Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XXVII Preparations for War

IN June, 1897, Mahan celebrated his silver wedding anniversary and a letter to his sister on that occasion reveals how happy his married life had been.

It is certainly something . . . rare, not only to have had twenty-five years of happiness, but to feel that the end is better than the beginning; that although youth is gone, at no time have things been so entirely well with us. For myself at least the indisposition to live my life over again is not from dissatisfaction with the past but from pure enjoyment of the present. . . . Do you know I am to be LL.D. 'd by Yale on the 30th?

With this degree Mahan had in the space of three years received distinguished recognition from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale.

As Mahan matured his theories of sea power, he became more and more interested in applying them to his own country. In "Preparedness for Naval War," an article published in Harper's in 1897, he argued that we were "to all intents an insular power, like Great Britain." Consequently every "danger of a military character to which the United States is exposed can be met best outside her own territory at sea." Preparedness for naval war he defined as "preparedness against naval attack and for naval offence-- preparedness for anything that is likely to occur." Descending to details, he thought coast defense required both guns and mine fields, to which he would have added in the more important ports "a local flotilla of small torpedo boats, which by their activity should make life a burden to an outside enemy." The offensive would be the function of the sea-going Navy--of the battleships, cruisers, and torpedo vessels, capable of accompanying a fleet without

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