Monday, December 7, 2009

Dec. 7 Survivors: Favorite Authors, Books

By Bill Doughty

History tells us that many Sailors who were awake on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7 – 68 years ago – were eating breakfast, heading to religious services, writing letters or reading.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Ed Johann was 17 years old on Dec. 7, 1941, young enough to have just gotten his tonsils out. On the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack he was working on a motorboat, getting ready to shuttle Sailors from ship to shore.

Before the war he’d read mostly westerns by Zane Grey and stories by Louis L’Amour.
After the war he read military history books. “I have over 100 books about Pearl Harbor – paperback and hard back,” he said. “Everybody should read more.”

The oldest living Medal of Honor Recipient, John W. Finn, who is also a Dec. 7 1941 Survivor, visited his namesake, at the Ford Island Boathouse on Dec. 6, 2009. (The JOHN W. FINN is a biodiesel-fuel boat, one of several at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, that takes thousands of visitors on any given day to the USS Arizona Memorial.)

John Finn told me his favorite author prior to WWII was Ernest Thompson Seton – author, artist and naturalist. “I always loved books about wildlife,” Finn said. Seton was a renowned conservationist, instrumental in preserving wilderness for future generations.

Art Herriford, National President of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, visited the Arizona Memorial on Dec. 7, 2009. There, he said, “Any time I come to Pearl Harbor it’s with reverence. I remember happy times before the attack. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. It changed the whole world, one way or another.”

Art said, “I read H. Allen Smith. He wrote a series of books. And I read a lot of humanitarian-type books.”

Survivor William K. Anderson said he read mostly magazines in the 1930s and 40s – like Popular Mechanics and various sports magazines.

“I was always interested in sports,” Bill Anderson remembers. “I read a lot of Zane Grey, too. I was a cowboy back in those days.”

Ret. Capt. R. E. Thomas liked Edgar Rice Burroughs as a young man.

Thomas was an ensign on USS Nevada and directed anti-aircraft fire against Imperial Japanese planes on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

During the 1940s he mostly read non-fiction, he said, but one of his favorite genres of fiction was historical fiction exemplified by C. S. Forester’s series of Horatio Hornblower novels.

“I was a big fan… I tried to emulate that as a naval officer,” he remembers. “In history, Horatio Hornblower was modeled after Admiral Nelson of the British Navy.”

In 2009...

Two Sailors stand duty together at the Quarterdeck of the headquarters building where I work.

OS2 Mikhael Davis reads fiction and non-fiction. She just finished Kite Runner and Three Cups of Tea. Before reading those two Navy Professional Reading Program selections she finished James Clavell’s Shogun. Now she’s reading Abraham Rabinovich’s Yom Kippur War.

Her shipmate, BM2(SW/AW) Matthew Tutt, is a science fiction fan and avid reader of westerns by writers such as Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour and fantasy by Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs… some of the same authors on the reading lists of Sailors on Dec. 7, 1941.

Here's what CNO Adm. Gary Roughead said recently about the "imperative" of education for Sailors:

"Always be looking to expand your horizons, expand the depth of your knowledge…believe that every day you live, you will learn something new…the drive to learn should never end and it also opens great opportunities."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

UPDATE: Halsey’s Typhoon II -- Integrity

By Bill Doughty
For former chief petty officer (retired lieutenant commander) Archie DeRyckere, the leadership lessons of Typhoon Cobra -- “Halsey’s Typhoon” -- are personal and last a lifetime.
We linked DeRyckere’s website, Typhoon Cobra 1944 on our last blog post. He sent the following email to Navy Reads:
That is interesting.
The heroism by Captain Plage and his
ship should be interesting to patriots.
I have been earnestly attempting to have Captain Plage awarded the Medal of honor for his performance as he definitely saved the life of myself and 54 others.
President Gerald R. Ford supported my efforts, to no avail. President (then-Lt.j.g.) Ford saved the USS Monterey(CVL 26) in typhoon cobra.The ship was being consumed by a fire on its hangar deck from stem to stern and Captain Ingersoll had been ordered by Admiral Halsey to "abandon ship".
The captain said "to seventy foot waves. I have a better idea; Jerry go down to the hangar deck and put the fires out."
President Ford collected the dead and injured and proceeded to fight fires for five-and-one-half hours, put all fires out and the ship continued to fight to victory in Tokyo Bay.
President Ford was one of our finest athletic Presidents, a legend on ski slopes and one of our most professionally proficient Presidents. He never, to my knowledge, received a medal for saving the USS Monterey.
LCDR Archie G. DeRyckere, USN (Ret.)
Lt.j.g. Jerry Ford playing basketball
on USS Monterey, June 1944.
Faced with Halsey’s directive to abandon USS Monterey (CVL 29), Captain Ingersoll said, “No. We can fix this.” Authors Drury and Clavin write, “Now, with a nod from his skipper, Ford donned a gas mask and led a fire brigade below. Aircraft gas tanks exploded as hose handlers slid across the burning hangar deck. Into this furnace Ford took his men, his first order of business to carry out the unconscious survivors.
“Hours later, he and his team emerged burned and exhausted, but they had put out the fire,” Drury and Clavin write.

