Sunday, June 17, 2018

Vietnam / Remembering an American Voice

Review by Bill Doughty

By 1968 it was becoming clear to many Americans that the war in Vietnam was a terrible miscalculation. One of those Americans was a young government worker, speechwriter Richard N. "Dick" Goodwin, author of "Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties" (Little, Brown and Company, 1988)

In a chapter called "The Impossible War" Goodwin explains clearly how the war started and escalated. Ignited by JFK and turned into a bonfire by LBJ, the Vietnam War engulfed the United States and led to the election of Richard Nixon and what Goodwin called thirty years ago, "our more cynical age."

The war, which began as a legacy of World War II, escalated in earnest for the United States with "Operation Rolling Thunder" that "would be the largest sustained campaign of aerial attack in the history of warfare."

Speechwriter and adviser Dick Goodwin stands with President Kennedy.
Those Americans who were ordered to fight in Vietnam should be honored for their patriotism. What about those who ordered them? Why were warnings of involvement ignored? What about those who sought deferment from service? And how should we remember the patriotism of those who were on the right side of history and fought to end the war?

Goodwin helps provide context and understanding by describing how the war in Vietnam started. His succinct account deserves to be remembered:
At the end of World War II, after the Japanese had been driven from Indochina, the French returned to reoccupy their former colonial possessions. In 1946 – three years before Mao Tse-Tung had conquered China – Ho Chi Minh, himself a communist, organized and led the opposition to French rule. The war against the French lasted for eight years, until, in 1954 – with the collapse of the French Stronghold at Dien Bien Phu – it culminated in victory for Ho Chi Minh. Twenty-five thousand Frenchmen had perished in the futile effort to maintain a colonialism that was being ended or destroyed throughout the third world.   On the eve of defeat, the French asked President Eisenhower for direct American intervention. He refused. "Ike sent General Ridgway and me to evaluate the situation on the ground," I was later told by General James Gavin, hero of the airborne assaults that preceded the Allied invasion of Europe. "When we returned Ike asked us what we thought. Ridgway told him that intervention was a political decision, but he could give an opinion of the military situation. 'If we do go in, air strikes won't do the job. The war has to be won on the ground. To fight a ground war I would need to begin with a few divisions, building to a strength of several hundred thousand men fairly quickly. And even then I can't guarantee victory.'" If there had been any doubt in Eisenhower's mind, it was dissolved by this report from the general who had led our forces in Korea, and whose bravery, integrity and honesty of judgment were beyond question.   "No one could be more bitterly opposed to ever getting involved in hot war in the region than I am," Eisenhower said in February of 1954. "I could not conceive of a greater tragedy for America than to get heavily involved now in an all-out war in any of these regions, particularly with large units." Admittedly the United States had supplied the French with over 2.5 billion dollars of military and economic assistance, almost 80 percent of the French war effort. But the war was lost. Facts were facts. We would just have to write off our losses. Eisenhower was a realist.   In that decisive year of 1954, with the French approaching defeat and American intervention still a possibility, two men who were to direct the unfolding Asian drama of the sixties spoke in opposition to their country's involvement."No amount of American military assistance in Indochina," said Senator John Kennedy in April of 1954, "can conquer an enemy which is everywhere and at the same time nowhere, 'an enemy of the people' which has the sympathy and covert support of the people."   Around the same time, Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, summoned by John Foster Dulles in a frantic effort to assure bipartisan support for an American intervention, told the secretary of state that he could not support any military action that did not have  the full support and assistance of our allies. It was, of course, an impossible condition. Our allies had no intention of companioning us into the Asian jungles. But it was shrewd politics. Johnson had not actually refused support, but he had avoided becoming an accomplice. The memory of Korea ... was still fresh...   Once the possibility of U.S. intervention was foreclosed, the game was over for France. Ho Chi Minh could not be defeated. The best the French could hope for would be a long and probably losing war of attrition against Asian multitudes. Somewhat pompously we instructed the French that no military victory was possible in Vietnam unless  "proper political atmosphere" was established. "A proper political atmosphere!" Hidden in that abstraction, its inward meaning, was the key to French failure and to failures yet to come. Effective opposition to communist insurgency could come only from a people who had a stake in their own society, faith in their own future, a sense of allegiance, an identity of interests with their own government – enough so that they would fight and risk their lives for its preservation. The French commanded no such loyalty and belief, and neither, in the end, did we or the governments we selected and sustained.
Marines in South Vietnam. (National Archives)
Goodwin shows how Kennedy and Johnson may have used Eisenhower's promise of continued "commitment" to South Vietnam. That commitment deepened when one million Catholics fled the North and in the face of a communist insurgency that threatened the South, itself a "virtual fiefdom, run for the benefit of an oligarchy, its population and, ultimately, its government hostage to a military establishment fed and strengthened by U.S. aid." Kennedy increased the numbers of "advisers" sent to Southeast Asia by the hundreds, deepening the commitment substantially.

