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History Department

The United States Naval Academy instituted the Trident Scholar Program in 1963 to provide an opportunity for a limited number of exceptionally capable students to engage in independent study and research during their senior year.  Under this program, midshipmen in the top 15 percent of their class at the end of the first semester of their junior year are invited to submit proposed research projects and programs of study for evaluation. Midshipmen selected to participate are afforded an unusually exciting educational experience, and there has been a gratifying response to the program.  The number of scholars selected has ranged from a low of three to a high of sixteen, with thirteen scholars in the Class of 2022.  The program celebrates its 58th year!

Each Trident Scholar's academic program for the year is modified to substitute research courses and thesis for traditional courses within the major.  Each scholar has one or more Naval Academy faculty advisors who are well acquainted with the field of study and who serve as research mentors to the scholar. Scholars may request to have scientists and area specialists from neighboring laboratories or universities serve as consultants for their research efforts, and in some cases, the scholars may travel to nearby facilities such as the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to use equipment not available at the Naval Academy. A Trident Scholar Committee, made up of faculty members with special interests in scholarship and research, administers the program under the guidance of the Associate Director of Midshipman Research and the responsibility of the Academic Dean and Provost.

As the fall semester draws to a close, each Trident Scholar submits an interim report, describing the project background and results obtained thus far, to the faculty advisor(s) and to the Trident Scholar Committee.  In April of the spring semester, each Trident Scholar presents the results of his or her research in a final written report, a lecture at a Naval Academy conference, and by participating in a poster session prior to a formal dinner.  The dinner brings together for critical discussion the entire spectrum of Naval Academy research — graduating as well as newly selected scholars, their advisors and sponsors, members of the Trident Scholar Committee and invited guests.

Following an assessment of each scholar's project accomplishments, and an evaluation of his final written report, poster and conference presentation, the Trident Scholar Committee has the difficult task of identifying the single scholar to be recommended to the Provost to receive the Class of 1979 Trident Scholar prize. On the "chronological listing" web pages, recipients of the Trident prize, awarded to the midshipman producing the most outstanding Trident project for that graduating class, are indicated by a trident symbol beside their names.

While every midshipman at the Naval Academy learns standard research methodology in the fundamental and advanced courses within the academic majors, it is through participation in the Trident Scholar Program that a midshipman has the opportunity to contribute his or her thoughts, intuition, creativity and enthusiasm into a substantial, non-textbook problem. The freedom from a normal classroom routine requires a responsible student - one committed to excellence and one who will call upon personal, professional and technical expertise to establish the elements of the project, to identify the resources required, and to bring the project full circle from inception to results, explanations and conclusions.

Trident Scholars frequently present their research results at local, regional and national meetings of their discipline.  Several are co-authors with their faculty mentors on presentations, refereed journal articles and patents.  Many are awarded graduate scholarships, with some of the recent scholars accepted to the Cambridge University, England and Stanford University.  Statistically, Trident Scholars are more likely  to achieve success in their naval professions than their Academy classmates.  Over thirty of the previous Trident Scholars with the requisite years of Naval Service have been promoted to the rank of Navy Captain and eleven have reached the rank of Admiral.

The Trident Scholar Program is supported by several funding agencies, such as the Office of Naval Research, and through generous gift funds, such as the Harry E. Ward Fund and the Class of 1979 Fund.

Landon M. Clouse, 2023, "Failure to Launch: How Could NASA Not Replace the Shuttle?"

Advisor: Professor Brian VanDeMark 

External Collaborator: Professor Howard McCurdy (American University)

Abstract: This project proposes an investigation of the events and factors that drove the creation of NASA’s launch gap from 2011 until 2020 following a failure to replace the Space Shuttle, examining the nine programs that intended to succeed the Space Shuttle. My working thesis revolves around the challenging operational history of the Space Shuttle, the focus on reusability and innovation in those nine programs, and the waxing and waning commercial interest in spaceflight, diving into these factors across five distinct periods during the era of the Space Shuttle.

