Apr 23

A 16″ AP: Direct hit on the importance of military history and it’s place in the human experience

Friday, April 23, 2010 12:38 AM

 

Bon Hom Richard

Sgt Dan Daly, USMC, 2nd MOH, 1915

U.S. Navy Aircraft

This blog was launched a few weeks ago with the intent to provide an open enviornment to encourage discussion and more importantly, interest in Naval history and to highlight the essential role that navies have played in the human experience. Germain to this subject is the direction that studying history has taken as it has been presented, or ignored, in all levels of education, from grade school to the most prestigious institutions. A recent post on the USNI Blog by the intrepid CDR Salamander hits the this target with the precision and force of a 16\” Mark 7. 

A failure of historic proportions

Just what does that phrase mean? What kind of intellectual background does it take to even make that statement?

Those who have raised children in the last three decades know the state of history education in our schools. We also know that our centers of higher education have more or less purged their history departments of military historians. Required history courses – where there are some – more often than not do not cover military actions in any kind of context or depth. When you fold in the fact that the Navy has an institutional bias towards technical fields of education – then it is no surprise that historical illiteracy runs rampant from E1-O10. Is this a bad thing, or just a nuisance?

From $100 dollar questions such as, “Which nation is younger, Belgium or the USA?” to $1,000 questions such as, “What is the source of the border conflicts between Bolivia, Chile, and Peru?”, we simply do not do history well. As a result, when we work with our partners we regularly embarrass ourselves from ISAF to UNITAS as we demonstrate our ignorance of not only our history – but that of the rest of the world.

Even when we narrow the scope down to naval history – historical blindnesshas had real, definable costs. When you look back at some of the Navy’s worst errors in the last decade from LCS, DDG-1000, and the influence of the Transformationalist Cult – they all derive from a poor understanding of the lessons of history; i.e. – Battle Cruisers and Patrol Hydrofoils proved decades ago the seduction of speed is not worth the tradeoffs; regardless of technology the MK-1 Mod-0 eyeball is the primary sensor in the littorals; every successful shipbuilding program has been the result of evolutionary instead of revolutionary change. The examples are legion when you expand the relearned basics during this war by the Army and USMC.

There are notable exceptions though. Ironically, two of the best leaders of this war, Gen. Petraeus, USA and Gen Mattis, USMC – are both men steeped in history. Especially Gen Mattis, his love of good books and fine history are well known. There is a lesson there, but let’s move on.

Read more: A failure of historic porportions

 
 
 
  • MMAmbassador

    Great post.

    Our history belongs to all of us, and I appreciate USNI and NHHC for understanding that. Some may scoff at the notion of a blog, or a history facebook page even, but for our history to reach a new generation, one has to reach them where and how they consume information.

    Just look at the recent interest in HBO’s Pacific series. I’ve seen a much younger generation taking an interest in the Pacific War. I think sources like the Naval History blog and others will serve to keep them interested. A one-paragraph mention in a school textbook (if it’s in there at all) won’t cut it.

  • Talia

    Too often people look at history and ascribe only a single “cause”. Events very rarely, if ever, only have a single root cause. It’s important to look at the whole picture, whether it’s technological advances and inventions or poilitcial / economic etc.

  • http://WhiteEnsignModels.com NavyVet

    If we’re going to teach history, let’s get it right, and let’s use the language correctly:

    1. Those are not all “U.S. Navy Fighters.” The aircraft in the foreground is a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bomber; and,
    2. Generals Petraeus and Mattis are STEEPED–not “seeped” in history.