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Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control…

Command at Sea: Naval Command and Control since the Sixteenth Century

by Michael A. Palmer

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301571,564 (3.88)1
"In this grand history of naval warfare, Michael Palmer observes five centuries of dramatic encounters under sail and steam. From reliance on signal flags in the seventeenth century to satellite communications in the twenty-first, admirals looked to the next advance in technology as the one that would allow them to control their forces. But while abilities to communicate improved, Palmer shows, other technologies simultaneously shrank admirals' windows of decision. As a result, naval commanders have never had sufficient means or time to direct subordinates in battle."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)



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This survey of naval command and control in the modern age is at its best when the author is writing about the efforts to impose order on the barely-controlled chaos of squadrons of sailing ships engaged in line of battle tactics. Palmer finds that the difficulties of achieving decisive result were not so much a factor of line-of-battle tactics per se, or of the dead hand of various attempts to promulgate a set of battle instructions, but between commanders wedded to command schemes based on centralized signals and those commanders prepared to delegate authority to lieutenants versed in commander’s expectations and backed up by a good foundation of training.

Due to the relative paucity of battles in the age of mechanized warships Palmer has rather less to say once he exits the Age of Nelson, though he does complete his work by musing on the problematic nature of “joint” warfare in the modern age, and the efforts to further centralize command structures on the basis of burgeoning communications technology, whether or not they make sense.

As for who this book is meant for, if you’ve read extensively in the history of naval warfare you might find this study a bit redundant. It would make a fine assigned text for a class on the general history of war, or of naval warfare. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jul 15, 2010 |
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