Book Reviews

Sailors and Scholars is an accurate, interesting chronicle of the development of thinking on the art of war from the painful and disheartening early years of the Naval War College through the organization's first century. To professional naval officers, the book will be useful in charting their careers; to the War College staff and students, its reading is essential. Authors Hattendorf, Simpson, and Wadleigh, first-rate scholars long associated with the War College, have made a major contribution to professional education in the Navy.

Today's Naval War College offers a sophisticated program of study and research in excellent facilities amid outstanding surroundings. However, conditions were not always so favorable. When the War College first opened its doors 100 years ago in the old, poorly furnished Newport Almshouse, it was subject to the open hostility of the bureaus and most senior officers in the Navy. Admiral Stephen B. Luce founded the War College as a branch of the Naval Institute, seeking to further the Institute's goal of the professional advancement of knowledge in the Navy. The genius of Luce, later augmented by that of Captain Alfred T. Mahan, survived early crises of every description. Perennial shortages of people and money reflected a prevailing anti-intellectualism existing throughout the Navy. Each session gave promise of being the last.

The War College survived its early trials and emerged from World War I with its reputation greatly enhanced. The reduction of the fleet in the 1920s made quality officers available for instruction, and the War College flourished. In 1920, 30% of Navy captains and admirals were War College graduates; by 1940, the percentage of officers at these ranks with the War College experience increased to 83%.

The focus of study during these years, largely under the influence of Admiral William S. Sims, was tactical rather than strategic. The War College reached its closest ties with the fleet, but the stress on tactics and fleet operations brought a significant decline in the study of theory and the art of strategy.

World War II proved the vindication of the War College teaching. Navy leaders universally acknowledged their debt to the War College in making possible the brilliant victory in the Pacific. The postwar era, however, brought no return to the golden age of the 1920s. Unprecedented peacetime commitments after World War II and new wars in Asia brought near insurmountable problems of intellectual stagnation to the War College. The demand for officers at sea and in staff positions worldwide deprived many promising officers of their opportunity for War College study so vital to new American responsibilities. The sense of military professionalism waned, and the art of strategy-making was soon dominated by civilians. The War College curriculum became, in Edward L. Katzenbach's words, "something between a Great Issues course and an ex tended administration briefing."

It was not until the late 1960s and 1970s that a renaissance finally emerged, attributable primarily, in the reviewer's opinion, to the contributions of three War College presidents, Vice Admirals John T. Hayward, Richard G. Colbert, and Stansfield Turner.

Admiral Chick Hayward initiated important curriculum reforms, and pushed the largest building program in the history of the institution to completion, despite objections from much of the Navy.

Admiral Dick Colbert brought to fruition an initiative of Admiral Arleigh Burke, the enthusiastic support and years of encouragement to the foreign officers course—the Naval Command College. The great numbers of foreign chiefs of naval operations and other senior military leaders who cherish and relate their Command College experience overseas have since contributed enormously to the international prestige of the War College.

Admiral Stan Turner revolutionized the curriculum into a sound graduate-level experience. Of key significance was the installation of a core of highly qualified civilian professors on long-term contracts who institutionalized reform measures, thus providing stability, continuity, and academic prestige, to protect the reforms from bureaucratic meddling long after Admiral Turner's departure.

Another potential building block in the renaissance which may lead to a long-needed rebirth of strategic thinking at the War College by professional naval officers should be mentioned. The Center for Naval Warfare Studies, established by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas B. Hayward in 1981, combined the existing Center for Advanced Research, the Center for War Gaming, and the Naval War College Press, around a new Strategic Studies Group—a highly selective team of Navy and Marine Corps officers chosen by their respective service chiefs.

It is the nature of modem navies to stress technological development and practical experience at the expense of thoughts on war itself. Luce's challenge remains the inspiration of the Naval War College officers, who seek to understand the total scope of the naval profession as they prepare for higher command. In an address made in 1903, Luce reminds:

"One thing must be borne in mind. At the firing of the first gun proclaiming war, the so-called 'inspiration of genius' may be trusted only when it is the result of long and careful study and reflection…If attendance [at the Naval War College] will serve, in any degree, to broaden an officer's views and extend his mental horizon on national and international questions, and give him a just appreciation of the great variety and extent of the requirements of his profession, the college will not have existed in vain."

The numbers of naval officers privileged to attend their war college are too few—well below those of the other services. Too many of the Navy's "best and brightest," who stand most to gain from the experience and the nation most to lose without their receiving it, do not attend. The challenge to the Naval War College and naval leadership for the second century is more vital and, in many ways, far more grave than for the first.

Captain Schratz graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1939 and established a distinguished record in the submarine force. With a Ph.D. from Ohio State University, he is widely recognized as a writer on foreign policy and national security affairs. He retired as a professor at Georgetown University in 1981.

 

I Choose to Fight: Tom Harper's Courageous Victory Over Cancer

Randy Harper and Tom Harper. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1984.201 pp. $13.95 ($11.16).

