Revolt of the Admirals -Jeffrey Barlow

About the Author:

Barlow is a naval historian through and through. He is interested in “telling the navy story” behind the “Revolt of the Admirals” through the lens of the navy—his perspective. He also has a doctorate in International Studies.


This book tells the story of the “Revolt of the Admirals” by chronologically moving from the years between the wars through the congressional testimony where the dissent between the US Navy’s military and civilian leadership became apparent…also including the aftermath of that testimony.

Main argument:

Barlow argues that the USAF (and previously the AAF) waged a propaganda campaign against the Navy that the latter were unprepared to fight. Based on fears of losing resources (roles and missions), Barlow argues the US Navy’s senior military leaders were forced by their civilian leaders and AF/Army counterparts into a position where they had to effectively defect from the establishment en masse…and that this defection actually helped the US Navy (instead of chalking it up as a loss as do most historians).

Evidence used:

Barlow cites numerous historical events (USSBS, Key West Conference, hirings/firings of multiple navy leaders, the B-36 program and the 6A Large Aircraft Carrier program) and describes their details and effects to support his argument.


Barlow clearly describes his position and supports it with numerous quotes and facts that are undisputed to paint his portrait. Additionally, this book is well written and interesting to read. Unfortunately, Barlow’s bias is obvious and calls into question his “cherry picking” of evidence to support his side of the story. Nevertheless, if this bias is understood going in, numerous questions of the roles of military and civilian leaders and the inter-relations of the services and their constituencies present themselves in a clear and compelling way.


Combined with the multiple versions of the USSBS examined in the last class, this book adds fuel to the fire that history is riddled with bias and it is always good to get multiple sides to the same story. However, several events in this story mirror current day issues in the political battle over resources between the services and call into question current practices of defending and supporting current and future defense acquisition programs.

Overall impression:

This is a well-organized and supported book about a topic of which I knew little. I’m sure it would be interesting to read the AF’s version of these events to add clarity and depth of thought.


This book is worth reading to gain perspective on how bad things can get in the fight between services. It could be useful as a way to increase perspective in future subordinates about the way their actions might be seen by others outside their organization.

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