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"Alfred Thayer Mahan: Advocate for Seapower" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2019 12:32 p.m. PST

"In 1865 the United States Navy mustered 700 ships (many of them iron clad and steam powered), mounting 5,000 cannon (many of those rifled, shell guns of the latest design), crewed by 6,700 officers and 51,000 men. In just five years 92.6 per cent of the fleet had been sold, scrapped or laid up. Only 52 ships mounting 500 guns remained in active commission. These, with a few notable exceptions, were crewed largely by the dregs of the waterfront for, as promotion and advancement opportunities stagnated, officers and enlisted personnel left the service in droves taking with them hard won battle experience and years of training. In this environment the eighteen knot USS Wampanoag[1] , first warship to employ super heated steam, was scrapped as congress mandated a return to sail in order to save money on coal. A post war, isolationist, defensive mentality exacerbated the rush to disarm. Costal fortifications were deemed less provocative and considerably less expensive than a credible blue water navy.

As the United States bound its wounds and gradually recovered from reconstruction the nation began to look outward again. Of the forty-eight contiguous states by 1896 all but the Indian Territories had been tamed and entered the Union. Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma followed shortly after the turn of the century. Having settled the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific people began to consider transcontinental acquisitions as a natural extension or continuation of "Manifest Destiny."[2] In addition to the social and moral factors at work, a resurgent and increasingly industrialized America faced the prospect of saturated domestic markets further fueling the desire for overseas expansion.[3] A renewed interest in foreign trade required a strong Navy to compete with Britain, France and Germany who were building empires in Africa, India and Asia through colonies and spheres of influence. Following the lean years of the 1870's, the government was naturally interested in stimulating the economy. The burgeoning steel and ship building industries also looked with favor on a revitalized Navy for obvious reasons. In this atmosphere policy makers began to question the traditional commerce raiding strategy of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. Increasingly they called for a fleet of capital ships, which could break any attempted blockade, prevent invasion and expand and protect American interests abroad. Modern warships required large capital investment at home and bases overseas to take on coal, replenish provisions and make repairs. Thus the requirements for a rejuvenated navy dovetailed neatly with an expanding economy, territorial acquisition and popular opinion…"
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Murvihill19 Oct 2019 6:33 a.m. PST

Mahan gets a lot of flak for the decisive battle theory but he was partially right. You can point to one naval battle in WW1 that was decisive and two or three in WW2. What he missed was the major slog of patrolling and minor operations that add up to major effect between the decisive battles.

Digby Green19 Oct 2019 11:23 a.m. PST

Would Mahan have agreed with the policy of letting German u-boats sink American ships in 1915 and 1916 with no retaliation?

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