Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Stavridis Bounce

Navy Reads got a bounce this month when the Task & Purpose blog connected to a post we published in 2013: "Stavridis's Novel Approach to Summer," in which former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. James Stavridis revealed top 20 works of fiction by authors ranging from Ian Fleming and Ian McEwan to Stephen King and Hilary Mantel, author of "Wolf Hall" (now a BBC/PBS series).

Luckily, Stavridis, as dean of The Fletcher School of Tufts University, is still recommending books, including several works of fiction, Ha Jin's "A Map of Betrayal," Emily St. John Mandel's "Station Eleven," and Phil Klay's "Redeployment," which Dean Stavridis calls "a very serious read" of "beautifully realized stories."

Two works of nonfiction he recommends from 2014 are "World Order" by Henry Kissinger and "In the Kingdom of Ice," by Hampton Sides.

On Task & Purpose U.S. Army Major Crispin Burke presents the six smart habits of the U.S. military's most successful commanders, and among those habits is reading.

"Not only does reading expose you to new ideas, but it improves concentration, helps your writing skills, and best of all, it’s a lot more productive than playing video games," Burke advises.

"Most importantly, reading will teach you that there’s very little you’ll live through that someone else hasn’t experienced already. That’s especially true in the profession of arms — after nearly 5,000 years of recorded military history, most armed conflicts differ little from the days of Sun Tzu, Thucydides, and Clausewitz," he adds.

Burke also examines the importance of sound mind and body, setting a battle rhythm, networking, getting ground truth (not relying on yes-people), and remembering humility – servant leadership. Burke offers great examples to back up his thesis. Learning through others' experiences is a task with a purpose, and reading, once embraced, becomes more joy than task.

See how then-Adm. Stavridis explained in 2012 on TED Talks how the U.S. military is delivering global security this century using more than the barrel of a gun.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ernie Pyle Reflections

by Bill Doughty

Published two days before he was killed on Ie Shima, a small island near Okinawa, war correspondent Ernie Pyle offered reflections on the "bedlam of war."  This excerpt, one of Pyle's final observations/contemplations, is republished in "Ernie's War," edited by David Nichols.
April 16, 1945 – We camped one night on a little hillside that led up to a bluff overlooking a small river. The bluff dropped straight down for a long way. Up there on top of the bluff it was just like a little park. The bluff was terraced, although it wasn't farmed. The grass on it was soft and green. And those small, straight-limbed pine trees were dotted all over it. Looking down from the bluff, the river made a turn and across it was an old stone bridge. At the end of the bridge was a village – or what had been a village.     It was now just a jumble of ashes and sagging thatched roofs from our bombardment. In every direction little valleys led away from the turn in the river.     It was a pretty and gentle a sight as you ever saw. It had the softness of antiquity about it and the miniature charm and daintiness that we see in Japanese prints. And the sad, uncanny silence that follows the bedlam of war.     A bright sun made the morning hot and a refreshing little breeze sang through the pine trees. There wasn't a shot nor a warlike sound within hearing. I sat on the bluff for a long time, just looking. It all seemed so quiet and peaceful. I noticed a lot of the Marines sitting and just looking too....
Ernie Pyle with Marines aboard a Navy ship in 1945.
At the time of his death, 70 years ago today at the hand of a Japanese machine gun sniper, the great reporter had been inspired by soldiers in Europe, welcomed by Sailors at sea in the Pacific and finally embedded with Marines. He had lived and seen the tragedy of a necessary war.

A rough draft of a column Pyle had been preparing was found on his body. It was about the end of the war in Europe. Anticipating Germany's surrender, which would come less than three weeks later, and presuming great national relief and elation about the war's end, Pyle called for remembrance:
     In the joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead. Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks.  But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world. Dead men by mass production – in one country after another – month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer. Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous. Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them. These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn't come back. You didn't see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.  We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That's the difference....
Ernie Pyle at work.
Pyle was the ultimate patriot – one who championed American warfighters, immortalized their sacrifices and shared "the agony in your heart" war creates. He could and did simultaneously hate war and love those who fought for freedom in war.

