1st Edition

Naval Presence and the Interwar US Navy and Marine Corps Forward Deployment, Crisis Response, and the Tyranny of History

By Benjamin Armstrong Copyright 2024

    This book examines the US Navy and Marine Corps during the interwar years from a new perspective.

    Rather than focusing on the technologies developed, the wargames conducted, or the results of the now famous Fleet Problems, this work analyzes the global deployments of the rest of the US fleet. By examining the annual reports of the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps over 20 years, the book traces the US ships, squadrons, and fleets conducting naval diplomacy and humanitarian missions, maritime security patrols, and deployments for deterrent effect across the world’s oceans. Despite the common label of the interwar years as "isolationist," the deployments of the US Navy and Marine Corps in that period were anything but isolated. The majority of the literature on the era has a narrow focus on preparation for combat and wartime, which provides an incomplete view of the history of US naval power and also establishes a misleading set of precedents and historical context for naval thinkers and strategists in the contemporary world. Offering a wider and more complete understanding of the history of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from 1920 to 1939, this book demonstrates the tension between the execution of peacetime missions and the preparation for the next war, while also offering a broader understanding of American naval forces and their role in American and global history.

    This book will be of much interest to students of naval and military history, sea power, and International History.


    Chapter I: “A Force for Peace”: The Post-War U.S. Navy and Marine Corps of the 1920s

    Chapter II: “The Prestige of its Flag”: The Global U.S. Navy and Marine Corps of the 1930s



    Benjamin Armstrong is an officer in the U.S. Navy and an associate professor of War Studies and Naval History at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is the author or an editor of four books, including Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy (2019).

    'There is a common assumption that the United States Navy spent the years between the World Wars digesting the lessons of the first, and preparing to win the second. Naval Presence demonstrates that this 'military' reading of history ignores the critical reality that the inter-war Navy and Marine Corps represented the nation abroad, supporting diplomacy, protecting economic interests, exerting influence and responding to disasters.  This fresh reading of the evidence is at once compelling, and consistent with the longer history of American naval operations.'

    Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History, author of The British Way of War: Julian Corbett and the Battle for a National Strategy.


    'With an accessible prose and a surgical chronological examination, this volume compellingly argues that naval presence is not a mission but an enabling condition that crucially links navies to statecraft. Fundamentally challenging the mainstream approaches to American naval history during the interwar period, this book is the go-to reference to understand the tensions between the requirements of a navy deployed to shape peacetime stability and one preparing for the occurrence of war.'

    Alessio Patalano, Professor of War & Strategy in East Asia, King's College London


    'Theodore Roosevelt famously stated, "A good navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guarantee for peace." Navies exist to fight a nation's wars, but they are equally vital in serving a nation's peacetime needs. This book reminds scholars, readers of history, and contemporary seapower analysts alike of the enduring, but understudied and often underappreciated value of naval presence operations.'

    Sebastian Bruns, author of U.S. Naval Strategy and National Security: The Evolution of American Maritime Power