Sunday, March 18, 2018

Navy's Crowded Future

Review by Bill Doughty

Rosenblatt with the Perceptron in the late 1950s.
While we rightfully focus on the achievements of computer pioneer Rear Adm. Grace Hopper, we can also make room for another scientist who worked on a project funded by the Navy – an early attempt to develop artificial intelligence. This relatively obscure thinker, Frank Rosenblatt, came up with a theory how to teach machines, in the same way people learn language: through repetition, context and feedback.
"One of the first digital machines that learned in this way was the Perceptron, a U.S.-Navy funded attempt at building a thinking, learning machine led by Frank Rosenblatt, a scientist at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory. The goal with the Perceptron, which debuted in 1957, was to be able to classify things that it saw – dogs versus cats, for example. To this end, it was configured a bit like a tiny version of the brain."
So write Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson in "Machine Platform Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future" (W.W. Norton, 2017), a book recommended by Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson.

The Perceptron is a tiny example of one of three "rebalancings" happening now, in this case "machines," where we see daily examples of how technology, often held in our hand, takes care of basic math, data transmission and record-keeping.

To show how far we've come from a time of paper-only business, the authors give an example of an area today where machines are not yet fully implemented. It hits close to home, reminding us of what it was like in a time of carbon paper, file carts and file cabinets:
"A disturbing window back to this time exists today at the 'Paperwork Mine,' an underground nightmare of inefficiency operated by the U.S. government's Office of Personnel Management. The site exists to handle the necessary administrative steps when a federal employee retires. Because these steps have not been computerized, however, the routine tasks require 600 people, who work in a supermarket-sized room full fo tall file cabinets; for baroque reasons, this room is located more than 200 feet underground in a former limestone mine. Back in 1977, completing the (quite literal) paperwork for a federal retirement took, on average sixty-one days. Today, using essentially the same processes, it still takes sixty-one days. The state of Texas, which has digitized its process, currently does it in two."
CNO Adm. John Richardson sees innovations at the Naval Surface Warfare
Center, Dahlgren, Va. Jan. 18, 2017. (Photo by MC1 Nathan Laird)
Properly resourced and run, OPM, like other areas of the government could benefit from 21st century innovations. At the beginning of the 1900s electrification changed the face of manufacturing, opening new fields but ending businesses that couldn't or wouldn't adapt.

The authors think about thinking. They outline two systems humans use to think. The two ways mirror nature and nurture – our animal instincts versus "evolutionarily recent" human ability to contemplate and reason.

They cite Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman for his work in behavioral economics and for how he documented two thinking systems. Thinking system 1 is reflexive and relies on biases, intuition, emotions resulting in a reactive response. Thinking system 2 is more reflective, reasoned, based on data and other evidence.

Guess which type of thinking is more machine-like and more likely to have positive results. 

The future is now. Artificial intelligence in machines is making quantum leaps in development, thanks to research and development, and with help from other machines.

Is this something to fear? Is there a dystopian post-Singularity world on the horizon under the banner of Skynet, as depicted in "Terminator"?

The authors are optimistic about the future, even as they run through all the areas that have been transformed in our society, where the Internet is a "shatterer of worlds" and platform for new platforms. 

Here are the worlds shattered, as we once new them: newspapers, music industry, photography, magazines, phone companies, radio, malls and shopping. It was poignant to be reading this book when Toys"R"Us made their announcement this week about going out of business.

In the chaos, however, is opportunity.

We read how Facebook, Apple and Google platforms are transforming our world, both in accessibility and ease-of-use. The authors describe the success of apps like Dropbox, Fitbit, ClassPass, Uber, Waze, 99Degrees Custom, Airbnb, and others.

Einstein said, "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler," and so we see limitations and balance in changes here and yet to come. In the spirit of Einstein: Make things as free and open as possible but not without security.
"It seems unlikely that the U.S. Department of Defense will ever turn to a digital platform to source the military's next fighter plane or submarine. This is because the market contains very few possible participants (only one buyer and very few sellers). In addition, the transaction is incredibly complex and requires enormous amounts of communication. Markets in which players are few and offerings are complicated will probably be some of the least amenable to platforms."
In the disruptive, often chaotic revolution we are all navigating, McAfee and Brynjolfsson provide this guidebook to explain changes in egalitarianism, connectivity and empowerment.

By the way, the authors believe in capitalism, while lauding President Teddy Roosevelt's trust busting more than a century ago. "Capitalism can be an enormous force for good, but 'crony capitalism' – the act of distorting markets so that friends of the powerful an enrich themselves –should always be rooted out," they write. 

The final area of change in this digital revolution involves the Crowd, another reason for optimism for a world in which freedom of ideas and expression is widespread and spreading.

"For the first time in human history a near majority of humans are now connected," they write. What does this mean in the long run for oppressive regimes in countries that restrict freedom of speech, expression and assembly as the people learn more about free and democratic societies.

Can incidents such as the recent eye-rolling Chinese journalist be quashed once they become viral, or are they out there forever for freethinkers to access and contemplate.

If libraries and hardbound encyclopedias represent the "core" of what's come before, as examples of centers of knowledge, the Internet and Wikipedia show the new "crowd," where collective intelligence and sharing information, centered on Thinking system 2 and properly verified, can educate and enlighten.

In its early years, Wikipedia, which was created by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger and relied on public participation, was questioned for its veracity, but as the "Machine Platform Crowd" authors note, there are more good and honest people in the world than there are trolls and other bad actors. Today Wikipedia is nearly always accurate and carefully sourced.