Thirty years later, Vice President Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the United States after President Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, leaving the nation in a storm of turmoil.
The authors of Halsey’s Typhoon report that Ford thought about Typhoon Cobra on the morning of Nixon’s resignation.
USS Monterey in Typhoon Cobra
“I remembered that fire at the height of the typhoon,” Ford wrote, “and I considered it a marvelous metaphor for the ship of state.”
More leadership lessons in the wake of a storm: just contrast how Nixon’s character as a leader is remembered with how Ford’s integrity as a leader was demonstrated when our nation needed healing.
On Saturday, Nov. 14 Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and the Navy marked the keel-laying of the Navy’s state-of-the-art aircraft carrier: the Gerald R. Ford.
President Ford’s daughter, Susan Ford Bales, the ship's sponsor, attended the event, as did son Michael Ford.
Both said their father learned of the naming before his death nearly three years ago.
Former President Ford, himself, said, when he learned of the honor, "It is a source of indescribable pride and humility to know that an aircraft carrier bearing my name may be permanently associated with the valor and patriotism of the men and women of the United States Navy."
The new carrier, scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2015, will be the first in the Ford-class series, all designed to bring improved warfighting capability in support of the Navy’s Maritime Strategy.
Susan Ford Bales, said on Nov. 14, “Much has been written about Dad and his integrity. For him the question was always straightforward: What was best for the American people? Period. As the history books have begun to explain, Americans have come to admire his integrity...”
Lt. Jerry Ford, second from right, front row, with USS Monterey team.
To learn more about the shipmates bound together by Typhoon Cobra, visit Archie DeRyckere’s website,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Typhoon Cobra - Nimitz & Leadership '...Lessons of'

If you don’t read the entire review that follows, do yourself a favor and read Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet ADM Nimitz’s confidential letter of Feb. 13, 1945. It’s a thoughtful, reasoned and balanced treatise on accountability in time of war. It shows why Nimitz was such a great leader -- a man whose emotional intelligence matched his analytical abilities.
Fleet Admiral Chester A. Nimitz
Halsey’s Typhoon
Review by Bill Doughty
Their decks, already top-heavy with armaments and equipment, were pushed nearly vertical in mountainous seas. Sixty-five years ago, caught in a giant storm, the Sailors of U.S. Third Fleet fought wind, water and waves trying to escape their own sinking ships and surrounding sharks. Some lost the fight.

Halsey’s Typhoon, the True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue is the gripping account of Typhoon Cobra and its aftermath.

McCain and Halsey, Dec. 1944.
Characters like Adm. William “Bull” Halsey, Adm. John “Slew” McCain (Sen. McCain’s grandfather), Capt. Henry Lee Plage, Capt. James Marks and Chief Quartermaster Archie DeRyckere (one of the true heroes of the tale, who retired as a Lt. Cmdr.) are revealed, warts and quirks and all.

Why were the ships in the path of the huge storm? How does a typhoon form and why is it so dangerous? What’s it like to be thrown off a ship into 90-foot waves in a storm with 150-mph winds? The authors address these questions through extensive research and interviews.
Although this book is not currently included on the Navy’s Professional Reading Program, it is on the informal must-read list of many Navy leaders. These leaders also value the lessons of history brought forth in books, including all the way back to one of the most well-known books in history, Homer’s Iliad, written around the 8th Century B.C. Here’s a quote from the Iliad, used on one of Halsey's Typhoon’s title pages:

Bursts as a wave from the clouds impends,
And swell'd with tempests on the ships descends;
White are the decks with foam; the winds aloud
Howl o'er the masts, and sing through every shroud:
Pale, trembling, tir'd, the sailors freeze with fear;
And instant death on every wave appears.

