Saturday, March 24, 2012

“Honey, are you a WAVE?” No ma’am, we’re all Sailors now!

By Nancy Harrity
Walking down Chicago’s Michigan Ave. in my dress whites in July 1996, more than one older person asked me, “Honey, are you a WAVE?”  I’m not one of the WAVES, nor are the nearly 55,000 women serving in the Navy today.  We’re Sailors, and I’m sure a good number of us would have been honored to have been one of the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service during World War II. 
Then, as is the case now, war enabled women to break barriers. “When World War II came to an end, women had established a remarkable legacy of womanpower in the U.S. military.  The Navy in 1942 originally visualized the maximum strength of the naval women reserve at approximately 11,000, and plans were formulated with that number in mind. It soon became evident that this thinking was not sufficiently imaginative.  Shortly before Japan was defeated, there were approximately 86,000 women in the Navy and 19,000 women in the Marines, stationed at some 950 shore activities in the United States and Hawaii and serving in practically all ratings except those from which they were excluded because of physical limitations, combatant nature or sea-going requirements,” according to Capt. Winifred Quick Collins in her memoir, “More than a Uniform: A Navy Woman in a Navy Man’s World.”   Quick Collins served as one of the first WAVES in WW II and retired as the chief of navy personnel for women in 1962.
At every command where the WAVES were stationed,  their presence brought about change for the better for both the men and women serving there.  In her memoir, “Lady in the Navy:  A Personal Reminiscence,” retired Capt. Joy Bright Hancock, who retired as the chief of navy personnel for women in 1953, writes of a chaplain who told her “that the WAVES brought an air of refinement to the service…’The mere presence of WAVES in the chow line brought more orderliness and courtesy than was ever achieved by the stoutest chief boatswain.  And we do know that with more and more men staying on board instead of going out on the town, the discipline cases have decreased tremendously.’”
During her tenure as the chief of naval personnel for women, Quick Collins traveled throughout the fleet on inspection trips of Navy women paying particular care to their health and morale issues.  In more than one place,  the women’s barracks and morale facilities were lacking, a state she worked tirelessly to improve.  “Oddly – or maybe not so oddly – the improved housing arrangements for Navy women led to improved housing arrangements for Navy men, since it was not long afterwards that newly constructed or renovated barracks with private rooms were also built for Navy enlisted men, as well as new bachelor officers’ quarters for men and women.”
These two ladies made such significant contributions to the Navy they have leadership awards named for them,  the Joy Bright Hancock Leadership Award and the Captain Winifred Quick Collins Award for Inspirational Leadership.
Just as quickly as WWII made a great many things possible for women in the Navy, the end of the war brought a desire to for things to return to normal, which included sending the women home.   “Although high-level military officials were enthusiastic supporters of bringing women into the postwar military, I don’t think that they – or anyone else – fully understood at the time the difficulties of implementing the policy,” writes Quick Collins. “Once that nucleus was established, the status of women in the armed forces evolved to a point at which women achieved higher ranks, a broader range of assignments, and greater recognition than many males in the military ever imagined – or ever wanted.  Every gain for women in the military was achieved only after a long battle with ignorance, military tradition, entrenched interests, male chauvinism, or some combination of these tough barriers.  And the battle started within a few months after Japan had been defeated, mostly because many civilians and politicians held negative attitudes about the need for military women in peacetime.”
Thankfully, women like Bright Hancock and Quick Collins persevered, worked with leaders to change policy and laws as necessary to enable women to continue serving in the post-WWII peace through today.  I’m certain they would be proud to call the women serving in the Navy today, “Sailors.”
Senior Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Lora D. Porter, leading chief petty officer of the aircraft intermediate maintenance department aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), speaks with Sailors at the women's personal and professional growth symposium March 7, 2012.  (U.S. Navy Photo by MCSN Kristina Young)
(Special thanks to Navy Reads contributor, mentor and thinker Nancy Harrity for this guest post for Women's History Month examining how far we've progressed since World War II.  Coming soon, posts related to Battle of Midway in this 70th anniversary year of the War in the Pacific. -- Bill Doughty)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who are Your Favorite Women Authors?

