By Michael Palmer
Commanders at sea fight not just with the unpredictability of normal components, but additionally with a shroud of uncertainty also known as the "fog of war." Over the centuries so much admirals yielded to the normal temptation to discover in new applied sciences a way to say centralized keep watch over over their forces. yet different commanders have famous the fog for what it really is: a relentless point of uncertainty immune to mere technological resolution.
during this grand heritage of naval battle, Michael Palmer observes 5 centuries of dramatic encounters below sail and steam. From reliance on sign flags within the 17th century to satellite tv for pc communications within the twenty-first, admirals regarded to the subsequent develop in know-how because the person who may let them regulate their forces. yet whereas talents to speak greater, Palmer indicates how different applied sciences concurrently shrank admirals' home windows of determination. the end result was once easy, if no longer noticeable: naval commanders have by no means had adequate capability or time to direct subordinates in conflict.
profitable commanders as far-off as Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) and Arleigh Burke (1901-1996) permitted this fact. They sought recommendations to the dilemmas of command within the own indoctrination of subordinates via dialogue, comradeship, and screens of belief and self assurance. Such leaders created a commonality of imaginative and prescient and fostered a excessive measure of person initiative. Their decentralized method of command ended in a resiliency that so frequently supplied the major to good fortune in conflict.
Palmer's fascinating and enlightening background finds the myriad efforts of naval commanders to navigate the fog of battle.
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Additional resources for Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control Since the Sixteenth Century
Naval commanders, unlike their army brethren, could ﬁnd few useful strategic and no tactical insights in the works of ancient historians. No earlier admiralty had ever directed transoceanic operations. No navy had possessed assets with the operational independence of the sailing man-of-war. No ﬂeet commander had deployed wind-driven ships that moved along one axis but discharged their weapons along another. Nor had the scientiﬁc and technological advances that had altered the nature of sea power produced any new tools to command naval forces.
32 A dichotomy developed between the army ofﬁcers, who were responsible for doing the ﬁghting on a man-of-war, and the ship’s “petty” ofﬁcers, who were responsible for handling the vessel. S. Navy. The application of land tactics to sea battles was never a comfortable ﬁt. Engagements ashore were chaotic and bloody enough, without the complicating factors of position relative to the wind, the state of the sea, and the inability to disengage from a mêlée that could turn sea battles into ﬁghts to the death.
35 Chaves, like the chronicler of the battle of Sluys, took into account some of the peculiarities of naval battles. The wind ﬁgured prominently in his instructions. So did seamanship, which he viewed as a force multiplier that could allow a weaker force to defeat a stronger one. He also noted the difﬁculties of commanding a naval force in combat. He exhorted the commander to avoid diving into the battle lest he lose control of the engagement. ”36 As long as most ships’ guns were mounted to ﬁre forward and the mêlée remained the ultimate arbiter of victory, land-style tactics based on massed formations of ships deployed in line abreast made sense.