Saturday, April 19, 2014

How WWII Began in China

Review by Bill Doughty

The Second World War in the Pacific did not begin on December 7, 1941 and it did not begin at Pearl Harbor.

Of course, that's when and where the United States entered the war after that Day of Infamy, but infamous acts of aggression had already been launched against America's key Pacific ally -- China -- in the ten years leading up to the attack on U.S. military installations on Oahu.

"Forgotten Ally: China's World War II 1937-1945" by Rana Mitter presents the history of China in  those volatile years. The book outlines Chinese resistance against Imperial Japan's military colonization and dominance, internal struggles between Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek and Communists led by Mao Zedong, and how China perceived treatment by other key Allies -- Great Britain, United States and Soviet Union, especially at the end of the war.

Mitter contends the Second World War began at the Marco Polo Bridge, in the summer of 1937. On December 12 of that year Japanese military aircraft bombed and sank the American gunboat USS Panay on the Yangtze outside Nanjing, killing tree Sailors and wounding forty-eight people. War was averted with the United States, but "the Panay affair was a clear warning that the West could not rely on neutrality to shut itself off from the ever-spreading war."

Chiang, Song and Stilwell in happier days. Photo from
In an era of industrial competition and resource control -- rather than global cooperation and interdependent trade -- Japan saw its survival dependent on access, by force, to natural resources, especially petroleum.  As early as 1938, Japan was dedicating 70 percent of its budget to military spending. And the homeland was being primed for war through nationalism, xenophobia and paranoia. (A companion book to read with Mitter's that shows how these changes came about in Japan is Eri Hotta's "Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy.")

Mitter explores the contentious relationship between China's Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and the appointed U.S. military alliance leader in the region, Lt. Gen. Joseph Warren "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell. Despite the efforts by Chiang's popular and outgoing wife, Song Meiling, for everyone among the Allies to get along, Chiang and Stilwell didn't trust each other or agree on strategies for defending Burma and British India, not to mention key strategic areas in eastern China.

In Part IV of "Forgotten Ally," titled "The Poisoned Alliance," Mitter writes of the "duel" between the two military generals. "That encounter would last only four years, but the aftermath of his tenure would shape Chinese-American relations for more than half a century." FDR firmly demanded Stilwell have unrestricted command of all of Chiang's forces, and the Chinese were made to feel expendable, according to the author.

The author describes the bombing of Chonqing, the dissipation of power with the rise of the Communists, the horrors of the occupation of Nanjing (Nanking), and the unintended aftermath of the Doolittle Raid 72 years ago this weekend and less than five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"As the Burma campaign ground on, another incident took place which showed the low status that China held in the minds of the Western Allies. On April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25 bombers took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and raided military and industrial targets in cities including Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. They did relatively little damage, but the raids showed that Japan was now vulnerable to attack from the air ... The news of the attack was a huge propaganda boost for the American war effort. But it appalled Chiang ... they all crash-landed at various points in eastern china, bar one that landed in Vladivostok on the Russian coast and was interned for a year. However, the Japanese reacted with fury. They attacked and committed atrocities agains the local population in the surrounding areas. What went down very well with the American public had a hugely negative effect on the Chinese war effort."
Historian E.B. Potter writes in "Bull Halsey," his biography of the great admiral who led the escort of Doolittle's Raiders and USS Hornet, that the Japanese launched "a campaign that thrust 200 miles into the interior of eastern China. The Japanese plowed up the landing fields and tortured and killed anyone even remotely suspected of having aided the Doolittle crews." Two hundred and fifty thousand men, women, children and babies were killed in the three month campaign.

Resistance in China against the Imperial Japanese over more than a decade gave the Allies time to fight both in Europe against Hitler and the Nazis and develop strategies to lead across the Pacific from 1942 through most of 1945. Mitter writes:
"Without Chinese resistance, China would have become a Japanese colony as early as 1938. This would have allowed Japan dominance over the mainland, and would have allowed Tokyo to turn its attention to expansion in Southeast Asia even more swiftly, and with less distraction. A pacified China would also have made the invasion of British India much more plausible. Without the 'China Quagmire' -- a quagmire caused by the refusal of the Chinese to stop fighting -- Japan's imperial ambitions would have been much easier to fulfill."
By 1943, Imperial Japan had to prioritize its strategy. After a summit in Tokyo, the military government moved to defend the home islands and their conquered Southeast Asia areas rich in petroleum. "Japan's war economy was under great pressure, with iron ore, steel, coal, and oil all in short supply."

Meanwhile, the Allies held their own summits around that time in Cairo and Teheran.

Commander in Chief Franklin D. Roosevelt's idea during World War II for a balance of power in the world after the war was "The Four Policemen" -- United States, Great Britain, Russia and China.  Allies who would cooperate and collaborate.

Churchill, FDR and Stalin seated. (Adm. King and Adm. Leahy behind FDR)
Yet, when a critical final conference was held on February 4, 1945 and the future of Asia was discussed, one of the Four Policemen was not represented: China. "When he heard even the public terms of the agreement, Chiang was plunged into gloom, thinking that the world would be thrown back into the same race for dominance that had marked the aftermath of the Great War,"  Mitter writes. Of course, the former fascist Axis powers of Germany and Japan turned away from imperialism and colonialism and toward freedom and democracy, but the same could not be said for the Soviet Union.

