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June 1919—Captain Ernie King, who bestrode the Navy like a colossus from 1901 until his death 55 years later and was equally comfortable wearing the brown shoes of a naval aviator or submariner and the black shoes of the “gun club,’’ steps into a big pair of golden slippers when he replaces Marine Colonel Dion Williams as a director of the Naval Institute’s Board of Control this month.
Unlike Williams, whose writing was published in Proceedings while he was a board director, King, who had won the Institute’s Gold Medal for his Prize Essay in 1909, refrained from writing while a director.
As if to atone for the board’s recent, regretted meanderings down Memory Lane, only two of this month’s eight articles are historical, and one of them. “U. S. Naval Railway Batteries,” is very recent history. It takes Lieutenant Commander L. B. Bye 42 pages of text, five pages of illustrations, and two fold-out schematic drawings of the 14-inch guns and their railway cars to tell us about the five guns that performed their strategic shelling so well. General John J. Pershing said that they “cut the enemy’s main line of communications and nothing but surrender or an armistice could save his army from complete disaster.” By publishing this long, strong, hitherto untold war story, and with Ernie King now on board, Proceedings itself seems at last to be back on track.
June 1939—“Where Do We Go From Here?’’—the title of this month’s quasifiction article by Retired Commander Edward Everett Hazlett, Jr.,— could be about almost anything but is in fact about the officer detail sectionLike Tom Heggen's classic yarn about tedium and tensions on board a World War II cargo ship, which made his readers care about what happened to Mr- Roberts and zany Ensign Pulver, Hazlett takes a dull theme and breathes life into it through an unforgettable Joe Gish.
We stand nearby and watch as Gish, from midshipman to captain, over a 35-year career, makes his hard choices—where to go and what to do next as he struggles to succeed in the Navy. Second-guessing Gish is pointless since Hazlett’s strangely sterile U. S. Navy exists only in his bright mind. No wars, no typhoons, no back-stabbers distract Gish as by luck and by pluck he makes one right move after another—until the last one. When it is clear that Bag rank will never be his, we join the bitter muttering of his friends: “Good, old Gish—it’s a dirty shame—they don’t come any better!”
June 1958—The subhead, that block of teaser-test that seeks to entice magaziniacs to read an article they might otherwise pass by, appears in Pr0" ceedings for the first time with this month’s lead article. (When I composed my first subhead in June 1962, I vowed never to spill the author’s beans or promise more than the article will deliver. When, in 1986, I wrote my \99oi and last one, I made a new rule: Never make rules you can’t stick to.)
The Book Reviews section addresses new books by familiar names, Rear Admiral Bruce McCandless, who won his Medal of Honor by behaving we* when the San Francisco became an inferno off Guadalcanal, is the coauthor of Service Etiquette (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press), which tells inmates of all three service academies, among other things, how to attack a broiled lobster.
Captain P.V.H. Weems has a new edition of Marine Navigation (Annapolis, MD: Weems System of Navigation), which rocked everybody’s boat in 1940. The reviewer notes that, while Weems was a midshipman, the Great White Fleet completed its around-the-world voyage; Halley’s comet flashed by; Ronald Amundsen, Sir Ernest Shakleton, and Robert Scott made Antarctic expeditions; and the rival North Pole claims of Robert Peary and Capta)n Frederick Cook were hotly debated. He suggests that these epochal events may help to explain the follow-your-star careers of Weems, who put Annapolis on the map with Weems & Plath Navigation Instruments, Inc., and classmate Richard E. Byrd, the first man to fly over both poles.