Book Reviews

This is a story within a story, where the last chapter comes first; a tale of two families, the Staffords and the Parrishes. We are introduced to Steve Stafford very early in the book. A former Navy A-6E Intruder pilot and current Navy public affairs officer, Steve confronts his family history throughout the story. We follow nine generations of Staffords, beginning with Jedediah Stafford during a terrible day in the mid1700s when French pirates raid the family home at Patuxent, on the Chesapeake Bay. Two of the book's central themes are cast from that early incident. Stafford men, through ensuing generations, serve either as farmers or seamen-"one son for the soil and one son for the sea and a love-hate relationship develops between the Staffords and Parrishes.

As Martin moves from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812, his story gathers momentum. We are introduced to a Who's Who of American naval history and are reminded of the great battles that brought forth the fighting spirit of the U.S. Navy. We meet John Paul Jones, Edward Preble, Stephen Decatur, and William Bainbridge, and learn what it was like to experience combat in the grand frigates United States, Congress, Presidents, Constitution, Constellation, and Chesapeake.

One of the most exciting chapters combines the lives of two young naval officers, a Stafford and a Parrish, fighting against the Tripolitan pirates. It is a great tale of the battles off the North African coast by a fledgling Navy that refuses a tyrant's attempts at extortion. The interaction between Stafford and Parrish during the fight against the pirates eventually will place them on opposite sides of a duel, a few years later.

The author proceeds through the War of 1812 in a unique and unusual way. I often have visualized the Constitution locked in battle against the Guerrierre or the Java. But Martin includes not only Stafford's contribution to the Constitution's victory on the East Coast, but then transfers him to a frigate that darts around the tip of South America, hunting down British merchant ships. His description of the hard, brutal weather reminded me of Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner."

As we follow the Stafford family in the years preceding the Civil War, we are introduced to the brilliant founding fathers of the Naval Academy George Bancroft and William Chauvenet-and a dilapidated old Army post, Fort Severn. From a few savvy educators and some prime real estate along a broad river and the Chesapeake Bay, the U.S. Naval Academy is founded. Martin portrays the strife and personal tragedies of the Civil War by pitting two Stafford brothers, both sons of the sea, against each other during the historic battle between the Monitor and Merrimack.

Martin unfolds the long period between the Civil War and World War II by once again using the Stafford family to introduce such key historical figures as Alfred Thayer Mahan and his "Sea Power." We see William Randolph Hearst and his "yellow journals" spark American anger that led to war with Spain, and thus to Admiral Dewey's victory in Manila Bay. At the turn of the century, we are introduced to yet another Stafford attending the Naval Academy. Through him, we meet two more fascinating midshipmen named Spruance and Halsey. We know that Spruance and Halsey are destined for great things, but still we are drawn toward Stafford's somewhat more subdued role in the upheaval and the great battles of World War II.

Martin skillfully brings his story and the Stafford family into the turbulent Vietnam era in Annapolis's final chapters. While on river patrol duty in Operation Game Warden in South Vietnam, Steve Stafford is forced to confront his father's death during a vicious firefight with the Viet Cong. Martin expertly manages to fold the dramatic Tonkin Gulf Incident, exciting PT boat raids by both North and South Vietnamese, perpetual intrigue, and the youthful idealism and tragedy of that war around the story of Steve Stafford's father.

If you enjoy history and especially naval history you will enjoy Annapolis. You will enjoy the expanse of time reliving the great naval battles our nation has fought. You also will enjoy seeing a family's generations wedded to providing "a son for the sea." Martin understands a sailor's love of the sea and a naval officer's desire for command. From Tom Stafford preparing for the battle with the Merrimack come the very wonderful, true words, "I would rather have a bluewater command than sail a desk." I could have not said it better.

The Mother of All Hooks: The Story of the U.S. Navy's Tailhook Scandal

William H. McMichael. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997 377 pp. Ind. Notes. $32.95 ($29.65).

Reviewed By Colonel Hays Parks, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)

William H. McMichael, a senior reporter for the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, has written the most definitive account to date of the 1991 Tailhook reunion and the events that followed. Having covered the story for his newspaper-including firsthand coverage of the trials and tribulations in the Navy's bumbling efforts at punishment of its personnel-he appears qualified to offer a record of those events.

His narrative begins with the day in which charges against Commander Gregory E. Tritt, commanding officer of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, were being examined. Under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the investigating officer has the responsibility of determining whether there is sufficient evidence of a crime to refer the case to a general court-martial. He then makes his recommendation to the flag officer with the authority to convene a general court martial.

The key government witness, Lieutenant John J. LoGuidice, formerly of VAQ-139, was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer as a result of a streaking incident. He was granted immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony against Commander Tritt, who-investigators alleged-"pawed" passing women during Tailhook '91.

