Looking back after World War II, many Navy officers believed that their prewar planning was superb. “War Plan Orange persevered for 40 years and eventually won the war,” claims one noted scholar. “What more can one ask of a great plan.”1 There is no doubt that the U.S. Navy was effective, eventually. But the ultimate victory was not just because of War Plan Orange or the fleet exercises that refined it.2 Instead, success must be credited to the innovation and learning done by the Fleet. War Plan Orange’s envisioned blockade of Japan began much earlier than originally designed. In ordering its small submarine force to conduct unrestricted warfare, the Mahanian clashes long expected by the U.S. Navy in the Pacific were displaced for a time. Because they did not anticipate this role for the submarine, the Navy had to learn under fire, which it accomplished with great success.
How We Bridged a Wartime 'Learning Gap'
One of the best examples of how innovation works militarily lies in the way the Navy overhauled its approach to submarine warfare in the Pacific during World War II.
By Lieutenant Colonel Frank G. Hoffman, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)