"Kennedy's policy was doomed," Goodwin writes. "And it was also dangerous. By increasing the number of American advisers from six hundred to around sixteen thousand, the Americanization of Vietnam was accelerated, the likelihood that Americans would come under attack was increased, and the credibility of the government in Saigon – the perception of its independence – was undermined, increasing the ability of the Vietcong to attract adherents for their 'war of liberation.'"

But the decision to transform the war, to escalate, to fully engage in ground combat, was President Johnson's. The decision would destroy his presidency.

Johnson committed more and more American troops into Vietnam. "By April of 1967 the number was well over half a million," Goodwin writes. "And the horror of it was that almost everyone knew that the war was unwinnable – except for a president of the United States and the few ambitious, limited men who shared and served to fortify his disastrous self-deception."

The Constitution was designed by the framers to prevent the disaster that was the Vietnam War. Goodwin quotes Founder James Madison:

"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," wrote Madison, "the greatest difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."

Goodwin contends that beginning in 1965 those "auxiliary precautions were taken down, with Congress ignorant and "rendered virtually impotent," no longer a strong check on the power of the executive branch, and even the advisers and special assistants "excluded from the councils of decision" except those who told the president what he wanted to hear.

Goodwin writes, "And finally the wisdom of Madison was wholly discarded for that far more ancient maxim of Saint Matthew's Gospel that 'He that is not with me is against me,' forgetting that an admonition to follow God through an act of faith had no relevance to mortal leaders whose acts are to be judged by reason and secular conviction."

Evacuating a casualty in a South Vietnam swamp. (National Archives)
We get a disturbing look at the corruption of power and how the war affected the President's conduct. "My conclusion that Lyndon Johnson experienced certain episodes of what I believe to have been paranoid behavior is based purely on my observation of his conduct during the three years I worked for him."

In 1968 there were  545,000 American troops in Vietnam. That same year both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. Richard Nixon was elected president.

Vietnam Veterans, like my dad, who had served their nation and followed orders were vilified and unappreciated. Cynicism deepened as the 60s ended. Gifted writer Goodwin, who died last month at 86, encouraged us to remember and reflect.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

To Tell the Truth, Mr. President

Review by Bill Doughty

Autocratic dictators lie.

So said President Harry S. Truman, American everyman leader-philosopher.

"The dictators of the world say that if you tell a lie often enough, why people, will believe it," Truman wrote, as quoted in Jon Meacham's insightful "The Soul of America" (Random House, 2018). "Well, if you tell the truth often enough, they'll believe it and go along with you," Truman wrote.

Our previous Navy Reads post shows some of the ways the Navy was influential in history – an unintended subtext in Meacham's book. This blogpost focuses on Truman's and other leaders' roles, especially during the Cold War, when democracy was threatened by a politician who sought to divide people with fear, hate and intolerance: Wisconsin's Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

Using fear, religion and his version of patriotism, McCarthy spewed the conspiracy theory of a deep state with communists behind every tree. Meacham reports McCarthy's words: "'Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity,' McCarthy told the Ohio County Republican Women's Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, on Thursday, February 9, 1950."

McCarthy reveling in headlines about himself.
McCarthy "exploited the privileges of power and prominence without regard to its responsibilities; to him politics was not about the substantive but the sensational," Meacham writes. "A master of false charges, or conspiracy-tinged rhetoric, and of calculated disregard for conventional figures (from Truman and Eisenhower to [Gen. George C.] Marshall), McCarthy could distract the public, play the press, and change the subject – all while keeping himself at center stage."

"McCarthy was an opportunist, uncommitted to much beyond his own fame and influence."
"How he loved the story of himself as a brave warrior, a story that dominated the newspapers of the day. McCarthy needed the press, and the press came to need McCarthy. He was fantastic copy, a real life serial. The twists and turns of the McCarthy saga meant more bylines for the reporters, more exciting headlines for the editors, and, given the subject matter – alleged infiltration of the government of the United States by a fatal foe – more copies sold for the owners. Radio and television amplified McCarthy's impact."
He manipulated the media and news cycles and kept the spotlight on himself. He advocated for banning books by authors such as Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man" because of the author's leftist leanings.

McCarthy and Cohn
According to McCarthy's own New York attorney, Roy M. Cohn, who ultimately turned on his boss by reflecting about McCarthy: "He was impatient, overly aggressive, overly dramatic. He acted on impulse. He tended to sensationalize the evidence he had ... He would neglect to do important homework and consequently would, on occasion, make challengeable statements," Cohn said.