Although prompted heavily by government investigators, LoGuidice stumbled in his testimony. The government next called an alleged victim, a naval officer. Despite three questionable line-ups, the witness could not identify Tritt as her assailant. To which McMichael declares: " . . . Members of the press looked at one another in disbelief. This was the government's best case? This was what two years and millions of dollars had produced?" It was-and the author lays out its details in the pages that follow, including (ultimately) dismissal of the charges against Commander Tritt.

The story of Tailhook '91 and the events that followed never was a pretty one, and it has not improved with time or its re-telling. It features:

  • Two badly conducted criminal investigations-one by the Navy, one by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense-that were the result of political overreaction within the executive and legislative branches of the government
  • The ultimate dismissal of all courts-martial cases, because of the heavy handed denial of due process by the Navy political and military leadership
  • And the subsequent, continued mishandling by the Navy of cases against officers with superior records convicted of absolutely nothing, resulting in their premature retirements.

McMichael tells much of the story from an insider's point of view, having covered the consolidated judicial proceedings against the Navy and Marine Corps accused. His primary focus is the poorly conducted efforts at punishment by the Navy's consolidated disposition authority. His narrative excels in its description of these events. It is less even, however, in its description of events that occurred outside the Norfolk area. In regional events, McMichael writes as a witness. As to all other events, he writes as a journalist, repeating previously published accounts without questioning or correcting original, erroneous media reports. For example:

  • He repeats reports that other-service representatives attended Tailhook '91, but failed to pursue their degree of participation or the failure of the Army, Air Force, and Defense Department Inspector General (DoD IG) to investigate their possible misconduct. The recent rash of sexual misconduct cases in the Army and Air Force confirms this was an area that merited investigation-not only by the services and DoD IG, but also by the author.
  • He summarizes the misconduct by male naval aviation personnel, but glosses over reported misconduct by female naval personnel (including the original complainant, Paula Coughlin)-then fails to examine any reasons for this double standard.

There also are errors of fact. He states that the "new assignment" of "Marine General P. X. Kelly (sic.)" was affected by the Senate's Tailhook-related freeze on promotions. General Kelley (correct spelling) retired as the Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1987-four years before Tailhook '91. The author incorrectly states that Navy Secretary Sean O'Keefe "fired" Rear Admiral John E. Gordon, the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. Rear Admiral Gordon retired on the date he had requested, 12 days prior to O'Keefe's press conference. "Fired" is a term incorrectly used in some media accounts, but it was not used by Secretary O'Keefe. This fact and other mischaracterizations of Rear Admiral Gordon's record could have been corrected with an interview. The author's decision to write this book without talking to several of the principal players has spawned some significant shortcomings. This is the most complete account of Tailhook to date; with a little more original research, however, it could have been a much better account.

SSN

Tom Clancy. New York, NY: Berkley Books, 1996. 297 pp. Bib. Gloss. Maps. Photos. $15.00 ($13.50).

Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander Warren Mazanec, U.S. Navy

Two types of people will pick up this book. The first will be those who look for a great story, the kind one might have finished reading under the covers with a flashlight as a kid. The other type will bristle at the occasional technical inaccuracy and become annoyed as this tale pushes the boundary of the plausible. There is enough in Tom Clancy's new book to attract both readers, although the latter may be happier reading a Naval Warfare Publication. For the first reader, "Rig ship for large angles," and get a firm grip on your coffee cup; let the adventure begin.

This story begins on board the Cheyenne (SSN-773), the Navy's newest (and last) Los Angeles-class submarine on a routine Western Pacific deployment. Through a series of artfully crafted events, the United States finds itself at odds with China over political positioning in the oil-rich Spratly Islands. With Captain "Mack" Mackey in command, the Cheyenne finds itself conducting the entire array of possible submarine missions beginning with operations against the aging Chinese submarine fleet. After a predictable escalation, the Cheyenne takes on the modern assets that the money-poor former Soviet Union sold to China.

The book is structured to be a "tactics" guide to the computer game with the same title which is sold separately. The goal is to present strategy and tactics in an exciting and understandable fashion. Each of the 15 chapters in the book has its own theme devoted to a specific warfare area. Each chapter is an exciting story unto itself, and a few chapters make a gripping evening of reading. But the book's true weakness is that after eight or nine chapters, one begins to wonder if we are on the Starship Enterprise as it single-handedly keeps the planet safe for democracy. It is hard to imagine any scenario where a single submarine is the only asset available for such a protracted period. This is only a minor distraction, however, and by keeping in mind the book is to provide the underlying framework for a game, it is an acceptable compromise for such great fiction.

