The space systems engineering curriculum at the Naval Postgraduate School offered only one class on manned spaceflight. The professor began the class by summarizing the accomplishments of NASA in low earth orbit. After 20 minutes of orbit corrections, maneuver, docking, spacewalks, and other early space program breakthroughs, a student finally raised his hand and said, “Professor, you do know that NASA put men on the moon, don’t you?”
I had a similar reaction at the 26 October commissioning of the USS Indianapolis (LCS-17) in Burns Harbor, Indiana. More than 10,000 attendees sat in a cold rain listening to six nearly identical speeches. It was as if the speechwriters all drew from the same incomplete Wikipedia article. Each speech started on the right note, regaling the accomplishments of the storied cruiser of the same name, USS Indianapolis (CA-35), and honoring the four survivors in attendance. Since I have been working with the cruiser survivors for more than 20 years, I know that no matter how many times their story is told, it is not enough.
- I actually served on USS Indianapolis (SSN-697) three times: two tours during the Cold War (junior officer and department head) and one tour after the Cold War ended as commanding officer.
- Based on the declaration by George H. W. Bush on 3 December 1989.
- From 1981 through 2004, I also served a junior-officer tour in the USS Omaha (SSN-692) and a department-head tour in the Buffalo (SSN-715). As commodore of Submarine Squadron 3, I had six Los Angeles–class submarines in my squadron: the USS Olympia (SSN-717), Chicago (SSN-721), Key West (SSN-722), Louisville (SSN-724), Helena (SSN-725), and Columbia (SSN-771). The only tour I served away from the Los Angeles–class was as executive officer of the USS Florida (SSBN-728) (Gold).
- The USS Los Angeles (SSN-688), Omaha (SSN-692), New York City (SSN-696), and Indianapolis (SSN-697).