer's Guide and is still updated and published to this day.

These professional books were joined by many others over the years, and one would be hard pressed to find a ship in the Navy that did not owe some of its displacement to the presence of Naval Institute Press books. Among the many important titles that have contributed to the professionalism of the sea services are The Man-of-War's Man's Manual, The Watch Officer's Guide, Dutton's Navigation and Piloting, The Marine Officer's Guide, Handbook for Marine NCOs, The Coast Guardsman's Manual, The Naval Engineer's Guide, Crenshaw's Naval Shiphandling, The Naval Aviation Guide, and Farwell's Rules of the Nautical Road. A sea-service reference library is incomplete without such Naval Institute Press titles as Naval Terms Dictionary, Service Etiquette, Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations, and Naval Ceremonies, Customs, and Traditions.

No experienced operations or staff officer is unfamiliar with The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet (begun in 1939 by James C Fahey and carried on today by Norman Polmar) and Combat Fleets of the World by A.D. Baker III. These books and others, such as World Naval Weapons Systems by Norman Friedman and World Military Aviation by Rene Francillon, are works that should have been produced by the Navy but never were. They provide up-to-date, user-friendly, unclassified data-essential to serious naval professionals who must make important decisions or who just want to stay on top of their profession. In a similar vein, Dr. Friedman's series of Illustrated Design Histories are incomparable in tracing the development and understanding the complexities of the various combatant types that have been the mainstay of the Navy in modern times.

Like Proceedings and the seminars, the Press has served as a vehicle for members of the profession to formulate, debate, and implement policy. Because of the time involved in their production, books are less conducive to a dialogue than are magazines and seminars. But what they lack in timeliness, they more than recoup in depth. Often, they provide the background or the basis for a debate and therefore serve as an important component of an open forum. In 1988, the Naval Institute Press introduced the Classics of Sea Power series, which resurrected such seminal discussions of strategic thought as Sir Julian Corbett's Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, J. C. Wylie's Military Strategy: A General Theory of Control, and C.E. Calwell's Military Operations and Maritime Preponderance: Their Relations and Interdependence. These revived works are essential reading for those who would understand the origins and development of maritime strategy and the policies that support it.

How Navies Fight: The U.S. Navy and Its Allies, by Frank Uhlig, Jr., presents a comprehensive mosaic that puts naval forces in their proper perspective by relying—as Alfred Thayer Mahan once did—on historical precedent and example. By reviewing and analyzing the roles played by the U.S. Navy in the development of this maritime nation, this encyclopedic work serves both the neophyte and the seasoned strategist as the forerunner of a meaningful debate.

A more detailed look at a specific aspect of U.S. naval strategy can be found in Edward S. Miller's War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945. Praised by former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman as "the most important book on military strategy published in years," and described by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., as "a must read for historians, strategists, military planners, and students," this seminal work is an illuminating blueprint of U.S. strategic planning for the Pacific campaign in World War II.

Naval strategic planning and implementation in the Cold War years are the subjects of several books that appeared during that 40-plus-year "conflict." The U.S. Navy was a key component of that ideological clash and, by describing how that service adapted to a changing strategic situation in an era characterized by revolutionary technological development and a changing national security establishment, Michael Palmer's Origins of the Maritime Strategy: The Development of American Naval Strategy 1945-1955 provided the necessary background for further strategic development. By questioning the established wisdom regarding the Soviet threat, Robert Waring Herrick's groundbreaking book, Soviet Naval Strategy, stoked the fires of what proved to be a critical debate.

Admiral William A. Owens's High Seas: The Naval Passage to an Uncharted World added a readable and insightful discussion to the Navy's struggle for its identity and future course in the last decade of this century. Captain Wayne P. Hughes Jr. served the great debate on a different level by producing his stimulating treatise, Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice in 1986. And an enlightening foray into the emerging world of joint operations was provided by Joint Air Operations: Pursuit of Unity in Command and Control, 1942-1991 , by retired Navy Rear Admiral James A. Winnefeld and Dana J. Johnson. Entering the prickly realm of combat ethics and the Law of War, Gary Solis's highly acclaimed Son Thang: An American War Crime tackled a difficult subject in 1997. Former Secretary of the Navy and well-known combat veteran James Webb wrote, "Gary Solis is one of the few writers today with the background and the narrative ability to bring both criticism and perspective to incidents that caused civilian deaths in the Vietnam War."

One of the earliest historical works published by the Press appeared in 1920 —The Yankee Mining Squadron or Laying the North Sea Mine Barrage— and was more memoir than history, having been written by the naval officer, Captain Reginald Belknap, who had supervised the operation in the last year of World War I.

We Build a Navy— ahistory of the origins of the U.S. Navy, from Revolutionary War days through the War of 1812—appeared in 1929 and was the first in a series of books by Holloway H. Frost. Other works produced by this career naval officer included The Battle of Jutland and On a Destroyer's Bridge, Frost's works were a part of the Naval Institute Press catalog for many years, and when he died in 1935, it was said that the Navy had at last been "deFrosted."