Reviewed by Vice Admiral John T. Hayward, U. S. Navy (Retired)

At the age of 19, U. S. Naval Academy Midshipman Tom Harper was diagnosed as having testicular cancer and given less than an 8% chance of surviving the following six months. Harper was faced not only with the imminent prospect of death, but with a complete shattering of his life and motivations. While the actual physical suffering was intense, his mental anguish resulting from the side effects of chemotherapy treatments was often overwhelming. Harper was discouraged, depressed, and violently ill, yet never gave up.

I Choose to Fight, co-authored by Tom and his brother Randy, traces the course of courage and determination set by Harper in his battle to win back his life from cancer and graduate from the Academy. The story relates the boundless love and support of Harper's parents and family, and the crucial role of the doctors and nurses at Bethesda and elsewhere who contributed to his recovery. But, the book also highlights Harper's life as a part of the Naval Academy, and in turn, the Academy's supportive response to Harper's special needs. One comes away from the reading with an understanding of what a close-knit and supportive organization the Navy is. The support of Academy superintendents Bill Mack and "Ken" Kinnaird McKee, who allowed Harper to stay at the Academy, intelligently disregarding Navy Regulations, was indispensible to Harper's recovery. Admiral "Pete" Mitscher once wisely said, "Regulations were meant to be intelligently disregarded—accent on the 'intelligently.'"

There will be some people who question the treatment of Tom as a plebe upon his return to the Naval Academy. I am sure most people will share my negative reaction to the actions of Midshipman Twelpin. However, these episodes clearly illustrate that Harper wanted no special treatment in his fight to graduate from the Academy, and be commissioned as a naval officer. The description of Harper's graduation in June 1978, with all the attendant emotions that are involved, is excellent. Admiral McKee, in his remarks, commented, "The personal courage of Tom Harper is a hallmark of this class." It was a most gratifying close to a triumphant story.

Tom Harper's fight epitomizes the following advice President Coolidge gave me years ago while I was a seaman at the Washington Navy Yard waiting to go to the Naval Academy. The words hang on my wall now: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On,' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." Tom Harper pressed on in the face of tremendous odds and emerged victorious from the fight.

Admiral Hayward , a former White Hat, was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1930, and served as a squadron commander in the Pacific during World War II. From 1968 to 1973, he was vice president of General Dynamics Corporation, and now is a management and technical consultant in the firm of Hayward Associates.

 

Navy and Empire

James L. Stokesbury. New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1983.430 pp. Maps. $16.95 ($ 15 .25).

Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander James Stavridis, U. S. Navy

Navy and Empire is a highly readable, yet shallow history of Great Britain 's rise and fall. James Stokesbury's approach, while interesting and well informed, is essentially anecdotal, and he often leaves the reader groping for a more analytical treatment of the issues he raises. He offers little new thought, restating the more obvious conclusions of Alfred T. Mahan and other earlier writers.

One problem with the work is the author's failure to come to grips with the most interesting and controversial issue of Britain's role in world history—the interrelationship between sea power and world power. He describes both the Royal Navy and the British Empire but never firmly establishes the critical cause and effect between the two. Was the empire the result of dominant sea power, as Mahan argued? Or did the navy spring from the need to protect the far-flung empire, as many historians maintain? Professor Stokesbury flirts with the issue but never answers the question.

A more basic problem with Navy and Empire is its lack of depth. There is little strategic discussion, and many of the dominant personalities and their schemes are given cursory treatment at best. The British are famous for "muddling through," but the reader finishes the book with no real sense of pace or decision in the empire's gradual evolution. Somewhere in the four centuries of the empire there must have been some semblance of national planning or strategic thought. While much of the problem is in the subject's huge scope and the work's breezy tone, a more solid scholarly approach would have been more enlightening and satisfying. In his desire to write an entertaining book, the author seems to have consciously avoided any complicated analysis of events.

Stokesbury also seems to be unable to decide where the book's focus will be on general British history (the empire) or naval history and sea power (the navy). The two are inextricably linked, but the book would have been improved by maintaining one or the other as a central theme. The author's approach to both is neither deep enough to satisfy the serious student of history, nor succinct enough to function as an effective overview. The rapid pace compounds the problem—the reader is never allowed to linger long enough to become interested or challenged by anything the author has to say, particularly in the case of the 20th century material.

Despite its failure to provide much reasoned analysis, the book is clearly and cleverly written, replete with witty observations and well-turned phrases. For example, in describing Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Stokesbury captures the man perfectly: "…a pendantic but attractive stick with whom she was madly in love." He describes the essence of the European conflict in North America during the late 17th century with a single sentence: "Small groups of men were overcoming incredible natural obstacles in their eagerness to kill each other." The book literally bounces through its allotted four centuries (1568-1982) with never a dull moment.

The author has done a satisfactory job of setting out the basic facts of Britain's rise and fall in readable prose. He manages to interweave the naval aspects into the larger context of the British experience fairly well. While Navy and Empire lacks the analytic power or scholarly touch of Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery (The MacMillan Press, 1983), for example, it is a useful broad summary. It could serve admirably as a companion piece to either Kennedy's volume or Mahan's Influence of Sea Power Upon History (Norwood Editions, 1896). Indeed, Navy and Empire could be termed the poor man's Influence of Sea Power.

Commander Stavridis , a frequent contributor to the Proceedings, is completing a PhD in international relations at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and has also lectured on national security at Tufts University.

 

 
 

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