21st Century Knox

Influence, Sea Power, and History for the Modern Era

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Commo. Dudley Wright Knox took a practitioner’s approach to maritime history, helping to frame a global mission for the U.S. Navy. Having graduated with the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1897, he commanded a variety of warships and flag headquarters. He served in combat during the 1898 Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and in the Philippines. With intelligence, Knox lead efforts to establish the “special relationship” between the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy during two world wars. Helping to realize the visions of a “navy second to none” Knox assisted President Franklin D. Roosevelt in educating Americans to understand the nexus between war and peace. Unlike armies or air forces, Knox argued that navies provided unique means, “not to make war but to preserve peace, not to be predatory but to shield the free development of commerce, not to unsettle the world but to stabilize it through the promotion of law and order.”

21st Century Knox offers a primer on the thinking of the man who exerted an enormous influence on the U.S. Navy during the first fifty years of the twentieth century. His ideas on questions of strategy, leadership, and maritime operations remain relevant to naval professionals into the twenty-first century and beyond.

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Editorial Reviews

"Though he did not achieve flag rank, and arguably did some of his best work after retirement from active duty, the example of Commodore Knox remains useful today. His determination in ensuring that the lessons of the past were applied to the current and future US Navy helped lay the groundwork for the US Navy's huge expansion and contribution to victory in the Second World War. Further, his writings on naval doctrine and leadership are as relevant today as they were over a century ago when he wrote them. Highly recommended." —Starshell (Naval Association of Canada)
"21st Century Knox: Influence, Sea Power, and History for the Modern Era is a scholarly analysis and discussion of the ideas and legacy of Commodore Dudley Wright Knox (1877-1960), an officer in the United States Navy who served in the Spanish-American War and World War I, and who oversaw the Navy Department's historical office for many years. Knox's influence is especially notable during the years of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency; Knox advocated for the navy as an instrument for the preservation of peace and the protection of trade, rather than solely for warfare. Knox's views on naval strategy, leadership, and maritime options transcend his era, and offer invaluable insights to military and naval professions in the twenty-first century. Highly recommended, especially for college library nautical studies shelves." Midwest Book Review
"The value is great, and this book deserves as broad a readership as possible (and not just by military personnel) for its insights on leadership and officer professionalism..." Army University Press
"David Kohnen's selection covers six articles drawn from the pages of Proceedings between 1913 and 1950, and one previously unpublished manuscript from 1948. The latter is a particularly heartwarming account of Knox's friendship with President Roosevelt and is as much an insight into the personality of the great American war leader as it is of Knox himself. The articles, however, are more hard hitting and range from discussions on the role of doctrine in naval warfare, to leadership at sea and the importance of history. As a whole they are interesting but, this reviewer might argue, not always challenging of accepted wisdom. The joy of this book, though, is its introduction of Knox to a new generation of readers who might otherwise be wholly ignorant of him. " The Naval Review
"This work is a very good read and recommended to anyone who is seriously interested in U.S. naval and military history." International Journal of Maritime History
"A century ago, Dudley Knox was one of the U.S. Navy's up-and-coming leaders. His operational resume included combat experience in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Philippines insurrection. In a generation that learned its trade from Mahan, Knox achieved intellectual distinction as an observer of naval command and control. Between the First and Second World Wars, Knox developed into one of the nation's foremost practitioners of naval history, a respected commentator on maritime issues, and advisor to political and naval leaders. Through his professional associations, writings, and commentary, his influence reached to the battles of the Second World War and beyond. It is precisely to rescue naval thinkers like Knox from obscurity that the Naval Institute Press began the '21st Century Foundations' series. In 21st Century Knox, David Kohnen has selected key writings spanning Knox's more than fifty year career and combined them with a thoughtful introduction and commentary that places these writings in contemporary context. The result is a handy collection of short articles that speak both to the U.S. Navy's history and to the challenges it faces today." CIMSEC.org
"This book and its distillation of ideas and thinking that came from Knox's '50 years before the mast' during a time period during which Knox had a front row seat as the U.S. Navy changed from a small, relatively weak force into one with truly global responsibilities and missions, is an essential read for all naval officers." The Strategy Bridge.com
"Non-specialists unfamiliar with Knox will glean much from this volume, as will historians with strong familiarity with the era of Knox's service. This book comes highly recommended." H-Net
"The collection of essays offered and the commentary provided by David Kohnen suggests something of the continuing debt the U.S. Navy and maritime history, in general, owe to Commodore Dudley Knox. The work is warmly recommended. Knox and his times were blessed, indeed, that the Navy and its history had such an influential sponsor in one erstwhile Assistant Secretary." International Journal of Naval History
21st Century Knox is a well written book that presents articles written by Knox throughout his career…. It examines relevant modern issues such as Joint Operations, professionalism and command and control and is worth reading because it adds to the understanding of doctrinal issues that have evolved over the last century during a time of expanding commitment of the armed forces to a world-wide role.” —Naval Historical Foundation
“This volume offers insights into leadership and officer professionalism as well as a well-crafted case for history and sea power. Knox knew that only by preserving the historical record can the appropriate lessons be drawn, thus feeding the development of future doctrine in a changing world. This is history with purpose, and Kohnen’s book deserves as broad a readership as possible.” —Warship