After reading about the Perceptron, I went to Wikipedia to learn more about Rosenblatt and his work.

From Wikipedia: "In a 1958 press conference organized by the US Navy, Rosenblatt made statements about the perceptron that caused a heated controversy among the fledgling AI community; based on Rosenblatt's statements, The New York Times reported the perceptron to be "the embryo of an electronic computer that [the Navy] expects will be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence."

The new in-crowd allows everyone's voice to be heard. People on the front lines often have the best ideas for improving processes. Smart bosses ask for their workers' suggestions and empower them to be innovative in their approach to their jobs while, wherever possible, including stakeholders.

Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Donovan Hampton launches an F-35B assigned to the "Green Knights" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121) off the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) March 2, 2018 as part of a routine patrol in the Indo-Pacific region. The Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) was conducting a regional patrol in the East China Sea meant to strengthen regional alliances, provide rapid-response capability, and advance the Up-Gunned ESG concept. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Levingston Lewis)
"Smart organizations are figuring out how to take advantage of the crowd to get their problems solved, and for many other purposes," the authors write. Their advice: "decentralize," which is at the heart of the Internet: "The web has already greatly democratized access to information and educational resources."

Thanks to forward thinkers, the Navy is also part of the digital future.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Who Was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

Review by Bill Doughty

Regrettably, "Marjory Stoneman Douglas" High School will always be remembered the way "Sandyhook" and "Columbine" are remembered – places of learning devastated by murderous gunfire. Students at MSD High School, "the Eagles," are demonstrating resilience and redirecting their anger and grief toward positive change.

So who was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

Seventy-one years ago Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998), newspaper journalist and freelance writer, wrote "The Everglades: River of Grass" (Pineapple Press, 1947).

The book is a fascinating history of "the great pointed paw of Florida," describing its nature, peoples, history of conquest, and challenges in the face of development and destruction of the Everglades.

Fellow writer John Hersey, author of "Hiroshima," called Stoneman Douglas's description of the Everglades "an unearthliness, a strong rhythm, a compactness of natural imagery that is dazzling, and, above all an organization and discipline that approaches poetic form."
Here's an example of her poetry in prose:
"The water moves. The saw grass, pale green to deep-brown ripeness, stands rigid. It is moved only in sluggish rollings by the vast push of the winds across it. Over its endless acres here and there the shadows of the dazzling clouds quicken and slide, purple-brown, plum-brown, mauve-brown, rust-brown, bronze. The bristling, blossoming tops do not bend easily like standing grain. They do not even in their own growth curve all one way but stand in edged clumps, curving against each other, all the massed curving blades making millions of fine arching lines that at a little distance merge to a huge expanse of brown wires or bristles or, farther beyond, to deep-piled plush. At the horizon they become velvet. The line they make is an edge of velvet against the infinite blue, the blue-and-white, the clear fine primrose yellow, the burning brass and crimson, the molten silver, the deepening hyacinth sky. The clear burning light of the sun pours daylong into the saw grass and is lost there, soaked up, never given back. Only the water flashes and glints. The grass yields nothing."

Science meets art in her writing, much like Rachel Carson, as Stoneman Douglas paints with her words.

Baby bald eagle in the Everglades. (National Park Service)
She describes the destruction of birds, killed out of greed for their feathers, their plumes. At sunset, like birds everywhere, birds of the Everglades would return "in their white thousands and tens of thousands, with the sounds of great stiff still banners ... rivers of birds pouring against the sunset back to the rookeries ... down to the right next in the clamor and squawking and curious yelping, and queer deep grunting of the fuzzy open-beaked hungry young."
"When the sun rose the ethereal whiteness of the plumed parent birds shone like frost against the blue, blue sky. They  were white in the nights under the moon, or to the torches and firepans of the men with clubs in canoes slipping along behind the lights. A few men with clubs or shotguns rising suddenly by those low rookeries could kill and scalp hundreds of birds in a night. By morning the bloody bodies would be drawing the buzzards and alligators. The great black Florida crows that shed the light like water from their feathers would clean out the dying young. Ants in long lines as fine as pepper would carry off the rotting pieces of their bones."
White egret (Photo courtesy National Park Service)
In "The Everglades: River of Grass" Stoneman Douglas takes us through millennia – Cretaceous, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene – to more recent history of the Age of Exploration and Conquest, through the Civil War and into the first half of the 20th century.
"History," she writes, "the recorded time of the earth and of man, is in itself something like a river."

So is childhood – or a journey through high school.

We learn about colorful characters in Florida's history, including Billy Bowlegs, King Carlos, Juan Ortiz, Juan Ponce de Leon, Hernando De Soto, Col. Zachary Taylor, Maj. Francis Dade, Andrew Jackson (who waged war against the indigenous people 200 years ago, 1817-1818), Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, and Osceola.

Osceola would become a "patriot and warrior" hero who was to "epitomize for future history the highhanded injustice" of captivity, a symbol in the first half of the 1800s to  those, including Indians and escaped slaves, who fought for freedom and righteousness. A town, lake, county, many individuals, and even a species of snake were named after him. So were several U.S. Navy vessels, including a gunboat during the Civil War, harbor tug and seagoing tug #47, all called Osceola.

