Technological Change and the United States Navy, 1865–1945
Publication Year: 2000
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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A little over a quarter-century ago I was a naval officer newly assigned to a Pacific Fleet destroyer. During my warfare qualification I was introduced to a piece of electronic gear designated ULQ-6. One of its features was the ability to increase the radar reflection of our ship. In this “blip-enhance mode” the ULQ-6 theoretically would trick radar-guided-missiles into mistaking our tiny destroyer for a huge aircraft carrier. When I expressed surprise at such...
1. The Postbellum Naval Profession: From Discord to Amalgamation
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During the late nineteenth century, rapidly evolving, science-based technology posed a challenge to the established values of the American naval profession. The sail-powered ship of the line, whose basic attributes had changed little in two hundred years, defined first-rate naval power in 1800. By mid-century, technological change resulted in a shift from a purely quantitative...
2. Competing for Control: Line Officers, Engineers, and the Technological Exemplar of the Battleship Paradigm
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In 1890 Congress authorized the first technological exemplars of the new battleship-based strategic paradigm: the large-gunned, steel battleships, Indiana, Oregon, and Massachusetts. The battleship strategy was based in guerre d’escadre, the historic strategy of strong maritime powers such as Britain, in which line-of-battle ships engaged similar enemy fleets. To the chagrin of navalists, guerre...
3. Refining the Technological Ideal: The Simsian Uproar, Engineer Bashing, and the All-Big-Gun Battleship
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Much like late medieval astronomers arguing over the significance of a new comet to the Ptolemaic universe, U.S. naval officers differed over what conclusions should be drawn from the Russo-Japanese War. The battleship paradigm, like the pre-Copernican Ptolemaic cosmogony, was intact but contained certain puzzles that required refinement, such as the size and type of battleship which...
4. Technological Trajectory: Geostrategic Design Criteria, Turboelectric Propulsion, and Naval-Industrial Relations
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The naval profession’s strategic paradigm of guerre d’escadre governed the battleship technological paradigm and the “normal” refinement of its technological exemplar—the battleship. However, in the United States and other leading industrial powers, the new technologies used in modern dreadnoughts were most often developments of the private sector. The issue for the American...
5. Anomalous Technologies of the Great War: Airplanes, Submarines, and the Professional Status Quo
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Unlike the turboelectric drive, advances in airplanes and submarines during the World War presented patchy, potential anomalies that threatened the battleship technological paradigm. The navy’s exploration of these technologies was in a Kuhnian “normal” sense. However, the anomalous nature of these technologies was enhanced by their use in an innovative wartime environment...
6. Controlling Aviation after the World War: The 1924 Special Board and the Technological Ceiling for Aviation
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After the World War, the battleship’s primacy was challenged on a broad front. In Britain, the battleship was attacked vigorously for having failed to prevent, and quickly win, the war. The Royal Navy actively campaigned for a new postwar building program to maintain British capital ship superiority in the face of American construction. This was an unpopular, and expensive, proposition...
7. Disarmament, Depression, and Politics: Technological Momentum and the Unstable Dynamics of the Hoover-Roosevelt Years
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Most U.S. naval officers during the New Era (1921–33) would have agreed with Henry Steele Commager and Richard Morris’s description of the period as one of “crisis and failure” and of the character of the Republican administrations as “pervasively negative.”1 The technological basis of the naval profession—the battleship—was threatened by aviation, international treaty, and the...
8. War and a Shifting Technological Paradigm: Fast Task Forces and “Three-Plane” Warfare
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During the 1930s, naval aviation developed beyond the technological ceiling predicted in 1924. Yet the technological basis for an effective presumptive anomaly to challenge the dominant battleship technological paradigm did not exist until the end of the decade. The advances in naval aviation during the 1920s resulted in early elucidations of an aviation presumptive anomaly bolstered by the empirical...
9. Castles of Steel: Technological Change and the Modern Navy
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In 1494 Charles VIII of France invaded the Italian peninsula to pursue his claim to Naples. The mobile cannon he brought quickly reduced a castle in eight hours that had previously withstood a siege of seven years.1 Charles’s actions threatened the foundation of contemporary warrior society and marked a nascent shift in the European way of war. European leaders were not about to abandon castles constructed at great cost to defend cities, towns, and strategic...
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Note on Sources
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 18 halftones
Publication Year: 2000
Series Title: Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology
Series Editor Byline: Merritt Roe Smith, Series Editor