Sunday, June 23, 2013

Taunt of 'Congo' -- Navy Lt. in Africa

by Bill Doughty

“Congo: The Miserable Expeditions and Dreadful Death of Lt. Emory Taunt, USN” by Andrew C. A. Jampoler, soon-to-be released by the Naval Institute Press, is a fascinating safari into the history of Africa and the adventures and “misadventures,” as Craig L. Symonds calls them, of a naval officer more than a century ago, a mere two decades after the Civil War.

Symonds, author of "Battle of Midway" and "Lincoln and His Admirals" writes in his review note, “In 1885 an otherwise undistinguished U.S. Navy lieutenant named Emory Taunt embarked alone on a journey up the Congo River into what was then still called darkest Africa. Soon Taunt was seeking to parlay his presumed expertise into a lucrative contract with businessman Henry Sanford, and when that didn't pan out, to convince President Cleveland that he should be named U.S. consul to the Congo State. This history of Taunt's misadventures is a window into the curious and conflicted U.S. relationship with Africa in the late Victorian era, and especially with the Congo basin."

SECNAV cover letter, 1887.
Jampoler retraces Taunt’s journey down the Congo River to “Banana Point” and the Atlantic Ocean in the book’s epilogue.  In the preceding chapters he ponders the hard life of native porters, the effects of slavery, the influence of business and religion in the 1800s, the dangers of malaria and yellow fever, and Taunt’s and others’ political schemes and dreams. 

The narrative pivots on taunt’s spotty record in the Navy, culminating in a court-martial for unauthorized absence due to intoxication, a case that led to a clemency appeal and involvement by Commander-in-Chief President Grover Ceveland, and one of the most interesting excuses for incapacity due to alcohol.

Taunt contended his UA was due to a previous trip to Africa.  Jampoler recounts what Taunt told The New York Herald

“I returned from the Congo broken down with fevers, liver troubles and malaria, and I have not felt myself at all ... I did not mean to disobey orders, and I was not drinking anything stronger than some wine which my doctor ordered for me.  My mind is a blank as to what transpired...”

Map of Taunt's expedition down the Congo, Navy History and Heritage Cmd.
Divorced and resigned from the Navy, Taunt lobbied successfully for an appointment as commercial agent in Boma, Congo with a paltry annual salary of $4,000.  His success brings to mind the so-called Chinese curse, “be careful what you ask for, you may get it.”

Rather than achieve wealth and immortality, Taunt, continued to contract diseases in the Congo, died at the young age of 39.  His adventure did manage to bring attention to Belgian atrocities in Africa.

Jampoler introduces us to some colorful characters in the late 1800s.

Sen. George Edmunds helped establish and fund the position Taunt would fill in Boma.  The senator was best known for his sponsorship of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, a law prohibiting polygamy and de-incorporating the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, pushing Mormon practitioners, including Mitt Romney’s grandfather, to seek foreign sanctuary in Mexico.

Sen. John Tyler Morgan, “former Confederate general, and emeritus Grand Dragon of the Alabama Realm of the Ku Klux Klan, (who) stood on the front rank of those few American politicians engaged in Congo policy making near the end of the century.” Morgan supported a drive to repatriate American blacks to Africa.

Jampoler writes about legislator and gifted Renaissance man George Washington Williams of Pennsylvania, who “just missed being appointed the American minister to Haiti; the post went to Frederick Douglass instead.” Williams indicted King Leopold directly in strong language for “deceit, fraud, robberies, arson, murder, slave-raiding,” etc. in Congo.

Finally, Emory Taunt is tied with British author and former merchant seaman Joseph Conrad, whom he met in Congo.  Conrad is best known as the author of “Heart of Darkness,” which was first published in 1899.  Jampoler opens “Congo” with an excerpt from “Heart of Darkness”:

“Going up the river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings.  An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest.  The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish.  There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine.  The long stretches of the waterway ran on deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances.  On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side.  The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off forever from everything you had known once -- somewhere -- far away -- in another existence perhaps.”

The Congo River is described as having 15 times the runoff of the Nile, providing perspective and scope for the exploration and exploitation that occurred centuries ago.

Andrew C. A. Jampoler
“Congo” flows between bits of history and personality insights and includes links to the War of 1812 and Napoleon and the aftermath of the Civil War and naval history from Peru to Samoa and from the East Coast of the United States to western Africa and King Leopold ll’s documented abuses of native people in Congo.

