October 13 is the birthday of our Navy. On that date in 1775, in Philadelphia, a small group within the Continental Congress, led by John Adams, persuaded fellow legislators to arm and outfit two ships to intercept British vessels carrying munitions and stores to the King's army in America. That Continental Navy soon became the United States Navy. Now, 231 years later, no military force, past or present, can claim a prouder history. All of us at the Naval Institute send warm wishes to our Navy comrades for continued fair winds and following seas.
As it happens, October is also the month that the Naval Institute was born, so we're celebrating a birthday, too. The convener of the first Institute gathering was Commodore Foxhall Parker (on left), later to become Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, where the founders met on 9 October 1873, a mere 133 years ago. The 133rd isn't exactly a benchmark birthday, but I decided that we'd celebrate it by re-introducing ourselves to our members and to old friends who may have forgotten our heritage. In this era of sensory and information overload, it's easy to lose sight of which organizations and publications have earned special standing. What makes the Naval Institute and Proceedings different from other military-oriented organizations and professional journals? Without diminishing our respected rivals, there is something that makes us special.
Nobody owns us. We are grateful to many, friends to most, but beholden to no one. It is the proud tradition of our Independent Forum , perhaps the most popular feature in Proceedings , that all responsible points of view are welcome. Moreover, each month the pages of Proceedings are filled with articles that instruct, commend, and illuminate but also, frequently, go against the grain of conventional wisdom and institutional orthodoxy.
All of which is to say that this month we are proud to offer readers a short but entertaining history of the Naval Institute , a tale skillfully crafted by Senior Editor Fred Schultz. Mr. Schultz was the perfect choice to write the story. He has worked for USNI for 17 years, including a 12-year stint as editor-in-chief of Naval History, our sister publication. Since shifting to the Proceedings staff late last year, he has been a paragon of careful editing and a wellspring of good ideas. His most recent coup was persuading former Secretary of the Navy and 9/11 Commission member John Lehman to write a hard-hitting piece for our September issue looking at anti-terrorist efforts in the five years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One sentence from Mr. Schultz's article seems especially trenchant: "While we like to think we're the best at what we do, we've heard comments from naval people around the world who say we are the only ones who do what we do."
Accompanying this issue is a special supplement showcasing the winners of the Anchoring Sea Enterprise Essay Contest. We received a staggering 260 entries, a reflection, no doubt, of interest in the subject, though the $15,000 first prize probably had something to do with it. You'll find the essays impressive as participants offer innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the Navy. The rest of this month's menu comprises a solid offering of stories. Paul West, Washington bureau chief of the Baltimore Sun and my old boss, has put together a marvelous piece on the Virginia Senate race between incumbent Republican George Allen and his Democratic challenger, James Webb, another one-time Secretary of the Navy, author, USNA grad, and Marine combat veteran of Vietnam. Aside from the usual curiosity of our audience about Mr. Webb's activities, this race offers as clear-cut a referendum on the war in Iraq as any state this election year. Senator Allen supports the war; Mr. Webb opposes it.
Retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Solis, a lawyer and former Institute author of the year, provides a provocative look at military justice as practiced in Iraq and Afghanistan . His analysis? Some Soldiers and Marines may be getting away with murder. Joseph Bouchard, a retired Navy captain, takes a look at a way to deal with Iraq from which many avert their eyes. In "The Balkanization of Iraq," he makes a strong case for partitioning the war-torn nation. We are proud to lead off this issue with a thoughtful and important piece by retired Admirals Donald Pilling and Robert Natter. In "Achieving the Right Mix," the authors propose limiting costs by modernizing Aegis cruisers and guided-missile destroyers, rather than putting all of our shipbuilding funds into totally new vessels. For our Coast Guard friends, we offer a review of The Guardian , the new Kevin Costner film that just opened. Our esteemed critic and sometime foreign correspondent Dave Danelo says it's the best service movie since Top Gun and the best Coast Guard film ever.