The Hanoi Hilton and Racial Adversity: Junior Naval Historians Shine at National History Day

The parade of students at National History Day

The parade of students at National History Day

Thousands of excited and energetic students from around the country packed into the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center last Thursday to participate in the awards ceremony for National History Day. The event is the culmination of a busy week for these young scholars. Students in middle and high school showcase their history projects, ranging from a variety of topics and presentations, to a group of expert judges. Awards are given according to type of presentation and subject matter, including naval history.

Naval Historical Foundation staff once again attended the event to help hand out the Captain Kenneth Coskey Naval History Prize. The prize is named for the late Captain Ken Coskey, a Vietnam War combat aviator and Prisoner of War, and former Executive Director of the Naval Historical Foundation. Rosemary Coskey, wife of Captain Coskey, and Captain Charles Chadbourn, USN (Ret.) presented the award and generous $1,000 cash prizes to the junior and senior devision winners in the documentary category. This is the first year that the awards were given to both high school and middle school representatives for the best naval history projects in their category. Captan Coskey was a long time supporter of National History Day up until his death last year.

The Junior Division Winners from Vancouver, WA

The Junior Division Winners from Vancouver, WA

Vietnam Prisoners of War: Taking Responsibility When Deprived of All Rights
Jethro Abayo and Logan Gilbert 

The Coskey Prize in the Junior Divison at National History Day went to Jethro Abayo and Logan Gibert of Pleasant Valley Middle School in Vancouver, WA, for their documentary, Vietnam Prisoners of War: Taking Responsibility When Deprived of All Rights.  In this compelling film, Jethro and Logan tell how POWs in Vietnam with no rights at all took responsibility for themselves and each other in one of a most difficult circumstance.  Their work is based on the true story of two aviators, Navy Commander Porter Halyburton and Air Force Colonel Fred Cherry. They detail how they saved each others’ lives under the cruel conditions imposed by their North Vietnamese captors at the Hanoi Hilton.  Cherry, an African American pilot from Southside Virginia, was badly injured and received no medical attention whatsoever. Halyburton, a NC native, was thrown into his cell and told to take care of the Air Force officer.

Visiting the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Navy

Visiting the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Navy

Ms. Irene Soohoo, their teacher, pointed out the serious and original historical research they conducted to prepare the documentary.  They obtained oral history interviews with both Halyburton and Cherry, as well as other POW survivors and their families.  They spent countless hours doing research in other primary sources to build their documentary.   Abayo and Gilbert also took home the the first place prize in the Junior Group Documentary category, beating out over 100 other entries from around the nation, as well as China, Korea, and Singapore.


After the awards ceremony, Jethro and Logan traveled with their families to the Naval Historical Foundation in the Washington Navy Yard to visit with Executive Director CAPT Todd Creekman. Captain Creekman presented the young scholars with NHF Commemorative Coins.  They went on to spend the afternoon touring the National Museum of the United States Navy and its Cold War Gallery. It was a fitting visit, as the found the Cold War Gallery’s Vietnam POW exhibit appealed to their historical interests. Jethro’s father whispered to Captain Chadbourn that the boys decided they wanted to attend the United States Naval Academy where they will aspire to become Naval Aviators!  Both plan to do NHD again next year once they get into high school.

The Golden 13: Civil Responsibility Before Self
Katharine Journaey, Mark Cochran, Hannah McDonnell, Colby Gould and Emily Pierce

Captain Charles Chadbourn, USN (Ret.), Rosemary Coskey, and the Senior Division Winners from Exeter High School

Captain Charles Chadbourn, USN (Ret.), Rosemary Coskey, and the Senior Division Winners from Exeter High School

After ten months of research and preparation, students from Exeter High School (EHS) in Exeter, NH, competed at the annual National History Day competition. Their documentary, Golden 13: Civic Responsibility Before Self, by Katharine Journaey, Mark Cochran, Hannah McDonnell, Colby Gould and Emily Pierce, earned first place in the senior group documentary and a National Archives award at the New Hampshire state competition. EHS Advisor, Ms. Molly Stevenson, shared that the students “should be commended for their dedication to the historian’s craft. They have learned research, writing and presentation skills that will serve them throughout their lives.”  When asked what were highlights of the experience, each of the students cited the chance to study original manuscripts, interview experts and individuals directly connected to their topics, and design a project that would increase the public’s understanding of the subject.

A special thanks to Captain Chadbourn and Rosemary Coskey for attending the event and representing the proud traditions of naval history.

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8 Groups of Sailors Ready for the Weekend

1. A Good Weekend Requires Planning5190623320_e272a6d5bf_o

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2. Playing Cards Will Help Pass the TimeUSS Maine

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3. It Might Require Travel8c01352v

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4. Get Plenty of Rest the Night Before5190623428_b3bc39415c_o (1)


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5. Grab a Snack Before Heading Out82-13673-2203

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9. PS: Don’t Forget a Camera!8d07710r

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Ambassador Middendorf Honored at 2014 NHF Annual Membership Meeting

Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.), Ambassador J. William Middendorf II, and Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.)

Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.), Ambassador J. William Middendorf II, and Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.)

Each year, the Naval Historical Foundation holds a meeting in Washington, DC to meet with our members, volunteers, and friends to discuss our current and future plans.  Nearly one hundred supporters gathered in the Navy Museum last Saturday for a day of celebration, commemoration, and friendship.

This is certainly a year of many commemorative celebrations: The 70th anniversary of pivotal World War II events, the ongoing sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, and the beginning of the centennial of World War I. This year focused on the continuing bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812. The Annual Meeting was held in coordination with the Smithsonian Institution’s Raise it Up! Anthem for America Flag Day event held in Washington, DC and around the country, which honors the flag, on display at the National Museum of American History, which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words 200 years ago this September, that became our national anthem.  The Naval Historical Foundation and National Museum of the United States Navy were partners for the event.

The day began with a meeting of our Board of Directors. Rear Admiral Kathleen Paige was elected as the Foundation’s newest board member.  We are very pleased to welcome RADM Paige to the board, and look forward to her expertise and insightful comments as a board member. Naval History and Heritage Command Director Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN also offered his remarks during the Board of Directors meeting.  Captain Hendrix will retire from the Navy at the end of this month (You can read about Captain Hendrix in the latest issue of Pull Together).

Steve Vogel addresses attendees

Steve Vogel addresses attendees

At the Annual Meeting venue, after a brief welcome by NHF Historian Dr. David Winkler, Vice Admiral George W. Emery, author of In Their Own Words: The Navy Fights the War of 1812, introduced the David Leighton lecturer to members and special guests in attendance.  Washington Post reporter and noted author Steve Vogel delivered a timely talk about his book, Through the Perilous Fight: From the Burning of Washington to the Star-Spangled Banner: The Six Weeks That Saved the Nation. Vogel expertly recounted the series of events in the Washington, DC and Baltimore areas that culminated with the writing of the National Anthem, preceded by the Battle of Bladensburg, and the burning of the Capitol, White House, and Washington Navy Yard where he was speaking. Both authors remained after the lecture before the business meeting to inscribe copies of their books for the guests.