Jampoler documents how other authors weighed in on Leopold’s crimes.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain, perhaps America’s greatest writer, reported on the atrocities and lobbied for progressive change and reforms to President Theodore Roosevelt.

Naval Institute Press of Annapolis has published another winner in “Congo,” a good summer -- or fall -- read.  NIP offers a list of other reading recommendations this week in its 2013 fall catalog.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bono on Change: Value, Commitment, Transformation

(Rear Adm. Raquel Cruz Bono served as Command Surgeon J07, U.S. Pacific Command. This summer she was assigned to lead the National Capital Medical Directorate.  She provides a recommended reading list and reviews to Navy Reads this week. -- Bill Doughty)

By Rear Adm. Raquel Cruz Bono

I've always been fascinated by the challenges of adapting to change, making change happen and the responsibilities of leadership to be an effective agent of change.  In each of my jobs, I've observed and studied the various challenges that individuals, leaders and organizations experience as they anticipate, respond to and create change.  Not all change events were successful, but they have all been instructive. While electronic media have globalized the transfer of knowledge and access to information, reading is still required to assimilate novel thoughts, to maintain contemporary understanding of world events, and to develop insight into complex issues.

Rear Adm. Raquel Bono speaks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Photo by MC3 Diana Quinlan.
The following books have shaped my approach to and appreciation for change.  While change is often anxiety provoking for the ambiguity it often represents and brings, change also offers a wide vista in which to make change happen -- an imperative skill set for today's leadership.  Leadership begins with the ability to influence the behaviors of others so that their collective actions are synchronized to a common objective.  I've found that the most effective leaders don't require a solid or dotted line on an organizational chart to be an effective leader.  Often times, their effectiveness starts with how they value and respect the people with whom they work.

Respecting and valuing the contributions of others is challenging even in communities who share common attributes, but it can be especially daunting when backgrounds, values and upbringing are distinctly unique from each other.  Valuing others' inputs often begins with developing cross-cultural appreciation -- both internationally and within the US.  The following books have been very helpful to deepening my appreciation of the richness and distinctive nuances of the Asia Pacific countries and cultures. 

In Our Image” (Stanley Karnow) is an historical retrospective of the relationship between the United States and the Philippines through a journalist's observations.  He chronicles the shifting and sometimes inconsistent partnering between the US and the Philippines.  While not always flattering for either country, the Filipinos' fledgling efforts to develop a sense of nationalism was not only challenged by the influences of occupying countries and cultures, but sometimes clashed with the United States' efforts to introduce American ideals and values.

Another very insightful book is On China (Henry Kissinger).  This is a lengthy tome, but Mr. Kissinger's writing style makes for a very easy and informative read.  He has deep respect, insight and understanding of the complex and intricate society of the People's Republic of China.  His book serves to emphasize how achieving a successful, working relationship with the PRC demands patience, appreciation and sensitivity.  Both of these books serve to illustrate that relationship-building begins with valuing the unique and distinctive characteristics of a people and their societies.  Tremendous change is often possible when successful leaders demonstrate authentic appreciation for the subtle and diverse attributes among their staffs and within their own organizations.

Opportunities to advance goals and achieve progress abound.  Yet, often these occasions pass with little impact to an end state.  Making change happen begins with the commitment to change.  While the following two books are health-centered, they offer keen examples of how care given to others was elevated when a commitment was made to change the usual provision of care and concentrate on a patient's needs.  

“Rule Number Two” (Heidi Kraft, MD) is a heartrending account of a psychiatrist and the troops she cared for while deployed to a combat hospital in Iraq.  She brings to the forefront the psychological trauma that accompanies the very visible injuries of war while also reminding us that sometimes the greatest trauma is that which we cannot see or bandage or repair.  As our military and society collectively grapple with the repercussions of post-traumatic stress, Dr. Kraft reminds us of the importance of resiliency and caring and appreciating the sacrifices that all have made.

“In Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance” (Atul Gawande, MD) shares a series of vignettes that show how the commitment of the dedicated can have profound and sweeping impact to elevate the health and well-being of a country, as was done by eliminating polio in India.  In each story, there is a goal to make something better, a desire to reach beyond the status quo followed by the single-minded focus that creates the dedication and momentum to make change happen.  While set primarily in the field of medicine where the demand for mistakes are low and the stakes high, there are lessons applicable to any sector that is challenged to produce the very best product despite limited reserves, information or resources.

