Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reflecting Heroism, September 2013

By Bill Doughty

This has been a month to reflect on the meaning of service, sacrifice and courage in the face of violence.

The week began with a terrible tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard at the Naval Sea Systems Command less than a week after 9/11.  It is ending with memorials, commemoration and more reflection.  

Throughout the week there have been expressions of grief and resolve.  Tomorrow, the nation will pause to honor those killed in the mass shooting last Monday.

Remembering POWs and MIAs  

In different ceremonies across the nation, DOD and Navy leaders paid respect to other patriots, including Prisoners of War and missing servicemembers.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks with Rolling Thunder Sept. 20, 2013.  
(Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)
Yesterday, at a Pentagon ceremony, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “Americans in uniform today are inspired by the fierce resolve of generations of American POWs.  We also draw inspiration from the bonds of camaraderie, compassion, and love that prompted our POWs to care for each other, and sustain each other, through terrible, terrible months and years of hardship.”

Addressing families and friends of missing servicemember, Hagel said, “Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty and heartache go away.  But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our armed forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do whatever we can to find them and bring them home.”

Portraits of Valor in War

In a ceremony at Naval Base San Diego yesterday, the Navy named three Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyers for three heroes in three conflicts -- WWII, Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Named in the ceremony Sept. 20 were: USS John Finn (DDG 113), USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115).  The names were selected by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who was unable to attend the ceremony because of the shooting tragedy at the Navy Yard.

The building of these ships has been overseen and coordinated by the men and women of Naval Sea Systems Command.

Beyond the Call of Duty

During this time of reflection, an inspiring book to pick up is “Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty” by photographer Nick Del Calzo and writer Peter Collier.

This large tabletop book gives a synopsis of the heroism of each Medal of Honor recipient living at the time it was published.

My copy is from 2003 and offers a forward by former President and WWII Veteran George H. W. Bush.

“The Medal of Honor pays homage to comrades who have given their lives for this great country.  These gallant souls, in their heroism and their humility, epitomize the nobility of service to country and of service above self,” Bush writes, concluding, “Americans for all times will treasure the gifts that these brave warriors have given to all of us so selflessly.”

John and wife Alice Finn in 1933.
John Finn was still living when this edition was published.  He is featured in photos in his beloved American West and as a young man with his sweetheart on a motorcycle.  The narrative in “Medal of Honor” recounts his courageous response on the morning of the attack on Oahu of Dec. 7, 1941.
“Finn found a mobile instruction stand on which guns were sometimes mounted to teach gunnery.  Although enemy planes continued to strafe the position, he moved the stand into a parking area where he would have clear visibility. Then he set a .50-caliber machine gun on it and began to shoot ... Finn had been hit by shrapnel in twenty-one places; several were serious wounds.  His left arm was numb, and a bullet had passed through one foot.  Following medical treatment, he returned to the squadron area and supervised the rearming of the remaining American planes.” 

Gen. (ret.) Richard B. Myers, then CJCS, and Lt. (ret.) John Finn look at
“Medal of Honor” book. (Photo by Mamie Mae Burke, Jan. 19, 2005.)
This book includes essays by Tom Brokaw and Senator John McCain, a POW during Vietnam who writes compellingly about owing his life to Medal of Honor recipient Air Force Maj. George “Bud” Day and Maj. Norris Overly.   Day is profiled in Del Cazo’s and Collier’s book.

McCain writes about fellow prisoners Rear Adm. Jim Stockdale and Captain Lance Sijan, both of whom showed how to live the principles of the Code of Conduct.

“As you read in these pages about Bud, Jim, and Lance, and Leo Thorsness and Jon Cavaiani, who were in prison with us, and about my friends Bob Kerrey and Dan Inouye, and all the other heroes whose extraordinary service to America is memorialized in this book you will be awed, as I am, not only by their courage and character, but by the country that produced such men and that was ennobled by the example they set for the rest of us.”

Included in the 2003 version of “Medal of Honor” are Eugene B. Fluckey, Hiroshi H. Miyamura, Donald E. Ballard, Robert E. Bush, Rodolfo P. Hernandez, George T. Sakato, William R. Charette and Ernest Childers, along with dozens of others.

A newer edition of this book includes an introduction from Brian Williams and letters from all living presidents, including President Barack Obama, who will be attending a memorial tomorrow, as announced Thursday by Press Secretary Jay Carney, “to mourn the loss of these innocent victims and share in the nation’s pain in the aftermath of another senseless mass shooting.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, right, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, second from right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus stand during the playing of taps at a wreath-laying at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Sept. 17, 2013. The defense leaders held the small ceremony to remember the 12 victims of the Sept. 16 shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Back to Basics: Salty, Fresh History

Reviews by Bill Doughty

This week and next the U.S. Navy is making and living history.  At Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the People’s Republic of China Army Navy is making a port visit (see a photo of the "Aloha Arrival" ceremony at the bottom of this blog post). The Chinese navy is readying for a search and rescue exercise with host ship USS Lake Erie (CG-70) in waters off Diamond Head, Hawaii.
USS Lake Erie (CG 70) is homeported in Hawaii.

