Brown-, Green- and Blue-Water Fleets: The Influence of Geography on Naval Warfare, 1861 to the Present

By Gimblett, Richard H. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2003 | Go to article overview

Brown-, Green- and Blue-Water Fleets: The Influence of Geography on Naval Warfare, 1861 to the Present


Gimblett, Richard H., Naval War College Review


Lindberg, Michael, and Daniel Todd. Brown-, Green- and Blue-Water Fleets: The Influence of Geography on Naval Warfare, 1861 to the Present. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001. 242pp. $64.95

Given the subject, this book appropriately covers a lot of territory. It is more than a treatise on geography; Lindberg and Todd have managed to incorporate fairly substantial discussions on naval strategy, tactics, history, force structure, and ship construction. The central theme is that historical concepts of "distance" remain central to modern naval operations, leading to the hypothesis that "the navies with the longest reach-those with the greatest geographical power-projection capability-are in possession of not just the most sophisticated fleets but the most elaborate infrastructures to boot." In developing that idea, the authors provide a useful compendium of intellectual rigor to support the strategic prescriptions not only of the U.S. Navy's Forward . . . from the Sea but also of navies of all sizes, worldwide.

The authors progress from an introduction to the concept of time-distance as related to the maritime environment, comparing land versus sea warfare, to exploring historical case studies of naval warfare on the high seas, the littorals, and riverine warfare, before concluding with some thoughts on the influence of geography on navies. The theoretical background chapter is a generally solid overview of the works of Alfred Thayer Mahan and Julian Corbett, but it also discusses the often-overlooked Sir Haiford Mackinder. The historical examples comprise several such obvious scenarios as Gallipoli and Okinawa, as well as many lesser-known ones-for example, the Russo-Japanese War and the Falklands campaign. Riverine warfare was especially interesting, with the arrival of the review copy in time to read the section on the Mesopotamia campaign of the First World War just in advance of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Although necessarily slight, these case studies are far from shallow, drawing out the larger themes in often-novel ways.

In and of themselves, with a few exceptions, the authors' observations and discussions are hardly profound. However, the judicious combination and interplay of geography, history, and strategy lead to many quite compelling derivations. Prospective readers be warned, however: This is a dense book with tightly spaced pages and is definitely not for the novice.

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