The Annual Meeting’s business component kicked off at noon with a brief introduction by Foundation Chairman Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.). War of 1812 period musicians David and Ginger Hildebrand then led all in attendance in singing “The Defence of Ft. M’Henry,” better known as the Star Spangled Banner.  After Foundation president Rear Adm. John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.) discussed the year in review with the President’s Report, Executive Director Capt. Todd Creekman, USN (Ret.) announced a series of Foundation award winners.  Recipients included the Captain Beach Award Winner (USNA) and the four newest historians to be awarded the Foundation’s Dudley Knox Naval History Lifetime Achievement Award (Dr. Craig Symonds, Dr. William Dudley, Dr. John B. Hattendorf, and Dr. Harold D. Langley).Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.) received this year’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his work writing for the Foundation’s Naval History Blog. George wrote a series of very popular posts about Fletcher Class Destroyers in WWII and his own personal experiences aboard commercial tankers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.) accepts the Volunteer of the Year Award from Rear Admiral John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.)

Captain George Stewart, USN (Ret.) accepts the Volunteer of the Year Award from Rear Admiral John T. Mitchell, USN (Ret.)

The highlight of the Annual Meeting was the recognition of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II as Director Emeritus of the Naval Historical Foundation.  Ambassador Middendorf served as a director of the Foundation for forty years. Among his many accomplishments, he served as the Secretary of the Navy and US Ambassador to the European Union.

David and Ginger Hildebrand sang two War of 1812 songs in honor of Ambassador Middendorf, “Decatur and the Navy” and “Perry’s Victory:”

Chairman Emeritus Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Ret.) presented his former colleague and good friend with a congratulatory certificate and silver War of 1812 Medal. Both Emeritus members had many insightful and heartfelt things to say to one another about their combined 68 years of service to the Naval Historical Foundation.

A true renaissance man, Ambassador Middendorf is also an accomplished composer and artist (He sketched NHF Chairman ADM Bruce DeMars during the meeting!). In recognition of his myriad achievements, the formal meeting adjourned to the sounds of his “Midway March,” a popular Navy Band march composed in honor of the U.S. Navy’s decisive WWII victory at Midway.

The final event of the day was a catered lunch, which the Foundation was able to provide thanks to the generosity of Foundation director Dr. Jack London. David and Ginger Hildebrand serenaded guests at the luncheon with a selection of music from the 1812 time period. Members old and new had a chance to swap stories and catch up with one another. Colin McNulty, A US Army officer working for the Naval History and Heritage Command at the National Museum of the United States Navy, met a former colleague from his time serving overseas in a joint command during the meeting. As this was a year of several staffing changes, Foundation staff old and new were in attendance to converse with the men and women who support the Foundation and make it a continued success.  Thank you to everyone who attended, and we look forward to another successful year.  See you at next year’s meeting!

Thinking about becoming a member? Need to renew?  GO HERE.

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So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag

By Aaron McDougal, 2014 NHF Summer Intern

SoProudWeHail_BookToday marks the annual Flag Day celebration commemorating the adoption of the Star Spangled Banner as the national flag in 1777. The importance of the flag as the symbol of our country cannot be stressed enough. In light of this, it seems appropriate to draw attention to a book that delves into the history of the flag. This book, fittingly titled “So Proudly We Hail: The History of the United States Flag”, is one of the only compendiums of knowledge that succinctly and accurately describes the various flags (Notably Old Glory, Naval flags, Army flags etc.) used throughout the history of the United States. The book contains a rich historical narrative that begins with early flags preceding the creation of the United States and ends with modern flags such as the current 50 star flag.

The authors of the book, Rear Admiral William Rea Furlong and Commodore Byron McCandless, both served with distinction during the First and Second World Wars.
Furlong was born in Allenport, Pennsylvania, on May 26, 1881. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1905. During the First World War, he served in various capacities, notably as a gunnery observer. From 1923 to 1926, he served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Navy Department. He would later to return to the office in 1928, where he headed the Policy and Liaison Section, Office of Island Governments. He served for a short time as Operations Officer on the Staff of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. He was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1937, and served as the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department. From April 18 to December 25, 1941, he served as Commander Minecraft, Battleforce, and survived the torpedoing of his flagship, the USS Oglala, during the attack on Pearl Harbor. His greatest contribution to the war effort proved to be his time as Commandant of the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor. His duties included the management of a salvaging project of sunken ships as well as the repair of ships damaged during the attack. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and the Gold Star for his efforts in this endeavor. He retired from all active duty on March 4, 1946.

McCandless was born in Endicott, Nebraska, on September 5, 1881. Like Furlong, he graduated from the Naval Academy in 1905. He served aboard the USS Maine in 1907, which undertook a trip around the world as part of the Great White Fleet. Between 1915 and 1916, he served as Aide to the Chief of Naval Operations and then Aide to the Secretary of the Navy (Josephus Daniels). He was commander of the newly commissioned USS Caldwell from 1917 to 1920. As a result of his actions during the war (patrolling and escorting convoys through the Atlantic), he received the Navy Cross. During the Second World War, he served as Commandant of the Naval Repair Base, San Diego, and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his efforts in managing the base. He was relieved of active duty for the second time on September 25, 1946. In addition to these exploits, he also invented aids to increase the efficiency of gunnery and a salvage device for freeing barges/craft that were stranded in landing operations.

Admiral Furlong notably was asked by President Eisenhower to submit a new design for the Star Spangled Banner, due to the addition of two more stars as the result of the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii into the Union. This design was subsequently adopted and the 50 star flag remains with us to this day.
Commodore McCandless advised Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S Truman on flag matters as a result of McCandless’s expertise.
Furlong and McCandless knew one another due to their time at the Naval Academy. During their time spent working at the Navy Department, they answered inquiries on flag issues, hence the development of their interest and expertise on flag matters.

As a result of their experiences, Admiral Furlong and Commodore McCandless understood the importance of the flag as a national symbol. The two were inspired to write a book on flags after discovering that existing sources of information were not up to the task of providing a definitive body of knowledge concerning flags. They therefore sought to compile research on the flag and mold said research into a form that was accurate, concise, and most importantly definitive. Unfortunately, Commodore McCandless passed away before the book was finished. Admiral Furlong finished the book, but passed away before it was published. Dr. Harold D. Langley (Division of Naval History, National Museum of American History) continued to edit the book and published it in 1981, thereby fulfilling the goal of both Furlong and McCandless.

