by Tyler Will, NWC Public Affairs
NEWPORT, R.I. - After winning the Edward S. Miller Research Fellowship at the Naval War College (NWC), Alan Anderson spent a week, Dec. 7 through 11, researching little known perspectives of Alfred Thayer Mahan at the Naval Historical Collection
in Mahan Hall.
A Minnesota native and a June 2009 graduate of Norwich University (NU), his interest in military history started in his youth. An article from NU said he used to listen to his father and uncles exchanging stories from World War II. Anderson, a lawyer now pursuing his historical interests, received a Master of Arts degree in military history from NU.
But during his one week of research at NWC, he was looking specifically at Mahan. The fellowship comes with a $1,000 grant, sponsored by the Naval War College Foundation.
“I was surprised and I was thrilled,” Anderson said about hearing he had won the fellowship. “It’s a great opportunity to come and rummage through archival materials. I didn’t really think I would have much of a chance of receiving this award.”
NWC Chairman of Maritime History John Hattendorf said the application pool was competitive.
“There were a number of applicants,” he said. “His, by far, was the most competitive of them all.” Hattendorf added that Anderson wrote a paper on Mahan for the Society of Military History and he had other background in the topic. “He was hands-down the winner this time around,” Hattendorf said.
He examined seldom-studied characteristics of Mahan, including his views on the military use of poison gas and exchanges with fellow delegates at the Hague Conference in 1899. Mahan was also concerned that the conference would force the U.S. to arbitrate disputes with European countries, even if the conflict was a strictly American affair.
Hattendorf said Anderson’s research will offer important contributions to information about Mahan.
“Those are areas of Mahan’s life that need to be researched,” he said, adding that his role in the Hague Conference was an “important and interesting” part of history.
Anderson’s curiosity about the topic began back in May of this year.
“I discovered that there was a fair amount of tension among Mahan and other delegates from the U.S.,” he said. “Their positions were different on important issues.”
In front of a table covered in boxes of papers and files, Anderson sorted through correspondence between Mahan and other delegates of the conference, and determined that Mahan was an opinionated officer.
“It’s fascinating to be able to go back and see the correspondence and the papers and the memos and stuff,” he said, adding that finding letters and other primary sources of information pose challenges to research.
NWC’s collection made his job that much easier. “The Mahan collection is one of the critical components to the research,” Anderson said.