The Navy

Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, B.J. ’77, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command  –  Commencement Address  —  University of Texas at Austin 2014
Some times the Navy has something to say


The Author of Pacific Glory met with Fleet Admiral Nimitz years after the Admiral retired. One question he asked the Admiral was how were the Japanese battleships and cruisers allowed to penetrate into MacArthur’s Naval Force supporting the Philippine landings. Nimitz paused for a moment then said it was his fault. You must be familiar with the Japanese plan and our response, along with past Pacific Naval decisions to appreciate Admiral Nimitz’s statement. In this editor’s mind, in that response many years after the engagement, Admiral Nimitz stands with Bradly and Marshall as a truly great leader.

Tour boats ferry
people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes.
We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes.. I went into a
small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book
entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor ” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Sunday, December
7th, 1941–Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington
D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he
answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the
phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the
Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Admiral Nimitz flew
to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl
Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair,
dejection and defeat– you would have thought the Japanese had already won the
war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of
the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.. Big sunken
battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked.

As the tour boat
returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do
you think after seeing all this destruction?” Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked
everyone within the sound of his voice.

Admiral Nimitz said,
“The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever
make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”

Shocked and
surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made
the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz explained:

Mistake number one :
the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen
of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured
to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two :
when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so
carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks
opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have
had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is
now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull
them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the
time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews
ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three
: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the
ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane
could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why
I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could
make or God was taking care of America.

I’ve never forgotten
what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect
upon it.
In jest, I might
suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in
Fredricksburg, Texas –he was a born optimist. But any way you look at
it–Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and
circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.

President Roosevelt
had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a
leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection,
despair and defeat .


Never Liked the Movie – this is a good story


The Real Story by CAPT Paul N. Gray, USN, Ret,

USNA ’41, former CO of VF-54.


Recently, some friends saw the movie “The Bridges at Toko-ri” on late night TV. After seeing it, they said, “You planned and led the raid. Why don’t you tell us what really happened?” Here goes.

I hope Mr. Michener will forgive the actual version of the raid. His fictionalized account certainly makes more exciting reading.

On 12 December 1951 when the raid took place, Air Group 5 was attached to Essex, the flag ship for Task Force 77. We were flying daily strikes against the North Koreans and Chinese. God! It was cold. The main job was to interdict the flow of supplies coming south from Russia and China. The rules of engagement imposed by political forces in Washington would not allow us to bomb the bridges across the Yalu River where the supplies could easily have been stopped. We had to wait until they were dispersed and hidden in North Korea and then try to stop them.

The Air Group consisted of two jet fighter squadrons flying Banshees and Grumman Panthers plus two prop attack squadrons flying Corsairs and Skyraiders. To provide a base for the squadrons, Essex was stationed 100 miles off the East Coast of Korea during that bitter Winter of 1951 and 1952.

I was CO of VF-54, the Skyraider squadron. VF-54 started with 24 pilots. Seven were killed during the cruise. The reason 30 percent of our pilots were shot down and lost was due to our mission. The targets were usually heavily defended railroad bridges. In addition, we were frequently called in to make low-level runs with rockets and napalm to provide close support for the troops.

Due to the nature of the targets assigned, the attack squadrons seldom flew above 2000 or 3000 feet; and it was a rare flight when a plane did not come back without some damage from AA or ground fire.

The single-engine plane we flew could carry the same bomb load that a B-17 carried in WWII; and after flying the 100 miles from the carrier, we could stay on station for 4 hours and strafe, drop napalm, fire rockets or drop bombs. The Skyraider was the right plane for this war.

On a gray December morning, I was called to the flag bridge. Admiral “Black Jack” Perry, the Carrier Division Commander, told me they had a classified request from UN headquarter to bomb some critical bridges in the central area of the North Korean peninsula. The bridges were a dispersion point for many of the supplies coming down from the North and were vital to the flow of most of the essential supplies. The Admiral asked me to take a look at the targets and see what we could do about taking them out. As I left, the staff intelligence officer handed me the pre-strike photos, the coordinates of the target and said to get on with it. He didn’t mention that the bridges were defended by 56 radar-controlled anti-aircraft guns.

