Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Much influenced by his days at Oxford, Turner wanted to "look beyond the shrinking boundaries of right and wrong answers" and to "raise questions in the minds of our students which could never be resolved by the neat formulae for . . . a submarine search pattern."

As the first academic year under Admiral Turner began, the students (and faculty) learned that the days of the Naval War College being perceived as a rest stop between arduous assignments were over. Rigor was the new watchword. Students would now be graded. They would begin reading whole books instead of excerpts. They would write essays and be critiqued. And they would use historical case studies, such as Thucydides' history of the Peloponnesian War, as the basis for determining the right questions before beginning to think about answers. Professor Hattendorf points out that Turner's well-known predecessors, Stephen B. Luce and Alfred Thayer Mahan, would have approved and "wholeheartedly subscribed to Turner's view that . . . a proper understanding of history was indispensable to understanding contemporary and future problems."

Needless to say, not everyone appreciated these changes, and to this day, one can find dissenters. But for many, Turner's message resonated when he declared that "scholarship for scholarship's sake is of no importance to us" and told the students that "you must keep your sights on decision making or problem solving as your objective." To this day, his clarion call for "dispassionate analysis" echoes in the halls of the College.

The Naval War College has not remained dormant since the Turner days. Case studies have changed, courses have been modified, and jointness is more evident. But rigor remains, and the College's reputation is everything Turner envisioned and more. Today, students earn master's degrees, and courses are offered worldwide through distance and Web-based variations. While his later tenure as CIA director received mixed reviews, the Turner touch is still very much in evidence, at the Naval War College and few will argue that the institution is not better off because of it.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .

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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.

More by this Author

BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS
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BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF
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DUTTON'S NAUTICAL NAVIGATION, 15TH EDITION
As paper navigational charts are replaced by vector images on computer screens, magnetic compasses... Read More
A SAILOR'S HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY
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Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More

 
 

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