The United States Navy is now at a critical stage in its evolution. It has successfully concluded one of the most bitter and far-flung sea wars in history. At the conclusion of the struggle it has emerged the world’s strongest navy. Its enemies are scattered and destroyed. Rival fleets, which might become potential enemies, are weak and lacking in the necessities for sea warfare. Nevertheless, there is, throughout the fleet, an undercurrent of doubt, scepticism and apprehension of the future. What will tomorrow bring?
The position of the Navy today is directly analogous to its position at the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. Then, as now, the Navy acquitted itself well. Its blockade of the Confederate ports had strangled the war effort of the Confederacy. Nevertheless, the shifting sands of scientific progress were about to envelop the triumphant Union fleet. Here and there in that very fleet were mute evidences of the revolution in the offing. The Monitor was gone but other armor-clad vessels remained, ugly and strange, among the many stately ships-of- the-line. Occasionally, an awkward paddle- wheel steam frigate sputtered through the harbor, scattering soot and coal gas over the trim and graceful sailing vessels. Small vessels had to be employed to sweep the roadsteads of the rudimentary mines which had appeared as the war progressed. On the beaches lay the remains of log booms, evidence of the fear of attack by spar-torpedoes and similar ingenious engines of destruction. Shell guns had become a familiar sight on ships-of-war. They hurled explosive projectiles instead of the old-fashioned solid shot. Real curiosities, however, were shell guns in which the bore was not smooth but had a number of corrugations or ridges. This amazing device, the rifle, fired an oblong projectile, the ridges rotating the projectile as it was fired. Greatly increased range and penetration were claimed for the new weapon.
Thus, the seeds of revolution in sea warfare were present, visible to those that would see. In a relatively short period of years, six spectacular developments in naval science had occurred. These were the development of iron, then steel, for the building of ships’ hulls; the introduction of steam power for propulsion; the invention of the screw propeller; the explosive shell; the introduction of the rifled gun and, last but not least, the development of protective armor. There soon followed other remarkable improvements: optical fire control systems, workable breechloading rifles, electrical energy as a source of power, the automotive torpedo and the moored mine. Small wonder that the thirty years following the Civil War saw such a drastic change in naval armaments!
There is every indication that the United States Navy is about to experience another revolution of precisely the same order. The ten years leading up to 1949 have seen the introduction of more new technical developments than those which brought about the navy of the machine age. In the field of electronics, the perfection of radar has turned night into day, vanquished fog and poor visibility, and has made long-range gunfire amazingly accurate. Radar has reduced the elements of surprise and chance, permitting detection and identification of friend and foe while too remote to be seen. Television promises a revolution in observation and reconnoitering. A host of other ingenious electronic devices are in being which will permit the remote control of nearly every phase of naval warfare.
A revolution is also in progress in the air. It is rapidly becoming evident that the piloted aircraft and familiar “flat-top,” which played a most important role in World War II, may be merely waystations on a road that leads to robot supersonic missiles guided to their targets by a variety of superb homing devices. Key developments in this field are the introduction of jet and rocket propulsion. During the closing epoch of World War II, the use of rocket-propelled projectiles added a potent weapon to the naval arsenal.
On the sea, another revolution is apparent in the field of ship propulsion. The diesel and the gas turbine are now compact and economical sources of power. Furthermore, atomic power is about to become a fact and will undoubtedly be early applied to ship propulsion. It promises to result in a fleet which can operate at sea for years without refueling. The consequences of this development may reshape the strategy, logistics, and tactics of modern naval warfare.
Under the sea, the introduction of closed- cycle propulsive systems will result in the first true submarine, no longer shackled to the surface of the sea. The suppression of surface ship characteristics in the submarine has resulted in vessels of much higher underwater speeds. The successful development of the high-speed closed-cycle submarine is one of the most significant in modern sea warfare.