Stoneman Douglas brings the imagery of the sea into her writing, and she seems to have a special affinity to the tough and gritty sailors who ventured aboard wooden ships and into the unknown.
"These were not the men of the Mediterranean galleys, the long narrow ships that went mincingly on the tideless inner sea, from headland to known headland, by the banked oars of slaves. These were free men of that limitless, turbulent ocean, the men of the bucking, hardy cargo carriers, the round ships, broad of bow and beam, that thrashed forward only before the wind in their single, clumsy square sails. They came about only by a miracle and could hardly beat to windward at all. Many a ship and crew was blown far out into the unknown and disappeared under the unturning, savage, westgoing wind. Not that that mattered. There were men in every port eager to follow them. Their concern was not safety. Their concern was going out. Sailing. Finding out. Seeing. Never mind the coming back."
Seagoing tug USS Osceola
We see how early explorers, Spanish Catholic crusaders, and English traders fought over the "paw" of Florida and subjugation of the people there. 
The U.S. Navy, under USS Flirt and Fort Flirt, played an important role in Florida's early history, protecting against piracy and bootlegging and eventually in the Civil War fighting against "the accepted evil of slavery."
Admiral David Porter – and later his son David Dixon Porter – protected Florida, commercial trade and the United States on both sides of the peninsula.
Stoneman Douglas offers a meticulous description of the lives of the earliest residents of the Everglades, the indigenous "Indians": Calusa, Mayaimi, Tekesta, Talasi, Yochi, Tallahasee and others. Eventually they would be lumped together under a catch-all name: Seminole.

By the mid 18th century the original people of the Everglades had disappeared. "Only the scattered Calusas were left, ranging throughout the area. It has been repeated often that after 1763 they left for Cuba en masse. I do not believe that there was ever a time when the Glades were empty of villages," Stoneman Douglas concludes.

"They had great courage. They came of people who had lived hard and savage lives and their children were not weakened," she writes.

The author was successful in convincing people to conserve and preserve much of the precious Everglades. In December 1947, the year her book was published, President Truman dedicated the Everglades National Park, helping people realize the life-giving value of the ecosystem – and the dangers of draining the water, leading to fires and rising salt water.
"Unless the people will act the fires will come again. Overdrainage will go on. The soil will shrink and burn and be wasted and destroyed in a continuing ruin. The salt will lie in wait. Yet the springs of fine water had flowed again. The balance still existed between the forces of life and of death. There is a balance in man also, one which has set against his greed and his inertia and his foolishness; his courage, his will, his ability slowly and painfully to learn, and to work together."
The Courage... the will... the "ability slowly and painfully to learn, and to work together."

Her legacy lives on.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School family – students, teachers and loved ones – are taking a stand on behalf of those who were killed by promoting common sense gun safety to prevent more tragedies. Their school's namesake channeled her passion toward positive change on behalf of something she deeply loved too, part of a resilient ecosystem that supports life.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Women Who Changed the World

Review by Bill Doughty

"Throughout history many women have risked everything in the name of science. This book tells the stories of some of these scientists, from ancient Greece to the modern day, who in the face of 'No' said, 'Try and stop me.'"

With cool-weird drawings and sparkling insights, writer-illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky profiles some of the women who stand out in fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in "Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World" (Ten Speed Press, 2016).

Among the 50 women featured are Wang Zhenyi, Ada Lovelace, Karen Horney, Marie Curie, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Rachel Carson, Katherine Johnson, Valentina Tereshkova, Jane Goodall, Maryam Mirzakhani, and Grace Hopper, "Navy admiral and computer scientist."
"Grace Hopper was ... a relentless trailblazer, recognized as the mother of computer programming," Ignotofsky writes. The author spices her profiles with one-liners like: "Invented the first compiler, forever changing how we use computers," "Her great-grandfather was also in the Navy," and "Pioneered the standards for testing computer systems."
Grace Hopper, born in 1906, was fourteen years old when women in the United States achieved the right to vote, a step toward greater equality for women. She earned a PhD in mathematics at Yale fourteen years after passage of the 19th Amendment. Hopper joined the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) in 1943, bringing her mathematics skills to the war effort.
"After the war, Grace joined the private sector. At the time, programmers needed the skills that came with an advanced degree in mathematics and used binary code to program. Grace Hopper thought it would be easier to just 'talk' to a computer in English. Everyone thought Grace was nuts, but she proved them wrong when she invented the first compiler. This led to create COBOL, the first universal computer language. Thanks to Grace just about anyone can learn to code! Grace returned to the Navy in 1967. Even after she retired as the oldest person on active duty (just a few months short of turning 80), she continued to lecture, consult, and teach – always reminding the world that 'the most damaging phrase in the language is 'we've always done it this way.'"
Along with the short biographies of the fifty featured women are a timeline, statistics in STEM, an illustrated list of lab tools and a glossary. While this book appeals to young readers it, like the works of Mary Roach and Hope Jahren, can inspire any readers to see how women have contributed to progress in the world.

The author's other books (this one was her first) include "I Love Science" and "Women in Sports."

Ignotofsky, who supports critical thinking and evidence-based decision-making exemplified in the "March for Science," writes in her conclusion:
"Women make up half of our population, and we simply cannot afford to ignore that brain power – the progress of humankind depends on our continual search for knowledge. The women in this book prove to the world that no matter your gender, your race, or your background, anyone can achieve great things. Their legacy lives on. Today, women all over the world are still risking everything to discover and explore."
Don't try to stop them.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Navy Reads: 'The Double V'

Review by Bill Doughty
Serving in WWII. Photo courtesy National Archives.

