Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Collective Wisdom of Reading Nelson Mandela

by Bill Doughty
Reading "Conversations With Myself" by Nelson Mandela (with a foreword by President Barack Obama) is like being invited to rummage through the great South African leader's desk: seeing his notes, letters, appointments and reading list -- everything from the mundane to the sublime.

The book is a terrific compendium to "Long Walk to Freedom" and helps the reader comprehend the tragedy Mandela endured away from his family.

While in prison in 1968, Mandela lost his mother.  Within months his son Madiba Thembekile ("Thembi") was killed. Nelson Mandela expresses a deep sense of loss in his correspondence during that time:  "The crop of miseries we have harvested..."

He writes to friends and enemies, but the deepest and most powerful letters are to family, especially his wife Winnie and children, including daughter Zindzi Mandela, a published poet who wrote, "Black As I Am."

Zindzi's poem "A Tree Was Chopped Down" is included in "Conversations," and Nelson Mandela explores the analogies, metaphors and memories the poem evokes.  "I was clearly fascinated by the symbolism of contradiction that clearly looms from the lines," Mandela writes.  "It is perhaps this type of contradiction that is inherent in almost every aspect of life.  In nature and society these contradictions are in the centre of every phenomenon and can stimulate the urge for serious thinking and real progress."

Nelson Mandela describes the tree he sees in Zindzi's work:
"It seems to have been struck by lightning during the stone age and its sap to have been drained by a thousand vampires.  It inanimate objects could ever become ghosts, that tree would easily have been one.  Age or disease have destroyed it.  It can no longer trap the energy of sunlight nor draw the vital water supplies from the soul below.  Its branches and its leaves, its beauty and dignity that once caught the eye of nature lovers and game of all kinds have disappeared.  The tree is no more than firewood on roots.  It is barren as an iron-stone and few people will easily believe that at some [time] in the course of its history it could bear fruit."
Yet, Mandela pivots to hope and meaning, with memories of a "loving peach tree" and rebirth, including the birth of his children.

He writes to Zindzi, "... a good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas into our dens, our blood and our souls.  It can turn tragedy into hope and victory."

In "Conversations With Myself" we see Mandela's introspection, resilience and reconciliation during 27 years in prison.

He discusses books, authors and literature throughout the book -- from Xhosa and Sotho African literature to Sophocles, Shakespeare, Clausewitz and Tolstoy.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama visits Mandela in Johannesburg, June 21, 2011.
Other books Mandela mentioned in "Conversations" include "Red Star Over China" by Edgar Snow, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown, and "The Revolt" by Menachem Begin.

In a letter to his son Makgatho dated July 28, 1969 Mandela puts the moon landing in context, advising his son "to work hard and systematically in your studies."
"Remember that we live in a new age of scientific achievement, the most staggering of which is the recent landing of man on the moon.  That is a sensational event that will enrich man's knowledge of the universe and that may even result in a change of modification of many fundamental assumptions in many fields of knowledge.  The younger generation must train and prepare themselves so that they can easily grasp the far-reaching repercussions of developments in the realm of space."
Mandela saw a future of technological and social advances based on freedom, equality and democracy.  In a  letter to Senator Douglas Lukhele in Swaziland, dated Aug. 1, 1970, Mandela writes:
"I am influenced more than ever before by the conviction that social equality is the only basis of human happiness ... It is around these issues that my thoughts revolve.  They are centred on humans, the ideas for which they strive; on the new world that is emerging; the new generation that declares total war against all forms of cruelty, against any social order that upholds economic privilege for a minority and that condemns the mass of the population to poverty and disease, illiteracy and the host of evils that accompany a stratified society."
A "found haiku" in that same letter:
the anchor of all
my dreams is the collective
wisdom of mankind

Mandela valued reading, study and introspection.  He dedicated his life to social justice.  Before his passing, the Nelson Mandela Foundation was created so his legacy would live on, like seedlings from a tree, part of a collective wisdom for all time.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, right, hands Mandela the five-volume report produced by his Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Oct. 29, 1998.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Witnessing Start & End of War in Pacific

by Bill Doughty

Speaking with Pearl Harbor Survivors is a rare privilege.  They survived Imperial Japan's attack on Oahu in 1941, and most of them fought to defeat Japan in the war across the Pacific.  Today, nearly all are in their 90s.

On Dec. 7, 1941 they were teenagers, young men serving aboard ships or ashore at Pearl Harbor.  Today, these extremely humble men genuinely appreciate the respect and interest younger generations have for them and their shipmates.

Delton Walling was one of several dozen Survivors who came to Pearl Harbor earlier this month for the 72nd anniversary commemoration ceremony.  He said, "In the twilight of our years it's really appreciated."

Events of the Second World War were a lifetime ago.

