Category Archives: History

Naval and maritime history section.

A History of the Philippine Navy in the Korean War (1950-1953)

By CMDR Mark R. Condeno, Philippine Coast Guard

Introduction

On Sunday June 25, 1950, the existence of the Republic of Korea as a democratic nation was shattered when armored and infantry elements of the North Korean People’s Army crossed the border into Seoul. The surprise attack caught the Republic of Korea Armed Forces off guard who lacked the equipment to withstand a massive communist invasion.

On that same day, the United Nations Security Council Resolution Number 82 was enacted which called for the immediate withdrawal of the belligerent forces. After it went unheeded this prompted the world body to pass UNSC Resolution number 83 calling on member countries to support militarily the ROK in deterring communist aggression.

Although having its own counterinsurgency problem, the Philippines became the first Southeast Asian country to deploy troops in support of the UN cause and the Third member of the UN Body to do so. On September 7, 1950, President Elpidio Rivera Quirino announced the historic decision of the deployment of Filipino Soldiers to the embattled republic. It fulfilled the country’s obligation as a member and signatory of the United Nations and the interest of combating the spread of communism in the Asia-Pacific region.

Unknown to many, the Philippine Navy (PN) would actively participate in the Korean conflict. The five Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) of the Service Squadron of the Philippine Navy, namely RPS Cotabato (T-36), RPS Pampanga (T-37), RPS Bulacan (T-38), RPS Albay (T-39), and RPS Misamis Oriental (T-40) would serve as the workhorse in transporting Filipino soldiers to and from Korea for five years. Another great significance for the service was the assignment of two Filipino naval officers at the Philippine Liaison Group-United Nations Command in Tokyo, Japan.

BRP ALBAY (LT-39) Ferried troops of the Philippine Army’s 19th and 14th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) to and from Korea from 1953 to 1954. She is skippered by LTSG JOSE ORDONEZ PN. (Photo by Richard Leonhardt, courtesy Navsource.org)

This paper seeks to provide a summary of the Philippine Navy’s role and exploits during the Forgotten War and the naval legacy that was fortified between the two navies after the conflict.

The Philippine Navy in 1950

Five years after the end of the Second World War saw the reestablishment of the offshore patrol  (OSP). The swarm of former OSP personnel-turned-guerillas were eager to re-join their mother unit. A modest rearmament of the service followed as surplus naval vessels from the United States found its way to the OSP fleet in the form of patrol craft escorts (PCE), submarine chasers (SCs), patrol craft (PC), minesweepers (AM), and landing ship tanks (LSTs).

During that period the order of battle of the Philippine Naval Patrol (PNP) under Commodore Jose Francisco AFP (USNA ’31) comprised of the following: The fleet minesweeper and flagship RPS Apo (PS 21) which also served as the Presidential Yacht in which President Quirino and his cabinet met during the opening days of the Korean conflict. The Patrol Force under LCDR Heracleo Alano PN (PMA ’40) is composed of RPS Cebu (PS 28), Negros Occidental (PS29), Leyte (PS 30), Pangasinan (PS 31), IloIlo (PS32). The rest of the fleet is made up of 16 submarine chasers, six survey vessels, two landing craft infantry (LCI), one rescue tug, and six auxiliary ships.

Departure for Korea

Eight days after the signing of Republic Act 573 “Philippine Military Aid to the United Nations Act” by then President Elpidio R Quirino, the whole element of the 10th Battalion Combat Team boarded the U.S. naval transport USNS SGT Sylvester J. Antolak (T-AP-192) for a four-day voyage to the Korean peninsula. She was escorted from the vicinity of Corregidor Island up to the outskirts of the South China Sea by RPS Negros Oriental (PS 26) and RPS Capiz (PS 27). The battalion would be the first of the five BCTs, namely the 20th, 19th, 14th and 2nd to immortalize the Filipino soldiers gallantry and courage on the field of battle. Each Battalion would serve for about a year in Korea with the last troops leaving for Manila in 1955.

USNS SGT Sylvester J Antolak (T-APA-192)- Brought in to the Korean Theater of Operations the First contingent of 1,303 Filipino Troops (Army, Air Force and Navy) of the 10th BCT, Philippine Army arriving at the Port of Pusan on 19 September 1950 after 4 days of voyage from the Port of Manila.

The combat service support operations of the Navy would begin with the homecoming of the 10th BCT in April 1951 aboard RPS Cotabato and the departure and return to and from Korea of the 20th, 19th, and 14th BCT’s. The 2nd BCT would have the distinction of being ferried to and from Korea aboard U.S. naval vessels.

Early Philippine-Korean Naval Relationship

Quite unknown from the early days of the ROK and the formation of the Korean Naval Defense Corps to the Korean Coast Guard (later becoming the Republic of Korea Navy), Filipino naval officers played a pivotal role as it brought in the first ships of the KCG to Korea from Subic Bay Naval Base. It was in August 1947 that then LTSG Ramon A. Alcaraz, PN (PMA ’40) was designated as head of mission to ferry former U.S. and British Royal Navy auxiliary motor minesweepers that would form the backbone of the Korean Fleet, where their ports of destination were 3 of the 7 ROK Naval bases namely Chinhae, Busan, and Seoul.

Another notable skipper of one of the ships to be transferred is LT Dioscoro E. Papa, PN (the Second Commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard). Later on at the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, now Commander Ramon A. Alcaraz would be the service squadron skipper of the five LSTs that served as the mainstay of the fleet in ferrying troops of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) Battalion Combat Teams.

A Naval Officer in the Battle of Yuldong

On April 22-23, 1951 during the Chinese communist spring offensive which could have ended the conflict, Filipino soldiers, airmen, and sailors demonstrated prowess on the battlefield in the greatest defensive operation etched in the annals of Philippine military history. Although outnumbered 10 to 1, the 900 strong 10th BCT withstood a massive attack of the Chinese 12th Army at Yultong Ridge, known today as the Battle of Yultong (Yuldong).

Emilio S Liwanag- Then-LCDR Emilio S. Liwanag PN was attached to the 10th BCT as Supply Officer and later designated as Senior Naval Advisor to the Philippine Representative Mission in Korea. He is shown here as a Captain during the SEATO Naval Exercises as Exercise Director (Photo Courtesy, N-3, Headquarters Philippine Navy from Capt Liwanag’s AGO Card).

A notable naval role was the presence of then LCDR Emilio S. Liwanag, PN (PMA ’38) as the logistics and artillery officer of the 10TH BCT who commanded a battery of 105mm howitzers during the battle. LCDR Liwanag was a graduate of the Advanced Infantry Gunnery Course at Fort William Mckinley in 1950 days prior to his deployment to Korea. Early on, as a logistics officer LCDR Liwanag was also responsible in securing from an American depot a squadron of U.S. made M24 Chafee light tanks and heavy weapons for the tenth’s reconnaissance and heavy weapons company.

The Sea Voyage Rough Seas, Storms, and Typhoons

On the evening of September 30, 1951 the last elements of the 10th BCT would depart the port of Busan aboard RPS Cotabato under LCDR Florentino Buenaventura, PN, on a 2,400 kilometer voyage by way of Japan (as the LST would undergo four days of repair and provisioning at Yokusuka Naval Base). Upon reaching open seas they would encounter heavy gales and the ship’s entire complement mercilessly fought the waves for hours. As furious waves became stronger they sought refuge at Kagoshima Bay. On October 23, 1951 RPS Cotabato escorted by a pair of submarine chasers that entered Manila Bay with a tumultuous welcome from surrounding ships, a flyby from a formation of P-51 Mustangs of the PAF, and a jubilant crowd.

In September 1951 both RPS Cotabato and RPS Pampanga under CDR Tomas C. Robenul, PN would again undertake the task of bringing the second Filipino battalion the 20th BCT under Col. Salvador Abcede to the Korean theater of operations. A year later, the return voyage of the first batch (Albay) and second batch (Misamis Oriental skippered by LTJG Pablo Pascua, PN) of the 20th BCT would again be hampered by a tropical storm off Northern Luzon but the ships would go unscathed with the skillful maneuvering of the vessels officers and crew. A warm welcome and a jovial parade would again be received by the troops and sailors as they approached Manila’s Pier 7.

