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NPS Professor Wayne Hughes Leads Discussion on Legendary Naval Strategists
U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Victoria Ochoa

NPS Professor Wayne Hughes Leads Discussion on Legendary Naval Strategists

By MC2 Victoria Ochoa

NPS Department of Operations Research Professor of Practice retired Navy Capt. Wayne Hughes engaged university students, faculty and staff in a discussion on influential naval strategists in Ingersoll Hall, March 15. Hughes discussed how the historic figures shaped modern Navy strategy, and offered his own insights into the well-known tacticians.


"You are going to hear liberal mention of James Hornfischer's new book, 'The Fleet at Flood Tide,' which is really the inception of this talk," said Hughes.

He then launched into the discussion by delving into the history behind his four favorite Navy strategists and their achievements. The first admiral he brought up was Adm. Raymond Spruance, well known for his victories during one of the most important dates in Navy history.

"Spruance should forever be remembered as the greatest operational naval commander of World War II," said Hughes. "I think Spruance's greatness first struck me when I was a lieutenant teaching naval history."

Hughes went on to describe feats of courage and leadership that Spruance demonstrated during the Battle of Midway, one of the most iconic naval battles in history. He then transitioned the discussion to Adm. Arleigh Burke.

"There are two reasons for my admiration for Adm. Burke," said Hughes. "First is his brilliance as a tactician and youthful battle leader, and second, for his achievements as Chief of Naval Operations."

Hughes recounted back to a time when he was teaching at the Naval Academy as a lieutenant. He met Burke around 1979, and had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion with him, along with his fellow professors. "After the question and answer panel, I gained much admiration for Burke," said Hughes.

Hughes then transitioned his discussion to Rear Admiral Bradley Fiske. "I can talk endlessly about Fiske, he was the closest Navy officer I know that I can say was a Renaissance man," he said.

Hughes called Fiske an innovator who saw the need for a new, mechanized Navy. At the age of 28, he applied for a leave of absence to study the potential of technology at General Electric (GE).

"The Navy never got a better payback by sending him to study," said Hughes. "During his year at GE, Fiske published his first technical document, sold his first patent, and was well on his way to publishing his first textbook on electricity."

During his long career, Fiske invented many electrical and mechanical devices, with both Navy and civilian uses, and wrote extensively on technical and professional issues.

Hughes closed the discussion with Adm. Chester Nimitz. "Nimitz could be number one in many minds for his brilliant leadership, and then after the war as Chief of Naval Operations," said Hughes. "A close look at the Pacific war would show that Nimitz was as close to, and involved in, all of the operations a theater commander should be."


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