Gil Meyer. (photo illustration by T. Verceluz)
In his Texas drawl Pearl Harbor Survivor Gil Meyer confided with a grin, "It's been so long since I was in the Navy it seems like I never was."  The former Chief Boilerman started in the Navy as a Watertender, taking care of fires and boilers in the ship's engine room. In today's Navy he would be called a Machinist's Mate.

As it was for Walling, Ray Emory and other World War II veterans, time for reading was devoted mostly to manuals and job-related texts.

"I loved to read," Meyer said, "but during the war it was mainly technical books ... electrical engineering."  He developed a lifelong interest in HAM radio and so enjoyed reading about amateur radio, too.

Well before the war Meyer discovered literature and books about history.

"As a boy my favorite book was 'Don Quijote' (by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)," Meyer said.  "I liked it because I was learning Spanish and I was interested in history," Meyer said.

The novel about the Man from La Mancha is over 400 years old (published in 1604) and has been translated numerous times.

Meyer dropped out of high school at 17 to join the Navy.

His ship USS Utah (BB 31/AG 16), now USS Utah Memorial, is one of two battleships still in Pearl Harbor.  The other ship still in the harbor on the opposite side of Ford Island is USS Arizona (BB 39), now USS Arizona Memorial.

At the surrender, USS Detroit (CL-8) is in the right distance. (NHHC)
Throughout the war Meyer served on USS Detroit (CL 8).  He was aboard Detroit in Tokyo Bay Sept. 2, 1945 for the official end of the war in the Pacific, when instruments of surrender were signed aboard USS Missouri (BB 63).

"It was, indeed, a wonderful feeling standing on the deck of Detroit, in Tokyo Bay, as we witnessed the formal surrender of Imperial Japan," Meyer wrote in an article in the region/base newspaper, Ho'okele, published last September.

"After suffering through nearly three years and nine months of WWII, by destroying the Imperial Japanese war machine and military industrial complex, at last we finally avenged the horrible deaths inflicted upon many of our shipmates and countrymen. After our visit to firebombed downtown Tokyo and meeting many of the pitiful inhabitants … we suddenly felt a limited sense of compassion for these same hapless wartime victims."

After his service in the Navy, Meyer went back to school  He eventually taught electronics in Key West, Florida and returned to reading books about electronics, amateur radio and history, especially of WWII.

"My favorite was Admiral Layton's 'And I was There,'" Meyer said.  "I'm one of those that feel that [Admiral] Kimmel got a raw deal."

Layton's book is a first-hand background account filled with the tension and turmoil leading up to the attack and recounting events during and after the war.

Elliot Carlson's "Joe Rochefort's War," a newer, tighter recounting of events behind-the-scenes, is built on Layton's foundation and showcases how success was achieved in the Battle of Midway.  Carlson's work was reviewed last year on Navy Reads.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Kids Learn of Sacrifices of WWII

by Bill Doughty

Louise Borden's "Across the Blue Pacific: A World War II Story," illustrated by WWII-era Army-Air Force veteran and artist Robert Andrew Parker, is the story of how duty, sacrifice and loss can affect a nation, a neighborhood and a child. The effects can last a lifetime.

Borden's story is told with a child's innocence and is based on true events.  It recounts the story of the author's uncle Theodore "Ted" Walker who graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1941, served aboard the light cruiser USS Memphis (CL-13) in the South Atlantic, and then served fatefully as executive officer in the submarine USS Albacore (SS-218), deployed from Midway to the western Pacific.  

Ted Walker and his submarine crew never came home.

The National Park Service and Pacific Historic Parks -- partnering with the Department of Education, YMCA, and other groups -- are conducting a read aloud program for 135 schools across Hawaii to tell the story and ensure history is preserved and understood by all generations.

According to a press release from NPS and PHP:

"The story, 'Across the Blue Pacific: A World War II Story,' follows fourth grader Molly Crenshaw who is given a classroom assignment of writing a letter to servicemen overseas.  Molly immediately knows who she will write to -- her next door neighbor Ted Walker, who is stationed aboard the USS Albacore.  The story talks about the importance of appreciating the sacrifices made by the military.  

As part of this year’s program, students will write letters to military personnel, which will then be delivered to active duty military through the U.S. Navy."

Pearl Harbor Survivor Delton "Wally" Walling shared his story at a Dec. 6 Read Aloud at Pauoa Elementary with 4th and 5th graders as NPS ranger Falynn Medeiros read and showed the book.  Walling couldn't enlist in the Navy because of a disfigured finger so he had his finger surgically removed in order to join.  He gave a firsthand account to students about the commitment, courage and consequences of the War in the Pacific.

