Fighting in the Dark

Naval Combat at Night: 1904-1944

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Before the twentieth century ships when relied upon visual signaling, vessels beyond range of sight or a cannon shot, were blind, deaf, and dumb in the dark, making night battles at sea rare, and near always accidental. The introduction of certain technologies like the torpedo, the searchlight, radio and then radar, transformed naval warfare by making night combat feasible and, in some cases, desirable. The process by which navies integrated these new tools of war and turned the dark into a medium for effective combat, however, was long and difficult.   

Fighting in the Dark tells the story of surface naval combat at night from the Russo-Japanese War through World War II. The book is about the process of confronting and mastering problems brought on by technological change during war. It does this by examining seven periods focusing on the Imperial Russian Navy in 1904–1905, the Imperial German Navy from 1914–1918, the Royal Navy from 1916–1939, the Regia Marina from 1940–1943, the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1942, the U.S. Navy in 1943–1944, and the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy from 1943–1944.The chapters are written by authors hailing from Australia, Canada, Italy, and the United States, all recognized masters in their subject. 

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“A superb study by first rate scholars of the first 40 years of naval night tactical development during a period of great technological change. The early chapters are particularly welcome since they provide a wealth of new and previously little studied scholarship on naval night tactics in the early 20th Century.” —John T. Kuehn, Ph.D., Professor of Military History. U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Former FADM E.J. King Professor, Naval War College
“Half of every war is fought at night. Fighting in the Dark shows how the Canadian, German, Royal, Italian, Imperial Japanese, Imperial Russian and United States Navies learned--or failed to learn--during 20th century nighttime sea battles. Doing so meant mastering the environment and managing changes to ships, technology, tactics and leadership, all while fighting peer competitors of comparable skill. Deftly explaining what navies needed to win, serving naval officers and civilian students alike will find this milestone book well-researched, lucid, informative and exciting.” —Sarandis Papadopoulos, PhD., historian and co-author of Pentagon 9/11
“This is an intriguing and detailed anthology by a dedicated team of historians, that explores a rarely studied area of naval warfare.  In an age of purportedly revolutionary technological developments, the reader will discover that not every innovation is tied to a wondrous new gizmo or weapon system.   Sometimes surprise comes from an enemy prepared to exploit an unfamiliar context like the chaos of fighting in the dark.  The chapter authors offer "deep dives" and true insights that cover the last century.  These are carefully curated into a unique story about how the "fog of war" can be turned into a weapon.”   —Frank Hoffman, Ph.D., author of Mars Adapting, Military Change During Wartime, National Defense University.   
"A thoroughly engrossing literary journey, Fighting in the Dark isn’t just a masterpiece of military history, it’s an incredibly detailed account of how leaders cope with rapid technological change in the chaotic and lethal crucible of battle. The editing is especially impressive, as O’Hara and Hone accomplished a rare feat in an anthology: the writing is practically seamless, with the narrative flowing so smoothly the entire book reads like the work of a single author. Fighting in the Dark is a book that will convey broad appeal across a multitude of reading audiences, from naval historians to students of innovation, from industry leaders to military novices. There’s something here for everyone." — ClearanceJobs
"For those interested in naval history, “Fighting in the Dark” is a gem. It is readable, giving readers insight and understanding of the issues involved in night actions." — Mark Lardas 
"War at sea was mostly a daytime event before the 20th century. This book is a series of seven chapters by different historians of night combat at sea in various wars, enabled by new technology that made it possible and effective: searchlights, torpedoes, radios, and especially radar. Beginning with the Russo-Japanese War, the chapters course through the Imperial Russian Navy; Royal Navy and Imperial German Navy in World War I; and the Italian Regia Marina, Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy, and U.S. Navy during World War II. The authors not only describe events but analyze the successes and failures of navies in coping with the chaos of night combat. Of particular interest to U.S. Navy readers would be the initial successes of Japanese warships in the Solomons campaign." —Seapower Magazine
Fighting in the Dark is a high-quality production featuring clear maps of the night encounters, supported by relevant photographs. The text is absorbing and detailed, written by respected historians. --Australian Naval Institute

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

Chapter 1   Stumbling in the Dark: the Russo-Japanese War, 1904–1905, by Stephen McLaughlin
Chapter 2   Tactics of Frustration: the German Navy and Night Combat, 1914–1916, by Leonard R. Heinz
Chapter 3   The British and Night Fighting at and over the Sea, 1916–1939, by James Goldrick
Chapter 4   Forced to Fight: Italy, 1940–1943, by Vincent P. O’Hara and Enrico Cernuschi
Chapter 5    How Can They Be That Good? Japan, 1922–1942, by Jonathan Parshall
Chapter 6   Mastering the Masters: the U.S. Navy, 1942–1944, by Trent Hone
Chapter 7   Controlling the Chops: Destroyer Night Action and the Battle of Ile de Batz,October 1943–June 1944, by Michael Whitby

About the Contributors

More Info

 The Development of Night Fighting in the USN and IJN - The Interwar Period (Part 1)

Join Drachinifel with returning guests Trent Hone and Jon Parshall as they look at the development of night fighting doctrine.



 The Development of Night Fighting in the USN and IJN - The Interwar Period (Part 2)