Strongly tied to his soldiers in Europe, he was exhausted by the time he came to the Pacific and frustrated by Navy censors of the time, according to biographer Nichols. The exhaustion may have colored his writing toward the end.

There is a disturbing element to Pyle's later writing in how he describes the Japanese, or "Japs," generally; however, that can perhaps be understood in the context of the times. Had he lived, one can imagine Pyle reconsidering his view and writing insightful columns about the forged friendship with America's now strong ally.

Pyle was the great humanizer of the war for Americans, telling the story of the average American warfighter, sharing his reflections and explaining to homefront readers why young Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines fought – in hopes we would never forget the sacrifices of our military in World War II.

His clear and evocative writing was rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize in 1944. Pyle inspired not only American warfighters but also the American public, educating them on the details of war, such as why men fought and risked their lives.

In the book's foreword Studs Terkel writes of Pyle: "He knew, too, that it was neither God nor Flag nor Mother that impelled a pimply faced kid to risk, to lose his life in an obscene adventure. He did it for the kid next to him; he couldn't let him down. They needed one another so bad. 'I lay there in the darkness ... thinking of the millions far away at home who must remain forever unaware of the powerful fraternalism in the ghastly brotherhood of war.'"

A joint honor guard pays tribute to Ernie Pyle at Punchbowl April 18, 2015; photo from
Ernie Pyle's remains at rest at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, "Punchbowl," on Oahu, Hawaii. A remembrance ceremony was held there this morning.

KITV(ABC) covered the ceremony.

Ernie Pyle was born in 1900.

("Ernie's War: The Best of Ernie Pyle's World War II Dispatches," edited with a biographical essay by David Nichols, 1986, Random House.)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Audacity of Fighting

Reviews by Bill Doughty

"Audacity" by Melanie Crowder (2015, Philomel Books, Penguin) is poetic narrative and historical fiction inspired by the life of Clara Lemlich, who as a young girl immigrated to the United States with her orthodox Russian Jewish family at the turn of the 20th century.

Crowder writes in free verse throughout, describing life in Russia and New York as well as the voyage sailing first to England then across the Atlantic where the salt in the air strung her eyes and the stench burned her nostrils.

Papa and Mama and little Benjamin
take one bunk
Marcus and Nathan
settle into another.
I sling my sack onto a top bunk
crawl up after it
turn my face to the tarred planks
that separate us
from the ice-cold water.

The mattress crinkles beneath me
filling the air with a pungent,
briny scent.
                    What kind of hay  
                     smells like the sea?

I pick at a loose seam
pull out a strand of the brittle stuffing.

The heat at the back of my eyes
the ball in throat
I pull my book of poems
from the bottom of my sack
hide it in the crook
between my knees and shoulders
whisper each line
in time
to the gently rocking boat.

Clara Lemlich, 2010
"Audacity" shows the challenges facing girls who yearn for an education but who live in fundamentalist families "where study is disobedience." 

Her own father burns her books when he discovers them. When she has to work to help provide food for her family she is met with cruelty in the early 1900s garment industry.

Clara sees "her own destiny is gripped in the fists of others," yet she stands up to seemingly intractable violence, harassment, sexual assault and inequality in the workplace.

Throughout "Audacity" images of various birds – starling, shrike, thrush, sparrow, hawk, warbler – fly across the pages, leading Clara from poverty and sweatshops to fighting for better working conditions and the growing chorus calling for women's right to vote.

... Fighting

"Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting" by Kevin Powers (2014, Little and Brown Company) is a slim volume by the poet and Iraq War who is a PEN/Hemingway award winner for "The Yellow Birds."

Like Phil Klay ("Redeployment") and Tim O'Brien ("The Things They Carried," from the Vietnam generation), Powers presents war and peace as stark, intertwined and connected.