Black voters became a potent force that white politicians could not ignore in November of 1940. That's one insight in a book that explains how the military became integrated, especially in the wake of World War I and during and after World War II.

Author Rawn James writes: 
"Because millions of (African Americans) had migrated to Northern states where they could vote, they were now poised to play a possibly decisive role in the 1940 presidential and congressional elections. After the war erupted in Europe on September 1, 1939, few issues mattered more to millions of black voters in 1940 than abolishing segregation and race-based inequality in the armed forces."
"The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military" by Rawn James Jr. (Bloomsbury Press, 2013).

James's book is dedicated to his grandfather Cornelius James Sr, who served in a segregated U.S. Army during WWII so that his sons, including Rawn James Sr. (U.S. Navy, Ret.), "might serve in a better military and live in a fairer nation."

The fight for freedom and democracy abroad as well as at home became known as the "Double V" campaign – victory for civil rights and a struggle against the enemies of equality.

James shows how the Navy was an early leader in integration, often out of necessity, beginning with the Revolutionary War and shortly after in the War of 1812.
"The primary reason for the prevalence of African Americans at sea was that the work was unattractive to most white men. It was terribly arduous and dangerous to serve aboard square-rigged vessels powered by the wind. Sailors were required to go aloft to trim sails during heavy winds or seas. Food rations were at the subsistence level; disease and malnutrition were constant threats. Because conditions aboard sailing vessels were so abysmal, the navy and merchant marine captains did not have the luxury of turning away men deemed less desirable by employers on land. Alcoholics, petty criminals, and men who arrived on docks professing no history at all were among those who found themselves scaling ratlines and trading deferred pay for grog. African Americans, particularly former slaves like Crispus Attucks, found themselves welcomed aboard."
This insightful book touches on early American history, but concentrates mostly on events and consequences of the world wars that helped the United States live up to its original ideals.

In 1940, when the Red Cross put the call out for blood, blacks were restricted from donating. The irony was that Dr. Charles Drew, an African American, was the lead Red Cross scientist who developed methods to collect and store plasma.

Pivotal figures highlighted in this book include Corporal Freddie Stowers, Messman Doris "Dorie" Miller, Thurgood Marshall, Walter White, Philip Randolph, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal.
"Forrestal scheduled a meeting with King. He approached the venerated admiral respectfully but firmly. 'I don't think,' he began, 'that our Navy Negro personnel are getting a square break. I want to do something about it, but I can't do anything about it unless the officers are behind me. I want your help. What do you say?' Admiral King sat silently in his chair for a moment, staring out the window. Forrestal did not attempt to fill the ensuing silence. King finally turned his gaze back to the former banker. 'You know, we say we are a democracy,' King replied, 'and a democracy ought to have a democratic Navy.' The admiral pledged to support Forrestal's program 'all the way.'"
Discrimination during and after the war was intolerable to those who had served in the name of freedom:
"Like their civilian friends and family members back home, soldiers in the war viewed their battles against a white supremacist enemy abroad [not to mention imperial racism across the Pacific] as related in some unspoken but logical way with the struggle against white supremacy in America. A navy steward first class from Baltimore named Willie W. Booth, Jr., explained to a reporter aboard the USS Missouri, 'All of us, of course are hoping that our service to country will be rewarded by better chances to live in our various communities as first class citizens ... A chance to work where we show ability for the job, to continue our education in schools of choice, to have a vote in whatever community to which we return, [that] is what we've fought for and will continue to fight for when we go back home.' Booth and tens of thousands of soldiers and sailors like him believed that their service abroad was a vital contribution to black Americans' widening struggle for equality."
This book includes painful and poignant examples of the hatred and bigotry that impacted service members, including lynchings and beatings. Both were more common prior to Truman's order to integrate the armed forces, which was led by the Navy and the Air Force.
"In the months after V-J Day, as it continued to integrate, the navy confirmed its position as the most progressive military branch. Secretary James Forrestal was committed to integrating the service. In August 1945, America's 165,000 black sailors accounted for 5.5 percent of the navy's manpower. Sixty-four African Americans, fifty-eight men and six women, served as commissioned officers. The overwhelming majority of black sailors served in the Steward's Branch, but the 7,130 sailors in the regular service worked and lived with white sailors in submarines, on planes, and throughout the fleet."
When segregation still occurred in the U.S. armed forces, trolls in the Soviet Union (Russia) jumped on the opportunity to try to shame the United States:
"In the dawning cold war era, America's segregated military quickly had become a source of embarrassment. The United States was competing with the Soviet Union for allies among developing nations, many of which had majority nonwhite populations. Communist propagandists wrote derisively of an American military that purported to defend freedom while treating 10 percent of its men and women in uniform as second-class citizens. President Truman understood the foreign policy implications at stake."
Truman is presented as a complicated and redeemed hero, a man who started life in an openly racist family and who advanced in politics as a moderate politician who succeeded over more progressive elected officials only to find himself vice president and suddenly president in the waning months of WWII. He was called upon to make difficult decisions, including opening the military and, soon after, American society to greater opportunity for all.

His order to establish a committee on civil rights springs is still relevant:

"Freedom From Fear is more fully realized in our country than in any other on the face of the earth. Yet all parts of our population are not equally free from fear. And from time to time, and in some places, this freedom has been gravely threatened. It was so after the last war, when organized groups fanned hatred and intolerance, until, at times, mob action struck fear into the hearts of men and women because of their racial origin or religious beliefs.

