The Nuremberg trials concluded 75 years ago, obtaining convictions for Nazi officials, commanders and death camp overseers, those who orchestrated and committed genocide in World War II. World War II veteran Ben Ferencz prosecuted 22 Nazi death squad leaders for their role in murdering a million Jews. During his life he helped create the International Criminal Court in the Hague, and secure compensation for the survivors and families of Holocaust victims. At nearly 103, he is still dedicated to making the world better. Read his fascinating story, published by NBCNews January 15, 2023, here.
As a Christmas gift, one of our sons gave me a book, The Sea & Civilization: a Maritime History of the World, (2013) by Lincoln Paine. I have always been interested in history, and yet I never had a concise history describing the rise of civilizations around the globe. From Lincoln Paine’s Introduction and into the first chapter, Sailors have played a major role in enabling the rise of cultures across Oceania (across the Pacific Ocean), North and South America, and the Caribbean islands, and elsewhere. For most of us, the history we were taught, particularly in North America and western Europe, focused solely on how Europeans explored the world, encountering mostly primitive peoples. In recent decades, new research into those explorers who chronicled their voyages, and new archaeological discoveries reveal that people thousands of years earlier than either Greeks or western Europeans had fairly advanced maritime cultures, navigated great distances and established wide trade networks. I will repost with observations of what was learned that challenges my previous notions in maritime history.
Perhaps as my readers encounter well written and thoughtful books of interest to the Maritime-minded, you will take the opportunity to share these with me and others. I hope to develop a reading list early this year on maritime history, leadership, storytelling, boatbuilding, science, and biographies of some notable men and women who have dared to put to sea and returned victorious.
In middle school, the subject of history was neither dry nor boring as I spent a few years living in New England and for a time in a pre-French & Indian Wars-era colonial home. Browsing through antique shops and flea markets in the 1970s, my family had a penchant for collecting random things that were interesting. Whether it was sifting through dirt to recover old medicine bottles and inkwells, engaging with an old Scout master (one of the founders of Scouting in New England) who started me collecting postage stamps, or discussing for hours, gems and minerals an older lady had retrieved on her travels (she started my interest in rocks and minerals), each had engaged me with stories. Years listening to my grandmother and great aunts family history, seeing some of their heirlooms, and then having the opportunity to see actual records, that matched their stories, and visit the places they described added context. In the Navy, I deployed all over the world. But as the years pass turn into decades, from time to time it is valuable (to aid my recollection) to look at them again.
- A painting my late mother had hanging in our home for fifty years is signed by a Parisian artist
- A lithograph signed by (living) artist my wife and I visited on a date to Laguna Beach – we do not go on more dates to his studio as a result
- An early Twentieth Century Bentwood rocker from the New England studio home (it had briefly been my childhood home) of a Nineteeth Century muralist
- A vase that belonged to my maternal grandmother’s grandmother has been carefully stored for forty years
- A button from a Naples maritime officer I chatted with during a port visit 30 years ago
- Bulgarian currency from our visit on the Black Sea- a first US vessel to visit since before the Cold War
- uncirculated postage stamps representing the chaplains who sacrificed themselves for others to survive during WWII
- original Navy ballcap issued to me in 1991. My first ship, I deployed to Central, South America and Canada. it was decommissioned two years later
- A Russian nesting doll from the Soviet era
Dozens of biographies have been written by historians on Theodore Roosevelt, from his upbringing to Rough Rider to President. Over a hundred years ago, this visionary and military veteran, outdoorsman, nationalist and the arguably the first Progressive, Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States. Following the end of the Spanish-American War, in 1898, he was elected Governor of New York state. And became Vice-President following the death of McKinley’s Vice-President. Becoming President following the assassination of McKinley, Roosevelt earned the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between Russia and Japan. In the 1902 coal miners strike, he had a federal commission investigate and force changes to the industry averting an energy crisis. He ended the railroad industry and beef producers’ monopolies. And he initiated oversight of food and drugs to standardize safety and end misbranding of products. As a conservationist, he created the Forest Service and approved creation of several national parks**. From his speeches and writing, many of this century’s polarizing policies and loss of the United States’ influence in the world, might have been averted had they still been considered by its leaders.
We can have no ’50-50′ allegiance in this country. Either a man is an American and nothing else, or he is not an American at all.
It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.cit. 1917 letter to S Mencken
The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight.
It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.
