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.
victory or defeat; and therefore, for any country, the material, personnel and operations it should employ.  Naturally the results obtained are not quite so convincing as those of actual war or battle; but they are more convincing than can be attained in any other way, as yet devised, especially as many of the operations of the game-board that turn out well in games are tried out afterward by the fleet in peace maneuvers.  War games and problems may be compared to the drawings that an architect makes of a house which some one wants to build; the plans and drawings are not so realistic as a real house, but they are better than anything else; and, like the war games, they can be altered and realtered until the best result seems to have been attained, considering the amount of money allowed and other practical conditions.

The idea of devising war games and war problems seems to have originated with Von Moltke; certainly it was first put in practice by his direction.  Shortly after he became chief of the General Staff of the Prussian army in 1857, he set to work to carry out the ideas which he had had in mind for several years, while occupying minor posts, but which he had not had the power to enforce.  It seems to have become clear to his mind that, if a chess-player acquired skill, not only by playing actual games and by studying actual games played by masters, but also by working out hypothetical chess problems, it ought to be possible to devise a system whereby army officers could supplement their necessarily meagre experience of actual war, and their necessarily limited opportunities for studying with full knowledge the actual campaigns of great strategists, by working out hypothetical, tactical, and strategic problems.  Von Moltke succeeded in devising such a system and in putting it into successful operation.  Hypothetical problems were prepared, in which enemy forces were confronted with each other under given circumstances of weather, terrain, and distances, each force with its objective known only to itself:  for instance, you are in command of such and such a force at such and such a place; you have received orders to accomplish such and such a purpose; you receive information that the enemy, comprising such and such troops, was at a certain time at a certain place, and marching in a certain direction.  What do you do?

Classes of army officers were formed, and compelled to work out the problems exactly as boys at school were compelled to work out problems in arithmetic.  The skill of individual officers in solving the problems was noted and recorded; and the problems themselves, as time went on and experience was gained, were made more and more to conform to probable situations in future wars with Austria, France, and other countries, actual maps being used, and the exact nature and magnitude of every factor in each problem being precisely stated.

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