The term derives from the early years of command requirements for the US Navy. Initially, there was little need or opportunity for multi-ship operations; each ship was independently commanded by its own captain.
But, coordinating tactics of fleets of more than one ship required a more unified structure. For this, the British and other navies had “Admirals”, but the word was anathema to the US Congress. Instead, senior captains were designated as Commodores, who could “suggest” how other captains should maneuver. Efficacy of the Commodore system depended on the tactical brilliance and diplomatic skills of the Commodore as well as the amenability of the captains to be coordinated.
Eventually, the US Navy adopted the term Admiral and gave them the power to command other ships. In World War II, the Commodore rank was limited to shore officers and it disappeared after the War. However, the “soft power” of the Commodore is appropriate to leading voluntary organizations such as sailing and yacht clubs. No captain can be compelled to follow.
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