7. Lessons Learned
Dara A. Baker
Head Archivist, Naval Historical Collection
U.S. Naval War College
The goal of using the Battle of Jutland as a teaching tool hinged on the Naval War College students' ability to draw conclusions from the battle about how to be better leaders, faster decision makers, and more knowledgeable seamen.
The lectures, discussions, analytical papers, problems, and games brought the experience of war to the classroom and pushed Naval War College students to consider how they would, and should, act given the circumstances that faced Jellicoe, Beatty, Hipper, and Scheer. Facing critique from faculty and staff, King, Nimitz, Pringle, Stark, and their colleagues reviewed the documents presented to them and parsed out lessons about risk-taking, technological advances and limitation, and the increasing importance of intelligence and communications operations.
The students, depending on their background, naval or military experience, and career, ended up drawing different lessons and conclusions from the battle. Future vice admiral and Naval War College President Joel P.R. Pringle emphasized in his thesis that “the outstanding lesson to be drawn from the battle, it seems to me is that success in battle must be based upon a vigorous offensive...it is certainly true that war cannot be made without taking risks and that decisive results in battle do not flow from defensive tactics.” A fellow classmate, Commander John Vincent Babcock, drew a different, but no less accurate conclusion, "It would appear," he wrote, "that if there is one outstanding lesson to be derived from the Battle of Jutland it is the stress which is laid upon the importance of information.”
Students who gamed Jutland at the Naval War College left with invaluable knowledge about those changes. By 1922, NWC graduates had eight years of experience with engagements outside of visual range and the new formations, first seen at Jutland that improved guns, better sighting, and faster ships required. The Naval War College education, and particularly the historic games, provided an advantage when they returned to sea.
The lessons of Jutland still apply today. Issues that concerned naval officers during the interwar period remain of high importance: the speed of technological change, the importance of good intelligence, the need to balance risk and reward, the increasing cost of naval ships and armaments, and the rise of new global powers all combine to add extra challenge to today's Navy. Nimitz, King, Stark, Halsey, Rooks, Cluverius, Craven, and dozens of other naval officers would recognize the Naval War College's mission today: combine history and modern tools to educate the Navy's future leaders in the classroom and through the war games to become better, faster, and smarter at sea, as advisors, and in joint operations and command.
Commander J. V. Babcock, Tactics, Record Group 13 (Student Theses), Naval Historical Collection.
Captain Joel R. P. Pringle, Tactics, Record Group 13 (Student Theses), Naval Historical Collection.