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A Young Man in a Brave New World: William Speiden Jr. and the Opening of Japan


“This has been an important and great day and on which the Second grand landing of the Americans in Japan took place. I was fortunate enough on the occasion of the First landing to be one of those who landed.” (8 March 1854)

David Dixon Porter. David Glasgow Farragut. Ernest King. William Halsey. These names are well known in the annals of American naval history. Like their contemporaries also included in the Naval Historical Foundation manuscript collection at the Library of Congress, their careers are often bookended by the wars and conflicts we continue to study today. These manuscripts, albeit important, do not give a complete picture of the history of the United States Navy. Holes exist in this supposed narrative. Other files in the manuscript collection tell a different story of the U.S. Navy’s myriad peacetime exploits. These collections are what former Library of Congress Manuscript Historian John McDonough called both “prominent and obscure.”

One of the more intriguing of these “obscure” aspects of 19th century naval history is the 1852-1854 Japan Expedition, led by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. Although well known for his exploits during the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, Perry’s greatest contribution to naval history is his mid-century expedition to open Japan.

Only a handful of sources faithfully documenting Commodore Perry’s expedition exist today. Fewer are written from the perspective of the crew, not the officers in charge. Thankfully, one recently published source formerly in the NHF collection gives ample information on the expedition. The two volumes comprising USS Mississippi Purser’s Clerk William Speiden, Jr.’s meticulous journals are now available in With Commodore Perry to Japan: The Journal of William Speiden Jr., 1852-1855. Book editor David A. Ranzan stopped by the National Museum of the United States Navy Wednesday to talk about the book and the exploits of an ambitious young man with his eyes open to a new world.


Ranzan spoke briefly about Speiden’s life and his “youthful perspective of the expedition” covered throughout With Commodore Perry to Japan. By all accounts, Ranzan’s description was perfect. Speiden, a Washington, DC native, accepted an appointment as a sixteen-year old purser’s clerk aboard the USS Mississippi alongside is father in 1852. From there, he traveled to far and exotic places, often doing what teenagers his age do best. Whether it was sneaking into the gravesite of Napoleon with his shipmates at St. Helena or setting off firecrackers “like a set of demons” in the streets of Canton, China, Speiden found ample opportunity for amusement while traveling on the squadron’s flagship.

During the squadron’s exploits to Japan in 1853 and 1854, Speiden took a back seat. He was nonetheless there, documenting everything in rich detail:

Friday, March 3: This evening some Japanese officers came on board, this is the first occasion any of them have been on board. They have been exceedingly anxious to see the ship on account of her formidable appearance [. . .] They were friendly and sociable, and before leaving, two of them, the Imperial Interpreter and Lieutenant Governor of Uraga were quite merry.”

Other exciting accounts in Japan include the squadron’s first sighting of the Japanese in Yedo Bay. The nearby Japanese ships attempted to board the American vessels, which were soon repelled. “They must certainly have all come to the opinion that we were a queer sort of people,” Speiden mused in his journal of the event. According to John McDonough, Speiden was “enthusiastic and alert, and made the most of his situation and the opportunities it presented.” The approximately 300-page journal is revised and condensed for interested readers to thumb through. As one may guess when reading, the journal does not appear to be written by a carefree young man diverted by adventures. McDonough explains:

“The journal has a polished and finished appearance, suggesting that Speiden prepared it at a later date or during leisure hours and based it on a rougher version recorded closer to the actual time of the events described.”  (Library of Congress Acquisitions: Manuscript Division, 1994-1995)

The most impressive aspect of Speiden’s journal are not the words themselves. Rather, Ranzan noted that the journal included nearly fifty “eloquent drawings and illustrations” done by Speiden throughout the voyage. “He was a very gifted artist,” said Ranzan during his lecture. The most impressive sketch is a diagrammatic of the Yokohama landings where the Treaty of Kanagawa negotiations took place, ending the 200-year old Japanese policy of Sakoku (seclusion). Speiden sketched the impressive and informative picture almost two years to the day from the start of his voyage at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

"Diagram of the Landing" (From (With Commodore to Japan)</em))

“Diagram of the Landing”

The final words in his journal are a somber ode to two dogs that died while at sea. The dogs were apparently gifts from the Japanese to Perry. His simple and beautiful poem is an introspective end to a historic cruise to the far edges of the map.

“Happy dogs to die
Upon the broad blue sea,
For there your bones will lie,
Buried, and forever be.”

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35 Tweets to Midway: The U.S. Navy’s Greatest Battle in 140 characters or Less

Over the past two weeks, we have live-tweeted the significant events of the Battle of Midway from the perspective of the Imperial Japanese Navy and United States Navy. Our account, NHFTweetsMidway, helped bring the story to live 140 characters at a time. Don’t want to read over 700 tweets for the recap? Here are 35 tweets from that dataset that helped tell the story of the U.S. Navy’s greatest battle. Please let us know what you think about @NHFTweetsMidway by commenting here or on Twitter/Facebook.


The tweets below are separated by the 5 major events that occurred in the Midway Operation, from the middle of May to 7 JUNE. Click on the items below to expand the tweets.


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Get the full list of Tweets at NHFTweetsMidway. For more information on the project, go HERE.

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“The People Who Fought and Won:” Admiral Harvey Captivates Crowd at 72nd Battle of Midway Celebration Dinner

“Midway would not be fought by the fleet we needed. It would be fought by the fleet we had.”  - Admiral John Harvey, USN (Ret.)

“Midway would not be fought by the fleet we needed. It would be fought by the fleet we had.” – Admiral John Harvey, USN (Ret.)

This year marks the 72nd Anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the most decisive battle in the Pacific Theater. During the pivotal day of 4 June 1942, the United States Navy managed to engage an imposing Japanese fleet and inflict crippling losses to their four carriers and surface ships near Midway Atoll.

A large crowd of VIPs and distinguished guests gathered at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington on Wednesday to celebrate and commemorate the battle. Among the honored guests were several Midway battle veterans. Although their numbers dwindle each passing year, you could still see the magnetism and fighting spirit in each of their eyes.  That same spirit was with them 72 years ago near a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Bottom Row (L to R): LTJG Paul J. Muzychenko, USN (Ret.), MAJ Albert Grasselli, USMC (Ret.), CAPT Jack Crawford, USN (Ret.) Top Row (L to R): GMC Hank Kudzik, USN (Ret.), LCDR Joseph E. Miller, USN (Ret.), CDR Ellis Skidmore, USN (Ret.)

Bottom Row (L to R): LTJG Paul J. Muzychenko, USN (Ret.), MAJ Albert Grasselli, USMC (Ret.), CAPT Jack Crawford, USN (Ret.) Top Row (L to R): ADM John Harvey, USN (Ret.), GMC Hank Kudzik, USN (Ret.), LCDR Joseph E. Miller, USN (Ret.), CDR Ellis Skidmore, USN (Ret.)