USS Lake Erie is a guided-missile cruiser named for the Battle of Lake Erie from the War of 1812; next week, Sailors will commemorate the bicentennial of that battle.

A lot has happened in those 200 years: from wooden ships to littoral combat ships; the birth of naval air forces, airpower and UAV; nuclear-powered fleet ballistic submarines; computers and cyber-security.  The world is changing too, as captured in the Maritime Strategy, from world war confrontation to global cooperation. Think about the evolution of the fleet and the world in which it operates today.

Thomas J. Cutler thinks and writes about changes and challenges over the past 200-plus years in “A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy.” His Naval Institute Press book is a mainstay and now a top pick on the “Be Ready” list of the CNO’s Professional Reading Program suggested reads.

Cutler writes about the “magic” of the lore, language and legacy of the United States Navy, and invites Sailors to reflect on the “club” to which they belong.  His book recounts and makes relevant history through the stories of Sailors in the past and present.

“The more you know about the Sailors who served before you, the more prepared you will be to do your job, and do it well.  It is your turn to follow in the wakes of those who went before you, to lead the way for others who will follow you, and to make your contributions to the Navy’s ongoing legacy of honor, courage, and commitment.”

In a Chapter 6, “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” Cutler sets the stage with a brief description of Master Commandant (Commander) Oliver Hazard Perry, his famous pennant and the sailors who fought in the face of adversity at the Battle of Lake Erie.  Cutler then gives more recent history, including the story of the five Sullivans brothers lost aboard USS Juneau in Guadalcanal Campaign, 70 years ago this year.  He ties in the brothers’ namesake ships, including the current USS Sullivans (DDG 68), showing how the ship was targeted in a failed attack by al Qaeda in Aden, Yemen in January 2000.  That same year, on the day before the Navy’s 224th birthday, terrorists launched another attack on an Navy ship, this time against USS Cole (DDG 67).

Cutler recounts the heroism of the Sailors who all focused on three tasks, “caring for the injured, providing security against further attack, and saving the ship.”  Don’t give up the ship...

The author packs a lot of history in this easy-to-read overview that contains stories and photos about JFK’s PT-109, Rear Adm. “Amazing” Grace Hopper, 1776‘s gondola Philadelphia, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, battleship USS Maine, Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate Carl Brashear, and naval aviator and astronaut Alan Shepard Jr., among others.

In the appendix he offers synopses of key engagements through battle streamers, showing the operational history of the U.S. Navy.  

The streamers demonstrate a commitment to always “Be Ready.”

Speaking of “back to the basics,” also recommended is a new book by Rear Adm. Robert O. Wray Jr., “Saltwater Leadership: A Primer on Leadership for the Junior Sea-Service Officer.”

The book, with a forward by Sen. John McCain, is endorsed by retired Adm. Gary Roughead, former chief of naval operations, and former President George H. W. Bush, who served as a naval aviator and “junior officer at sea.”

Wray offers self-described bite-sized “sea stories” and practical, pragmatic “salty advice” along with plenty of lists, including traits and tributes, rules and advice, and a list of 35 books on leadership!

Interestingly, the book opens with advice from ancient philosopher from China Lao Tzu:

A leader is best 
When people barely know that he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Worst when they despise him.

“Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you”;

But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will all say, “We did this ourselves.”

-- Lao Tzu’s “Tao Teh Ching,” verse 17, 6th century BC

Wray’s book was just published by the Naval Institute Press and is in the same “Blue and Gold Professional Library” series as “The Bluejackets Manual,” “Command at Sea,” and “A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy” (above), among others.  

Wray writes, “One hundred percent of the royalties from this book will be donated to charities that support Sailors and mariners, including the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, the Coast Guard Foundation, and the United Seaman’s Service.”

130906-N-ZK021-008 – PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Sept. 6, 2013) – U.S. and Chinese leaders watch as Keiki Hula dancers perform during an arrival ceremony for three People’s Liberation Army-Navy ships, Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao (DDG 113), Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547) and a Fuqing-class fleet oiler as they arrive in Hawaii for a scheduled port visit. Over the weekend, Chinese and U.S. leaders will conduct dialogues to build confidence and mutual understanding between the two nations. The port visit is part of the U.S. Navy’s ongoing effort to maximize opportunities for developing relationships with foreign navies to build trust, encourage multilateral cooperation, enhance transparency, and avoid miscalculation in the Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardel Gervacio/Released)