(Fun, insight and inspiration are at the heart of Rear Adm. Kate Gregory’s selection of top ten women authors and their works for Navy Reads -- in honor of Women’s History Month.  Her top recommendation: exercise your mind, stretch your imagination and read!  -- Bill Doughty)
By Rear Adm. Kate Gregory
I think reading is great fun and terribly important.  For me, it provides an escape to times in history, new ideas, and great adventures and imaginary worlds.  I feel sorry for those who don't enjoy reading.  I believe it's often a learned skill and would recommend to those who don't enjoy it to simply try reading a little a day -- it's a lot like any exercise as it gets easier and more fun the more you do it.  I like to read some fiction and non-fiction because both have a lot to offer.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This is a wonderful, true story about the determination and strength of a great athlete and soldier.  She also wrote Seabiscuit, which I didn't read but understand was excellent.
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman.  This tells the story of the crazy events and unique personalities that led the world into WWI.  Even though you know how this all ends, the book is hard to put down!
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean.  Ms. Orlean is a great writer and her book about the black-market business and crazy characters who steal rare orchids, grow, breed and sell them for millions is a bit wacky but oddly fun and unusual.  Orlean just finished another book on Rin Tin Tin.  She makes an enjoyment of atypical topics.  
Either O Pioneers! or My Antonia by Willa Cather.  I grew up in the Midwest and think it's an area often overlooked today.  
I think about (and admire) the people who settled the American plains, and have read these books to learn more about the settlers, especially pioneer women.  These books show the challenges of their lives and the great courage and fortitude it demanded.   
Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden.  This book is about two East Coast society-girls who boarded a train from the East Coast in 1916 to Colorado and, five days later, opened a new school and taught the children of frontiersmen and settlers.  Their lives were full of surprises and adventures, and make me wish for such experiences.  It really is very, very interesting to see what their lives were like.
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Ms. Goodwin's telling of how President Lincoln selected his Cabinet and closest advisors from his greatest critics and political enemies was a lesson for me in leadership and vision.  In reading how President Lincoln used their assaults on him to strengthen his plans, policies and actions, it's clear why he's one of our nation's greatest statesmen, and his strategy in selecting staff is pretty fascinating.  
Either Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, or Emma by Jane Austen.  While Ms. Austen may be viewed by many as simply a romantic writer, I like the way she describes the characters of life -- smart, silly, vain, weak, arrogant, virtuous -- they're all here.  The stories are set in 19th century Great Britain, but the personalities are as prevalent as any I know today.
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.  This is actually a children's book that I first read in 5th grade, but I end up reading it again every few years.  It's a coming-of-age tale about an adolescent in Illinois during the Civil War, and shows how the war touched all aspects of the family and shaped the boy's future.
Any mystery by P.D. James in the Adam Dalgliesh series.  I'm not a big mystery reader, but these are interesting and have strong characters facing moral challenges, and I like them even though I can never solve them!
Italian Days by Barbara Grizutti.  Having been stationed twice in Naples, I like to read this armchair travel book when I start to long for the place.  If someone has been or is about to be stationed in Italy, I recommend it.
In 2010 Rear Adm. Katherine Gregory assumed command of Naval Engineering Command Pacific. (Photo by MC2 Robert Stirrup)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From Battle of Trafalgar to War of 1812

by Bill Doughty
Acts of valor were commonplace in the days of sailing ships, conquest and experimental new techniques of warfare in the early 1800s.  So were acts of terror and subversion.
A European perspective of those events and an amazing beginning for modern military techniques and weaponry can be found in the pages of Tom Pocock’s The Terror Before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon, and the Secret War.
The late historian shows that for Britain, at least, the War of 1812 began in 1801 when the mighty British navy was challenged by Napoleon Bonaparte and France, assisted by the Spanish fleet.