As change management becomes an imperative with the evolving and rapid challenges of today, the following books articulate helpful reminders and strategies.  

“Leading Change” (John P. Kotter) reminds us of the various challenges that hinder efforts to transform an organization.  At the root of change management is creating a sense of urgency that propels an alteration in behavior -- at the personal and the company levels.  Kotter does a nice job of describing those cultural and institutional habits that tend to get in the way of transformation and create resistance to change.

On the other hand, Malcom Gladwell's book, “The Tipping Point,” describes the birth of a fad or new idea and how it takes hold in our society -- i.e., how it reaches the tipping point and becomes popular.  It starts with the premise that little things can make a difference and by changing the behavior of small groups, a change is set in motion that attracts larger groups of people who now behave differently and are in concert with others.

I like to put the above two books together to understand how to overcome some of the barriers to change by recognizing where the resistance to change is resident, guiding  change to happen in incremental steps first (individual behavior) and then allowing momentum to transform an organization.

However, an important aspect of change is being able to effectively message the need for change and describe what specific changes are required.  “Made to Stick” (Chip Heath & Dan Heath) looks at what makes an idea "stick" and become memorable.  It's an insightful look into what makes communication effective and describes the attributes that make a concept easy to grasp, to assimilate and then to act upon.  There are some helpful suggestions, but a critical aspect of “Made to Stick” is understanding how a receiver's framework for receiving information is a powerful filter that can undo an otherwise compelling transmitter -- i.e., in order to be heard, you have to know how your audience listens.

Two additional books about transformation and change management are written by Daryl R. Conner.  “Managing at the Speed of Change” and “Leading at the Edge of Chaos” describe how change agents need to be rapidly adaptive and creatively resilient as progress and change are happening nearly instantaneously.  

Rapidly evolving global issues require leadership that is agile and anticipatory rather than plodding and reactive.  The themes in these books show that change happens regardless of any effort to prevent it and shaping an organization's response to change is an effective strategy for influencing outcomes while optimizing choices.

Finally, as a parent, one of the most challenging changes to manage are the transformations that happen to your children as they transition from childhood, through teens and into adulthood.  While “Ten Best Gifts for Your Teen” (Patt & Steve Saso) is primarily written for parents of rising teens, I again found application to the challenges of leadership and managing change.  Of the ten gifts that they describe, the most effective ones I've found are respect and reconciliation -- both at home and in the office.  

Respect is at the heart of any relationship and begins with accepting another's thoughts and feelings.  Respecting a teen's privacy and emerging social interests is just as important as respecting a colleague's expertise and opinion on a topic.  However, the more challenging gift to give anyone is reconciliation - the ability to apologize and admit to being wrong.  The transformative power of an apology is enormous, and at the heart of effective leadership is maintaining one's humanity through the sustainment of your relationships.


FORWARD OPERATING BASE FARAH, Afghanistan (Jan. 18, 2013) Operations Specialist 1st Class Megan Garcia, a tactical operations watchstander for Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Farah, reads a book to her children as part of a United Through Reading Read-a-thon. Participants in the program were encouraged to read to children in their families or to students at Birch Elementary in Idaho, to promote childhood literacy. United Through Reading is a non-profit organization that enables deployed service members to share their love and support with their children by reading books aloud on DVD. PRT Farah's mission is to train, advise, and assist Afghan government leaders at the municipal, district, and provincial levels in Farah province Afghanistan. Their civil military team is comprised of members of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup/Released)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

‘Midway Magic,’ Legacy of Battle of Midway

by Bill Doughty

Forty years ago, October 5, 1973, USS Midway (CV 41) -- named for the Battle of Midway -- pulled into its new forward-deployed port: Yokosuka, Japan.
Built in Newport News, Virginia and commissioned just after Imperial Japan’s surrender in 1945 in Tokyo Bay, near Yokosuka, USS Midway would become America’s longest serving aircraft carrier in the 20th Century, deployed near the Arctic and in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Midway projected power and presence in a variety of conflicts throughout the Cold War, Korean War, Vietnam War and beyond, including in Operation Desert Storm.

Scott McGaugh’s “Midway Magic: An Oral History of America’s Legendary Aircraft Carrier” is a tribute to the continually deploying, hard-working carrier.  “Midway became known as one of the best operating carriers in the Navy in the 1970s and 80s,” he writes.
The author recognizes by name many of the COs and deckplate Sailors who served aboard Midway over the decades.  He lauds Sailors and civilians -- including Japanese civilian workers who worked on the ship, including in drydock in Yokosuka.