A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.TR
It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president… is morally treasonable to the American public.TR
** summary of accomplishments, from https://learnodo-newtonic.com/theodore-roosevelt-accomplishments; quotes from http://www.brainyquote.com
Twenty-one years ago today, in the early hours of a late summer morning, evil attempted to destroy the American ideal. They thought by striking symbols, the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the White House, they would succeed in their endeavor. They were wrong. Three thousand men and women, airline passengers and crew, working people, First Responders and members of the Armed Forces perished that day. Instead of fear, the terrorists ignited resolve, beginning first with the passengers in the plane above Shanksville, Pennsylvania who opposed them. Though perishing, the passengers halted the attack on one of Al Qaeda’s targets. Like the surprise attack of Imperial Japan sixty years earlier, a “sleeping giant” was awakened. Before the towers collapsed, Americans (whatever their actual citizenship) demonstrated this evil “holy” war was a failed attempt. Heroism, courage and sacrifice emerged that day.
Men and women rushed into the burning buildings to save others, and some perished in doing so. In the ensuing months, fatherless and motherless children, widows and widowers, neighbors and strangers were comforted. The World these terrorists hated, put aside their differences, then united in crushing the safe haven in Afghanistan and sending its leaders to prison or to hell. Twenty years later, most Americans living today have at least one family member, co-worker, friend, or neighbor who served in the military after September 11th, some of whom returning with the scars of war. Though collective memory of nations fade, governments equivocate, and old ways persist, veterans still remind us of duty and responsibility of the defended. Ordinary citizens support, encourage, and volunteer to assist the injured, homeless, addicted, and refugee. Though many who have come of age in the two decades since question the purpose of the sacrifices in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, this day should be remembered and honored.
Embrace those who lost a loved one on that day. Put aside any differences in race, politics, religion, economic condition or gender. Thank a member of law enforcement, firemen, veterans and Active Duty service members for their dedication. Get to know your neighbor. Praise your God for peace and love. Most importantly, teach your children respect, honor, courage, and selflessness.
While developing talented junior enlisted and officers into highly-skilled and effective leaders is a goal of the military in general, some leaders’ examples are more inspirational than others. During the late 1990s, aboard the destroyer USS PETERSON, commanded at the time by a former “snipe” (nickname for a member of the Engineering Department), the mission effectiveness and morale of the crew were exceptional, earning the ship awards from the combatant commander. It may have been his model of leadership that inspired a shipmate in my work center, and a Boatswains Mate (another division in the Operations Department) to apply and be accepted for, commissioning. Recently I learned that a peer Cryptologic Technician Maintainer (CTM), with whom I served in the early 1990s, is now a Captain who serves as Commander of Information Warfare Training Command, Pensacola, Florida.
I had the privilege of working for two commanding officers who had begun their careers as an enlisted Seaman Recruit and retired forty years later as Rear Admiral. Both were inspirational in developing military professionals, both officer and enlisted. Officers who modeled the standards set by these COs, became commanding officers in later years. These same units produced enlisted members who rose to become unit Senior Enlisted Leaders, achieve the highest rank of Master Chief Petty Officer in their respective Ratings, and some of these same MCPOs became their Rating’s Enlisted Community Manager.
It has been nearly thirty years since the Navy established a career path for enlisted Sailors to seek a commission. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Mike Boorda was the first Sailor to start a career as an enlisted man, receive a commissioning, and promote all the way to the highest rank and office in the Navy. It was he who instituted the “Seaman to Admiral Program”, now referred to as STA-21. Each year, exceptional male and female enlisted sailors may apply to become officers. July is the cutoff for applications to be received for the following year.
From websites such as Station Hypo, which posts stories of the history and personnel of the Navy Information Warfare (and Cryptology) community as well as the official website of the Navy Public Affairs office, the news that men and women have set the bar for others to model. Like the story of Mark Burns, Navy SEAL and Rear Admiral, his insight, having attained Flag rank, will inspire others to pursue what is possible.
In maritime warfare, has there been a case where a United States Navy Midshipman was promoted to commanding officer? And then, upon losing a battle, was court-martialed? The answer is yes to both questions.
It was the War of 1812. The battle itself was very short and resulted in the deaths of many of the American crew and capture of the American vessel. Captain Philip Broke, commander of HMS Shannon challenged Captain James Lawrence of the Chesapeake – he had been her commander less that 2 weeks. The Chesapeake got underway to meet the Shannon and in the short conflict her masts and steering were damaged by the British warship and became inoperable. Two hundred-fifty of her crew were killed. Captain Lawrence was mortally wounded, and as he was taken below, he promoted the only surviving officer, midshipman William S. Cox to the rank of Third Lieutenant. Though ordered to continue the fight until sunk, she was captured, and the Chesapeake‘s remaining crew were imprisoned in Nova Scotia. After the war, a court martial found Third Lieutenant Cox guilty of briefly leaving his post during the engagement. He was stripped of rank and discharged. William Cox died in 1874, but 75 years after his death, in August 1952, President Truman signed a legislation posthumously restoring Cox’s rank of Third Lieutenant.
