Evan Thomas on the Last Great Sea Battle – Newsweek Books – MSNBC.com

In High School (and ever since) I was somewhat of a history buff.  Naval History especially interested me.  I remember first learning of the Battle of the Leyte Gulf – from a Sailor who was there.  He spoke so passionately and fiercely about that day that I will never forget it.  He was a damn good man, and he died with me owing him money.  Not a lot, but the amount doesn’t matter – it is a debt that I hadn’t paid (FYI – I did make a donation in his name to a Naval Scholarship fund after his passing).

I also remember realizing that although I wasn’t being taught that The Battle of Leyte Gulf was [probably] the last major maritime battle EVER, I realized it was. 

Just as is was foolhardy and suicidal (and a complete waste of manpower) for the British Army to line up shoulder to shoulder in perfect ranks and advance and fight in the Revolutionary War, I knew ships would no longer do the same.  Ships would become transportation to, and long range control of, the battle – not front line combatants.

As weaponry and technology became more and more sophisticated Naval Tactics changed.  More and more Naval power was about the projection of power beyond the fleet – missiles and aircraft replaced the big guns.  Torpedo dive bombers replaced cannon/gun engagements, and missiles replaced ship launched torpedoes.

After Leyte I think people just realized that the role of Naval Weaponry was not to combat other Naval units – the world had become to small for that with the invention of missiles, aircraft carriers, etc. 

If the enemy is close enough to launch a torpedo, then you have already failed.  Of course, sub-surface warfare is a different matter – below the waves, the sea war is still often going to be very personal.  Sub-surface warfare has always been different – and it remains so today.

Modern Naval Warfare is more about moving the fighting tools to a convenient place where they can be most useful – aircraft, Navy SEALS, Landing Craft, Cruise Missiles, etc.  Get them close enough to the enemy for them to be effective.  Don’t put the ship close enough to be at high risk.  You can build a lot of fighters/dive bombers for what one ship costs.  You can severely reduce loss of life if you are just endangering a few dozen air crew, instead of hundreds (or thousands) on a ship.

In any case, I have ordered the book – although I certainly don’t need yet another book to read.  I literally have two three foot tall stacks of books next to my bed – waiting to be read.


Link to Evan Thomas on the Last Great Sea Battle – Newsweek Books – MSNBC.com