  Halsey’s Typhoon is not the first book about this famous incident in Navy history. Capt. C. Raymond "Cal" Calhoun, skipper of the USS Dewey (DD 349) at the time, was an eyewitness to history and wrote a gripping account, Typhoon: The Other Enemy, in 1981. Highly recommended.
There have been other books, written by apologists or accusers, including several other first-person accounts -- even one co-authored by Capt. George Kosco, Fleet Aerologist at the time of the storm.

Unidentified destroyer during Typhoon Cobra.

Typhoon Cobra formed and hit as the Third Fleet was moving ever closer to Imperial Japan. The Navy was achieving success using McCain’s “Big Blue Blanket” strategy, modeled after a U.S. Naval Academy football defense, of interweaving radar to defend against kamikaze (divine winds) attacks.
The name kamikaze came from the Shinto belief that the gods intervened twice in the 13th Century, sending separate typhoons against invading Chinese armadas -- drowning thousands of Mongol soldiers and sailors.

The Imperial Japanese warriors believed the gods were on their side and that they were ordained to win the war.
Ultimately science triumphed over superstition.
Halsey’s Typhoon narrates the lessons of history.
(Today, as a direct result of the devastating storm in the Philippine Sea, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center protects the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the years after the war weather stations were set up in the Caroline Islands, Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Guam.)
Communication has improved. Command-and-control incorporates maritime forecasts as a top priority to ensure the safety of Sailors. Nimitz addresses in his letter, "Lessons of," that leaders must take all information into account, but must also rely on their own intelligence.
This book is purposely a vital guide to good leadership. Compare the fearless bravery of destroyer escort USS Tabberer’s CO Capt. Plage -- whose interactions were generous, even-handed and caring -- with Capt. Marks, CO of destroyer USS Hull. Marks is shown as petty and controlling. The reporters suggest he was the basis for the Capt. Queeg character in the 1952 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk.
Plage defied convention and came to the rescue of survivors treading water, fighting sharks and clinging to rafts and debris. Marks became paralyzed and failed to respond.
True wisdom during Typhoon Cobra was revealed in acts by brave leaders who acted correctly -- not blindly -- in the face of unimaginable terrors.
This Veteran’s Day, we think of all the men and women who have served selflessly in uniform in recent and distant wars.
Halsey’s Typhoon reminds us of some of the lessons learned -- and taught -- by the veterans of World War II. And, it introduces us to some of the heroes we continue to honor.
“...Lessons of”:

The book explores the role of Fleet Adm. Chester A. Nimitz -- one of the greatest heroes in our nation’s military history. Nimitz’s confidential letter of Feb. 13, 1945, just two months after Typhoon Cobra, while not included in Halsey’s Typhoon, is available at the Navy’s History and Heritage Command site.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dr. Betances: "You Can't Lead if You Don't Read"

How important is reading?
Ask Dr. Samuel Betances, diversity advisor to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, and three U.S. presidents...Betances, who conducted "Strengthening the Navy Through Diversity" training for nearly 1,000 people at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Oct. 13-15, talks about the power of books...and words...and mentors...and, most importantly, diversity.
The cover of Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough's book John Adams flashes on the screen early in one of Dr. B's training, along with this quote from Adams:
"Freedom is a wonderful thing, provided you have the courage to defend it."

So there it is, plain and simple. Diversity is freedom...

* Freedom from discrimination, from harassment and from a hostile workplace.

* Freedom for an equal opportunity to achieve.

* Freedom to be respected.

Two books about respect that Dr. Betances recommends:
Back off by Martha Langelan and Diversity Toolkit by William Sonnenschein.

In his training, Dr. Betances shares his personal journey from high school dropout to educated scholar with two post-graduate degrees from Harvard University, consultant to two U.S. presidents.

His education started with a caring mentor who had the courage to confront him and say, "It's not intelligence you lack; you don't have enough words."

As Dr. Betances points out, people in poverty use an average of 1,500 words. People in the middle class, especially those who were read to as children, use 3,500 words.

In order to succeed, one must read...

As a very young man, Betances was encouraged to read "the literature of resiliency" - the memoirs of others who faced difficulties: people in death camps, under slavery or in relocation camps.

Two books he says changed him forever:
The Narrative of an American Slave by Frederick Douglass ("a book to share with your entire family") and Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

These books opened his mind and helped him sharpen his critical thinking.

As a better thinker he is able to recognize cultural shifts, discard faulty assumptions and recognize not only the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law.

