Learning War

The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898–1945
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Published:June 15, 2018

Learning War examines the U.S. Navy’s doctrinal development from 1898–1945 and explains why the Navy in that era was so successful as an organization at fostering innovation. A revolutionary study of one of history’s greatest success stories, this book draws profoundly important conclusions that give new insight, not only into how the Navy succeeded in becoming the best naval force in the world, but also into how modern organizations can exploit today’s rapid technological and social changes in their pursuit of success.

Trent Hone argues that the Navy created a sophisticated learning system in the early years of the twentieth century that led to repeated innovations in the development of surface warfare tactics and doctrine. The conditions that allowed these innovations to emerge are analyzed through a consideration of the Navy as a complex adaptive system. Learning War is the first major work to apply this complex learning approach to military history. This approach permits a richer understanding of the mechanisms that enable human organizations to evolve, innovate, and learn, and it offers new insights into the history of the United States Navy.


List Price: $34.95
Member Price: $27.96
Product Details
  • Subject: U.S. Navy
  • Hardback : 432 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1682472930
  • ISBN-13: 9781682472934
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 28.96 oz
  • Read an excerpt on Task & Purpose: What Today’s Army Can Learn from the Interwar Navy About Mission Command
  • Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) Interview
  • The Strategy Bridge Interview
  • Military History Verbalized Interview
  • “Hone tells the story of the 1942-43 Guadalcanal campaign particularly well…. The most intriguing chapter is Hone’s study of a critical but largely unrecognized reorganization that transformed Navy operations beginning in late 1942.” —The New York Times
  • "The book flows smoothly." —Manhattan Book Review
  • Learning War explains the US Navy’s development of doctrine from 1898 to 1945, and reveals how the Navy embraced innovation, eschewing the dreadnoughts and big guns that had lulled senior naval professionals and an isolationist nation into complacency. Hone describes how the Navy created a sophisticated learning system that revolutionized warfare tactics and doctrine. The emergence of new ship types—destroyers, aircraft carries, and submarines—along with dynamic technological changes—radar, radio, and analog fire-control computers—and new officer education and organizational structure permitted the navy to learn, innovate, and evolve, which enabled incredible and rapid structural change after the disaster of December 7, 1941. Through repeated and regular cycles of learning, the Navy embraced rapid evolution, and after Pearl Harbor, it quickly changed from a centralized battleship fleet to a collection of mutually supporting carrier task forces. In doing so, by the end of World War II the US Navy had grown from a second-tier force to the most advanced and strongest naval force in the world. Yet, Hone contends, that change embodied more than size; it occurred because of the Navy’s ability to learn and innovate.” —CHOICE
  • “This is an important study that dramatically advances our understanding of innovation and the importance of non-technological factors, particularly the development of learning systems, in successful innovation. It will be of use to scholars of both innovation and the U.S. Navy, as well as those with a general interest in those subjects. It offers a valuable case study in successful, long-term innovation in a complex, bureaucratic setting.” —The Strategy Bridge
  • "Learning War provides a well-presented corrective to the many popular histories that portray the 1941 U.S. Navy as a conservative institution resistant to change." —The Journal of Military History
  • “A good read … [and] a technical journey into complexity science!” —The NAVY Magazine
  • “Trent Hone’s Learning War is not only an assessment of the time of Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S, Navy between 1898 - 1945, but also a good source for Relearning the ways of fighting naval wars in the 21th century.” —Deutsches Maritimes Kompetenz Netz
  • "This superb work is a breakthrough in our understanding of how the U.S. Navy developed professionally and managed high velocity technological change in the decades prior to its supreme test in World War II. It reflects deep research distilled into a fast paced narrative that explains how so much of the Navy’s overall outstanding performance in the war flowed from an institutional culture prepared to adapt and best apply new technology. This work has importance not just to historical understanding of the U.S. Navy in World War II, but also much more broadly to institutional cultures across the board." —Richard B. Frank, an internationally recognized Asia-Pacific War historian, is the author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire
  • "Trent Hone’s latest book fills a key gap in the literature about the modern U.S Navy. Building on his previous scholarship in articles and the book he co-authored with his father Tom (Battle Line, USNI 2007), Hone provides the thread of the evolution of the U.S. Navy’s doctrine for combat from the late 1800s to the end of World War II. The Navy revealed here was at the forefront of military institutions as a progressive, flexible, learning organization that enabled the Navy’s unrivaled successes during World War II in the crucible of war." —John T. Kuehn, Professor of Military History, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, author of America's First General Staff (USNI, 2017)
  • "In Learning War: The Evolution of Fighting Doctrine in the U.S. Navy, 1898-1945, Trent Hone’s primary focus is surface warfare, the way the navy’s battleships, cruisers and destroyers fought the Pacific War. Yet he also offers a sophisticated, multi-level analysis of just how the modern navy functioned as an institution and how its leaders learned to think, innovate and command. Highly recommended." —John B. Lundstrom, author of Black Shoe Carrier Admiral
  • “I loved this book! Hone brings a unique perspective to the study of the U.S. Navy’s triumph in WWII, exploring how sound decisions taken decades beforehand allowed the Navy to ferociously adapt itself to the crucible of mortal combat. This is a thorough, illuminating, yet engagingly written work—an impressive addition to the scholarship on the Pacific War.” —Jonathan Parshall, co-author, Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Trent Hone is an authority on the U.S. Navy of the early twentieth century and a leader in the application of complexity science to organizational design. He studied religion and archaeology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He works as a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, helping a variety of organizations improve their processes and techniques. Mr. Hone writes and speaks about tactical doctrine, organizational learning, and complexity.

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23 February - Seminar

Sat, 2019-02-23

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3 March - Lecture

Sun, 2019-03-03

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