Today, Freedom From Fear, and the democratic institutions which sustain it, are again under attack. In some places, from time to time, the local enforcement of law and order has broken down, and individuals – sometimes ex-servicemen, even women – have been killed, maimed, or intimidated.

The preservation of civil liberties is a duty of every Government-state, Federal and local. Wherever the law enforcement measures and the authority of Federal, state, and local governments are inadequate to discharge this primary function of government, these measures and this authority should be strengthened and improved.

The Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws clearly place on the Federal Government the duty to act when state or local authorities abridge or fail to protect these Constitutional rights.

Yet in its discharge of the obligations placed on it by the Constitution, the Federal Government is hampered by inadequate civil rights statutes. The protection of our democratic institutions and the enjoyment by the people of their rights under the Constitution require that these weak and inadequate statutes should be expanded and improved. We must provide the Department of Justice with the tools to do the job.

I have, therefore, issued today an Executive Order creating the President's Committee on Civil Rights and I am asking this Committee to prepare for me a written report. The substance of this report will be recommendations with respect to the adoption or establishment by legislation or otherwise of more adequate and effective means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States."

Service members during the Korean War. (National Archives)
Truman's executive order to establish the committee was issued Dec. 5, 1946, three months and three days after V-J (Victory over Japan) day.  It established expectations for the decades to come.

From the National Archives: "Truman bolstered the civil rights division, appointed the first African American judge to the Federal bench, named several other African Americans to high-ranking administration positions, and most important, on July 26, 1948, he issued an executive order abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services. Executive Order 9981 stated that 'there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.' ... By the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated."

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Great President Gleams

Review by Bill Doughty

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)
Presidents Day is, of course, held in honor primarily of Washington and Lincoln, among our greatest presidents and commanders in chief. This holiday is also an opportunity to reflect on another great American who once occupied the office of the presidency: Harry S. Truman.

Truman is namesake of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

As with many other of our nation's great leaders like Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, and JFK, Truman was a dedicated reader of books. As we explore the life of HST, it's apparent that his famed "common sense," came from an uncommon love of learning and discovery.

President Truman reads a book on the "Truman balcony" of White House. First Lady Bess Truman is seated at far right, partly obscured. (Truman Library)
Truman is featured in a compelling book about the integration of the military, called "The Double V" by Rawn James, Jr.  (A review on Navy Reads is forthcoming and, once posted, will precede this blogpost.)

James tells us of Truman's love of the works of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, including "Gleam," which he and his friends chose as the title of their high school yearbook. "On the cover of the inaugural issue, framed by a student's artwork, were Tennyson's words":
Not of the sunlight, Not of the moonlight, Not of the starlight, O, young Mariner, Down to the haven, Call your companions, Launch your vessel, And crowd your canvas, And, ere it vanishes, Over the margin, After it, follow it, Follow the Gleam.
We can't help but read these words and think of the Navy, which – along with the other military services – Truman helped integrate. 

Tennyson also figures in the massive biography, "Truman" by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 1992).

McCullough reveals that HST kept a neatly folded copy of "Locksley Hall" in his wallet. 

This is the excerpt of that poem chosen by McCullough, foreshadowing the future of civil and military aviation as well as the United Nations, but remarkably written in 1835 and published several years later:

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Truman brought up Tennyson in his remarks at a dinner for members of Congress sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol, May 14, 1952. He read from "Locksley Hall," noting how he'd carried the poem with him for 30 years and pointing out how Tennyson seemed to predict modern aviation and even a nuclear age:
"Now, that was written in 1842 by Alfred Tennyson. That is a prophecy of the age in which we live now. And we are faced with a much greater age than the one that Tennyson dreamed about. If we will just keep our feet on the ground and our heads level, I am sure that this discovery of the way to break the atom will bring not only fantastic things for us to use, but it will be used for peaceful purposes – just as all the other destructive articles that have been invented have been used for that purpose."
Truman, who would one day have an aircraft carrier named after him said, in those remarks:
"We are making a great deal of progress in the science of aviation now. In fact, I think we are at the door of the greatest age in history in everything. If we can prevent a third world war-and I have been trying 7 years to prevent that third world war, and I hope we will be successful at it – the young people today, I think, will see a fantastic age, an age that our fathers and grandfathers dreamed about, but never thought would happen."
McCullough reveals Truman's love for Plutarch, Shakespeare and Mark Twain ("patron saint of literature"). He also read Dickens and Sir Walter Scott, and he immersed himself in history and biographies. McCullough describes the Truman home:
"At home in the small, simply furnished apartment on Connecticut, Truman's corner of the living room included a chintz-covered armchair, a reading lamp, his phonograph, and his record collection. In a small, free-standing bookshelf within arm's reach was a leatherbound set of Plutarch's 'Lives,' a two-volume 'Andrew Jackson' by Marquis James, all four volumes of Freeman's '(Robert E.) Lee,' the Bible, 'Stories of the Great Operas,' a biography of John Nance Garner, and 'Don Quixote.'"
Truman reads while on vacation in Florida, circa 1947.
Beside his chair is "The Lincoln Reader" by Carl Sandburg.
McCullough writes, "Margaret could not recall her father sitting down quietly at home without a book in his hand."