The final conference with FDR, Stalin and Churchill was held at Yalta -- in Crimea.

"Forgotten Ally's" author, Rana Mitter, is Professor of History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford and a fellow of St. Cross College. The book was published in 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Madness 2: Giants

by Bill Doughty

It was 1968. I was on a Brookhurst Junior High School eighth grade field trip to the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles when Lew Alcindor walked by.
My buddies and I had been looking down, amazed by the huge roots of trees that broke apart the sidewalk, when a human tree walked past. Lew Alcindor, 7 feet and 2 inches tall, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Lew Alcindor. My buddies and I stopped and stared, open-mouthed, wide-eyed. The future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a serious look on his face and a huge stack of books under his arm.


It was an indelible image that had a huge impact on my life.

Abdul-Jabbar was an avid reader and writer even before he began playing college basketball. Now he's a successful author.

Among his books: "Brothers in Arms: The Epic Story of the 761st Tank Battalion, WWII's Forgotten Heroes" with Anthony Walton (2004); "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance" with Raymond Obstfeld (2007); and "What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African American Inventors" with Raymond Obstfeld (2012). I look forward to featuring some of Abdul-Jabbar's work in future posts.

In "Giant Steps," Abdul-Jabbar writes about his first impression of his coach at UCLA, the great John Wooden, who out of respect called him "Lewis."

"I found myself liking Mr. Wooden right away. People would always tell me they cared about me, but I felt Mr. Wooden really meant it. I came of his office knowing I was going to UCLA."

Perhaps it was their mutual interest in books. Each man's fathers, "Hugh" Wooden and "Big Al" Alcindor, had instilled in their sons a lifelong passion for reading. 

In "My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey" by John Wooden with Steve Jamison, the coach reflects in a chapter, "The Age of Alcindor," about self-control and poise being fundamental to achieving success.  "Lewis had the bearing of an eagle. He also reminded  me so much of my own father, Joshua Hugh Wooden."

"Wooden: A Coach's Life" by Seth Davis, opens with:
"The first thing you noticed were the books. Big books, little books, picture books, children's books, art books, religious books, coaching books, sports books, fiction books, science books. Before I walked through the door, they were there to greet me in tall, neat piles in the front hallway. The books were stacked on floors, lined up on tables, piled on desks, jammed into bookcases. The apartment was barely two thousand square feet, yet it seemed that most of it was covered by something that could be read."
Wooden was an English teacher before he was a coach. But he was also a lieutenant in the United States Navy providing physical readiness training for naval aviators during World War II. Davis writes:
"After World War II broke out, Wooden could have avoided being drafted because he was a married father and high school teacher, but eventually duty compelled him to enlist in the navy, a little more than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor."
One of Wooden's assignments was on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He also served at other college campuses, at an Iowa preflight school and as an underway watch officer aboard USS Sable (IX-81), an aircraft carrier training ship anchored in Lake Michigan.

Like fellow Sailor Red Auerbach, he never served overseas.  In Wooden's case, a bout of appendicitis prevented him from deploying to the carrier USS Franklin (CV-13) in the South Pacific, including off the coast of Samar, Philippines.
"As it turned out, Wooden knew well the man who replaced him aboard the Franklin. He was Freddy Stalcup, a former Purdue football player who was Wooden's fraternity brother in Beta Theta Pi. Several months later, Wooden received a piece of news that left him dumbstruck: Stalcup was working a gun position aboard the Franklin when the ship was struck by a Japanese kamikaze pilot. He was killed along with dozens of other men on board. Had Wooden's appendix not become inflamed, he could very well have lost his life that day."
Davis presents a lifetime of detail in nearly 600 pages of Wooden's biography, including details about the Coach's commitment to conditioning and the fast break, Wooden's complicated relationship with Bill Walton, his love of poetry (even on his deathbed), discussions of religion and racism, and the Coach's insights on leadership, including the development of his core values and Pyramid of Success, which reaches a pinnacle in "Competitive Greatness" -- requiring toughness, your best performance, and "real love of a hard battle."

When Wooden passed away in 2010, UCLA issued a statement that included a quote from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the former Lew Alcindor, who I saw carrying that armful of books back in 1968:

"It's kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation.  He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."

Wooden, known for his pithy words of wisdom, famously said, "What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player."  He also advised, "Drink deeply from good books."

The dust jacket of "Wooden: A Coach's Life," calls the book, "A provocative and revelatory new biography of the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, by one of America's top college basketball writers."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness -- Coach Reads

by Bill Doughty

"Did I ever tell you about..."
That's how Red Auerbach's "Let Me Tell You a Story" opens, with one chapter devoted to his years in the Navy during World War II. Auerbach, son of a Russian emigrant, joined in 1943.  
Lt. j.g. Arnold "Red" Auerbach in WWII.
He did physical training at Great Lakes and served in Norfolk alongside fellow Sailors Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra before being assigned as a rehabilitation officer at Bethesda Naval Hospital where, in addition to his other duties, he played and coached basketball.