That same evening, the Admiral invited the four squadron commanders to his cabin for dinner. James Michener was there. After dinner, the Admiral asked each squadron commander to describe his experiences in flying over North Korea. By this time, all of us were hardened veterans of the war and had some hairy stories to tell about life in the fast lane over North Korea.

When it came my time, I described how we bombed the railways and strafed anything else that moved. I described how we had planned for the next day’s strike against some vital railway bridges near a village named Toko-ri (The actual village was named Majonne). That the preparations had been done with extra care because the pre-strike pictures showed the bridges were surrounded by 56 anti-aircraft guns and we knew this strike was not going to be a walk in the park.

All of the pilots scheduled for the raid participated in the planning. A close study of the aerial photos confirmed the 56 guns. Eleven radar sites controlled the guns. They were mainly 37 MM with some five inch heavies. All were positioned to concentrate on the path we would have to fly to hit the bridges. This was a World War II air defense system but still very dangerous.

How were we going to silence those batteries long enough to destroy the bridges? The bridges supported railway tracks about three feet wide. To achieve the needed accuracy, we would have to use glide bombing runs. A glide bombing run is longer and slower than a dive bombing run, and we would be sitting ducks for the AA batteries. We had to get the guns before we bombed the bridges.

There were four strategies discussed to take out the radar sites. One was to fly in on the deck and strafe the guns and radars. This was discarded because the area was too mountainous. The second was to fly in on the deck and fire rockets into the gun sites. Discarded because the rockets didn’t have enough killing power. The third was to come in at a high altitude and drop conventional bombs on the targets. This is what we would normally do, but it was discarded in favor of an insidious modification. The one we thought would work the best was to come in high and drop bombs fused to explode over the gun and radar sites. To do this, we decided to take 12 planes; 8 Skyraiders and 4 Corsairs. Each plane would carry a 2000 pound bomb with a proximity fuse set to detonate about 50 to 100 feet in the air. We hoped the shrapnel from these huge, ugly bombs going off in mid air would be devastating to the exposed gunners and radar operators.

The flight plan was to fly in at 15,000 feet until over the target area and make a vertical dive bombing run dropping the proximity-fused bombs on the guns and radars. Each pilot had a specific complex to hit. As we approached the target we started to pick up some flak, but it was high and behind us. At the initial point, we separated and rolled into the dive. Now the flak really became heavy. I rolled in first; and after I released my bomb, I pulled out south of the target area and waited for the rest to join up. One of the Corsairs reported that he had been hit on the way down and had to pull out before dropping his bomb. Three other planes suffered minor flak damage but nothing serious.

After the join up, I detached from the group and flew over the area to see if there was anything still firing. Sure enough there was heavy 37 MM fire from one site, I got out of there in a hurry and called in the reserve Skyraider still circling at 15,000 to hit the remaining gun site. His 2000 pound bomb exploded right over the target and suddenly things became very quiet. The shrapnel from those 2000 lbs. bombs must have been deadly for the crews serving the guns and radars. We never saw another 37 MM burst from any of the 56 guns.

From that moment on, it was just another day at the office. Only sporadic machine gun and small arms fire was encountered. We made repeated glide bombing runs and completely destroyed all the bridges. We even brought gun camera pictures back to prove the bridges were destroyed.

After a final check of the target area, we joined up, inspected our wingmen for damage and headed home. Mr. Michener plus most of the ship’s crew watched from Vulture’s Row as Dog Fannin, the landing signal officer, brought us back aboard. With all the pilots returning to the ship safe and on time, the Admiral was seen to be dancing with joy on the flag Bridge.

