Archive for the 'Books' Category
Matt and Chris wax on about the new budget deal and military benefits before finally discussing the incident between the Chinese and American navies, the Pacific balance, robotics, and books for the holidays. Remember to tell a friend and subscribe on Itunes or Stitcher Stream Radio. Leave a rating and a comment. Enjoy, Episode 13 of Sea Control, The Queen’s Shilling (download).
By Mark Tempest
Called “the nation’s premier naval reference book,” Combat Fleets of the World is internationally acknowledged as the best one-volume reference to the world’s naval and paranaval forces. Updated regularly since 1976, it has come to be relied on for all-inclusive, accurate, and up-to-date data on the ships, navies, coast guards, and naval aviation arms of more than 170 countries and territories. Large fleets and small maritime forces get equally thorough treatment. Comprehensive indexes make the book easy to use and allow for quick comparisons between ships and fleets.
So, just what kind of naval force does Thailand have? What about Brunei? Brazil? Switzerland?
Yes, it’s all there. And if you think that I am joking about the hours of fun your friendly neighborhood wannabe naval expert can have with this book, I invite you to check with my wife.
I think that she’s around here someplace, but I haven’t seen her since my copy of this book arrived in the mail . . . well, perhaps after I read about Montenegro’s fleet, I’ll try and find her.
As a liberal arts guy with issues stitching decent prose together himself, who spent a career surrounded by a bunch of technical school types – I’ve always thought that each seabag should include Strunk and White’s, The Elements of Style, along with Lynne Truss’s, Eats, Shoots & Leaves – but perhaps we need to add two more items.
My pet theory was that our own rather particular Navy writing style came about as a byproduct of a strange mix of the old requirements of HF TTY record message traffic from the warfighter, an other-worldly and opaque self-affirmation cant that we use to write FITREPS and awards from the terminal-N1 – sprinkled with a healthy dose of passive voice CYA concerns from the suffering fonctionnaire with one two many tours with the Potomac Flotilla.
To help get around that habit, a few more should be added in the seabag to join the previously mentioned two. The third on the list should be an email you can find in full here, one that CHINFO, RDML Kirby, recently put out to the PAO Knitting Club titled, “Killing English.” Here are a few of the pull quotes that hopefully will lead you to read the whole thing;
Here’s an… example … about the Zumwalt-class destroyer:
“This advanced warship will provide offensive, distributed, and precision fires in support of forces ashore and will provide a credible forward naval presence while operating independently or as an integral part of naval, joint or combined expeditionary strike forces.”
I count 14 adjectives in that sentence, maybe three of which are necessary. If you remove the 11 others, you come up with this:
“This warship will provide fires in support of forces ashore and will provide a naval presence while operating independently or as a part of expeditionary forces.”
That’s still a bit stodgy, but it’s a whole lot easier to understand. And it gives the reader a better sense of what the ship can actually do, which is what I think we were trying to accomplish in the first place.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, we grew scared of verbs. That’s a shame, because the English language boasts plenty of verbs that convey action and purpose. And the American military, perhaps above all professions, has reason to use them. Action and purpose is what we’re all about.
We can no longer afford to say nothing. Each word must count. Each word must work as hard as we do. With resources declining and the gap growing between the military and the American people, we must at least try to communicate better and more clearly.
… it’s not merely what we say that matters. It’s how we say it. It’s about the words we choose … or don’t choose. It’s about the sentences we build, the stories we tell. Frankly, it’s about how we practice — yes, practice — our own language.
That doesn’t just apply to the people who write the program guide or other policy wonks. It applies to PA professionals and the bosses we advise, too.
Mary Walsh had it right. When it comes to English, we have met the enemy. And they are us.
It’s time to put down the adjectives and back away.
Yes, great Neptune’s trident – YES.
First step is to speak clearly. Then we can lead to speaking directly. Then we can get to a place where in open we can speak as adults about adult problems in a way that can stand up to the follow-on question.
Ah, ha! There we go. A good PAO stays long enough for the follow-on question. I can see why this conversation is starting here.
Well done CHINFO … now let’s see if we can get it to grow roots.
Oh, I promised the reader a 4th bit for the intellectual seabag, didn’t I? You’ll need to read his email in full to see how he applies it, but RDML Kirby mentions On Writing Well.
I might have to give that a spin.
By Mark Tempest
Join us for Midrats on 14 July 13 at 5pm Eastern for Episode 184: “The Big Man Theory”
For the first half of the hour we will have LCDR BJ Armstrong to discuss his book, 21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era.
For the second half of the hour our guest will be Stephen Roderick to discuss his book, The Magical Stranger: A Son’s Journey into His Father’s Life.