The National Park Service has posted "several real life letters written during World War II by civilians and military personnel for parents to read to their children."  For access and to learn more about the read aloud program go to  

"The National Park Service, with funding from Pacific Historic Parks, also offers a year-round distance learning program for students and teachers from around the world," according to an NPS release. "Witness To History is a free program that utilizes videoconferencing technology to take students where visitors cannot go, bringing the sites and stories of Pearl Harbor to children and adults unable to visit Oahu.  The program includes a Pearl Harbor Survivor Series where participants can see and hear Pearl Harbor Survivors share their personal testimonies of what they experienced on that fateful day.  The Interpretive Ranger Series shows a video of a USS Arizona underwater dive while a National Park Ranger provides a voice-over interpretive lesson.  The program ends with a student and educator question-and-answer session.  (For more information or to schedule a free Witness To History videoconference, contact 808-954-8744 or 808-4428.)"

131207-N-ZK021-017 - PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Dec. 7, 2013) - From the USS Arizona Memorial, symbol of the war's beginning on Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Survivor Delton "Wally" Walling and Joan Bohl look out at the Battleship Missouri Memorial, symbol of the end of World War II in the Pacific. This year's historic commemoration, "Sound the Alarm," examines how thousands of Americans answered the call to duty in the wake of the attack. From Pearl Harbor and Midway the U.S. Navy moved across the Pacific until instruments of surrender were signed aboard USS Missouri (BB 63) Sept. 2, 1945. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardel Gervacio/Released)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

'Out of the Ordinary' Way to Pearl Harbor

by Bill Doughty

Though at 90 he doesn't read much anymore, World War II Navy veteran Ewalt Shatz remembers enjoying books as a young man in the 1940s.

"I used to read love stories, westerns, books about history and especially anything out of the ordinary, strange things that get you wondering about things -- anything out of the ordinary."

Ewalt Shatz welcomed in Hawaii.
People are reading about Ewalt Shatz this week.

Bumped from a flight to Hawaii Wednesday, the Pearl Harbor Survivor was rerouted to another carrier: Hawaiian Airlines, where he says he got world-class, first-class treatment.

"I got to Maui (for a connection to Oahu) and I didn't know where to go.  A girl came along and helped me, and someone was calling my name on the loudspeaker.  They treated me like gangbusters," he said earlier today at the 72nd anniversary commemoration ceremony of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Shatz said an attendant flew with him from Maui to Honolulu, where he was met by dozens of military service member supporters, most in uniform, at nearly midnight.  He said he didn't have a chance to say "thank you" to the Hawaiian Airlines attendant.

While serving aboard ships in the 1940s Ewalt found time enjoy books.  Today he says he suffers from macular degeneration, so he can't read the way he once could.

"I used to go to the mess decks to read books cause there was better lighting," he said, "and I went through quite a few."

He was one of about 50-60 WWII veterans and more than 2,500 other guests who attended today's ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

131207-N-FF306-053 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 07, 2013) Pearl Harbor survivors attend the 72nd Anniversary Pearl Harbor Day Commemoration. More than 2,500 guests, including Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans, attended the National Park Service and U.S. Navy-hosted joint memorial ceremony at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. This year's theme was "Sound the Alarm," examining how thousands of Americans answered their nation's call after the attack and how the nation was united behind a common purpose throughout the war. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Rose Forest/Released)  Note: Ewalt Shatz is sitting center in black shoes and socks.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Max Cleland's 'Heart of a Patriot'

Review by Bill Doughty

"Heart of a Patriot" by Max Cleland with Ben Raines is a deeply personal and fearless account of a life of towering summits and dark valleys.

The former Army Airborne captain and decorated Vietnam combat veteran lost both legs and most of his right arm during the Battle of Khe Sanh in a grenade explosion.

In the book's foreword, "An Open Letter to America's Veterans," Cleland speaks candidly about his post-traumatic stress disorder and "a journey to the dark places of life -- terror, fear, death, wounding, loss, grief, despair and hopelessness."  

He writes for fellow veterans trapped in "a misery of memories" and offers light and hope.  "Recovery is possible," he writes.  "There are people who can help."
Max Cleland

Publisher SimonandShuster writes, "Max Cleland describes with love the ties America's soldiers forge with one another, along with the disillusionment many of them experience when they come home.  He spares no one his humiliations and setbacks in this gut-wrenching account of his life in the hope it will keep even one veteran from descending into darkness.  'Heart of a Patriot' is a story about the joy of serving the country you love, no matter the cost -- and how to recover from the deepest wounds of war."
Max Cleland is the keynote speaker at this year's Navy and National Park Service 72nd Pearl Harbor Day Ceremony, Dec. 7, 2013 near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Cleland's father joined the Navy and shipped out to Pearl Harbor after war was declared.  His dad returned home Dec. 8, 1945 when Max was three and a half.

Cleland was inspired to public service and to join the military by President John F. Kennedy, especially in the wake of JFK's assassination 50 years ago.
In bed at Walter Reed in 1968, Cleland reads Arthur Schlesinger's
"A Thousand Days" about President John F. Kennedy.
After his promising future was "blown to bits" Capt. Cleland made a slow recovery at Walter Reed and then through the Veteran's Administration, getting a first-hand look at the institution he would run one day.