From that moment on, the Admiral had a soft spot in his heart for the attack pilots. I think his fatherly regard for us had a bearing on what happened in port after the raid on Toko-ri. The raid on Toko-ri was exciting; but in our minds, it was dwarfed by the incident that occurred at the end of this tour on the line. The operation was officially named OPERATION PINWHEEL. The pilots called it OPERATION PINHEAD.

The third tour had been particularly savage for VF-54. Five of our pilots had been shot down. Three not recovered. I had been shot down for the third time. The mechanics and ordnancemen had worked back-breaking hours under medieval conditions to keep the planes flying, and finally we were headed for Yokosuka for ten days of desperately needed R and R.

As we steamed up the coast of Japan, the Air Group Commander, CDR Marsh Beebe, called CDR Trum, the CO of the Corsair squadron, and me to his office. He told us that the prop squadrons would participate in an exercise dreamed up by the commanding officer of the ship. It had been named OPERATION PINWHEEL.

The Corsairs and Skyraiders were to be tied down on the port side of the flight deck; and upon signal from the bridge, all engines were to be turned up to full power to assist the tugs in pulling the ship along side the dock.

CDR Trum and I both said to Beebe, “You realize that those engines are vital to the survival of all the attack pilots. We fly those single engine planes 300 to 400 miles from the ship over freezing water and over very hostile land. Overstressing these engines is not going to make any of us very happy.” Marsh knew the danger; but he said, “The captain of the ship, CAPT. Wheelock, wants this done, so do it!”

As soon as the news of this brilliant scheme hit the ready rooms, the operation was quickly named OPERATION PIN HEAD; and CAPT. Wheelock became known as CAPT. Wheelchock.

On the evening before arriving in port, I talked with CDR Trum and told him, “I don’t know what you are going to do, but I am telling my pilots that our lives depend on those engines and do not give them more than half power; and if that engine temperature even begins to rise, cut back to idle.” That is what they did.

About an hour after the ship had been secured to the dock, the Air Group Commander screamed over the ships intercom for Gray and Trum to report to his office. When we walked in and saw the pale look on Beebe’s face, it was apparent that CAPT. Wheelock, in conjunction with the ship’s proctologist, had cut a new aperture in poor old Marsh. The ship’s CO had gone ballistic when he didn’t get the full power from the lashed down Corsairs and Skyraiders, and he informed CDR Beebe that his fitness report would reflect this miserable performance of duty.

The Air Group Commander had flown his share of strikes, and it was a shame that he became the focus of the wrath of CAPT. Wheelock for something he had not done. However, tensions were high; and in the heat of the moment, he informed CDR Trum and me that he was placing both of us and all our pilots in hack until further notice. A very severe sentence after 30 days on the line.

The Carrier Division Commander, Rear Admiral “Black Jack” Perry a personally soft and considerate man, but his official character would strike terror into the heart of the most hardened criminal. He loved to talk to the pilots; and in deference to his drinking days, Admiral Perry would reserve a table in the bar of the Fujia Hotel and would sit there drinking Coca cola while buying drinks for any pilot enjoying R & R in the hotel.

Even though we were not comfortable with this gruff older man, he was a good listener and everyone enjoyed telling the Admiral about his latest escape from death. I realize now he was keeping his finger on the morale of the pilots and how they were standing up to the terror of daily flights over a very hostile land.

The Admiral had been in the hotel about three days; and one night, he said to some of the fighter pilots sitting at his table, “Where are the attack pilots? I have not seen any of them since we arrived.” One of them said, “Admiral, I thought you knew. They were all put in hack by the Air Group Commander and restricted to the ship.” In a voice that could be heard all over the hotel, the Admiral bellowed to his aide, “Get that idiot Beebe on the phone in 5 minutes; and I don’t care if you have to use the Shore Patrol, the Army Military Police or the Japanese Police to find him. I want him on the telephone NOW!”

The next morning, after three days in hack, the attack pilots had just finished marching lockstep into the wardroom for breakfast, singing the prisoners song when the word came over the loud speaker for Gray and Trum to report to the Air Group Commander’s stateroom immediately, When we walked in, there sat Marsh looking like he had had a near death experience. He was obviously in far worse condition than when the ships CO got through with him. It was apparent that he had been worked over by a real pro.