"He saw the dramatic political opportunities connected with a fight on Communism. McCarthy was gifted with a sense of political timing," Cohn added. "Sometimes he misjudged, but on balance his sense of what made drama and headlines was uncommonly good."

Sen. Margaret Chase Smith
Allied against McCarthy were Eleanor Roosevelt, who compared McCarthy's tactics to "hitlerism"; Winston Churchill, who called for defending "the Anglo-American tradition of fair play"; Maine's Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who said McCarthy created "a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and everything that we Americans hold dear"; editor Palmer Hoyt, who told his reporters to call out lies when statements were "demonstrably false"; reporter Edward R. Murrow, who said, "We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men"; and (former Army captain) Truman, who believed in telling the truth in plain English.
"On Thursday, March 30, 1950, at a press conference at his Florida retreat in Key West – where Truman could indulge his fondness for Hawaiian shirts, bourbon and poker – the president told the assembled journalists exactly what he believed, 'I think the greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy,' Truman said ... The net effect of the McCarthyite campaign,Truman said, was to undermine confidence in the country in a time of cold war. 'To try to sabotage the foreign policy of the United States,' he said,'is just as bad in this cold war as it would be to shoot our soldiers in the back in a hot war."
Young Navy war hero Sen. John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy aligned themselves with McCarthy in the early 1950s and later regretted it. RFK even served as a young lawyer on McCarthy's staff.

McCarthy tried to associate himself with a hero of naval history when his adversaries spoke out against him:
"In the early 1950s legions of people were entranced by McCarthy's Manichaean vision of life. He spoke in the starkest of terms, savoring superlatives. Everything was dramatic, contentious, perilous: So few things, McCarthy implied, stood between American freedom and Communist slavery. But one of those things – perhaps the most important of them – was McCarthy himself, who quoted John Paul Jones: 'I have just begun to fight.'"
Eisenhower failed to take on McCarthy when he became president, but he did address the nation about resisting fear. "His April 1954 speech about fear, which falls about midway between these landmarks (of his speeches about D-Day landings and warning about the 'military-industrial complex') ... described the disposition necessary to survive life in an age of strain and uncertainly.'"

Department of Army attorney Welch and Sen. McCarthy in Senate hearing."Have you no sense of decency?"
McCarthy's downfall came after Eisenhower's speech on fear, Murrow's public denunciation and an event that occurred in Congress involving the U.S. Army and Roy M. Cohn, when McCarthy seemed to slander and call into question the integrity of an army lawyer.
"In an iconic moment, the counsel for the army, Joseph N. Welch, attacked the senator, who had clumsily attempted to impugn the loyalty of a young lawyer on Welch's team. 'Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your selfishness,' Welch told McCarthy. 'Little did I dream you would be so reckless and cruel to do injury to that lad ... I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think that I am a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me.' McCarthy blundered forward and took up the theme again. Welch was ready and struck with force. 'You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? You have done enough. Have you left no sense of decency?'"
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Sen. Prescott Bush
Meacham points out that even after the wind left McCarthy's sails, he still had a base support within the country, with 34 percent still backing him. It took a Senate censure to finally evaporate his power. Among those senators who spoke in favor of censure was a senior senator from Connecticut, Prescott Bush, father of President George H. W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush.
"When Joe McCarthy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital on Thursday, May 2, 1957, he was once more the center of attention," Meacham writes. "'Years will pass before the results of his work can be objectively evaluated,' Vice President Nixon said, 'but his friends and many of his questions will not question his devotion to what he considered to be the best interests of his country.'"
Meacham's book serves a tray of rich appetizers from history. He reveals how Americans have survived division and dissension, how we've been able to vanquish real threats to our democracy and live up to our ideals set forth by the nation's founders. We're left hungry to learn more, and fortunately we have a list of books and authors from Meacham, both in the chapters and in the extensive bibliography, all of which contributed in some way to the soul.

For example:

Garry Wills's "Inventing America"

The works of Thomas Jefferson, Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, St. Augustine, Shakespeare, Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass, Emerson and Thoreau

Corey Robin's "Fear: the History of a Political Idea"

Jacob A. Riis's "How the Other Half Live"

Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here"

Nathaniel West's "A Cool Million"

Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

Robert Penn Warren's "Segregation" and "The Legacy of the Civil War"

John Lewis's "Walking with the Wind"

Authors: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Alexis de Tocqueville, Stephen Ambrose, Taylor Branch, W.E.B. Dubois, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Eric Foner, Chris Matthews, Theodore C. Sorensen, Thomas Aquinas, Barbara Tuchman, David McCullough and Fareed Zakaria, among scores of others.

Meacham dedicates the book to fellow historians Evan Thomas and Michael Beschloss. "They are reassuring, selfless, and kind."