Auerbach was never assigned overseas. For a while he coached basketball for NFL football players.  "In those days, professional athletes needed to supplement their income during the off-season. The (Washington) Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants had formed basketball teams, and they traveled around the East Coast playing one another."

John Feinstein, co-author with Auerbach, writes in "Let Me Tell You a Story," "The greatest coach in basketball history began his professional career coaching football players at basketball."
Bill Russell and Coach Auerbach in 1964.

After the war his coaching career jumped from coaching high school and off-season NFL players to calling plays for the Washington Capitols and then leading the dynasty of the Boston Celtics.

How did he achieve greatness as a coach? Auerbach writes:
"Coaching is simple: you need good players who are good people. You have that, you win. You don't have that, you can be the greatest coach who ever lived and you aren't going to win."
Other great coaches discussed in "Story" include: Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, John Thompson, Phil Jackson, Bobby Knight and Dean Smith.

Dean Smith played for the University of Kansas on the 1952 national championship team. He became an assistant coach for the Air Force Academy under Coach Bob Spear, a former Naval Academy Coach. Smith's big break came when he joined the coaching staff at the University of North Carolina, where he would coach Michael Jordan among other basketball greats.

In "A Coach's Life" Coach Smith outlines his core values for success:
"Our philosphy at North Carolina was clear from day one. Each year we had the same goals: (1) Play together; (2) play hard; (3) Play smart. Together meant unselfishly, hard meant with effort, and smart meant with proper execution."
He was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who when someone asked him how to learn how to write, said, "by writing every day."
Michael Jordan and Coach Smith, 1980.

Smith said he built the success of his program on training and practice and compassion, and he shares leadership advice:
"A demanding teacher is quick to praise action that deserves praise, but will criticize the act, not the person. The coach's job is to be part servant in helping the player reach his goals ... To me the players get the wins, and I got the losses. Caring for one another and building relationships should be the most important goal, no matter what vocation you are in."
"A Coach's Life" by Dean Smith with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins is rich with wisdom and insight about life and basketball. Smith discusses the impact of World War II and the turmoil of the 1960s.

Books that tie coaching and leadership are almost their own genre. These are just a couple of examples for another March Madness weekend -- one in which Stanford just upset #2 Kansas.

Another coaching leadership book worth picking up is Jerry Lynch's "Creative Coaching: New Ways to Maximize Athlete and Team Potential in All Sports."
A master of the Final Four -- Coach Dean Smith.

Unlike the biographies of Auerbach and Smith in this blogpost, "Creative Coaching" is promoted as "a strategic handbook" to maximize performance.

This book offers core values and principles from coaches like Chris Weller, head coach of women's basketball at the University of Maryland ("courageous, fearless"), Phil Jackson ("maintain humility") and John Thompson of Georgetown ("compassionate"). The book explores how to develop trust, discipline, team intelligence, loyalty and commitment.

"Creative Coaching" is dedicated by the author: "To Dean Smith, the quintessential Creative coach with a teacher's heart."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Shadow of ... America's Longest Wars

Review by Bill Doughty

Women and men of the Class of 2002 may think they are in the shadow of their grandparents -- "The Greatest Generation" who beat fascism, crushed nazism and crossed the Pacific to avenge Pearl Harbor and win the war in the Pacific in less than four years.

"In the Shadow of Greatness: Voices of Leadership, Sacrifice, and Service from America's Longest War" is a compilation by or about members of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2002. Put together with love and appreciation by Joshua Welle, John Ennis, Katherine Kranz and Graham Plaster -- and including a foreword by David Gergen -- the book is filled with essays and memories by and about members of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2002. The authors set the stage with a look back to the past:
"The magnitude of World War II provided the opportunity and experiences that shaped twentieth-century American leaders. As men served abroad, women provided support at home. All overcame great odds and faced adversity that gave them confidence and shaped their outlook in the decades to come. This 'greatest generation' returned from war, took advantage of the educational benefits offered through the GI Bill, and advanced the country's economy and transformed its society. World War II veterans, while fueling economic advancement, remained resolute in their  value system: service, sacrifice, and community."
Among "Shadow's" contributors are aviators, surface warfare officers, submariners, U.S. Marines and mothers of junior officers killed during training or in action.

The book is filled with first-person, heartfelt accounts of triumph and hardships: what it's like in humanitarian assistance missions, duty at sea, Search and Rescue operations, and combat; what it means to face family separation, "setting aside the comforts a normal life in service to our country and the Constitution. The dark sides of these sacrifices are broken marriages, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and estrangement."

But there is plenty of triumph here, too, focusing on why and how Navy and Marine Corps leaders choose to serve -- "not for self, but for country."

USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53)
A highlight is the account by Meghan Elger Courtney, who served aboard USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) of her commitment to promote warfighting readiness for Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. Courtney recognized a need to improve shipboard physical fitness opportunities to help Sailors who would deploy forward -- either aboard ship or as individual augmentees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With the blessing of her commanding officer and strong support from the command master chief and Chief's Mess, j.o. Courtney planned for, procured and arranged for installation of a new fitness center that replaced outdated insufficient gear and space.  Courtney writes, "Almost immediately, I saw a positive renewal in people's attitude toward fitness, healthy eating, and incorporating workouts into their daily routine as a way to relieve stress and stay in shape."
"What some may have viewed as my silly pet project, the command master chief took seriously, and he became my closest ally in seeing it through. I never really knew how much the experience had impacted him until I saw him become visibly choked up recollecting it during his closing remarks when he transferred off the ship. I don't think he thought that a young officer like me could have cared about his crew so much, but I did, and I still do..."
Explorer Robert E. Perry
Courtney said she was inspired by a quote by explorer Robert E. Peary on a motivational placard in Halsey Field House at the academy: "I will find a way, or make one."

Other essayists share their sources of inspiration as President Teddy Roosevelt, President Dwight Eisenhower, President John F. Kennedy, Senator Daniel Inouye and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, among others. 

One essayist quotes the last two lines of a poem by Mary Oliver, "The Summer Day" in pursuing a life of purpose, wanting to make a difference:

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

The authors and essayists show how core values of honor, courage and commitment make up an ethos that "forms the fabric of people's personality and drives them to a life of service, in and out of uniform."
"'In the Shadow of Greatness' was envisioned to recognize and chronicle the service of brave men and women and through their stories establish connections with the broader, nonmilitary community. These first graduates of the Naval Academy after 9/11 entered a global war at sea, in the air, and on land. This war would last more than a decade and define the United States in the early part of the millennium. The actions of the select few profiled here represent those of a much broader spectrum of patriots."
Attacks on 9/11/2001 changed the lives of the Class of 2002.
In a short introductory piece, "Inside the Gates of Annapolis," Adm. Sam Locklear (now Commander, U.S. Pacific Command) writes about the investment the country makes in the women and men who attend service academies, including the Naval Academy, reflecting on the morning of September 11, 2001 when he sat at his desk as commandant of midshipmen.
"I recall vividly watching the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. When the images reached the Brigade, and the uncertainty of the events rapidly became reality, I asked myself, Are these men and women, these young patriots, ready for the challenges that most certainly lay ahead. A decade of war has proven that they were more than ready. Fortunately for us all, they remain ready today. We are extremely proud of all they have accomplished and thankful that we chose the right men and women to lead the next great generation."
The book, published by the Naval Institute Press, is a key title on the CNO's Professional Reading Program essential list.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Women Who Don't Wait / dot Complicated

Review by Bill Doughty

It's complicated (but doesn't have to be) according to authors Randi Zuckerberg and Reshma Saujani in their books from 2013.  Be authentic to "untangle our wired lives" and "break the mold, lead the way."

Zuckerberg's "dot Complicated" is filled with ideas for achieving tech-life balance in the brave new world of super-smart phones, instant communication, hyper connectivity and changing definitions of privacy.

Like a lot of business books, "dot Complicated" has personal anecdotes and easy-to-find highlighted lists. You'll see tips for achieving tech-life balance with self, friends, love, family, career, community and future.

"Strive to find personal peace, friendship, love, fulfillment at work, and good in your community, and use the Internet to improve your life, not control it," she advises. And, "don't be a jerk."

Think of that when you're having a face-to-face conversation with someone and they turn to check their tweets; or you look in the rearview mirror while stopped in traffic and notice the driver behind you is obviously texting; or you read hate-filled troll droppings in anonymous online comments. Again, "don't be a jerk."

Among Zuckerberg's simple and common sense advice: know how to break digital addiction, learn how to achieve balance, and think about how/what/when/where/why to post or repost information. She applies the Golden Rule of life to social media: "Repost unto others as you would have them repost..."

This book is easy and fun to read. As the sister of Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, the author has the bonafides to describe social media and the do's and don'ts of navigating the new millennial landscape where "technology seems to make things both easier and harder at the same time."

Reshma Saujani mentions Randi Zuckerberg in her groundbreaking work, "Women Who Don't Wait" published last year, praising Zuckerberg's work-life balance and willingness to be herself.

"Randi is right. The more open women are about the richness and multidimensional aspects of their lives, the more acceptable it will become to simply act like ourselves -- and the more effective we will be as leaders."

Saujani's book is filled with provocative chapter/subchapter titles: Fail Fast, Fail First, Fail Hard; Unapologetically Ambitious; Don't Worry If They Don't Like You; Jump the Line (Wear What You Want); and Building a Sisterhood for the Twenty-First Century.

Her biggest advice, like Zuckerberg's, is: "be authentic." She discusses her transformation and encourages the reader to "free yourself from believing that you have to behave like anyone other than yourself."
YN1c Marjorie Daw Adams (right) with Mailman 2nd Class Harrison, 1945.

While her insights are relevant for everyone, her target audience is, of course, women.  She calls for a strong community of support, or sisterhood, but writes, "And guys? We aren't hating on them; we are looking to men to be our allies. We no longer see them as a barrier to our success."
"I have worked with and been inspired by others, every day, to help create the world I want the next generation to live in. As women we must have the humility to see the world as it is, but the audacity to envision it as it could be. To apply a new lens of female leadership and reinvent, reshape, and retool the traditional system. To realize that we can learn from the poorest of women and the richest of women. We can and should be talking to one another about what this new model should look like -- and about how we can build it together."
Saujani dedicates her book "For all the women in my life whose shoulders I stand on, and for all the women who will stand on mine."