The purpose of this project is twofold; to draw conclusions on NASA’s own challenges managing innovative projects with high stakes and dependence on political and economic support, and to more broadly assist policymakers and companies in understanding how technological innovation can thrive or struggle under government management. NASA is a unique organization that is held with a rather high opinion by the American public, presenting a special opportunity to investigate challenges and failures often far higher in monetary value and public image than most other government agencies. The federal government as a whole, whether from issues of defense and national security to medicine, data,, and technology, could find relevant and powerful lessons learned from NASA’s programs.

The primary approach of this project is a focus on the political and economic history of these programs within NASA itself, Congress and the Executive Branch, and the aerospace industry in a chronological manner. The internal politics within NASA often led to issues between programs, while politicians outside of NASA often influenced the funding and official approval of these programs in sometimes contrary manners. Issues facing the economy and the rise of telecommunications presented varying levels of commercial interest in private space ventures, presenting challenges to NASA’s early partnerships in the 1990s. The nine aforementioned programs all overlapped and challenged each other for interest and funding, necessitating a chronological approach that examines these struggles in the context of their competitors and weaves a cohesive story.

The launch gap that existed between 2011 and 2020 presents multiple historiographical gaps, the most important to this project being the reason behind its existence. Historians have written to great lengths about the Space Shuttle and some technological innovations in the programs following it, but there exists little discourse connecting the Space Shuttle itself and its intended follow-on programs to the eventual launch gap. This project intends to discover and tell the narrative of how NASA failed to replace the Space Shuttle and ultimately had to resort to launching American astronauts on Russian rockets.

Jen Sun, 2023, "The Golden Age of Naval Exercises: Analysis of Reports from U.S. Navy Fleet Problems (1923-1940)"

Advisor: Associate Professor Marcus Jones (History)
Advisor: Associate Professor Brice Nguelifack (Mathematics)

External Collaborator: Capt. Coleman Strickland, USMC

Abstract: The Fleet Problems turned the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean into proving grounds for the cornerstones of current Naval strategy such as carrier aviation, refueling at sea, and submarine warfare. In contrast, current naval exercises such as Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) conducted every two years and Large Scale Exercise conducted every three years are greater in magnitude, but have arguably contributed less to the development of naval doctrine. Large Scale Exercise itself acted more like a live-fire exercise in which there was “one scenario for everybody… simulated differently.”[1] Large Scale Exercise had no adversary plotting against a team’s every move. This was understandable considering the cost associated with designing, executing, and adjudicating such a Large Scale Exercise. Additionally, the statistics produced by the exercise such as the number of participating personnel, number of foreign nations involved, or amounts ordnance detonated offer an attractive, albeit useless measurement of the exercise’s impact. But in order to revive the spirit of creative problem solving exhibited in Fleet Problems, current naval exercises need to embrace open-ended scenarios. However, a key barrier to open-ended scenarios lies in the inability to adequately measure the success of these exercises. Designers create these scenarios in order to train people for reality. But it is difficult to quantify how much an exercise affected preparedness. It is even harder to quantify the extent of a participant’s learning. Yet, these evaluations are necessary for justifying the expenses associated with a live exercise. The project asserts that the Fleet Problems hold the answer to these problems. The twenty-two Fleet Problems created a large amount of after-action reports (AARs) that hold the analysis of dozens of commanders participating in the exercises. Through a grounded theory analysis, this project aims to identify trends within these AARs to find proof of learning. This project will use historical analysis and basic programming to evaluate significant amounts of AARs from the Fleet Problems. Ultimately, this project hopes to produce a survey from its findings on indicators of learning that can be applied to contemporary naval exercises to justify their existence.

[1] “Large Scale Exercise 2021 Tests How Navy, Marines Could Fight a Future Global Battle,” USNI News (blog), August 10, 2021,

James B. Solomon, 1999, "The Multilateral Force: America's Nuclear Solution for NATO (1960-1965)"

Advisor: Professor Robert W. Love, Jr.