"The Soul of America" is a recent #1 New York Times bestseller, supplanted this week by Navy veteran Senator John McCain's "The Restless Wave" (Simon and Schuster, 2018).

In closing, we share these words from Thomas Paine, quoted early in Meacham's book: "As in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king."

Remembering the thoughts of Truman and Paine: Dictators and kings who think they have absolute power lie. The law – based on the Constitution, the support of the American people and the better angels of our nature – stands for truth.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Angels, 'Soul of America' Battle Fear

By Bill Doughty

"Peacemakers" Sherman, Grant, Lincoln and Porter, painted by George Healy, 1848.
The United States Navy is an unintended undercurrent running through "The Soul of America" by Jon Meacham (Random House, 2018). It starts with the book's front endpaper as soon as you turn the cover.

There is Admiral David Dixon Porter sitting next to President Abraham Lincoln and Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman in George Healy's painting "The Peacemakers," memorializing a meeting aboard the War Department's commissioned steamer River Queen.

The War Between the States was a crucible, an identity-defining event for the United States. Sailors of the Federal Navy played a key role in saving the Union and securing liberty for all, as they had done in fighting the British in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.

Subtitled "The Battle for Our Better Angels," from Lincoln's First Inaugural Address, where the sixteenth president sought to unite a divided nation, Meacham's book shows how the United States has made progress when its leaders and especially its citizens focused energies on hope, optimism and inclusion instead of fear, hate and rejection of others.

"Progress in America does not usually begin at the top and among the few, but from the bottom and among the many," Meacham writes. He shows how good presidents like Lincoln, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson were instrumental in America's progress, while other presidents like Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon were moved only after being pressured by the American people into expanding human rights and protecting civil liberties.

After every action, there is a reaction and sometimes unintended consequences.

In the aftermath of the Civil War came Reconstruction and "extreme, racism, nativism and isolationism, driven by fear" – a stormy period in America's past that included lynchings, white supremacy and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.

President Andrew Johnson
President Andrew Johnson undermined the legacy of Lincoln in years after of the War Between the States.

Meacham reports how Johnson "delivered an angry, self-pitying speech" Feb. 22, 1866 at a campaign-style rally on George Washington's Birthday.
"Resentful and impassioned, Johnson also riled up the Washington's Birthday crowd with claims that his opponents were considering having him assassinated. Rather than offering reassurance to an anxious public, then, Johnson chose to foment chaos and promulgate fears of conspiracy."
According to historian Eric Foner, who Meacham cites, Johnson made "probably the most blatantly racist pronouncement ever to appear in an official state paper of an American president." In Meacham's words, Johnson "asserted that blacks were incapable of self-government."

Andrew Johnson, who "never seemed entirely stable," was later impeached, but one vote in the Senate trumped his conviction.

President Grant, on the other hand, "in contrast to Andrew Johnson, appreciated the bigness of his office and of the times." Grant supported the 15th Amendment, granting the extension of voting rights to African Americans. And he cracked down on the KKK's reign of violence and terror in the South.

Confederate naval officers James and Irvine Bulloch, TR's uncles.
A president who continued championing human rights, Teddy Roosevelt, was a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and a man who, ironically had two uncles who served in the Confederate Navy. One was an admiral who helped build the warship CSS Alabama, and the other was a midshipman who served aboard the Alabama.

A flawed but passionate defender of freedoms, including the First Amendment, TR said, "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Yet, during times of national stress, particularly during wartime, the "better angels of our nature" have been silent, and leaders have resorted to fear, hate and exclusion.

One hundred years ago President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress enacted the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 during World War I, "restricting freedom of expression in the name of national security." Wilson's Justice Department indicted and put on trial the Industrial Workers of America.
"Speech itself was under siege. It was illegal, according to the 1918 legislation, to 'utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States.'"
Thanks to strong women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucretia Mott and Alice Paul, women received the right to vote over the intransigence and foot-dragging of President Wilson.

National Endowment for the Humanities composite of Roosevelts.
Teddy Roosevelt's fifth cousin Franklin, also a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, witnessed the aftermath of a terrorist bombing attack by an anarchist on the home of his neighbor, Attorney General Michael Palmer.

As president, FDR faced twin existential threats to the nation – the Great Depression and the Second World War, brought about by Nazi fascism in Europe and Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

FDR feared a military coup by General Douglas MacArthur on the right and Senator Huey Long on the left.

The threat of a coup was real, especially from "America First" isolationists who opposed FDR's behind-the-scenes help to Britain's Winston Churchill, including trading U.S. Navy destroyers for bases and conducting an "undeclared naval war in the Atlantic" during Britain's fight against Hitler's Germany.

