The Navy as a Fighting Machine eBook

Bradley Fiske
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 308 pages of information about The Navy as a Fighting Machine.
maneuvers without accident or mistake?  Can we really believe that they take no part and feel no pride in those magnificent pageants on the ocean?  From the earliest times, men have personified ships, calling a ship “he” or “she,” and giving ships the names of people, and of states; and is not a ship with its crew a living thing, as much as the body of a man?  The body of a man is in part composed of bones and muscles, and other parts, as truly things of matter as are the hull and engines of a ship.  It is only the spirit of life that makes a man alive, and permits the members of his body, like the members of a ship, to perform their appointed tasks.

But even if this notion seems fanciful and absurd, we must admit that as surely as the mind and brain and nerves and the material elements of a man must be designed and made to work in harmony together, so surely must all the parts of any ship, and all the parts of any navy, parts of material and parts of personnel, be designed and made to work in harmony together; obedient to the controlling mind, and sympathetically indoctrinated with the wish and the will to do as that mind desires.



John Clerk, of Eldin, Scotland, never went to sea, and yet he devised a scheme of naval tactics, by following which the British Admiral Rodney gained his victory over the French fleet between Dominica and Guadeloupe in April, 1782.  Clerk devised his system by the simple plan of thinking intently about naval actions in the large, disregarding such details as guns, rigging, masts, and weather, and concentrating on the movements of the fleets themselves, and the doings of the units of which those fleets were made.  He assisted his mental processes by little models of ships, which he carried in his pockets, and which he could, and did, arrange on any convenient table, when he desired to study a problem, or to make a convert.

He was enabled by this simple and inexpensive device to see the special problems of fleet tactics more clearly than he could have done by observing battles on board of any ships; for his attention in the ships would have been distracted by the exciting events occurring, by the noise and danger, and by the impossibility of seeing the whole because of the nearness of some of the parts.  The amazing result was that he formed a clearer concept of naval tactics than any admiral of his time, finally overcame the natural prejudice of the British navy, and actually induced Rodney to stake on the suggestion of a non-military civilian his own reputation and the issue of a great sea fight.  Furthermore, the issue was crowned with success.

Nothing could be simpler than Clerk’s method.  It was, of course, applied to tactics, but similar methods are now applied to strategy; for strategy and tactics, as already pointed out, are based on similar principles, and differ mainly in the fact that strategy is larger, covers more space, occupies more time, and involves a greater number of quantities.

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The Navy as a Fighting Machine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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