Later, after serving for more than a decade in state politics in Georgia he received an appointment as head of the VA by former Georgia Governor and newly elected President Jimmy Carter, a Navy veteran.

Cleland created VA centers to help millions of veterans, including returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan.  "Their creation is one of the things I am most proud of," he writes.

Elected to the U.S. Senate, Cleland became chairman of the armed services subcommittee on personnel.  His colleagues, mentors and friends in the Senate included fellow combat veterans Chuck Hagel, Dan Inouye, John Kerry and "my Vietnam veteran brother" John McCain.  He describes the pride of wearing his dad's WWII Navy peacoat as a U.S. Senator during a presidential inauguration.

After the Al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 Cleland was appointed to the 9/11 Commission but said he was frustrated by a lack of access to key intelligence information leading up to the attacks.

In the chapter, "An Infamous Commission," he links aspects of the 9/11 Commission with the Warren Commission that investigated the JFK assassination.  He also compared the 9/11 lack of transparency with the investigation after the Pearl Harbor attack.
"Within the first week after that tragedy, Roosevelt had set up a commission to investigate it and all its ramifications.  Just 10 days after the attack, he relieved both the naval commander at Pearl Harbor, Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, and the army commander, General Walter Short, of their jobs based on the commission findings.  Every aspect of the government's inner workings, from diplomacy to military readiness and intelligence, was laid bare for the commission to examine. And in the end, Roosevelt got his man: Within three years, he had personally given the order to shoot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto, the Harvard-educated enemy warrior who planned the attack."
The book describes in painful detail the bouts of depression that Max Cleland endured during his life of public service.  Poignantly, Cleland, who "grew up in the golden era of rock," describes a moment alone listening to the Beatles and Paul McCartney's "Yesterday," feeling like "half the man I used to be."

"Heart of a Patriot" concludes with another message directly for veterans, especially for those suffering from polytrauma. He imagines and then creates a better future.  Through faith and hope and the help of others, there is "something to stand on" and a way to fly out of the darkness, he writes.

Max Cleland is set to speak to the Greatest Generation and "the greatest of our generation" at Saturday's Pearl Harbor Day commemoration.  Max Cleland, a self-described "war baby" was born August 24, 1942.  Do the math, and he was conceived just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

President Barak Obama appointed Cleland as Secretary of American Battle Monuments Commission in June 2009.

Max Cleland, Secretary American Battle Monuments Commission, gives remarks, Nov. 11, 2012, during a Veterans Day ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Kennedy Link to Lincoln

by Bill Doughty

Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy are forever linked in history -- through their stands on civil rights, by their courage in the face of existential national threats, and tragically as victims of gun violence.  
William Pitt Fessenden, date unknown. (National Archives)
Among the many Lincoln and Kennedy links is Senator William Pitt Fessenden of Maine.  A colleague of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, Fessenden was Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War.  

John F. Kennedy quotes Fessenden at the very end of his "Profiles in Courage," reviewed last week on Navy Reads.  Fessenden's words chosen by JFK in "Profiles" were written three years after Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.  

Fessenden spoke the words as a Senator, but they can apply to anyone in public leadership positions.  The words ring strong today in the context of Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment:

"When, Mr. President, a man becomes a member of this body, he cannot even dream of the ordeal to which he cannot fail to be exposed;

  • of how much courage he must possess to resist the temptations which daily beset him;
  • of that sensitive shrinking from undeserved censure which he must learn to control; 
  • of the ever-recurring contest between a natural desire for public approbation and a sense of public duty; 
  • of the load of injustice he must be content to bear, even from those who should be his friends; 
  • the imputations of his motives;
  • the sneers and the sarcasms of ignorance and malice;
  • all the manifold injuries which partisan or private malignity, disappointed of its objects, may shower upon his unprotected head. 
All this, Mr. President, if he would retain his integrity, he must learn to bear unmoved, and walk steadily onward in the path of duty, sustained only by the reflection that time may do him justice, or if not, that after all his individual hopes and aspirations, and even his name among men, should be of little account to him when weighed in the balance against the welfare of a people of whose destiny he is a constituted guardian and defender."
Fessenden served in both the House of Representatives and Senate before President Lincoln convinced him to fill the Treasury position vacated by the prideful Salmon P. Chase, as described in Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." 
"Fessenden's appointment received immense praise. 'He is a man of undoubted financial ability, and of unsurpassed personal integrity,' the Chicago Tribune wrote."
Lincoln portrait by George P.A. Healy, 1869 in State Dining Room,
Kennedy White House, 1961.
In "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era" author and historian James McPherson reveals Fessenden's pragmatic approach to fair taxation and the Legal Tender Act in order to provide financial support to Union troops.  U.S. notes were used as cash, unlike the Confederacy's approach to raising war funds, which also relied more on loans.  McPherson writes:
"The act created a national currency and altered the monetary structure of the United States.  It asserted national sovereignty to help win a war fought to preserve that sovereignty.  It provided the Treasury with resources to pay its bills, it restored investor confidence to make possible the sale at par of the $500 million of new 6 percent bonds authorized at the same time, and unlocked the funds that had gone into hoarding during the financial crisis of December."
McPherson reviewed Kearns Goodwin's book for the New York Times in 2005, calling it "an elegant, incisive study of Lincoln and leading members of his cabinet that will appeal to experts as well as to those whose knowledge of Lincoln is an amalgam of high school history and popular mythology."

