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Synopsis of Naval War College Plan of Operations by Captain Henry C. Taylor

Synopsis of War College Plan for

Cuban campaign in a war with Spain

It is premised that our forces in Asia and the Pacific will demonstrate against the Philippines

Our force in Europe should form part of our Cuban campaign, for observation and later to reinforce main body –

No serious demonstrations against old Spain, until the Cuban Campaign is settled, should be undertaken – Its military effect as a diversion would be inconsiderable, its political effect would be to consolidate Spain's national spirit, and our ships thus employed will be needed in Cuba.

    For the Cuban campaign all the military resources of the U.S. afloat + ashore must be developed and put in use instantly. The necessity for this must be recognized, and upon this basis – of all the resources of the Country – the plan of campaign must be founded. We must consent to possible over preparations rather than to under estimate our war needs – only thus can we be sure to avoid checks + delays, which when confronted by a feeble enemy, constitute military reverses, as much as do battles lost when engaged with the superior enemy –

    This being understood, the War College plan proposes a rapid series of movements, carefully studied + concerted beforehand, having for object the completion of certain military acts, before Spain can bring upon the scene her heavy fighting ships, and any large force of troops to add to those already in Cuba

These acts + movements are

10 – The immediate blockade attack of Havana + adjacent harbors by our heavy ships.

20 – The scouring of the Cuban coast by our cruisers, to destroy hostile craft; the establishment of blockade by armed merchant steamers throughout the Island; the capture of Cienfuegos1 and other points, and their occupation by our Army, in order to secure coaling stations in order to secure coaling stations + rendezvous for our blockading vessels.

30Attack Havana with our fleet and if resistance is feeble, occupy it with our fleet, and land our troops to hold it.2

40 - If fighting at Havana resists strongly cease bombardment, and occupy Bahia Honda and Cabanas Harbors ── or Matanzas3 if Army prefers it ── and land advance corps of 30000 men of all arms, under whose shelter and that of the fleet, two more Corps = 60000 as soon as ready will land, and more if needed. These troops to advance upon Havana by land, assisted by the fleet on its seaward flank –

    With vigorous preparation, and harmonious concert of action between the Army + Navy, these movements can be either completed or their completion assumed soon afterwards within 30 days that passed from the declaration of war; and Spain cannot in less than that time reach Cuba with a respectable force, demanding the attention of our heavy ships. The importance of completing these demonstrations before the enemy arrives in force is plainly apparent.

50 Local Naval defence for our own ports must be organized to supplement the Army forts + submarine mines ── in case the enemy's fleet should attempt to surprise them ── until our fleet can be recalled from off Havana. The fear of this should not be allowed to retain vessels of the fleet in our Northern ports.

The above represents the general idea of the War College plans.4 All military resources of the country must be brought into play at once. Only then can the matter be quickly settled, and real economy of life + treasure insured.

A passive blockade of Cuba to await the starving out of the Spanish troops there; the reduction of the Island by the Navy without the help of the Army; or by the Army without the Navy ── these methods which are sometimes suggested, have a certain ingenuity, and are attractive because they seem to offer large returns, for small expenditure of life + treasure ── but to the War College it does not appear that such methods are based upon the principles of warfare as deduced from Naval and Military History. There are no royal roads, no shortcuts to victory. Force must be brought against force in order to win. In no other way does it appear to in the opinion of the War College can war be successfully waged.


Source Note: TD, RNN, UNOpB, Section 10, Envelope 9, No. 261. This document, which is undated, was undoubtedly written at the Naval War College (Newport, RI), and was accompanied by a routing slip page which indicated the presence of copies of this synopsis and Taylor’s war plan. See: Plan of Operations Against Spain Prepared by Capt. Henry C. Taylor (1896). It was subsequently submitted to the Navy Department and the Ramsey Defense Board (December 1896), which in turn published its own war plans. See: Plan of Operations Against Spain (1896). This routing slip page is an important piece of information that suggests that a serious dialogue was going on among top-ranking naval officers. Bracketed words indicate a handwritten entry in the following: “Drawer No. 3/(No. 4)/Nov. 18-1896./Copy No. 2 Sent to Secretary of the Navy. [Ad. Bunce]/No. 1 Rear Admiral Walker. – [Capt. Sampson]/No. 3 Lieut. Comdr. Wainwright./[Ad. Ramsey]/Nov. 30/These copies are were without the notes and additions to made in this copy by per or by separate slips./[These are the latest additions on Dec. 15-96-]/[Copy of this taken to the Department by President of the College-]/[Copy placed in Archives Oct 1903-]”(This note is in different handwriting/SPECIAL PROBLEM/1896.

Footnote 1: The harbor at Cienfuegos is located on the southern coast of eastern Cuba. It was strategically crucial since it was connected to Havana by rail.

Footnote 2: Point no. 3 was stricken by Taylor because it contradicts point no. 4.

Footnote 3: Locations on the north coast of Cuba: Bahia Honda and Cabanas are west of Havana; Mantanzas is located eastwards.

Footnote 4: A reference to Taylor’s war plan. See: Plan of Operations Against Spain Prepared by Captain Henry C. Taylor (1896).