A Mahanian cult of the offensive permeates today’s U.S. Navy.1 This is—mostly—a good thing; the Navy could not be successful in the struggle for sea control without having offensive spirit. Yet experience shows that too much focus on offense at the expense of defensive war-fighting is fraught with great danger. At present, the Navy does not pay the required attention to critical warfare areas such as sea denial, defense and protection of maritime trade, mine warfare (especially mine countermeasures), support of land forces, or even, until relatively recently, antisubmarine warfare (ASW). The Navy should heed lessons from its own history, as well as the experience of other navies, to see the results of a single-minded focus on either offense or defense.
1. Michael C. Grubb, Protection of Shipping: A Forgotten Mission with Many Challenges (Newport, RI: Naval War College, 10 October 2006), 6.
2. David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie, Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997), 500–501.
3. Cited in Philip A. Crowl, “Alfred Thayer Mahan: The Naval Historian,” in Peter Paret, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy. From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 458–59.
4. Cited in Grubb, Protection of Shipping, 4.
5. RADM Alfred T. Mahan, USN (Ret.), Naval Strategy: Compared and Contrasted with the Principles and Practice of Military Operations on Land (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1911), 153.
6. Mahan, Naval Strategy, 132.
7. Naval Doctrine Publication 1 (NDP-1), Naval Warfare (March 2010), 28.
8. NDP-1, 27–28.
9. NDP-1, 28.
10. Julian S. Corbett, Some Principles of Maritime Strategy (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1918), 189.
11. John B. Hattendorf, “The Idea of a ‘Fleet in Being’ on Historical Perspective,” Naval War College Review 67, no. 1 (Winter 2014): 49.
12. A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, October 2007), 10.
13. Grubb, Protection of Shipping, 2.
14. CAPT Alfred Thayer Mahan, USN, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 5th ed., 1894), 26.
15. Alfred R. Bowling, The Negative Influence of Mahan on the Protection of Shipping in Wartime: The Convoy Controversy in the Twentieth Century (Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, unpubl. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maine, 1980), 2.
16. David MacGregor, “The Use, Misuse, and Non-Use of History: The Royal Navy and the Operational Lessons of the First World War,” The Journal of Military History 56, no. 4 (October 1992): 603.
17. Jürgen Rohwer, “Der U-Boot-Krieg: Die Schlacht im Atlantik (1939–1945),” in E. B. Potter and Chester W. Nimitz, Seemacht von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart (Herrsching: Manfred Pawlak Verlag, 1986), 535.
18. Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch, Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War, 1st ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 67.
19. David B. Larter, “You’re on Your Own: U.S. Sealift Can’t Count on Navy Escorts in the Next Big War,” Defense News, 10 October 2010.
20. Malcolm W. Cagle and Frank A. Manson, The Sea War in Korea, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1957), 126–27.
21. Arnold S. Lott, Most Dangerous Sea. A History of Mine Warfare and an Account of U.S. Navy Mine Warfare Operations in World War II and Korea (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1st ed., 1959), cited in Otto Lippa, Der Minenkrieg im Pazifik 1941–1945 (Hamburg: Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr, January 1963), 6.
22. Sandra I. Erwin, “Shallow-Water Mines Remain ‘Achilles’ Heel’ of U.S. Navy,” National Defense (January 2002), 16.
23. Mahan, Naval Strategy, 153.
24. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret ed. and trans. (New York/London/Toronto: Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 634–35.