In "Team of Rivals" Kearns Goodwin dives into White House and congressional intrigue and shows Lincoln's mastery in balancing power and personalities.  She shows that Lincoln judged Fessenden to be a statesman worthy of trust and respect.  And the feeling was mutual.
"By the spring of 1865 the treasury was stable, and when Maine reelected him to the Senate for a term to being on March 4, Fessenden felt free to resign." 
"Lincoln was sorry to lose his brilliant, hardworking secretary.  Fessenden, too, 'parted from the President with regret.' During his tenure at the Treasury, his initial critical attitude toward Lincoln had been transformed into warm admiration.  'I desire gratefully to acknowledge the kindness and consideration with which you have invariably treated me,' he wrote to the president, 'and to assure you that in retiring I carry with me great and increased respect for your personal character and for the ability which has marked your administration.'  Noting that the 'prolonged struggle for national life' was finally nearing a successful conclusion, he went on, 'no one can claim to have so largely contributed to the chosen chief magistrate of this great people.'"
President Kennedy signs joint resolution March 1, 1961 commemorating the 100th Anniversary
of the First Inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. (JFK Presidential Library)
Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" reveals Fessenden's brave stand during a constitutional crisis.  He stood with a handful of Republicans led by Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas in a vote to acquit Andrew Johnson despite calls by radical politicians who wanted revenge against the Confederacy.  Instead, Ross, Fessenden and other men of conscience embraced compromise and harmony.  They preserved efforts begun by Lincoln toward reconciliation with the South despite public scorn, ridicule and pressure to punish the secessionists.

Fessenden became the "guardian and defender" of the Constitution he wrote about in his excerpt in JFK's "Profiles."  Like other true patriots in public service his primary concern was the long-term health of the republic rather than short-term political expediency and personal profit.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

John F. Kennedy’s ‘Profiles in Courage’

Review by Bill Doughty

Seventy years ago -- August 2,1943 -- young John F. Kennedy was a PT-boat commander when his PT-109 was rammed by Imperial Japanese destroyer Amagiri.  His boat exploded, killing two crew members and burning one so badly he was unable to swim.

Oil painting by Gerard Richardson (official Navy artist 1961)
“Clutching a strap of the injured man’s life jacket in his teeth, Lieutenant Kennedy towed the wounded sailor to the nearest island, three miles away.  For the next six days, with little food or water, the men hid, fearing they would be captured by the Japanese.  Each evening Kennedy swam through the shark-infested waters to other islands seeking help, until he was spotted by two Solomon Islanders, Eroni Kumana and Biuka Gasa.  They picked a coconut, onto which Kennedy carved a message, which they took to the hideout of a nearby Australian coast watcher who arranged rescue.  In the summer of 2002 a National Geographic Society expedition found that the legend of John F. Kennedy’s courage lives on in the faraway Solomon Islands.  Using remote-controlled vehicles with underwater cameras, explorer Robert Ballard and his team discovered the sunken PT-109.  Expedition members met Eroni Kumana, the man whose simple canoe saved my father’s life and changed the course of history, and his son, John F. Kennedy Kumana.”

Caroline Kennedy writes the introduction, including the excerpt above and below, in the HarperCollins 50th anniversary edition of her father’s “Profiles in Courage.”   (The book was first published in 1956 and is one of 15 top recommended reads of Navy's Chief of Information Rear Adm. John Kirby.)

“The collision with the Japanese destroyer left him with a spinal injury, which required surgery in the winter of 1954-55.  Elected to the U.S. Senate two years before, my father was interested in understanding the qualities that make a great senator.  History was his passion, and he spent his months of recuperation reading the chronicles of his legendary predecessors.”

Caroline Kennedy writes of President Kennedy’s courage in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, in which he successfully averted nuclear war, and of his support to nonviolent civil rights demonstrations in 1963 when he mobilized the Alabama National Guard, taking a stand for the ideals outlined in the Constitution.

Equal rights, equal opportunity and harmonious preservation of the Union are common themes throughout JFK’s "Profiles in Courage."  The profiles by then-Senator John F. Kennedy are of political leaders and diplomats John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton, Sam Houston, Edmund Gross, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, George Norris, Robert A. Taft and others.