At more than 1,000 pages, McCullough's masterful biography provides a complete look at the 33rd president in our nation's history. (Truman considered himself the 32nd president, since Grover Cleveland had two nonconcurrent terms.)

We see Truman embrace the best of the values of his upbringing and shed the worst, including the racism of his place and time – growing up in Missouri of the early 20th century. We learn about his heroism as an Army captain in World War I. We experience his failure in business (but his repayment of his debts) and his success in politics and as an elected leader who advocated for a strong military while rooting out corruption and waste.

Truman died Dec. 26, 1972. "He was remembered in print and over the air waves, in the halls of Congress and in large parts of the world, as a figure of courage and principle." He "followed the Gleam."

McCullough concludes:
"That he would later be held accountable by some critics for the treacheries and overbearing influence of the CIA, as well as for the Vietnam War, was understandable but unjustified. He never intended the CIA to become what it did. His decisions concerning Vietnam by no means predetermined all that followed under later, very different presidents.His insistence that the war in Korea be kept in bounds, kept from becoming a nuclear nightmare, would figure more and more clearly as time passed as one of his outstanding achievements. And rarely had a president surrounded himself with such able, admirable men as Stimson, Byrnes, Marshall, Forrestal, Leahy, Acheson, Lovett, Eisenhower, Bradly, Clifford, Lilienthal, Harriman, Bohlen, and Kennan – as time would also confirm. It was as distinguished a group as ever served the country, and importantly, he had supported them as they supported him.Born in the Gilded age, the age of steam and gingerbread Gothic, Truman had lived to see a time of lost certainties and rocket trips to the moon. The arc of his life spanned more change in the world than in any prior period in history. A man of nineteenth-century background, he had had to face many of the most difficult decisions of the unimaginably different twentieth century. A son of rural, inland America, raised only a generation removed from the frontier and imbued with the old Jeffersonian ideal of a rural democracy, he had had to assume command of the most powerful industrial nation on earth at the very moment when that power, in combination with stunning advances in science and technology, had become an unparalleled force in the world. The responsibilities he bore were like those of no other president before him, and he more than met the test.Ambitious by nature, he was never torn by ambition, never tried to appear as something he was not. He stood for common sense, common decency. He spoke the common tongue. As much as any president since Lincoln, he brought to the highest office the language and values of the common American people. He held to the old guidelines: work hard, do your best, speak the truth, assume no airs, trust in God, have no fear. Yet he was not and had never been a simple, ordinary man. The homely attributes, the Missouri wit, the warmth of his friendship, the genuineness of Harry Truman, however appealing, were outweighed by the larger qualities that made him a figure of world stature, both a great and good man, and a great president.'Watch the President,' Admiral King had whispered to Lord Moran at Potsdam. 'This is all new to him, but he can take it. He is a more typical American than Roosevelt, and he will do a good job...'He was the kind of president the founding fathers had in mind for the country. He came directly from the people. He was America."
Truman personified the lines in Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" that the common sense of ordinary citizens and universal humanity – found in books – would ultimately "hold a fretful realm in awe."

President Harry S. Truman eats lunch with members of the crew of the USS Augusta (CA 31) July 12, 1945. Seated with him are: Albert Rice, Seaman First Class, Independence, Missouri and Elmo Buck, Pharmacist's Mate Second Class, Marceline, Missouri. (United States Navy and Harry S. Truman Library & Museum)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Hōkūle‘a Visits Pearl Harbor

People aboard Battleship Missouri Memorial help welcome voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a in Pearl Harbor Feb. 10. (Photo by Kaimana Pine, courtesy PVS)
Voyaging Canoe Makes Historic First Visit

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey Troutman, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii

The traditional Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a, sailed into the waters of Pearl Harbor and visited the Puʻuloa region for the first time in the canoe’s 42-year history, Feb. 10.

The Hōkūle‘a crew was welcomed at Rainbow Bay Marina by the Puʻuloa community and US Navy who will host the canoe during a week-long visit to the region.

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, spoke at the welcoming ceremony of the Hōkūle‘a’ crew’s values, and how they reflect those of the U.S. Navy and the Hawaiian community at Pearl Harbor.

“Today is truly a historic day here at Pu’uloa,” said Fort. “I am a firm believer that the values that unite us are much greater than the distractions that divide us, and here today, we are truly inspired by the brave and humble navigators and voyagers of Hōkūle‘a, and by the values they cherish and represent.”

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, speaks with Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Master Navigator of the traditional Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a. The week-long engagement to follow will include school visits, public dockside tours and a crew talk story event. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
The Hōkūle‘a crew’s week-long engagement with the local community will include school visits, public dockside tours and a crew speaking event. As part of the Mahalo, Hawaiʻi Sail, the purpose of Hōkūleʻa’s visit is to bring the canoe to more of Hawaiʻi’s children, honor Pearl Harbor’s ancient culture and history, and to learn about the efforts to restore the area’s cultural sites, including the nearby Loko Paʻaiau Fishpond.

“This is an emotional day for me, because this is the very first time this historic vessel has ever sailed upon the waters of Pearl Harbor,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Master Navigator of Hōkūle‘a. “To feel this sense of community and to know that the efforts of this crew are being celebrated in this moment, it is my hope that today is a chance for us to all take one more step towards coming together as one.”

