US Naval Operational Concepts: Education versus Experience

Research Paper Title

Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm’s Way


This dissertation considers the transformation of the United States Navy from a defensive-minded coastal defence navy during the first century of this nation’s history into an offensive-mindset, risk taking navy in the very early stages of World War II.

More precisely, since none of the most significant leaders of the US Navy in World War II were commissioned prior to the Spanish-American War and none participated in any significant offensive operations in the First World War, this dissertation examines the premise that education, rather than experience in battle, accounts for that transformation.

In evaluating this thesis this dissertation examines the five carrier battles of the Second World War to determine the extent to which the inter-war education of the major operational commanders translated into their decision processes, and the extent to which their interaction during their educational experiences transformed them from risk-adverse to risk accepting in their operational concepts. Thus the title for the dissertation is: Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm’s Way.


Smith, D.V. (2005) Carrier Battles: Command Decision in Harm’s Way. Doctoral Thesis. Florida: Florida State University.


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