BRP MISAMIS ORIENTAL (LT-40) Brought home troops of the 20th Battalion Combat Team. (Photo Courtesy Navsource.org).

On March 1953 RPS Bulacan under CDR Tandiko Centi, PN – the First Filipino Muslim naval officer and LTSG Jose Ordonez, PN of RPS Albay –  lifted anchor at South Harbor. Aboard the two ships was the fourth Filipino contingent to the UN Command, the famed 14th BCT also known as the Avengers, a veteran unit of the HUK campaign. Based on the book These are your Boys by the battalion itself, the passage was eventful with film showing singing and guitar playing among the soldiers and sailors and the chow line serving Paksiw (fish cooked and simmered in vinegar with garlic, salt and spices) and Sinigang na Bangus (stewed milkfish in tamarind broth).

From a 14th BCT veteran’s account the expedition to Korea was cut short as an essential stopover was made at Poro Point, La Union to repair and replace a part of the one of the ships engine. With these developments adding some free time sports competitions were held between the townsfolk and sailors stationed at the naval base with the PEFTOK troops emerging as winners. Four days later, the ships hauled anchor and again encountered rough and heavy waves often bigger than the ships seen at the Balintang channel, the crossroads of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

Twelve days after departing Manila, the Albay and Bulacan dropped anchor at the Port of Busan, although prior to entering harbor the troops and allied naval ships observed the proficiency of Filipino ships and sailors as anti-aircraft and anti-submarine drills were practiced with U.S. Navy counterparts involving one of their submarines which surfaced beside RPS Albay.

The combat service support and escort operations of the Philippine Navy during the Korean War

Prior to debarkation, the Avengers thanked the ships officers and crew along with CDR Octavio Posadas, PN (N4) who handled the administrative and logistical matters in support of the Philippine contingent.

Philippine-Liaison Group United Nations Command, Tokyo, Japan

CDRE Santiago C Nuval AFP- Then Commander Santiago C Nuval was the head of the Philippine-UN Mission in Tokyo, Japan. He later became the Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy. (Photo Courtesy N-3, Headquarters Philippine Navy)

As mentioned earlier, after his stint with the 10th BCT, CDR Emilio S. Liwanag, PN would serve as the Assistant Commander of the Philippine mission to the United Nations Command in Tokyo, Japan instead of CDR Santiago C. Nuval, PN (PMA ’38 and a future PN FOIC) as head of the mission. The veterans recall the massive support of the two officers to Filipino troops while in Japan. CDR Liwanag was also the senior naval advisor to the Philippine diplomatic mission in Korea which would earn him the U.S. Legion of Merit for valuable logistical assistance to Filipino troops in the Korean conflict.

Naval Legacy Braced by War

The LSTs mentioned were originally built from 1942-34 and eventually transferred to the Philippines in 1948 and would have a long career. They would again answer the call to arms with the deployment of Filipino troops during the Vietnam War. RPS Cotabato (a veteran of the 1944 Normandy landings) and RPS Pampanga were decommissioned in early 1978, while RPS Albay, Bulacan and Misamis Oriental were mothballed in 1979. The escort ship RPS Negros Oriental was transferred in 1948 and was sunk during a Typhoon at Guam in 1962. On the other hand, RPS Capiz was stricken from the Fleet list in 1979. The Flagship RPS Apo was acquired in July 1948 and would undergo several name changes as well as refits and served as a command ship into the 1960s. It was re-classified as a corvette of the Miguel Malvar class and eventually retired from the service in 1970.  

RPS Capiz- 15 September 1950 Escorting USNS SGT Sylvester J Antolak (T-AP-192) carrying troops of the Philippine Army’s 10th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) to Korea. She is one of the 16 Submarine Chasers then in service with the Philippine Navy (Photo Courtesy of the late 1LT Faustino Tumamak PA (Ret) 10TH BCT).

24 years after the conflict, the Philippine Fleet would receive the ROKS Kyong Ki (DE-71) and ROKS Kang Won (DE-72) in 1977. The former was the ex-USS Sutton (DE-771) while the latter was the ex-USS Muir (DE- 770). The ships were of the Cannon-class destroyer escort type in which at that period the PN has three in its inventory, namely RPS Datu Kalantiaw (PS-76), RPS Rajah Humabon (PF-6), and RPS Datu Sikatuna (PF-5).

Regrettably, the Kyong Ki and Kang Won were never commissioned but were utilized as sources for spare parts for the three active units. Almost 20 years later another milestone in Philippine-Korea Naval relations occurred as 12 Haeksang and Chamsuri-class patrol craft were sold to the Philippine Navy at a friendship price as the Republic of Korea valued the splendid bilateral relations between the two countries that begun in 1949.

The Haeksang (Conrado Yap) and the Chamsuri (Tomas Batilo) class patrol craft entered the fleet in 1993 and 1995, respectively. These ships were acquired during the incumbency of then President Fidel Valdez Ramos, himself a Korean War veteran and reconnaissance platoon leader who captured Hill Eerie on May 21, 1952 against Chinese communist forces.

12 of the Haeksang and eight of the Chamsuri were transferred during those years and through the recommendation from the Philippine Navy to President Ramos on June 24, 1995 presidential approval was granted to name them after Filipino Korean War heroes and veterans, in which the lead ships were named after Captain Conrado D. Yap, PA and then 1LT Tomas G. Batilo, both of the 10th BCT PEFTOK.

The other units of both classes were named after the PEFTOK BCT Commanders, NCOs, and enlisted personnel who sacrificed their lives during the Korean conflict in the name of freedom and democracy.

Three years ago in 2015, the ROK Navy transferred the landing craft utility (LCU) ROKS Mulgae and announced the prior year what would be the second largest naval vessel allocation in terms of size and tonnage from the ROKN to the Philippine Navy in the handover of a Flight III Pohang-class corvette (Ex-ROKS Chung-Ju PCC-762).

Conclusion

Although none of the LSTs and submarine chasers were directly engaged in action around Korean waters, the invaluable role of their combat service support and escort operations along with the naval exercises conducted with allied navies in theater enabled the Philippine Navy to hone its tactics in the various aspects of naval warfare and contribute to the mission. The Navy’s mission enabled the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) troops to accomplish and succeed its its mission in upholding democracy against communism and maintaining the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea.

CDR Mark R. Condeno is the Liaison Officer, Foreign Armed Forces Attache Corps, International Affairs Directorate. He was briefly the Research Officer of the Office of the Naval Historian, Philippine Navy in 2007 and Projects Officer of the Maritime Historical Branch of the Fleet-Marine Warfare Center, Philippine Navy. He holds a BS Degree in Architecture from Palawan State University. He is a 1997 Graduate of the Basic Naval Reserve Officers Training Course, Philippine Navy and with the Bravo Class of 1999 Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary Officer’s Indoctrination Course. He also took up the Aerospace Power Course from the Air University, United States Air Force in 2002. He is a longtime member of CIMSEC and published “Navies for Achipelago Nations” for CIMSEC’s 2013 Maritime Futures Project.

References

1. The Fighting Tenth by Major Mariano Manawis
2. These are your boys by the 14th BCT (PEFTOK)
3. Notes on the Korean War by the author
4. Veteran accounts as related to the author
5. Jane’s Fighting Ships 1981-82
6. Conway’s All the Worlds Fighting Ships 1947-1995
7. Newspapers from the 50’s detailing the deployment and return of Filipino Soldiers to and from Korea.
8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_S._Liwanag (Accessed 17 October 2013)

Featured Image: T 36 10th BCT- October 1951- Troops of the 10th BCT aboard RPS Cotabato (T-36) bound for Manila. (Photo Courtesy of the late 1LT Faustino Tumamak PA (Ret) 10TH BCT).

Teaching Maritime History – A Suggested Reading List

By Christopher Nelson

At the end of our discussion about the Eighteenth-Century British Royal Navy and her new book, Disciplining the Empire, I asked Professor Kinkel what books she would teach in a graduate level course on maritime history. She kindly provided me a draft syllabus of the books that she would have her students read. 