Kennedy, at right, with crew of PT-109 in Solomons.  Photos from JFK Library.
Courage -- one of the core values of the Navy and Marine Corps -- is shown in the context of these profiles, where public service is motivated by “the national interest, rather than private or political gain,” JFK wrote.

Courage can be found in balance, conciliation, mutual concession and compromise, “an art essential to keeping a nation united and enabling our government to function.”

“It is compromise that prevents each set of reformers -- the wets and the drys, the one-worlders and the isolationists, the vivisectionists and the anti-vivisectionists -- from crushing the group on the extreme opposite end of the political spectrum.  The fanatics and extremists and even those conscientiously devoted to hard-and-fast principles are always disappointed at the failure of their Government to rush to implement all of their principles and to denounce those of their opponents.  But the legislator has some responsibility to conciliate those opposing forces within his state and party and to represent them in the larger clash of interests on the national level; and he alone knows that there are few if any issues where all the truth and all the right and all the angels are on one side.”

The quote brings to mind what President Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Kennedy hoped his profiles of political heroes, some long forgotten by most Americans, would be stories “that teach, offer hope and provide inspiration” for everyone.

“To be courageous, these stories make clear, requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance.  It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all.”

It’s been seventy years since the future President Kennedy’s encounter with Imperial Japan in World War II and fifty years after his assassination.  This week, in an ultimate symbol of reconciliation, harmony and peace, JFK’s daughter Caroline has been welcomed in Tokyo as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Profiles in Courage

by Bill Doughty

Like a lot of people in my generation I was fascinated by JFK’s heroism in World War II aboard PT-109.  (A Navy Reads review of Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" is coming soon.) Kennedy was a naval officer who fought in the Second World War, just like former presidents and veterans George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford.  Each of them would have an aircraft carrier namesake.  Ford’s ultra-modern, ultra-efficient CVN-78 was christened this weekend. The next Kennedy carrier, CVN-79, is being built over the next 8 years.

The Kennedy family’s Profile in Courage Award, established in 1989, is presented annually to “the nation’s public servants who have withstood strong opposition to follow what they believe to be the right course of action.”  The award has gone to people like state representative Dan Ponder Jr. (R-GA), U.S. Congressman John P. Murtha (D-PA), U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliot (D-AL), and most recently to former Arizona state representative and senator Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords of Americans for Responsible Solutions, formed with her husband former Navy Captain and astronaut Mark Kelly.  

In 2001, less than four months before 9/11, the Profile in Courage Award was presented to two statesmen: former President Gerald Ford and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who went into harm’s way (and was severely injured) in a different kind of war -- for civil rights.  In the past week, “March: Book One,” a graphic nonfiction book about Lewis’s struggle, along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was published and went to number one on a New York Times bestseller list.

The Kennedy award was presented to Ford for his courage in pardoning former President Richard Nixon after Nixon’s resignation in the face of the Watergate scandal.  Ford was known for his unimpeachable integrity.

In “Halsey’s Typhoon,” authors Drury and Clavin show how President Ford considered his wartime Navy experience in making the right decision for the good of the “ship of state.”

Veterans Day began as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I. Fighting ended in that war Nov. 11, 1918, one year after JFK was born and three years after Gerald Ford was born.  President Woodrow Wilson called for Nov. 11 to be set aside: 

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice...”

In 1961 President Kennedy signed the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Commission bill, with former first lady Mrs. Wilson at his side.

At the signing Kennedy said, “I hope the Commission will plan a memorial that expresses the faith in democracy and President Wilson's vision of peace and a dedication to international understanding that President Wilson himself did so much to advance.  He called for a New Freedom at home, and a world of unity and peace, and we are still striving to achieve these objectives.”

The Profile in Courage Award is made of sterling silver and is designed by Edwin Schlossberg, crafted by Tiffany & Co., and inspired by the lantern on USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy.  Read more about the award at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum site.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Red Cloud and Heart of Everything That Is

Review by Bill Doughty

“The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend,” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, is a terrific new book out this week that reexamines the cruelty of expansion in the American West, the warrior ethos of the Lakota Sioux, and the strategy and tactics of Red Cloud in defeating the United States Army.

“The great warrior chief Red Cloud was the only Indian ever able to claim victory over the United States,” according to Drury and Clavin, a conclusion backed up by other writers and historians.*

Red Cloud and many other colorful protagonists in “The Heart of Everything That Is” are flawed anti-heroes in a world of intertribal raids and fights, torture, mutilation, revenge, lies and numbing grief on all sides.