The foregoing developments will produce a faster, more remote form of sea warfare than has been known heretofore. As fighting ranges increase and the speed of targets goes up, the probability of obtaining hits, even with the improved weapons and fire control of today, is becoming less and less. In the face of this situation, tactical philosophy is abandoning the principle of the direct hit and is about to base its destructive system upon the lethal near miss (or perhaps more properly, “near hit”). As a result, the development and production of “influence weapons” has become a major factor in modern warfare. The introduction of the VT or radio proximity fuse in anti-aircraft defense weapons during World War II had a most profound effect upon the air-sea struggle. This ingenious electronic device is equally effective against projectiles and rockets. During the German V-l bombings of London and Antwerp in late 1944, interception and destruction of the buzz-bombs by VT-fuzed anti-aircraft projectiles reached 90 per cent of the total launched. Further developments in this direction are certain to be rapid. Other proximity weapons have been developed which depend upon magnetic influence for detonation. The German magnetic mine of World War II was an early example. Magnetic influence firing mechanisms for torpedoes have also been developed and used successfully. In many instances such lethal near hits are more deadly than a direct hit. Other influence or proximity weapons are in existence or are being developed which depend on heat, light, and other characteristics of the target for the triggering influence.
The influence or proximity fuze has greatly broadened the possibilities of defense and attack. In addition, it has brought the element of surprise back to the defense. By eliminating the factor of range, it has eliminated the necessity for a series of range-finding bursts before the target can be attacked by lethal bursts. A barrage of VT-fuzed projectiles can be thrown through dark, rain, fog and cloud to detonate within the lethal area by virtue of the target’s presence alone. As a result, there is no opportunity for evasive action. The remarkableness of this development was fully appreciated by only an informed few during the short period of World War II in which it was employed. It is safe to say that its effects on future naval warfare will be of major importance.
Probably appreciated by the entire world as a revolutionary development in warfare is the atomic bomb. At the present the atomic bomb is the proximity weapon par excellence. It is probable that no floating structure will ever be constructed which can survive the effects of a direct hit from an atomic bomb. The problem of the future is to so design and place the elements of naval warfare so as to minimize the effects of atomic near hits. The lethal area about an atomic detonation is of a much higher order than that of a conventional detonation by virtue of its tremendous release of energy in the form of blast and heat. The demands of such forces on the present-day ship structure are such as to cause wholesale changes in naval vessels as they existed at the close of World War II.
Even more revolutionary in its effect on naval warfare than the tremendous blast and heat of the atomic bomb is the hazard of radioactivity which accompanies it. Nuclear radiation can be considered as a totally new form of ballistic attack. The principal projectiles from this weapon consist of infinitely small bundles of electrical energy travelling at the speed of light. “Armor” to protect personnel against the effects of these tiny bullets must defeat the attack by a complicated system of absorption. The armor on present-day naval vessels is either so thin or so inefficiently placed to defend against the new form of attack that modern naval vessels can be considered to be comparatively unarmored against the new hazard.
There is, however, considerable doubt in many minds as to whether atomic bombs or similar weapons employing the atomic explosive can be employed efficiently against fleets at sea. Even if such should be the case, the impact of the development of the atomic weapon upon the naval service will be tremendous. This conclusion derives from the fact that the foundation of any fleet, its operating bases and repair facilities, are particularly vulnerable to atomic warfare. A Pearl Harbor attack of the future will indeed be devastating! Until the problem of protection of naval bases from atomic attack is solved, there will be a trend toward naval vessels which are less and less dependent upon these bases.
Radiation is insidious in that it does not leave its mark on the structure or equipment of the vessel but performs its destructive mission on human bodies. Special devices are required to detect its presence and the protective materials required are totally different from those used heretofore in naval vessels. Since radiation’s primary target is the human body the new weapon will give great impetus to the introduction of robot or remote-control devices.
