Bradley Allen Fiske

Bradley Allen Fiske

Fiske, Bradley Allen, 1854-1942, American naval officer and inventor, b. Lyons, N.Y., grad. Annapolis, 1874. In the U.S. navy he devoted himself to the invention of instruments for shipboard use. His numerous inventions include an electrically powered gun turret, the torpedo plane, a naval telescopic sight, an electromagnetic system for detonating torpedos under ships, and an electric range finder—a device that brought him many citations when, as navigating officer of the gunboat Petrel, he successfully employed it in the battle of Manila Bay. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1911, but he was forced to retire in 1916 when his agitation for a stronger navy clashed with the policies of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

See his autobiography, From Midshipman to Admiral (1919).

Rear Admiral Bradley Allen Fiske (13 June 1854 - 6 April 1942) was an officer in the United States Navy who was noted as a technical innovator. During his long career, Fiske invented many electrical and mechanical devices, with both Naval and civilian uses, and wrote extensively on technical and professional issues. One of the earliest to understand the revolutionary possibilities of naval aviation, he wrote a number of books of important effect in gaining a wider understanding of the modern Navy by the public.

Early life and career

Fiske was born in Lyons, New York on 13 June 1854. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from the State of Ohio in 1870, graduating four years later and receiving his commission as an Ensign in July 1875.

His early service years included duty as an officer on board the steam sloops-of-war Pensacola and Plymouth, both on the Pacific Station, and the paddle steamer Powhatan in the Atlantic. He also received instruction in the then-young field of torpedo warfare.

Promoted to Master in 1881 and Lieutenant in 1887, during much of that decade he had training ship duty in USS Saratoga and USS Minnesota, served in the South Atlantic Squadron on the steam sloop Brooklyn, and was twice assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance in Washington, D.C.

As one of the Navy's most technically astute officers, in 1886-1888 he supervised the installation of ordnance on USS Atlanta, one of the first of the Navy's modern steel warships. In 1888-1890 he was involved in the trials of USS Vesuvius, whose large caliber compressed-air guns were then considered a promising experiment, and was in charge of installing electric lighting in the new cruiser Philadelphia.

Spanish-American War and afterward

During the rest of the 1890s, Lieutenant Fiske was mainly employed at the Bureau of Ordnance and at sea, where he was an officer of the cruiser San Francisco and the gunboats Yorktown and Petrel. While serving in the latter, he took part in the 1 May 1898 Battle of Manila Bay.

Following the Spanish-American War, Fiske continued his service in Philippine waters on board the monitor Monadnock.

Command assignments

During the years between the Spanish-American War and World War I, Fiske advanced rapidly in rank: to Lieutenant Commander in 1899, Commander in 1903, and Captain in 1907. He held many responsible positions on shore and at sea, serving as an Inspector of Ordnance, Executive Officer of USS Yorktown and the battleship Massachusetts, Commanding Officer of the monitor Arkansas and cruisers Minneapolis and Tennessee, had recruiting duty, served as Captain of the Yard at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, attended the Naval War College and was a member of the Navy's General Board and the Army-Navy Joint Board, among other assignments.

Flag assignments

Bradley Fiske became a Rear Admiral in August 1911, subsequently commanding three different divisions of the Atlantic Fleet as well as serving as the Secretary of the Navy's Aide for Inspections. In February 1913 he was appointed Aide for Operations, a post that later became that of Chief of Naval Operations. As Aide for Operations, Fiske forcefully advocated the creation of a Naval general staff and the elevation of the Nation's preparedness for war.

Retirement and later years

Following a year at the Naval War College, Rear Admiral Fiske was retired upon reaching the age of 62 in June 1916. His professional activities continued into the mid-1920s, however, with service as President of the U.S. Naval Institute and several sessions of temporary duty with the Navy Department.

Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske died in New York City on 6 April 1942, aged 87.


The Navy has named two warships, USS Fiske (DE-143), 1943-1944, and USS Fiske (DD-842), 1945-1980, in his honor.


  • Electricity in Theory and Practice (1883)
  • American naval policy (1905)
  • War Time in Manila (1913)
  • Preparedness of the navy (1916)
  • The Navy as a Fighting Machine (1916)
  • From Midshipman To Rear-Admiral (1919)--Autobiography

See also

Reference and external articles


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