By the way, that's the difference between equal opportunity and diversity, according to Dr. B.
EO is the law; diversity is the spirit of the law.
It's not good enough to enforce laws against illegal discrimination; we must actively prevent legal discrimination, where members of a preferred group are included in a so-called "circle of trust," to which outsiders are not welcome.

Are there good and bad Circles of Trust?

As Dr. Betances points out, studies revealed in the works of
Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink, Tipping Point and, especially, Outliers) prove that those who are included in a group - for whatever reason - are
more likely to succeed.

Those who are included and made to feel welcome in an organization will succeed.

Those who get informal coaching in a complex organization like the Navy are better equipped to retain what they learn in a classroom.

And, "If your organization is complex," says Betances, "you need diversity."

As part of his training, Dr. B. plays a
CSPAN clip of The Director of National Intelligence, Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, former Commander in Chief of U.S. Pacific Command.

Admiral Blair recognizes the benefits of "being as diverse as possible so that we can better understand people around the world."

Such thinking should be intuitive, and intuition is often undervalued. So says Malcolm Gladwell in

Gladwell is mandatory reading at the
Naval Academy, under the leadership of Vice Adm. Jeff Fowler.

This year the Naval Academy has achieved record-breaking numbers of minority accessions - more than one-third of the class of 2013. The people who have the biggest advantage at the academy, according to Betances, are the children of military families, regardless of gender, economic background or other factors.


Because those children from military families are part of a greater, wider circle of trust; they are made to feel welcome in the organization. They get the informal coaching and mentoring and one-on-one time with experienced people who care.

"We increase our cultural competencies in informal networks," says Betances. And cultural competencies are keys to success.

Want your child to succeed?

In a sidebar discussion between training sessions, Dr. Betances shared this advice: "Have your son or daughter become a tutor. Have them teach someone. The person they help will leapfrog forward, and the tutor, your son or daughter, will catapult to the front."

Dr. Betances: "You can only keep what you give away."

Back to books...

Is that one of the hidden benefits of reading, that books - often freely available, filled with insights and ready to teach us - can be our mentors?

(I'll have to read more about that...)

Other books discussed or recommended by Dr. B.:

The Nature of Prejudice by Gordon Allport

The Disuniting of America by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Making the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland

Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully

Women in the Military by Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm, ret.

Future Think by Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown

Go For Broke by C. Douglas Sterner

Rising Sons by Bill Yenne

Women Pilots of World War II by Jean Hascall Cole

Reel Bad Arabs by Jack G. Shaheen

The Other Face of America by Jorge Ramos

Our Separate Ways by Ella LJ Edmondson Bell and Stella M. Nkomo

Cane Fires by Gary Y. Okihiro

Leading from the Front by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch

The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

Ten Steps to the Head of the Class by Samuel Betances

How important is reading?

"If you don't read, you can't lead."

Navy Reading Program recommends titles tailored to various levels of leadership.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Negotiating With Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History"

NPR's Scott Simon interviewed John W. Limbert, professor of International Affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy, this weekend about his new book, Negotiating With Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History.

Ambassador Limbert, who was held as an Iranian hostage for 444 days 30 years ago, offers his perspective on a dialog with Iran. Is negotiation equivalent to surrender or appeasement or weakness?

NPR's Michele Kelemen interviewed Limbert for a story late last month, too, focusing on the importance of listening, showing respect and demonstrating a willingness to engage... President Barak Obama says he would like to make some kind of direct contact.

This weekend, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says changes to the U.S. missile defense plan will offer better protection than a previous proposal even if intelligence forecasts on Iran prove wrong.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

Review by Bill Doughty

Superfreakonomics comes out soon, as we learned earlier this month when our blog and Roxanne Darling’s photo from USS Nimitz were featured on the New York Times .com’s Freakonomics blog. Meantime, here’s a book in a similar vein...

Here Comes Everybody grabs you from the first chapter. What happens when someone loses her phone in the back seat of a taxi and the finder of the phone refuses to give it back?

The unfriendly, recalcitrant phone-finder gets a virtual butt-whupping, thanks to the power of social media to share information, encourage cooperation and foster collective action. The story is hilarious.

