In the decades leading up to the First World War, aviation enthusiasts and interested publics around the world watched as aviation developed in two directions, supporting heavier-than-air airplanes, and lighter-than-air airships. The airships, which relied on buoyant gases to maintain altitude, provided unique commercial and military capability. They were employed by several countries during the war, and at the war's conclusion, became the target of interest for United States Navy planners and strategists. Over the decade and a half following the First World War, advocates at all levels of the United States Navy pushed the Navy to adopt and employ the new technology.
This research examines the navy's rigid airship experience as a case study of failed innovation. Employing innovation theories from history, sociology, and military studies, this research explores the roles of four key airship advocates within the Navy's organizational structure. Each of these advocates approached innovation and the advocacy of a new technology from a different perspective, with varying results. Despite its apparent ability to fulfill operational and strategic requirements, the United States Navy began turning its support away from the airship in 1926, only three years after the first airship's maiden flight.
This study found that existing innovation theories are insufficient to explain the failure of rigid airship technology in the United States Navy. Instead, this work found that competing technologies, concepts, and a misunderstanding of the limited innovation timeline hampered the advocates' efforts.
|Advisor:||Spector, Ronald H.|
|Commitee:||Becker, William H., Ribuffo, Leo P.|
|School:||The George Washington University|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 68/11, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Science history, Military history|
|Keywords:||Airship, Dirigible, Innovation, Interwar, Military innovation, Moffett, William A., Rigid airship, United States Navy|
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