War and memories of war follow the warrior into civilian life. Powers presents the images of war in detached cruel realities, exemplified in "Field Manual." As with Klay's opening story in "Redeployment" he makes readers think about how feral dogs in the war zone had to be removed.

Everything can become associated with the shadow of war, even the poems themselves.

From "Improvised Explosive Device":

If this poem had wires
coming out of it,
you would not read it.
If the words in this poem were made
of metal, if you could see
the mechanics of their curvature,
you would hope they would stay covered
by whatever paper rested
in the trash pile they were hidden in.
But words or wires would lead you still
to fields of grass between white buildings.

In poems titled "Meditation on a Main Supply Route," "Death, Mother and Child," "Blue Star Mother," "Portugal" and "A Lamp in the Place of the Sun," the author takes us from Mosul to Europe to his home in Virginia.

Anthony Swofford, author of "Jarhead," called Powers's "The Yellow Birds" worthy of being on the "high rare shelf alongside Ernest Hemingway and Tim O'Brien."

As in Klay's "Redeployment" and O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Powers shows how the shadow of war can be both dark and illuminating.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

How Dr. Craven and Navy Won 'Silent' Cold War

Review by Bill Doughty

Dr. John Piña Craven, 1924-2015.
The world lost an American hero last February when John Piña Craven passed away at the age of 90.  Memorial services are being held this week in Hawaii.

Dr. Craven, who served as an enlisted Sailor in World War II, was a scientist, professor and Cold War warrior as Chief Scientist, U.S. Navy's Special Projects Office.
He reveals provocative information in "The Silent War" – how USS Halibut (SSGN-587) and deep undersea technology discovered a lost rogue Soviet submarine and how "the United States Navy successfully challenged the Soviet Black Sea Fleet." The result, according to Craven: President Gorbachev became convinced that Soviet leadership was being corrupted and right-wing chauvinistic zealots were gaining control of the military.
He explains the development of the Polaris missile and submarine, SeaLab (which "signaled the occupation of the sea by humans as marine mammals"), and DSRV – Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle, featured in "The Hunt for Red October."

During the Cold War, Craven writes, "A major issue for both sides was freedom of navigation, the right of commerce and the military to have full access to the ocean."

"The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea" shows how science, technology, logic and reason can be employed for the preservation of peace.

Though written before 9/11, Craven's book shows prescience and insights about the threat of global warming, the need for innovation and the danger of privatization in fracturing command and control, especially with respect to nuclear weapons. He even comments on the danger of growing income inequality.

Imagine, this was written in 2001:
"The recent events in North Korea and the Balkans demonstrate that new forms of policing are required. We must guard the undersea and the littorals of the world in the new era of global instability. The coastal zone, the home of our burgeoning population, is also affected by a widening gap between the rich and poor."
Navy Captains Scott and Mark Kelly at NASA.
He compares undersea exploration and living to NASA missions in space. "Our dive to the floor of the Atlantic was at least as difficult technologically as Apollo touching down on the moon, if not more so."

Reading in 2015 his comparison with space exploration and a discussion of undersea psychological tests brings to mind the upcoming Mars-related mission involving twin naval aviators turned astronauts, Captains Scott and Mark Kelly.

Bringing it back to earth, Craven describes his complicated relationship with Adm. Hyman Rickover, comparing their upbringing in families of immigrants in Williamsburg, New York – Craven's family via Scotland and Rickover's from Russia.

Tunis Augustus MacDonough Craven, U.S. Navy
Craven traces his naval lineage through several generations on his father's side, including the commanding officer of USS Tecumseh, sunk by the Confederates at the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War. On his mother's side, the Hispanic "Piña" were once Moorish pirates, he candidly reports.

Dr. Craven's humility, sense of humor and love of science show through in this book, which is filled with surprises, intrigue and fascinating revelations. For his actions, Craven was most often awarded quietly behind the scenes.