Hōkūle‘a renders honors at USS Nevada Memorial at Hospital Point. (Photo by MC1 Troutman)
Upon entering the waters of Pearl Harbor, the Hōkūle‘a crew paid their respect as the vessel sailed past significant cultural and historical sites including Halealoha Halemau (Fort Kamehameha Reburial Platform), USS Nevada, Arizona Memorial, Battleship Missouri, Ford Island, USS Utah, and Loko Paʻaiau Fishpond, before piering at Rainbow Bay Marina. The crew will conclude their week-long visit by working with the restoration team at Loko Paʻaiau Fishpond on February 17.

The Loko Paʻaiau fishpond is located at McGrew Point Navy housing and is one of only three fishponds out of an original 22 in the Pu’uloa area which are still relatively intact. In September 2014, the Navy invited members of the local Hawaiian civic clubs and ʻAiea community members to begin work on restoring the historic fishpond.

“We want to celebrate this place and the movement taking place by the Puʻuloa community and the Navy to restore the Native Hawaiian history, sites and cultural identity of Pearl Harbor,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “We hope Hōkūleʻa’s visit will open the doors for our young people to learn about the extraordinary history and culture of this very special, sacred place.”

More than 1,000 school children are scheduled to visit Hōkūleʻa and participate in educational activities during the canoe's stop at Puʻuloa.

For more information about the Hōkūleʻa and her crew, please visit:

For a series of Navy Reads reviews and other posts over the years about Hōkūleʻa click here.

Schedule of events at Rainbow Bay Marina this week, provided by Polynesian Voyaging Society:

Public Open House Tours of Hōkūleʻa to Feb. 17

Rainbow Bay Marina (next to Restaurant 604, adjacent to National Park Service's Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
  • Sunday Feb. 11, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and

  • Monday thru Friday, Feb. 12 to 16, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Hōkūleʻa Crew Talk Story (Sponsored by Kamehameha Schools ʻEwa Region) at Rainbow Bay Marina Pavilion Thursday, Feb. 15, 5 to 7 p.m.
  • Meet crew and community members who will discuss the significance of Hōkūleʻa’s visit to the Puʻuloa region.

  • Saturday Feb 17, 7:00 a.m., Hōkūleʻa departs Rainbow Bay Marina

  • Hōkūle‘a renders honors as it passes by the USS Arizona Memorial (Photo by MC1 Jeff Troutman)

    Saturday, January 27, 2018

    Bond of 'Jersey Brothers'

    Review by Bill Doughty

    After Imperial Japan attacked Oahu, three brothers serving in the Navy experienced the war and witnessed history from distinct vantage points: one aboard USS Enterprise (CV 6), one as an aide to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and one as a Prisoner of War in the Philippines.
    Barton, Bill and Benny before the war

    Prior to the war, big brothers Benny Mott (gunnery officer aboard Enterprise) and Bill Mott (a naval intelligence officer) hoped to keep their younger brother, Barton Cross, safe, so Bill recommended Barton become a Supply Corps officer and serve in the  Philippines.

    But then, nine hours after Pearl Harbor was attacked, the Japanese bombed and strafed U.S. forces in the Philippine Islands. Barton was wounded and hospitalized in the air attack.
    "Their opening salvos went to the heart of the island's air defenses, which proved an easy mark. Despite Washington's urgent, repeated orders to General Douglas MacArthur – at the time the U.S. Army Forces Commander in the Far East – to launch his planes and initiate air operations, beginning minutes after the start of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he did not respond. Nor did he ever issue the order. As a consequence, virtually every U.S. plane at Luzon's primary airfields, Clark Field and Nichols Field, was bombed on the ground, wingtip to wingtip. The army's entire staple of bombers, their payloads full, was wiped out in a matter of hours."
    With Army Air Corps protection gone, Navy submarines of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet were vulnerable and had to sortie to Darwin, Australia. 

    When it came time for MacArthur to retreat from the Philippines, he ordered the evacuation of Army casualties – but not the Navy's wounded – hospitalized in Manila.

    Jersey Brother Barton became a POW, subjected to marches, deprivation and atrocities documented by eye witnesses and other records cited by author Sally Mott Freeman in "The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home" (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

    Escape was foremost in POWs' minds, but Imperial Japanese guards had ways of preventing escape:
    "Nothing focused the mind on the perils of escape more than the particular return of three prisoners – two army colonels and a navy lieutenant – who were summarily stripped naked, marched across the camp to the entrance, tied up, and flogged to insensibility. They were kicked to their feet, led out the front gate with their hands tied behind them, and strung up to hang from cross-pieces of wood several feet above their heads. A two-by-four was placed beside them, and when any Filipinos passed by on the road, they were summoned by the Japanese guards to pick up the timber and smash each of the hanging prisoners in the face. Then the guards would follow up and lay on their whips."
    All three POWs lived for three days before two were shot and the third was beheaded.

    Meanwhile, Barton's brothers did everything they could to try to locate him and learn his fate.

    Oldest brother, Benny, served aboard Enterprise with Adm. "Bull" Halsey, another native of New Jersey.