A veteran friend of mine sent me the link to an article on the military use of pigeons back before Marconi’s invention revolutionized communications. The Navy employed pigeons to courier messages, even developing a Navy Rating with special training to care for and train the birds. If the world goes to seed, I may have some recruits for a new pigeon command here.
I may not have been a Navy Pigeoneer in my career (I was a guy who maintained the electronics), though I am getting more into birds at home. With the change to some waterwise shrubs, my wife wanted to put seeds and sunflowers to bring them back. Recruitment seems to be working. Finches, hummingbirds, California Towhees, and mourning doves are again welcome guests at Camp Feathers. I had originally wanted to attract some nearby raptors, but these are perhaps following the gophers which have gone elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Honoring the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who died in defense of the United States is why Monday, May 30th, is special. Honoring our dead has nothing to do with the commercialism and nonchalant ‘day off’ that has co-opted so many ‘holy-days’. And it is not to honor living service members nor veterans whom we thank on Veterans Day, though as a veteran I do remember both living and the dead. As the years pass, the sacrifice of many lives in past conflicts is no less a time to remember than for the generation coming of age today. More than fifteen thousand American military and contractors (many of whom were former military) were killed in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East between 9/11 and 2021’s exit from Afghanistan.
From an article published on Snopes.com, and sourced from historian research, the earliest remembrance day for war dead was held on May 1, 1865 when former slaves in Charleston, SC reburied 257 Union soldiers who had been interred in a mass grave at the former Confederate prison camp. They gave them all proper burial and then held a parade in gratitude for their service. In 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, designated May 30th as Decoration Day, placing flowers on the graves of war dead. In the 1960s, the governor of New York state, followed by President Johnson proclaimed Waterloo, New York as the original founder of Memorial day. (Whom and where the original day of remembrance began in the US is still debated.) Waterloo had been honoring war dead annually since 1866. Scholars can debate where and when Memorial Day began – there are accounts from groups in the old South that honored both Union and Confederate war dead since the 1860s, but the Federal Government established Memorial Day, with a holiday in 1971. As we in the United States enjoy gatherings or time to relax during the Memorial Day weekend, please pause to reflect on those military members who gave their all for us.
You're a grand old flag, You're a high flying flag And forever in peace may you wave. You're the emblem of The land I love. The home of the free and the brave. Every heart beats true 'Neath the Red, White and Blue, Where there's never a boast or brag. Should all acquaintance be forgot, Keep your eye on the grand old flag. -George M Cohan, composer
Composer George M Cohan wrote these lyrics more than a century ago, at a time when the United States flag was a rallying symbol for a nation of “Americans” formed out of immigrants. Over millennia, flags have been the banners under which people have rallied to wars of liberation and independence, as well as peaceful demonstrations for equality. Some deliberately provoke anger as their banners recall times of injustice or genocide. Though any student of history can dwell on the sins of a nation, the United States being no exception, the advances in medicine, agriculture, industrial output, other sciences, in education and literacy, in the United States made our national ensign a symbol well known in every part of the world. As a veteran and history buff, the history of the American flag is interesting and remains a symbol of pride. How did our national ensign emerge?
For a century prior to the Revolutionary War, the American colonist flew a derivation of the ensign of Great Britain with various symbols that were historically significant in Britain, such as the cross of St. Andrews or the cross of Saint George. The Union flag, which first flew on British naval ships in 1634. With several changes instituted and then reverted by monarchs for the next century, the colonist adopted flags with these designs and colors, until the unrest prior to the revolution, variations on merchant ships and to rally the colonists to their aims for independence carried mottos in Latin such as “conquer or die” or other provoking mottos (p. 135, Naval Ceremonies, Customs and Traditions, Naval Institute Press, 2004) and designs such as the Pine Tree. The Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse when it escorted General Washington to New York to take command of the Continental Army was first to bear thirteen stripes, representing the original colonies, in alternating blue and silver stripes. Commodore Hopkins raised a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag with thirteen stripes, a rattlesnake, and this motto on his ship the Alfred on 5 December 1775. During the bicentennial Independence year in 1976, it flew again as the jack on all Navy ships. In 2002, in response to the War on Terror, the “Don’t Tread on Me” jack was again flown. John Paul Jones, of whom so much of early American naval tradition rests, was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the new American Navy on 22 December 1775. From commissioning, in the company of Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock, he went aboard Commodore Hopkin’s flagship, the Alfred. Directed by John Hancock, with the Commodore and ship’s captain ashore, as senior officer John Paul Jones directed the first “American” flag, be hoisted from the mainmast. This is significant as the first American flag flying from a warship. From historical accounts, this ensign was likely the same flag raised by Washington’s troops in Boston a couple weeks later. The adoption of the national ensign, with the 13 alternating red and white stripes, with stars in a blue field representing the union occurred on 4 June 1777. As for John Paul Jones, he received orders to command the Ranger the same day, and afterward he always believed his future and that of the new national ensign were linked. In the sea battle with the HMS Serapis, both ships were severely damaged. As he transferred with surviving crew to the captured British vessel, the last view of sinking Bon Homme Richard was the “defiant waving of her unconquered and unstrucken (sic) flag as she went down” (report of John Paul Jones, ibid, p143).