In a trembling voice, his only words were, “The hack is lifted. All of you are free to go ashore. There will not be any note of this in your fitness reports. Now get out of here and leave me alone.”

Posters saying, “Thank you Black Jack” went up in the ready rooms. The long delayed liberty was at hand.

When writing about this cruise, I must pay homage to the talent we had in the squadrons. LTJG Tom Hayward was a fighter pilot who went on to become the CNO. LTJG Neil Armstrong another fighter pilot became the astronaut who took the first step on the moon. My wingman, Ken Shugart, was an all-American basketball player and later an admiral. Al Masson, another wingman, became the owner of one of New Orleans’ most famous French restaurants. All of the squadrons were manned with the best and brightest young men the U.S. could produce. The mechanics and ordnance crews who kept the planes armed and flying deserve as much praise as the pilots for without the effort they expended, working day and night under cold and brutal conditions, no flight would have been flown.

It was a dangerous cruise. I will always consider it an honor to have associated with those young men who served with such bravery and dignity. The officers and men of this air group once again demonstrated what makes America the most outstanding country in the world today. To those whose spirits were taken from them during those grim days and didn’t come back, I will always remember you.”

Courtesy of LCDR George Everding, USN(Ret)

(Former AFCM and Current Member of the

National Chief Petty Officer’s Association)


Submitted by,
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(Ret)




Reflections of a Blackshoe


Vice Admiral Harold Koenig, USN (Ret), M.D.


I like the Navy,

I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe – the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive her through the sea.

I like the sounds of the Navy – the piercing trill of the boatswains pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship’s bell on the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.

I like Navy vessels – nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers.

I like the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea – memorials of great battles won.

I like the lean angular names of Navy ‘tin-cans” Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix, McCloy, -mementos of heroes who went before us.

I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea.

I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even like all hands working parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude of supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there is water to float her.

I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they trust and depend on me – for professional competence, for comradeship, for courage. In a word, they are”shipmates.”

I like the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed “Now station the special sea and anchor detail – all hands to quarters for leaving port”, and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pierside.

The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the ‘all for one and one for all’ philosophy of the sea is ever present.

I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship’s work, as flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night.

I like the feel of the Navy in darkness – the masthead lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters – they cut through the dusk and join with the mirror of stars overhead.

And I like drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe. I like quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee – the lifeblood of the Navy – permeating everywhere.

And I like hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness.

I like the sudden electricity of “General quarters, general quarters, all
hands man your battle stations”, followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war – ready for anything.

And I like the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.

I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones.

A sailor can find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman’s trade. An adolescent can find adulthood.

In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods -the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief’s quarters and messdecks. Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon.

Remembering this, they will stand taller and say,



Vice Admiral Harold M. Koenig USN (Ret), M.D.

Chair and President, The Annapolis Center 32nd Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Vice Admiral Koenig became Chairman and President of the Annapolis Center on July 30, 1998. In this capacity, Dr. Koenig leads the organization as its chief spokesperson and chairman of its Board of Directors.

VADM Koenig became the thirty-second Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, on June 29, 1995. He retired from that position on June 30, 1998 after completing 32 years of active duty service.

A native of Salinas, California, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Brigham Young University. He received his Medical Degree from Baylor University College of Medicine. He is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology.

VADM Koenig is a Diplomate of the American College of Healthcare Executives. In 1994 the American Hospital Association named him “The Federal Health Care Executive of the Year”. VADM Koenig served in a variety of clinical roles in the Navy, including general medical officer, residency training program director, department chairman, hospital executive officer and commanding officer.

His staff assignments before becoming the Navy Surgeon General included: command of the Naval Health Sciences Education and Training Command,
Director of Health Care Operations in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) for Health Services Operations and Deputy Surgeon General and Chief of the Medical Corps.