There are some fascinating titles to add to your reading list. A short description from the publisher follows each book.

From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (and Beyond)

Carlo M. Cipolla, Guns, Sails and Empires: Technological Innovation and the Early Phases of European Expansion, 1400-1700 (New York: Sunflower Univ. Press, 1966)

“Guns, Sails and Empires is that rarity among works of history: a short book with a simple, powerful thesis that the entire book is devoted to proving. Carlo Cipolla begins with the question, “Why, after the end of the fifteenth century were the Europeans able not only to force their way through to the distant Spice Islands but also to gain control of all the major sea-routes and to establish overseas empires.” (Amazon)

Richard T. Rapp, “The Unmaking of the Mediterranean Trade Hegemony: International Trade Rivalry and the Commercial Revolution,” Journal of Economic History, 35.3 (1975): 499–525

“The shift in the locus of European trade from the markets of the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic overthrew a centuries old pattern of commerce and established the basis for the predominant role of North Atlantic Europe in the era of industrialization. While the expression “commercial revolution” no longer has quite the currency that it once enjoyed, students of the early modern economy have not been negligent about trying to understand the causes of the commercial shift. The impact of entrepreneurship and Weltanschauung, capital accumulation, technical innovation in shipping and industry, and the economic and political organization of nation-states have all received attention from students of the age.” (Cambridge/Journal of Economic History)

Herman Van Der Wee, “Structural Changes in European Long-Distance Trade, and Particularly in the Re-Export Trade from South to North, 1350–1750,” in The Rise of Merchant Empires: Long-distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350–1750, ed. James D. Tracy (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 14–33

“European dominance of the shipping lanes in the early modern period was a prelude to the great age of European imperial power in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet in the present age we can see that the pre-imperial age was in fact more an ‘age of partnership’ or an ‘age of competition’ when the West and Asia vied on even terms. The essays in this volume examine, on a global basis, the many different trading empires from the end of the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.” (Amazon)

Commodities and Trade

Molly Warsh, American Baroque: Pearls and the Nature of Empire, 1492–1700 (Omohundro Institute, 2018)

“Pearls have enthralled global consumers since antiquity, and the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella explicitly charged Columbus with finding pearls, as well as gold and silver, when he sailed westward in 1492. American Baroque charts Spain’s exploitation of Caribbean pearl fisheries to trace the genesis of its maritime empire. In the 1500s, licit and illicit trade in the jewel gave rise to global networks, connecting the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean to the pearl-producing regions of the Chesapeake and northern Europe.

Pearls—a unique source of wealth because of their renewable, fungible, and portable nature—defied easy categorization. Their value was highly subjective and determined more by the individuals, free and enslaved, who produced, carried, traded, wore, and painted them than by imperial decrees and tax-related assessments. The irregular baroque pearl, often transformed by the imagination of a skilled artisan into a fantastical jewel, embodied this subjective appeal. Warsh blends environmental, social, and cultural history to construct microhistories of peoples’ wide-ranging engagement with this deceptively simple jewel. Pearls facilitated imperial fantasy and personal ambition, adorned the wardrobes of monarchs and financed their wars, and played a crucial part in the survival strategies of diverse people of humble means. These stories, taken together, uncover early modern conceptions of wealth, from the hardscrabble shores of Caribbean islands to the lavish rooms of Mediterranean palaces.” (Amazon)

Nuala Zahedieh, The Capital and the Colonies: London and the Atlantic Economy, 1660–1700 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010)

“Between 1660 and 1700, London established itself as the capital and commercial hub of a thriving Atlantic empire, accounting for three quarters of the nation’s colonial trade, and playing a vital coordinating role in an increasingly coherent Atlantic system. Nuala Zahedieh’s unique study provides the first detailed picture of how that mercantile system was made to work. By identifying the leading colonial merchants, she shows through their collective experiences how London developed the capabilities to compete with its continental rivals and ensure compliance with the Navigation Acts. Zahedieh shows that in making mercantilism work, Londoners helped to create the conditions which underpinned the long period of structural change and economic growth which culminated in the Industrial Revolution.” (Amazon)

Patrick O’Brien, “European Economic Development: The Contribution of the Periphery,”Economic History Review, 35.1 (1982): 1–18

“Economic history has enjoyed a revival in the study of development. Provocative interpretations of the course and causes of long-term growth continue to emerge from the writings of Immanuel Wallerstein, Gunder Frank and Samir Amin. While the basic purpose of their research is to explore the origins of underdevelopment, their commitment to a ‘global perspective’ has led them into wide ranging excursions into the economic history of Western Europe because, to quote Wallerstein, ‘Neither the development nor underdevelopment of any specific territorial unit can be analyzed or interpreted without fitting it into the cyclical rhythms and secular trends of the world economy as a whole.'”

People at Sea

Kris Lane, Pillaging the Empire: Global Piracy on the High Seas, 1500–1750, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016)

“Between 1500 and 1750, European expansion and global interaction produced vast wealth. As goods traveled by ship along new global trade routes, piracy also flourished on the world’s seas. Pillaging the Empire tells the fascinating story of maritime predation in this period, including the perspectives of both pirates and their victims. Brushing aside the romantic legends of piracy, Kris Lane pays careful attention to the varied circumstances and motives that led to the rise of this bloodthirsty pursuit of riches, and places the history of piracy in the context of early modern empire building.

This second edition of Pillaging the Empire has been revised and expanded to incorporate the latest scholarship on piracy, maritime law, and early modern state formation. With a new chapter on piracy in East and Southeast Asia, Lane considers piracy as a global phenomenon. Filled with colorful details and stories of individual pirates from Francis Drake to the women pirates Ann Bonny and Mary Read, this engaging narrative will be of interest to all those studying the history of Latin America, the Atlantic world, and the global empires of the early modern era.” (Amazon)

Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700–1750, 2nd ed. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989)

“The common seaman and the pirate in the age of sail are romantic historical figures who occupy a special place in the popular culture of the modern age. And yet in many ways, these daring men remain little known to us. Like most other poor working people of the past, they left few first-hand accounts of their lives. But their lives are not beyond recovery. In this book, Marcus Rediker uses a huge array of historical sources (court records, diaries, travel accounts, and many others) to reconstruct the social cultural world of the Anglo-American seamen and pirates who sailed the seas in the first half of the eighteenth century. Rediker tours the sailor’s North Atlantic, following seamen and their ships along the pulsing routes of trade and into rowdy port towns. He recreates life along the waterfront, where seafaring men from around the world crowded into the sailortown and its brothels, alehouses, street brawls, and city jail.

His study explores the natural terror that inevitably shaped the existence of those who plied the forbidding oceans of the globe in small, brittle wooden vessels. It also treats the man-made terror–the harsh discipline, brutal floggings, and grisly hangings–that was a central fact of life at sea. Rediker surveys the commonplaces of the maritime world: the monotonous rounds of daily labor, the negotiations of wage contracts, and the bawdy singing, dancing, and tale telling that were a part of every voyage. He also analyzes the dramatic moments of the sailor’s existence, as Jack Tar battled wind and water during a slashing storm, as he stood by his “brother tars” in a mutiny or a strike, and as he risked his neck by joining a band of outlaws beneath the Jolly Roger, the notorious pirate flag. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea focuses upon the seaman’s experience in order to illuminate larger historical issues such as the rise of capitalism, the genesis the free wage labor, and the growth of an international working class. These epic themes were intimately bound up with everyday hopes and fears of the common seamen.” (Amazon)

Sowande M. Mustakeem, Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2016)

“Most times left solely within the confine of plantation narratives, slavery was far from a land-based phenomenon. This book reveals for the first time how it took critical shape at sea. Expanding the gaze even more widely, the book centers on how the oceanic transport of human cargoes–known as the infamous Middle Passage–comprised a violently regulated process foundational to the institution of bondage. Sowande’ Mustakeem’s groundbreaking study goes inside the Atlantic slave trade to explore the social conditions and human costs embedded in the world of maritime slavery. Mining ship logs, records and personal documents, Mustakeem teases out the social histories produced between those on traveling ships: slaves, captains, sailors, and surgeons. As she shows, crewmen manufactured captives through enforced dependency, relentless cycles of physical, psychological terror, and pain that led to the making–and unmaking–of enslaved Africans held and transported onboard slave ships. Mustakeem relates how this process, and related power struggles, played out not just for adult men, but also for women, children, teens, infants, nursing mothers, the elderly, diseased, ailing, and dying. As she does so, she offers provocative new insights into how gender, health, age, illness, and medical treatment intersected with trauma and violence transformed human beings into the most commercially sought commodity for over four centuries.”