These, then, are the scientific developments which have been brought to fruition in the past ten years: radar, television, and similar electronic devices; pilotless aircraft, jet propulsion, rockets and guided missiles; homing devices to send these missiles directly to their targets; new light-weight, high-efficiency ship propulsion; atomic power; high-speed, closed-cycle submersible craft; influence or proximity fuzes; the atomic bomb and nuclear radiation. Under the impact of these discoveries a revolution in naval warfare is in progress. The elements of naval warfare are as obsolescent in their present form as was the sailing vessel in 1865. It can be predicted from experience that the fleet of 1980 will be as completely changed from and as superior to today’s fleet as was the fleet of the Spanish-American War compared to that of the Civil War.
It is this prospect of drastic change which has resulted in a feeling of uncertainty in the naval service. To all who have given thought to the subject, it is becoming apparent that the present day navy is unable to cope with the new developments. Stop-gap alterations are no longer effective. A new, drastically altered fleet is necessary if the United States Navy is to remain the effective defense mechanism it has been in the past.
Reaction to the prospect of change ranges from a reactionary resentment of the developments which necessitate it to glib talk of flying battleships and rocket submarines. Between these extremes lie the opinions of a vast majority of naval officers, most of them earnest in their pride in the Navy’s accomplishments, uncertain of the proper path ahead, and reluctant to abandon weapons, tactics, and service habits which have been so successful in the recent conflict.
Periods of rapid change in the elements of naval warfare have always been difficult times. The next twenty years will undoubtedly follow the same pattern. Many factors combine to make times of change difficult. First to interfere with progress is the so- called “normal routine.” Although eminently successful when progress is a process of evolution, the well-oiled machinery by which the Navy is maintained as an effective fighting force tends to become strained when revolutionary developments occur. Usually satisfactory administrative systems become “red tape.” “Normal channels” become bottle necks.
Progress is doubly difficult when drastic changes must occur during periods of peace. Congress and the civilian populace are usually indifferent. With no active threat to the national security, delay and temporizing are condoned. Under such conditions, many naval personnel are inclined to ignore the new advances, to resist changes and to resent any developments which might alter the status quo. Active resistance to new branches of naval science often originates in the pride and esprit de corps of older branches. Personal animosities and professional jealousies which are generally held in check during time of war are allowed to influence actions and decisions when the national security is not in immediate danger.
The introduction of steam engineering in the United States Navy is an excellent example of the troubled advance of an obviously valuable contribution to naval science resulting from the lack of an open-minded attitude among the officer personnel of the naval service. Although it has become apparent that the development of the marine engine has had the most profound effect upon naval warfare of any advance since the invention of gunpowder, the infant science was compelled to struggle against every obstacle which jealousy, conservatism, and ignorance could place in its path. Antagonism was found in every station, from lowest to highest. The Secretary of the Navy during the early development of steam power, Mr. Paulding, complained of being “steamed to death” and wrote in his diary that he “never would consent to see our grand old ships supplanted by these new and ugly sea-monsters.” Ignorance of things mechanical often bred fear of the new invention and on one occasion led Lord Napier to denounce the building of war steamers before the British House of Commons in this wise: “Mr. Speaker, when we enter Her Majesty’s naval service and face the chances of war, we go prepared to be hacked in pieces by cutlasses, to be riddled with bullets, or to be blown to bits by shot and shell; but, Mr. Speaker, we do not go prepared to be boiled alive.”
Rivalry within the naval service became bitter and personal. An assistant secretary of the navy predicted that the introduction of steam-power would result in “the sailor swallowing the engineer, or the engineer swallowing the sailor.” Old line sailors banded together against the interloper which threatened to destroy the “romance and beauty” of the sea. For years the engineers were ranked as non-combatants and refused the dignity of a commission or pension although subject to the Articles of War. Although responsible for the work of the “black gang,” the engineer was forbidden by law to exercise command and the lowest deck midshipman took precedence over him. The engineer remained a staff officer and near non-combatant in official sense up to very recent times.