VADM Koenig’s personal awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Gold Star, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

A Little Political

Zero-Tolerance Policies Lead To A Risk-Averse Navy That We Can Ill Afford
By JOHN LEHMAN SPECIAL TO THE U-T 12:01 a.m.July 7, 2013Updated10:11 p.m.July 5, 2013

Copyright 2013 The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. An MLIM LLC Company. All rights reserved.
John Lehman was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, and a member of the 9/11 Commission.

Some naval leaders are born great (Nelson), some achieve greatness (Nimitz) and some have greatness thrust upon them (Forrestal). But what they all have in common is the most valuable of leadership talents, a willingness to be decisive under pressure based on a refined sense of the calculus of risk and reward.

All great leaders have made bad decisions and miscalculated risk at times in their careers. A leader cannot achieve success without failures along the way; Nelson at Boulogne, Nimitz grounding his first command, Forrestal trusting Symington Â- but they learn from them.

But the advice of Gilbert and Sullivan has nonetheless proved all too valid in peacetime:

“Stick close to your desks and never go to sea, And you all may be Rulers of the Queen’s Navy.”

Peacetime navies tend to be risk averse, and those who tend to rise to the top are those who are noncontroversial consensus decision-makers and above all, risk avoiders.

But not in modern memory has risk avoidance been carried to such extremes as it is in today’s Navy along with the other armed services. Political correctness is increasingly enforced with a religious zeal. “Zero tolerance” is proudly hailed. One strike and you are out. Year after year as the fleet shrinks, records are set in removing commanders for cause. Other senior officers who attempt to protect their subordinates from unjust persecution are themselves embroiled.

A perfect example in the news is the current case of Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan Helms, highest ranking female astronaut, whose career is blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskell, because Helms intervened to prevent a gross railroading of a young captain for alleged sexual harassment. As in China, to be accused of political incorrectness is to be found guilty, and there is no career recourse.

In choosing a career of naval service over civilian life, a young naval officer or NCO is already accepting many disadvantages: family separation, constant uprooting of family, lack of ability to change companies for better opportunity, and of course, risk of death and maiming.

To all this is now added the high risk of a career-ending anonymous hot-line call made by a disgruntled subordinate claiming sexual harassment, or any other of the myriad impieties of political incorrectness. To be accused is to be ruined.

After years of flawless service, of family sacrifice, hardship and valor, careers now can come to an abrupt end.

Of course there are many journalists, armchair strategists and think-tankers who applaud the victory of those like Rep. Pat Schroeder who vowed to “break the culture” after Tailhook ’91.

They herald the arrival of unmanned aerial, surface and undersea vehicles as eliminating the need for naval sea dogs and their warrior culture, since future naval warfare will be done from unified bases in Nevada, with operators requiring a culture rather closer to computer geeks.

As the old naval culture, best described by Napoleon as “Lâ audace, lâ audace, toujours lâ audace!â (audacity, audacity, always audacity!) disappears, what is being lost?

Those old attributes of naval leaders – willingness to take intelligent calculated risk, self-confidence, even a certain swagger – that are invaluable in wartime are the very ones that make them particularly vulnerable in today’s zero-tolerance Navy. The political correctness thought-police, like Inspector Javert in “Les Misarables,” are out to get them and are relentless.

A new naval culture of risk aversion has been created. Men and women with the potential of great naval leadership are not the type to accept such an environment, and they are leaving in numbers that will set records when the economy recovers.

Service bureaucrats will be quick to refute with statistics to show that retention of the best is at an all-time high.

Ironically, the new culture’s measures of excellence reward the most risk averse. It is inconceivable that Jones, Decatur, Farragut, Halsey, King, any of the McCains, Zumwalt or Holloway, could have made it past lieutenant commander in today’s Navy.

We will only find out what has been lost when our naval weakness ends our ability to deter, and once again we find ourselves in an unnecessary war.

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