Dean King and John B. Hattendorf, eds. Every Man Will Do His Duty: An Anthology of Firsthand Accounts from the Age of Nelson (Henry Holt, 1997)

“The history of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars comes alive through letters, diaries, official chronicles, accounts of life at sea, and eyewitness descriptions of great sea battles, such as Cape St. Vincent and Trafalgar, the death of Nelson, and more.” (Amazon)

A Maritime World

Andrew Lipman, The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast (Yale Univ. Press, 2015)

“Andrew Lipman’s eye-opening first book is the previously untold story of how the ocean became a “frontier” between colonists and Indians. When the English and Dutch empires both tried to claim the same patch of coast between the Hudson River and Cape Cod, the sea itself became the arena of contact and conflict. During the violent European invasions, the region’s Algonquian-speaking Natives were navigators, boatbuilders, fishermen, pirates, and merchants who became active players in the emergence of the Atlantic World. Drawing from a wide range of English, Dutch, and archeological sources, Lipman uncovers a new geography of Native America that incorporates seawater as well as soil. Looking past Europeans’ arbitrary land boundaries, he reveals unseen links between local episodes and global events on distant shores.” (Amazon)

Michael Jarvis, In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World,1680–1783 (Chapel Hill: Omohundro Institute, 2012)

“In an exploration of the oceanic connections of the Atlantic world, Michael J. Jarvis recovers a mariner’s view of early America as seen through the eyes of Bermuda’s seafarers. The first social history of eighteenth-century Bermuda, this book profiles how one especially intensive maritime community capitalized on its position “in the eye of all trade.”

Jarvis takes readers aboard small Bermudian sloops and follows white and enslaved sailors as they shuttled cargoes between ports, raked salt, harvested timber, salvaged shipwrecks, hunted whales, captured prizes, and smuggled contraband in an expansive maritime sphere spanning Great Britain’s North American and Caribbean colonies. In doing so, he shows how humble sailors and seafaring slaves operating small family-owned vessels were significant but underappreciated agents of Atlantic integration.

The American Revolution starkly revealed the extent of British America’s integration before 1775 as it shattered interregional links that Bermudians had helped to forge. Reliant on North America for food and customers, Bermudians faced disaster at the conflict’s start. A bold act of treason enabled islanders to continue trade with their rebellious neighbors and helped them to survive and even prosper in an Atlantic world at war. Ultimately, however, the creation of the United States ended Bermuda’s economic independence and doomed the island’s maritime economy.” (Amazon)

Benjamin Carp, “Port in a Storm: The Boston Waterfront as Contested Space, 1747–74,” Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009), pp. 23–61

“The cities of eighteenth-century America packed together tens of thousands of colonists, who met each other in back rooms and plotted political tactics, debated the issues of the day in taverns, and mingled together on the wharves or in the streets. In this fascinating work, historian Benjamin L. Carp shows how these various urban meeting places provided the tinder and spark for the American Revolution.

Carp focuses closely on political activity in colonial America’s five most populous cities–in particular, he examines Boston’s waterfront community, New York tavern-goers, Newport congregations, Charleston’s elite patriarchy, and the common people who gathered outside Philadelphia’s State House. He shows how–because of their tight concentrations of people and diverse mixture of inhabitants–the largest cities offered fertile ground for political consciousness, political persuasion, and political action. The book traces how everyday interactions in taverns, wharves, and elsewhere slowly developed into more serious political activity. Ultimately, the residents of cities became the first to voice their discontent. Merchants began meeting to discuss the repercussions of new laws, printers fired up provocative pamphlets, and protesters took to the streets. Indeed, the cities became the flashpoints for legislative protests, committee meetings, massive outdoor gatherings, newspaper harangues, boycotts, customs evasion, violence and riots–all of which laid the groundwork for war.

Ranging from 1740 to 1780, this groundbreaking work contributes significantly to our understanding of the American Revolution. By focusing on some of the most pivotal events of the eighteenth century as they unfolded in the most dynamic places in America, this book illuminates how city dwellers joined in various forms of political activity that helped make the Revolution possible.” (Amazon)

Bringing the Sea Home

Nicholas Rogers, Mayhem: Post-War Crime and Violence in Britain, 1748–1753 (Yale Univ. Press, 2012)

“After the end of the War of Austrian Succession in 1748, thousands of unemployed and sometimes unemployable soldiers and seamen found themselves on the streets of London ready to roister the town and steal when necessary. In this fascinating book Nicholas Rogers explores the moral panic associated with this rapid demobilization.

Through interlocking stories of duels, highway robberies, smuggling, riots, binge drinking, and even two earthquakes, Rogers captures the anxieties of a half-decade and assesses the social reforms contemporaries framed and imagined to deal with the crisis. He argues that in addressing these events, contemporaries not only endorsed the traditional sanction of public executions, but wrestled with the problem of expanding the parameters of government to include practices and institutions we now regard as commonplace: censuses, the regularization of marriage through uniform methods of registration, penitentiaries and police forces.”

Eleanor Hughes, ed., Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting (Yale Univ. Press, 2016)

Spreading Canvas takes a close look at the tradition of marine painting that flourished in 18th-century Britain. Drawing primarily on the extensive collections of the Yale Center for British Art and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, this publication shows how the genre corresponded with Britain’s growing imperial power and celebrated its increasing military presence on the seas, representing the subject matter in a way that was both documentary and sublime. Works by leading purveyors of the style, including Peter Monamy, Samuel Scott, Dominic Serres,  and Nicholas Pocock, are featured alongside sketches, letters, and other ephemera that help frame the political and geographic significance of these inspiring views, while also establishing the painters’ relationships to concurrent metropolitan art cultures. This survey, featuring a wealth of beautifully reproduced images, demonstrates marine painting’s overarching relevance to British culture of the era. 

Geoff Quilley, “Art History and Double Consciousness: Visual Culture and Eighteenth-Century Maritime Britain,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 48:1 (2014): 21–35

“This article addresses eighteenth-century maritime visual culture and its historiography by questioning fundamental fractures within it and the implications of these for the disciplines of history and art history. Using the Abolitionist print of the Brooks slave ship as a starting point alongside Paul Gilroy’s formulation of “double consciousness,” it questions the bypassing of the Black Atlantic and the wider maritime sphere within the history of eighteenth-century British art and argues for a revision of the periodization, classification, disciplinary boundaries, and ideological parameters by which it has been defined, to take full account of the significance of the maritime sphere.” (Project Muse)

Projecting Power

Richard Harding, Seapower and Naval Warfare, 1650–1830 (Routledge, 1999)

“From the author of ‘Amphibious Warfare in the Eighteenth Century’ and ‘The Evolution of the Sailing Navy, 1509-1815”, this book serves as a single- volume survey of war at sea and the expansion of naval power in the 18th century. The book is intended for undergraduate courses on 18th century European history, and for amateur and professional military historians, and for navy colleges, and navy and ex-navy professionals.”