Photo reportedly by Ridgway Glover, 1866
“Though the Sioux were to become its most vicious practitioners, warfare among Indians was simply a way of life.  Nearly every tribe called itself “The People” and harbored deep suspicion and hatred toward outsiders with whom it competed for game and plunders.  Death arrived swiftly and often in the violent thrust and parry of aggression and defense, abetted by a culture that revolved around a quest to avenge insults and injuries real and perceived.”

In the expansion across the North American continent, individual tribes who believed in The Great Spirit faced an enemy who justified their claims in the name of Manifest Destiny.  The crusade by people of European descent can be considered a long campaign against Native Americans, often seen as less-than-human "others" undeserving of basic human rights and freedoms:

“The military historian Peter Maslowski, attending a guest-lecture series at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, was puzzled when a general from the Chinese People’s Army casually mentioned that the United States had fought the longest war in history.  America had never fought a Thirty Years’ War, let alone a Hundred Years’ War.  What was the visiting general talking about?  The answer came with the foreigner’s next breath.  He explained that he was referring to America’s nearly 300-year war against its Indians.  Much of the world beyond North America considered it to have begun in the early seventeenth century and to have lasted until the late nineteenth.”

The authors establish characters and reveal history, introducing us to the shadowy Crazy Horse, grizzled Jim Bridger (left), genocidal Gen. Sherman, flamboyant photographer Ridgway Glover, fearless Paul Revere-like “Portugee” Phillips, frightening George Washington Grummond and "Queeg-like" Col. Carrington, among others.  The book builds interest and tension throughout, culminating in a masterful depiction of the Fetterman Massacre, showing Red Cloud as “the equal of history’s great guerilla tacticians.”

Drury and Clavin, authors of other military books including “Last Men Out,” “The Last Stand of Fox Company” and “Halsey’s Typhoon,” make the book relevant to a Navy audience:

“The historian Stephen E. Ambrose notes that Indian fighting on the High Plains was more akin to naval warfare than to any other type of battle.  The U.S. Army ‘was lumbering around with battleships and cruisers, chasing pirates in sleek, fast vessels,’ and the forts and camps were like home ports to which large ships must return often for supplies.  Meanwhile the Indians lived off the land much as the pirates lived off the ocean, and the soldiers deployed to the frontier had no more comprehension of their surroundings than the crews of Columbus or Magellan reading blank charts marked with the warning, ‘Here be monsters.’”

With graphic depictions of monstrous mutilations and violence, the writing is closer to Larry McMurtry than Louis L’Amour, all the more powerful because it is nonfiction carefully noted and sourced.  There’s a tie to McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” and there are references to Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte and von Clausewitz.

Descriptions are colorful and memorable: “Bull Bear, by all accounts a canker of a man with a face like a clenched fist...”  “Under the broiling summer sun the stench of human and animal sweat and dung hung over the post like an illness.”

Chief Red Cloud
“At six feet, Red Cloud was tall for a Sioux, if not for most men of this era.  His slender face was dominated by a beaked nose and a broad forehead, and the leathery skin around his ravaged brown eyes was prematurely creased, as if by parentheses, with age lines.  Fond of accessories, such as eagle feathers and ribbons, he carried himself with an erect, regal mien; and at such formal ceremonies his long, course black hair was almost always bear-greased and plaited around the wing bone of an eagle to signify elegance and propriety.  A good, new rifle usually rested across his saddle pommel.  On the whole he projected an aura of quiet dignity with an undercurrent of physical menace.”

The book explores the role of technology in winning the overall campaign, discussing the role of the Navy Colt, Springfield rifle and other firearms and the development of the Union Pacific Railroad.  It explores how close to the surface is the savagery in our souls.  And it considers the importance of a strong defense in keeping peace.  Red Cloud, Crazy Horse's mentor, “was a living embodiment of the maxim that war is the best teacher of war.”

Drury and Clavin write, “The four pillars of Sioux leadership -- acknowledged by the tribe to this day -- are bravery, fortitude, generosity, and wisdom.  Time and again Red Cloud exhibited each.”  In the end, Red Cloud the statesman saw the way to peace.

The authors make a brilliant proposal in the Washington Post this week (during Native American Heritage month): Rename the NFL’s Washington Redskins the Washington Red Clouds.

“Named after such a proud and powerful winner, the Washington Red Clouds would be a lock to emulate their namesake and rout 49ers, defeat Raiders, humiliate Cowboys, pluck Eagles, turn back Texans, break Broncos and generally leave quivering the remaining would-be Giants and Titans of the National Football League,” they write.

In changing the Redskins name, Red Cloud would help win another battle...