In 1937, Admiral William L. Rodgers's Greek and Roman Naval Warfare appeared and was followed three years later by Naval Warfare Under Oars. These books became classics and are in the Naval Institute Press catalog today. In the early 1950s, Theodore Roscoe, too, produced a pair of comprehensive and superbly illustrated (by Fred Freeman) works —United States Submarine Operations in World War II and United States Destroyer Operations in World War II —that are still in print.

In the last several decades, hundreds of significant works have been added to the pantheon of historical works published by the Naval Institute Press. Rowena Reed's Combined Operations in the Civil War not only serves the historian and the popular audience interested in that period of U.S. history, but it also provides an excellent foundation for those whose current bent is joint warfare operations. Paul Stillwell's The Golden Thirteen is a testament to the pioneering courage of a handful of African Americans who paved the way for a better Navy and a better nation by bridging the racial divide in the officer corps. Kemp Tolley's Yangtze Patrol, Clark Reynolds's The Fast Carriers, Paul Dull's The Imperial Japanese Navy, Victor Krulak's First to Fight, Tyrone Martin's A Most Fortunate Ship, Joseph Alexander's Utmost Savagery, and a host of other works uniquely scrutinize particular incidents, operations, or campaigns.

Guardians of the Sea: History of the United States Coast Guard by Robert Erwin Johnson and Soldiers of the Sea: The United States Marine Corps by Robert Debs Heinl Jr. focused on the comprehensive histories of the Navy's sister services, while the history of the Navy has been covered in a variety of ways by the likes of Nathan Miller (The US. Navy: A History), Craig Symonds (Historical Atlas of the US. Navy) and Jack Sweetman (An Illustrated Chronology of the US. Navy and Marine Corps).

Over the years, many biographical works have emerged from the Naval Institute Press. Some of the earliest biographies were written by Naval Academy Professor Charles Lee Lewis, whose first work —Matthew Fontaine Maury— the Naval Institute published in 1927. He followed that with a two-volume biography of David Glasgow Farragut that remained in print for many years as the definitive work on that subject. And his final work —Admiral de Grasse and American Independence— appeared in 1945, at a time when the career of another soon-to-be biographer was just beginning. E. B. Potter's biographies of Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey were published in 1976 and 1985 respectively, and both remain in print today.

For those figures whose contributions may not lend themselves to full-length books, a number of useful "mini-biographies," written by appropriate authorities, have appeared in essay collections edited by prominent historians. Robert W. Love, Jr.'s The Chiefs of Naval Operations and Paolo Colleta's American Secretaries of the Navy are excellent examples.

Memoirs bridge the gap between recorded fact and human emotion and thereby breathing life into history.

The reality of the ground war in Korea is depicted graphically in Joseph R. Owen's front-line account, Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir.

Samuel Hynes's Flights of Passage was well received among critics for its unusually lyrical style, which lent a poetic element to the mundane aspects of a young man's coming of age in the midst of a world war.

Among the very best and in some ways the most relevant memoirs are those written by the so-called "troops," those Sailors and Marines who must man the guns, "hump the loads," and stand the watches. Alvin Kernan's Crossing the Line tells the story of aerial and shipboard combat in World War II from the view of an enlisted back-seat gunner. His account is full of grit and humor and is masterfully told. Battleship Sailor, "We Will Stand by You," and Rendezvous with Destiny comprise an excellent trilogy of Theodore Mason's experiences as an enlisted man in World War II.

For most of its 125 years the Naval Institute considered fiction to be uncharted waters, but beginning in 1984 Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October and Stephen Coonts's Flight of the Intruder in 1986 changed all that. Both novels climbed to the best-seller lists and forever broadened the editorial policy of the Naval Institute.

A less celebrated but important contribution emerged in the form of a new translation of Jules Verne's classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a fiction classic that was first published the year the Naval Institute was founded. This version corrects literally hundreds of errors that have long been included in the standard English version and restores a lost 23% of the novel.

One of the most successful endeavors of the Naval Institute Press has been its use of several special series of books. The Classics of Naval Literature series has resurrected many important titles that would have been lost to all but the most ardent library and used-bookstore miners. Through this series, great fiction, revealing memoirs, important hi stories, and various other titles have been brought back; into print and produced in quality bindings designed to last. Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny and Edward L. Beach's Run Silent, Run Deep are two excellent examples.

In a similar vein, the Bluejacket Books series has brought back many titles that would otherwise be extinct, but the emphasis here is upon economy rather than durability. These inexpensive paperbacks have revived gems such as Vice Admiral James Calvert's Surface at the Pole and astronaut Wally Schirra's memoir (with Richard N. Billings), Schirra's Space.

The Naval Institute Press is moving into the next century by producing CD-ROMs and audio books. Its presence can be seen in a number of high-quality feature movies and television programs, and it is alive and well in the cyber-world of the Internet. It is unlikely that those original founders would be entirely comfortable in the Naval Institute of today, but they would no doubt be proud.

Author of numerous Proceedings and Naval History contributions and two Naval Institute Press books —Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam and The 22nd Edition of The Bluejacket's Manual— Mr . Cutler served as the magazine's Books of Interest columnist for 13 years. In 1997, after a career in the Navy including enlisted and commissioned service, he became the organization's Associate Director of Membership and Development.


Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

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