Why is the Navy, alone among the services, so uninterested in the past? It’s crucial to gaining insights into the present and planning for the future.
The motto of the United States Naval Academy is ex scientia tridens , or “from knowledge, sea power.” Yet active service members in the Fleet today often neglect one critical form of knowledge. Until recently, naval organizations charged with collecting and analyzing historical evidence—as well as creating and disseminating historical knowledge—suffered from marginalization and neglect. 1 A report commissioned by a key advisory body to the Secretary of the Navy noted that the Fleet’s leaders often put a low priority on an officer’s grasp of historical analysis and naval history. 2 Unlike the Army and Marine Corps, too many officers in the Navy have little interest in the past, either as a critical ingredient to the regular activities of developing doctrine, guiding policy, and conducting operations, or for sustaining the service’s proud heritage and identity. 3 As an institution, the Navy often seems content to work in a historical vacuum, where only the present and future really matter.