With the admission of new states into the ‘united states’ in the last years of the Eighteenth Century, the design of the nation’s flag was subject to some controversy, over the number of stripes and stars. The final design was established by Congress and signed into law in 1818 by President Monroe. From that time forth, the stripes remained fixed as they appear today, but an additional star would be added to the blue field for every new state admitted.
Under a lifelong commitment to protect national security of the United States, describing what my military peers and I did for a living was often reduced to generalizations and debunking some misconceptions that Hollywood movies make about protecting national security. Though there were some 1960’s-era generals at the time unopposed to being ordered to use nuclear weapons, the satire Dr Strangelove, lampoons that a rogue can instigate WWIII. Or at the dawn of the Computer Age, that a young civilian might connect to a DOD system, as in War Games, discounts that computers even then were isolated in secure networks. (However, a spy on the inside remains a hazard.) While thrilling, that rogue cells within the Intelligence bureaucracy could operate with efficiency and lethality outside of oversight, as in the Bourne films, seems too incredible. (However, the efficiency which the Russian security apparatus can eliminate political enemies highlights what sanctioned operations can achieve.) In Crimson Tide, a nuclear submarine commander (with a dog aboard(!) and officers might be near mutiny over whether to launch nukes is horrifying, but the crew selection and training process, security protocols and backup systems exist to prevent that. On the other hand, a glimpse into a typical mission day in the life of a nuclear-armed B-52 bomber is interesting in that it seems routine. For the last thirty years, nuclear war has seemed to be an artifact of history, but during the Cold War, military professionals conducted their duties in their flying “office”, preparing for a very real potential between nuclear-armed adversaries.
By accident, today I found a short film posted to YouTube, narrated by James Stewart, the renowned actor and WWII bomber pilot (and a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve) from 1959- the year I was born. For the last sixty-plus years, training has continued in that deterring war is most effective by trained and equally-lethal forces. With tensions rising again, with Russian aggression against Ukraine and China’s military reach growing, training will continue. Just as this short film depicts, each military professional does his or her duty hoping to go home at the conclusion of the “work day’.
Continued from Part 1:
After christening and launching of a naval ship, commissioning is the next major ceremony in its life. The builders turn over the ship to the Navy, to an authority who will bear responsibility until the ship is commissioned. Prior to commissioning, no pennant, jack nor ensign is flown from the ship and no honors are rendered, other than courtesies upon his or her arrival. Honors are rendered at his departure. The ship is turned over to the commanding officer who accepts her and assumes command. Invitations reflect the host of the ceremony, including the crew among the hosts. Invitations are issued in the form, “Commanding Officer and Ship’s Company” or “Commanding Officer, Officers and Crew”. This is the first time that the title “USS” or United States Ship may be used as it is a commissioning ceremony. Established practice is to have a basic, official ceremony and when the ship is officially in commission, to continue with official speeches, personal remarks, and presentations. It is during this latter part of the ceremony that officers and crew are on duty and manning their station as in-port watches. This process adheres to Navy Regulations regarding commissioning. Officers fall in aft by dress parade stations on the quarterdeck or at the fantail, and the crew is marched aft, by division, to assigned stations. The ceremony begins with an invocation by a chaplain. The executive officer reports to the prospective commanding officer that the officers and crew are at their stations and everything is ready for the commissioning ceremony. By seniority, the official party, the admiral or designated representative and the prospective commanding officer arrive at their places on the ceremony platform. The officer conducting the transfer reads the orders delivering the ship and the orders to commission the ship are relayed from the commanding officer to executive officer to the navigator. At the “attention” signal, the national anthem plays, and ensign, commissioning pennant, and jack are hoisted at the same time. The commanding officer reads orders to assume command and orders to set the watch. The Officer of the Deck takes his (her) station and makes the first entry in the ship’s log: ” The ship is now officially commissioned.” Speeches, addresses and presentations by the official guests continue; the ceremony concludes and the official party departs. A reception usually follows.
IMAGE CREDIT: US Navy photo by MS1 Ernesto Bonilla, USS Daniel INOUYE, DDG-113 (navy.mil)