While naval history was prevalent during the presentations and discussions during those early years, and it still is a major part of them today, credit for being the first to confront a real issue and see results was Captain Stephen B. Luce, who read “The Manning of our Navy and Mercantile Fleet” at the Institute’s second meeting in November. It was the first Proceedings article to lead directly to federal legislation for Merchant Marine training, naval apprenticeships, and the opening of the first state maritime school in New York City.
Some young Navy lieutenants who wrote for Proceedings went on to greater things. Ernest J. King, a future Chief of Naval Operations, won the 1909 Prize Essay Contest with a six-point plan to streamline shipboard officer and crew assignments. Three years later, submariner C. W. Nimitz, also a future CNO, proposed to deceive the enemy with “dummy periscopes.”
Thus began a long line of naval thinkers who made contributions that had impact. Through the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom, the Naval Institute has published enlisted and junior, flag, and general officers, senior government officials, high-level journalists, prizewinning authors, deep-sea and space explorers, filmmakers, and even Hollywood stars and directors with some connection to national defense. Amazingly, the organization has been doing the same thing, as of this month, for 140 years.