Sam Willis, Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare (Boydell Press, 2008)

Our understanding of warfare at sea in the eighteenth century has always been divorced from the practical realities of fighting at sea under sail; our knowledge of tactics is largely based upon the ideas of contemporary theorists [rather than practitioners] who knew little of the realities of sailing warfare, and our knowledge of command is similarly flawed. In this book the author presents new evidence from contemporary sources that overturns many old assumptions and introduces a host of new ideas. In a series of thematic chapters, following the rough chronology of a sea fight from initial contact to damage repair, the author offers a dramatic interpretation of fighting at sea in the eighteenth century, and explains in greater depth than ever before how and why sea battles (including Trafalgar) were won and lost in the great Age of Sail. He explains in detail how two ships or fleets identified each other to be enemies; how and why they maneuvered for battle; how a commander communicated his ideas, and how and why his subordinates acted in the way that they did. (Amazon)

N.A.M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (W.W. Norton, 1986)

“Meticulously researched, Rodger’s portrait draws the reader into this fascinatingly complex world with vivid, entertaining characters and full details of life below the decks. The Wooden World provides the most complete history of a navy at any age, and is sure to be an indispensable volume for all fans of Patrick O’Brian, English history, and naval history.”

Sam Willis, The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution (W.W.Norton, 2016)

“The American Revolution involved a naval war of immense scope and variety, including no fewer than twenty-two navies fighting on five oceans―to say nothing of rivers and lakes. In no other war were so many large-scale fleet battles fought, one of which was the most strategically significant naval battle in all of British, French, and American history. Simultaneous naval campaigns were fought in the English Channel, the North and Mid-Atlantic, the Mediterranean, off South Africa, in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the Pacific, the North Sea and, of course, off the eastern seaboard of America. Not until the Second World War would any nation actively fight in so many different theaters.

In The Struggle for Sea Power, Sam Willis traces every key military event in the path to American independence from a naval perspective, and he also brings this important viewpoint to bear on economic, political, and social developments that were fundamental to the success of the Revolution. In doing so Willis offers valuable new insights into American, British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Russian history.

This unique account of the American Revolution gives us a new understanding of the influence of sea power upon history, of the American path to independence, and of the rise and fall of the British Empire.” (Amazon)

Sarah Kinkel received her PhD from Yale University in 2012.  From 2012-2015, she was the managing editor of Eighteenth-Century Studies.  She has since taught as an Assistant Professor at Ohio University.

Christopher Nelson is a U.S. Naval Officer stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School. He is a regular contributor to CIMSEC. The questions and views here are his own.

Featured Image: (Pixabay)

Disciplining the Empire — Dr. Sarah Kinkel on the Eighteenth-Century British Royal Navy

By Christopher Nelson

Author and Professor Sarah Kinkel joins us to discuss her new book Disciplining the Empire: Politics, Governance, and the Rise of the British Navy.

Nelson: Professor Sarah Kinkel, thank you so much for spending some time with me today to talk about your fascinating new book, Disciplining the Empire: Politics, Governance, and the Rise of the British Navy. Let’s start with your time as a student at Yale, where you got your Masters and later a PhD in history. How was your experience at Yale?

Kinkel: I actually majored as an undergraduate in Political Science and International Relations, and I thought that would be a direction I would be interested in going. I ended up with an accidental minor in history because they were always my favorite classes. So anytime I had a chance for an elective, it was always a history class.

Like a lot of twenty-two-year-olds, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I took a couple of years off between undergraduate and graduate school. I thought about what kind of path I might want to be on, and I kept coming back to the fact that if all my favorite classes were history classes, and I ended up with this minor in it, then that was pretty compelling evidence that this was something that I was really interested in.  

It fascinates me to think about people’s lives and their experiences from the past and some of the systems they built to manage uncertainty. To me it really is one of the things I like about history because it encourages you to think in big picture ways and ask questions about the way societies work and what holds them together. And I think you can ask similar types of questions about societies throughout history. While I was at Yale I was a teacher’s assistant for a class on the Roman Empire. It was great; I learned so much. I didn’t know any more going into the class than the students did. But my training in early modern Europe helped me think about some of the religious, political, and social changes during the days of the Roman Empire.

I had a fantastic time at Yale. I really couldn’t say enough great things about the program, about my mentors. I came in knowing I wanted to do something with British imperial historybut not sure quite what. I was working with Steve Pincus, who is a historian of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British Empire. And then, as I started to gravitate toward a more naval focus, I also worked closely with Paul Kennedy. Both Kennedy and Pincus where fantastic mentors and great advisors.

One of the things I really appreciated about Yale was the fact that even if I had a professor and even if I only had one class with them, they were all so generous with their time. I expected when I came in as graduate student that some of the professors would blow me offI mean, these are incredibly busy, important people, Pulitzer Prize-winning historians. But they were always so generous with their time. And they seemed interested in working with graduate students. That was something that I really appreciated about being there.

Nelson: What was your favorite class at Yale?

Kinkel: My favorite classand in the big scheme, it influenced my thoughts about my bookwas actually a class in the political science department with professor Vivek Sharma. It was a class on the social and cultural history of violence. The class covered how we can understand violence in warfare but also in societies. We use violence against our enemies, but we also use it to police the boundaries of our communities. There’s always an acceptable form of violencebut what is it? It was a class about thinking about the connections between societies and the way that violence is carried out.

That class to me was so eye opening. We talked about everything from chivalry to genocide. Thinking about warfare in that context, as not being something that is culturally neutral, that was interesting to me and sowed seeds for my graduate work, as it turned out.

Nelson: I want to touch on military studies in academia. In my opinion military history is undervalued or not even represented in many university curricula. They simply don’t include history courses on warfare. Of course, there is the U.S. Civil War, which pops up in many history programs for various reasons. But if you’re an undergraduate or even a graduate student today, it’s hard to find a program that really digs into the history of warfare. Do you agree? Your thoughts?

Kinkel: I think it is probably true to say that military history has been sidelined. I think that one of the good things about how we are doing history now as opposed to fifty years ago is that we are asking different types of questions and we are including the history of different types of people. That is all good. But I’m sorry that there isn’t more interest in taking something that is as important and world shaping as warfare and violence seriously. Military history is really, really important. To me, that means less the discussion of operational movements or tactical movements of forces in a battlethat’s not what I spend a lot of time thinking about. It’s important to military professionals, like yourself, of course, to focus on and to learn. But what I want to focus on is how military and politics connect and affect each other.

Still, I agree with your assessment. There is not much of a presence for military history in academia today. And when military history is included, I’m still not sure it’s as embedded in the bigger picture of decisions, consequential events, and other social factors as it should be. 

Nelson: What is it about the British Royal Navy that fascinates you?

Kinkel: I originally came to the Royal Navy as a historical fan girl. My grandfather was in the U.S. Navy. I don’t know if that influenced my father. But my father has always been a big history lover. We’d sit around the dinner table at home and he would tell us Horatio Nelson stories. I started being drawn in to some of those classic naval myths. Of course, they’re not all myths, but there is some mythology around them. When I was able to travel to England and see Nelson’s bullet-ripped uniform in the National Maritime Museum, wow, it is such a compelling series of stories. I started to wonder why British naval captains fought that way when not everybody did. It seemed to me that the naval histories I read left it at ‘Well, they were British, so it must make sense.’ I’m not sure that is a compelling historical answer.

Admiral Horatio Nelson’s Bullet Ridden Uniform (Wikimedia Commons)

Nelson: For the readers, briefly, how would describe your book?

Kinkel: This is a book that explains the eighteenth-century rise of the Royal Navy by integrating that story with the major political debates of the century. Other books have explained how Britain was able to build the world’s most dominant naval force, and have pointed to elements like geography, economy, institutions, and battle culture—which are all important but don’t necessarily take into account the fact that there were real arguments over the form and function of the navy. This book explains why some people (but not others) thought an aggressive, powerful, and disciplined navy would be a good idea, and how that battle culture was actually created, because it wasn’t innate.

I think that for far too long naval history and political history have been kept separate. That is just stunning to me. The Royal Navy was the single largest organization of people and resources in the entire empire. It was inherently political. We know how deeply divided the British Empire was over issues like the constitution; over the question of who gets to hold authority in society; over what the empire should look like. And the navy was fundamentally tied to those questions.

Nelson: In your introduction you refer to “political contestation” as a topic that is rarely covered. Is this what you are referring to–issues over political authority–when you say “political contestation”?