The evening’s keynote speaker was former Fleet Forces Commander Admiral John Harvey, USN (Ret.). Admiral Harvey gave an insightful talk on the memory and meaning behind Midway.  Rather than focus on the strategy and legacy of the battle itself, Harvey focused on what he feels was the most decisive weapon of the battle – the people. His words were both spirited and passionate. He commands the audience as a man who understands naval history and its ability to empower both civilian and sailor alike. His talk, “The People Who Fought and Won,” is a shining example to his dedication and love of the United States Navy and the men and women who continue to serve today.

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, USN introduces Admiral Harvey

Vice Admiral Michelle Howard, USN introduces Admiral Harvey

Admiral Harvey dedicated his speech to the memory of a Pearl Harbor and Midway veteran, Chief Petty Officer Howard Snell.  A longtime friend of Harvey’s, Snell recently passed away in January of this year. “He was the prototypical sailor,” Harvey mused at the beginning of his talk. He went on to discuss Snell’s own personal experience in the Navy from enlistment to Midway and beyond. After surviving the attack at Pearl Harbor, Snell was assigned to USS Enterprise and had a ringside seat on the bridge to one of history’s greatest battles. “What he remembered most on 4 June was Spruance’s coolness under fire.” That same coolness became a trademark of Spruance throughout the war.  Snell went on to survive several harrowing conflicts in the Pacific Theater, retiring in 1976 after a life-long career and association with the Navy.

“What a sailor. What a shipmate.”

With clear emotion still hanging in the timbre of his voice, Admiral Harvey shifted course to the question of Midway.   Why bring up Chief Snell and his relationship with the Admiral?  He had an answer: “It is the perfect illustration of the power of our people, and particularly, the people that fought at Midway.”


Admiral Harvey eschewed all doubt of luck or skill as the decisive factor for victory.  Although those played a part, he felt those qualities alone do not complete the epic story.  “How did a Navy that hadn’t fought a war in 20 years – a Navy that hadn’t fought a major battle in 33 years [. . .] engage in a brutal conflict with a skilled and determined enemy. How did this victory happen?”

To Harvey, it was the men who fought 72 years ago that made this happen, like the six in attendance on Wednesday. “At Midway, it was the American sailor and the Marine who made up for those significant deficiencies in our ships and aircraft,” Harvey noted. “These men filled whatever tactical gaps in tactical training unanticipated by warfare.”

Although the men and ships needed to properly match such a formidable Japanese foe would not be available until 1943, the calculated decisions of sailors like Lieutenant Dick Best, Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky, and Commander Max Leslie helped make the Navy’s luck:

“(They) believed that they were primarily responsible for their own and thus their Navy’s fate – and acted on that belief. And their actions clearly demonstrated what was by far the most salient characteristic of the American sailor ever since America first put her Navy to sea – and that is intelligent initiative at the decisive time and place.”

The machines and mechanisms of war do not achieve victory in combat. They are at best a minor player in the combat narrative. The brave men and women who go into harm’s way and make the decisions that ultimately prove successful. Admiral Harvey’s message is a casual reminder of the Navy’s most important asset – its sailors.  “The ability to act decisively despite the risk of life,” Harvey ended his talk with, “is the main reason for victory.” Certainly, this lesson is as important today as it was 72 years ago:

“Remember the people that fought at Midway. It is their sterling example that will surely show us the way ahead, if only we took the time to look at that example and follow that example.”

You can see the full video of Admiral Harvey’s speech here:

Special Thanks to all of the sponsors of the event: Association of Naval Aviation, Association of the United States Navy, Marine Corps Aviation Association, Naval Historical Foundation, Naval Order of the United States, Navy League of the United States, Surface Navy Association, Tailhook Association, and United States Navy Memorial Foundation.



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9 Summertime Things Sailors Also Do

Well – Warm weather and summer are here.  Time to get out the grills and sun tan lotion, because this summer should be a hot one! There are a lot of ways you can go out and have fun this summer. That doesn’t mean our fighting men and women don’t try to have a little fun too!

With so much going on in the Navy around the world, it is important that our fighting men and women have a little rest, relaxation, and diversion every once in a while.  Here are ten things that most Americans do in the summertime and their US Navy equivalents.  Enjoy!  Have any others to list?  Let us know in the comment section below!

1. Swimming1_Swim Call2. Backyard BBQ 2_Steel Beach

3. Talent Show3_Talent Show

4. Comedian/Comedy Club4_Comedy Club

5. Pick-Up Basketball5_Pick Up Basketball

6. Running6_Running

7. Outdoor Concerts7_Outdoor Concert

8. Outdoor Sporting Matches8_Outdoor Sports

9. Outdoor Movie9_Outdoor Film

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USS Enterprise CVA(N)/BOOK REVIEW – CVN-65: The World’s First Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

McKay-David_USS EnterpriseBy Dave McKay, Willsonscott Publishing International Inc, Christchurch, New Zealand (2013)

Reviewed by Samuel Loring Morison

Everyone remembers where he or she was on September 11, 2011.

Enterprise was off the coast of Yemen heading south at Flank Speed.  There, the crew learned of the terrorist attack on the twin towers. Enterprise’s Captain slowed the ship to all ahead standard. When the second plane hit the downtown tower, the Captain ordered the ship to come about. The ship, making a smooth 180-degree turn, headed North straight up the Arabian Sea to await orders from Washington. Enterprise was about to enter her third war. Like her predecessor, CV-6, she was the first naval unit on hand to protect her nation.

What can one say about the name and ship this book is written about.  With the possible exception of the Constitution, the name Enterprise is the most illustrious name in the history of the United States Navy. It stands for honor, glory, and pride. Some former crewmembers say that the Enterprise carriers had souls. Perhaps they did.  The name Enterprise has been worn by nine ships, the last two being aircraft carriers (CV-6, CVN-65 with a third to come, CVN-80).

David McKay has done a marvelous job in writing this book. It is recommended to anybody who studies naval history. I have read books on the aforementioned subject for over 50 years, but I have never found such a well-done book as that done by Mr. McKay. To be honest, I can find nothing wrong with the book. In short, it is superb. It can be said about the two carriers ENTERPRISE as well as Mr. McKay, paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Othello “Let it be said with just pride that that they have done the state some service.”


Samuel Loring Morison is former naval officer, writer and naval historian in his own right. He served in the Vietnam War.


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BOOK REVIEW – U-9: A Damned Un-English Weapon

Thesing, Jim - U-9-A Damned Un-English WeaponBy Jim Thesing, Merriam Press, Bennington, VT (2013)

Reviewed by Charles Bogart

The author has crafted a wonderful fictional account of the German U-boat arm during the period between July and August 1914. The climactic moment within the book is the sinking of the three old Royal Navy cruisers, HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy, and HMS Hogue, by the German submarine SMS U-9. The story is told through the thoughts and deeds of both German and British naval officers and their families and gives the reader a feel for the attitudes of the day as Europe first drifts into World War I and then becomes engaged in warfare at sea. Readers should peruse Alan Coles’ Three Before Breakfast before reading this book to fully understand the drama that is presented within the pages of this work of fiction.

