The naval war followed a vastly different rhythm from the war on land. A short spurt of violence at the start of the conflict was followed by a prolonged period in which the warring fleets merely skirmished. In stopand- go fashion, Germany used submarines to attack merchant vessels during the first two years of the conflict. The war of surface fleets rose to a brief crescendo in 1916 with the Battle of Jutland. But the conflict's naval climax came only in 1917, when the submarine, and the war against the submarine, dominated the picture.