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3 | Attending the Naval War College

Naval War College staff and classes of 1936.
NWC staff and students, 1935-1936

From 1934 to 1958, the Naval War College conducted the course for three groups of U.S. military resident students: an advanced course, a senior course, and a junior course.

U.S. involvement in WWII led NWC to suspend the existing courses in 1941; they were replaced, for the duration of the war, by abbreviated junior and senior courses.

Senior Course

The senior course, now known as the Nimitz course (Admiral Chester W. Nimitz course in National Security and Strategic Studies), was the first course offered at the Naval War College and focused on preparing officers who were ready for flag rank commands.  A single course for all students was taught at NWC until 1923, when the Navy and College leadership established the junior course.

In the 1950s, the senior course was divided into two tracks: one focused on strategy and logistics and the second on strategy and tactics. In 1954, the two tracks combined in a single two-year course, which was further revised in 1959 and returned to a 1-year naval warfare course, titled Course in Naval Warfare.  

Junior Course

The Naval War College instituted a junior class in 1923-1924 based on the recommendations of the 1919-1920 Knox-King-Pye report on naval officers education. The authors, Dudley Knox, Ernest J. King, and William S. Pye, argued that naval officers should be offered the opportunity of further education at multiple points in their career. Naval War College leaders and champions hoped that students would attend for the junio course and return, later in their career to take the senior course.

The course curriculum was designed to educate students to command a single ship, and establish the skills for later command at flag rank. Despite a goal of having 60 or more officers per class, for the first thirty years, class size never exceeded 52 students, with most years having approximately 30 students.

The course has changed title twice: in 1951 it became the College of Command and Staff Course and, more recently, the course was renamed the Admiral Raymond A. Spruance course in Maritime Warfare and Strategic Studies in 2014. 

Advanced Course

NWC President Rear Admiral Edward C. Kalbfus's tenure (1934-1936) saw the introduction of an "advanced" class to the Naval War College's curriculum in 1934. The first class of 11 students, including RADM William S. Pye and Captains Byron McCandless and Robert Theobald, graduated in 1935. Students selected for the advanced class studied directly under Kalbfus' direction and focused on naval warfare, military strategy, and international law. Most of the students who participated in the advanced were previous graduates of the Naval War College.

The course originated with previous NWC President RADM Luke McNamee (1933-1934). McNamee attended NWC as part of the 1911-1912 cohort for the short and first long course in those years. The advanced course, as introduced in 1934, different from McNamee's original goals for a 2 year long program with students selected from the previous senior course. The course as designed, remained separate from the main NWC curriculum and focused on strategic issues of concern to naval policy makers including a potential U.S. war with Japan.

NWC suspended the course for the duration of WWII. While the course restarted in 1948, it was rebranded for the 1951-1952 class as Advanced Study in Strategy and Sea Power. The last course under that designation was offered in 1957.

Sources: John B. Hattendorf, B. Mitchell Simpson, and John W. Wadleigh, Sailors and Scholars: The Centennial History of the U.S. Naval War College (Newport, RI: Naval War College Press, 1984); United States Naval War College Register of Officers, 1884-1977, RG 19, Naval Historical Collection. 

For more information on Naval War College students or the course curriculum, contact the Naval Historical Collection (NHC@usnwc.edu).