LCDR BJ Armstrong is a Naval Aviator and an occasional naval historian. His articles have appeared in numerous journals including USNI’s Proceedings and Naval History, Naval War College Review, and Infinity Journal to name a few. He is a research student with the Department of War Studies at King’s College, University of London. He was recently named the 2013-14 Morison Scholar by Naval History & Heritage Command and was awarded the 2013 Navy League Alfred Thayer Mahan Award.
Stephen Rodrick is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor for Men’s Journal. He has also written for New York, Rolling Stone, GQ, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Men’s Journal, and others. The Magical Stranger is his first book.
Before becoming a journalist, Rodrick worked as a deputy press secretary for United States Senator Alan J. Dixon. He hold a bachelors and masters in political science from Loyola University of Chicago and a masters in journalism from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
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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.
Stephen Rodrick’s father, Commander Peter Rodrick, was the skipper of VAQ-135 and an EA-6B Prowler pilot who was killed off the Kitty Hawk when Stephen was thirteen. In his book, The Magical Stranger, Rodrick re-traces his father’s life by talking with his friends and squadron mates. But to get a full feeling for his father’s experiences, Rodrick followed his dad’s old squadron for two years as they prepared to deploy to the Persian Gulf for missions over Afghanistan. He established a particular kinship with Commander James Hunter ‘Tupper’ Ware, a man about to take his dad’s old job.
Commander James Hunter Ware III carefully laid out a white uniform on the bed in his Anacortes, Washington, home. He took out a ruler and made sure his medals were perfectly aligned, a trick he learned at the Naval Academy. On paper, he was the American man as hero. There was the buzz cut, the flight jacket, and a cowboy’s squint. His garage housed his Harley, a beat-up Ford pickup truck, a still for his nasty homemade hard cider, and license plates from five states. He was an Eagle Scout, an Annapolis grad, and a former test pilot. For a decade, he had flown in harm’s way—most recently jamming Taliban communications in the skies above Afghanistan—and then landed his EA-6B Prowler in the dark on the deck of a carrier. There were ribbons on his uniform to prove it.
Tonight, Ware dressed for VAQ-135’s dining-out, a formal dinner marking the squadron’s change of command. Tomorrow, he would become skipper of a squadron heading to sea, the Navy’s glamour job.
There was so much he wanted to do. He’d been in enough squadrons where number chasing was the only goal: percentage of sorties completed, percentage of sailors promoted, percentage of wives participating in Toys for Tots, blah, blah, blah. The Navy was no longer about sailors, thought Hunter;
it was about stats and checking boxes. As far as he knew, a stat wasn’t what would get a Prowler aboard a carrier in a driving rainstorm. It was the 167 men and women of VAQ-135, and they’d have to do it with the four oldest EA-6B Prowlers in the fleet.
Ware knew it sounded new agey, but his command was going to stress “sailors taking care of sailors.” That didn’t mean screwups and misconduct would be ignored—Ware had no tolerance for shitty sailors and excuses—but it did mean looking out for one another, taking personal responsibility, and not passing the buck—long a VAQ-135 staple. Ware guessed if he could pull that off, not nearly as easy as it sounded, getting jets in the air and getting jets home safe wouldn’t be a problem. Promotions and sortie completion quotas would follow, and pretty soon he’d have his dream: the top electronic attack squadron in the U.S. Navy. If all that happened, his own future—he had dreams of commanding his own ship—would be his to write.
Ware could change lives with a signature, but at home he was still a figurehead king. Downstairs, he could hear his daughters—twelve-year-old Brenna and ten-year-old Caitlin—chattering with his wife, Beth, and his mother, Cindy, about dance classes, Harry Potter, and sleepovers. He caught snippets of dialogue as he drifted in and out of ear-shot. He knew his daughters better than most Navy dads, but sometimes he felt like a stranger in his own home, trying to understand a language not his own.
Ware spent a lot of time laughing about how little power he held over his own life. (It beat crying.) A Pentagon fleet monkey decided when he came and went. Another fleet monkey ruled on his screwups. Entire days were spent trying to protect himself and his sailors from the flying bullshit being pushed by men living in the D.C. echo chamber—men who hadn’t been to sea for years, men who had forgotten what it was like to spend eight months away, missing babies being born.
In reality, Ware didn’t even hold the deed to his own name. He was named James after his father and grandfather, but raised as Hunter, shortened to Hunt by his mom and Beth. But that was only within the confines of his Anacortes home, a twenty-minute drive from the back gate of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. In the Navy, Ware was known by his call sign, “Tupper,” a not-clever play on his last name. Ware grew up dreaming of Maverick and Ice, so he didn’t much like being known by the trademarked name of a brand of plastic containers. Still, he knew it could be much worse: The Black Ravens’ ready room featured a Crapper and a Turd. In the real Navy, call signs were ego-killing nicknames designed to strip away rank and privilege, making everyone equal in the cockpit—a good thing when skies turned black. Tupper knew call signs would be gone soon, or at least the R-rated ones—victims of a politically correct Navy hell-bent on not offending anyone. Sure, it would suck to tell your son that your call sign was slang for shit, but where was the line? He didn’t know. He was serving in a Navy that was waging two wars while afraid of its own shadow.
