Academic journal article Naval War College Review

THE QUIET WARRIOR BACK IN NEWPORT: Admiral Spruance, the Return to the Naval War College, and the Lessons of the Pacific War, 1946-1947

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

THE QUIET WARRIOR BACK IN NEWPORT: Admiral Spruance, the Return to the Naval War College, and the Lessons of the Pacific War, 1946-1947

Article excerpt

War is about wreckage.Consequently, postwar periods tend to be about reconstruction, and that phenomenon is what this article is about. It sets the scene for a larger exploration (the subject of projected sequels to the recent book fromwhich this article is adapted) of howa military-academic institution -the NavalWar College, in Newport, Rhode Island-attempted to readjust to a peacetime period that entailed simultaneously the start of a new type of conflict for the United States (the ColdWar) and with a revolutionary new weapon (the atomic bomb). While the Cold War and the Atomic Age were revolutionary in many respects, at their outset the staff, instructors, guest lecturers, and students at the Naval War College did not automatically or necessarily think so. To a great degree, Americanmilitary officers in the immediate postwar period, while acknowledging that atomic energy weapons and "war during peace" were earth-shattering in one sense, fell back on fairly traditional strategic, operational, and tactical concepts for meeting these new challenges.1

The College was reconstituted after its reduced wartime status on a full-time basis under the presidency of Admiral Raymond Spruance and was charged with the strategic reformulation of American naval policy for this atomic and ColdWar context. Some of these reforms began before the war even ended;Vice AdmiralWilliam Pye, its wartime President, had called for an expanded institution capable of teaching a tenfold increase in officers by means of a three-tiered educational structure consisting of a Command and Staff course, theWar College course, and an Advanced course. Pye remained until March 1946, presiding over six-month courses that had become the order of the day during the war and beginning preparations for returning to a full, two-year program. In addition, by the time the war ended the NavalWar College had started to consider joint service education for officers from the other services as well as personnel from the State Department.2

The real change came,however,whenAdmiral Spruance became President in March 1946. Spruance not only brought his command experience from the Pacific War and his three previous tours at the College but intimately understood how radically different the Navy's responsibilities would be in the postwar period. These responsibilities would require a NavalWar College that would foster intra- aswell as inter-service and even interdepartmental cooperation.They also meant a College whose curriculum took logistics into account. Spruance was convinced that the study of logistics as an aspect of modern naval warfare was being seriously neglected. In Captain Henry Eccles, who would become the chairman of the College's Department of Logistics by 1947, the admiral found an officer who believed as strongly as he that logistics had to be studied alongside strategy, operations, and tactics.3

Spruance was also a student ofmilitary history, as can be seen in the establishment of theWorldWar II Battle Evaluation Group in 1946. Under Commodore (later Captain and then Rear Admiral) Richard Bates, the Battle Evaluation Group was to study the recent war and derive lessons for use by officers seeking to improve their professional judgment. By 1950, Bates's team had produced studies on the battles of Coral Sea,Midway, and Savo Island; it was working on a multivolume work on the battle of Leyte Gulf when in 1958 it was disestablished for lack of funds. Related to these changes, Spruance replaced the College's "Sound Military Decision" format (so named for a 1937 booklet issued by the College under Rear Admiral Edward C.Kalbfus) withwhat he called the "Operational Planning Model." This approach produced a much simpler, more standardized Navy-wide process for estimating operational situations and formatting orders.4

As noted above, the radically changing situation in which theU.S.Navy might have to face off against the Soviet Union in a possible atomic-warfare environment was the reason that Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations, wanted Spruance as the new President of the Naval War College. …

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