Initial acceptance of steam machinery for war vessels was conditional, and it was regarded as merely an auxiliary to sail. Rear Admiral Edward Simpson wrote in 1886: “There were those at that time who, wise beyond their generation, recognized the full meaning of the advent of steam, and saw that it must supplant sails altogether as a motive power for ships. These advocated that new constructions should be provided with full steam-power, with sails as an auxiliary; but the old pride in the sailing ship, with her taut and graceful spars, could not be made to yield at once to the innovation; old traditions pointing to the necessity of full sail-power could not be dispelled; it was considered a sufficient concession to admit steam on any terms, and thus the conservative and temporizing course was adopted of retaining full sail-power, and utilizing steam as an auxiliary.” Rear Admiral Simpson was speaking of decisions made in 1854, forty years after Fulton built the first steam war vessel.
The reception accorded the advent of steam in naval warfare is typical of that received by nearly all other revolutionary advances in naval or military science. There is, of course, some basis for believing that the military man of 1948 will not receive the new developments with the same blind prejudice of his predecessors. The increasingly important role of the scientist and the engineer in modern warfare is admitted at every hand. During World War II, the officers of the naval profession and sister services often took the initiative and demanded certain weapons or defensive devices from the inventor and scientist. Even now, in the aftermath of war, an astonishing portion of the nation’s scientific research is supported by the defense establishment.
But contact with the research scientist and the engineer is as yet confined to the personnel of the Navy’s bureaus and technical staffs. Only the tiniest beginning of the imminent naval revolution has reached the fleet. Years will pass before the full meaning of the new order will become apparent to the forces afloat. Naval history has shown that it is the attitude of the forces afloat and not that of the boards and bureaus of the Navy Department which determine in large part the progress of naval design. Therefore, it is to the forces afloat primarily that this essay is directed.
Naval officers of past generations have been men of high courage and patriotic zeal. Their opposition, upon occasion, to innovations tentatively introduced by naval constructors or shipbuilders was invariably the result of their strong interest in the welfare of the naval service. They felt that they were justified in rejecting or condemning these changes as ineffectual, dangerous, or otherwise prejudicial to the navy’s development. Unfortunately, these officers often acted upon fragmentary evidence or incomplete facts. First attempts to solve a pressing problem were often unsuccessful or disappointing. Strong disapprobation and destructive criticism during the experimental stages of development often retarded or halted an approach which was fundamentally correct.
During the early development of armored vessels, following the success of Ericsson’s Monitor, a very serious problem developed. It soon became apparent that the muzzleloading gun was not suited to enclosure in a turret or similar protective shield. The best brains of the naval profession were turned upon the problem and soon the Armstrong Company of Great Britain developed a practicable breech-loading gun. Between 1858 and 1862 this new gun was widely adopted in the British navy. Presently it developed that the Armstrong breech-loader had the habit of getting out of order at critical moments and several serious accidents occurred to the men that worked them. As a consequence, the seamen and officers of the British fleet lost confidence in the breech-loaders and “were as anxious to get rid of them as they had been to obtain them.” The adverse and almost totally destructive criticism which resulted, brought about, at great expense, the return to a muzzle-loading system. The offending breech-loaders were got rid of but the basic problem still remained. After ten years of costly and largely unsuccessful attempts to use muzzle-loading guns in turrets, the British eventually followed the lead of other nations back to the breech-loading gun. It is quite probable that constructive criticism by the forces afloat and an honest effort to help correct the faults of the original breechloader would have prevented ten years of retrogression.
A similar incident occurred recently. Early in World War II it became apparent that the increased pace and complexity of sea combat made the development of influence weapons an immediate necessity. High on the priority list was a proximity fuze for torpedoes. Unfortunately, the early models furnished the forces afloat contained an alarming number of failures. The results were not merely disappointing. They were usually disastrous to the attacking submarine. One can hardly blame the submarine commanders involved for their vehemence in denouncing the faulty device. Nevertheless, the solution of the problem was not aided. The continuance of the war, however, kept the problem alive and eventually a successful fuze was developed. Had the incident occurred in peacetime, the failures would have not, of course, been so critical to the firing vessel but adverse comment may well have caused the development of the torpedo exploder to be shelved indefinitely.