Lakota delegation at the White House, 1877. Standing - Red Bear, Young-Man-Afraid-of-his-Horses, Good Voice, Ring Thunder, Iron Crow, White Tail, Young Spotted Tail. Seated - Yellow Bear, Red Cloud, Big Road, Little Wound, Black Crow. (Library of Congress)

Other authors and historians reach the same conclusion about Red Cloud’s War.  James Wilson noted that the government conceded defeat in “The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native Americans.”  McMurtry refers to Red Cloud's victories along the Bozeman Trail in his beautiful and colorful "Custer" from 2012 (published, like "The Heart of Everything That Is," by Simon & Schuster).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fueling 'Neptune's Inferno' at Guadalcanal

Review by Bill Doughty

The Guadalcanal Campaign, the “most sustained and vicious fight of the Pacific” was the birth of expeditionary warfare.  In what was considered a rematch of the Battle of Midway but without battleships and fought much farther from home, the U.S. Navy confronted an equally matched enemy, dealt with fuel challenges, faced fear and uncertainty, and fought like hell.

Told in chronological order from the summer of 1942 into the winter of 1943 and recounted minute by minute during combat, “Neptune’s Inferno” by James D. Hornfischer recreates the Guadalcanal Campaign at sea, where the Navy suffered more than twice the number of casualties at sea than the Army or Marine Corps endured on land.

Hornfischer creates short descriptive introductions of key players.  Some examples:

Nimitz: “The kind and trusting leader.”
King: “The bully.”
MacArthur: “Messianic commander of the Southwest Pacific.”
Fletcher: “Cautious, uninformed and uniformable.”
Mikawa: “A sea dog of the old school.”
Ghormley: “had a knack for going where the action was.”
Bode: “Insulting and intimidating when he was not entirely aloof.”
Scott: “He was a warrior; he always wanted his sword in the fight.”

Subtitled, “The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal,” Hornfischer’s “Neptune’s Inferno,” rising from Ironbottom Sound, reminds readers of the author’s “Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.”  Neptune brings characters, combat and calamaties of night warfare to light, with the surface Navy in sharp relief.

“The carriers and their pilots were proven winners.  American submariners were emerging as world-beaters.  The surface Navy -- the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers of the traditional black-shoe fleet -- would have their day.  At Guadalcanal as ever, it was the most expendable members of the deep-sea combat fleet, the destroyers, that made first contact with the enemy and carried the fight to him.  While Norman Scott was getting his legs under him as commander of Task Force 64, he destroyer Navy was called to turn its guns in support of their ground-pounding brethren ashore.”

Several times throughout the book Hornfischer describes “the geometry of the fight” as ships attempted surprise, control, and maneuvers such as “crossing of the T.”  Often, confusion reigned instead.  “A clear recognition of who was friend and who was foe had been the first casualty of battle,” he writes.

Fuel was a huge challenge.  It was at the heart of Rear Adm. Fletcher’s controversial and cautious approach with his aircraft carriers, an approach that frustrated Marine commanders like Gen. Vandegrift.  Worried about refueling, Fletcher removed air support from land-based troops when he withdrew his three carriers.

Even though they were closer to their controlled territories, the Japanese faced similar constraints and concern that hamstrung their strategies.  “A shortage of fuel at Rabaul forced them to be sparing and selective in the use of their major warships.”  The fight for Henderson Field was a critical battle for what the airstrip represented for fuel and other logistics.

Hornfischer reminds us of “Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet” that visited Tokyo in 1908 and prompted a hardening of attitudes and competition between the two navies after its visit.  “The fact that the Great White Fleet had nearly stranded itself at sea for lack of fuel was long forgotten by the time its journey became the emblem of romantic naval adventure.” 

Fuel became a weapon too when cruisers went into air-sea battle, with threats coming from an unexpected source: onboard aviation.

“The Achilles’ heel of a cruiser in battle was the highly flammable realm of her shipboard aviation division.  In modern navies, cruisers carried catapult-launched floatplanes for reconnaissance and gunfire spotting.  The traditionalists bemoaned the oil stains the aircraft left on their ships’ polished teak.  Untended planes could do far worse under fire.  They made their hosts into tinderboxes ... The hangars were fuses to countless other flammables: paint, paper, furniture, and exposed crates of ready-service ammunition in nearby gun mounts.  Steel and wire and cork and glass -- all of it burned readily.  The heat of the fires was sometimes intense enough to ignite paint on bulkheads two compartments away.  The burning paint ferried flames through the compartments...”

Hornfischer’s explosive descriptions and “emotional truth” storytelling help us understand the risks, daring, chaos, heroic actions and victories of the Guadalcanal Campaign.  Key to victory, according to Nimitz, was training, training and more training.

The book has dozens of great photos and maps, including of the Battle of Savo Island, Battle of Cape Esperance, and Battle of Tassafaronga.

Hornfischer wraps his narrative in a greater tragedy of young men killed before they could reach their full potential. “Neptune’s Inferno” will help us and future generations remember their sacrifice.  Today the United States Navy celebrates 238 years of service.  The revamp of the Navy Reading Program was unveiled by CNO Adm. Jon Greenert a year ago for the Navy birthday.  "Neptune's Inferno" is on the essential "Operate Forward" list.