Abstract: This project will focus on the proposed NATO Multilateral Force (MLF) of the early 1960s. The MLF was a plan which called for the sharing of nuclear weapons within a NATO-governed, multinational fleet. The United States offered the MLF as an answer to demands by the other members of NATO to have a share in the alliance's nuclear planning and decision making. Despite receiving significant support, the MLF proposal failed, but its conception and appeal offer revealing insight into the United States' and NATO's nuclear weapons philosophy in the early 1960s as well as the cracks created in the alliance by nuclear weapons issues over that same time period.

In recent years, a large number of documents relating to the MLF have been declassified. These documents will be interpreted and analyzed in order to present a more recent and accurate history of the MLF. The project will focus on presenting the MLF from a naval perspective as well as a foreign policy perspective. It will be based on archival research done in both the United States and the United Kingdom, making it the first MLF study to be done from a multinational perspective. Furthermore, it will be the most significant study done on the issue since the end of the Cold War which should allow for an analysis that is free from the former East-West rhetoric. This project is intended to look at the new government documents available and determine how they affect and change previously held views on the entire MLF issue.

Troy A. Shoulders, 1994, " The U.S. Navy in Operation Overlord Under the Command of Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk"

Advisor: Professor Robert W. Love, Jr.

Abstract: This study examines the mission, preparation, and actions of the U.S. Navy's Western Naval Task Force during Operation Overlord under Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk. Most previous interpretations of the Navy's role in the cross- Channel assault on 6 June 1944 do not adequately cover the actions of Admiral Kirk and his immediate subordinates during the training for and execution of Overlord. Most accounts deal with actions taken close inshore by the men actually hitting the beaches, whereas little has been written concerning the American flag officers in Overlord. Planning for a cross-Channel invasion began in 1941 when Churchill initiated planning for Operation Sledgehammer to be launched in 1942. Once the United States entered the war, the Joint Chiefs made every effort to execute Sledgehammer, and later backed Roundup in 1943, yet the British maneuvered the United States into conducting campaigns in the Mediterranean which precluded a cross-Channel assault until the summer of 1944. At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to formalize the planning for Overlord and established the Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander or COSSAC. Throughout 1943, COSSAC laid the framework for a three-division assault across the Channel, yet when Eisenhower became Supreme Commander in December 1944, he soon expanded the invasion front to five divisions. With this expansion and after much debate, the Allies eventually had to delay a planned invasion in the Mediterranean, codenamed Operation Anvil.

David K. Ismay, 1993, " Essential Shift: Scientific Revolution in the 20th Century"

Advisor: Professor Robert Artigiani

Abstract: With the publishing of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica in 1687, a scientific paradigm was established that clearly dominated society for two and half centuries. Many historians of science have identified the Copenhagen interpretation of the quantum theory, formulated c.1927, as having completed a scientific revolution that ended the reign of classical Newtonian science. A rival claim to contemporary scientific revolution, however, has been put forward by llya Prigogine and the Brussels school of thermodynamics based on Prigogine's work in non-equilibrium thermodynamics. Using the historical consensus model of scientific revolution first articulated by Thomas S. kuhn in 1962, this analysis examines tha extent to which the Copenhagen interpretation of the quantum theory and the work of IIya Prigogine complete the conceptual, scientific paradigm-shift necessary for a scientific revolution. The resulting historical evidence shows that the Copenhagen interpretation did not complete a paradigm-shift; instead, it was a self-revelation by the scientific community which revealed the essence and fundamental limitations of Newtonian science. Evidence further indicates that the valid claim to scientific revolution in the 20th century lies with the contemporary work of Prigogine and the Brussels school. By abandoning the deterministic, mechanical world-view of the Newtonian paradigm and accepting a new reality of process and irreversible time, Prigogine and his associates have established the foundations for a revolutionary new scientific paradigm

Brian F. Hussey, Jr., 1991, " The U.S. Navy, the Neutrality Patrol, and Atlantic Fleet Escort Operations, 1939-1941"

Advisor: Professor Robert W. Love, Jr.