Since the 1980s March has been National Women's History Month, a time to recognize the women who didn't wait and who shouldered the struggle for freedom and equality, including the right to vote.
Future President Jimmy Carter readies to graduate from Naval Academy, 1947.

The first National Women's History Week was proclaimed by President and Commander in Chief Jimmy Carter, a former naval officer.

Here is Carter's Message to the nation designating March 2-8, 1980 (sixty years after women won the ability to vote) as National Women’s History Week:
   "From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.
   As Dr. Gerda Lerner has noted, 'Women’s History is Women’s Right.' – It is an essential and indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision.
   I ask my fellow Americans to recognize this heritage with appropriate activities during National Women’s History Week, March 2-8, 1980.
   I urge libraries, schools, and community organizations to focus their observances on the leaders who struggled for equality -- Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, and Alice Paul.
   Understanding the true history of our country will help us to comprehend the need for full equality under the law for all our people.
   This goal can be achieved by ratifying the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that 'Equality of Rights under the Law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.'"
Congress passed a joint resolution proclaiming a Women's History Week in 1981.

The National Women's History Project and Department of Defense theme for this year's commemoration is, "celebrating women of character, courage and commitment," clearly mirroring Navy core values.

The books by Zuckerberg and Saujani in this review build on the gains of women in the past with a focus on the future, whether achieving tech-life balance or workplace gender balance -- with equal pay for equal work. It's not complicated.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hell in Ukraine: 'Where the West Ends"

Review by Bill Doughty
In "Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus," reporter Michael J. Totten takes road trips and detours to describe "scars from the communist era, both physical and emotional."
The road to Borjomi, Georgia from
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to and from communism seems to be paved with potholes. Totten measures the potholes in Eastern Europe by the size of various kitchen appliances that could fit inside.

He has a special view of taxis.  He writes, "No one has given me more trouble in the Middle East than people who drive for a living."

While not quite stereotyping, he tries to explain how the various religious, ethnic and cultural differences evolved in the Balkans:
"Ethnicity in the Balkans, as in the Middle East, has nothing to do with biological characteristics.  Expanding and contracting empires of both the East and the West have mixed up the gene pools everywhere in both regions. American-style racial categories make no sense there. An Orthodox Christian in the former Yugoslavia who speaks Serbo-Croatian as a first language is a Serb no matter where his ancestors may have lived hundreds of years ago.  And that's true whether he attends church or not. Religious belief as such is no more relevant to ethnicity in the Balkans than it is inside Israel. Dark-eyed or dark-skinned Slavs are even more common in Serbia than white-skinned or blue-eyed Arabs are in North Africa and the Levant -- and the Arab world has more white-skinned and blue-eyed Arabs than you might think if you've never been there to see it. Blue-eyed Arabs are often the children of Crusaders. Dark-skinned Slavs tend to be the descendants of Ottoman Turks."
In trips to Kosovo, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine, the dark shadows and ghosts of the former Soviet Union continue to loom. Totten gives us history lessons and insights through his colorful interactions with locals.

He quotes Daniel Apostol, editor in chief of Romania's Money Channel,who recounts the rise and fall of Ceausescu's totalitarian state:
"Communism changed our mentality. We are fighting now to come back to what we were. We lost the culture of private property. We lost this sense of privacy and respecting each other's time and respecting people as individuals, as human beings. That was the worst thing that happened to us. This is why we are struggling so much now to get back to the capitalist society, to the free market, which can run only if there is respect for private property."
Kennan as a young man in 1924
Totten seems to strive to prove a quote from George F. Kennan, America's ambassador to the Soviet Union under President Truman, and a contemporary and colleague of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal.

Kennan's quote is used twice in "Where the West Ends": "Russia can have on its borders only enemies or vassals."

Of Ukraine's capital, Totten writes, "Kiev is what Moscow and St. Petersburg wish they were." Totten visited years before the recent uprising that saw street demonstrations and snipers in Kiev in 2014.

Ukraine demonstrations in 2014; photo from World Affairs Journal.
In his blog post this week for World Affairs Journal, Totten writes about Ukraine. "Almost every country I’ve ever written about is either in hell, has only recently recovered from hell, or is on its way to hell. I hoped when I visited Ukraine that it was on its way out, but I did not have a good feeling about it, as you’ll recall if you read my book."

