Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War

Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War
Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War
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Between 1919 and 1941, the U.S. Navy transformed itself from a powerful if unsophisticated force into the fleet that would win a two-ocean war, from a fleet in which the battleship dominated to one based on carrier strike groups. The great puzzle of U.S. naval history is how this was accomplished. Norman Friedman trenchantly argues that war gaming at the U.S. Naval War College made an enormous, and perhaps decisive, contribution. For much of the inter-war period, the Naval War College was the Navy’s primary think tank. War gaming was the means the college used to test alternative strategies, tactics, evolving naval aviation, and warship types in a way that the Navy’s full-scale exercises could not. The think tank perspective taken by this book is a new way of looking at the inter-war Naval War College and the war games that formed the core of its curriculum. Although the influence of both the Naval War College’s gaming and of the college itself declined after 1933, most of the key decisions shaping the wartime U.S. Navy had already been taken. In this historical book, you will find the two most important ones were on the role of naval aviation and the form the U.S. war plan against Japan ultimately assumed. As shown here, U.S. naval commanders successfully applied the lessons learned from war gaming to victorious operations in World War II.

Related resources:

You can find more resources produced by the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command here:

The United States Naval War College Fundamentals of War Gaming (Hardcover format) is available here:

Paperback format can be found here:



Table of Contents


1. Naval Transformation

 Exercises: Full-Scale Fleet Problems and Games at Newport

 Naval Aviation as a Driver Toward Transformation

 The Inter-War Navy and Its World

 The Strategic Problem

Naval Arms Control


2. The Naval War College and Gaming

3. War Gaming and War Planning

 The “Applicatory” System

 War Gaming

 War Gaming at the Inter-War War College


 Some Limits of Gamed Reality

 Using War Gaming

 War Gaming and War Planning

4. War Gaming and Carrier Aviation

 Guessing What Aircraft Could Do

 Gaming and Early Carriers

 Reeves and Operating Practices

 Putting It Together—the Yorktown Class


5. The War College and Cruisers

 Evaluating Alternatives

 Cruisers at War: Three Years of Red-Blue Warfare

 Postscript: The Fate of the Flight-Deck Cruiser

6. Downfall

7. Conclusion: Games Versus Reality in the Pacific


A: Playing the Games

B: War Game Rules—Aircraft

 The Airplanes

 Carrier Air Operations


 Bombs Versus Carriers

 Torpedo Bombing

 Air-to-Air Combat

 Anti-Aircraft Firepower

 Aircraft Navigation and Reliability




Military analysts, educators, Naval history educators, interested veterans and citizens, contractors of the Naval establishment, war gaming enthusiasts.

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Defense Dept., Navy, Naval War College
  • Friedman, Norman
Key Phrases:
  • War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War
  • War Gaming
  • World War II
  • Naval History
  • Military history
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