Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Harry Barber



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Stephen Stein

Committee Member

Andrew M Daily

Committee Member

Andrei A Znamenski

Committee Member

Matthias Kaelberer


This study is a biography of Admiral Alan Goodrich Kirk. Kirk is known primarily for his role as commander of the American landings at Normandy during World War II. This biography explains that Kirk was one of the founders of modern amphibious warfare, a model and pioneer in joint-warfare, and was key to the earliest meetings between American and British military officers that laid the groundwork for allied cooperation. Kirk’s service as ambassador to the Soviet Union and the Republic of China maintained peace during the Cold War. Born in Philadelphia in 1888, his mother came from the Goodrich family of naval figures – most notably Admiral Caspar Frederick Goodrich, a founder of the Naval War College. The Spanish American War was the formative event in his childhood, and the US became a world empire in need of a large navy. Kirk served in China and the Philippines, contracting malaria and observed the start of World War I. Battleships represented the cutting edge of weapons technology, and Kirk witnessed other technologies challenge and overtake them in prominence – namely aircraft and submarines. He served aboard the presidential yacht during the Wilson and Harding presidencies. He studied and evaluated the new 16-inch guns during the war – almost a quarter century before they were deployed in World War II. He was on duty in London during the Blitz. He was the Director of Naval Intelligence in the months preceding the attack on Pearl Harbor. Kirk then was commodore over ships engaged in convoy duty in the stormy north Atlantic. He commanded American naval forces in several amphibious invasions, including Sicily and the greatest in history - at Normandy. This study considers Kirk’s rocky relationships with British Admiral Bertram Ramsay and American Admiral Harold Stark and addresses criticisms of his character. After the war Kirk was US Ambassador to Belgium, then the Soviet Union, and later Taiwan. Kirk was a transitional figure from a policy considering “roll back” to “containment.” Kirk is worth exploring as a “time capsule” to the first half of the twentieth century – a progressive during tremendous technological advancement and wars.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest


Open Access