Totten's descriptive power and insights come together at the end of "Where the West Ends," as he attempts a road trip to Chernobyl but instead travels through Ukraine and to the Sea of Azor, which links Ukraine and Southwestern Russia.
"We were technically in Europe, but it looked like the nastiest parts of Iraq.  The sound of machine-gun fire would not have seemed out of place.  I have never been anywhere that looks and feels more like the rotted dead center of the Soviet Empire. This place was so utterly godforsaken and misery-stricken I had a momentary feeling that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had never fallen apart, that, Mordor-like, its malice truly is sleepless, that it's still crushing parts of the world in its totalitarian fist."
The author shares the names of other authors and book titles frequently. Among the books cited in "Where the West Ends":
  • "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" by Rebecca West
  • "Bosnian Book of the Dead"
  • "We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with All Our Families" by Philip Gourevitch
  • "Sarajevo Haggadah"
  • "Mein Kampf" by Adolf Hitler
  • "Azerbaijan Diary," "Georgian Diary" and "Chechnya Diary" by Thomas Goltz
  • "Eastward to Tartary" by Robert Kaplan
  • "Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivism and the Terror Famine" by Robert Conquest
  • "The God that Failed" by Arthur Koestler
  • "Forever Flowing" by Vasily Grossman
  • "I Chose Freedom" by Victor Krauchenko
Michael J. Totten
Totten references thinkers and writers Thomas Friedman and the late Christopher Hitchens.

The 2014 Winter Olympics comes to a close in Sochi, Russia this weekend, and they will be tied forever to human rights debates and images like the horsewhipping of protestors by Cossacks. 

Meanwhile, in nearby Ukraine, people in potholed streets of Kiev have been dying to be free of corruption and totalitarian rule. Totten helps us understand the region and the historical context for what's happening there now.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Antislavery Writings in Resolving Hypocrisy

Review by Bill Doughty
George Washington ensured his slaves were freed but not till after his death.

By the time George Washington died he had resolved the greatest hypocrisy of his life. 

Much of the "Last Will and Testament" of the first American president, a man who fought the Revolutionary War for liberty and equality, is dedicated to freeing his slaves and funding their care and education. In many parts of the young country at the time it was illegal to teach slaves how to read.

Jefferson did not resolve the same hypocrisy and, in fact, compounded it through his actions.

Lincoln confronted and resolved the issue on behalf of the nation five decades after Washington's death.

"American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation," edited by James G. Basker and published by the Library of America, offers hundreds of stories, narratives, poems, letters and songs. The book includes Washington's will related to his slaves.

Among the several passages written by Abraham Lincoln in this book is Lincoln's "Peoria" speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which permitted slavery in the new territories leading to the West. Lincoln argued for the blessings of freedom and against those who found legal and biblical justification for slavery as morally justified.
"Let us turn slavery from its claims of 'moral right,' back upon its existing legal rights, and its arguments of 'necessity.' Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it; and there let it rest in peace. Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Let north and south -- let all Americans -- let all lovers of liberty everywhere -- join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union; but we shall have so saved it, as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it, that the succeeding millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise up, and call us blessed, to the latest generations."
One of the highlights in this exceptional compilation is an excerpt from "Twelve Years a Slave," the 1853 narrative of Solomon Northrup.  "Northrup presents a detailed sketch of the sadistic slave master Edwin Epps that is almost mesmerizing in its graphic horror," Basker writes. (Northrup's memoir was depicted in a top movie of 2013 directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o, Michael K. Williams, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt.)
From the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Another highly recommended gem in "American Antislavery Writings" is the poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Slave Ships."

Of course, this book includes abolitionist writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and John Brown.  It also includes words of patriots and poets such as Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, Noah Webster, Edmund Quincy, Emily Dickinson, William Cullen Bryant, Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Former president John Quincy Adams represented Joseph Cinqué and other African captives who had freed themselves from captivity while aboard a Spanish schooner slave ship. Amistad was discovered off Long Island by the U.S. Navy brig Washington. 

President Martin Van Buren ordered the Amistad's slaves be returned to Spain, but Adams argued before the Supreme Court, "the right of personal liberty is individual." He said, "The moment you come, to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided."

One of the strongest condemnations of slavery in America comes at the end of the book in Charles Sumner's "Eulogy on Abraham Lincoln."
"Traitorous assassination struck him down. But do not be too vindictive in heart towards the poor atom that held the weapon. Reserve your rage for the responsible Power, which not content with assailing the life of the Republic by atrocious Rebellion, has outraged all laws human and divine; has organized Barbarism as a principle of conduct; has taken the lives of faithful Unionists at home; has prepared robbery and murder on the northern borders; has fired hotels, filled with women and children; has plotted to scatter pestilence and poison; has perpetrated piracy and ship-burning at sea; has starved American citizens, held as prisoners; has inflicted the slow torture of Andersonville and Libby; has menaced assassination always; and now at last, true to itself, has assassinated our President; and this responsible Power is none other than Slavery. It is Slavery that has taken the life of our beloved Chief Magistrate, and here is another triumph of its Barbarism. On Slavery let vengeance fall."
This book also includes a chronology of the slave trade in the colonies and efforts to abolish it in the new nation under the 16th president and 13th Amendment.

This week my generation remembered the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles from Britain to the United States. In 1964, the Beatles, like Elvis before them, skyrocketed to fame playing music inspired by African-American Rhythm & Blues. (Recommended: timeline  in Dr. Portia K. Maultsby's "History of African American Music.")

The 50 year marker back to 1964 can be used as a yardstick back in time.
Muddy Waters helped plant seeds of rock & roll.

