After his defeat at Waterloo and surrender to the Royal Navy, Napoleon is said to have remarked, “If it had not been for you English, I would have been Emperor of the East. But wherever there is water to float a ship, we are sure to find you in our way.” This simple observation goes to the heart of littoral warfare and is as true today as it was 205 years ago. It was not the wooden wall of Britain’s great two- and three-deckers that Napoleon was referring to, but the hundreds of sloops, brigs, pinnacles, and many other types of inshore craft that sought out and denied the French the use of their own coastal waters.
Likewise, it was not the ironclads and cruisers of the Union Navy but rather the hundreds of smaller requisitioned, converted, and purpose-built craft that slowly choked the Confederacy from Vicksburg to Cape Hatteras during the Civil War. Similarly, the U.S. Navy’s PT boats did yeoman service among the islands of the Pacific, as did the brown-water riverine forces battling the Viet Cong for control of waterways of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam