Why is a retired Air Force major—and a West Pointer—a Life Member of the U.S. Naval Institute and a member of its Leadership Circle donor society? It all started with an influential series of books and a television show.
No surprise: The books were the C. S. Forester Hornblower series. Reading and rereading them gave this Air Force brat a burning interest in everything “Navy.” The second part of the one-two punch was The Men of Annapolis, a black-and-white TV series that ran in the early 1960s. The tales of demerits, gloves, and sacrifice so impressed me that I wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
I went to the town library my sophomore year and looked at the Naval Academy catalog for what to do to prepare. I joined sports teams, various clubs, the debate team—activities to improve myself. I did miss one detail, however. A year before I graduated high school, I read “Regulations Governing the Admission of Candidates into the United States Naval Academy as Midshipmen in 1964.” It said the minimum visual acuity was 20/20. Damn, I wore glasses. I wasn’t going to the Naval Academy.
Nevertheless, I was determined to attend an academy, so I applied for and received an appointment to West Point. In 1970, I graduated as a second lieutenant in the Air Force (back then, graduates were allowed to be commissioned in the same branch as their fathers). Going to West Point changed my life for the better, and I was able to follow my Dad into the Air Force. I still can say with pride, “Go Army, Beat Navy!”—and this year we just might (hope springs eternal).
After graduation, I earned a master’s in engineering at Purdue University and served in the Air Force as an aerospace engineer. It was at Purdue that I came across the U.S. Naval Institute while researching leadership texts for a professional military education course. I was thrilled to discover the Naval Institute Press and its history, fiction, and leadership books. Where else are you going to find titles like The Return of Philo T. McGiffin and Beneath the Waves in the same catalog?
I still have my first purchase—a signed copy of Captain Ned Beach’s Run Silent, Run Deep. That one book continued a lifetime of naval reading and sparked a deep interest in submarines. As I attended the various staff schools in the Air Force, I continued to search for books on leadership—and the Naval Institute Press did not disappoint. The Institute was the one continuing source of great leadership material during my military career and afterward in my civilian career in information technology.
Four years ago, while rereading Run Silent, Run Deep, I noticed for the first time the titles in the Naval Institute’s “Classics of Naval Literature” series listed in the back of the book. Now, here was a series I wanted to read! I went to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other third-party book sites. It took about three months, several spreadsheets tracking orders, and a few ordering mistakes to finally get all 60 books.
So after West Point, a career in the Air Force, and 20-some years in information technology, I still come home to my beloved naval books. As I pour through the classics, I marvel that the Institute has preserved such a breadth of history in one series. A close reading of these “sea stories” reveals abundant examples of leadership. Whether on steel ships or wind-powered boats, the responsibilities of a leader do not change. The books of the Naval Institute Press—real or fiction, technical or historical—are timeless.
I always look forward to receiving the catalog for the next season. What really excites me is that with each catalog, more and more titles are available as eBooks. I love my Kindle and have filled it with books from the Naval Institute Press. Finally this year, I was able to add Run Silent, Run Deep, joining the other two in Captain Beach’s trilogy already there.
At its core, the Naval Institute is about providing opportunities to learn from one another. Its books impart great knowledge or, sometimes, just a great story. Proceedings offers the chance, in almost real time, to say what is on your mind and exposes us to a different set of experiences we might normally have missed. Learning never stops. That is why I have supported the U.S. Naval Institute from the earliest days of my membership—and why I always will.