Vice Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher: Scapegoat or Operational Artist?
Final rept. 19 Dec 92-22 Feb 93,
NAVAL WAR COLL NEWPORT RI
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This paper examines Admiral Frank Jack Fletchers decision to withdraw the three aircraft carriers during the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign in August 1942. Many officers, historians, and Marines to this day criticize this decision as a bad decision that resulted in the naval defeat at Savo Island on 9 August 1942 and as another example of the Navy deserting the Marines on the beach. Research into the original documents and a careful examination of the written histories provide a different insight into the roots of the decision, particularly when evaluating the decision with some principles of operational thinking as opposed to the sometimes disjointed tactical and strategic thought of 1942. By todays standards, the decision is correct. By yesteryears standards, it also was the correct decision given the condition of the Navy, the strategic guidance and operational level friction, and the tactical situation. Admiral Fletcher followed orders providing the requisite tactical support while not risking the operational and strategic mission by further exposing his carriers to unnecessary risk.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics