Based on ten interviews conducted by John T. Mason, Jr., from November 1971 through May 1972. The volume contains 384 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1972 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the restrictions originally placed on the transcript by the interviewee have since been removed.
After graduation from the Naval Academy in 1920, Admiral Wellborn served in the New Mexico and Nevada and then in the West Virginia as aide and communications officer, Commander Battleships, followed by similar service in the California. In 1933 he served three years at BuOrd, then returned to sea as CO of the Perry. He later was navigator in the Concord and gunnery officer for ComCruBatFor in the Honolulu. During World War II, he first served as Commander Destroyer Division 16 involved in amphibious landings in Sicily and then with the Fifth Amphibious Force in the Pacific. After a tour as Director of Officer Personnel at BuPers, he assumed command of the Iowa, participating in the first landing and occupation of Japan in 1945. Later highlights in his naval career included: Chief of Staff to CinCPac; Commander Second Fleet, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier; and Chairman of U.S. Delegation, UN Military Staff Committee.
Admiral Wellborn: The Army and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the Air Force took the assignment of officers to this faculty quite seriously and assigned quite good officers. The Navy, as I think is frequently the case, didn't consider this kind of faculty assignment at a school as a very desirable one, and you had some difficulty getting from the Navy officers who were on the way up the promotion ladder.
John T. Mason, Jr.: That doesn't pertain, however, to the Navy's attitude toward the Naval War College?
Admiral Wellborn: To a very much lesser extent. But I think even there the Navy tends to assign its really top-notch officers either to Pentagon duty, where they are in the midst of both interservice rivalries and appropriation efforts, operational planning that's for real rather than for instruction, and this kind of assignment I think still gets higher priority in the Navy than assignment to faculties and jobs of this kind.
John T. Mason, Jr.: The point you make about the Navy's attitude toward faculty assignments at the Armed Forces Staff College, would you say that this underscores the statement made to me by a man who is a Rhodes scholar and a naval officer, "You know there's really not much place for that type of training in the Navy"?
Admiral Wellborn: I think there is a degree of truth in what he says. On the other hand, my own feeling after being commandant of the Armed Forces Staff College for three years is that the Navy doesn't give due weight to some aspects of education. I think the Army does a better job, maybe, in this respect. I believe the Navy overstresses what you might call training and actual experience and understresses education in the sense of mental development - developing orderly thought processes. The Army does a great deal of this and their, whole educational philosophy seems to be more of starting off with a young man, giving him education as opposed to training, then after he has completed what you might call a basic education, the Army starts to train him, that is, they send him to an infantry school or an artillery school, whereas the Navy attempts to put its education and training all into one pot and the Naval Academy is supposed to turn out a young man who is not only educated but also trained to be a junior officer.
It's not for me to say who's right on this one, but my own view is that the Navy could do well to move a little in the direction that the Army has moved and give somewhat more attention to developing orderly thought processes in its naval officers and in giving them a somewhat broader background of education, somewhat less ordnance and gunnery, let's say, or steam engineering, and a little more liberal arts simply to provide a little more background of knowledge of the rest of the world.
John T. Mason, Jr.: It's curious that within the same country two separate services should develop such a different philosophy and approach to the education of their young officers.
Admiral Wellborn: Yes, there are a number of differences in the approach of these two services to their problems. I've tried to figure this one out and the only explanation I could give you which may or may not be correct is that in its early day the Navy was essentially an operating force that was on its own the minute it left port. Now, the Navy went to sea in the days before radio communications or even cable communications, and you had to be trained, you had to know how to do things, whereas during the early days Army officers, generally, were on posts with more senior officers and could pick up this kind of training much more easily. They were always within some kind of a community even though it might be mostly Indians! And I think it was more readily apparent to Army people that there was a need for shall we say general culture than it was to the Navy, which was off on its own at sea where it was quite apparent that you needed knowledge of sails and ropes, but some of these other things seemed a little extraneous.