The changes which are expected to take place in the navy within the next decade or so will occur during a period of peace. There will undoubtedly be many disappointments and failures during the creative years. Many innovations will be of a type the value of which cannot be assessed until tested in service by the forces afloat. The recent guided missile launchings on the carrier Midway are an example. The rate, then, by which the building of a new navy progresses will depend in large part upon the manner in which the naval officers of the forces afloat perform their responsibilities as the ultimate proving ground for the products of the research laboratory and the engineer’s drafting table.
The individual naval officer thus becomes the focal point of the navy’s future. His attitude toward the moving currents of naval science will temper the navy’s progress. Under these circumstances it would appear appropriate to point out the method by which the naval officer may hope to contribute to the utmost of his ability to the ultimate benefit of the naval service.
The sea-going officer will require, in order to render a worthwhile judgment, an understanding of the changed conditions under which tomorrow’s navy will operate. The principal aid to understanding is knowledge; knowledge of the problems involved, knowledge of the extent and implications of the various scientific discoveries and inventions, knowledge of the benefits of success and of the consequences of failure. It is, of course, quite impossible for the naval officer to become, in addition to his regular duties, a structural engineer, an expert in electronics, and a nuclear physicist. The broad reaches of science from which the navy draws its improvements are too great for any one man to encompass. But the competent naval officer will be neglecting his proper responsibilities if he fails to avail himself of every opportunity to become familiar with the basic principles of each important field and to learn of the advances in each which are apt to exert an influence on future naval war. “Shoemaker, stick to your last” is poor advice for the modern seaman. The officer who professes a knowledge of merely his specialty cannot be depended upon to render a proper judgment of even those innovations which occur in his own field.
During the Civil War the ram was used with devastating effect in many naval engagements. Because it attacked the “soft” underbodies of otherwise invulnerable armorclads, the ram bid fair to become an important weapon and many naval officers championed it warmly. What these men did not consider was the fact that the concurrent development of the rifled gun was in the process of increasing the range at which future naval engagements would be fought to the point where opportunities for ramming would become negligible. A lack of knowledge of the implications of parallel developments in naval warfare resulted in an imperfect judgment.
Next in importance to a general knowledge of the current trends in naval science as a requisite for the proper performance of the “proving ground” duties of the peacetime forces afloat is the cultivation of an open mind, an unopinionated, impersonal, scientific attitude. Fortunately, the acquisition of knowledge usually predisposes one towards a tolerant and open attitude. Ignorance is the usual source of fear and prejudice. It is difficult, therefore, for prejudice and fear to survive the attack of a few pertinent facts. Nevertheless, a person’s reaction to novel ideas is so conditioned by his personal outlook, position, and interest that very few naval officers of the past have been able to rise above these personal considerations in judging the new and unusual. The use of gunpowder was decried for centuries by the knight or horseman. “Villanous salt-petre” was deemed unchivalrous, and gunners regarded as non-combatants by the pike and sword wielders who dimly saw their own eventual extinction. Did the sail-maker welcome steam power and the ship’s carpenter acknowledge the advantages of iron for ships’ hulls? Naval officers of the present day are familiar with the personal bitterness of the battleship versus airplane controversy. That argument was resolved by World War II to a median of the extreme arguments of both factions. Of immediate interest, perhaps, is the reaction of today’s naval aviator toward tomorrow’s robot guided missile. Will he deny its obvious advantages and denounce its equally obvious failings, or will he rise above personal interest and work toward the perfection of the new air weapon? Needless to say, every naval officer can learn a great deal by probing his own attitude toward new devices and new methods of waging war for indications that the effect of new developments on his particular specialty is coloring his judgments.
