John T. Kuehn is a 2011 Moncado Prize Winner recipient for his article: “The U.S. Navy General Board and the Naval Arms Limitation: 1922-1937,” published in the October 2010 issue of The Journal of Military History
Honorable Mention for the 2008 John Lyman Award in "U.S. Naval History"
The author examines the influence of the General Board of the U.S. Navy as an agent of innovation in the years between the world wars. A formal body established by the Secretary of the Navy, the General Board served as the organizational nexus for the interaction between fleet design and the naval limitations imposed on the Navy by treaty. Particularly important, Kuehn argues, was the Board's role in implementing the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited naval armaments after 1922. Kuehn explains that the leadership of the Navy at large and the General Board in particular felt themselves especially constrained by Article XIX of the Washington Naval Treaty, which implemented a status quo on naval fortifications in the western Pacific. Yet despite these limitations, the author reminds us, this so-called "treaty fleet" managed to fight the Japanese to a standstill in 1942.
John T. Kuehn is a former naval aviator who retired as a commander from the U.S. Navy in 2004. He holds a PhD in military history from Kansas State University and teaches at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, KS.
~ Praise for Agents of Innovation ~
"The book is well written and easy to read. The author has thoroughly researched the subject..."
—The Coast Defense Journal
"Chapter 8...which compares innovation or lack of it in the navies of Britain, Japan, and Germany, is about the best writing I have seen on military development in the interwar years."
—Michael D. Pearlman, Ph.D., Winter 2010 Issue: Naval War College Review
"A comprehensive study of the General Board's activities during the inter-war period could have easily devolved into a ponderous, painful read. But not in the hands of CDR Kuehn. His engaging writing style and ability to explain complex matters with clarity and simplicity makes Agents of Innovation a particularly valuable work for anyone who wants to truly understand how the Navy—virtually bereft of island bases—was able to project its rapidly expanding fleet so quickly and effectively across the vast expanses of the Pacific."
—D. M. Giangreco, Moncado Prize winner, and author of Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947
"Kuehn's work illustrates the important place of the General Board in the development of the interwar U.S. Navy. The dynamics he describes hold important lessons, not only for students of the U.S. Navy, but also for all those interested in how organizations learn and thrive. Agents of Innovation is essential reading for those seeking to understand the Navy's institutional approach to the war with Japan."
"In 1942, despite the opening debacle at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy proved resilient and able to fight Japan throughout the vast Pacific. How and why is the subject of John Kuehn's fine new work Agents of Innovation, a vital, lucid analysis of naval policy and decision-making in the 1920s and 30s. Kuehn concentrates on the effects of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty that forced the U.S. Navy to become less dependent on strategic bases, reevaluate its weapons systems and enhance its amphibious capability with great effect later in the war. Highly recommended."
"An important work. Kuehn clearly demonstrates how the interwar U.S. Navy grappled with its constraints, overcame them, and laid the doctrinal foundations of the world-spanning Navy it would field in WWII. Far from being a hidebound institution, Kuehn shows that the interwar Navy accommodated and listened to many diverse voices, leading to a stronger, more balanced fleet."
—Jonathan Parshall, coauthor of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
"This book is a terrific read - what stood out for me was that what mattered most were the choices that were made during a desperate fiscal situation, the great depression, and a very challenging strategic situation, the post-1922 Washington Naval Treaty environment. Circumstances were not allowed to overwhelm critical thinking; choices were made and these choices led to the development of the strategic concepts and a Fleet that held the Japanese at bay from 1941-1943. A great lesson for today - ultimately, it's our choices that really matter, not simply the circumstances we inherit. Again, Agents of Innovation is a wonderful book and my thanks to John Kuehn for giving it to us."
—VADM. J.C. Harvey, JR. USN
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