Subtract another 50 years. What were people listening to in 1914, the year World War I began?  The great blues artist Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) was born the year before. Big Bill Broonzy, who would be a key influence to John Lennon years later, was already playing music and getting ready to move to Chicago. It was the very early beginning of commercial jazz and blues, but the hot group was the American Quartet, who performed top hits, "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary," "Rebecca of Sunny-Brook Farm" and "Do You Take This Woman for Your Lawful Wife."  Sobering to think that, in 1914, women did not yet have the right to vote.  

Back another 50 years -- 1864, popular forms of music were "parlor" and "minstrel."  That was the year songwriter Stephen Foster died.  Foster's complicated and evolving views about slavery are discussed in an online essay by Matthew Shaftel in University of California at Santa Barbara's "Music and Politics" journal.
Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln fought for emancipation.

Another 50 years -- from 1864 to 1814 -- puts us in the midst of the War of 1812 and four years before the birth of free-thinking philosopher Frederick Douglass. Beethoven and Schubert produced music of the time and Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner ("O'er the land of the free...").  Key was a slaveowner who helped found the American Colonization Society, which strove to send free African Americans back to Africa and led to the establishment of Liberia.

Back another 50 years: Fifty years prior to 1814 takes us to 1764, when Bach and Mozart were producing music 12 years before 1776

Phillis Wheatley, 1753-1784
Those few 50-year yardsticks take us back quickly to the beginning of our nation when slavery was the norm but when the voices of abolition were already building. 

"American Antislavery Writings" includes a number of songs and poems starting with the brilliant Phillis Wheatley, America's first African American woman writer.

Wheatley addressed the hypocrisy of slavery in a letter to the Rev. Samson Occum just two years before the Declaration of Independence, addressing her thoughts to "those whose avarice impels them" to support slavery.  "This I desire ... to convince them of the strange Absurdity of their Conduct whose Words and Actions are so diametrically opposite. How well the Cry for Liberty, and the reverse Disposition for the Exercise of oppressive Power over others agree, -- I humbly think it does not require the Penetration of the Philosopher to determine."

Basker's compilation includes uncredited Anonymous authors, with many voices rising to a crescendo in the 1840s. Women used verse to illuminate the plight of mothers separated from children and vice versa.

Margaret Lucy Shands Bailey of Virginia wrote for anti-slavery periodicals including "National Era," in which Harriet Beecher Stowe first serialized "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  Bailey's "The Blind Slave Boy" was put to music and published in 1844.
"Come back to me mother! Why linger away from thy poor little blind boy, the long weary day!I mark every footstep, I list(en) to each tone, And wonder my mother should leave me alone! There are voices of sorrow, and voices of glee, But there's no one to joy or to sorrow with me; For each hath of pleasure and trouble his share, And none for the poor little blind boy will care."

The case against slavery was won with a combination of cold logic, warm emotion and hot passion that led to a necessary war to preserve the United States.

This book shows how the nation lived up to the ideals expressed by Jefferson, fought for by Washington and realized by Lincoln.

This is a recommended read for this Presidents Day and during Black History Month.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Football Dreams: Navy's First Black Admiral

Review by Bill Doughty

Long before becoming Navy's first black admiral, Samuel L. Gravely Jr., had his sights set on becoming a football coach.  He loved the game, but his father -- "deathly afraid" about injury -- didn't want him to play.  Gravely Sr., a World War I veteran and Pullman Porter, thought his son's future lay with the Post Office.
Gravely's biography, "Trailblazer: The U.S. Navy's First Black Admiral," is the heartfelt tale of how education, hard work, perseverance and luck came together for a remarkable and inspirational leader, whose training to become an officer actually preceded the Golden Thirteen (first naval officers).

Gravely played football despite his father's fears.  He had to hide his uniform behind the refrigerator during high school -- till his father found it.  

After high school he attended the all-black Virginia Union University in his hometown of Richmond Virginia where football changed his life.
"One difference from high school was that I was able to play football without my father knowing it.  The college had a gym with lockers, so it was no longer a case of trying to hide my uniform at home.  One of the football trips in 1940 had beneficial consequences down the road.  At the time, my sister Christie was going to school at Virginia State College in Petersburg.  I went over there once with a bunch of football players, and my sister introduced me to one of her roommates, Alma Clark.  Several years later, Alma and I were married..."
One year later, World War II started in the Pacific with Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor of December 7, 1941.  Gravely enlisted in the Navy after the Navy announced a new policy (April 7, 1942) that it would accept black Sailors into general service ratings).
As a young man in 1942.

It was a giant leap for the young man whose only life experiences were in the segregated south where every school he attended was all black and where he had to sit in the back of the streetcar or bus but in the front of the train, "which was the first place the coal hit."

At Great Lakes Naval Training Station and Hampton Institute Gravely excelled in study, but learned "I wasn't as technically minded as I thought I was."  He came out as a nonrated fireman. The East Coast would have seemed like a natural selection as a duty station.