Kinkel: Yes. Absolutely. A lot of people in the eighteenth century agreed that there were problems facing British Imperial society. They disagreed fundamentally about what the most important problems were and how to solve them.

Nelson: I enjoyed learning about some the historic figures in your book. Who were some of the consequential personalities that shaped the Royal Navy in the eighteenth century? What were the governing bodies that ran that navy back then?

Kinkel: It is a navy that changes over time during the eighteenth century. It starts out and continues to be a complex set of overlapping bureaucracies. There’s five different bureaucratic boards that have authority over different aspects of naval affairs. We tend today to think about the Admiralty as the first and foremost of the organizations. It became that way, but during the time period I focus on,  in theory the Admiralty only has control over officers and ships that are currently in service. The Navy Board, which is a separate institution, and coequal to the Admiralty Board, has control over shipbuilding, dockyards, and supplies. There’s an Ordnance Board and there’s also a Sick-and-Hurt Board that deals with invalid sailors. So the Admiralty can’t really tell the other boards what to do. At the beginning of the century, it is not clear what kind of role, if any, that the Admiralty might actually have in shaping policy. The head of the Admiralty Board is not automatically a cabinet position. There’s even periods in the first decade of the eighteenth century where there isn’t an Admiralty Boardthey decide they just don’t need it.

There’s no one person who is clearly responsible for everything that is happening in the navy. In the early years of the century, the most powerful people were the admirals themselves. They had small fiefdoms over their ships, patronage, and recruitment. Even in the early 1740s there’s a period where George II lets one of the senior admirals have command over all of the ships in home waters without having to go through the Admiralty first.

This, as you can imagine, is chaotic. It is up to individuals in different bureaucracies to make things happen. If you have political capital and energy, this helps. But it is up to individuals who hold particular positions. We start to see a change in the middle of the 1740s. In December of 1744 there is a new group of Admiralty commissioners who come into the Admiralty Board. They are a combination of politicians and sea officers. They start to institute a series of naval reforms. And this is the core of my book. So at that point, you see the Admiralty Board start to increasingly assert itself politicallyin Parliament, among politicians, monopolizing authority over other boards, and officers as wellbut at the same time they put in place naval reforms that were designed to strengthen and centralize the control over this massive, sprawling bureaucratic structure.

John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford (Wikipedia Commons)

Naval historians have attributed these reforms to one of  the sea officers who came in to this Admiralty Board in 1744George Ansonhe’s newly famous and had just circumnavigated the globe, plundered the Spanish, and he’s quite popular. Yet I think this attribution is misplaced because in my opinion, the reforms come more from two of the politicians who joined this board: John Russell, the fourth the Duke of Bedford, and John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. These politicians come in and make changes that they want to see in the British Empire, and British society, and they do so by using the navy to accomplish some of those goals.

Nelson: I want to turn to British Naval professionalism. When does the British Navy realize that they need to professionalize? What does that actually mean? For example, I don’t believe they even had a standard naval uniform in the early eighteenth century, correct?

Kinkel: Great question. I don’t think there is a consensus about the question of professionalism in the eighteenth century. There was always disagreement and push-back to professionalizing the naval force. And I’ll get into those reasons in a moment.

We start to see the argument for professionalization in the 1730s, and then it really comes forward in the 1740s. Britain is once again involved in a colonial imperial struggle with France and with Spain. It doesn’t go well for the Royal Navy. The one lone exception is Admiral Edward Vernon who has a much celebrated victory at Porto Bello. The navy is just not doing well in the war. There are lots of metrics that people are using to indicate how poorly they’re performing. Merchant ships are reporting that naval convoys abandoned them to privateers; there are navy captains fleeing in the face of numerically inferior forces; and there are lots of public pamphlets that say that sea officers aren’t thirsty for French blood, they are thirsty for French wineand they don’t want to spill a drop of either. Professionalism, then, is put forward as one possible answer to these issues.

To me, I think it means that they need to make the navy look more like a professional standing army. Because now they have ideas and examples to go by. We know the standing army revolution has already happened a century before. I think they want to create something similarI call it a permanent standing navythat is going to be there in war, and it is going to be there in peacetime. So now you are going to get career officers, trained and disciplined sailors, standardized processes, and a clear hierarchical command. This is going to be a navy that can be trusted to behave reliably. Once an order has gone out, it will be followed or there will be consequences. You’re absolutely right to point out that in the context of these reforms, this is the first naval uniform. In the decades previous, you couldn’t necessarily tell who is in the navy and who is not. There is not a uniform to mark people out. Ships at various pointsmerchant ships for examplewere co opted into royal fleets for battles in the 17th century. And were still  privateers on the oceansthese are private ships of wars.

Even in constitutional theory, sailors were understood to be in the navy in so far as their name is listed in the ship’s books. If your name is not listed in the ship’s books, then you aren’t in the navy anymore. And for officers, there wasn’t a coherent career path. In the late seventeenth century, you might be a gunner in one ship, and then you might be a lieutenant on the next, and then go on to the merchant marine force.

Professionalizing the force is meant to transform this navy into something of permanence, something that is reliable and clearly marked out from civilian ships, from private naval warfare. The people who want professionalization are pretty skeptical of private violence, which could be in the hands of just anyone, and really want something that is clearly not that.

Nelson: What are some examples of how the Royal Navy incentivized behavior at sea?

Kinkel: This is one of the areas that I want to push back against the classic story about the military revolution and how it happened and its effects on society. One version goes like this: There’s transformation in technology that then forced transformation in warfare and then that in turn forced changes in politics and society, and that’s how you get the modern state. Now, again, that’s one argument. I think it’s not completely wrong, but in this case it’s also not completely right.

There is no transformation in technology in the British Navy in the course of the eighteenth century that suddenly makes officers and ships better fighters. There’s a couple of tweaks. We get copper sheathing for example, late in the century. It makes ships more sustainable in the longer-term in warmer waters. But what we’re fundamentally talking about are changes in behavior. One of the conundrums this Admiralty Board faces is that you can’t directly supervise what your officers are doing at sea. By definition if you want to have a navy that you can send to project power to the far sides of the world, it is going to partially be out of your control. That’s why it is so important to have officers that you believe are reliable. So they think a lot about how do you constrain and shape behavior. There is an emphasis, to some extent, on training–certainly there is an emphasis on training a ship for combat.

There was some skepticism in British society about whether you could train officers on shore or if you needed to send officers to sea to train and learn the profession practically. There were some new investments in training young officers at the Portsmouth Naval Academy. But the focus during this time is on practical education. In terms of shaping officers’ behavior, the Admiralty is helped by the fact that there were always more would-be sea officers than active positionsespecially in peacetime. So they let it be known that your continued employment, if you wanted one of these limited positions, would mean you would actually have to follow the system.

They then followed through with the carrot and stick approach. If you followed their orders, and fought the way they wanted to fight, and created the culture onboard your ship that they wanted, you could expect promotion, a chance at prize money, and a good cruise at sea. And because these officers are in direct competition with on another, this incentivizes their behavior. If you don’t follow these rules, you’re not going to get anywhere. There’s nothing worseas we learn from the Patrick O’Brian novels–than being a forty-something lieutenant without prospects. That’s just not a good place to be.

One of the reforms the Royal Navy institutes is a new rank: Admiral of the Yellow. Previously the idea was once you became a post captain, you rose up the ranks and then eventually retired as an admiral. The problem was that the Royal Navy couldn’t pick out the best sea officer for the job because of this system of hierarchy. There was always someone senior for a command, who if he wasn’t chosen, it caused offense and sometimes political scandals. But when they created this new rankAdmiral of the Yellowthe Royal Navy could now appoint as many people as they wanted to this new rank without having to give them a command. This allows the Admiralty to reach as far down the ranks as they want to promote the officers they think are the best. None of these reforms were universally accepted, by the way—officers were invested in the existing system and not all of them wanted to see it changed. People complained about the fact that there might now be “boy captains,” as they termed it; some people refused to wear the uniform; the Navy Board ignored Admiralty attempts to standardize shipbuilding. Name the reform and there was resistance. But the Royal Navy acted pretty quickly to put teeth behind these reforms and to, shall we say, “dissuade” protests from within the service.