Other countries or territories drawn into the conflict or directly affected by it included Denmark, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Italy and Egypt, according to Pocock.  Even Sweden, Peru and Jamaica were impacted.
In fact, a case can be made that the Napoleonic Wars were the first world war. 
The Battle of Trafalgar, death of Lord Nelson (told in painful detail in this book), and rise of Robert Fulton’s experiments certainly marked the beginning of the end of ancient warfare and military customs.  The savagery of the guillotine, also described in great detail, and the finery of national leaders’ costumes were on their way to becoming historic artifacts.
Read Pocock’s description of Napoleon Bonaparte on the day of his coronation as Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII.
“The Emperor was dressed in crimson velvet, embroidered with gold and silver, in lace, white silk stockings, white velvet slippers embroidered in gold; he wore a diamond-encrusted sword and carried the sceptre of Charlemagne and the Bourbons’ symbolic Hand of Justice.  He had become a glittering pantomime figure...”
Other parallels from the early 1800s to world wars more than a century later:  Napoleon/Hitler, shifting European alliances, assault landing crafts (catamarans with ramps), similar battle/invasion plans, and the spotty success of torpedoes at the beginning of the war.
Fulton's submarine.
Pocock profiles American inventor Robert Fulton as friend of Thomas Paine who first sought to develop a submarine for France before working with the British navy to deploy the first submarine and torpedoes, known as “carcasses,” “coffers” and “hogsheads.”
“The two-ton ‘coffer’ was the largest, twenty-one feet long, boat-shaped, with wedge-like bow and stern; wooden, but caulked, lead-lined and covered with tarred canvas, it was packed with forty barrels of gunpowder.  The coffer was ballasted so that its deck was flush with the surface and fitted with a buoyed grappling hook to catch the mooring cable of an enemy ship...”
Fulton and fellow inventors Sir Sidney Smith and Charles Rogier were under-appreciated for their innovative machines and experiments, called “infernals,” which often had less-than-perfect results.  The European military hierarchy, only a generation removed from those who were shocked at the guerilla tactics of the colonists, spoke out strongly against the SEALs-like attacks at night with torpedoes and mines.
Others, like Rear Adm. Home Popham, had the view that “battles in the future may be fought under water: our invincible ships of the line may give place to horrible and unknown structures, our frigates to catamarans, our pilots to divers, our hardy, dauntless tars to submarine assassins, coffers, rockets, catamarans, infernals...”
Published in 2002 by the Naval Institute Press, The Terror Before Trafalgar is understandably linked to the events of 9/11.
With a fascinating cast of characters, including wives, lovers (like Lord Nelson's married mistress Lady Emma Hamilton), soldiers and spies, Pocock shows how espionage and terror influenced -- or failed to influence events.  A cart of explosives was used in an attempt to kill Napoleon and Josephine (Fail).  Catholic insurrections in Ireland were planned as a diversion timed to allow France to invade across the Channel (Fail).  Plots of assassination were hatched in Egypt against the British sovereignty and coup attempts were launched in Paris (Fail and Fail).
Speaking of “fails”....
British impressment, capturing suspected British citizens who were sometimes Americans, became necessary in the early 1800s to fill the ranks of the British navy.  The issue led directly to the War of 1812.  At the same time, Napoleon knew he could not hold territory on the other side of the Atlantic while he tried to wage war in Europe and eastward, with his sights on India.  He sold the Louisiana Territory -- the whole Mississippi valley, from the Rio Grande to the Rocky Mountains, New Orleans to Canada -- to the United States, in what would become known as the Louisiana Purchase, for $15M -- a win for Thomas Jefferson and the United States but a huge loss for Napoleon and France.
According to Pocock:
“Ironically, Bonaparte had sought war but was not ready for it, while the British had hoped for peace and were ready to fight.”
France dominated the land war, but Britain controlled the seas, successfully defending the homeland.  The British navy proved that a commitment to maintaining peace must be tied to a readiness for war.