Student's history elective leads to first prize essay

Physics major Jacob Weintraub, a history student, won the Naval Historical Foundation Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn Award for his essay, US Naval Aviation Failures in the Early Pacific Campaign of World War II.  The prize was awarded in October and was based on Jacob's essay for Professor John Weiss' course, Strategy in World War II: History 4660. 

The Department of History wanted to know more about Jacob's experience: below are some highlights of an interview conducted on December 5, 2017.

What was your essay about?

My essay explores the failure of the U.S. to use intelligence about Japan’s naval capability in the days leading up to World War II.  US intelligence had expert opinion about Japan’s superior naval capability and policymakers biased toward a belief in American supremacy ignored it.

How did you find this course and how does it intersect with your career goals?

I am a Navy ROTC Midshipman and my current goal is to be a Navy Fighter Pilot. I was looking at the course roster last spring and this one interested me because it was about military strategy and World War II.  I liked the fact that  I was able to select a topic for my research project: naval military strategy. 

What did you discover in your research?  

I spent many hours at Cornell's Uris and Olin libraries using online digital archives as well as accessing books from other research libraries.  I discovered recently released online Congressional records about the US view of the Japanese military arsenal.  The books I borrowed gave me extensive knowledge about pilot training and aircraft construction and maneuvers on both sides.

On a personal note, I found a project that I was so interested in that it did not feel like I was working. 

How will this experience studying history inform your future?

Two things:  in perspective, I will remember the great experience of writing this paper, traveling to D.C. with my classmates and presenting this paper to policymakers at the National Defense University. It was a unique experience and one I will never forget.

In addition, I learned about an in-depth historical situation that I can refer to, one that informed me about the power of groupthink and racism to impact military policy.  The delusion of self-supremacy can backfire on you as can closing your mind to new ideas. 

Jacob Weintraub is pictured here with the commanding officer of the Cornell Naval ROTC battalion, Capt. Erich W. Diehl.

Claire A. Perez is the communications manager for The Department of History.

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