Even more insidious in its effect upon the attitude of personnel of the forces afloat is what has been termed “the ominous desire for ease of living on a ship of war.” In 1893 a disastrous collision occurred between the HMS Camperdown and the HMS Victoria while on maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea. The Victoria, holed near the bow, lost buoyancy, capsized, and sank. The official investigation proved that the subdivision of the lost vessel was adequate and that she would have survived the mishap if the doors in her watertight bulkheads had been closed either before or immediately after the collision. The results of the investigation led to the design of ships without any doors in the main watertight bulkheads below the bulkhead deck. The screams of the operating personnel when this step was proposed must be echoing still in some remote corner of the universe. Commanding officers stated heatedly that it would not be possible to fight their ships without doors below deck. Engineers insisted that the machinery could not be operated without a door between the fire room and the engines. Today the omission of doors in main watertight bulkheads is accepted as a standard and necessary practice, and the engineer officer climbing to the bulkhead deck to go from boiler space to engine room gives no thought to the imposition. In the same way, naval officers accustomed to a broad, high quarterdeck, with gunnery and seamanship performed before their eyes, balked at the cramped conning tower of the early monitors, claiming that such a vessel could not be maneuvered or fought. The monitors were maneuvered and fought, and to this day the major portion of gunnery and ship control has remained buried below armor, out of the light of day. World War II debates on conning towers, open bridges, the proper location of C.I.C. and radio spaces, and similar problems are continuing phases of the conflict between protection and convenience. If some of the implications of nuclear radiation and similar developments of modern warfare are valid, the naval officer of tomorrow may find himself in a hermetically sealed compartment deep in the bowels of the ship, entirely dependent upon mechanical and electronic devices for the performance of his duties. Although admittedly extreme, such a proposal should be judged purely on its technical merits, not on the basis of personal convenience.
Realization of a scientific approach to technological changes in naval warfare on the part of the forces afloat is also hindered by the instinctive human tendency to prefer the well-known, traditional methods of doing things rather than a new, radical approach to an old problem. The over-cautious person says, “It has always been done thus” and dismisses the innovation for its non-conformance. As a result, new developments are usually accepted only in a qualified sense, as auxiliary to the traditional or established custom, despite an obvious superiority of the new over the old. The retention of sails long after steam had proved its usefulness is a case in point. Many naval officers defended this course of action on the basis of the traditional principle of duplication of vital functions in a vessel of war. The fact that the efficiency of both steam and sail was severely handicapped by the provision of both was ignored. There are many outmoded devices existing on modern naval vessels today. They are provided as a duplication of faster, surer, newer equipment for accomplishing the same functions. Their only justification is a distrust of the new improvements. The constraint exercised by these anachronisms upon the full development of the new discoveries far outweighs any contribution they may offer to the fighting qualities of the ship. Signal flags, for instance, with their bulky flag boards, open signal bridge and awkward yardarms and halliards are still provided, despite the existence of war-proven ultra-high frequency voice radio and similar efficient systems of ship-to-ship communication. Signaling searchlights are also provided. Illuminating searchlights are reluctantly succumbing to the far more versatile radar. Fire control optics are still receiving far more than a reasonable share of topside space and weight. The standard compass still commands a preferred position in the superstructure despite its lessened value to the ship. These are but a few of the “deadwood” equipments which detract from the possibilities of the modern war vessel. The open-minded naval officer will be quick to consent to the elimination of the superfluous when its superfluity becomes established.
One should note, however, the equally grave danger of over-enthusiasm. Naval science has had its share of half-baked ideas, highly desirable on the surface but containing some hidden, fatal defect. Students of naval history are well aware of such abortive inventions as the Hunter wheel, the Harvey torpedo, and the dynamite gun. Each of these inventions appeared to offer much, but were quickly proven inadequate when tested in service. The naval officer will be wise to avoid any thought that an innovation must be satisfactory merely because it has progressed so far in its development as to actually reach the fleet. That step is but the beginning. It is the responsibility of the forces afloat to weed out the ill-considered, undesirable novelties as well as to accept wholeheartedly those of proven worth.