Sometimes, he had to remind himself why he got into the flying business. It was simple: he had no choice. He knew it sounded corny, but when he saw Top Gun at sixteen, that was it. Suddenly, every conversation was about Annapolis, flying
jets off carriers, and the need for speed. (He wrecked three cars in high school.) Spare quarters were spent down at the arcade playing After Burner, a Navy pilot video game. There was no Plan B. The Air Force Academy sent a representative to his house and promised Tupper a slot if he wanted it. Tupper shook his hand and looked him in the eye.
“Thanks, but I’m not interested. I want to fly jets off carriers.”
But now even flying jets off carriers had lost some of its allure: too many rules and regs to follow. Couldn’t fly the Prowler below 500 feet, couldn’t make a hard break toward the carrier at more than 350 knots. Sometimes, Tupper muttered to himself: “What the hell is this? The goddamned Air Force?”
And the paperwork! Forms for this, forms for that. Fit reps to write, everyone gets an award come end of cruise. Jesus Christ! Sometimes he felt like Dilbert with gold wings.
But he pushed all of that out of his mind. Tomorrow was what mattered. “Concentrate on the important things,” he told himself. “This is what you’ve been waiting for.”
Beth came into the room. “Hunt, we’ve got to go in ten minutes.”
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.
In his recent editorial in the Washington Post, Naval Academy professor Dr. Bruce Fleming asserts that leadership is the “snake oil” for today’s military and that organizations — civilian and military alike — are infatuated with it as the antidote to all organizations’ problems. He has a point. Leadership training as the single answer rings hollow. As he also suggests, teaching leadership may be a futile exercise. But he is wrong to say that “there’s no proof [leadership] has any benefit at all — or for that matter, even exists.”
On the contrary, good leadership and the powerful culture that it engenders can make the difference between a solvent company and a profitable one. Jim Collins’ Good to Great book research found virtually all the companies that outperformed their industry peers in the marketplace for sustained periods of time had what Collins called “Level Five” leaders, executives who exhibit a rare combination of deep personal humility and intense resolve.
In a military organization, leadership can make the difference between life and death. Forty years ago, 591 prisoners of war returned home alive from North Vietnam after the longest period of wartime incarceration in our nation’s history. They remained unified in their resistance to their captors and unified in their adherence to a mission: Return with Honor. To this day, they have one of the lowest rates of PTSD of any group of combat veterans: a lifetime average of 4%. And their leaders, especially Vice Adm. James Stockdale, made the unquestionable difference.
Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, a former POW, recalls one hot summer night in 1967 when he shared a cell with Stockdale, the senior ranking officer of the group. They were trying to communicate with recent “shoot-downs,” other aviators whose planes had been recently shot down. As Mr. Johnson describes it, “They were scared, for good reason. We wanted to talk to them and make them know that there were other Americans around.” The communications system was the POWs’ lifeblood, but the risks for using it were high. When possible, the POWs assigned at least one man the task of “clearing,” or alerting other POWs of a guard’s impending approach.
“Jim would get on the floor and ‘clear’ and I’d get up on the concrete bunk and talk to [a new guy] down the back side out of the window. We happened to be on the back of the jail. We would tell him essentially how the cow eats the cabbage [how the things worked in the prison system] and, that ‘you’re going to be all right.’”
On this particular night, they were finally caught. “The guard and an officer came charging down the hall. Jim barely got up before the door opened. I’m standing there and the door pops open and here’s this little North Vietnamese guy wearing Air Force 2nd Lieutenant bars. Turns out he was a camp commander. He wasn’t a lieutenant – he was masquerading as one. Jim hauled off and decked him right there. Just knocked him down. And, I thought, ‘…We’re in deep serious now.’ And we were.”
Punishment was immediate and harsh. Mr. Johnson spent 72 days in leg stocks in a small cell with the windows boarded up. He quietly notes, “Jim got the worst punishment.”
Why did Stockdale intentionally assault the camp commander by punching him in the face? An irrational outburst of anger or violence was completely out of character for this Stanford-educated philosopher. He was noted around the camp for his towering intellect, not his emotional volatility.
Mr. Johnson pauses for a long moment before answering that question, choosing his words deliberately. “Frankly, I think he was protecting me. You know, that’s a characteristic of leadership.”
