He was a naval aviator and served as both the youngest and oldest U.S. Secretary of Defense in history. Mr. Rumsfeld talked recently at his Washington, D.C. office with Proceedings Managing Editor Fred Schultz about his career in public service, most recently in the George W. Bush administration, and his new book, Known and Unknown.
Proceedings: How did your Navy service affect the rest of your life?
Rumsfeld: It affected me enormously. My father volunteered at age 39 when World War II broke out. The Navy didn’t particularly want him, because he had a wife and kids, and he was a little thin. But he served on an escort carrier in the Pacific, the USS Hollandia [CVE-97]. The Navy became a big part of my life because of my father’s service. I didn’t hesitate to join Naval ROTC at Princeton, and I signed up to go to Navy flight school as soon as I graduated.
Proceedings: As a naval aviator, you flew SNJs and Panthers . . .
Rumsfeld: . . . And T28s and S2Fs. They’re all in museums today!