The main portion of this fictional account is told through the eyes of four individuals:  two Royal Navy men, Lt. Henry Fischer assigned to Hogue, and Roger Barnes, an engine room artificer onboard Cressy, and two German naval officers, Kapitanleutant Otto Weddigen, commanding officer of U-9, and his Executive Officer, Oberleutnant Johannes Spiess. Winston Churchill, Captain Roger Keyes, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Admiral Frederick Von Ingenohl make cameo appearances in the story. The people portrayed within the book are real and express realistic human emotions. While some of the individuals within the book’s narrative survive this naval battle, all are scarred emotionally by what they have experienced.

While the story of the sinking of the three cruisers is well told from the point of view of the two German officers, it is far less satisfactory in narrating the events from the British side. With the Germans, we follow the command thought process as U-9 launches three separate attacks that sink the three cruisers. We then follow U-9 as it makes its journey home, the reception the men receive (all awarded an iron cross), and the post traumatic effects of the attack on the two German officers. The Royal Navy side, while interesting, is lacking in that it concerns two men not involved in the decision making process that led to this naval disaster. The two individuals and their families only react to what is happening around them. Thus, we do not share in the thought process of the three Royal Navy commanding officers as to their reasons for placing their ships in danger nor why they took no remedial actions to lessen their vulnerability.

Overall, the book gives good insight into the naval mentality of the day. Those interested in U-boat warfare or naval action at sea will enjoy this book. However, to fully enjoy this book, readers need a basic understanding of the Royal Navy and the Kaiserliche Marine as it existed in 1914.


Charles H. Bogart


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BOOK REVIEW – Destiny in the Pacific

John Schork - Destiny in the PacificBy John Schork, Jupiter-Pixel Press, Jupiter, FL (2008)

Reviewed by Paul W. Murphey, Ph.D., CDR, CHC, USN (Retired)

I was utterly surprised by this novel of naval aviation in the Pacific during World War II. It was a radical departure from the way I knew the author to approach any task. His creativity astounded me. It presented an imaginative approach I never saw in him when we were shipmates. Its author, Retired Navy Captain John Schork, was Executive Officer of USS Midway (CV 41) during Desert Storm. I was the Command Chaplain at the time. Meticulous and thorough in everything he undertook, Schork would accept nothing less than the best from himself or anyone else. In writing this novel, he was characteristically thorough and meticulous in the research necessary for giving the book authenticity. He is a master of accurate and vivid description. The surprise for me was in his insightful portrayal of human, particularly romantic, relationships.

Captain Schork retired from the Navy after serving as Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, WA and settled in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where he became a successful stock broker/financial advisor. My knowledge of and experience with him aboard the Midway had not prepared me for this incredible work of creative writing.

This is the most gripping novel about World War II I have read. It is hard to believe that it is a work of fiction. The characters are vividly portrayed. The situations are graphically intense. The information needed to give it plausibility is well-grounded in fact. If taken all together it appears over the top but that does not detract from the thrill and excitement of following the exploits of Bryan Michaels, from an inauspicious start to a well-deserved ending with all the plaudits and honors of a marvelously admirable hero.

Destiny in the Pacific packs so much heroic action into one naval aviator’s life that it strains the bounds of credulity. It is hard to imagine one young daring pilot disgraced and disqualified from flying then later restored by no less a towering figure than Admiral Chester Nimitz. He then fights valiantly at the Battle of Coral Sea and lives to distinguish himself for his service at the Battle of Midway. When an injury to his eye sustained in that battle disqualified him from further service as a pilot, he becomes the heroic skipper of a PT Boat leading a small group of men in a daring rescue of a Navy cryptologist lest the top secret information he has fall into the hands of the enemy. It so happens that Liz, the Navy nurse whom Bryan loves, was also on the downed plane. They had gone down in a PBY off a small South Pacific Island and were held by the Japanese. After their rescue, Bryan is taken to Australia where none other than General Douglas McArthur has a chat with him about his exploits and assigns him to a joint Australian-American clandestine operation.

Now for the fourth time, he comes out the hero. He is personally decorated with a Silver Star and Navy Cross by General McArthur, while Liz and Bryan’s father, Rear Admiral Chuck Michaels, looks proudly on. At the end of the book, now Rear Admiral Bryan Michaels looks back with deep gratitude at the friends he has known and lost.

Destiny in the Pacific is a remarkably well-crafted story dedicated “to the greatest generation” particularly those who turned appalling defeat at Pearl Harbor into overwhelming victory. The author devotes particular attention to expressing appreciation for the role Australian military forces played in achieving that victory over Japan.

The horrors, brutality, and cruelty of war are viscerally depicted. Death of shipmates is poignantly portrayed and remembered. There are character developments and sub-plots which keep a reader anticipating their further treatment. Personal relationships and romantic involvements are genuinely, honestly, and tenderly expressed. As they used to say, “he completely blew my socks off.” I had not seen that dimension of him before.

Anyone wanting a captivating story of an All-American hero needs look no further than Destiny in the Pacific. I am thoroughly in awe of John Schork’s creative genius and look forward to further works from this exceptionally gifted (and disciplined) author.


After over 15 years on active duty, Murphey has retired to the Pacific Northwest.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Secret War for the Middle East: The Influence of Axis and Allied Intelligence Operations during World War II

Enein - The Secret War for the Middle EastBy Youssef Aboul-Enein and Basil Aboul-Enein, Naval Institute Pree, Annapolis, MD (2013)

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb, Ph.D.

The Secret War for the Middle East: The Influence of Axis and Allied Intelligence Operations during World War II should not be confused with Andrew Rathmell’s Secret War in the Middle East: The Covert Struggle for Syria, 1949-1961, an enlightening and in-depth study of Syrian politics and foreign relations between 1949 and 1961. Rathmell documents previously unstudied aspects of Syrian covert intervention in the 1958 Lebanese Civil War and of a Syrian-Jordanian “dirty war.”

