The Experience of the Spanish-American War and Its Impact on Professional Naval Thought

  • John B. Hattendorf
Part of the The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute Series on Diplomatic and Economic History book series


It is a common-place assumption among critics of the armed forces that rigid military minds tend to prepare for the last war rather than to think inventively about the future. There is a worthwhile point in that thought, yet even the most advanced approaches of our own day do not permit us to know with any certainty what the future will bring. Taken to its extremes, focus on the future becomes mere speculation, unfounded by reality. In history, wars are common, but not continuous. Within the span of an individual’s career in the military, it might occur perhaps once or twice, if at all. Thus, the study of the past is an important part of professional military and naval thinking, although academic historians always need to remind those in uniform that the value of historical study is found in terms of education and in broadening the basis for insight and analysis rather than in creating recipes for specific actions. The broad use of history in professional military education is part of a broader approach that includes understanding of current technological capabilities with reasoned speculation about the future, based on past performance and general understanding of the character, role, and limitations of armed force in society and in relations among nations.


General Staff Record Group Naval Officer Navy Department Naval Warfare 
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© Edward J. Marolda 2001

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  • John B. Hattendorf

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