The Navy as a Fighting Machine eBook

Bradley Fiske
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 353 pages of information about The Navy as a Fighting Machine.

In discussing the operations of war, little is usually said of courage.  The reason, however, is not that its value is unrecognized, but that its existence is assumed; in the same way as that in which all the other faculties among the men are assumed, such as physical health, ability to march, etc.  Movements to inspire fear, however, actions to break down the morale, are of frequent use; because, if the morale of the opposing side is broken down, its power of resistance is destroyed.

In the operations, therefore, of two contending parties, force is opposed by force.  If the forces on both sides could be concentrated at a single point, and exerted in opposite directions, the result would be decided in an instant.  Such an arrangement has never yet been brought about; though fairly close approximations have been made, when two parties have selected two champions who have fought for them—­the victory going by agreement to the side whose champion became the victor.

Barring such rare occasions, contests in war have usually been between two forces spread over considerable areas of land or water; and the contest has usually been decided by the defeat of one of the two.  If in any individual combat, all the forces possessed by both sides had been engaged, and if either force had been annihilated, the entire war between the two parties would have been decided.  This was nearly the case in the naval battle off Tsushima between the Russian and Japanese fleets—­and the treaty of peace was signed soon after.  Usually, however, neither party to the quarrel has had all its forces on the field in any one battle, and neither force in the battle has been annihilated.  Usually, only partial forces have been engaged, and only partial victories have been won; with the result that wars between contending nations have usually consisted of a series of battles, with intervals of rest between.

If two opposing forces in any battle were exactly equal in fighting power, neither side in any battle would gain a victory, the two sides would inflict identical amounts of damage on each other, and the two sides would end the battle still equal in force.  At rare intervals, such conditions have been approximated; but usually one side has had more fighting power than the other, and has inflicted more damage of various kinds than it has received, with the result that it attained an advantage more or less important over the other, and with the further result that the original disproportion between the two forces was increased.  The increase may not necessarily have been due to a greater number of killed and wounded or even to a greater loss of material, such as guns or ships; there may have been no increase in inequality in either of these ways, for the increase in inequality may have consisted in the fact that the weaker force was driven to a position less advantageous to it for conducting operations in the future.  But whatever the nature of the advantage gained by the stronger side, the result has been that the weaker side has come out of the battle relatively weaker than it was before.

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