Clay Shirky fills this topical book about social networking with lots of stories, anecdotes and reports that illustrate the tectonic (“tech-tonic”?) shift we’re experiencing thanks to technology. Among his examples:

  • How collective action exposed the Catholic priest sex abuse (and institutional coverup) scandal because of shared information via the Web, e-mail and blogs in 2002.
  • How airline passengers who experienced poor customer service pooled information and resources to bring about a passengers’ bill of rights in 2006.
  • How, thanks to Twitter and QQ (China’s largest social network), the world quickly became aware of the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008. Shirky reports that a Wikipedia page was created 40 minutes after the quake. The page provides a comprehensive review of the quake and its aftermath, including the controversy surrounding construction of the buildings and access to information within China.

Coming after publication of this book is another illustrative example of social media’s power: street protests in the wake of this year’s elections in Iran, fueled by Twitter and other sites.

Shirky explains how shared awareness can bring about social action in the information age.

In 1989 small protests in Leipzig, East Germany grew steadily till 400,000 people turned out as a “flash mob,” pictured above, leading to the downfall of the communist government and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

The lesson for repressive states was: “Don’t let even small protests start, and don’t let the documentation get out.” Reading this gives you an appreciation for our founders’ wisdom about freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, among the inalienable rights of all people.

As Shirky puts it, “With the arrival of globally accessible publishing, freedom of speech is now freedom of the press, and freedom of the press is freedom of assembly.”

But, to paraphrase Spider-Man creator Stan Lee, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

Shirky notes that social systems cannot be of value without some sort of governance, and the best form of control is self-control from a feeling of love and devotion.

Wikipedia shows the overall effectiveness of collective governance out of a passionate devotion to truth. Individuals can edit, but a group can provide democratic oversight.

Free expression through collaboration and cooperation has replaced a great deal of institutional planning and bureaucratic control -- another part of that tectonic shift we’re all experiencing.

Shirky provides an example from military history:

In May 1940, the German army was smaller than France’s. The Panzer III and IV tanks were smaller and less armored than the French Char Bs. But, Germany won decisive victories in its Blitzkrieg, or “Lightning War” attacks because of one difference -- radios.

Communication transformed standalone tanks in to a coordinated, networked group weapon that required a much higher degree of autonomy among commanders coordinating actions in the field.

Which is not to say the Germans in 1940 had the right message... just better technology and tactics for their time.

Technology can be abused by people, whether invading another country or refusing to return a cell phone.

Social media can be misused by cyber-vandals posting false information on Wikipedia or bullying someone on Facebook.

But, collective goodness in people can police the commons, tell the truth and provide governance; that’s ultimate freedom. Freakonomics comes to a similar optimistic conclusion about collective goodwill.

Other cool stuff in Here Comes Everybody:

  • Homophily and “Small World” pattern show the effects of probability underlying the six degrees of separation.
  • Social media can connect everyone through a disproportionately few people, called “connectors” by Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point.
  • The “Nash Equilibrium,” Pareto as relates to social networking, the “Birthday Paradox,” and homeostasis of group structures, among other laws and principles.

The last two words of Here Comes Everybody are “epochal change,” a great way to describe our collective experience as the millennial generation comes of age.

This is a time in history when those of us born prior to 1980 need to unlearn much of our assumptions, according to Shirky: that news about politics and announcements about jobs come from newspapers; that music comes from stores; that conversations are only by phone; that complicated things like software and encyclopedias have to be created by professionals.

Luckily, as Here Comes Everybody makes clear literally and tangibly, for people of all ages there is still a place in this world for books.

Note: My friend Nancy Harrity, introduced me to this book, along with Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, another really good read on a similar topic, written from a business organization standpoint. In September 2009 Nancy is finishing a gig as public affairs officer for Pacific Partnership 2009, a Navy mission with international partners that builds friendship and promotes peace. Here Comes Everybody is not on the Navy's Professional Reading Program, but it would be of interest to anyone in or out of the military trying to put social media in context.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Freakonomics - A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Review by Bill Doughty
I would not recommend Freakonomics to anyone who knows exactly how the world works. Don't read it if you already have the answers to all of life's questions. It's not for people who are easily offended, either. However, for the rest of us, read on...

(Freakonomics at sea)

Written by a completely out-of-the-box economist named Steven Levitt, with help from New York writer Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics challenges conventional wisdom and assumptions on both sides of all fences.

key points:

"Knowing what to measure and how to measure is the key to understanding modern life," and "if morality represents the ideal, then economics represents the actual world."

Through measurements and analysis, and without being moralistic, Levitt spends most of the book presenting evidence of dishonesty in the actual world - cheating by Japanese sumo wrestlers, Chicago school teachers, day care parents, online daters, funeral directors, and bagel buyers, among others.
His conclusions are based on facts, metrics, and other data, and they are compelling.