American hero Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC.
In fact, a "small group of rich Wall Streeters" actually attempted to put together a coup. They tried to recruit retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to remove FDR by force. Butler, ever the hero, reported the plot and plotters to the FBI.

After WWII started, acting out of fear, FDR committed his greatest error when he imprisoned more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese Ancestry.

But FDR, followed by Truman, took a huge step toward integrating the military, instituting the GI Bill of Rights, setting up the New Deal that led to the Fair Deal, and setting the stage for the formation of the middle class and greater prosperity for millions of Americans.

"The product of both government action and of market forces, the creation of the post-WWII middle class was one of the great achievements in history," Meacham writes.

FDR, who designed the porch of his cottage in Warm Springs, Georgia to resemble the prow of a ship, was about the Navy's USS Tuscaloosa (CA-37) for a fishing trip, when he came up with the Four Freedoms speech: Freedom of speech, freedom of religion,  freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Navy Chief Graham Wilson expresses grief at FDR's death in 1945.
When FDR died in 1945, Navy Chief Petty Officer Graham Jackson became America's face of grief, weeping openly.

Fortunately, Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and especially Navy veterans John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson righting the residual racism and discrimination of the Lost Cause of the Civil War, pushing for greater equality and voting rights for all. Once again, the people, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pushed for progress and LBJ listened.

LBJ was "Determined to preach the gospel of inclusion," Meacham writes. "Now was the time, the president said, to rise above racism. 'Whatever your views are, we have a Constitution and we have a Bill of Rights, and we have the law of the land. (LBJ said,) I am not going to let them build up the hate and try to buy my people by appealing to their prejudice.'"

MLK and LBJ meet in the White House Dec. 3, 1963 (Photo by Yoichi R.Okamoto). LBJ Library.
Johnson created the Great Society and signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Leadership is the act of the possible, and possibility is determined by whether generosity can triumph over selfishness in the American soul," Meacham writes.

Meacham quotes Senator Daniel Webster: "When the mariner has been tossed for many days in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course," Webster said in 1830. "Let us imitate this prudence, and before we float farther on the waves of this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are."

"The Soul of America" revealed some "found haiku," one by Meacham himself:

The things we hope for
can come to pass. The things we
fear can hold us back

Here's another Abraham Lincoln found haiku (see also Navy Reads Lincoln's found haiku blog):

Cherish a just and
lasting peace among ourselves
and with all nations

And this reflective unintended haiku comes from LBJ:

A president can
appeal to the best in our
people or the worst

In Meacham's conclusion he offers five prescriptions for achieving progress and enlisting "on the side of the angels" in a time of crisis: enter the arena (use your First Amendment rights), resist tribalism (hear and listen to all sides), respect facts and deploy reason (recognize and reject lies), find a critical balance (being humble and open), and keep history in mind (read books and practice critical thinking).

Meacham was inspired to write this book after seeing the white supremacy demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 that caused the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer and resulted in the the deaths of two Virginia state troopers.

In a rare move, the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff responded to the Charlottesville tragedy with statements condemning the racism and violence.

Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, was the first of the military chiefs to respond. On Twitter he said the events were "unacceptable and mustn't be tolerated." Richardson then called the events "shameful" and said, "Our thoughts and prayers go to those who were killed and injured, and to all those trying to bring peace back to the community. The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred. For those on our team, we want our Navy to be the safest possible place — a team as strong and tough as we can be, saving violence only for our enemies."

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Found Haiku of John McCain

By Bill Doughty

In recent years Navy Reads  posted blogs on the found haiku of Abraham Lincoln, Mike Krzyzewski, Marshawn Lynch and other leaders, coaches and philosophers. "Found haiku" are discovered in the writings or utterances of others and fit the three-line 5/7/5-syllable rule and goal of communicating deeply but in few words.

Sen. John S. McCain III reenlists Sailor of the Year ET2 Michael Papapietro in Cam Ranh, Vietnam
aboard destroyer 
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) June 2, 2017. (Photo by MC3 Joshua Mortensen).
Senator and former U.S. Navy aviator John S. McCain III, who was held as a Prisoner of War during the peak of the Vietnam War, has written a number of memoirs and endorsements of others' books, which provide the source for the found haiku that follow.

Like all humans, he is not perfect, and he is the first to admit so. In fact, his self-awareness and self-assessment provide a treasure-trove of words from which to find these found haiku gems.

Most of these words reflect McCain's thoughts about war, service, sacrifice, captivity, character, resilience and reflection. The Vietnam War understandably casts a long shadow in his life as it does for our nation.