"But I was influenced by one of my roommates to look in another direction," Gravely writes.  "[Roger] Gibbons had been a schoolteacher.  He'd been one of the great football players of Prairie View A&M, a black college in Texas ..." Gibbons suggested they take Horace Greeley's advice and "Go West, young man." They asked for and got orders to San Diego, which at the time was even more segregated than Richmond, he writes.

Gravely studied at UCLA. He considered his future and began taking premed classes, temporarily questioning his childhood dream of becoming a football coach.

He followed opportunity back to New York and Asbury Park, New Jersey and excelled as a midshipman, studying at Columbia University.  He expresses regret that instead of an assignment at sea in 1944 he was assigned to teach back at Great Lakes.

Alma and Sam Gravely married on Feb. 12, 1946, Roanoke, VA.
Soon, though, Gravely was serving aboard PC-1264, a submarine chaser homeported at Staten Island, New York City and operating along the East Coast, especially near Florida.  PC-1264 and USS Mason were the only two combatant ships with black officers aboard during WWII.

When PC-1264 went to Norfolk for a shipyard period to prepare for deployment to the Pacific, Gravely struck up a friendship with a worker there and joined his semi-pro football team, the Brown Bombers.  Sadly, while on liberty in Miami, he was arrested for "impersonating an officer" because the white military policeman had never seen a "Negro Navy officer."

After WWII, like a lot of his contemporaries, Gravely decided to leave the military and use the GI Bill to continue his education.  He attended Virginia Union and got serious about his studies, majoring in history.  And he played football.  His coach was Sam Taylor, who had been the coach for his former roommate Roger Gibbons at Prairie View.

Another turning point came in 1949 when Gravely was invited to come back on active duty.  The year before President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order (9981) which said, "It is hereby declared that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."

It was also a turning point for civil rights in the nation. Like a quarterback (Russell Wilson) and his father would ask in the next generation: "Why not me?  Why not us?"

Gravely became a coach and leader not of football players but of Sailors.  He would go on from recruiter duty to serve aboard the battleship USS Iowa, heavy cruiser USS Toledo, USS Seminole and USS Theodore E. Chandler.  He would serve throughout the Korean, Vietnam and Cold Wars.

USS Falgout in Pearl Harbor
He made history January 31, 1962 when he became CO of USS Falgout in Pearl Harbor.  "I guess it's been said that this was the first time a black had command of a U.S. Navy ship since Robert Smalls captured a small frigate out of the Charleston Harbor and turned it over to the Union forces during the Civil War," Gravely writes.

In 1963 he was invited to the White House where he and Alma met President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson.  He was in Washington DC as part of the Emancipation Proclamation centennial celebration.

Gravely next served at the Naval War College and Defense Communications Agency.  He commanded USS Taussig and then USS Jouett, a guided-missile frigate, later redesignated a guided-missile cruiser.

In 1971, Gravely was frocked to rear admiral, blazing another trail for naval officers.  He served as Director of Naval Communications and Commander of Cruiser-Destroyer Group Two and then Eleventh Naval District.  

In September 1976, back in Pearl Harbor, Gravely assumed command of U.S. Third Fleet, based in Hawaii. (Since then C3F has relocated to San Diego.)

Details of Gravely's assignments, new technologies, housing challenges, duty in the Pacific, "racial disturbances in the fleet," and the profound influence of CNO Adm. Zumwalt and his Z-grams are all included in "Trailblazer."

In addition to his accomplishments, Gravely shares his challenges and personal tragedies.  In 1978 his son Robbie was killed while driving on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

"Trailblazer" is written with Paul Stillwell, who in the preface notes that Gravely was born just 60 years after the Civil War.  The afterward is a very personal account by Alma B. Gravely, written in 2010, of her life together with her "Sammie."  Admiral Gravely passed away in 2004.

In 2009, the Samuel L. Gravely Jr. Elementary School was dedicated in Prince William County, Virginia.  Inside the front door of the school is the motto that Alma says expresses the admiral's philosophy:  "Success = Education + Motivation + Perseverance."

The dust jacket of "Trailblazer," published by the Naval Institute Press, notes:  "The U.S. Navy commissioned the guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) in 2010 in tribute to a man who relished destroyer service and set an example for generations of Navy men and women."  Read a 2014 Naval History Blog post here, written by historian Dr. Regina T. Akers.

And on a separate note, about football...
(Samuel L. Gravely Sr.'s concerns about the dangers of football, expressed to his son more than 70 years ago, are echoed all over the news this Superbowl weekend as Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks defeated Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. President Obama said if he had a son he wouldn't let him play tackle football, and even Brett Favre said something similar as more information comes out about the long-term damage to the brain, including memory loss, from concussions. Fans know the story of Junior Seau and they are hearing from Joe Namath and other former players.  Troy Aikman and John Lynch, high-profile Fox broadcasters, are asking for more information from the NFL. Don't expect the NFL to be complacent or take safety for granted. Already, the game has evolved thanks to new rules and steep fines against violent hits, helmet-to-helmet contact and late hits and other unsportsmanlike conduct. Too much money is at stake for the game to not evolve further. Imagine how much football has already progressed and changed for the better since it began, thanks to instant replay, for example.  As for the violence, just watch rugby to see how physical a game can be without as many serious injuries. BD)