Howarth insists the naval history of the United States is one of rise, fall, and a phoenixlike ascension to the pinnacle of operational effectiveness. Beginning with the experience of the Revolutionary War and the decades of early nationhood, the Navy, and the nation, sought to realize their potential. Both achieved respectability with the end of the Civil War, but although the nation continued to march forward, the United States fell into technological disrepute and professional disrepair.
The turn of the century, however, brought the resumption of the impulse toward Manifest Destiny, albeit with a geographic shift, on the part of the United States. In consequence, the Republic found it must needs accept the consequences of the revolution in naval architecture which characterized the last half of the nineteenth century. Imperialism and the concomitant involvement in two world wars led the nation and its naval force into the ranks of the superpowers.
TO SHINING SEA is not designed as a complete history of the U.S. Navy, nor is the work a study of naval technology or an analysis of naval strategic development. Nevertheless, Howarth does examine elements of technology and strategy as well as the Navy’s role in peace and war. The work is well written, and the coverage is impressively thorough. Still, it does emphasize the naval adventure story, while the historical analysis is sometimes altogether too simplistic for any but the most popular audience. Readers concerned with a properly “historical” account of the U.S. Navy would be advised to consult THIS PEOPLE’S NAVY by Kenneth J. Hagan.