Leading with honor
is about putting service
to others ahead

Immortality ...
the aspiration of my
youth has slipped away

Time to examine
what I have done and failed to
do with my career

All people, even
captured enemies, possess
basic human rights

For two centuries
men of my family were
raised to go to war

Freedom: America's
honor, and the honor comes
with obligations

A few stories from
my misspent youth that I had
managed to bury

If you valued them,
and held them strongly, love and
honor would endure

In Vietnam I (came)
to understand how brief a
moment a life is

Defying death's call
in ... (the) bamboo cages of
South Vietnam haunt

There are some stories
of the soul that extend far
beyond prison walls

We paced the open
compound at Plantation Camp
together, waiting

affirmed our humanity.
It kept us alive

was the indispensable
key to resistance

It was best to take
the long view (that) we would get
home when we got home

Glory belongs to
the act of being constant
to something greater

To a cause, to your
principles, to the people
on whom you rely

Before Vietnam
the truth of honor ... courage ...
obscure to many

I learned the truth in
war: there are greater pursuits
than (just) self-seeking.

I have managed to
prevent bad memories of
war from intruding

(I regretted)
I hadn't read more
books so I could keep my mind
better occupied

The headstones bear the
names of people of every
ethnic origin

The final resting
places of professional
soldiers and conscripts

Rich and poor, Christian,
Jew, and muslim; believer
and non-believer

The last three found haiku come from McCain's "13 Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War" (Simon and Schuster, 2014, written with Mark Salter). Salter has served on McCain's staff for more than two decades.

John McCain reassesses in 1973.
Other haiku are from McCain's "Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir" (Random House, 1999), "Worth the Fighting For: A Memoir" (Random House, 2002), the foreword of "Glory Denied" (by Tom Philpott, W.W. Norton, 2001), the foreword of "Leading with Honor" (by Lee Ellis, FreedomStar Media, 2012) and the Senate Floor statement published in "The Official Senate Report on CIA Torture: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program" (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015).

McCain, with collaborator Mark Salter, just published another memoir, "The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights and Other Appreciations," to be published May 22 and to be featured in a future Navy Reads post.

NPR published an excerpt that brings forth more John McCain found haiku, and in the classic form – bringing forth nature themes:

I'd like to go back
to our valley ... see the creek
run after the rain

cottonwoods whisper
in the wind ... smell rose scented
breeze and feel the sun

I want to watch the
hawks hunt from the sycamore
and then take my leave

Hear the truth, passion and peace in McCain's words and voice

McCain's memoirs show how much he revered his grandfather, respected his father and loves his mother, Roberta. He feels especially close to his mom

Happy Mother's Day 2018.

John McCain and his mother, Roberta, on NBC's Meet the Press in 2007.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

No So Pacific

Review by Bill Doughty

Shortfin Mako Shark (PBS)
Mako sharks, designed by natural selection to make fast out-of-nowhere attacks; carnivorous plants that "developed an appetite for meat;" predatory vultures and feral dogs that feed on baby turtles; "meteorological monsters" that destroy by wind and rain; and the wolf eel whose jaws crush armored food prey.

When sharks circle you, close their mouths, lower their dorsal fins and disappear, "you need to get out of the water."

The Pacific (peaceful) Ocean, so named by Ferdinand Magellan, is not so peaceful after all – above and below the surface, within the reefs and even ashore.

In the gorgeous companion picture book to the Public Broadcasting System's documentary series of the same name author Rebecca Tansley captures the passionate, voracious, mysterious, violent but ultimately wonderful world's largest ocean in "Big Pacific" (2017, Princeton University Press).

Other dangers at sea exist in poisonous Red lionfish, great white sharks, peppered moray eel (which hunts for its food ashore), saltwater crocodiles and invasive species, "intricate intruders," like fan worms and Nomura's jellyfish, expanding to other regions thanks to overfishing, pollution and other growing impacts of humans.

Zero threat, now a habitat. (PBS)
Indeed, humans are one of the biggest dangers to life in the region, especially since World War II, when war raged from Hawaii and Midway to the South Pacific and throughout the western Pacific.
"One relic of these violent times now rests peacefully below the waves above which it once wreaked havoc. This 'Mitsubishi Zero' – the same type of plane as used at Pearl Harbor – was likely landed at sea off the coast of New Guinea after its pilot became lost and ran out of fuel. The 'Zero' or 'Zeke,' was an exceptionally agile and speedy fighter plane. Between 1937 and 1945 the Japanese built 11,500 of these aircraft and they became the plane of choice for Japan's notorious 'kamikaze' suicide pilots – young volunteers who would fly their planes directly into enemy ships. This plane, however, was destined for a different future. The small cockpit in which its pilot once guided the aircraft towards a controlled sea landing has found new life as a marine community. Eventually it will be claimed entirely by the sea, becoming a plane-shaped reef of coral and sponges, giving life in exchange for those it may once have taken."
In the 1950s, the United States tested a hydrogen bomb 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and today scientists are studying the effects over generations of sea life at the genetic level. Humans are also responsible for plastic pollution and overfishing. Some primitive societies fish with explosives, which is particularly damaging to the ecosystem, including precious coral.

