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Mahan and Corbett on Maritime Strategy

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Final rept.

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Alfred Thayer Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett are viewed in many circles as the fathers of sea power theory and maritime theory. They opportunely published their writings during the zenith of British power, which was built primarily upon the British Navy. As Mahan published his writings nearly 20 years earlier than Corbett, his writings began as the more popular and influential of the two. One could summarize Mahans theory as the concentration of a nations fleet in order to seek out and destroy the enemy fleet in a decisive naval battle. Corbetts theory, on the other hand, could be summarized as either to secure the command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it. Corbett, 91 Corbett continues by specifying that, command of the sea, therefore, means nothing but the control of maritime communications or sea lines of communication SLOCs, whether for commercial or military purposes. Corbett, 94 While their theories are by no means polar opposites, discussion continues to this day as to the best employment of a nations navy. While Mahans theory that winning naval battles might be the quickest path to achieving ones goal of command of the sea, as history shows, it is simply one method of achieving that objective. By examining Mahans and Corbetts theories, the American Revolution, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War II, one can assert that the foremost purpose of sea power is in fact to secure the sea lines of communication, not winning naval battles.

Subject Categories:

  • Naval Surface Warfare
  • Undersea and Antisubmarine Warfare

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