Ceramic dish showing capture of Porto Bello (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1746, Admiral Vernon, one of the most popular officers at the timea man whose face was on household items, on posters, prints hanging in houses, salt shakers, you name it, he was a celebrity in mid-eighteenth-century Britaingot into a power struggle with the Admiralty Board. He said he wasn’t given high enough commands for his honor. He thought he wasn’t given enough autonomy and that the Admiralty was trying to constrain him. He was flaunting his public power. Yet the Admiralty cashiered him. They were willing to fire the most popular face of the service. This emphasized to the younger officers that continued employment in the navy meant that you had to abide by the Admiralty Board’s direction.  

Nelson: What is the importance of the Naval Act of 1749? You mentioned Admiral Byng earlier, who was he and why is his fate linked to that famous naval act?

Kinkel: The members of the Admiralty Board were pretty clever at incentivizing sea officers to go along with the new culture of naval service they hoped to create. Promotion and continued employment were clear carrots, but they also wanted to have a stick they could use. There had been a number of very politically contentious courts martial earlier in the 1740s, and one in particular after the 1744 Battle of Toulon in which an officer who chose not to fight was exonerated—because he had the right political connections—while an officer who did fight was cashiered. To prevent something like that from happening again, the new Admiralty Board put forward what became known as the 1749 Navy Bill. The bill was hugely controversial and was only passed after some intense parliamentary debate and public protest.

It did a number of things, but the overall point was to rationalize existing naval martial law and to remove leeway from courts martial in how they applied that law. The effects of the Navy Bill were made clear a few years later, when Britain went back to war with France in 1756. British ministers received information that the French intended to capture the island of Minorca, which was an important British base in the Mediterranean. They sent Admiral John Byng to prevent that. Byng showed up, the French were already there but hadn’t captured the fort yet, and even though he outnumbered them, Byng decided that the day was already lost and he sailed back to Gibraltar instead, leaving the French to take the island. When news got back to Britain, people went absolutely ballistic. Some people blamed Byng as a coward, some people blamed the administration for not having sent him earlier, there were riots, pamphlets, people saying the prime minister should be executed—it was wild. Byng was court martialed, and there was really no way for the court to find him innocent of the charge that he “had not done his utmost to obey His Majesty’s orders.”

The Execution of Admiral Byng/Wikimedia Commons

In earlier years, that could have meant a number of things in terms of actual punishment, but the 1749 Navy Bill said there was only one possible outcome for that offense: death. Byng was rich, and well-connected, and he was executed regardless. That really sent an incredibly stark signal to all the other sea officers that the dangers of disobedience were real. I think it’s not a coincidence that in the years right after Byng’s execution, in the rest of the Seven Years’ War, we start to see sea officers behaving and fighting in far more aggressive ways. They chased enemies into dangerous shoals and rocky bays rather than back down, for example, and increasingly risked their fleets against superior forces. For me, the 1749 Navy Bill and Byng’s execution, which proved that the Admiralty really meant it, set the tone for what would be expected of sea officers for the rest of the century. They’re the foundations of the new naval culture that would eventually lead to victories like Trafalgar.

Nelson:  You describe in your book how the Royal Navy created a legacy of officers that were good at their job. This is largely done by patronage. What was patronage in the eighteenth century Royal Navy? And while naval officers use a different term today—“mentoring” maybe, or “grooming”—what are the similarities and differences between patronage in the eighteenth century and the twenty-first century?

Kinkel: I don’t think that people would have thought about patronage as nepotism or favoritism–not back then. The way it worked over the eighteenth century is we don’t see politicians influencing naval promotion. Letters of recommendations for would-be sea officers are coming from other sea officers. After mid-century, they really are increasingly emphasizing the idea of merit. And it would reflect badly on a superior officer if you pull up someone who goes out and wrecks their first ship. There is an incentive in terms of your own reputation and legacy to identify talent.

From my perspective I see this as not dissimilar to how I think patronage continues to work in our contemporary world. Generally speaking, people in positions of authority want to be supported by people of talent. Big organizations are about teamwork. You need to have someone you can delegate to and you can trust and will make you look good. If your subordinates are bad at their job it will make you look bad. I think this is true in business and politics and other spheres today, just as it was back then. I don’t think patronage is inherently divorced from the concept of merit. I do have an axe to grind when people talk about patronage as somehow antithetical to merit. Now, it can be in some circumstances–but again, I would just call that nepotism. Patronage is a vote of confidence. And absolutely, yes, it can be a vote of confidence on the basis of merit. I say this in the book: today we still rely on personal connections to advance in life, we just call it “networking.” Fundamentally, eighteenth-century patronage is not much different from modern concepts. Some people do fall through the cracks and some talent is not identified, but broadly, people accepted this system.

Nelson: In your book, you’ve included 90 pages of notes. What sources did you rely on? What sources did you keep coming back to?

Kinkel: Some of the books that influenced me first were books on political history and turmoil in eighteenth-century Britain. I saw a disconnect between how naval historians described this period and how political historians described this period. I thought there was a disconnect. Some of the books that I was reading that did influence how I was thinking about maritime history were books by N.A.M. Rodger, Daniel Baugh, and Jeremy Black. One of the examples I thought my book could look like was Kathleen Wilson’s Sense of the People. It’s a book about the arguments over empire. She touches on the resonance that maritime issues clearly had for a large sector of the British population. She talked about Admiral Vernon, she talked about Admiral Byng. So her books showed me one possible version of what fused politically aware history of the navy could look like.

Nelson: Professor, to close, what are some of your favorite books on maritime history?

Kinkel: I think we have a tendency to think about oceans as negative space. But back then, so much of what is important to eighteenth-century Britain takes place on the ocean. From that perspective, I want to read about history that can connect the ocean with the land. For me, my favorite books about maritime history have always been books that show the big picture what’s at stake with everything that happens on the ocean.

One book that came out a few years ago that is really interesting is The Saltwater Frontier by Andrew Lipman. It is about how the areas of coastal waters between what’s now Cape Cod and the Hudson River became a space of contestation and negotiation between a number of European and Native American powers in the early days of colonization.  

Another book that came out in the last couple of years that I really admired is Sam Willis’ book The Struggle for Sea Power. It is, to some extent, a history of the naval campaigns of the American Revolution. But it is a book that takes place almost as much on land or in coastal waters or rivers or lakes as it does on the open ocean. He makes a really compelling point that navies were symbols. There is a moment when the leading citizens of Providence burn a naval ship to the waterline and shoot its commander. Willis points out, rightly, that the burning of the HMS Gaspee is a political statement. During the American Revolution the British are obsessed with building full-sized frigates on Lake Champlain. They definitely don’t need to do this to control these waters. They actually deconstruct a sloop and pull it through the woods plank by plank and rebuild it on the lake. The book deals really well with technical issues–like why navigating sea ice is so hard–but it also deals a lot with the wide varieties of ways navies mattered: economically, politically, and symbolically.

Something that recently I taught in a class on the American Revolution, is a chapter on Boston from Benjamin Carp’s book Rebels Rising. It’s a book that about cities, not ships, but this chapter is one of the best descriptions I’ve seen about how fundamentally maritime power, money, and life Boston was. It is also just a really well-written book. A lot of my students picked this book as their favorite read during the semester.

Finally, I love the movie Master & Commander. One of the things we struggle with as historians is trying to recapture the experience of what it would have been like during the time. I just think that movie is so good. It’s what I imagine the experience of being on an eighteenth-century warship would have been like–it’s so visceral and brutal and tedious. Sometimes when you watch a film and the topic is close to your day job, you’re so fixated on inaccuracies that they can ruin the film. But I never feel this way when I watch this movie.

If I ever taught a class that was just about maritime history, I would make the class watch the movie. There are different ways of telling stories about the past–historians tell them one way, novelists another, and filmmakers another. I’m not convinced one is better than the other in recreating the reality of people’s experiences. Good historical fiction has a real role to play in telling these stories.

Nelson: Professor, this was great. Thank you.

Sarah Kinkel received her PhD from Yale University in 2012. From 2012-2015, she was the managing editor of Eighteenth-Century Studies. She has since taught as an Assistant Professor at Ohio University.

Christopher Nelson is a U.S. Naval Officer stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School. He is a regular contributor to CIMSEC. The questions and views here are his own.

Featured Image: The capture of Porto Bello. George Chambers Sr. (Wikimedia Commons)

From Midway to Monterey: Leveraging Initiative and Technology

By Captain Jeffrey Kline, USN (Ret.)

Seventy five years ago, Ensign “Dagwood” Propst sat in the pilot seat of his large PBY search plane waiting to takeoff from Midway. He and his crew were about to embark on a night mission they had never conducted, to employ a weapon they had never used, against an enemy they had never met.  

On June 3, 1942 the four Japanese carrier groups had not yet been located and the famous engagements to occur the following day were still in the future for both American and Japanese forces. But reconnaissance aircraft stationed at Midway had located Admiral Tanaka’s transport forces approaching from the east and the island’s defenders were keen on attacking where they could.  

Ensign Propst’s Catalina was number three in a flight of four radar-equipped PBYs taking off from Midway to conduct a night torpedo attack against the Japanese transport group – unsuccessfully attacked earlier that day by Midway’s B-17s. The idea to strap torpedoes to the wings of these large slow search aircraft and conduct a night attack had been thought up that afternoon, and the least tired crews of the VP-44 air reconnaissance squadron had been selected to fly them. They had been briefed, discussed tactics, and were ready to take the action to an enemy that had attacked Pearl Harbor only six months earlier.

Lead by Lieutenant Red Richards, the flight of these large, slow PBYs-turned torpedo attack planes were airborne at 2115 and winging toward their target. After navigating through bad weather one PBY lost contact with the others and after an unsuccessful search for the enemy returned to Midway. As told by Gordan Prange in his book Miracle at Midway, the three remaining PBYs broke into clear weather just as they neared Tanaka’s ships. Although not coordinated, all three made attack runs. Ensign Propst targeted the largest silhouette, swung in a wide spiral to mask his approach by flying into the moon’s path, lowered his aircraft to 50 feet altitude, and dropped his weapon. His attack resulted in the first and only American air dropped torpedo hit in the entire Battle of Midway. Ensign Propst’s hit on the oiler Akebone Maru killed or wounded 23 men and was the first blood drawn in the entire battle.

Was this night attack a foolhardy and reckless plan blessed by luck, or a high-risk venture informed by a sound plan, good knowledge of aircraft and weapon capabilities, and a motivated air crew? 

In his “Lessons from the Battle of Midway,” Victor Davis Hanson observes  “…American commanders were far more open to improvising and risk-taking than their Japanese counterparts.” But more than just the commanders, the mid-grade and junior officers combined technical competency, innovative thought, and bold initiative to do such things as strap a torpedo on the wings of a PBY, develop the “Thach weave” to overcome fighter short comings, and gleam information from  Japanese communications.    

The Thach weave was a two-aircraft tactic to counter the Zero’s superior maneuvering capabilities. Conceived months early by John Thach using match sticks as a simulation and then tested in mock combat with Ensign Edward Butch O’Hare, the namesake of O’Hare Airport, the Thach weave was first employed by John Thach himself while in combat on 4 June. Used again in Guadalcanal, it became a standard U.S. fighter tactic.

And, as every intelligence officer knows, Commander Joseph Rochefort, Chief of the Combat Intelligence Office on Hawaii, lead innovative efforts to derive Japanese Midway attack intentions that led to Nimitz positioning Task Force 16 and Task Force 17 northeast of Midway. What is not universally appreciated is that his assessments were frequently challenged by his intelligence chain of command, particularly in Washington D.C.  

In each of these examples, relatively junior officers were put in unfamiliar crisis situations which demanded action on their part. Using their technical knowledge, innovative approaches, and courage they found sound, bold courses of action. This is the tie to the Naval Postgraduate School today. As an institution we keep that spirit alive by providing technical know-how, in context of operational and tactical situations, and challenge our students to produce innovative solutions to real world problems. From exploring concepts of swarming unmanned aerial vehicles to smart warheads on torpedoes, we advance graduate and professional education synergistically. That is our niche, that is our uniqueness, and that is our contribution to the nation’s future security.

The importance of continuing to educate officers in preparation for a future conflict was not lost on Chester Nimitz, even before World War II started. As told in one of our Dudley Knox Special Collection papers authored by John Sanders, Admiral Nimitz wrote a letter in 1965 stating “When I became Chief of Bureau of Navigation in June 1939—my first act was to send for the BuNav War Plans. To my horror—I learned that on “D” day—it was planned to close down the Naval War College and the Naval Postgraduate School in order to provide officers for an expanding Fleet—as was done on ‘D’ day for World War I…..I immediately cancelled those plans and prepared for expanded classes at both the War College and Postgraduate School.” In fact, after 1941 the postgraduate school’s student population increased threefold. By war’s end, Chief of Naval Operations Ernest King was already ordering surveys for a west coast NPS site to accommodate the school’s future growth. And, in 1951 the school moved to its new location in the Hotel Del Monte in Monterey which had served well as an aviation training location during the war.  

In addition to Nimitz and King, Admiral Arleigh Burke recognized the importance and uniqueness of the Naval Postgraduate School when, in a NPS commencement address, he said recognized the foresight  of NPS founders by saying “They recognized that ships and naval weapons were becoming more complex, that their proper employment at sea would require officers who were familiar not only with the age old profession of the sea, but who could understand and could use effectively the complex weapons of the years to come.”

And today, are we meeting the expectations of Nimitz, King, and Burke? In their time the stuff of lasers, robotics, and 3-D printers was science fiction. Today, our graduates who studied how to apply these technologies at NPS are in the fleet. Graduates like CDR Chad Kaiser, when as a student and Lieutenant, modeled and simulated the real threat of an unmanned aerial swarming attack against our destroyers, coming up with  the best way to use our combat systems to defend against it. His work was sent to the fleet as a tactical bulletin. Or now Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Kee, who, using insight in potential adversaries locating and targeting methods, suggested ways for our ships to maneuver to increase the enemy’s uncertainty in targetingor recently retired, Admiral McRaven, whose NPS thesis became doctrine for counterinsurgency operations. There are many examples, such as work in bi-static acoustic operations, adaptive optics, distributed and integrated logistics, cyber operations, attacker-defender optimization, unmanned systems, force design, and energy research.

To summarize with a quote from William Lind in the Maneuver Warfare Handbook :

“The process that is tactics includes the art of selecting from among your techniques those which create that unique approach for the enemy, time, and place.  Education is the basis for doing that – education not in what to do, but in how to think.”

At NPS we teach officers how to think about employing technology in situations they have not thought about before. We rarely know the answers, as it is a journey of discovery for both officers and faculty. But I do know this, our graduates are prepared to face unanticipated conflict situations, and then apply their technical and tactical talents to generate and apply innovative ways to meet our country’s future challenges.  That is what makes the Naval Postgraduate School a most unique educational institution in our country.

A retired naval officer with 26 years of service, Jeff is currently a Professor of Practice in the Operations Research department and holds the Chair of Systems Engineering Analysis. He teaches Joint Campaign Analysis, executive risk assessment and coordinates maritime security education programs offered at NPS. Jeff supports applied analytical research in maritime operations and security, theater ballistic missile defense, and future force composition studies. He has served on several Naval Study Board Committees. His NPS faculty awards include the Superior Civilian Service Medal, 2011 Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) Award for Teaching of OR Practice, 2009 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Homeland Security Award, 2007 Hamming Award for interdisciplinary research, 2007 Wayne E. Meyers Award for Excellence in Systems Engineering Research, and the 2005 Northrop Grumman Award for Excellence in Systems Engineering. He is a member of the Military Operations Research Society and the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science.  

Featured Image: U.S. Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers of VS-8 from USS Hornet about to attack the burning Japanese cruiser Mikuma for the third time on 6 June 1942 (Wikimedia)