The bad news: Many people will lie, cheat, and abuse power.

The good news: With the right incentives, the vast majority of people are, and remain, honest.

So what are the right incentives?

What do you think?

teases the reader to formulate his or her own opinion, but provides ways to step up and see over the fence.

Challenging conventional wisdom and superstition, this book promotes critical thinking. Take, for instance, the issues of abortion and gun control and their relevance to crime. Without making any outwardly moral judgments, Freakonomics explores these and other red-hot issues like the death penalty, crack cocaine, discrimination and the role of parents in raising children.
Some chapters may make you laugh, shake your head, or read passages aloud to your friends and family. A friend of mine couldn't resist writing arguments in the margins of his dog-eared copy.

Here are a few things you can discover in Freakonomics:

You'll see evidence that drug-dealing gangs have a similar business structure and hierarchy as McDonald's.

You'll learn that the Ku Klux Klan was a largely ineffectual group by the late 1950s, undermined by a children's television show.

You'll read the story of Robert Lane and two of his sons - one he named Winner and the other Loser. Which young man did well in life? How important is the name your parents gave you?

You'll see whether having lots of books in the home contributes to success later in life - which is intriguing information for supporters of the Navy's Professional Reading Program.

delves into the science of "cause and effect," "correlation," "nature and/or nurture," "fear," and the power of incentives in influencing behavior.

The three "basic flavors" of incentives according to Levitt are economic, social and moral. They are often most effective when combined such as in the U.S. anti-smoking campaign.

But, as asked earlier, what are the "right," most effective incentives in life?

Though not stated outright in the book, here’s what Freakonomics suggests: You can incentivize honesty, hard work, and good will by trusting in people, listening to them, and showing them love.

It’s that simple and that profound.

You don’t have to agree with all of the conclusions in Freakonomics in order to appreciate the authors’ courage in raising controversial questions, challenging assumptions and opening a dialog about critical, skeptical thinking.

Freakonomics is one of many great reads at the Navy Professional Reading Program. You can learn more about the program here.

For a cool Freakonomics essay by Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell click here.

To follow the Twitter-like Freakonomics blog at The New York Times, click here.

Special thanks to Roxanne Darling and Nathan Kam for use of their photos from an August 2009 embarkation to USS Nimitz. Roxanne left a really nice comment after the July 12 interview post with Prof. Jackson. I hope you'll scroll down and take a look.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What Warriors Read -- to Learn, for Escape?

By Bill Doughty

Catching up this week, after the interview with Professor Jackson, manager of the Navy Professional Reading Program. I want to highlight comments received by two Sailors a while back that I didn’t want to get “lost in the sauce”...

“Christine,” a public affairs officer, and CAPT Hansen, officer in charge of Navy embedded training teams, posted these comments to my review of The Kite Runner in May. In a few words they say so much -- about religion, father-son relationships, diverse viewpoints and book recommendations for families when loved ones are deployed -- above all, putting things in context:

I don't know if these are universal, but before I left, people recommended "Lone Survivor," which is Marcus Luttrell's account of the battle that killed the rest of his Seal team in the mountains of Afghanistan. Also recommended were A Thousand Splendid Suns and Three Cups of Tea. I'll confess that I've only gotten to Lone Survivor myself (I read The Kite Runner awhile back), but the others are on my list.

I'm a huge reader -- my Kindle is my prized possession here, right behind my laptop. I don't watch a lot of television, and I haven't even looked at the 300gb of movies I brought with me. Instead, I read a lot of fluff -- pure escapist nonsense. Some of it with more literary merit than others. I do like to read the books that I learn something from, but it's also important to have the fun reads.

Your comment wrapped up Kite Runner like the crib notes of a good book report. I like the way that you tied up the analogies for me. The book was riveting for me on two personal paths - spiritual and relational. It was interesting to reflect on my adherence to and divergence from my religious beliefs. Seeing the son attempting to be himself and please his father, whom he respected immensely brought me to reflecting on my relationship with my father, growing up, and my relationship with my son.

The Thousand Splendid Suns is even more poignant regarding the place of women in Afghan society.

Both books are must reads to get prepared for a deployment here. The service member must remember though that people are individuals. Although there is societal adherence to Islam, there is some variation as to how conforming people are just as in the U.S. people profess one religion or another, but live varying degrees of it.