One of Craven's two Distinguished Civilian Service Awards was presented by former Secretary of the Navy John Chafee for the scientist's work with USS Halibut to locate and identify the missing Soviet submarine. President Nixon secretly visited Hawaii to award the Presidential Unit Citation to Halibut's crew, according to Craven.

After his service with the Navy Dr. Craven was marine affairs coordinator for the state of Hawaii. He also served as dean of marine programs at the University of Hawaii and was appointed as director of the Law of the Sea Institute before serving as president of the Common Heritage Corporation.

USS Halibut (SSGN-587). Photo from New York Times.
In "Silent" Craven is careful about what he reveals, neither confirming nor denying certain specifics of projects or missions.

"The discipline of tight security is such that until you are specifically released from its constraints you must follow them to the grave," he writes. 

His family provided this obituary: "John moved his family to Honolulu in 1970 for 'one year' and ended up staying for over forty more. John was known for his professional accomplishments as a nationally recognized ocean scientist and marine educator. But with equal zest he embraced music, art and poetry, which he loved to share with everyone he met."

"The Silent War" concludes with a poetic paragraph in tribute to the military and civilian public servants who, with him, helped win the Cold War:
"They also taught us to walk softly and display strength; to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves; to prepare a world for future generations that cannot speak for themselves; to know that actions speak louder than words and, acting as children of the ocean, in the silence of the ocean deeps, to create a silence that is heard around the world."
From his obituary, published in the March 29 Honolulu Star-Advertiser: "A celebration of John's remarkable life will be held at Central Union Church on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 5:00 pm, with visitation at 4:30 pm and a reception following the service. In accordance with his wishes, John's ashes will be spread at sea. He was dearly loved and will be greatly missed.

"In lieu of flowers, the John P. Craven Marine Education Fund (#127-0620-4) at the University of Hawaii Foundation has been established to honor his life and passion. The fund will support student scholarships in the Marine Option Program. Checks should be written to UH Foundation and sent to UH Foundation, PO Box 11270, Honolulu, HI 96828-0270. Please include either the fund name or fund number when sending checks."

("The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea" by John Piña Craven, former Chief Scientist, U.S. Navy's Special Projects Office, 2001, Simon & Shuster)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Duke's Coach K and Navy Core Values

by Bill Doughty

Coach K after 1,000 wins with his 2014/2015 team.
Victory starts with strong defense and execution through power projection. That's the theme of today's victory by the Duke Blue Devils over the Michigan State Spartans.

The best teams have strong, good and caring coaches, and each of the coaches for this year's NCAA Final Four tournament in Indianapolis has a good, experienced coach on the bench.

"But the strongest bench job of the season has been done by arguably the best coach of any sport on the planet: Mike Krzyzewski," writes Steve DeShazo of on the eve of today's game.

Coach K and Coach Izzo have fun yesterday.
Coach K is the picture of sustained honor, courage and commitment.

"After 35 years at Duke, his program is almost self-sustaining," DeShazo writes. "He’s won a record 1,016 games, four national titles and will tie the legendary John Wooden today with his 12th Final Four appearance ... Krzyzewski’s role with USA Basketball enriches his status even more."

Krzyewski knows when to be serious yet he shows he can have fun.

Coach K is author of several books, including "The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team," "Beyond Basketball: Coach K’s Keywords For Success" and "Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business, and Life." We featured "Leading with the Heart" in a recent Navy Reads review; the book is on the CNO's Professional Reading Program.

Coach K on Honor, Courage and Commitment:

Honored to coach Team USA in the Olympics.
Honor as head coach of USA team in the Olympics – “For me, this is the ultimate honor in coaching,” said Krzyzewski. “It is a chance to represent the United States at this elite level of basketball. I am honored to be chosen and look forward to the opportunity to develop this team that will represent our great country in its own sport, both on and off the court.”

Courageous leadership – “It takes courage not only to make decisions, but to live with those decisions afterward.”

Committed teamwork – “Mutual commitment helps overcome the fear of failure—especially when people are part of a team sharing and achieving goals. It also sets the stage for open dialogue and honest conversation.”