Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) addresses the attendees of Defense Forum Washington.
As the world commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November, former Naval History Editor-in-Chief Paul Stillwell devotes his “Looking Back” column in the current issue to a story that intertwines the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor with the Kennedy assassination.
To learn more more about James Leavelle, read “Looking Back” from Naval History Magazine.
The U.S. Naval Institute’s 2013 annual history conference, “Past, Present, and Future of Human Space Flight” at Alumni Hall on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy opened with the morning keynote presented by astronaut and retired Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford.
Stafford, a veteran of the Gemini and Apollo programs and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, opened his remarks by expressing his pleasure at returning to his alma mater. “I’ll be talking fast today because there’s a lot of history to cover,” he said. Stafford explained that the launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 had a galvanizing political effect in the United States that led to a push across the country to boost science, technical, and math (STEM) education, and inspired Senator Lyndon Johnson to push for a manned space program. Stafford summarized the subsequent creation of the Mercury program, explaining that the Mercury spacecraft suffered from limitations largely imposed by the limited size of the available launch vehicles. For example, while astronauts were able to change the Mercury spacecraft’s attitude, they were not able to affect its vector — a factor that would play a significant role in the design of the subsequent two-person Gemini spacecraft.
When Yuri Gagarin made mankind’s first manned space flight on April 12, 1961, it spurred the United States to respond by launching Alan Shepard on a suborbital flight President Kennedy to make his famous speech before Congress a month later in which he called for a man to be landed on the moon and safely returned to Earth. “I’m glad he used the words, ‘safely returned,’” Stafford quipped. A little-known fact about the speech was that Kennedy had already informed, and secured the support of, key Congressional leaders prior to the speech. “So while the speech came as a surprise to many of those in Congress, to the power brokers, the deal was already done,” said Stafford. “This is a lesson in political history.”
A project about stories also has its own story, and this series is no exception. In 2010, Midshipman (now Ensign) Chris O’Keefe, Naval Academy Class of 2012, conceptualized the series after listening to the BBC’s own podcast series about the history of the world. Since then, he and cameraman / editor Matt McMahon have filmed dozens of interviews and conducted research into the 100 objects presented in this series. Volunteers provided assistance and support in various ways, from Midshipmen helping with the early research, to the staff of the United States Naval Institute with technical support, and of course the assistance of the staffs of both the Naval Academy Museum and the Nimitz Special Collections and Archives. The series helps link the tangible items located at the Naval Academy with the ethereal figures of the past, and in doing so tells the wonderfully fascinating history of our Navy.
Ensign O’Keefe has started publishing these videos, which we’ll be posting here as well. Naturally, his first video is about John Paul Jones.
Often when telling a story, its best to start at the beginning. In our case, although the United States Navy didn’t begin with John Paul Jones, he is nevertheless considered the Father of the American Navy. Born in England, he cut his teeth as a sailor in merchant fleets, before coming to the United States. When war broke out, he joined the fight on the side of the upstart colonies, and won fame for his daring raid on English soil and his victories over British ships. After the war, he accepted a position as an admiral in the Russian navy. After a short time, he returned to Paris in poor health, and died shortly after in 1792. In the tumultuous days of the French Revolution, Jones’ grave was lost and it wasn’t until 1905 that it was rediscovered. After discovery, and with great ceremony, his remains were transported across the Atlantic. After several years were finally interred in the crypt underneath the iconic Naval Academy Chapel, where they remain today. This is the story of Jones in life, and in death.
After graduating from Northwestern University, he became a naval aviator in 1953 and served as an intelligence officer, going on to command various naval intelligence units until he retired in 1975. He later held several senior executive posts in private-sector companies. Following that, he began to dabble in writing.
Jim was working on Stars in Blue, a book he was writing about celebrities in the U.S. Navy with Annie Rehill, when the phone rang at home one day. His wife answered, and the caller said he was Paul Newman. “Oh, sure it is,” she said, and handed the phone to Jim. Turns out it was, indeed, the multi-Oscar winner, a Navy veteran who called to tell Jim he found a photo of himself on the deck of a ship he served in.
It is almost as if the authors were there beside Jim Stockdale while he was in the Maison Centrale (Hanoi Hilton). There are a few figures in each generation that rise above the norm to show the way by word and deed – who walk the walk as well as talk the talk. CAG (Carrier Air Group Commander) Stockdale was one of the rare few you would see at Thermopylae, Rorke’s Drift, Omaha Beach or Amarageddon leading the charge or holding the line.
This work would have been enriched by including as an appendix CAG’s remarks to his Air Wing prior to his shoot-down:
“Commander Jim Stockdale was the archetypal air wing commander. He commanded Carrier Air Wing 16 during the 1965 cruise, and set the stage for the air wing’s accomplishments during Rolling Thunder. Stockdale took command of the air wing in April 1965, after commanding VF-51, a fighter squadron on the USS Ticonderoga. As the Ticonderoga was already on station in the Tonkin Gulf, Stockdale had a wealth of experience concerning operations in Vietnam. He had been airborne as the on-scene-commander during the Tonkin Gulf Incident. He also took part in several of the reprisal raids in the rapidly escalating air war. These experiences made him uniquely suited for command of the Oriskany’s air wing as she departed for her first Vietnam War cruise.
Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong, editor of our just-published 21st Century Mahan, is the 2013 recipient of the Navy League’s Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement, a highly prestigious award for an officer at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
The Alfred Thayer Mahan Award is named for the famous naval theorist who, through his writing, provided vital stimulus and guidance to those who share in the defense of the nation. Presented since 1957, this award for literary achievement is awarded to a Navy officer, Marine Corps officer, enlisted service member, or civilian who has made a notable literary contribution that has advanced the knowledge of the importance of sea power in the United States. BJ follows in the footsteps of many notable Naval Institute authors…including ADM James G. Stavridis, USN, CAPT Henry (Jerry) H. Hendrix, USN, CAPT Edward L. Beach Jr., USN, VADM William P. Mack, USN, LtGen Victor Krulak, USMC, Dr. Jack Sweetman, LCDR Thomas J. Cutler, USN, Dr. John T. Mason Jr., Paul Stillwell, Col Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.), BGen Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret.), Col John G. Miller, USMC (Ret.), and ADM James L. Holloway III, USN to name just a few.
LCDR “BJ” Armstrong is a Mahan enthusiast, for whom the award is named, and has published numerous posts about him in The Proceedings, Naval History Magazine, and on the USNI blog. He is also a recipient of the Naval HIstory and Heritage Command’s Samuel Eliot Morison Supplemental Scholarship, named after Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison, USNR, an eminent naval and maritime historian and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
The new Naval Institute Press book “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era” was released over the weekend. It is available at our bookstore, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ebook editions will soon be available. But why should readers care “What would Alfred Thayer Mahan Do?” Over the last century a few folks have made some suggestions.
“Captain Mahan has done more than write a new book upon naval history. He has even done more than write the best book that has ever been written upon naval history, though he has done that likewise; for he has written a book which, to use a somewhat objectionable phrase, may be regarded as founding a new school of naval historical writing. … His books are not only remarkable because of the philosophic standpoint from which they are written, because of his grasp of the subject and familiarity with all the facts bearing upon it, great and small; but they are remarkable also for the beauty of their style and the skill with which he has subordinated the lesser to the main points of interest.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
“There is no doubt that Mahan laid the foundation for a theoretical understanding of navies as well as contributed to the rise of the U.S. Navy to great power status.” – John Hattendorf
“After his death in 1914 he gained renewed stature as the high priest of American navalism, whose strategic writings were its holy writ.” – Russell Weigley
“No other single person has so directly and profoundly influenced the theory of sea power and naval strategy as Alfred Thayer Mahan.” – Margaret Sprout
“It remains to be seen whether readers exist with the mind and will to accept [Mahan’s] guidance on what necessarily is an arduous intellectual and moral voyage into the realms of war and politics.” – Jon Sumida
“He asked his Navy and his nation some very difficult and pertinent questions, questions still relevant, questions each generation must ask and answer anew: What exactly is the nature of America’s ‘national interests’? How shall the U.S. Navy best be used as an ‘instrument of national policy’? What is the proper relationship between a nation’s sea power and its diplomatic objectives? What are the ‘moral’ dimensions of the employment of military force? How shall the U.S. ships and fleets be best armed, supplied, and deployed? How much navy is enough navy?” – Robert Seager II
As an introduction to Alfred Thayer Mahan, before you start reading “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era“, here at USNI Blog we offer the obituary and “In Memoriam” article published in Proceedings in January, 1915.
To very few has it been given so to influence the current of men’s thoughts as vitally to affect human development and even to shape the course of history itself. The dominance of the Aristotelian philosophy in the intellectual world of Europe endured for twenty centuries until .displaced by Bacon’s Novum Organum. In more recent times, the Social Contract of Jean Jacques Rousseau is admitted to have played no small part among the determining causes of the French Revolution. Without a Treitschke, Pan-Germanism would have remained a vague aspiration indulged in by a restricted circle of German thinkers. It is needless to multiply instances in which the ideas of one man have directed the current of events; the fact itself is too widely accepted to require demonstration. Among the number of those who have swayed their fellows, opened their eyes to a wider vision, pointed out the hazards in their path and the channel leading through those hazards to national or individual safety beyond, sober judgment must include that member of our own profession who, after an honorable career during which he shed a luster upon the American Navy of which all Americans are proud, none so much so as his brother officers, has recently departed from our midst leaving behind him a stainless record and a place unfilled and unfillable. It were well could we look for a second Mahan with his vast knowledge and accurate logic, but candor forbids us to expect. We are only permitted to hope-and in how many doubts that hope is shrouded-that as time goes on another may arise endowed with like passion for truth, like ability and the like gift of making clear and obvious what all have gazed upon without seeing.
Three natures were combined in this exceptional personality. First of all was the Christian gentleman, devout and earnest, giving daily, practical, outward expression to an inward conviction at once sincere and fundamental. His belief in Christ’s mission and in the world to come as revealed in Holy Writ was without shadow or question. Things earthly and material might not be what they seemed. Errare est humanum. Even so well poised a mind as his might be mistaken in its findings, but no possible chance of going astray existed or could exist in complete reliance on the promises of his Lord and Master to all those who truly follow Him. And follow Him Mahan did loyally throughout his years from youth to age. His abiding sense of duty, the keynote of his character, forbade a merely perfunctory compliance with ecclesiastical requirements and forced him to take active part in the management of the religious communities to which, from time to time and in various places, he belonged and to represent them at annual conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Church. For many years he was connected with its Board of Missions and with the Church Institute for Seamen. During a shorter period he was a member of the Church Institute and of the Church Mission for Help. All his charitable interests lay in the church through which alone, to the extent of his means, he sought to aid his fellow men. This devotion to his church was the manifestation of a faith which controlled every thought and every act of his life. All his serious undertakings, all his important letters even, were preceded by an appeal for Divine guidance. It is impossible to understand Mahan unless this mental attitude is recognized in its full power. Those ignorant of this side of his character may read his little book, “The Harvest Within,” and in the reading find profit to their own souls.