“Grippe Caught Us Quicker than the U-Boats.” Examining the Past for New Perspectives on Current Challenges

Apr 19, 2020

The Naval War College Foundation, in partnership with the generosity of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, is pleased to present “‘Grippe Caught Us Quicker than the U-Boats:’ The Lingering Sickness of War and the Pandemic of 1918-1920”. This historical account of the challenges faced by the U.S. Navy at the end of World War I and during the “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918-1920 is written by David Kohnen, Director of the Naval War College’s John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research, in collaboration with Nicholas Jellicoe and Nathaniel Sims, M.D. Jellicoe is the grandson of Sir John Jellicoe, commander of the British fleet during the Battle of Jutland in World War I, and Sims is a NWCF trustee and grandson of U.S. Navy admiral William S. Sims, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in World War I and two-time President of the Naval War College. Accompanying the article are images taken directly from the Hattendorf Center’s archives.


The human invention of war overshadowed the natural enemy of influenza in the closing months of U.S. Naval operations in the First World War. The “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918-1920 shook the strategic foundations of ongoing negotiations to end the “war to end all wars.” Looking into the distant mirror of the past and the Spanish Flu pandemic, contemporary readers may discover fresh perspectives in considering the future challenges of strategy and command in the global maritime arena.


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