Apr 7

A Culture of Literacy and Scholarly Pursuits

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 11:52 AM


The US Navy has a deep rooted culture of literary and scholarly pursuits born out of the need for self-sufficiency. While at sea for months at a time with very little communication from home, naval officers had a need for a well rounded education to help make necessary decisions. World War II helped to further this tradition as many academics were pressed into military service. The tradition stretches from shipboard libraries in the early US Navy to those who have served in the Navy and went on to become authors and historians. 

Writings range from tales of the sea and biographies of famous naval officers by Herman Melville and James Fennimore Cooper, to books on Naval Strategy by Alfred Mahan. The author James Mitchner was a contributor to the US Naval Administrative Histories of World War II, most likely the section on the Pacific. The Navy has also produced many historians that have made major contributions to naval history. Samuel Eliot Morrison comes to mind as well as William Sims. Our collections include many volumes written by both Navy officers and enlisted men, too many to list, and even a certificate for William Sims’ 1921 Pulitzer Prize in History. We also have a few collections of naval personnel who were book collectors and donated them to our library; of note are the George Henry Preble Collection  and the Rodgers Family Collection .

  • Without a doubt former and active duty sailors have produced a rich trove of literature as a Naval legacy. My personal favorite novel by a US Navy (mustang) officer is “Delilah” by Marcus Goodrich. Truly an incredible piece of work on an underrepresented era of US Navy history.

  • Navy Library

    We have 2 copies of “Delilah” in our collection. One of them is an edition that was specifically printed for ditribution by the Army and the Bureau of Naval Personnel to soldiers and sailors serving overseas during World War II. Thanks for the suggestion of another great book.

  • BJ Armstrong

    It is ironic though, with the generally anti-intellectual feelings of the vast majority of naval leadership through the ages. Remember CAPT A.T. Mahan’s 1893 fitrep from Admiral Ramsey? “It is not the business of a naval officer to write books.”