The senior author of The Secret War for the Middle East is Cdr. Youssef H. Aboul-Enein, USN, an officer in the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps and a Middle East foreign officer. He holds a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College and is stationed in the Washington, DC area. Commander Aboul-Enein currently is the adjunct military professor and chair of Islamic studies at the National Defense University’s Dwight D. Eisenhower School for Resource Strategy and National Security. He is also the author of Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat (Naval Institute Press, 2010) a highly significant volume which clarifies the differences between Islam, Islamist, and Military Islamist, showing how militant Islamist ideology takes fragments of Islamic history and theology and weaves them into a narrow, pseudo-intellectual ideology to justify violence against Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The co-author of The Secret War for the Middle East is his younger brother, Basil Aboul-Enein, a former captain of the U.S. Air Force, where he held the position of public health commander and medical intelligence officer at Columbus AFB. He obtained a master’s degree in military history through Norwich University and currently teaches at San Jacinto College and East Mississippi Community College. Among the military duties of these two officers was to explain the origins of Arab Nationalist ideologies to U.S. Armed Forces personnel. Their research led to explorations into the efforts of Axis penetration and Allied countermeasures in the Middle East in the pre-war period, World War II, and post-war era. These, in turn, have led to this important, well-researched book. These authors have the background and expertise to prepare this important synthesis.

The pre-World War II British and French domination of the Middle East and North Africa was tailor-made for exploitation by Axis intelligence and propaganda. German and Italian support for the political dogma of Arab Nationalism would contribute to the evolution of Arab socialism, Nasserism, Ba’athism, and components of militant Islamic ideology (p. xiii). Frequently overlooked in studies of World War II, the Middle East was, in reality, a major theater for the Allies. Though the threat of direct Axis invasion by the “Desert Fox,” Field Marshal Irwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps never materialized beyond the Egyptian Western Desert. This did not deter the Axis from probing the Middle East and cultivating potential collaborators and sympathizers. This volume sheds light on the historical parallels and reviews the “forgotten” Axis and Allied intelligence and propaganda beginning prior to World War II and its impact on the post-war world. The book also has 626 scholarly endnotes; a “Selected Bibliography” which includes three archival sources, 20 primary works (books), 158 secondary works (books), 37 articles, four theses and dissertations, and eight Internet sources; and a highly detailed 12-page “Index” conflates topics and proper nouns.

In the first introductory chapter, the authors outline the years leading up to World War II, when Hitler expressed little interests in the Arabs, mainly because the 1936 Hitler-Mussolini Axis agreement left Arab questions in the Italian “sphere of influence.” The authors document how European competition – British, French, Italian, and German – from WWI to WWII shaped the region, as Axis and Allies competed with one another for popular support in the Middle Eastern nations. Some young Arabs saw pro-Axis sympathies as a means to gain independence and nationhood from British and French control. Hence, Axis intelligence efforts fueled anti-British resentments and helped shape the course of Arab nationalist sentiment throughout the Middle East. These actions would leave an indelible mark on the sociopolitical evolution of the modern states of the Middle East. Their effects continue to be felt today.

The primary topics in the lengthy second chapter, “The Palestine Question,” include the Sykes-Picot Agreement, misplaced Arab Nationalism of the 1930s, the rise of Zionism, Italian policies, British political dilemmas, the Arab Revolt of 1936, the Nazi collaborating Grand Mufti, Muslim members of the in the Waffen SS, the Nazi Fifth Column, and the development of Arab Nationalist theory. The authors begin the third chapter, “Hashemite Iraq,” with Ottoman political and military administration since the 1870s, a review the British Mandate, the rise of King Feisal I, the 1920 Revolt, and the 1922 Karbala Conference. From 1921-32, 130 uprisings and revolts were suppressed by Iraqis and the British, but Nazis developed a German-Iraqi arms agreement by 1937, so that the British needed to intervene in 1941 because of enhanced Iraqi-Nazi connections and Arab volunteers in the German Armed Forces. Battles between British and Iraqi forces and Operation Sabine, conflicts between Arab leaders, Nazi miscalculations, and Arabs in Nazi concentration camps are also documented. There is a rather brief chapter on “Vichy French Syria: Operation Exporter,” in which the authors focus on the political situation in the 1920s, Axis manipulation of Syrian governments in the 1940s, and de Gaulle’s plan for the Levant which involved cooperation between Australian, Indian, Free French and Palmach (Israeli) units.

Chapter 5, “Iran: Operation Countenance,” commences with a discussion of British and Soviet involvement in Iran since the 1800s, Iranian “neutrality” and political control by the Pahlavi (1925-77), and Allied military assistance to counter Nazi military aid. The very brief sixth chapter, “Turkey: Balancing Neutrality,” commences with the Turkish view of the Treaty of Versailles, mistrust of the Italians, Turkish “neutrality,” and problems with Vichy-controlled Syria. Especially noteworthy is the ability of Turkey to simultaneously maintain a mutual assistance pact with the British and a nonaggression pact with the Nazis. In Chapter 7, “Axis Efforts in the Arabian Peninsula,” the authors provide an account of the radical political changes in the Arabian Peninsula by the end of World War I, the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, ultimate Saudi dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of British Arms received in the 1930s, entreaties to the Nazi’s and success in obtaining for military aid, and Japanese collaboration and trade contact with the Muslim world. There are only a few discussions about Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen. Receiving notable attention is the British Royal Air Force airbase established in Aden in 1917, the Italian Royal Navy’s Red Sea Flotilla established in Eritrea in 1940, the battles between British and Italian ships in the Gulf of Aden (23 June 1940), German U-boat activities, and Italian air raids on Haifa and Manama.

Chapter 8, “Afghanistan and the Third Reich: Fomenting Rebellions,” briefly focuses on the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah (ruled 1933-1973) during World War II. The content of the chapter is based on two journal articles by Milan Hauner (1981 and 1982), which relied heavily on German World War II archival sources. The Aboul-Enein brothers observed common themes (tribes, geography, and personalities) in Afghanistan-Pakistan in pre- and post-World War II and the current problems encountered in this region today. “Egypt’s Internal Struggle: To Declare War or Not?” begins with the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, an analysis of the Ali Maher Pasha government, and Egyptian military policy during World War II. The transition from King Fuad I to Farouk I, Italian vs. British and Allied military strength in North Africa in 1940, German and Italian intelligence sources, the compromise of the U.S. Black Code, Egyptian War Minister’s insights, anti-British Egyptian leaders, and Egypt’s financial contributions to Britain during the war are documented. The conclusion provides a review of major points from the previous chapters, and opinions by other scholars. The authors also comment on their recent analysis of captured al-Qaida intelligence and counterintelligence manuals, and conclude with lessons to be learned:

“… before undertaking war, it is vital to know the region, the area of operation, your nation’s place in it, and previous armies that have fought in the area. Get inside the history of the region; walk around between perception, conspiracy, and fact to gain a true understanding of those fighting alongside you, and against you.” (p. 190)

The reader should keep in mind that this volume deals with the influence of Axis and Allied intelligence operations during World War II and not with the history of intelligence and counterintelligence activities. This valuable, insightful, and compelling book exposes, in the main, some facets of the covert war of diplomacy, intrigue, and propaganda and the impact that the Middle East had on the evolution of Arab nationalist movements in the twentieth century and militant Islamist groups in the twenty-first century. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and the National Security Archive provide an untapped cornucopia of relevant information of topics that the Aboul-Enein brothers consider in this volume. While coverage among the eight areas considered is uneven in length and detail and varies in chronological reportage of the pre-war, World War II, and post-war periods, there is much valuable information and insight made available to the reader in this regionally comprehensive coverage.

Readers interested in these matters should also consult three additional recently-published works. A Line in the Sand : The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr (W.W. Norton & Co., 2012) which focuses on the British and French clandestine struggle for power in the Middle East. From the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 to divide the region between them to the birth of Israel, this volume illustrates imperialism, with tales of unscrupulous double-dealing, manipulation, and violence that continues into this millennium. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, intelligence historian Hugh Wilford (Basic Books/Perseus Books Group, 2013) details the history of the CIA’s pro-Arab operations in the 1940s and 1950s by examining the careers of three influential U.S. intelligence officers. Lastly, just published is Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz (Yale University Press, 2014) who consider alliances forged among Nazi leaders, Arab nationalists, and Muslim religious authorities. They draw on recent research in European, American, and Middle East archives in considering Nazism, Islamism, and jihad.

A few words about potentially confusing geopolitical terminology: The authors employ the political and cultural term “Middle East” to include the broad geographic region between North Africa (Morocco eastward through Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt), and eastern Mediterranean lands through Persia/Iran and Afghanistan, which comprises significant portions of the Arabic- and Persian-speaking world. Technically, western North Africa is, of course, not part of the Middle East. Occasionally, they or their sources, employ the geographic term “Near East” which encompasses the eastern Mediterranean littoral — Turkey, Palestine, Mesopotamia (modern Syria and Iraq ), as well as Persia/Iran. The anthropological-archaeological term “Southwest Asia” connotes basically the same region as the Near East. Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan are portions of “South Asia,” while Afghanistan, particularly the northern portion, and the former Soviet Republics – the “-stans” — are part of Central Asia or what archaeologists now term “Middle Asia.” Hence, the authors’ “Middle East” includes portions of western North Africa and South Asia. A general map would assist the reader; the three maps in the books focus on specific sub-regions and topics.


Dr Kolb is an independent scholar retired from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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BOOK REVIEW – In Service To Their Country: Christchurch School and the American Uniformed Services

Monroe, Alexander - In Service To Their Country Christchurch SchoolBy Captain Alexander “Sandy” G. Monroe, USN (Ret.), Pleasant Living Books, Richmond, VA (2014)

Reviewed by John R. Satterfield, DBA

This commemorative volume focuses on graduates of a small private school who served in the U.S. armed forces.  Author Alexander Monroe argues that Christchurch School has imbued its students with an outlook that mirrors military values – duty, integrity, discipline and respect for order and tradition. These values led many of its alumni into uniformed service. Early chapters discuss the various wars the school’s graduates have fought in, from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. Emphasis is placed on military history and the roles of alumni in those conflicts. Most of the book, however, is a compendium of alumni reflections on the role their secondary school experiences had in shaping their subsequent lives and career choices, with emphasis on their military service.

Monroe correctly assumes his book will interest few readers not affiliated with Christchurch School. This may be why there is comparatively little background about the school itself in the narrative. He assumes readers know that story. For those unfamiliar with Christchurch, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia founded the school in 1921 with just ten boarding students on a small campus beside the Rappahannock River estuary near the Chesapeake Bay in rural Virginia. It graduated only approximately six students each year during the Great Depression when boarding school tuition was not a high priority for most American families.  Even today, the school enrolls fewer than 250 students in grades 9 through 12.  Christchurch became co-ed in the early 1970s, but fewer than 30 percent of its students are females.  Tuition and fees for boarding students rival those of highly ranked U.S. colleges and universities, making Christchurch a very exclusive school.

Even these few facts raise questions about Monroe’s premise that the school has a direct impact on its graduates’ selection of military service or careers. This calls into question the book’s historical perspective.  Drawing any conclusions about unique characteristics or relationships with the military from a small number of anecdotal responses to qualitative and subjective survey questions is of course a difficult enterprise.  Military service apparently was a requirement for survey respondents, and there are no comparative assessments from alumni who pursued civilian careers.

An appendix contains the names of 302 Christchurch grads listed by class in chronological order through 2007, as well as thirty faculty and staff veterans.  Of these, Monroe named six alumni killed in World War II, although only four of them are designated KIA in the appendix. Given the school’s small graduating classes in the 1920s and 1930s, there is a high percentage of students that served during World War II. This does not necessarily make Christchurch unique. The war was an unprecedented emergency, and the U.S. anticipated involvement by reimplementing the draft in 1940, the first peacetime conscription in American history. Ultimately, all males between eighteen and forty-five could be called up for the duration plus six months, and about ten percent of the U.S. population was in uniform during the war.  Not surprisingly, the largest number of service members, fifteen, graduated in 1942. Graduates in the armed forces from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s were higher than average.

After the war, the terms changed, but the draft remained in force until the creation of the all-volunteer armed forces in 1973 after the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Again, it’s no surprise that military participation rates dropped significantly during the social revolution of the 1960s and beyond. In fact, many Christchurch classes in the 1980s and 1990s had no military members at all, and most others had just one or two.  This has dropped the average military participation rate since the school’s founding to about 3.5 students per year. Removing the classes serving in World War II drops the average to 2.6, hardly a remarkable number. The Development Office estimates that Christchurch has graduated about 3400 students since its founding, so military veterans constitute just below nine percent of the total. This rate is probably higher than average among private schools, but makes sense given the small number of graduates throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The school has kept no statistics on service, and Captain Monroe compiled his information independently, to his credit.

This review in no way detracts from the exceptional service of Christchurch graduates, including the book’s author, who have given so much to their country.  Alumni have received at least 40 decorations for gallantry, including the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, and Silver Star, as well as numerous commendations for superior individual and unit achievements.  Many of these men and women pursued distinguished military careers, and those who did not often enjoyed successful civilian pursuits.  In addition to the author, flag and senior naval officers from Christchurch include VAdm John W. Craine, Jr., who wrote the book’s foreword, Capts. Frederic D. Riley, William C. Robards, William A. Schroeder, Robert A. Shriver, Cody J. Tinsley, and William D. Young (a Navy Cross recipient), and Marine Cols. James T. Breckinridge and William H. Dabney (also a Navy Cross recipient). Among Christchurch’s other notable graduates are author and Pulitzer Prize winner William Styron, New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, and perhaps most poignantly, the son of the legendary Marine General Chesty Puller, Lewis B. Puller, Jr., who was horribly wounded and maimed while serving as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam and took his own life after suffering from intense depression and physical pain for 27 years after he was wounded.

The real issue, however, is that commemoration, even richly deserved, is not necessarily history.


Dr. Satterfield teaches military history and served as a naval intelligence officer.  