In the past, engineers and scientists have been guilty, upon occasion, of fantastic misjudgements as to the worth of new developments. A classic example occurred in the very early days of armorclad vessels. Dissatisfaction was expressed with the use of wood for the construction of the hulls of ships. The use of iron for the hull structure of ships was suggested and experiments were undertaken to determine its suitability as a material for constructing vessels of war. Light iron plating was subjected to ballistic attack and, it being noted that the holes caused by the shot were ragged, irregular and impossible to plug, a judgement was rendered that “iron cannot be beneficially employed as a material for the construction of vessels of war.” This ridiculous and unfounded judgement delayed the appearance of iron and steel ships in the British navy for many years.
In the case of new weapons, the inventors and backers of each invariably overestimated the importance of their discovery. Each was touted as an invention which outmoded the older forms of warfare. Woe to the nation which believed these boastings and put her trust in the new weapon to the exclusion of all others. France lost her position as a first- rate sea power by believing the convincing arguments of the torpedo specialists. In World War II, Germany and Japan found that air power was not the invincible weapon they had been led to think by its protagonists. Right now, the atomic bomb has been elected to the post of all-conquering weapon. If history teaches truly, this claim will also prove false.
The foregoing discussion is enough to indicate the difficulties and hazards which beset the building of the navy of tomorrow. It is apparent that every question still has two sides and that there is no simple all-inclusive criterion for judging the proper course of naval progress. Fortunately, no single naval officer is held responsible for such a broad determination, although many of the past (and present) have set themselves up as capable of the task. It is sufficient to understand that there must be progress, that naval progress is vital to the survival of the United States Navy. Once this concept is accepted by the officer personnel of the naval service, the future well-being of the navy is assured.
The mechanism by which the individual naval officer can contribute his share to the mass progress is constructive criticism. The importance of constructive criticism from the forces afloat is apparent at once. The majority of naval innovations are complex mechanisms. It the first models are failures, or, at best, qualified successes, it is necessary to know in what particular the device fails, or is deficient, in order that it may be determined whether the defect is fundamental or merely a problem of proper design, materials, or fabrication. In most cases, it is the officers of the forces afloat who will demonstrate the deficiencies to the technicians. Hence, the sea-going officer should be prepared not only to point out the deficiency but to assess its importance as a limitation upon the application of the device. He should also be prepared to draw upon his experience for suggestions as to possible changes which would tend to make the device acceptable for service use.
Many of the most drastic and immediate changes which will be wrought upon the navy will be alterations necessary to defend against new and highly improved weapons; rockets, guided missiles and the atomic explosive. The new conditions will collide directly with much of established tactics, ship routine and arrangements. These developments will be among those most difficult for the naval officer to assess in a true spirit of fairness. Since personal convenience or familiar routine is threatened, each objection to change should be carefully scanned to establish that it is a real objection which results in a material loss of fighting power of the ship. If the new conditions involve considerable alterations in existing tactics or shipboard practices, judgement as to the practicality or impracticality of the changes should be reserved until intensive tests and practice provide factual background. If training and tests prove the new system deficient, every effort should be made to suggest alterations to accomplish the purpose in a satisfactory manner because, in nearly every case of change to defend against new weapons, a return to the usual tactic or practice is not tenable.
Today’s naval officer is privileged to serve during one of the most challenging and important peacetime eras in the history of the United States Navy. He is about to witness the transition of the navy from a navy of the machine age to a navy of the scientific age. To the extent which he supports the naval service during the transition period will he be able to observe the achievements of tomorrow’s navy with personal pride. It is not necessary to be a “yes-man” or a “no-man” nor an optimist, nor pessimist. All that the products of American scientific genius and designing skill require is a fair trial. If a new development has merit, the consistent application of the sentiments expressed in this essay will be sufficient to assure its rapid and sound evolution to a mature state. At the same time, the substitution of an open- minded attitude for prejudice, rivalry, and personal feelings on the part of today’s naval officer will assure the rapid and sound evolution of the navy as a whole into a potent fleet of tomorrow.