But the U.S. Navy, working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard, is now part of the solution, particularly in the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative to enforce treaties and laws at sea, including fishing laws. USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) recently completed an OMSI initiative before returning to its homeport in Pearl Harbor.
U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Jasen Morenogarcia of a U.S. Coast Guard inspector with USS Michael Murphy on an OMSI mission in March, 2018.
Nature has seen an evolution of species in the Pacific that is mind-boggling. Look at the frogfish (such as the one at left) as one example – strange camouflage, different colors, using a lure to attract other fish as prey.

Coconut crabs climb trees, Darwin's so-called "finches" evolve to small niches in order to survive, Galapagos's marine iguanas expel salt through their noses, and Shedao pit vipers set elaborate patient-but-powerful traps to feed on songbirds.

Endangered dugong.
This book offers amazing photographs and insightful prose as a complement to the PBS series.

We see the secrets, mysteries and wonderment of whale sharks, humpback whales and blue whales, tree lobsters of Lord Howe Island, firefly squid, Chambored nautilus, Chinese white dolphins, Olive ridley turtles, grunion, dugong "mermaids," and yellow-eyed penguins.

Then there's the humble White spotted pufferfish. The stay-at-home male builds and decorates an artistic circular nest (below) as part of the species' elaborate mating ritual. Then the male stays to guard the fertilized eggs.

Evolution is the ultimate artist and, in the author's opinion, a hope for the future as scientists discover more mysteries and reveal more truths about how life develops, adapts and survives in a changing environment.
Lionfish (PBS)
"We would do well to remember that the ocean is the evolutionary cradle from which our distant ancestors first crawled from millions of years ago. Although we may now consider ourselves masters of that watery universe that birthed not just us but all life, we still have much to learn from it, and our tenure on Earth grows ever more tenuous the more we ignore our impact on the ocean. The truth is we humans are merely scratching at the surface of the Big Pacific. Beneath its waves, an ocean of secrets awaits us."
The Big Pacific is a place to appreciate the diversity of life on our precious planet and perhaps find greater humility.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Nainoa Thompson & Planet Earth, 'Hawaiki Rising'

Review by Bill Doughty

When Pwo (Master) Navigator Nainoa Thompson brought the voyaging canoe Hōkūle`a into Pearl Harbor in February of this year, he spoke in part about harnessing fear, overcoming the dangers of complacency, embracing diversity as a strength, and passing knowledge and wisdom to the next generation.

Thompson addressed the Navy and local civilian audience during his visit – part of a statewide "Mahalo Hawaii" tour of thanks to everyone for their support of Hōkūle`a's Malama Honua (caring together for Island Earth) circumnavigation of the planet completed in 2017.

Sam Low's "Hawaiki Rising: Hōkūle`a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance" (Island Heritage Publishing, 2013) provides a fascinating history of the beloved canoe, the revival of Hawaiian culture beginning in the 1970s, and how dedicated individuals inspired others to become aware of the need to respect and care for our environment, including our oceans.

Renaissance man Herb Kane at work in his Chicago studio.
Low served in the United States Navy in the Pacific in the mid-1960s. He introduces us to iconic individuals who brought Hōkūle`a ("Star of Joy") to life, including Herb Kane, and artist, sailor and thinker who was inspired by a book, "Canoes of Oceania" and by Polynesian culture, in general. Kane worked in Chicago but dreamed of the Pacific, learning all he could of voyaging canoes.

Kane created14 paintings of Polynesian canoes in the 1960s. The Hawaii State Foundation of Culture and the Arts purchased the paintings in 1969, making it possible for Kane to move to Hawaii to continue his studies and setting the stage for the revival of Hawaiian culture in the 1970s. 

At the time the foundation that purchased Kane's art was headed by its first director, Alfred Preis, architect of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.

The late Daniel Inouye, United States Senator from Hawaii, once said, “When you saw a Herb Kane painting, you were energized and motivated to learn about the past. …His artwork captured both ancient and modern-day Hawaii and help preserve Hawaii's unique culture for future generations.”

Nainoa Thompson called Kane, who was a Navy veteran, "father of the Hawaiian Renaissance.”

In 1973 Kane envisioned construction of a voyaging canoe that would inspire that renaissance. He met with University of Hawaiʻi anthropologist Ben Finney and Tommy Holmes, author of The Hawaiian Canoe. Together they founded the Polynesian Voyaging Society and began work on the Hōkūle‘a, capable of sailing between Hawaii and Tahiti. One day, their canoe would sail around the world on a mission to bring awareness about earth's ecology.

