Within a few months of his leaving his assignment as Commander Naval Forces Vietnam in 1970, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt began making his presence felt around NAVFORV Headquarters again. In his new incarnation as Chief of Naval Operations, he began signing out a series of Navy-wide messages—soon to be known as"Z-Grams"—that spelled out a series of bold new personnel policies, designed to challenge the status quo within a Navy that was moving into an uncertain future. These messages created both joy and consternation, the latter of which seemed to rise geometrically with the pay grade of the readers.
Against this backdrop, a couple of advisors to the Vietnamese Marine Corps decided to rattle the cage of one of the senior staff officers at NAVFORV, the parent headquarters of the Marine Advisory Unit. The commander in question was rather an emotional fellow, whose judgment could quickly become clouded when something raised his ire—in other words, he was a screamer.
One sunny morning, the commander arrived at his deck in a large-ish staff officers' bull pen and found what purported to be the newest Z-Gram, sitting on top of his in-basket. It had all the correct message headings, date-time groups, and routing indicators and had been mimeographed—just like something straight from the message center. The subject certainly seemed legitimate enough: a new policy that would put an end of the Navy's recruiting difficulties. The focus of the policy would be the rising birth rate among unwed Navy couples—or mothers, at any rate. The message then spelled out a set of meticulously drawn instructions, complete with action agencies and reporting requirements. The women thus found to be in a family way would be transferred to regional prenatal battalions, to await their blessed events. After birth and a mandatory recovery period, the infants would be transferred to the Naval Orphans' Farm at Bainbridge, Maryland, where they would be raised by the Navy. At age 18, these orphans would join the Navy, thus permitting the mother or the father—depending upon the gender of the child—to retire or be discharged.
The message hooked the commander early on, or else he would have recognized it as a hoary practical joke dating back to World War II or earlier, played at the expense of long-suffering Women Marines (before they became just "Marines") and others. But his grip on the paper tightened and his head snapped back as each new offensive phrase ("prenatal battalions;" "Naval Orphans' Farm") came into view. His face became a bright red and his breathing grew labored—while just around the corner, the practical jokers grew red in the face trying not to breathe, lest they laugh out loud too soon.
Finally, the distraught commander reached the end, and looked wildly around the room with mounting fury, pounding his fist on his desk and screaming to no one in particular as his fellow workers bent to their tasks:
"By god—this time, he's gone too far!"