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Battle of Jutland Part I: Learning the Battle of Jutland at the U.S. Naval War College

The greatest naval battle of World War I, the Battle of Jutland, began on 31 May 1916. For 12 hours, from 31 May to the morning of 1 June, involving 100,000 men and 250 ships, the German High Seas Fleet fought the British Great Fleet to what seemed like a decisive victory, or an indecisive defeat, or, perhaps, a draw. No matter whom history decided emerged as the victor the impact of Jutland remained: the German Fleet lived to fight another day, a failure that affected the British Navy for decades. 

Within months of the battle, students at the Naval War College received assignments to study the battle, the concept of fleet-in-being, and naval leadership and command. The differing approaches of German naval leaders Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper and Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer and British Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe and Vice Admiral David Beatty became the focus of student papers and war games to teach the Navy and the U.S. military's future leaders the lessons of flexibility, preparedness, decisiveness, and manpower.

From 1916 until well into World War II, all students who attended the Naval War College knew, and hopefully learned from, the Battle of Jutland. In the 1920s, the Naval War College President and Staff directed students to study a broad range of historical naval battles from Greece and Rome to Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar, Admiral David Farragut at Vicksburg, along with Beatty and Jellicoe at Jutland. History, they believed and taught, presented critical lessons to the U.S. Navy that ensured continuous improvement in strategy, tactics, and technology allowing the Navy to achieve its aims: victory when war became necessary.

This exhibition includes a selection of papers from the Naval War College's alumni including those of future Navy leaders Chester W. Nimitz, Ernest King, Joel R.P. Pringle, John Vincent Babcock, and Harold R. Stark. 

For more information on Naval War College students’ experience and education on the Battle of Jutland, contact the Naval Historical Collection at NHC@usnwc.edu or sign up to participate in the Battle of Jutland War Game with PNWC Admiral P. Gardner Howe and Director of Naval History, Rear Admiral Samuel J. Cox (ret.) at https://www.usnwc.edu/About/NWC-Museum/Jutland.aspx.


Dara A. Baker, Head Archivist, Elizabeth Delmage, Assistant Archivist, Robert Marchetta, Archives Technician, Kirsi Ritosalmi-Kisner, Archives Volunteer, Jennifer Magrath, NWC Library, Jonathan Grenier, NHC Volunteer, and special thanks to Robert Doane, NWC Museum Curator and Mark Stanovich and Pete Pellegrino, NWC War Gaming Department for their research in the collection.