Context/ Background: American historian born in 1939. Taught at US Naval Academy 1964-1968. Particularly interested in the development of US Naval aviation. Purpose is to document the history of the development of carrier naval aviation during WWII from Pearl Harbor through the final days of the war. The main theme of the book centered on the change in the navy philosophy from the battleship-oriented fight to the carrier-centric navy
Thesis: The change of the navy’s view from the battle line of the battleships to the carrier as the center of the navy’s combat force was hampered by those in leadership that clung to the notion of battleship supremacy. The carrier admirals were made up of a mix of early navy pilots and others that became pilots later (it gave them the opportunity to command a carrier). These two groups of naval aviators were able to persuade others in the navy through their arguments and their actions in WWII. Since the carriers were left after Pearl Harbor, they were provided some opportunity to prove the usefulness of the new weapon. They were firmly able to prove the role of the carrier during the push through the central Pacific and the island-hopping campaign. War in the Pacific=Navy. Europe =Army.
Implications for Strategy'
- Fast carriers achieved both components of strategy advocated by JC Wylie—operations were now sequential and cumulative. I.e. tactics & logistics allowed uninterrupted ops and the ability to continue pressing forward to keep the IJN on the retreat.
- Incorrect analysis of the Battle of the Philippine Sea and of Admiral Spruance due to over-embellishment of the Nelsonian meleeist (freer, gut feeling approach, contra to stylistic and formal) tradition. Contrary to Reynolds, the fast carriers were necessary but not sufficient to beat the IJN.
- View new technology as complementary, not revolutionary. Had the Navy viewed the carrier as a true revolution in warfare, they would have been unprepared for WWII in terms of training and operational procedures. Since the fast carrier was viewed as complementary, it was able to be slowly integrated into existing warfighting concepts. (For example, Halsey’s dash North at Leyte Gulf required support of the battleship (both TG72 and TF34) however Reynolds is quick to dismiss this fact because complementary ops do not reinforce Reynolds thesis. As a result of Halsey’s (ineptitude) desire for decisive battle, the main Japanese force escaped. The role was modified as the war progressed and aircraft carriers were viewed as the dominant “capital ship” of the conflict.
- When developing lessons learned, do so in an impartial and unbiased manner (unlike Reynolds). A/C detection was essential to respond quickly and correctly. Rdr and Radio created a C2 system that gave the US an edge. Logistic and resupply of the carriers was also essential to maintain a constant presence and mobility.
- Loosing the Philippines JP lost the war; oil, rubber gasoline were cut off.
- JP led the carrier and A/C development, but didn’t move on sufficiently from there and were “overrun”
- Carriers acts as strategic enabler, enabling to sail by island and project power from the floating airstrip. Forced a two front war against the JP; on sea (carriers and A/C=strategic effect) and land (McArthur’s army)
- Navy looked at the island hopping in a sequential approach, AirF saw it cumulative (bombing into submission)
(Winning smaller battles, sequential, can sometimes lead to loss totally/cumulative. More like Vietnam; won every battle lost the war (means becomes the end). ENG lost many battle in WWII (Dunkirk…) but the Allied won in the end)).