Three Cups of Tea is recommended for those deploying too. It is much more positive than the other books mentioned here. Spouses and loved ones remaining behind should read Three Cups so that they have something positive to contemplate in the absence of their service member.

Dennis M. Hansen

Other perspectives...

From Tikrit, Iraq a friend wrote to me that folks he knows are reading escapist books like Twilight and Clash of Kings. He said in an email, “We just read the books people send us.” Graphic novels are a hit with some of the Americans serving there. Speaking of Twilight, I heard on a podcast last week that, with the U.S. economy in a downturn, romance novels are back in vogue.

Like Christine said, fun reads are important too.

Back at my office in Hawaii, my colleagues and I sometimes talk about books around the watercooler, where a co-worker suggested reading Lionel Trilling. I checked out Trilling’s Beyond Culture: Essays on Literature and Learning and found a fascinating thinker. Trilling’s decades-old essays were well worth dusting off and examining. He dissects T.S. Eliot, George Orwell, Mark Twain and Hemingway, among many others.

Mark Twain could help readers escape and learn... Was he America’s greatest writer?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Conversation with the Creator... of NPRP

Captain John Jackson, SC, USN (ret) has been the program manager for the Navy Professional Reading Program since the program was first envisioned by the CNO. Jackson is a full professor at the Naval War College, in Newport, Rhode Island. Prior to his retirement from the Navy in 1996, he was a supply and logistics specialist with more than 27 years of experience both afloat and ashore. He holds advanced degrees from Providence College and Salve Regina University; is a graduate of the Management Development Program at Harvard University; and he completed the College of Naval Command and Staff in 1983. His doctoral research addresses the influence of technology on the human condition. We interviewed him exclusively for Navy Reads blog but encourage others to publish this interview about the origins of the Navy Reading Program.

How did the NPRP get started? Who had the idea for it; what was the spark that got it started?

Shortly after being named as CNO, ADM Mike Mullen requested the Naval War College to develop a Professional Reading Program that was more than just a list of suggested titles of books to read. Over the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006, we developed the “matrix” structure of what became the Navy Professional Reading Program (NPRP). The Program consists of 6 areas of skills/competencies needed by all Sailors:

- Critical Thinking
- Joint and Combined Warfare
- Regional and Cultural Awareness
- Leadership
- Naval and Military Heritage
- Management and Strategic Planning

Within each of these areas, books are recommended for various grade levels, although every Sailor is encouraged to read any book in the NPRP Library, as well as other books of merit. The overall library is divided into various collections, as an aid to those readers who are looking to focus their reading on books of particular relevance at their particular career point. The collections are:

Junior Enlisted Collection
Leading Petty Officer Collection
Division Leaders Collection
Department/Command Leaders Collection
Senior Leaders Collection

We formed a Navy Professional Reading Program Advisory Group, and nominated 60 primary titles to the Chief of Naval Operations for his approval. Once approved by ADM Mullen, we obtained funds, purchased over 65,000 books, and distributed them to 900 locations around the fleet. The official kick-off was in October 2006, when the Navy gave itself a birthday present: The NPRP.

The first complete NPRP Library was hand delivered to the oldest ship in the Navy, USS Constitution, in celebration of the Navy’s 231st Birthday.

The “spark” that got it started came directly from the Chief of Naval Operations, and it continues to have the personal interest and support of ADM Roughead and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West.

How many people collaborated on recommending books in 2006?

The NPRP Advisory Group included representatives from the Naval Academy, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Naval War College, the Naval Historical Center, and the Senior Enlisted Academy. We also got input from the U.S. Naval Institute, the Commander, Naval Installations Command (which operates base libraries) and other sources. Altogether, over a dozen individuals considering several hundred books before the final 60 titles were approved by CNO. Many of the books that did not make the cut for the primary library are now listed as “Supplementary Suggestions” on the NPRP website.

What were some of the criteria for selecting titles?

The books must be currently in print, and thus available for purchase and distribution.
All titles must address one or more of the skills/competencies in the program matrix.
The books should cover topics and issues of enduring value.

Do you have any anecdotes or stories about how the NPRP helped individuals? Have senior Navy leaders told you the program is helpful?

