In this grand history of naval warfare, 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 how other technologies simultaneously shrank admirals' windows of decision. The result was simple, if not obvious: naval commanders have never had sufficient means or time to direct subordinates in battle.
“Wheel books” were once found in the uniform pockets of virtually all junior officers and many senior petty officers. Each small notebook was unique to the Sailor carrying it, but all had in common a collection of data and wisdom that the individual deemed useful in the effective execution of his or her duties. Often used as a substitute for experience among neophytes and as a portable library of reference information for more experienced personnel, those weathered pages contained everything from the time of the next tide, to leadership hints from a respected chief petty officer, to the color coding of the phone-and-distance line used in underway replenishments. In that same tradition, the Naval Institute has created and aptly named the Wheel Book series, portable libraries culled from USNI’s vast array of information that has accumulated for more than a century. Articles from the Institute’s flagship publication Proceedings are combined with selections from USNI’s oral history program and from Naval Institute Press books to create unique guides on a wide array of relevant professional subjects. Just as the “wheel books” of yesterday served the fleet well, the Naval Institute Wheel Books of today provide supplemental information, pragmatic advice, and cogent analysis on topics important to modern naval professionals. The pinnacle of leadership in a military organization is command. Article 0801 of Navy Regulations defines both the authority and the responsibility of command as “absolute.” This Naval Institute Wheel Book provides practical guidance and food for thought that actual and would-be commanders can use to carry out that absolute authority while being absolutely responsible. Included in this specially-selected collection is the sage advice of those who have commanded as well as the expectations of those who are commanded. Aspirants as well as practitioners will do well to exploit this selected survey of what Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz described as the “one purpose” for entering the Navy.