WWI and WWII Sonar in Naval Warfare Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Sonar Research and Naval Warfare: 1914-1954

During both World War I and World War II, there were a number of informational tactics used by the Navy in order to gain ground on enemy troops. One of those was sonar research, because it provided them with knowledge they would not have otherwise had (Hackmann, 1984). Sonar is not perfect, but a great deal of work has gone into it since its creation, and that has helped it to become a more valuable tool for Naval operations. Sonar is used for navigation, but also for communication and the detection of objects, primarily underwater (Urick, 1983). There are two types of sonar: passive and active. In active sonar, pings are sent out to search for other objects (Hackmann, 1984). Passive sonar does not send out a signal, but only listens for the pings and signals of others (Hackmann, 1984). Both have their place, and can be highly effective. Additionally, both were used by the Navy during WWI and WWII, in an effort to protect vessels from enemies and also locate enemy vessels that may become targets (Hackmann, 1984; Hackmann, 1986).

This paper seeks to provide information about sonar and how it was used in both WWI and WWII. It also addresses some specific questions that need to be answered about the use of sonar, including:

How did sonar use and quality differ between WWI and WWII when it came to active and passive options?

What type of effect did sonar actually have on WWI and WWII in the sense of gathering information?

Did the use of sonar change the course of either war and, if so, how was that change created and measured?

Because sonar is so often used for intelligence and because it can easily be used to gather certain types of information, it is not surprising that it was popular in both WWI and WWII (Hackmann, 1984). In between those wars, advancements were made in sonar. It will be vital to this paper's conclusions to explore not only how sonar was used in both wars, but how much different it was and how that affected the value of it for Naval operations. It is to be expected that the sonar available in WWI was not as good as the sonar available in WWII, simply because of the time between wars and the way that technology continues to advance. However, the extent to which sonar changed and how that may or may not have affected what took place during both wars is also an important consideration that will be addressed. Without clear knowledge of how sonar works and what it had to offer to Naval operations in both WWI and WWII, it is not possible to understand the value of it and/or how it may have helped a particular side or country win either war. If there were problems with sonar or reasons why it may have hindered the cause of Naval operations at the time, those also have to be considered and discussed in order to provide complete information.

Concepts and Theories

The prevailing theory considered here is that sonar was vital to intelligence gathering in both wars, and that it was significantly more valuable in WWII than it was in WWI, simply because of the advancement of technology that occurred during that time period. While that is the theory proposed, there are no guarantees that it is the correct one, or that there are not other considerations that have to be addressed and/or are being overlooked. There may be other components to the issue that are not a part of the use of sonar but that may have been affected by it or may have affected its outcome in either one or both of the wars. If this were to be the case, it would be important to be aware of this so that any studies into the wars and the use of sonar by Naval operations can be as accurate as possible. When a theory is presented, it is necessary to provide backing for that theory, in order for it to be accepted and in order for it to be studied in the right way.

The concept being addressed throughout this paper is that sonar was a necessary and valuable component for the Navy in both WWI and WWII, and that the outcome of one or both of those wars could have been drastically different had sonar not been employed. This is something that can be studied, and a conclusion regarding it can be reached, but only with a proper understanding of what sonar could and could not do. It was not the same then as it is today, and could not offer as much information that would allow for the gathering of intelligence, especially in underwater situations. That does not mean it was not valuable to the Navy, however, and there is a strong belief that sonar could have been what actually won both of the wars. Whether this can be proven with any degree of certainty is debatable, but that does not mean that information cannot be provided that will shed strong light on the value of sonar when it comes to Naval operations during the wars.

Hypotheses and Variables

Having a hypothesis to consider is an important part of the study and discovery process. For the purposes here, there is more than one hypothesis because there is more than one significant event (war) being discussed. To that end, the hypotheses under consideration are as follows:

In World War I, the use of sonar in Naval operations played a significant role in which country ended up victorious.

In World War II, the use of -- and advancements in -- sonar in Naval operations played a significant role in which country ended up victorious.

Hypotheses are important, but they are not all that has to be considered here. There are also variable that are a large part of the study, and that, if not taken into account, could easily skew the results of the study. The variables here include a number of things that are not related to sonar, such as the number of ships used in the war, the location of the fighting, the number of troops sent to fight, the length of the war, and the other ways in which intelligence was gathered, in addition to sonar. There are many variables, which can make it difficult for a study to control for all of the reasons that something took place. In this case, having a number of variables could make it more difficult to determine exactly how much of an influence sonar had on which country won the war, and how successful they were based on the length of time it took for a victory. Naturally, that is a problem. It is not possible to remove or ignore these variables, however. They must be considered.

Since the variables cannot be removed, it is important to control for them as much as possible. This will be done through an examination of the conditions at the time the sonar was used, in order to determine how different the variables were and how much of an influence they may have had on the ultimate outcome. It is also possible to study the sonar more directly, by determining when (and if) it specifically affected something that was related to the outcome of either of the wars. Sonar is not just used for fighting a battle or winning a war. It is also used for the gathering of intelligence in order to determine enemy movements and other factors that have to be considered when a war is taking place (Hackmann, 1984). Understanding what types of intelligence could be collected and in what quantities can go a long way toward determining the true value of sonar in both WWI and WWII. That can allow conclusions to be drawn that are based on as much knowledge of the time period as is possible given the length of time that has passed since the wars took place.


One of the ways a study can provide detailed, valuable information about a specific event or period in history is through the use of case studies. These are certain things that happened, and that are used as examples of what the author is attempting to convey. They can help conclusions to be drawn, and they can also offer insight in ways that are more difficult to get across or understand without direction information that can be used for comparison. For this paper, each war will be its own case. That means there will be two cases explored. Case One will be WWI, and Case Two will be WWII. It is not realistically possible to divide these events much further, because there were so many different -- and often ongoing -- battles fought during both wars. Attempting to break the wars down into individuals battles would results in being required to study numerous, small cases, some of…

Cite This Research Paper:

"WWI And WWII Sonar In Naval Warfare" (2014, April 14) Retrieved February 18, 2018, from

"WWI And WWII Sonar In Naval Warfare" 14 April 2014. Web.18 February. 2018. <

"WWI And WWII Sonar In Naval Warfare", 14 April 2014, Accessed.18 February. 2018,