“Each time Midway put in at the Yokosuka ship repair facility, Japanese shipyard workers overhauled a designated portion of the carrier.  Every few months, part of Midway was enhanced, repaired, or replaced.  Other carriers went into the yard periodically for two-year overhauls.  Midway was usually in port for no more than a month.  Hundreds of Japanese ship workers descended on Midway upon arrival in Yokosuka.  The honesty and dedication of Japanese welders, electricians, pipe fitters, and plumbers working on Midway became legendary.”
In 1942 it was American civilian shipyard workers in Pearl Harbor who repaired, refitted and rearmed the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) to play a key role in helping the Navy win the Battle of Midway.
If the Battle of Midway represented a turnaround in the War in the Pacific, 30 years later the arrival of the USS Midway in Japan marked a solidarity of partnership as allies, with the U.S. Navy and Japan Self-Defense Force as the best of friends.
It was the first time for a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to be assigned to the forward-deployed naval forces stationed in Japan.  While there were decidedly mixed feelings by the people of Japan, demonstrations against the carrier were mostly because of opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Midway’s arrival in October 1973 occurred just 36 weeks after the Paris Peace Accords were signed to end the war.  Coincidentally, that month saw the beginning of the world embargo of oil by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) during the Arab-Israeli War.  World War II in the Pacific began in 1941, in large part, because of an embargo against Japan because of that country’s expansion into other Asian countries for oil and other resources.
Lt. George Gay with his squadron just prior to the Battle of Midway.
The Battle of Midway, 71 years ago this week, was a historic milestone against fascism and for freedom.  It was a watershed moment for aviation, too, proving the era of battleships was ending and the time of naval aviation and aircraft carriers had begun.  The Battle of Midway showed the spirit of a bonded and enervated force, dedicated to working together using new technology and exploring innovative new tactics to achieve victory for the common good.
McGaugh’s “Midway Magic” begins with an introduction by a naval (and Air Force exchange program) aviator who served aboard USS Midway after his commissioning from the U.S Naval Academy -- astronaut Wally Shirra.  “I was one of the fresh-faced kids aboard Midway in 1950, a hot-shot aviator at the dawn of the jet age.”  Shirra writes:
Midway Pilot and Astronaut Wally Shirra

“For men and nations alike, Midway did more than influence our world.  Midway dictated the course of world events, sometimes by her mere presence as a beat cop stepping into the middle of a heated dispute, at other times as the fireman rushing into harm’s way to save lives.  For me and thousands of other young men over the expanse of nearly 50 years, Midway Magic showed each of us our backbone, inspired us to never cut our dreams to fit, and taught us values and ideals that served as guideposts for rest of our lives.  And in the hearts and souls of the men who served aboard her, the magic continues to this day.”
McGaugh describes with emotion the decommissioning ceremony of USS Midway 21 years ago, attended by, among others, aviators Adm. Riley Mixson, Mugs McKeown, Dick Parker and George Gay.  It was one of the last public appearances by Gay, the famed survivor of the Battle of Midway who was also present at the ship’s launching.
USS Midway was remembered for its role in war and peace, including in humanitarian missions such as its final mission in 1991, after the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption in the Philippines.  Along with USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Midway provided emergency evacuation of 15,000 military and civilian personnel from Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base.
The decommissioning wasn’t the end of the Magic.
Ten years ago, Aug. 29, 2003, the ship was awarded to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum nonprofit.  It was towed from Bremerton to Oakland to San Diego and opened as a museum in 2004.
Today, USS Midway Museum sits proudly at Navy Pier, off Harbor Drive, part of downtown San Diego.
“Midway Magic’s” appendix includes a work of poetry from the ship’s 1989-1990 cruise book.  Here’s an excerpt:
For more than forty-five years 
Midway has steamed,
Returning to safe harbor --
Mission following mission.

Amid the pulsation of four shafts
And the throb of jets at military power,
The true beat of her heart
Depends on the courageous --

Those who tread the decks,
Populate the compartments,
Operate the machinery,
Serve in Harmony.

Remember the faithful
Whose final service
Was given in full measure
On this Gray Lady...


(I was a student in Japan and worked for the Navy Exchange in 1973.  I watched the USS Midway arrive at its new forward-deployed port of Yokosuka in October of that year.  Several years later I served as editor of the base newspaper Seahawk.  -- Bill Doughty)