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    Winners of CNO’s 2023 Naval Essay Contest Announced

    CNO 2023 Essay Award Presentations

    Photo By Clifford Davis | 230921-N-FJ200-0043: ANNAPOLIS, MD. (Sept. 21, 2023) Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, acting...... read more read more



    Story by Monica Mccoy 

    Naval History and Heritage Command

    WASHINGTON NAVY YARD - Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, Acting Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, presented awards to the recipients of the Chief of Naval Operation’s 2023 Naval History Essay Contest during the McMullen Naval History Symposium luncheon held at the U.S. Naval Academy on Sept. 21.

    For this year’s contest, 117 essays were submitted — 67 in the Rising Historian category, 13 in the Professional category, and 37 in the Student Historian category.

    The CNO Naval History Essay Contest originated in 2017 began under then CNO Adm. John Richardson to further understanding of how lessons from history can inform the Navy’s way ahead. The goal of the contest is to leverage the knowledge and creativity of current and former uniformed and civilian members of the U.S. maritime services, the Merchant Marines, and professional historians to broaden and deepen the Navy’s warfighting knowledge by applying lessons from history to help ensure maritime superiority in an era of great power competition.

    “Our Navy’s story is ever-growing, and our fleet’s legacy shines bright. This endeavor is personally important to me,” said Kacher who is also the author of several Naval Institute Press books. “I’m a Sailor by trade, but my writing life – which is a vocation – started with a contest similar to this. That was the gateway for me to explore, think, learn and write. And I could not be more grateful for this tradition that we have – started nearly a century ago – that still provides a venue to celebrate independent thought. I want to praise all the contestants for having the courage to write and submit an essay. All the participants faced the writer’s greatest adversary – the blank page ... Your submissions and efforts have tremendous value to the fleet. We may not be able to predict the future. We don’t know what competition or conflict tomorrow may bring, but the rigorous study and reflection can assure we are better prepared for whatever challenges remain ahead."

    Previous years of the competition had only two categories: Professional and Rising. This year’s contest expanded the competition to include a Student Historian category.

    Award recipients were as follows:

    Professional Historian award recipients
    • First place: Mr. Andrew Blackley; “A Double-Edged Sword: The Legacy Bases of the Central Pacific,” Independent scholar and 2nd place Professional Historian category recipient in 2022

    • Second place: Cmdr. Jeff Vandenengel, “Fighting Sail and Submarines”

    Blackley’s first-place Professional Historian Category essay encourages leaders to consider the forward-looking strategic dilemma Adm. Chester Nimitz’ offered in 1944 regarding remaining WWII-constructed island bases and airfields in the Pacific Theater. The legacy bases of the Central Pacific, while supporting defensive and offensive support that gave the United States the advantage during the Second World War, also provide a means for forces to move in either direction, and the possibility of new aggressors to utilizing them to assert dominance in the Indo-Pacific area.
    Rising Historian award recipients

    • First Place: (co-authors) Maj. Ryan Ratcliffe, U.S. Marine Corps, and Dr. Douglas Bryant; “Learning from History in the Making: Combining Lessons from Ukraine and Naval History to Attain Maritime Superiority”

    • Second Place: Cmdr. Richard O. Morgan, U.S. Naval Reserve; “Disruptive Technologies and Great Power Conflict: The Maritime Propeller Case Study”

    • Third Place: Lt. Vince Kindfuller, U.S. Navy; “Rekindling Innovation in Naval Exercises: Lessons from the Interwar Fleet Problems, 1923-1940”

    In the Rising Historian Category, Ratcliffe’s and Bryant's first-place entry assesses current and historical conflicts to illustrate while deterrence should remain a core tenet of the national defense strategy, investing in warfighting capabilities that cement our tactical advantage – particularly in the maritime domain – must take precedence.

    Student Historian award recipients

    • First Place: Midshipman First Class Liam Nawara, U.S. Naval Academy; “Lessons for a Wartime U.S. Navy: STUFT Vessels in the Falklands War”

    • Second Place: Midshipman First Class Nels J. Waaraniemi, U.S. Naval Academy; “The Invasion that Never Was: Operation Causeway and its Lessons”

    • Third Place: Midshipman Third Class Pierre S. Briand, University of Southern California, NROTC; “Rivalry and Confusion at Leyte: Lessons for Sea Control in the Pacific”

    Nawara’s winning Student Historian Category essay looks at how the Royal Navy had to rely upon converted commercial “ships take up from trade (STUFT)” vessels for military use in 1982 after divesting their warfare assets the previous year. Nawara suggests the U.S. Navy could face a similar capability gap in future conflicts and analyzes the British use of these vessels to offer challenges and success the U.S. might face undertaking a commercial vessel conversion program.

    Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) manages the annual essay contest on behalf of the CNO, supported by the U.S. Naval Institute – which has been running essay contests since 1878.

    “History is not a collection of nostalgia to be pulled out for anniversaries. History in its true form is the systematic study and documentation of a past to inform a future. As the U.S. Navy’s institutional memory, Naval History and Heritage Command continually strives to preserve and present an accurate history of the U.S. Navy, sharing hard-won historical lessons in support of current operations,” said NHHC Director Samuel Cox. “We take our mission seriously, and these annual essay awards are just one way we invite others to join us in that endeavor. The essays authored by this year’s award recipients are diverse, insightful, historical perspectives meant to influence and improve future operations.”

    All winning essays will be published in USNI’s Proceedings or Naval History in 2024. Following publication, essays will be available (along with additional information on the CNO Naval Essay Contest) at

    NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

    For more news from NHHC, visit


    Note to Media: For more information, contact the Naval History and Heritage Command Public Affairs Office at 202-433-7880 or



    Date Taken: 09.21.2023
    Date Posted: 09.22.2023 13:51
    Story ID: 454080

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