Kane lived in East Oahu, which is where he met a young man who was serious, quiet and young enough to be imprinted with a love of the stars, the sea and sailing.

Nainoa Thompson
That young man was Nainoa Thompson, whose father, Myron "Pinky" Thompson was a World War II Army veteran, a strong supporter of Hawaiian culture, and a foundation for Nainoa's philosophy of life. Pinky told his son "Ninety percent of success is preparing for it." He helped Nainoa overcome his fears and learn values shared by the U.S. Navy: the importance of discipline, training and having a vision.

Nainoa writes this in the book's foreword:
"Our canoe, Hōkūle`a, and our dreams have now carried us ... (following) in the wake of our ancestors who discovered and settled Polynesia. It has been a process of finding ourselves not only as Hawaiians, as native to these islands, but also as native to planet Earth. On all of our voyages, we have been guided by the wisdom of our elders, our kupuna. Among them is my father, Myron "Pinky" Thompson, who understood that voyaging is a process in which we are guided by values that are universal. 'Before our ancestors set out to find a new island,' my father told me, 'they had to have a vision of that island over the horizon. They made a plan for achieving that vision. They prepared themselves physically and mentally and were willing to experiment, to try new things. They took risks. And on the voyage they bound each other with aloha so they could together overcome those risks and 'seeking, planning, experimenting, taking risks, and caring for each other. The same principles that we used in the past, are the ones that we use today and that we will use into the future. No matter what race we are or what culture we carry, these are values that work for us all."
Nainoa learned some values the hard way aboard Hōkūle`a: the importance of good seamanship, communication and the courage to assume command at sea.

Nainoa went to Bishop Museum's planetarium, studied at Willamette College in Oregon after attending Punahou School, and was inspired by a book called "The Stars: A New Way to See Them" by H. A. Rey, author of "Curious George." 

Low introduces us to another earlier influencer in Nainoa's life: Yoshio Kawano, who lived in traditional Japanese style and taught the young Nainoa how to fish and make connections with nature. Nainoa says, "Yoshi may have been my most important teacher of all. I didn't know it then, and certainly he didn't either, but he was preparing me for my life."

Pwo Navigator Mau Piailug
Through Low's insightful narrative we get to know others who worked with or inspired Nainoa and who have strong ties to Hōkūle`a: Mau Piailug, Eddie Aikau, Lacy Veach, Snake Ah Hee, Sam Ka'i, Chad Bayaban, Will Kyselka, Gordon Pi'ianapa'a, Shorty Bertelmann, Kimo Lyman, Dave Lyman, Wally Froiseth, Bruce Blankenfeld, Tava Taupa and Kawika Kapahulehua, among others.

We get an intimate view of life aboard Hōkūle`a, including on two roundtrip journeys to Tahiti in this book, published just before Malama Honua. We relive the heartbreaking loss of Eddie Aikau in 1978 and the rescue of the capsized Hōkūle`a, thanks to an observant Hawaiian Airlines pilot and a ready response from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Eddie ("Eddie Would Go") Aikau
Eddie's loss strengthened Nainoa's resolve. He pledged to fulfill Aikau's dream on his behalf, to see "Tahiti rising," coming up on the horizon as the voyaging canoe approached.

Using charts and simple explanations, Low shows some of the how-to of wayfinding. "The concept was straightforward – stars rise in the east, arc overhead, and set in the west, defining points on the horizon to steer by, or 'houses,' as Nainoa called them." Data becomes knowledge and, over time, knowledge becomes intuitive wisdom.

Author Sam Low blends science with art in his presentation, explaining some of the fundamentals of Nainoa's wayfinding using stars, constellations, ocean swells, birds, the moon and other means – using science and all the senses plus a spiritual dimension that defies explanation.

On one key night in the doldrums, confused about their direction, Nainoa "sensed" the moon before he saw it. He turned the canoe and when the clouds parted he saw the light shine through and knew he made the right decision.
"'I can't explain it,' Nainoa continues, 'there was a connection between something in my abilities and my senses that went beyond the analytical, beyond seeing with my eyes. It was something very deep inside. Before that happened, I relied on math and science because it was so much easier to understand things that way. I didn't know how to trust my instincts. My instincts were not trained enough to be trusted. That night, I learned there are levels of navigation that are realms of the spirit. Hawaiians call it na'au – knowing through your instincts, your feelings, rather than your mind or your intellect. It's like new doors of knowledge open and you learn something new But before the doors open you don't even know that such knowledge exists.'"
"Hawaiki Rising" is about discovering new knowledge, moving from anger and fear to love and courage, and rediscovering a culture of sustainable living on "Island Earth," showing how one person can make a profound difference. It's a good read for Earth Day 2018.