    Years earlier, when Benny was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, Halsey commanded the USS Reina Mercedes, the Annapolis station ship, and the two established a relationship at social gatherings for upperclassmen. Both were proud of their state:
    "During those more relaxed affairs, Benny and Captain Halsey often discussed navy football and another common passion: the underappreciated virtues of their shared home state of New Jersey. Halsey had relished these chest-beating interludes about the state: 'The home of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein!' he would crow in mock exasperation, drawing wide grins from Benny every time. At Annapolis, Benny and Bill were both known for their proud defense of the Garden State – against routine mockery. They even embraced their nickname, 'the Jersey Brothers,' despite its implicit derision. Was it Halsey who started that? Benny couldn't remember, but it stuck ... Halsey always appreciated Benny's family high notes including the Motts' ancestral link to members of the iconic fraternal order that boarded the tea-laden vessels Dartmouth, Eleanor and Beaver in Boston Harbor in 1773."
    USS Enterprise and USS South Dakota engage Japanese ships and planes on Oct. 26, 1942. NHHC.
    Benny was aboard Enterprise for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands during the Guadalcanal campaign, described graphically in "The Jersey Brothers." Benny's quarters were destroyed in the attack. "His old surroundings were barely recognizable; the room was a smoky tumult of wet, scorched debris." Other gunners and other ships were not so lucky.
    "The reality stunned: at the conclusion of the Battle of Santa Cruz, the USS Enterprise was now the only operational American aircraft carrier in the hostile waters of the Pacific. One by one, every other prewar flattop had either been lost in battle or forced to withdraw for lengthy repairs. Lexington had gone down in May at the Coral Sea battle. Yorktown was lost at Midway less than a month later. On the last day of August in the Eastern Solomons, Saratoga had taken a second devastating torpedo hit and retired to drydock at Pearl Harbor. Wasp, en route to Guadalcanal two weeks later, was fatally struck by three torpedoes. And now Hornet's pyre burned over the horizon."

    Using "industrial-grade paint" Sailors aboard "The Big E" painted and erected a large, defiant sign: "Enterprise vs. Japan." 
    "Over the course of 1942, Enterprise had been struck a total of six times by Japanese bombs or torpedoes and had suffered hundreds of casualties. The painted sign reflected both the grimness of the situation and the grit of a determined crew: this sole surviving American aircraft carrier in the seventy-million-square-mile Pacific war front was in no mood for backing down."
    Benny had a ringside seat to the war in the Pacific. Jersey Brother Bill was an eyewitness to history at FDR's side, principally in the White House Map Room. Bill developed a connection with WInston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt. He had to inform the president of the death of the Sullivan brothers, five brothers lost in November 1943 aboard the light cruiser USS Juneau off Guadalcanal.

    Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner
    Earlier, Bill followed Station Hypo's progress leading to the Battle of Midway. Later, after successfully lobbying to be stationed in the Pacific – closer to his brothers – Bill integrated Navajo Code Talkers so they would be "coordinated properly with their multiple constituents in the amphibious forces complex communication chain."

    Bill was there when Adm. Spruance approved the firing of Army Maj. Gen. Ralph Smith in coordination with Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner and Marine Gen. Holland "Howlin' Mad" Smith.

    Bill's relationship with the "famously abrasive" Adm. Turner was deep and lasting. We get an insight into the character of Turner, who led amphibious assaults at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. Turner supported Bill's efforts to locate his POW brother, Barton, just as Halsey supported Benny's efforts to try to find his Jersey brother.

    As a Navy captain and CO of USS Astoria (CA-34) in 1939, Turner visited Japan to return the ashes of Japan's ambassador to the United States and meet with Foreign Minister Arita Hachiro. After the Japan's surrender in 1945, Turner went to the Togo shrine in Tokyo, which he had visited in that diplomatic mission.
    "Standing at the Togo shrine, Admiral Turner made this prescient observation: 'If we play our cards well, the Japanese will become our best and most worthwhile friends. They have certain fundamental virtues in their character, which in time, I hope, will be appreciated by all worthwhile Americans. We should be most careful to respect their gods and their traditions, and I hope they will come in time to respect ours.'"
    Records retrieved from the Philippines and made available by the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, as well as interviews and letters, helped Freeman piece together life for Barton as a prisoner of the Japanese. She recites how prisoners were mistreated, how they survived sometimes for years, and how they made tough choices – whether to attempt escape or remain as prisoners and prevent repercussions on fellow prisoners.

    Freeman explores the tensions and turmoil of interservice rivalry during the war, with Gen. MacArthur front and center, saying "The Navy fails to understand the strategy in the Pacific." Much of the author's source material comes directly from the MacArthur Memorial Archives.

    Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas Adm. Nimitz confers with south Pacific area officers, possibly aboard USS Argonne (AG-31) at Noumea, New Caledonia, Sept. 28, 1942: Army MGen Richard K. Sutherland, Chief of Staff to General MacArthur; (Nimitz); VADM Robert L. Ghormley, Commander South Pacific Force; and USAAF MGen Millard F. Harmon, CO of U.S. Army Forces South Pacific Area. (Naval History and Heritage Command)
    Author Sally Mott Freeman
    MacArthur bristled under the shared leadership of Adm. Nimitz in the Pacific. Readers will enjoy a fascinating explanation of the command and control relationship in Chapter 14 (pages 174-5). Chief of Naval Operations Adm. E.J. King considered MacArthur a megalomaniac, according to Freeman, a general who rewarded flattery and other sycophantic behavior by his staff. "It is said that a fool flatters himself, but a wise man flatters the fool."

    This book shows us many sides of the war – including a family's deep struggle on the homefront during and after the war. This is a highly recommended, multidimensional study of the Pacific War, which was won by superior sea power. "Without sea power," said Nimitz, we would not have advanced at all."

    The afterward and epilogue to this book are well-written, well-researched and personal accounts worth reading and re-reading for anyone interested in treatment of POWs and in the way war can affect families.