In 2007, a survey was conducted by the Navy Personnel Research, Studies, and Technology organization. Seventy-five percent of the senior leaders surveyed said that “The NPRP will make the Navy of tomorrow better than the Navy of today.” Aboard USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), the CO established a “Heritage and History Leadership Essay” contest where Sailors could win cash awards for writing about books from the NPRP. The skipper of USS Stockdale (DDG-106) asked for a NPRP library during their pre-commissioning work-up, since he felt these books would help shape his crew into the cohesive fighting unit they are destined to become.

You've quoted CNO Adm. Gary Roughead as saying the NPRP should be used as a "starting point." Can you give us short list of recommended additional titles, beyond what's on the original 2006 list?

In February 2009, CNO released the first revision to the NPRP, which we call NPRP 2.0. This revision added five great new titles to the NPRP library:

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrel
Aircraft Carriers at War by James L. Holloway, III
The Elephant and the Dragon Robyn Meredith
Forgotten Continent by Michael Reid
Six Frigates by Ian Toll

We also recommend Wired for War by P.W. Singer (about the robotics revolution) and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen (about promoting peace through education).

Who is recommending additional titles as the program evolves? Would you accept recommendations from Sailors and Navy civilians? (If so, how could they make those recommendations?)

The Program Office at the Naval War College receives emails and letters nearly every day with book suggestions. Our Advisory Group also exchanges messages about new books, and we get suggestions from faculty members at NWC, NPS and USNA. Suggestions can be forwarded to us at:

What's on the horizon for the NPRP?

We are experimenting with e-book readers such as the Kindle to see if this technology is a good way to get our books in the hands of our readers. We have purchased “Playaway”-brand audio-books for patients in Navy hospitals who cannot read, or hold a book, but still want to participate in the NPRP. We are hoping to sponsor author book signings with our partners at the Navy Exchanges, and we continue to make our website as interesting and functional as possible.

You've said elsewhere that you encourage people to renew their fighting spirit through the power of professional reading. Would you expound on why reading is important for our Navy and our nation?

In early 2009, CNO noted in a Navy-wide message:

“Reading, discussing, and understanding the ideas and concepts found in the NPRP will not only improve our critical thinking, it will also help us become better Sailors, better leaders, and better citizens. As President John Adams once warned, "A fighting spirit without knowledge would be little better than a brutal rage." I encourage all personnel to renew their fighting spirit through the power of professional reading.”

Reading is important because it allows people to benefit from the lessons learned by others, going back literally thousands of years. An old sage once said “You can never live long enough to make all the mistakes yourself”! Good books entertain, illustrate, and educate. They open a door to the past, they explain what is happening today, and they project what may happen in the future. You only need to read about the actions of the men and women in Navy-blue who went before you to understand that we are all part of an organization much bigger than ourselves, and with a tremendous legacy on which we can build. Thomas Jefferson once wrote: “I cannot live without books”! Every avid reader feels the same way.

Do you think books could become "dinosaurs" in the age of social media, electronic games and cable/Internet TV?

Modern technology is great, and any tools which improve communications between individuals are positive things. Even so, the book (in hard-copy, electronic format, or in audio) still has a place in everyone’s life. A book provides a level of detail on a subject that no movie can match; it energizes the reader’s imagination, so the concepts are tailored to the experiences and expectations of each individual; and a printed book is compact, permanent, easy to carry, and needs no batteries!

What are some brand new titles you'd recommend as good Navy reads?

Six Frigates by Ian Toll (fairly new) - about founding of the U.S. Navy; Leave No Man Behind by George Galdorisi and Thomas Phillips about Combat Search and Rescue; Shattered Sword by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully about the Battle of Midway; and Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig Symonds about President Lincoln’s relationship with his naval commanders during the Civil War.

Any final thoughts you’d like to share about the Navy Professional Reading Program?

Every indication is that the NPRP has been warmly embraced by our Sailors who are interested in their professional development. In addition to the books which are widely available in lending libraries aboard all ships, in squadron ready-rooms, and at base libraries and liberty centers around the fleet, these books are available for sale at reduced prices in all Navy Exchanges and by using the NEX on-line and telephone ordering systems. Since the program began, over 60,000 books have been purchased by Sailors who wanted to create their own professional libraries.

You can read them in hard-copy…. You can read them as e-Books…. You can listen to them as audio-books. The Navy Professional Reading Program is accessible to everyone who wants to participate and as the program’s motto says, it will help “Accelerate your Mind.”

Special thanks to Professor John E. Jackson. Read more from Professor Jackson at the Naval War College. We welcome readers' comments about NPRP and the books in the various collections; also, your suggestions for this blog are always appreciated. -- Bill Doughty