The story line around the ship, the crew, and the command structure is a vast improvement over such other classics as The Hunt For Red October. There are no superhuman "Jonesy" characters lurking in the wings, just a realistic, well-trained crew working hard to do a great job. The command environment is one that everyone wishes to belong to at sea; starting with a confident captain who inspires everyone to work at their peak, constantly striving for improvement. Through the course of the book, the main characters as well as the crew grow and improve, and Captain Mackey rewards their efforts with increased responsibility, just like naval leadership classes teach. Tom Clancy's research and involvement with his subject allow his stories to take on an authentic flavor and, despite their being fiction, make them even more believable.

The SSN computer game was a surprising step in the right direction. It has enough in it for everyone, from the diehard gaming enthusiast to someone seeking to gain a greater understanding of submarine operations. The pre-release version fits nicely between the clunky mechanics of the original Harpoon-style games and an in-depth knowledge required to keep some of the high-tech flight simulators from "auguring in." The graphics ran smoothly, installation was painless, and the game was up and running minutes after the disk slid into the machine. The minimum configuration of a 60-Mhz Pentium, 8 mega-bytes of RAM and a double speed CD-ROM make sense. Occasionally, the reaction time was slow on a minimally configured system, but on a faster machine with a high-speed CD-ROM, it flew right along. At no time was play hampered by overly complex commands that controlled obscure facets of submarine operations. The multipurpose display where the ship was operated was easy enough to navigate. There was not the usual frustration of needing an extra pair of arms and another keyboard to complete maneuvers. None of the several "victims" who were invited to sit and play this game left without inquiring when they could come back for "another cup of coffee." That is as good an endorsement as they come.

Tom Clancy has turned a subject that is potentially difficult to understand and technically substantial enough to be boring into a gripping saga that doubles as a prelude to a fascinating game. Recent news articles about conflict in the Spratlys give his ability to project fiction into truth a prescient quality.

Command and Control, Marine Corps Doctrine Publication 6

U.S. Marine Corps, 4 October 1996, 147 pages.

Reviewed by Rear Admiral W. J. Holland Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired)

The Marines have produced the most intelligible summary of the concepts of command and control since Clausewitz. Aimed at platoon leaders, straightforward declarative sentences encapsulate the essence of command in any time-sensitive critical action, be it war, firefighting, or trauma centers. "No single activity in war," declare the Marines, "is more important than command and control." Like the Navy's earlier document on the same subject (reviewed in Proceedings February 1996), Marine Corps Doctrine Publication (MDCP-6) is superbly written and interestingly presented, making refreshing statements of the ideals of command and control. Offering philosophy-not catechism-both manuals tell why, not how. Because they establish expected norms, teach desired attitudes and create common expectations, these little books lay the necessary groundwork for a command-and-control culture in the information age.

Both publications emphasize timeliness as a key of C2, but the Marines still use the four-step, command-and-control-cycle model (the late Colonel John Boyd's OODA [observe-orient-decide-act] loop). The importance of image building and problems of correlation and fusing are passed over lightly by the Marines because of their focus on small unit ground combat. The Navy's experience in correlating real-time data into coherent ideas as a continuous process marks a major difference between the two publications-and the theories of command and control they represent. In the Navy's tasks, the role of technology is much greater and the Navy's experience in such an environment is obvious. As demonstrated in Captain R. T. Moeller's "JSTARS Works for the Navy Too" (January 1997 Proceedings), generals-like admirals-will have to become used to exercising command and control as a continuous process: operating from command centers; analyzing near-real-time evidence; understanding the capabilities of remote sensors; responding to ill-defined changes; and giving immediate directions without the benefit of staff analysis or direct observation.

The Marine Corps, unlike the Navy, pretty well ignores the processes that go into transforming data into understanding and the role technology plays in this task. The obvious necessity for commanders to understand the capabilities and limitations of the information technology that feeds them data is not mentioned, even though an appreciation of these technologies will be as important in the information-warfare environment as knowing the range of the artillery was in former days.

On the other hand, the Marines deal with the role of human beings in a more critical and clear manner. The importance of personnel selection-". . . Marines of a given grade are not interchangeable . . ."-and unit stability are more unhesitatingly stated. In the link between uncertainty and timeliness, the Marines state that people are the key. Decentralized decision making and execution, initiative of subordinates, implicit communications, and the importance of generating tempo all are endorsed. Like the Navy, the Marine Corps emphasizes the importance of experience, training, and character. It is probably politically incorrect to observe that these traits are not developed to a great degree in the Pentagon or in many other staff assignments.

Finally, nothing has been written that is superior to these discussions about modes of control: detailed or centralized control that provides clear and precise orders versus mission control, which better allows for uncertainty and timeliness. Appropriate use of both is advocated with good guidelines but without a set of inhibiting definitions. Observation indicates that in practice, every level of command desires to have mission control from the echelons above, but prefers direct control of those below. This human tendency is unlikely to change, despite the eloquence of sermons on maneuver warfare.

There is no better investment of a couple of hours by anyone who thinks he or she will or would like to be a commander than reading one-or even both-of the Navy and Marine pamphlets.

 

 
 

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