America should look to its own past in supporting Ukraine’s naval battle

The ‘mosquito navy’ is successfully punching above its weight in the Black Sea

When I was ten, I got into reading about naval strategy and tactics — I really liked a book I had on Horatio Nelson. My hands-down favourite, however, was Sea Captain from Salem by Leonard Wibberley, the tale of a fishing captain with the unlikely name of Peace of God Manly.

He was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to convince the French that the infant US could harry mighty Britain near its own shores. And so he did, taking on the British Navy so successfully that — according to the story — the French ponied up needed military assistance. The rest of this history is well-known: the French fleet helped the US to defeat Britain once and for all in 1781, at the Battle of Yorktown.

I haven’t read the book for sixty years, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because of the remarkable performance of the Ukrainians in the Black Sea. They have used their “mosquito navy” to drive the Russian navy out of Sevastopol. Moscow has moved significant naval assets back to Novorossiysk on the Russian mainland.

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