Abstract: Although the United States was officially neutral until 7 December 1941, the U.S. Navy entered World War II on 5 September 1939 when the CNO, Admiral Harold R. Stark, initiated Neutrality Patrol operations in the Caribbean and in waters 200 miles off the coasts of North and South America. During 1940, the Navy conducted battleship sweeps deep into the Atlantic to deter Axis surface raiders and U-boats from entering the Neutrality Zone, and also moved toward a solid Anglo-American alliance, one vehicle being information exchanges between OpNav and the Admiralty. The negotiation of the ABC-1 Agreement in March 1941 increased Anglo-American collaboration. Atlantic Fleet patrols became more aggressive and the fleet doubled in size. By September, the Atlantic Fleet's Support Force, in conjunction with the Royal Canadian Navy, was ready to commence escort-of-convoy operations, and that same month, Atlantic Fleet destroyers escorted their first convoy from Halifax to Iceland. A handful of convoys were attacked, but the Atlantic Fleet used these experiences to fashion an effective escort-of-convoy doctrine.

Robert M. Beer, 1990, "The U.S. Navy and the Cuban Missile Crisis"

AdvisorAssociate Professor Robert W. Love Jr.

Abstract: This study examines the traditional interpretation of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and the Navy's quarantine of the island. An impressive literature on the Cuban Missile Crisis has been compiled, but most accounts draw heavily on the memoirs of former Kennedy insiders, especially Robert Kennedy and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Based on recently declassified records and interviews with participants, this study corrects some of the misinterpretion of naval operations, reveals new evidence about U.S. intelligence, and throws into doubt the Kennedy/Schlesinger account. Based on intelligence gleaned from communications intercepts, Kennedy was alerted in early June to Soviet Premier Khrushchev's plan to deploy ballistic missiles in Cuba. This intelligence was confirmed by the subsequent Soviet sealift effort, communications, intercpets, and CIA agents on the island. Yet, Kennedy did little to prepare his administration to deal with the dilemma. He moved forcefully to restrict intelligence on the buildup, but did nothing to prevent it. Kennedy moved only in mid-October when he had irrefutable photographs of the missiles. He imposed a limited naval blockade around Cuba and coerced the Soviets to remove the missiles through frantic back-door diplomacy. This included a trade for American Jupiter missiles in Turkey. This study considers several issues related to the developement of intelligence before and during the crisis, command and control of naval operations, and the Navy's ASW operations.

Samuel J. Cox, 1980, "U.S. Naval Strategy and Foreign Policy in China, 1945-1950"

Advisor: Associate Professor Robert W. Love Jr.

AbstractThe purpose of this study is to evaluate the influence of U. S. Naval leaders on American foreign policy and strategy in China during the Civil War, 1945-1950. Various stages of American foreign policy toward China helped the Nationalists re-occupy the country after Japan's surrender; the U. S. tried to mediate the Nationalist/Communist Civil War; the adoption of a non-involvement policy in the conflict; and then, after the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, Americans were divided over the issue of aid to the Taipei regime. Though postwar chiefs of naval operations were fearful of war with Russia they realized that a Communist victory in the Civil War would improve the geopolitical position of Russia. By contrast, U. S. Naval commanders in China favored large scale American aid to the Nationalists

Dennis M. Pricolo, 1978, "Naval Presence and Cold War Foreign Policy: a Study of the Decision to Station the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, 1945-1958

Advisor: Associate Professor Robert W. Love Jr.

Abstract: The study deals with the origins of the U.S. 6th Fleet and its role in the Mediterranean region in the aftermath of World War II. The research is based on two great themes. First the postwar American strategists and foreign policymakers reacted to hostile moves by the Soviets with great hesitancy since they lacked sufficient force to uphold a policy of greater stiffness. The second theme is the enduring utility of naval power, and its richness and flexibility

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