Stockdale exhibited several noteworthy characteristics of a great leader that day. He stayed focused on the POWs’ agreed-upon mission, he chose his battle carefully and — without fear of personal consequences — he sacrificed himself to protect those under him. He asked nothing of his followers that he would not first deliver himself. When pain was on the agenda, Stockdale didn’t delegate. He led.
Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland are the co-authors of the new book, Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton: Six Characteristics of High-Performance Teams.
As this week’s addition to the USNI Blog series in the run up to the release of LCDR BJ Armstrong’s book “21st Century Mahan: Sound Military Conclusions for the Modern Era” we are republishing his article from the May issue of Proceedings. The call for sailors and Marines to become active participants in the debates of the 21st century has long been a rallying cry here at USNI. From Senior Chief Murphy’s “A Pseudo-Intellectual Wanna-be” in the March issue to the 2008 article “Read, Think, Write, and Publish” by ADM Jim Stavridis. While critical for the future of the Sea Services, it also applies to our brothers and sisters in arms, as illustrated by Jason Fritz at FP’s Best Defense Blog.
When the latest issue of Proceedings arrived in June 1906, Naval Institute members and the American people heard from a renowned global expert, a retired naval officer whose pen had been quiet for some months. His name was Alfred Thayer Mahan. His article, “Reflections, Historic and Other, Suggested by the Battle of the Japan Sea,” derived from the recent Russo-Japanese naval war lessons for U.S. fleet design and battleship construction. Just a few years away from Great Britain’s launch of HMS Dreadnought , which would revolutionize ship design by bringing speed together with an all-big-gun main battery, Mahan advocated for smaller and more numerous ships with mixed batteries of different calibers. As the leading naval expert, Mahan’s articles were voraciously read worldwide, and his analysis matched well with the “Big Navy” party line.
The U.S. Naval Institute, then as today, was a members’ organization. It didn’t exist for the sake of itself, but to share ideas and debate the future of the Sea Services. A naval arms race was developing in Europe; after the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War, the nation stepped onto the global stage as a naval power. A year away from the Great White Fleet sailing around the world, the USNI members understood that their ideas, innovations, and wisdom mattered. Even though many considered Mahan the greatest living navalist and a strategic genius, he was not impervious to challenges from Naval Institute members.
In the December issue of Proceedings, a member responded to Mahan’s assertions. The article didn’t come from a civilian contractor who was building the next set of battleships, or from an academic expert who made his living advising politicians. The response came from an upstart lieutenant commander on staff duty in Washington, D.C. Then-Commander Mahan had once written him up for being disorderly at the Naval Academy as a first-class midshipman. Lieutenant Commander William Sims’ article “The Inherent Tactical Qualities of All-Big-Gun, One Calibre Battleships” dissected and refuted Mahan’s arguments. He argued that “if we are to remain a world power,” the large, fast, heavily gunned battleship was the future of naval warfare.
President Theodore Roosevelt read with great interest the exchange between the renowned, retired officer and the active-duty staff officer. The articles were republished in public-affairs magazines and entered into the record during debate on the floor of the Senate. The names of two great officers and naval thinkers make the story interesting, but it was the mission and membership of the Naval Institute that made it possible. The exchange didn’t happen in the pages of The Atlantic or Harper’s. It happened in Proceedings. Both men were USNI members and understood that ensuring the future of their Navy required discussion, debate, and participation of the membership.
In the case of battleship design, the lieutenant commander won the debate. After studying the response and new information about the Pacific battles, Mahan admitted that his argument didn’t stand up. Nevertheless, his expertise and experience as a retired naval officer-turned-civilian expert was central to the development of the future Fleet, as was his willingness to debate an upstart like Sims. The Royal Navy launched HMS Dreadnought before the United States could put its first large, fast, heavily gunned battleship to sea. But we weren’t far behind, because the ideas had already been debated in Proceedings.
In the first decade of the 1900s, the United States was fighting a counterinsurgency war in the Philippines. An Asian power, the Empire of Japan, was rising to become a major economic and military force, rapidly building up its navy. USNI members faced shifting alliances and adversaries, new technologies, tactical innovation, and globalized economics. These challenges should sound familiar today. We need the expertise and experience of our senior members to keep us from repeating past mistakes. We also require the exciting and innovative ideas of new, younger members, junior officers and enlisted personnel, to propel the discussion and debate forward.
The pages of Proceedings (and USNI Blog!) need your well-developed research, thoughtful articles, and best ideas to ensure that we continue the vital debate in the 21st century. To provide an independent forum to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and national defense, we must first have those who dare to read, think, speak, and write. The U.S. Naval Institute is a members’ organization—help us continue the debate!