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BOOK REVIEW – Behind the Lines: A Critical Survey of Special Operations in World War II

Stein, Stephen - Behind the LinesBy Michael F. Dilley, Casemate, Philadelphia, PA and Oxford, England (2013)

Reviewed by Stephen K. Stein, Ph.D.

Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Special Forces have received a growing amount of media attention. Numerous books describe and analyze their recent operations. Michael F. Dilley, a writer and editor for Behind the Lines magazine, returns to the modern origins of these elite units with their vast proliferation during World War II. Taking a case study approach, he discusses units from a number of countries, both Axis and Allies. The book’s twenty-three chapters discuss missions that span the globe, including raids, intelligence gathering, rescuing POWs, and supporting guerrillas. The author relies mostly on secondary sources, though he did interview participants of a few of the missions.

The book’s chapters are short and generally follow the same format: approximately ten pages describing the mission, the unit that carried it out, and its history and training, followed by several pages of mission analysis and critique. The missions discussed range from the well-known Commando raid that aimed to kill or capture Rommel to Otto Skorzeny’s rescue of Mussolini. He also discusses larger operations, such as the Jedburgh teams that parachuted into occupied France, Belgium, and Holland to train and coordinate anti-Nazi resistance groups.

The majority of units and missions discussed are American or British. Several chapters recount the first missions of particular units, such the first raid by the newly formed Special Air Services in North Africa, of the first combat drop of U.S. paratroopers as part of the Torch landings, and the assault on the Palembang oil refineries by Japanese paratroopers. Two chapters cover an obscure, platoon-sized British unit, Popski’s Private Army, which grew to just over 100 soldiers, which fought in North Africa and Italy. Three chapters detail missions of the Alamo Scouts, created by the U.S. 6th Army in the Pacific. In addition to pre-invasion reconnaissance, they helped conduct two successful POW rescue missions. The multi-national, multi-service scouts who operated with the U.S. 7th Amphibious Fleet also receive a chapter.

While enlivened by some interesting anecdotes, the book’s narrative is sometimes belabored by menial trivia, such as noting the design and designer of each unit’s badge. Many of these missions are interesting, like the early war cross-channel by British troops against a German Wurzburg radar installation, but the author’s analysis tends to emphasize the obvious. Strangely, the book lacks a conclusion with no effort to draw larger lessons by comparing this hodgepodge of missions as a group. Each is assessed individually. Many missions suffered from poor intelligence and planning, and others from poor inter-service cooperation. Surprise was always essential to success. The book would be useful as an introduction to the multiplicity of special forces units that fought in World War II and their varied missions, but those requiring more detailed and analytical accounts must look elsewhere.

Dr. Stephen K. Stein is an Associate Professor at the University of Memphis.

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BOOK REVIEW – Billy Mitchell’s War with the Navy: The Interwar Rivalry Over Air Power

Wildenberg, Thomas - Billy Mitchells War with the NavyBy Thomas Wildenberg, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD (2013)

Reviewed by Captain J. F. “Bookie” Boland, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Colonel Billy Mitchell, an iconic and controversial figure in United States aviation history, is the subject of an important new book by independent historian Thomas Wildenberg. Although Mitchell’s life and military service is examined in innumerable books and articles, Billy Mitchell’s War with the Navy presents a new interpretation on the topic. This well-researched monograph assesses Mitchell’s actions and intentions from a naval perspective. Within this narrative, the reader will find a fresh perspective on the fierce competition that erupted between the nascent air arms of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy during the interwar period.

Wildenberg’s expertise in the development of U.S. naval aviation during the interwar period is reflected in this meticulously researched book. The author located previously unused sources found in the Naval History and Heritage Command and Navy Department archives, such as the papers of VAdm. Alfred W. Johnson, USN (Ret.) and an official history of the 1921 Virginia Capes bombing experiments. It was Johnson, then a captain, who commanded the naval forces involved in the famous bombing exercises that culminated in Army bombers sinking several ex-German warships, including the battleship Ostfriesland. Wildenberg provides a detailed and enlightening account of how Navy objectives for the experiments were compromised by the willful violation of exercise parameters by the Army airmen under Mitchell’s command.

The author clearly establishes the limitations that should have been placed on the conclusions drawn from the sinking of immobile target ships whose material condition was compromised. Nonetheless, Mitchell and the air power advocates would successfully use the sensational accounts and images from the bombing exercise to feed a growing consensus among Congress and the public that aircraft now superseded traditional naval power. The narrative gives new insight into the fear and frustration that gripped naval leaders during this time, and how their response to the Army airmen’s aggressive campaign to create an independent air service that could potentially subsume naval aviation.

The book contains ample biographical information on Mitchell’s military career with an appropriate focus on his distinguished contributions to the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, along with his bravery in the air. The author performs the laborious work of verifying with primary historical records the details of previous biographies on Mitchell. Consequently, a number of earlier errors connected with the chronology and context of events and inconsistencies in statements attributed to Mitchell now stand corrected.

An example of Wildenberg’s skill at weaving facts into an engaging narrative is found in the detailed explanation he provides on the mid-1920s shift to coastal defense as a core mission for the newly established Army Air Corps (AAC). Mitchell and others recognized that highlighting the expected efficiency and effectiveness of land-based aircraft in defending the nation’s coasts could ensure a robust budget for the Army’s air arm. The competition between the services over this mission would ultimately lead Mitchell to publicly challenge both the Navy and War Departments and bring about his court-marshal.

In the final chapter, titled “The Verdict of History,” Wildenberg delivers a compelling assessment of the aviation rivalry between the services that Mitchell did so much to foster. By contrasting the performance of carrier-based aircraft at the Battle of Midway against the U.S. Army Air Force’s (USAAF) land-based bombers the author takes aim at the sensational predictions made by Mitchell concerning the vulnerability of surface ships to horizontal bombing. The contrast is a stark one. The victory at Midway hinged upon the deadly effectiveness of the Navy’s Dauntless dive-bombers while the USAAF Flying Fortresses failed to damage a single major Japanese ship. Although the AAC had developed highly effective bombing doctrine for land targets, the lack of rigor in its tactics for attacks against maneuvering ships at sea was exposed early in World War II. The author drives home the point that the false assumptions, which were the underpinnings of high-altitude horizontal bombing against ships, flowed from Mitchell’s earlier advocacy for the coastal defense mission.

Thomas Wildenberg accomplished the challenging task of writing a narrative that will appeal equally to both general readers and informed professionals. The book is supported with meticulous notes, an extensive bibliography, and highly useful appendices. Mitchell’s passion, intelligence, and recklessness clearly emerge from the book’s pages, as does the U.S. naval leadership’s frustration with and animosity towards this high-energy proponent of an independent U.S. Air Force. (728)


Captain Boland is an adjunct instruction of history at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA. 

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